Epcot: 62 days of food & wine
We're just around the corner from the 21st Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Sept. 14 to Nov. 14. It has become one of the country's top food festivals and features Instagram-worthy sips and bites at more than 30 marketplaces. And for the second consecutive year, ABC's Emmy Award-winning lifestyle series The Chew will produce a full week of programs from the festival. Hosts Mario Batali, Carla Hall, Michael Symon, Clinton Kelly and Daphne Oz will share their Disney culinary adventures and tasty recipes before Epcot audiences Oct. 5-7 in shows scheduled to air Oct. 10-14.
Here are some of the highlights from this year's festival:
Iron Chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Masaharu Morimoto: Chopped judge Maneet Chauhan and other celebrated chefs including Elliott Farmer and Graham Elliot will fire up the burners to host their first festival special events. Other chef icons like Robert Irvine, Cat Cora, Norman Van Aken, Elizabeth Falkner, Buddy Valastro and Jamie Deen will return to entertain guests at premium events that include Party for the Senses grand tastings featuring new entertainment.
New or reimagined dishes: Nearly half of the global marketplace food items are fresh recipes. Some of the new flavors include hard soda floats at Desserts & Champagne; savory vegan "nachos," above, at the Greece marketplace; sweet quesitos with guava sauce at the new Islands of the Caribbean kiosk; and peanut butter and white chocolate mousse at the Chew Collective. Festival guests can pair food with wines, beers, cocktails and ciders as they stroll the promenade.
First-time festival resort experiences: These include Brunch with a Twist at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa; Culinary Adventures with a Master Chef for a hands-on chef's table experience in a professional working kitchen; the Secret of Flavor three-course lunch that gives guests a "sensory-food connection" at Yachtsman Steakhouse; and a tropical "Zombie" encounter during Behind the Scenes at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.
"Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It!": Hands-on workshops at the Festival Center will offer guests a chance to learn a variety of culinary skills from chefs, bakers, mixologists and other pros.
Eat to the Beat concert acts debut: Fan favorites return to play 186 festival concerts in all. Wang Chung will open the Eat to the Beat concert series Sept. 14-15, with seven other newcomers in the lineup including Plain White T's, above, Delta Rae and Toad the Wet Sprocket. Other popular acts, including Wilson Phillips, Boyz II Men and Jeffrey Osborne will return.
Included with Epcot admission ($97-$102) are the Back to Basics series, special book signings, Eat to the Beat concerts, cultural adventures, Festival Passport and all attractions and park entertainment. Special programming by reservation includes the Party for the Senses and Rockin' Burger Block Party grand tasting events, signature dinners and other special wine and culinary programs require reservations and separate event admission. Guests can call (407) 939-3378 for reservations and get details at epcotfoodfestival.com.
Take it up a notch: Waldorf
As a complement to Epcot's festival, Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek are hosting the sixth annual Food & Wine Weekends with culinary-focused programming for guests of all ages from Sept. 16 to Nov. 13. Highlights include Bar du Chocolat, the Art of Sushi Pairing, interactive cocktail classes, culinary-themed spa treatments, an eight-flavored macaron bar, royal tea and wine pairing dinner specials in the restaurants La Luce and Bull & Bear. The hotel offers complimentary transportation to Epcot and all Disney theme parks. For more information and pricing, call (407) 597-5500.