You’ll have your choice of food from more than 25 countries at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
Anyone who has ever been to a restaurant with me knows I love small dishes. Tapas, antipasti, mezze, Cantonese dim sum or Korea banchan—bring me a bunch of little plates and I’m happy.
Which is why I have a particular love of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Aside from extravagant events like the Party for the Senses dinners ($135), the main attraction is the tasting pavilions in the International Marketplace surrounding the World Showcase Lagoon, which serve up national specialties in bite-sized portions.
This year’s 15th anniversary event (Oct. 1-Nov. 14) may prove to be Epcot’s biggest, with more than a million visitors expected to taste dishes from more than 25 countries and mingle with the visiting celebrity chefs.
Epcot executive chef Jens Dahlmann is also fond of small portions.
“My baby is South Korea,” he says of one of the two premiere pavilions this year. (Belgium is the other.) “It’s the food I like to eat. This isn’t Korean Light—when you tell me spicy, I want to see spicy.” He’s designed items like Korean lettuce wraps with roast pork and kimchi slaw, steamed mussels with roasted garlic cream and baked waffles in the Belgium booth, and coconut-braised beef from Singapore (“It is knock-your-tongue crazy,” Dahlmann says.) Marketplace samples range from $3 to $7.
I’ll be interested to see cooking demonstrations by James Beard cookbook award winner Art Smith, of the Bravo TV series Top Chef Masters. He told me he’s lost 100 pounds, and I’m curious about how he’ll pass on his new health-consciousness to the Epcot crowd. “I’m doing pizza,” he says. “Multi-grain, lots of veg. I weighed 300 pounds last year. It’s never too late.”
There’s hope for me yet.
A native of Jasper, Fla. (population 1,800), Smith was chef for Florida Gov. Bob Graham, and first came to Food & Wine Fest 10 years ago. “You have to go to other festivals to appreciate how good Epcot really is.”
At the other end of the spectrum from the sensible Smith is Andrew Zimmern, who puts bugs, rats and other disgusting things on his plate for his Travel Channel series, Bizarre Foods.
“People always peg me as the Bizarre Foods guy,” he says, “but I love grabbing a giant turkey leg or stealing a bite from my son’s Mickey Mouse-shaped ice-cream bar.
“I go to lots of culinary events,” he says. “This one is by far the most family friendly. If they keep asking me, I’ll keep coming back.”
And I’ll be watching the action in the Marketplace. Most of the food will be made directly in the kiosks. “It’s about the senses,” Dahlmann says. “The smells, the tastes: It says, we’re cookin’!”