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Tips For Visiting the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

The 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival is coming up soon, and we’re already covering the latest news about the event.

Shrimp Tacos, Rib Eye Tacos, Flan and Strawberry Lime Margarita from the Mexico Booth

You can “follow the festival” on our Food and Wine Festival page here, and start making plans to attend September 28-November 12, 2012.

This annual event showcases food, wine, and other beverages from around the globe at marketplaces set up around Epcot’s World Showcase. You can also take advantage of some of the great seminars, demos, and events going on throughout the festival!

So, to kick off our coverage appropriately, let’s take a look at our…

Fun Tips for Visiting the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Here are a few of our favorite dining tips when it comes to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival! I hope they’re helpful, and that you’ll share some of your great tips, too!

1. Make It A Meal

The World Showcase Booths around the Lagoon offer some great eats in small, appetizer sizes! Save one or two (or three!) meals for “eating around the World” Showcase.

Some of the perennial favorites include: Canada’s Cheddar Cheese Soup; Australia’s Shrimp on the Barbie; Italy’s Baked Cheese Ravioli; Argentina’s Grilled Beef Skewer; Poland’s Pierogies; and Germany’s sausage. We’re hoping that griddled cheese is back in Greece this year!

Nürnberger Sausage in a Pretzel Roll, Goulash and Apple Strudel in Germany

2. Take Advantage of Low-Cost Seminars and Demonstrations

Take advantage of low-cost Epcot Food and Wine Festival seminars and demonstrations to see celebrity chefs!

Culinary demonstrations are held multiple times per day and are usually about 45-minutes in length. Featuring professional chefs and wine presenters, you’ll watch a dish being prepared on the show kitchen stage. Watching is fun, but tasting is even better. Yes, expect to sample the finished product along with its wine pairing! In 2011, these demonstrations were $11-13.

Last year, I enjoyed dessert made by Cake Boss Buddy Valastro at a low-cost seminar!

Buddy Valastro Makes Tiramisu at an Epcot Food and Wine Festival Culinary Demo

Wine and Beverage seminars (and also similar Mixology seminars) follow the same format. The focus is on meeting a beverage expert, discovering some new tips, and sampling the featured beverage. In 2011, these seminars were $10-12. Cheers!

Mixology Seminar at the 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

With your Epcot admission, you can also enjoy Authors without Borders (30-minute intimate gatherings with a famous food or wine author) or Authentic Taste Seminars (30-minute lively and informative sessions) at no additional cost.

Book Signings, Bottle Signings, and Meet ‘n Greets give festival guests the opportunity to meet celebrated authors, famed chefs, and renowned winemakers. Upon arrival at the festival, it’s always a good idea to check the daily schedule!

In 2011, HGTV Home Entertainment seminars were offered by some of great personalities such as Vern Yip of HGTV Design Star. Offered Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, these fun sessions were free!

Tip: Ask about discounts for Tables in Wonderland members, Annual Passholders, and DVC members — usually available on seminars offered Monday through Thursday only.

3. Include the Kids!

Have Kids? Take ‘em With You! This is a great time for kids to expand their palates without you having to pay big bucks. They can try numerous dishes around the World showcase with you.

This is a good time to note what they like, and visit a corresponding restaurant in the World Showcase for a meal later in the trip.

Think the kiddos might be bored? No worries! Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure will keep them eager to visit the different World Showcase countries while you nosh away. In this adventure (which opens in June), kids use interactive, hand-held devices to follow clues as they complete missions around World Showcase. You won’t hear one “I’m Bored” if they’re engaged in these fun quests!

Kid Favorite: Kielbasa and Potato Pierogies with Caramelized Onions and Sour Cream

4. Impress Your Friends

Impress your friends when you get home! Show off your wine-tasting certificate from the wine seminars, or learn more than you ever wanted to know about cheese at a cheese seminar…and have a wine and cheese party at your house!

Want to spend a little less? Head to a food and beverage tasting seminar like the Pizza and Beer Pairing in Italy, tequila lunches in Mexico, or the wine and food pairings in Morocco. These can offer a great education that you can share with your crowd when you get home.

All beers at the Italy Beer and Pizza Pairing

5. Indulge Yourself

Want to be truly pampered? Try a Signature Dining event with one of your favorite chefs or at one of your favorite restaurants in Walt Disney World! Victoria & Albert’s showcased the culinary talents of Chef Scott Hunnel to a sold-out group at the Grand Floridian last year!

One of many Chef's Table Desserts

If that idea blows your budget, consider attending a seminar like the new Chocolate Discoveries. Lucky participants (this was sold out!) enjoyed tasting a savory dish and desserts made with chocolate. Oh, and there were chocolate-inspired wine and cocktails too.

Think you need a few more desserts to indulge? Head to a “Sweet Sundays” event where a celebrity chef will treat you to several delectable desserts of their own creation.

More Tips From the Experts

DFB readers and Epcot Food and Wine Festival Facebook Fans shared a few more great recommendations!

Avoid Crowds

One proven method to avoid extremely long lines is to visit during a weekday and arrive early. Becca advises, “Go during the week… Weekends are crowded with locals!”

If you are visiting on a weekend, Christine C. suggests, “On a Saturday, get there early (the booths usually open early); you should be able to get more than halfway around before it gets really busy.” We like to start our tour when World Showcase first opens!

When it is crowded and table space is limited, Dee T. shares her touring tip: “Trashcans make great table tops”. I concur.

Plan Ahead

There were great ideas about planning a successful festival day, including reading about the Festival before arriving in Epcot. Cookie W. has some great tips: “Use a Food and Wine Festival passport or print out a list of all the foods at the food booths. Mark each one as you sample it and even rate it if you want. Then you’ll know what you like so you can go back for seconds.”

We’ll have a list of all menu items (many with photos!) long before the festival begins, so stay tuned here at Disney Food Blog!

Food & Wine Festival Passport Belgium

Many festival-goers (such as Mary T.) recommend setting aside more than one day to partake in the delicious food and fun events. And this is one time when you shouldn’t make any Advance Dining Reservations — save your appetite!

Enjoy the Eat to the Beat Concerts by planning your evening meal around the shows. Carol S. shares this tip, “Get a couple items [at the World Showcase booths] for dinner, go watch the concert, then get dessert.”

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Performing at Eat to the Beat

Consider booking a hotel room at the Beach Club Resort. Carol V. likes the convenience of the nearby hotel; she recommends “stay at the Beach Club so you can walk in and crawl out!”

Use a Wristlet Gift Card

You can find one of these mini-gift-cards at most Festival merchandise stores or the Festival Center. The small card has an expandable wrist wrap so that it’s easy to scan multiple times (as many of us do at the Festival).

This tip received the most shout-outs, suggesting that if you are a guest paying out-of-pocket for your eats and sips that the gift card is a must-have. Jennifer O. stated: “And I agree about using the gift card that goes on your wrist. It helps to keep you within your budget and it makes paying so much quicker.”

Click for Larger Image

First, it’s convenient. Instead of digging out other funds, you’ll have your hands free for carrying a plateful of food and glass of wine or other beverage. It’s also a good idea as a budget-saver: put the amount that you are comfortable spending on the gift card. We suggest doing this before visiting the Craft Beer booth. ;-)

Use Your Disney Dining Plan Snack Credits

If you have the Disney Dining Plan, save your snack credits for your adventure through the marketplace booths. Many of the tapas-sized menu items are a great value for DDP guests.

Disney Dining Plan Snack Credit Eligible Items

Special Diet Planning

Bonnie F. has a helpful idea: “If you have food allergy/intolerance issues, pick up the festival cookbook first and check out the ingredients. Then make a pocket list of do’s/don’ts for the kiosks.”

In both 2010 and 2011, gluten free items were available at the World Showcase booths. But it can be difficult to find out which ones are safe. We love the idea of looking at the cookbook!

2011 Food & Wine Festival Cookbook

Come Follow the Festival With Us!

We will be covering the festival from head to toe again this year, and we’ve already reported on the eat to the beat concert schedule line up. Stay tuned for more reviews from last year’s events as well as previews of this year’s events, coming soon!

Don’t forget to follow along on our 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Page!

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16 Comments

  1. JoAnn says:

    I can’t wait for the F&W festival. What date does it end? I thought it was Sunday, 11/11. You have the 12th. I checked the Disney site and found both dates. That would be cool if it was going for an extra day while I’m there.

  2. Novi says:

    Are these meals assembled to order, or are the plates already ready? For example, if I wanted the pierogie without the sausage accompaniment, is it as simple as asking for no kielbasa to be put on top, or is it better to just keep looking?

  3. Evelyn says:

    Agree that the small gift card is the best, especially when on a budget. Though, word of warning, the plastic wristlets they use easily come unsnapped and fall off. I place mine on a lanyard and wear it around my neck.

  4. Laurie says:

    It looks like fun! I agree that you may want to avoid the crowds and go at an off time. I remember many years ago visiting Disneyworld and Epcot Center. We went for three days altogether. The first day was nice weather and the lines were long. The other couple of days were not so nice – coldish and we were able to go anywhere we wanted.

  5. Megan says:

    @Novi, in my experience, it seems to go both ways, as far as some plates and dishes being already assembled, and you have no choice but to get it “as is” but others are not as pre-assembled, and you’d be able to make small special requests. Bottom line, it definitely can’t hurt to ask!

  6. AJ says:

    JoAnn — As far as I know, it’s been changed on the official Disney site to say November 12th. I think this is because of the Veteran’s Day weekend holiday. Can’t WAIT to hear what you think of this year’s festival!

    Novi — Yep! They’ll definitely make a new plate for ya when you’re there with no sausage. Not sure if you’ll have to pay the same amount or not, though. :-) And I’ll agree with Megan above that if there’s a certain marinade or spice that is already on the dish before plating, you may not be able to remove that.

    Evelyn — GREAT tip on wearing the card on a lanyard!

    Laurie — Oddly, I was there on a SUPER rainy day last year and the lines were still very long!

    Megan — Agreed on asking! I’ve never had an experience where they’ve said “no,” but there’s a first time for everything.

  7. Cherry says:

    A couple of other tips I would say is share plates (my best friends and I do it all the time and we try more things that way) and if you have a Disney Visa, use the points for the food (if you’re not on the dining plan, which I’m usually not since I have an AP and don’t need to buy the full package). That way you really only spend money on the hotel.

    This will be the first year in about 10 years that I probably won’t be able to make it to F&W (last chemo treatment is estimated to be late September/early October so don’t know if I’ll be ok in time to get there) but I’m happy I can read all the updates here. :-)

    P.S. AJ, we went to Bull & Bear and it was FABULOUS! Everything was wonderful but I have to say the lemon dessert was the best. Planning a trip there when I’m finally done and healthy again. :-D

  8. Cherry says:

    Oh and I have to comment that if there’s something you really like (ex. cheese plates), bring along some zip locks. You can buy the food and then slide them into the zip locks for a snack later that night or even an on the road thing when you’re heading back home. :-) I usually bring a small lunch bag type cooler with some frozen blue ice and put those things into there that I want to have later that night or even as a morning breakfast. And yes, this only works on stuff you can stick into the zip locks without losing all integrity. LOLOL.

  9. Krystal says:

    Novi – I think the general rule with subtracting items from plates is that if they add that item to the plate at the kiosk you can take it out. I often ask to not put sauces on some of the dishes and I have never had a problem. The most resistance I have received is a weird look, though I am used to that.

    Not sure if something like this has been mentioned but here is our method for F and W.
    1. Sometime before you start eating rate the dishes according to the ones you ‘must get’, ‘want to share’ ‘maybe’ and ‘no thanks’.
    2. We start when it first opens and do a lap of savory dishes.
    3. We are usually ready to take a break around 1:00 PM so we head back to the hotel and take a nap. This allows us to avoid the hottest part of the day.
    4. Three hours later head back. Start where we left off and then do a lap of desserts and dishes we want to eat again.

    We go during the week not sure if this will work during the weekend.

    We use the card also, it helps us keep track of how much we spend and I can read my credit card statements without having to sift through all the transactions. Though they do make me look like I am some super rich person with a teleporter.

  10. Shawn says:

    I really wish they would hold this and other festivals during different times of the year. I am limited to only going to WDW at certain times (kids, school). Maybe someday when I retire…

  11. AJ says:

    Shawn — I think a lot of us feel your pain on that one!

  12. Barry says:

    Shawn, the reason Disney holds these festivals during non-summer/spring break times is to attract people to the parks during the off-peak times. And it works–October used to be a very low season, but it’s now one of the most difficult times to get DVC bookings.

  13. Kate says:

    Would you have information on date/price to see Buddy Valastro this year at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival?

  14. AJ says:

    Kate — It hasn’t been released yet.

  15. Joanne says:

    I will be at Epcot on Thursday, September 27th. By chance do they open some of the booths the evening before as a ‘trial run’? My in-laws, mom & I would love to try some of the offerings at F&W!

  16. Alicia says:

    Do you know where I can find a printable list? I’d like to mark off what I’m interested in before I even leave. Thanks.

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