On July 15th, Walt Disney World hit an important milestone. The Food & Wine Festival started officially at Epcot. It is now the first Epcot festival to return a second time since the parks reopened in July of 2020. As a matter of fact, the park reopening last summer set a new precedent for the Food & Wine Festival.
In 2019, the start date was pushed up to August 29th to coincide with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Last year, a scaled-down version of the festival was in operation on the day guests were permitted to return to Epcot. While many things are still far from normal, and none of us would argue otherwise, there is a sense of normalcy that comes from having this festival back in operation.
In the first few weeks of the Food & Wine Festival, I checked out a number of the newer items. Friends joined me and I’ll share some of their experiences as well. The Food & Wine Festival runs until November 20th so there is plenty of time to plan a quick trip to try out some of the offerings.
A number of the food booths were originally scheduled to open on October 1st presumably to balance out crowds for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary and the opening of Remi’s Ratatouille Adventure at the France Pavilion in World Showcase, but Disney decided to open them earlier. Those booths were Ireland, Kenya, India, Brazil, Belgium, Spain, The Alps, Lobster Landing, and Mac & Eats.
Some of the standouts that returned with these booths are the warm chocolate pudding cake in Ireland, the Pao de Queijo (Brazilian cheese bread) in Brazil, and the plant-based Italian sausage and peppers macaroni and cheese at Mac & Eats.
We will share information on these items soon, but it is time to look at the food that I picked up at this year’s version of the festival. Let’s start with some of the favorites that are back from past years to grace the 2021 menu.
The Impossible burger slider is one of two plant-based food options at Earth Eats: Hosted by Impossible. The star of the show for this vegan delight is the wasabi cream that gives it a little kick to go along with the spicy slaw. The “meat” is juicy, and the wasabi and slaw only serve to enhance the overall flavor.
In addition to the slider at Earth Eats, you can try the Impossible three-bean chili. Once again, this item is far from bland and provides some spice. It is a hearty dish. When you are busy snacking World Showcase, it is nice to enjoy something more substantial.
In Germany, you really should try the apple strudel with vanilla sauce. This is just a solid dessert. It may not wow you like some other options, but not everybody in your party will be an adventurous eater. You need these choices that simply taste good and there is nothing wrong with that.
Now it is time to discuss some new items as well as items that are new to me. While I have gone to this festival at least a few days each year for the last four years, it is almost impossible to try everything every year (although many of us try our hardest).
The Noodle Exchange is a brand-new booth for 2021 and every day I have been to Epcot since the festival has started, it has been extremely popular with guests. On multiple visits, I have gotten the tofu pho because I am a vegetarian. This is one of the 100% plant-based items at the festival and it is immaculate. I don’t think there is anything I would change about this option. The broth is spicy, and the enoki mushrooms are hearty. Because it is in a broth and contains noodles and mushrooms, it is another dish that feels more substantial. Honestly, it is a great value for the price. It won’t feel like a full meal, but it will hold you over for a little while.
Tangerine Café in the Morocco Pavilion has been closed for over a year, but Disney has decided that during the Food & Wine Festival, they would convert it into a festival booth. This was a great idea because I have always loved the atmosphere in Tangerine Café. I have had the chance to taste three of the festival offerings already in 2021.
The friend falafel pita with tahini sauce is good, but it isn’t my favorite item on the list. Falafel can be a little dry, so make sure you grab a beverage with your order—perhaps the fresh blood orange juice.
The stone-baked Moroccan bread was fantastic. The only complaint I have with this was my own fault. Make sure to balance your bread distribution with each dip into the hummus, zaalouk, and zhoug dips. I ran out of bread and had to finish the dips with a fork. They were still great, but it was a rookie mistake.
Do not walk past Tangerine Café without trying the pistachio cake. The cake is very photogenic, which would make it worth it for that. Its beauty was only exceeded by its taste. On occasion, Disney desserts can be too sweet, but this is the right balance of cinnamon, walnut, and pistachio flavor.
One of the controversies in the world of social media complaining was the addition of the Rotunda Bistro in the lobby of the American Adventure. This is the area normally set up for performances from The Voices of Liberty, but the acapella group is now performing at the American Gardens Theater across from the United States Pavilion. Personally, I love the idea of having air conditioning and a beautiful area to get out of the midday heat in Epcot.
What I like even more than the vibe is the wild mushroom and truffle tart. This may be the best item at the festival. The mushrooms are almost meaty in texture and it honestly tastes adjacent to steak. You don’t think of hearty dishes to go along with tarts, but everything goes together perfectly with this dish. Don’t let the interesting name fool you. You will love this.
In between the German and China Pavilions, you will find Refreshment Outpost. There is almost always a great, special festival option here. The spicy githeri is that special item for the Food & Wine festival in 2021—white beans, pigeon peas, Ben’s Original Quinoa & Ancient Grains Medley, and Kachumbari slaw. You can add this to your list as another one to negate the sugary snacks in which you will inevitably over-indulge around World Showcase.
That being said, sometimes you need to reward your sweet tooth. Head over to the Donut Box. The Chef’s Donut of the Day rotates throughout the course of the week. On the day I tried this specialty donut, it was a blueberry and lemon treat. It was refreshing. I was not thrilled by the artificial lemon flavor, but it didn’t distract from the overall enjoyment.
The other two donuts I grabbed at the Donut Box are available every day of the festival—the Candy Jar Donut and the Sriracha-glazed Donut. The Candy Jar contains M&M’s, Snickers, and TWIX. This one was way too sweet for me. The Sriracha-glazed, however, was absolutely genius. The spice provided the perfect counteraction to the glaze. The Sriracha just stays in the background and emphasizes the other flavors.
This is just a small taste of the food items available for the Food & Wine Festival, but there is more to do than just be gluttonous. Go to Emile’s Fromage Montage and Remy’s “Ratatouille” Hide & Squeak. Listen to cover bands performing on select nights during the festival. There is always so much to enjoy at these Epcot events. Trust me, I will be back a number of times before November 20th. I will fill you in on those scavenger hunts and some of the new booths later. In addition, I have already acquired my Annual Passholder Preview for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. You know I will bring you a spoiler-free review after I ride it.
To experience Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival before November 20th, contact one of the Authorized Disney Travel Planners here at Ear to There Travel. We can navigate all of the challenges in getting your travel party to the Most Magical Place on Earth.