Posted October 30, 2015
By MARCUS LIM
ORLANDO, Fla. – The currency to travel around the world in this day and age — time and money — is something most are hard-pressed to find.
With work responsibilities and a finite amount of money, even the most ardent traveler will find it a struggle to travel to different continents.
However in Disney’s Epcot Theme Park, the Food and Wine Festival brings the world’s culinary highlights to you.
Often referred to as a “permanent World’s Fair,” one can explore local architecture, eat mouth-watering unique delicacies, witness international cultures and celebrate technological innovation of the world.
With two realms within the park, the north called Future World, dedicated to technological advances, and the World Showcase in the south, it is a large area representing 11 countries of the world. It is the latter that has drawn the most attention and it is where the Food and Wine Festival presents authentic delicacies of the world.
“I don’t speak for everyone but most Americans like myself don’t really get out of the country to travel,” Richard Adams, a tourist from Tulsa, who was visiting Epcot, said. “But Epcot gives us a chance to see the world. I got to see Asian cultures in Japan and China, the European cultures, and try their food.”
The 20th annual event is seven weeks long and offers unique local delicacies of food and beverages, celebrity chefs and many other highlights. The festival always demands the attention of patrons, some who purposely make the trip so that they can eat and drink various food found around the world, all in one place.
“Hawaiian food is hard to find in Florida, where I stay,” Lorna Castillo, an Hawaiian living in Tampa, said. “The food and wine festival gives authentic food from Hawaii that just makes the trip so worth it. And of course there are other stuff, but I usually eat so much of the Hawaiian food that I don’t have the stomach for the others, though I should try eating everything next time.”
Located at Walt Disney World in Bay Lake, Fla., near the city of Orlando, the 300-acre Epcot theme park is more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom park. Ranked the third-most visited park according to official reports, the World Showcase and festival is one of the main reasons Epcot skyrocketed in popularity, with many people wanting to see the countries of the world.
“In 2014, the park saw 11 million people,” Ashley Deandroff, a staff member who works in guest services for Epcot, said. “The theme park is fun for everyone and attracts all sorts of demographics. Fun for the families with a rich education experience, fun for college students who come here to drink and fun for anyone who loves food.”
Surrounding the beautiful World Showcase Lagoon, which is in the center of the World Showcase, are the 11 pavilions, each themed and dedicated to represent a country. In clockwise order the pavilions are: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada.
Each pavilion has the authentic feel of the country it is representing. The themed architecture, the landscape, the attraction, the shops and restaurants, it all symbolizes the culture of that nation. China had humongous temples and serene gardens, Mexico had an Aztec temple, Norway had Nordic structure and landscape and littered among them were more than 25 marketplace booths serving more than 32 different foods, exclusive only for the Food and Wine Festival.
“I’ve been to Epcot a few times and I love the restaurants here,” Aalekhya Reddam, a student in the University of Miami, said. “But this festival just brings Epcot to a new level. The added booths are different from the 11 fixed countries. There’s Argentinean food, Brazilian food, Australian food, there are just so many to choose from.”
Favorites of guests include the New England lobster roll in the U.S., the cheddar cheese soup in Canada, mac n’ cheese from an Australian booth, seared venison loin with wild mushroom marsala sauce from New Zealand, it is a paradise for many to eat food from all over the world in one place.
“The event is something that we love to host for the public,” Deandroff said. “We always keep up-to-date with the latest celebrity chefs and what local food is popular in the respective countries. Exposure to different cultures is what we aim, and we love seeing the satisfied looks of the public.”
Apart from being a hub for “foodies,” the alcohol offered has seen many people clamoring to try the different, traditional beverages, even having many groups coming to Epcot to do a “drink around the world.” As the name states, the group visits all 11 countries (and 25 market booths) and drink the alcohol from each respective country.
“It’s an annual tradition,” Max Rabuse, a student at New York University, said. “Me and my friends come here and we drink every beverage around the world. The drinks aren’t that strong so we usually can try every drink.”
Among the 75 new cocktails, wines and ciders presented is an exclusive beer crafted with 20 drinks, to commemorate the 20th time the event is held.
And while the food and wine is a huge feature, learning about different cultures is what many people want to see. From seeing Japanese drummers to the timber frame houses of Germany, even the staff employed there are citizens of the respective country.
Part of the Cultural Representation Program through J-1 visa agreements, Walt Disney employs citizens of varying countries to accurately represent and showcase their country in a positive light.
“This is a great opportunity for us,” Tan Jia Xin, a staff member stationed in China said. “It gives us an opportunity to be part of Disney and show people our beautiful culture.”
Each staff member will be equipped with information of their country, and a stamp to mark Epcot’s own personalized passport. Part of a fun initiative, guests can get an Epcot passport from any stand and after visiting different places can get a stamp from that country.
And in some countries, depending on the day, there will be celebrity chefs treating patrons to their signature dish that is from their country. Cat Cora, Robert Irvine and Gale Gand are among chefs that will be at Epcot during the festival and will showcase their culinary skills that helped them achieve their famed status.
For $97, guests will have the chance to see the world and have their taste buds explode with uniqueness. From Sept. 25 to Nov. 16, more than 300 domestic and international wine and numerous marketplaces, the trip will be an unforgettable one, and a cultural learning experience.
If You Go
Address: 200 Epcot Center Dr., Orlando, Fla. 32821
Food and Wine Festival: Sept. 25 – Nov. 16, 2015
Ticket prices: $97