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EPCOT's International Food & Wine Festival begins

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epcot food and wineAlthough some adults return to Walt Disney World and its associated parks out of nostalgia, to introduce new kids to the experience or because they’ve never given up their youthful sense of wonder, others need a little more incentive. The next 45 days at EPCOT are aimed right at those lapsed adults.

It’s time for EPCOT’s annual International Food and Wine Festival, six weeks when the oft-forgotten Disney theme park raises its target demographic by a few decades, or more.

Buy a ticket to EPCOT and you’ll gain access to more than just Spaceship Earth and Soarin’. During the fest, the park sets up kiosks throughout World Showcase featuring food and drink from over two dozen different countries and cultures.

Brand new this year is the Scotland Marketplace, serving items like smoked salmon, vegetarian haggis and a whisky flight from Glendfiddich. The Brazil outpost will dish up crispy pork belly and Xingu beer while the Hops & Barley stand in the American Adventure area of the park has good old Maine lobster with garlic butter.

These kiosks don’t serve up a free lunch, but considering the prices and quality at most of EPCOT’s dining establishments, the stands offer significant value, usually clocking in below $10 for each small plate or adult beverage sample.

Beyond the kiosks, the fest also offers more serious meals at Mexico, Italy, France and Japan, ranging from $37 for the Parisian Breakfast to $225 for a White Truffle Lunch. There are also a series of meals focused on wine regions of France.
Of course, many of the special events are already sold out – and have been since they were announced – thanks to the truly serious fans of the fest. Thankfully, EPCOT has some fun scheduled for the procrastinators among you.

There will be wine seminars, cheese tastings, mixology lessons and book and bottle signings by some of the fest’s celebrity guests – people like Cat Cora, Andrew Zimmern, Robert Irvine and Jamie Deen – in the Festival Center, where you can reserve space every morning for that day’s events. And I do mean morning: You may have to sprint when the gates open in order to guarantee a spot at your chosen event; I guarantee others will be running to be among the first in line.

Truth is, if you want to do more than just cruise the kiosks nibbling on small plates and tossing back Champagne or sake, you’ll need to plan your trip like you plan the invasion of a small country. Of course, even if you schedule yourself down to the minute you still might not see (or taste) it all.

In between snack and sips, you can also relive your musical salad days. The fest has gathered a truly astounding array of nostalgia acts spanning several decades of pop music’s Top 40, starting this weekend with Starship (or, at least, original member Mickey Thomas).

Did you grow up in the 80s? Then you can bop to the sounds of The Go-Go’s (Sept. 30-Oct. 1), Wilson Phillips (Oct. 14-15), Boyz II Men (Oct. 21-23, or Survivor (Oct. 24-25). How about the 90s, with acts like Sugar Ray (Oct. 7-9), Smash Mouth (Oct. 28-30) or Spin Doctors (Oct. 31-Nov. 1)?

There are plenty more in the lineup, so check out the full schedule to see if the band that appeared on the poster in your high school locker is playing the fest at the America Gardens Theatre stage. Concerts take place at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. daily and are free to festival attendees.
Oh yeah, there’s also EPCOT itself. You know, rides, exhibits, the golf ball. You can do that, too, if you find the time.

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FOOD & WINE FESTIVAL Sept. 27-Nov. 1 disneyworld.disney.go
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Brian Ries

Brian Ries is the editor of ticketsarasota.com.
Last modified: September 25, 2013
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