by Kendall Foreman
Crepes in Paris… Tapas in Barcelona… Sashimi in Tokyo… Gumbo in New Orleans… Tiramisu in Rome… Oh, how delightfully appealing is the life of a culinary traveler. Without question, food attracts people from town to town, city to city, country to country, continent to continent. Given the chance, most foodies would not pass up the opportunity to partake of a culturally significant dish in the nation of its origin nor would a chef or an aspiring cook walk away from the privilege of learning how to prepare such a dish in the country where it was first created. For connoisseurs and chefs who do not have the luxury of traveling the globe to indulge their culinary interests, Walt Disney World Resort offers them—and all its guests—a taste of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, and several island nations. Throughout the culturally immersed Resort property, opportunities to partake of international and domestic delicacies abound as do chances to expand one’s cooking knowledge and skills at various park attractions, events and seminars. Expect to experience unique, unforgettable flavors made even more memorable by exceptional presentations. Many aspiring and experienced chefs travel to WDW for the express purpose of learning from the Resort’s world-renowned master chefs, who utilize varied cooking methods along with exotic spices and ingredients to create incredibly flavorful, visually stunning dishes. Whether as a partaker or creator, it is a delicious adventure roaming the “World” in search of Disney’s finest food offerings. So, for those who have a passion for food and the artistry that goes into creating it, read on and discover what WDW has to offer chefs, aspiring cooks, and foodies.
Included with Admission
While dining is almost never included with admission, gate entrance does provide guests access to innumerable culinary delights that are not available to those without a park ticket. In this writer’s opinion, there are several dishes and treats offered in each of the parks that are well worth the price of park admission. Yes, they are that good. Alas, to get the “goodies” in the parks one must pay… sometimes quite a lot. Having to reach for one’s pocket repeatedly is less than desirable; so, it is important to maximize consumption while minimizing expense. How can that be accomplished at WDW? There is no better time than during the Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival Presented by Chase®, which begins on September 27th and runs through November 11th. In the Festival Welcome Center, located between Mission: Space and the Universe of Energy pavilions, guests can enjoy a number of experiences:
- Daily throughout the Festival, from 9:00 am to park closing, guests can learn how chocolate is made from tree to treat at The Chocolate Experience: From Bean to the Bar, hosted by Ghirardelli® Chocolate Company. Delectable chocolate sculptures created WDW Pastry Chefs will be on display for observation.
- Every Friday-Sunday at [12:15], [2:00], [4:00], and 6:00 pm throughout the Festival, 30-minute Authentic Taste Seminars discussing the topic of “pure ingredients” are presented by authorities on the subject.
- Running continuously each day of the Festival is Seasons of Vine, which is a 7-minute long film that gives viewers a behind the scenes look at wine-making.
- Every Friday-Sunday of the Festival, guests can meet featured winemakers and have a bottle signed by the vintner who created it.
- Daily throughout the Festival, celebrity chefs and authors are in attendance to meet guests and sign books and merchandise.
The Festival Welcome Center is not the only location where guests can enjoy food in a whole new way. At the entrance to World Showcase, Ocean Spray® Craisins® hosts the Festival Cranberry Bog where guests can experience the beauty of a cranberry bog at harvest time. A few lucky guests are chosen to don a pair of waders and join in the harvest.
Just a short walk from the Festival Cranberry Bog in Future World’s Innoventions West is Club Cool Hosted by Coca-Cola®, which is a beverage and merchandise location that is open year-round. This is one place where drinks can be sampled for free. Filled with self-serve soda dispensers, Club Cool offers taster-size cups of unique Coca-Cola® soft-drinks from around the world including Kinley Lemon (Israel), Smart Watermelon (China), Beverly (Italy) and several others.
Also open year-round are food-merchandise locations where guests can watch and learn while treats are being made. At Karamelle-Küche in the Germany Pavilion at Epcot®, guests can watch the techniques used by cast members to make traditional caramel popcorn, caramel apples and many other caramel covered treats. In the Main Street Confectionery at the Magic Kingdom® Park, cast members at work are attractions in their own right as they create works of sweet-treat art. Whether it is a Goofy inspired caramel apple or a cookie that looks like Mickey Mouse, you are sure to pick up some decorating tricks as you watch these masters at work.
Where to Stay
A lake in the center of the Walt Disney World Resort property beckons food lovers to its shores. Situated around the lake’s perimeter are five spectacular resorts including Disney’s Yacht Club, Disney’s Beach Club, Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, and Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. All five resorts are within walking distance of each other. This close proximity gives guests relatively quick access to 17 table service restaurants, 9 counter service restaurants, 6 bars and lounges, and 1 food cart. These 33 dining options include the following establishments: Todd English’s bluezoo (AAA Four Diamond Award winner); Iron Chef America, Cat Cora’s Kouzzina; and the world-famous Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. These resorts are perfectly situated between Epcot® and Disney’s Hollywood Studios® where whole new worlds of culinary opportunities are just a short walk or boat ride away. Of course, among those opportunities is the upcoming Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival (Sept. 27th through Nov. 11th).
Where to Eat
Imagine for a moment that there is a place that spans over 40-square miles, and within that property, there are 250+ restaurants, lounges and food carts each offering an endless supply of international and domestic delicacies and treats to satisfy every palate. There in that relatively small location, food aficionados have the chance to try innovative and exciting foods that run the gambit between simple and extravagant. There, chefs welcome the challenge to satisfy the sensibilities of those who simply enjoy tasty food and those who consider themselves to be refined connoisseurs. There, those who are looking for a wide variety of interesting selections are just as satisfied as those who have a narrowed list of preferred favorites, which leads them to search far and wide for every possible incarnation of each one. Such a place exists; it is Walt Disney World Resort®. Once a year, the options there become even more mind-boggling during the Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival. It is then that more than 25 International Marketplace kiosks offer tapas-sized portions of the best each region has to offer. Taking all that into consideration, perhaps the better question to ask would be, “Where not to eat?”
The Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival Presented by Chase® is the ideal time for chefs, aspiring cooks and foodies to visit WDW Resort. This is especially true for those individuals willing to spend extra for some amazing events, seminars, and meals. The following are examples of what is available at a price:
- Signature Dining Special Events: On specific dates during the Festival, several WDW Signature Dining locations offer prix fixe, multi-course menus (complete with wine pairings) crafted by their resident chefs. Locations include Kouzzina, Artist Point, Raglan Road Irish Pub, Jiko, Hollywood Brown Derby, Le Cellier, Fulton’s Crab House, Flying Fish Café, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Victoria & Albert’s, Wolfgang Puck Dining Room, The Wave, Citricos, Portobello, California Grill, and Narcoosee’s. Also available are three special dining options presented in select Festival locations: The Scottish Burns Supper, The Beer Dinner, and The Chocolate Dinner. Costs range from $90 per guest at Le Cellier up to $525 per guest at Victoria & Alberta’s where the meal will be presented by award-winning, James Beard Finalist, Head Chef, Scott Hunnel. Dates and times vary depending on the location selected, and reservations are required. For more information on this and other special Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival Presented by Chase® events, visit the Special Events and Tours page at www.disneyworld.com.
- Pavilion Dining Events: During the Festival, the Mexico, Italy, France, and Japan Pavilions offer special dining events designed to introduce guests to experiences and tastes unique to their cultures. In Mexico on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 12:00 pm for $75 per person, guests can enjoy the Mexican Tequila Lunch during which tequila samples have been paired to compliment cuisines from regions across the country. In Italy on Nov. 3rd at 12:00 pm for $225 per guest, there will be a White Truffle Lunch featuring a five course meal and wine pairings. Italy will also be featuring Food & Beer Pairing meals on Tuesdays at 1:30 pm for $55 per guest, Food & Wine Pairing Meals on Thursdays at 1:30 pm for $65 per guest, and Regional Food & Wine Luncheon on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at 12:00 pm for $75 per guest. France will offer a Parisian Breakfast on Saturdays at 9:00 am for $37 per guest and Regional Lunches on several dates at 12:00 p.m. for $99 per guest. In Japan, several Teppan chefs will present a 6-course meal at The Hibachi Experience on October 8, 15, 22, 29 and November 5 at 5:00 p.m. for $120 per guest. Reservations are required for all Pavilion Dining Events.
- Tasting Menu of Chefs: On various dates, guests can reserve a place to partake of a tasting menu from one of seven celebrity chefs as they tell stories of their experiences. Personalities include: Emily Ellyn, Andrew Zimmern, Art Smith, Duskie Estes & John Stewart, Bryan Voltaggio & Michael Voltaggio (sold out), Robert Irvine (sold out) and Ben Sargent.
- Seminars and Demonstrations in the Festival Welcome Center: On Saturdays at 10:30 am for $80 per person, guests can learn cheese-making techniques from the featured region while enjoying its cheeses paired with selected wines and beers. Mixology seminars where guests will learn classic cocktails and new original mixes are presented daily at 6:00 pm for $15 per person. Monday through Saturday at [1:00], [3:00], and 5:00 pm and Sundays at [1:00] and 5:00 pm for $14 per person, guests can participate in a 45-minute cooking lesson from a celebrated chef. All of these events require reservations.
- Party for the Senses: For more information on this event please visit my earlier post “More to the World for a Culture Lover”.
Chefs, aspiring cooks, and foodies, are you convinced? For anyone with a passion for food and the artistry that goes into creating it, Walt Disney World Resort is not only a place that boasts a high concentration of seemingly endless and varied domestic and international food to enjoy, it is a destination that offers its guests the opportunity to observe, learn and or participate in the culinary process. It is an ideal destination for anyone who is dedicated to the appreciation of food.
Enthusiasts, please share your WDW food adventures. How have you—or do you hope to—indulge your appreciation for all things culinary at WDW? If you are someone who has never been to WDW, what “food” opportunities interest you most? If you are planning a trip Walt Disney World Resort and/or will be visiting this year’s Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival, what are you looking most forward to eating, attending, and/or participating in while there?
Kendall began visiting Walt Disney World in 1991 with her family and has continued to visit the resort with her husband. As a child, she and her family filled vacations with challenges such as “How many times can we ride Splash Mountain during SpectroMagic and the fireworks?” (Answer: 7) Now, after marrying a converted Disney skeptic, she and her husband enjoy challenges such as “How many hours can we eat nonstop at the Food & Wine Festival?” (Answer: 4)