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Friday, October 11, 2019

Epcot Food & Wine Festival: A Delight for the Palate and the Wallet?

by Ray Keating
October 11, 2019

A visit to Disney World isn’t cheap. That’s not really in dispute. The real issue is value. Are you getting value for your money? Or, to put it another way: Do you get a bang for your buck on a Disney vacation? My quick answer is “yes,” especially when taking advantage of events like the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

Of course, there are various ways to save money when booking a Disney vacation, including on your room, your park tickets, and your food. For example, Walt Disney World currently is offering savings on park visits with entrance after 12:00 PM each day with Mid-Day Magic tickets through December 15. Disney World also is offering savings on stays at a Disney Resort Hotel – ranging from 15 percent to 25 percent – if one books up to January 1, 2020, for stays between January 1 through April 25, 2020. 

And then there are periods of time when Disney offers its dining plan for free as the key part of a vacation package. Among those who compare the details, debate rages on if the dining plan is worth it or not when paying for it in full. But for this foodie, what’s not to like about a package featuring a free dining plan? The key is to keep an eye out for when free dining plan offers are made available. (For example, DisneyTouristBlog.com tells readers that if you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll be notified early on the day a dining plan is released.)

The bottom line remains that when compared to other ways to spend one’s recreation or vacation dollar, Disney remains a darn good value, especially considering everything included in a park visit and/or hotel stay. 

But right now, there’s an annual event going on worth highlighting under the Disney value question, especially if one ranks as a foodie. Depending on how one’s vacation is set up, I have found the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival to be a delight for the palate and the wallet – especially if you’re enjoying a free-dining-plan stay.  Plus, it’s a lot of fun to try miniature versions of dishes you might otherwise not try if they were full-sized entrees (read: high cost meals) at your favorite country’s restaurants.

This year’s is the 24th festival, running through November 23, and it has more than 30 global marketplaces with widely varying offerings for the taste buds. Indeed, my visits to the Food & Wine Festival this year and last didn’t disappoint. 

Among the items my group enjoyed this year were the following:

• The Moqueca – Brazilian Seafood Stew featuring Scallops, Shrimp and White Fish with Coconut-Lime – was delicious.

• In Canada, the Canadian Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Soup with a pretzel roll, and Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce were tasty, hearty choices.

• The Alps booth offered Warm Raclette Swiss Cheese with Baby Potatoes, Cornichons and a Baguette this year, with the cheese scooped warm and gooey off of a large wheel of cheese and layered onto the baguette.  If you’re a cheese lover, definitely make a stop here.  (It’s also one of the selections on Emile’s Fromage Montage, a type of specialty food crawl, which, surprise, rewards you with a tiny cheesecake as a prize for completing the challenge and collecting all of your cheese stamps.)

• And yes, I love China’s Mango Bubble Tea with Assam Black Tea and milk.

• All three offerings at Coastal Eats were excellent: 1) Lump Crab Cake with Napa Cabbage Slaw and Avocado-Lemongrass Cream, 2) Baked Shrimp and Scallop Scampi Dip with Sourdough Baguette, and 3) Pacifico True Striped Bass Tostada with Slaw and Fire-roasted Tomatillo Sauce.

• At Flavors From Fire, The Steakhouse Blended Burger: Blended Beef and Mushroom Slider with Brie Cheese Fondue, Arugula, and a Truffle and Blue Cheese Potato Chip on a Brioche Bun was terrific, and we went back for a second round on another day.

• At the Ireland marketplace, I wouldn’t miss the Roasted Irish Sausage with Colcannon Potatoes and Onion Gravy.

• As East Coasters, we never pass up a Lobster Roll, and at the Hops & Barley Booth, the New England Lobster Roll: Warm Lobster with Fresh Herb Mayonnaise and Griddled Roll was a yummy selection, and a superb use of a snack credit at $8.25!

• Japan’s Teriyaki Chicken Bun, which is a steamed bun filled with chicken, vegetables and a sweet Teriyaki sauce, was a big hit.

In fact, as we made our way around World Showcase trying various dishes with our snack credits, the only dish that disappointed was Japan’s Frothy Ramen: Chilled Noodles and Dashi Broth with a Light Foam Topping.  Food & Wine Festival selections are generally an excellent use of snack credits, with a number of plates costing upwards of the $6.00,  $7.00 and even $8.00 range, well worth the expenditure of a valuable snack credit. Savvy food hunters can certainly max out the value of their snack credits at the Festival booths.

Having said that, our experience at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival was a hit better than 98 percent of the time. That not only warrants no criticism, but high praise. And yes, we enjoyed selections with our free dining plan, but the value would have been there even if we had stayed at Walt Disney World resort under another plan.  Wonder what they are cooking up for the Festival of the Holidays?

Ray Keating is the editor, publisher and economist for DisneyBizJournal.com, and author of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels. He can be contacted at  raykeating@keatingreports.com.

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