Epcot’s original annual eating event has returned for its longest run ever, and we’re sharing with you a virtual vicarious taste of the Unofficial Guide’s first visit to the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival 2021.
After a year of modified “Taste Of” seasonal festivals, Walt Disney World launched 2021’s EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival without any such disclaimers. Veteran festival-goers know better than to try to tackle the entire event in one day, so we always plan on digesting the festivities in smaller bites. But after our first nibble around the world, it seems this supposedly full-size Food & Wine Festival may offer a lot less to chew on than we’d hoped for.
As usual, you can pick up a printed EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival passport at the park’s front entrance, which serves as your guide to the event.
But as you enter EPCOT, you may notice that the normally extravagant welcome display in the entry plaza’s flowerbeds has been scaled backed from previous years.
There are more decorative displays as you approach the central lagoon and scattered banners hung around World Showcase, but the park overall doesn’t look quite as festive as it has during some festivals past.
One of our first festival stops is always the Living with the Land boat ride, which has been getting updates of late that tie in with each seasonal event. Unfortunately, all we spotted during our voyage were a couple of small displays referencing Food & Wine in the final greenhouse.
Along the garden pathway from Future World West, the playgrounds and demonstration kitchens are all absent, and in their place is a bare-bones rest area with picnic tables and minimal shade.
Another popular element of EPCOT’s recent “Taste of” festivals that has not returned is the World Showplace, which offered an air-conditioned one-stop-shop for food, merchandise, and informational exhibits. The large hall, which sits between Canada and the U.K., is once again off-limits behind large doors.
As you stroll around the lagoon, it’s obvious that, despite launching the event earlier than ever on July 13, EPCOT’s 2021 Food & Wine Festival isn’t entirely ready for prime time yet, as a number of booths are still closed and marked “opening October 1.”
In addition, some familiar food kiosks are gone entirely, like this one between France and Morocco, which was a semi-permanent structure that has recently been demolished.
Most concerningly, as you flip through the passport, you’ll see the entertainment options are extremely slim—consisting solely of local cover bands on the American Gardens stage during select days, plus the park’s usual musical groups like Voices of Liberty and the Jammin’ Chefs—and there are no educational seminars or special tasting events whatsoever. These are the elements that elevate EPCOT’s festival above just being the world’s most expensive food court, and they are sorely missed.
Now that we’ve covered what’s missing, let’s talk about what EPCOT’s most popular annual event still has to offer. Of course, there are multiple lines of merchandise to purchase, with many items featuring the festival’s mascot Remy from Ratatouille.
There are also new Festival merchandise lines highlighting Mickey and Minnie, as well as Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Festival sponsor Corkcicle has plenty of branded cups and bottles to collect, including a special reusable stemless flute available at the Shimmering Sips booth.
Kids (and the young at heart) can pick up a map for Remy’s returning Ratatouille Hide & Squeak scavenger hunt for $9.99 and then collect a modest prize after completing the game.
Of course, most people come to EPCOT’s festival to sip and sup, not shop, and although the menus at many kiosks are noticeably shorter than usual this year, there are still plenty of options to savor, provided you are a carnivore. Vegans will be disappointed to discover that only 8 out of the 100+ dishes listed in the festival passport are designated as “plant-based,” and 2 of those are Impossible Burger-based dishes from Earth Eats.
On the bright side, the new dishes we have tried so far this year have featured larger portion sizes and better-executed preparations than at recent EPCOT festivals. For example, the coconut curry shrimp soup bowl from the new Noodle Exchange booth boasted rich broth and enough slurpable rice noodles for a filling midday meal.
Right across the pathway at the Australia booth, we were treated to one of the largest lamb chops we’ve seen at the event, which was cooked to a perfect medium-rare and garnished with pistachio.
Last but certainly not least, let’s conclude with our hands-down favorite thing about the Epcot’s 2021 International Food & Wine Festival: the return of the Morocco pavilion’s Tangierine Cafe!
This quick-service restaurant, which was one of our long-time picks for best value in the park, reopened last summer with the rest of the resort, but it was shuttered again shortly after.
Now, this dining location has been resurrected with a new menu of grilled kabobs and other Middle Eastern treats for the Food & Wine Festival.
We especially enjoyed the piping-hot bread with three flavorful dips, paired with an ambrosial fig vodka cocktail.
What do you think of the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival 2021 so far? Let us know in the comments, and tune in soon for our next nosh around World Showcase!
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.