Your Guide to the 2020 Taste of EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival
Walt Disney World celebrates 25 years of international cuisine with this, its longest festival ever
It will take more than a pandemic to stop the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival from happening.
More accurately, in 2020, we’ll get a Taste of the Festival. But for fans of Disney festivals who are still smarting from the sudden shutdown of the parks in March, a Taste may be just as good as a feast.
Over the last several years, EPCOT has become Festival Central for Walt Disney World fans, with one of the park’s four festivals running nearly every day of the year. And 2020 should have been like any other year. Except it isn’t.
The EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival had just gotten underway in March, when seemingly overnight, the world shut down in the face of rising COVID-19 case numbers. Disney made the decision to close its parks and resorts on March 15.
For festival fans, many questions popped up during those nearly four long months that the parks were closed: would EPCOT reopen with topiaries in place? What about the Food and Wine Festival?
The Disney answer was to blend a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Mix it all together—and you get the Taste of EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival. Let’s check it out.
What It Is.
Think of the Taste of EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival as a throwback to the earliest days of this event—but without the special, extra events. (More to come about the events. And from here on out, I’ll be calling it the Taste of EPCOT.)
This year’s event features more than 20 Marketplaces already, with signs pointing to more to come. Among them are many returning favorites, but there are also some fresh flavors.
Shimmering Strawberry Soft-serve was cool and not too heavy on a hot Florida day. On our next visit, we’ll enjoy their new item, plant-based Banana Bread with Mixed Berry Compote.
One of the most interesting facts about the Taste of EPCOT is that it combines elements of both the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival with the Food and Wine Festival.
For example, the Citrus Blossom Outdoor Kitchen, with its wildly popular Orange Bird sipper, has been a draw for the last couple of Flower and Garden Festivals. For now, the bright citrus flavors of dishes such as Lobster Tail with Meyer Lemon Emulsion and Crispy Citrus Chicken with Orange Aioli continue to be available into the fall months.
The France Marketplace offers other holdovers from the Flower and Garden Festival, including one of their tastiest “grown up slushies,” La Vie en Rose. An incredible mix of vodka, Grey Goose l’Orange, St. Germain, White and Red Cranberry Juice, you won’t want to miss this “bonus” opportunity to indulge in this one. Hands down, it’s our favorite French slushy. Pair it with the Tarte Tropezienne for a decadent treat.
And this just in: the France Marketplace has also debuted a new Feuillete aux Escargots a la Crème d’Ail et Persil as well as a sparkling Rosé to pair with it!
While in France, we also stopped by to see another holdover from Flower and Garden, the Remy topiary, which debuted this spring. We suspect he’s still in place to welcome visitors to the new Ratatouille attraction when it opens (soon, hopefully, as it was originally scheduled to debut this summer.)
Next, we stopped by the Morocco Marketplace for a tantalizing trio of flavors. I can never resist those Hummus Fries!
Onto serene Japan, where we sampled two of the three offerings: First, the Chirashi Sushi Flowerpot, with Salmon, Salmon Roe and Spinach, served over Sushi Rice, and topped with Poke Sauce. This was an absolute favorite of the day.
Another crowd pleaser is a chilled take on noodles: The Frothy Ramen is packed full of flavor and interesting textures. If you’re a ramen fan, go for it!
The booth in the American Adventure Pavilion had been made over for this year’s Flower and Garden Festival to highlight flavors of the Low Country. For Taste of EPCOT, we welcome back Hops & Barley, a Food and Wine mainstay. However, one F&G dish continues in the lineup: the Southern Seafood Boil.
This time out, we tried the New England Lobster Roll. The serving was petite, but the execution was perfect.
We couldn’t finish this first visit without stopping Mexico, one of the Festival’s most popular spots. We tried the Pork Tostada and the Ribeye Taco, both of which are delicious.
But we couldn’t skip dessert! At Earth Eats, we dug into the Chocolate Pudding Terrarium, topped with Avocado Cream and Matcha Crumble. The dish is equal parts delicious and fun.
Also returning for the Food and Wine Festival is Remy’s Ratatouille Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt, a great diversion for little foodies in your party.
What It Isn’t.
While there are many wonderful things to enjoy at the Taste of EPCOT, you might be wondering what isn’t happening for 2020. Essentially, with recommendations for social distancing, there are no events that would encourage crowds. That means no concerts, demonstrations, or special dining events. While that’s unfortunate, it certainly makes sense.
However, as a result of there being no events, the cavernous (and wonderfully air conditioned) World Showplace space is now available to host additional Marketplaces.
YOU DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS STOP.
World Showplace: Taste of Epcot’s Hidden Gem.
To begin, the food here is worth your time. Secondly, sweet, sweet a/c.
Wander into World Showplace and you hit the jackpot right off the bat with the Festival Favorites Marketplace. This throwback offers the perfect dose of nostalgia, thanks to three dishes from booths that aren’t part of this year’s lineup. Enjoy a taste of Poland, Greece and Ireland at this stop.
Feeling celebratory? Offer a toast with the good stuff—like this Veuve Clicquot Brut Rose that is 100% worth the splurge.
If you dare, pair it with the biggest Cake Pop we’ve ever seen, done up with Liquid Nitro for a little extra kick of drama.
One of my favorite spots from last year was the Appleseed Orchard. When it’s 95 degrees out, there’s something lovely about fall flavors, especially when they’re frosty.
Pictured here are the Charcuterie and Cheese Plate and the Caramel Apple Popcorn, but the real, can’t-miss item is the Frozen Apple Pie, which I failed to photograph before enjoying. Frosty cold, but full of cinnamon and apple flavor, the non-alcoholic slushy is topped with streusel—and you’ll find a surprise at the bottom of the cup: apple pie filling! It is the perfect Florida fall treat.
How It’s Different.
If this is your first visit to EPCOT since the parks reopened, you’ll notice lots of differences—some Taste of EPCOT-related, and some part of the current protocols around reopening.
So much space.
At Marketplaces (and at all of the cash registers that we visited, actually), there are plexiglass dividers and reminders that contactless payments are an option.
Markers help guests to maintain proper distance between one another.
Also, so much cleaning.
The park also has installed lots of portable hand sinks, so washing up is never hard to do.
Another move that caught my eye: All trashcan lids are blocked open, thus eliminating the need to touch them. So simple, yet so effective! (I vote we keep this one forever!)
In addition, crews are cleaning constantly. The park practically sparkles.
Finally, character interactions are definitely different, but you will still see your favorites. We spotted Mickey and Minnie cruising through World Showcase several times during the day.
We also spied the Princesses and had a (socially-distanced) Jolly Holiday with Mary Poppins.
What’s to Come.
But that’s not the whole story. There is more to come. While walking around World Showcase, we spied additional Marketplaces with signs that read “Coming This Fall.”
Though not “officially” open, these booths have already been serving during busier times (read: weekends), so you may encounter tapas or raclette during your visit!
Also, the park has debuted new Taste of EPCOT merchandise, featuring beloved characters and fresh new designs. Chef Mickey and Minnie get their own cute collection. The Taste Your Way Around Collection is sure to inspire international noshing.
And don’t miss new t-shirts, hoodies, drink wear, and a swell new Dooney & Bourke line.
Figment fans also have plenty of merch to choose from with the Recipe for a Figment Collection. The motifs are guaranteed to brighten both closets and kitchens.
For my part, I’m pretty sure that the apron is coming home with me at some point.
Is It Worth It?
Listen. I’ve been visiting the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival since the very first one in 1996, and this event is very near and dear to my heart for many reasons.
Would I have loved to see the 25th anniversary celebrated with great hoopla and pageantry? Of course.
Would I have loved to see beloved musical acts and informative demonstrations You betcha.
But that’s not realistic this year, owing to the circumstances of, well, you know, the world. So we have to scale back our expectations.
It seemed touch-and-go whether Disney would even reopen during 2020, so I will take what I can get. Delicious food. Terrific drinks. The tradition of strolling the promenade. And ample examples of how Disney is making this the safest theme park experience that we can possibly have at this time.
If the EPCOT International Food and Wine is a fall Florida tradition for you, then my advice is: Go for it. And if it isn’t, then there’s no better time to enjoy the park and to discover a brand new way to wine and dine–with far fewer crowds than you’re ever likely to encounter again.
See you at the Festival.