Festival 15: The 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival



Fifteen years is a pretty long time, no matter how you slice it. And that’s why this year Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival is shaking things up a bit. It’s the 15th anniversary of the culinary event, which takes place October 1 through November 14, 2010, all around Epcot, even branching out to several other locations around the Walt Disney World Resort.

I recently spoke to Marianne Hunnel who, as area manager for Park Event Operations, has been charged with coordinating this year’s event, and asked her to share some insights, particularly as far as what’s new and different.

For the first time, guests actually have a chance to get a “sneak peek” of the festival, dubbed “Delicious Discoveries” this year. The Thursday night before the official opening guests can attend the “First Bites Opening Reception” in the Festival Welcome Center. The evening will be co-hosted by pastry chef Keegan Gerhard, of TV’s Food Network, and Pam Smith, a registered dietician, cookbook author and perennial host for numerous Food and Wine Festival programs.

“We’re very excited at this opportunity for guests to see a preview of this year’s festival offerings,” Hunnel says. “We’ll have culinary demos, beverage seminars, marketplace tastings, and even a special cake from Mike McCarey of Mike’s Amazing Cakes. It will really set the stage for what you’re going to be able to see at the festival this year.”

Hunnel adds that while they are still working out the details for possible “meet and greets” with the chefs, they do plan to keep the event to under 500 guests, to make it a “really special night.” But don’t worry — this preview is just that, only a “taste” of the festival. “We’re not giving the whole festival away,” she notes. “This is just to whet your appetite.”

So once whetted, how can you satisfy your appetite? What are some of the other offerings making their debut ?

For one thing, there’s the rather unusually named “Taste, Shake and Indulge Like the French”, which will be held on Saturdays in October. After a Grand Marnier tasting, guests will learn a bit about mixology, then have a chance to sample crepes suzette and more in the setting of the elegant Bistro de Paris in the France pavilion.

This emphasis on spirits was also present last year, when the festival introduced tequila tastings at its Mexican location La Cava del Tequila (the program returns this year).

Hunnel notes that the festival is not only providing opportunities to sample spirits, but also beers, particularly microbrews. In fact, right at the entrance of the World Showcase Plaza will be a special experience, “15 Beers for 15 Years,” which Hunnel calls a “fun selection of beers from Oregon to Florida.” She notes that you’ll also be able to purchase bottled versions of the brews you find especially pleasing to the palate. (The Brewer’s Collection marketplace will return this year, offering a variety of German beers, such as Rudeberger Pilsner.)

Another addition to the program listing is the “3D Disney’s Dessert Discovery,” to be offered each week of the festival on either Thursday or Friday evening at the World Showplace.

“This evening is all about desserts,” Hunnel stresses. “It’s different from the Sweet Sundays program (which is again offered this year) in that you are not served a meal. There will be some action stations (where food is prepared) and there will be some showy elements, but this is really about the desserts themselves.”

The evening, which includes cocktails and cordial pairings, is capped off with a VIP viewing of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Says Hunnel, “It’s a great way to end your day… or rather, embellish it!”

Historically, the Food and Wine Festival has been centered in Epcot, with the occasional program or dining experience held at a resort. This year, however, there are 15 special “signature” dining experiences, 14 of which are located outside of Epcot.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback from guests that they are looking for dining events during the weekdays, not just weekends,” Hunnel explains. “We decided to reach out to our other restaurants, particularly those in the Downtown Disney area, to see if they’d be interested in participating.”

Their efforts were clearly successful. There are signature dinners planned at Downtown Disney’s Portobello, Fulton’s Crab House, Raglan Road, Bongo’s Cuban Café, Paradiso 37 and Wolfgang Puck’s. Other non-Epcot locations offering signature dinners include Victoria and Albert’s and Citricos (Grand Floridian), California Grill and The Wave (Contemporary), Flying Fish Café and Kouzzina (BoardWalk), Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge) and bluezoo (Walt Disney World Dolphin). In a number of cases, the celebrity chefs attached to these establishments, such as Cat Cora (Kouzzina) and Todd English (bluezoo), will be on hand.

While those signature dinners will be on the high end of the price spectrum (ranging from $125 to $450 per person), you can get a taste of what’s new at the festival for a decidedly more modest cost. Amidst the returning international marketplaces located around the World Showcase Lagoon are a few ones, notably booths representing South Korea and Belgium.

“We’ve tried to keep everything as traditional as possible for these countries,” Hunnel explains. “We’re even bringing special beverages from South Korea that are indigenous to the area — a black raspberry rice wine called “bokbunja joo” and honey ginger tea — to go along with the BBQ short rib and lettuce wraps that will be available.”

The Belgium booth, too, will feature specialties of the region not found at Epcot before. The kiosk for the small country, home to world-famous Godiva chocolate, will feature a special Godiva iced coffee, along with steamed mussels, and waffles with a berry compote (but not all mixed together!).

The festival would not be complete without its popular Eat to the Beat concert series, which features bands performing nightly at the America Gardens Theatre. There are a number of performers new to the festival schedule this year, including Howard Jones, Rick Springfield, Air Supply and Hanson, along with popular returning acts Starship featuring Mickey Thomas and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (I saw them last year — don’t miss them!). And of course every Saturday night will see what Hunnel terms the festival’s “pinnacle event,” the tasting extravaganza known as Party for the Senses.

Last year’s Party for the Senses evenings sported a different theme each week, a concept that has been abandoned this year. Instead, guest chefs will be “providing the flavors they want to create,” Hunnel says. “If they have a specialty or something in particular they want to do, they’ll be doing that.” In addition, performers from Cirque du Soleil will be joining in the Party for the Senses again, after a several year absence.

When you add what’s new to what’s returning — Food and Wine Pairings, Wine Schools, French Regional Lunches, Cheese Tastings, Tequila Tastings, Culinary Demos, Wine Seminars, and more — this 15th anniversary festival shapes up to be 45 delicious days.

“It’s so exciting to see how this festival gets bigger and bigger every year,” Hunnel concludes. “We have something for everyone, whether you’re novice or epicurean. I think everyone finds our festival to be not only a very credible event, but very magical in Disney’s own special way.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Many of the special dining experiences mentioned in this blog sell out in advance. If you’re interested, call for reservations as soon as possible: 407-WDW-FEST.

Also, you will be able to book certain culinary demonstrations and wine seminars online. These 45-minute programs are held several times each day and require a fee of $8 to $13 (tax included). If you’ve attended these sessions in previous years, you’ll be happy to learn that this year’s portion sizes will be a bit larger. According to Hunnel, they are still finalizing details on these programs, but they will be available for online booking before the end of August.

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Debra Martin Koma wrote about food, travel and lifestyle issues for a number of local and national publications before she fell in love with Walt Disney World on her first visit — when she was 34! She's returned to her Laughing Place more times than she can count in the ensuing years, and enthusiastically shares her passion with readers of AllEars.Net and AllEars®. Deb also co-authored (along with Deb Wills) PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line, a travel guide designed for all travelers to Walt Disney World who may require special attention, from special diets to mobility issues.

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16 Replies to “Festival 15: The 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival”

  1. While we enjoyed the Food & Wine tremendously, and the few seminars we attended (Wine & Cheese seminar especially), one thing we will not attend again is the 3-D Dessert party and VIP showing of Illuminations. We expected at least some fancy desserts like they have at Disney’s resorts, at least a few for that price, but we found very simple, basic desserts, cookies that looked like they were store-bought, no chocolate fountain, nothing spectacular for the price. Had better desserts eating at the booths around the world and/or at the restaurants than at the fancy 3-D Dessert party. In fact, the Magic Kingdom Fireworks Dessert party was 10 times better than the 3-D dessert party for what you got for the price. Additionally, we arrived only 5 minutes late for the party, and found no chairs to sit in. They had some tables and chairs, and there were not tables (or even chairs) for everyone. There were a lot of other people having to stand and eat their dessert too. Obviously they know how many people are coming, and it seems to me they should have a chair for every person that bought a ticket at that price. Very disappointed in the event, and especially in the desserts over all at that particular event.

  2. My husband and I are coming to Florida (second time after 25 years) saw this and thought it would be fun for us to attend. However, after reading all the comments sounds stuffy and expensive and more for the elite! Isn’t there anything simple for the common folk to attend similar to this?

    Deb Koma replies: Hi Teresa, not sure what gave you the impression that the festival is just for the elite. To be sure, you can pay to attend one of the signature dining experiences that are fairly pricey, but you can also just browse around Epcot, tasting modestly priced samples at the International Marketplaces for a few dollars. There are author talks and book and bottle signings in the festival center, as well as moderately priced wine seminars and culinary demos. The Eat to the Beat Concerts every night are no additional charge (as long as you’re in Epcot, you can see them).

  3. I don’t see any listing of the free wine tasting events they have had in the past. We like to peruse that and plan our visits accordingly. Are they still there, or do you have to pay for everything now?

    Deb Koma replies: There aren’t any free wine tastings, sorry. There is a modest fee for these beverage seminars. You can reserve a space for them online if you are an annual passholder or Tables in Wonderland or DVC member, here:

  4. Just returned from the food and wine festival. I was there Oct. 1, 2010. Disappointed with this years anniversary brew, coastal wheat. Not that coastal wheat is a bad taste, it is actually a great summer wheat ale. But, I was hoping for a more octoberfest type of anniversary brew, which is usually what is served as the anniversary brew.

  5. I have never been to this and never before had an interest. However, I have been recently watching the food shows on TV with my aunt and would like to try the Food & Wine event in 2011 when I visit early October for my 50th birthday. I will have my niece w/me. She will be 13 by then and is sort of interested in cooking. Can you advise and make some recommendations. She loves Italian food. And we both love dessert. lol

  6. Love the festival. We use it as a small 4 night getaway from the children. We are up to 5 couples attending every year now.
    Can anyone let me in on the ” 15 beers for 15 years ” I can not find info on this.

    Deb Koma replies: All I know is that it will be located in the
    World Showcase Plaza area — from the map, it looks like it will be in the area at the end of the Rose Walk, where the Edy’s ice cream exhibit was last year. I’ll be sure to find out more this weekend.

  7. I LOVE going to the festival and I’ve done so ever since I was in college in Orlando.

    Given the fact that I am on a budget, when will the prices for the food items and wine be posted? Is there a way to know in advance of when the festival starts?

    Deb Koma replies: I’ll be at the festival on Thursday before it starts, so will get the prices then and get them online that night. Hopefully, though, one of our local team members will be able to get them sooner — as soon as we can we’ll get the prices online!

  8. In years past we were able to use our Disney Dining Plan snacks for the food items at the countries’ booths. Will that be available again this year?

    Deb Koma replies: Yes, I believe you’ll be able to use your
    Dining Plan snack credits again this year for MOST items
    at the marketplace food booths — If I recall correctly, there were a few more expensive items (like the lobster roll) that were not eligible last year.

  9. We look forward to the Food and Wine festival every year, this will be our 4th year. We have done the Party for the Senses for 2 years, is the Wine view lounge worth extra money?

    Deb Koma replies: If you want to be guaranteed a seat, and you like the idea of avoiding the initial crush of people entering the party, then yes, maybe it is. When I did it last year, I felt a little isolated from the rest of the “action” but it was nice to not have to wander around like a nomad without a table of my own. But as far as the other “extras” — I didn’t find them to be that much “value-added.”

  10. I am concerned about prior reviews posted and things I’ve heard about unacceptable drunken behavior at the festival. My husband and I have been saving to afford a WDW vacation the way we want to vacation. We booked not knowing that it was the festival or what it involved, and thought it would be OK. We are spending alot of money on this vacation to celebrate our daughter’s 5th b-day with our other younger daughter and our special needs son. We are greatly concerned of the possible environment. What is WDW doing to curb some of the extreme behavior?

    Deb Koma replies: Debra, I’ve been to the Food & Wine
    Festival for at least the past 7 years, and while I have occasionally seen people who have overindulged at the International Marketplaces, I wouldn’t say that this is a rampant problem. I think that you are more likely to see this sort of behavior on the weekends when there are much bigger crowds, and specifically late in the evenings. The Festival is only going on in Epcot, so if you are really concerned about it, you could stay out of Epcot on Friday and Saturday night. I’m guessing with a 5-year-old you won’t be out too late, in any case. Obviously, Disney has security people on hand to deal with rowdy individuals, but honestly, I have never found this to be an issue. Enjoy your trip!

  11. Kudos to Marianne Hunnel for doing such a great job. I certainly can’t wait to get out there in October and eat ’til I can’t eat no more. Reservations have already been made and there’s not a night I don’t have something amazing happening.

    That said, are the facades still up on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom? It’s been a few months since we’ve heard anything about them.

    Deb Koma replies: As of a few weeks ago, there were still facades up around Casey’s Corner and a few other spots — not sure how long they’ll be there.

  12. This will be my first time, can’t wait until the last week of OCTOBER.

    I hope Marianne adds more demos in ITALY. I was disappointed that I could not book anything in Italy during my stay… all sold out. I had been checking the site all spring/early summer and wouldn’t you know I was on vacation July 20th when they began taking reservations. Oh well am booked at Portobello with Tony Montuano so that should be fun!

    Hope everyone has fun!
    Deborah Vommaro

  13. Wow, this sounds so exciting I can’t wait for October 1st. Kudos to Marianne Hunnel for a great job and the team that makes this happen and thanks for the info as it sounds like another great year. I look forward to as many happens as my energy will allow.