The fare is varied at culinary festivals cranking up for the fall. Here’s a guide to some favored feasts.
Chowing down under the big tent at Cows ’n Cabs. Opposite, a rice dish masterpiece in the making at Latin Food & Wine Fest; New England Lobster Roll at the Epcot extravaganza, which runs a record 62 days this year.
Cows ‘n Cabs
Oct. 22; cowsncabs.com
Reminding us that Florida has been cow country since Spanish explorers brought cattle with them more than 400 years ago, the highfalutin annual Cows ’n Cabs returns for its sixth year. An interesting combination of hay bales and Lucchese boots, the event, hosted by ABC Fine Wine & Spirits and 4 Rivers Smokehouse founder John Rivers, benefits the Community Food and Outreach Center and Elevate Orlando. Booths from 20+ area restaurants such as previous attendees Soco, Cress and Osprey Tavern fill the tent on Winter Park’s West Meadow with food, craft beer and a whole-pig roast. Tickets start at $110.
New England Lobster Roll at the Epcot extravaganza, which runs a record 62 days this year (MATT STROSHANE).
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Sept. 14-Nov. 14; disneyworld.disney.go.com
The big daddy of area fests and one of the biggest (and longest) food events in the country. This year’s festival, the 21st annual, runs a record 62 days and should attract more than a million hungry visitors. New this year in the 30-booth lineup are offerings from Islands of the Caribbean (mojo pork with black beans); Wine and Dine Studio (seared scallop, truffled celery root purée and Brussels sprouts); and the Chocolate Studio (liquid nitro chocolate almond truffle). Returning favorites include a grilled lamb chop dish from Australia; spicy tuna poke with seaweed salad from Hawaii; and recipes from members of ABC’s cooking show, The Chew, who will be in attendance again this year. With offerings ranging from $4 to $8, the often-crowded Marketplaces arranged around the World Showcase lagoon (avoid weekends if you can) set a rambling table of world delights. (PS: The best online tip I’ve seen for festivalgoers is to bring your own plastic tray to carry multiple goodies.)
Tickets for special events went on sale July 21 and several are sold out, particularly the lavish Party For the Senses, with tickets upward of $329. The highlight will probably be the yellow and black-themed Yelloween Masquerade on October 29. Break out your bee costumes.
Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic
Oct. 28-29; swandolphinfoodandwineclassic.com
There’s a bit of friendly rivalry between Epcot F&W and the Swan and Dolphin complex. While the park holds its giant, people-packed fest, the Classic provides a more laid-back, all-inclusive experience. Participating in what feels like a backyard party are the nine resort restaurants, including Italian bistro Il Mulino and the signature bluezoo with its celebrity chef, Todd English, who usually makes an appearance. Educational seminars for wine, pasta-making and cheese pairing are offered.
A rice dish masterpiece in the making at Latin Food & Wine Fest (MATT STROSHANE).
Latin Food & Wine Fest
Oct. 16; latinfoodandwine.com
Filling the Seneff Arts Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Center with a wide variety of Latin food, and a bit of Latin jazz and salsa, the Latin Food & Wine Fest won the Golden Brick Award for Diversity last year from the Downtown Orlando Partnership. Goodies from Tapa Toro, Cuba Libre, El Inka Grill and more cost from $2 to $12.
Magical Dining Month
Aug. 29–Oct. 2; orlandomagicaldining.com
More a chance to sample those “I wish I could afford that place” restaurants than a true fest, Magical Dining offers locals and savvy visitors three-course, fixed-price menus ($33) at some of our finest and Instagram-worthy eateries. This year’s deals include seats at downtown faves Artisan’s Table, Rusty Spoon and Soco; Disney area hotspots Morimoto Asia and The Venetian Chop House; and area luminaries such as K, Osprey Tavern and Luma on Park. The Russell Home for Atypical Children gets $1 from each meal. Check out a special section starting on page 104.
Central Florida Veg Fest
Oct. 22; cfvegfest.org
Still unique in the area, the 11th annual Veg Fest takes over the Milk District’s Festival Park with a dizzying array of almost 200 food booths, vendors and animal-friendly attractions to promote vegetarianism, environmental issues and a healthy lifestyle. Local musicians take to the stage, and bites from Ethos Kitchen, Skyebird Juice Bar and the awesome folks at Market On South join those from other like-minded vendors.
Hit the road for more unusual fests. In January: the Fellsmere Frog Leg Festival (Right) (froglegfestival.com), Dade City Kumquat Festival (dadecitychamber.org), Port Canaveral’s Key Lime Pie Festival (floridakeylimepiefestival.com) and the Delray Beach Garlic Fest (dbgarlicfest.com). In February, the city of LaBelle holds the Swamp Cabbage Festival (swampcabbagefestival.org), and Steinhatchee stages the Fiddler Crab Festival—or rather a crab celebration. These diminutive crustaceans are inedible (steinhatcheeriverchamber.org).