Epcot's 2008 International
Food & Wine Festival

City Tastes

October 31, 2008

City Tastes

Taste of Italy

Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor, AllEars®

As luck would have it, my son and I were able to attend the City Taste event held at Epcot's World ShowPlace on Friday, October 31, through the kind generosity of Nora Carey, Project Manager for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. It was the third installment in this series of new events.

We couldn't have chosen a better night to go -- the theme for this evening was "A Taste of Italy." And honestly, is there another country that has better food AND wine? OK, maybe France... but we are definitely partial to Italian cuisine, so this was a perfect opportunity for us.

Our flight getting into Orlando was delayed by about 45 minutes, so we ended up arriving at World Showplace a few minutes after the event's 6:30 p.m. start, but that really didn't seem to matter. The World Showplace was wide open. There were plenty of unoccupied tables, so we quickly staked out our spot and then took turns visiting the stations scattered around the room.

I hadn't been quite sure of what to expect of this new event, as the Food and Wine Festival literature published about it had been less than detailed. But since it was being held in World Showplace, and it was supposed to be a "tasting" type of event, I assumed it would be like a less extravagant Party for the Senses, the wining and dining tasting held weekly during the festival.

I was partially right. Like the Party for the Senses, food and wine stations were positioned randomly around the room, with traditional and cocktail tables for diners. There was also live entertainment on a centrally located stage. Unlike the Party for the Senses, however, where attendees have to fight tooth and nail to nab even a corner of a cocktail table, there was ample seating at the City Taste. I learned later that the City Taste event that evening hosted a mere 200 people, compared to the 1200 who would attend the PftS the following evening.

Without the frenetic fighting for table space, and the long queues at each and every food or beverage station, the City Taste ended up being quite an enjoyable evening. As we strolled unhurriedly around the room we had the chance to take in the tempting aromas wafting from every station -- strains of garlic and oregano filled the air, accompanied by the Italian combo serenading us with accordion, guitars, tambourine and simply gorgeous tenor and soprano voices, performing both traditional and contemporary Italian favorites. An especially moving rendition of "Time to Say to Goodbye", the song that brought Andrea Bocceli to the public eye, brought a tear to my eye -- it was that well done.

Unfortunately, there were no programs provided for the event (at least, the cast member I asked told me there were none), so I can't be sure I've remembered all the items that were offered this evening, but to give you an idea of the savory samples representing various regions of Italy:

Pam Smith



Traditional Tuscan beef stew


Gragnano style pasta with red snapper and cherry tomatoes

Stuffed zucchini flowers with cheese fondue and truffle oil

Risotto with spinach and gorgonzola cheese

Almond custard with moscato di trani sauce and vincotto

These were some of the other dishes we didn't get photos for:

Pasta with Sienna style pesto and cured ham
Apulian zucchini frittata
Toasted Italian bread with tomatoes and rocket
Bread pizza Apulian style
Orecchiete with fresh tomatoes, basil, canestrato cheese from Puglia
Traditional cookies (biscotti)

As you might imagine, the food was incredible. The chefs came from restaurants and schools from a variety of regions of Italy: Puglia, Piemonte, Toscana, Veneto, Campania... my half-Italian heart was singing. Among the savory dishes, the Risotto with Spinach and Gorgonzola Cheese by Chef Andrea Fregnan of the Italian Culinary Institute for Foreigners was a standout. And the wines! I thoroughly enjoy a hearty Italian red, and they were present in abundance -- particularly the Piana Padula Primitivo.

In a talk I had with Nora Carey several days later, she said that she was hopeful the City Tastes would grow in popularity next year. "I think they need time to grow," she explained. You can read the interview with her HERE.

All in all, I found the laid-back atmosphere to this City Taste much preferable to the hectic Party for the Senses, and would definitely try another again next year.