Once again this year I had the wonderful opportunity of interviewing Chef Marianne Hunnel, a long-time Disney Chef who has been in charge of development for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival for the past 7 years!
For a bit of background on Chef Hunnel as well as some info about how the Epcot Food & Wine Festival comes together each year, be sure to read our 2011 interview of Chef Hunnel!
She’s truly one of the most joyful and delightful people I’ve ever spoken with — you can tell this woman is passionate about the Festival and about making sure that Disney guests are pleased with their experience, and that she has a blast doing her job.
2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival: Taste Your Way Around the World
The Epcot Food and Wine Festival theme this year is: Taste Your Way Around the World, and it will take place from September 28th through November 12th — a whole 46 days!
As always, you should keep an eye on our 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival page for details throughout the summer. We’re updating all the time over there so that you have the latest news and information.
And, luckily, Chef Hunnel was able to tell us some interesting details that we get to share exclusively with you today! Here are a few fun secrets and tips to keep in mind if you’re headed to Epcot this Fall!
New and Returning Items at the World Showcase Booths
While many of the fan favorite menu items will be returning (yep — the Canadian Cheddar Cheese soup is back!), some booths will feature past menu items with a “twist,” says Hunnel.
For example, the steamed mussels at the Belgium booth will be slightly different than guests remember.
And it sounds like the Australian lamb chop will return with a mint pesto sauce this year (subject to change, of course).
Germany will introduce a twist on the ham and cheese spaetzel with a new schinken noodle gratin dish.
Also, New Zealand has traded in the lamb slider for a lamb meatball with tomato chutney.
There will be around 12 dishes that will be completely new to the World Showcase Marketplace Booths this year! Here are just a few…:
- Three new Artisinal cheeses at the Cheese Booth
- “Nesquick Froth,” a light, airy Nesquick smoothie, at the Desserts and Champagne Booth (guests can choose from chocolate or strawberry)
- More “family-friendly” drinks like non-alcoholic smoothies and “Honest Kids” organic juices, which have half the sugar of regular fruit punches
But the best news I heard from Chef Hunnel was this: the Canada booth will be introducing a Mushroom Filet to the marketplace menu this year! That’s right! The Canada booth will now include three of my most favorite dishes from Le Cellier: the mushroom filet (no word yet on whether or not that delicious risotto will accompany the filet), the spicy chicken sausage with sweet corn polenta, and the cheddar cheese soup.
A syrah will be on the menu as a pair with the filet.
I can’t wait to hit this booth! Now I just need to convince them to add poutine…
New Marketplaces: Terra Vegan Marketplace, and the Florida Marketplace
Also, as we reported recently, two brand new 2012 booths will appear at the Festival this year: Terra, a Vegan Marketplace; and the Florida Marketplace.
Terra Vegan Marketplace
Terra will feature Trik’n Chick’n Curry with Basmati Rice, and Chili Colorado with House Made Chips and Cashew Cheese. Yep — all totally vegan! How do they do it? Chef Hunnel said these dishes include specialty vegetable protein products from Gardein.
Terra will also offer wines from organic and sustainable Paul Dolan Winery in Mendocino County. Terra will also serve a dairy-free, lactose-free Berry smoothie!
The Florida Marketplace will invoke an old-fashioned Florida feel. Here, the Festival will be celebrating true local flavor! Here you’ll find a White Corn Arepa with Mangalitsa Pork and Sweet Corn, and Florida Shrimp Ceviche with Fire Roasted Veggies and Crispy Plantains.
This booth will feature an incredible Key Lime Wine from the Florida Orange Groves Winery as well as Florida Lager and Key West Southernmost Wheat from Florida Beer Company.
Many of you will be pleased to know that some of last year’s most popular chefs will be returning again in 2012! Celebrity Chefs returning this year include:
- Jamie Deen
- Cake Boss Buddy Valastro
- Andrew Zimmern
- Robert Irvine
- Gale Gand
- Rock Harper
- And More!
And, of course, there will be many of new faces to find, like Erika Davis from Top Chef Just Desserts!
New and Returning Events
Here’s a bit of info on some of your favorite returning events, as well as some new additions! Note that booking for many of these events will open on August 14th, 2012! You can book by calling 407/WDW-FEST (939-3378) or booking many of them online at disneyworld.com/foodandwine.
Party for the Senses
As we reported earlier, Epcot’s glamorous Party for the Senses will be returning again this year, and will take place on October 6, 13, 20, 27, and November 3, from 7:30-10pm. You can read our review of the Party for the Senses from 2011 here.
New this year, however, the party will have three separate ticketing tiers: regular entry, reserved seating, and Wine View Lounge. That second one is the new option, where guests will pay a slightly higher amount for reserved seats, but no access to the Wine View Lounge.
Chef-Led VIP Access Tours
These brand new events will happen on Wednesdays from 10:30am-1pm during the festival. Small groups of around 10 guests will have the chance to meet with a Festival Chef in the Festival Center, then tour the World Showcase Marketplaces as the Chef describes the dishes.
The event will include information, eats, and even some “storytelling,” says Hunnel! Cost has not yet been finalized on these events.
3D Disney Dessert Discovery Parties
Returning this year on select Fridays is one of the Festival’s most-loved events: the 3D Illuminations Dessert Party. Accented with a fun “3D” view of the fireworks, guests will enjoy a variety of sweet desserts for a (usually) decent price. Check out a great review of this event from last year!
This year, Babycakes NYC Bakery will provide vegan and gluten-free desserts in addition to the regular fare.
What’s Happening in France?
Die-hard festival fans (like me) have been wondering what will happen to the beloved French Regional Lunches (nicknamed “Frunches”) this year, as their standard venue — Bistro de Paris in Epcot’s France — will be undergoing renovations.
Well…here’s the bad news. According to Chef Hunnel, French Regional Lunches will not be returning this year…though she has been assured that they will be back in 2013.
However, the Grand Marnier Tasting events will return this year, taking place in the Festival Center.
Magic of Healthy Living
This event debuted last year and was such a hit that they’re bringing it back for an encore. It’s a one-time thing again, hosted by Andrew Zimmern and a few other (not yet confirmed) chefs. As it was last year, it will feature kid-friendly and healthy foods.
Italian Regional Food and Wine Lunches
Italy will host Food and Wine lunches this year. I’m not sure yet if these will be similar to those gone missing in France, or if they will be the standard food and wine pairings we’ve seen for the past several years. My hope is for the former!
The BOG is BACK!
For those of you who, like me, were concerned that we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the giant Ocean Spray-funded cranberry bog in the middle of Epcot this year — put your fears to rest! The bog will be BACK!
I told Chef Hunnel that Disney needs to introduce “The Bog Experience” and let us put on the rubber overalls and rake for a while, but she just laughed. Here’s hoping I planted a seed…
Your favorite HGTV hosts will be back this year with more advice and suggestions for home awesomeness.
Wine Shop Tastings
A new (and needed) option this year will be at the Cellar — the wine shop set up in the Festival Center in Epcot’s Future World. If guests are considering purchasing certain wines, there will be small tastings set up at select times to help them decide which bottles to bag.
This might also feature an extra time to get a bottle signed, or meet the winemaker.
There’s lots more happening at the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival, and I may have inadvertently left out of this post some of the news I got on the interview.
SO, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!
In the meantime, head on over to our Epcot Food and Wine Festival Index Pages to see all the latest details!