Impressions & Reviews: 2020 Taste of EPCOT Food & Wine Festival
We’ve now spent several days at the 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival, and thought we’d share our impressions and a review of Walt Disney World’s first post-reopening event. We’ll make a few recommendations, offer thoughts on value for money, and more.
A lot of our views on the 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival mirror those shared in last year’s First Impressions & Review. The displays and decor are underwhelming and the visual style feels rehashed. The food is mostly unambitious and recycled from previous events. There’s not much substance as compared to other Epcot festivals.
Unlike in previous years, it’s very easy to give Walt Disney World a pass on all of that given the circumstances. The event was undoubtedly thrown together in a hurry and is clearly making lemonade out of lemons. Pretty much everything else on Walt Disney World’s calendar was cancelled out of health & physical distancing concerns or simply is not viable with dramatically reduced capacity. As such, we’re mostly just grateful to have the Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival at all…
Frankly, it’s difficult to muster blistering commentary or critique right now in situations where such feedback can’t help from a planning perspective or in influencing Disney’s policies. Nitpicking event decorations, entertainment, or other aspects of the 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival isn’t going to accomplish anything.
The last several months have given us a chance to take stock of what’s important versus insignificant. While we certainly have some insignificant quibbles (and feedback), we’re just happy to have the 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival and more snack options in World Showcase. It’s a fun event we can enjoy during evening strolls in Epcot.
Unquestionably the greatest triumph of the 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival is its use of World ShowPlace for a quasi-festival center and housing 4 food booths.
This colossal space is normally used in the fall for private events and up-charge offerings. With all of those off the table this year, it was available for regular use. That’s a huge win. The sheer size and spacing inside also makes it perfect for physical distancing.
Continuing a trend we’ve observed for the last few years, the menus at the 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival are less ambitious and adventurous. We’ve noted previously that it’s ironic that the annual foodie event has the least envelope-pushing cuisine of any Epcot festival, and that’s more true than ever this year.
There are fewer than a dozen items that are truly inspired and interesting. It’s mostly just comfort food, some of which offers an international flair.
Honestly, we are totally fine with that. It has been a stressful and unpleasant year–indulgent comfort food is the perfect antidote to that. How many guests are really looking to be ‘challenged’ by their food right now?
I don’t know if this was Disney’s thinking in putting together the menus, or if they’re simply an extension of the simplified menus all around Walt Disney World right now. Either way, it totally works. As with everything, culinary trends are influenced by national mood and other real world circumstances. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there’s a rise in the popularity of decadent dishes right now.
Specifically, we really liked all of the options at the Mac & Cheese booth.
There’s something for everyone here. The Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese is ‘fancy’ but straightforward, the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese is hearty and offers good value, and the Plant-based Mac & Cheese is a good option for vegetarians or vegans.
If you’re looking for something that works as a small meal, you can’t go wrong with the Tempura Donburi at the Japan Global Marketplace.
The Hawaii Global Marketplace also delivers once again, with both menu items being tried and true favorites. In particular, the Teriyaki-glazed SPAM Hash is a filling and satisfying option.
On a more “inspired” front, pretty much everything at the France booth impresses.
Same goes for Islands of the Caribbean–the Jerk-spiced Chicken is the event at its best: ambitious, approachable, and delicious.
We also like the Street Corn Funnel Cake topped with Roasted Corn, Cotija Cheese, Cilantro and Cumin Crema dusted with Paprika.
An option with ice cream would’ve been more refreshing on these hot summer days, but this is an inventive twist that we think really works.
This just scratches the surface–there’s no shortage of solid items at the 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival. In fact, the menus feel like they’ve been curated with only the most popular and crowd-pleasing selections making the cut.
Speaking of which, here are our fully-updated Global Marketplace reviews if you’d like to know where we stand on any other dishes:
- Africa Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Brazil Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Canada Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- China Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Citrus Blossom Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Desserts & Champagne Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Earth Eats Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- France Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Germany Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Hawaii Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Hops & Barley Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Islands of the Caribbean Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Italy Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Japan Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Mac & Cheese Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Mexico Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Morocco Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Refreshment Port — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Shimmering Sips Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
- Wine & Dine Booth — Menu, Food Photos & Reviews
We’re optimistic that at least a few Global Marketplaces will be added before the event is over.
The Alps and Spain are in World Showcase with “coming soon” signs, and two booths are ready to go in Future World (those appear to be Flavors from Fire and Chocolate Studio). The addition of Flavors from Fire alone would be a huge win. Any or all of the Culinary Corridor booths returning would also be great.
When it comes to the Global Marketplace menus, there is one thing that we think needs to change: pricing.
You might notice that there are Disney Dining Plan snack credit icons next to prices. Presumably, these were put together prior to the Disney Dining Plan being cancelled for the remainder of the year. That might help explain some of the high pricing.
We’ve commented on this before, but the Disney Dining Plan has fueled menu price inflation at Walt Disney World. Higher prices mean better ‘value perception’ for DDP users, which pushes more guests towards the pre-paid meal plan.
Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival is often a big beneficiary of this, especially as it normally coincides with the Free Dining promotion. Obviously, that’s not the case this year.
In fairness, the event is also incredibly popular with locals, Disney Vacation Club members, College Program participants, students at Central Florida universities, and other guests who are paying out of pocket. So it’s not as if all guests are paying with the ‘Monopoly Money’ of Disney Dining Plan snack credits in a normal year.
However, at least a couple of those event demographics aren’t going to be present at all this year. Others are probably more likely to be conservative in their spending given the current economic conditions. This is exactly the type of discretionary spending that’s first to be cut during a recession.
Anecdotally, we’ve noticed the booths often have no guests at them placing orders or waiting for food. This is a sharp contrast to normal years, when many booths would have perpetual lines from the time they open until closing.
This is at least partially attributable to significantly reduced park capacity. (Arguably entirely attributable to it.) That seems unlikely to us, though.
Aside from what we’ve “needed” to buy for reviews, we’ve been restrained in our purchases. We’ll end up buying the tempura and mac & cheese dishes a few more times due to the value for money they offer, but probably not much else.
That is, unless an AP/DVC discount is released for the Global Marketplaces. That wouldn’t even remotely surprise us, and should happen if Disney wants to encourage sales.
Some dishes at the 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival are around double the price that’s reasonable.
Walt Disney World can get away with that in normal times, but it’s time for a reality check on the runaway pricing. This is in general, but festival food booths are perhaps the biggest offender on that front. (Another topic for another day, though.)
To end on a positive note, the miniature garden railroad in the Germany pavilion has added 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival banners to the diorama.
The village denizens seem pretty ambivalent towards this, but we think it’s a nice touch.
Ultimately, the biggest disappointment about the 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival is that this should’ve been the full event’s 25th Anniversary and, in normal circumstances, it likely would’ve been a big year for the event. We’re missing out on who knows what–a return of iconic dishes or booths from years past, awesome anniversary decor, ambitious events?
On the other hand, the biggest silver lining is that the event is happening at all. It’s easy to focus on what could’ve been or lament what we’re missing, but Walt Disney World could’ve cancelled this like everything else. It may not be perfect, but the 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival is unquestionably better than nothing, and the bright spots it offers are enough for us to enjoy until Epcot can move forward with its phased reopening and offer something bigger and more ambitious.
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Anything you’re excited to try at the 2020 Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Disappointed by the menus, missing booths, lack of celebratory element, or pricing? Happy that the festival is happening at all? What do you think of the lineup of Global Marketplaces? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
We are Celiacs and as usual are basically left out of the Food and Wine Festival. There are only a few places where you can buy anything gluten free. We wondered around looking at the various booths — some had some wonderful smells and the food looked tempting — but the staff simply said, “No, nothing gluten free here,” and turned away from us as if saying, Why did you bother us?” We’d really like to be included in ALL the booths, all the food offerings, and would be happy to pay for it. But Disney has turned it’s back on Celiacs apparently for the F&W Fest. Which compared to sit down restaurants is TOTALLY different.
Major disappointment !!! Lobster Mac and cheese was fishy. Stale bread and cold food was the norm. Prices were outrageous! Seemed like food was sitting around way longer than normal. I am a Florida resident and have been going since they started this. Epcot even seemed down and depressed. Workers with no enthusiasm! I was disappointed.
Does anyone k so when the festival ends? I’m booked the first week of Nov but I will move or cancel the trip if the festival is over by early Nov. I can’t seem to find an end date anyplace.
Epcot’s Germany restaurant’s menu still is advertised as a “Boisterous German Buffet”
Anybody know how they are doing the buffet style during this trying time?
Are there cast members serving the food at the buffet line as opposed to everyone serving themselves?
I believe what I’d read was that they are serving it family-style, with platters brought to the tables. This falls in line with reduced variety of things available due to supply chain issues and less staff. With the sneeze guards already in place at buffets, I do not believe this is an actual improvement in preventing transmission even though some would argue differently.
Don’t forget the issues of personnel to work the actual booths and event as the International workers are gone. This would also be a driving factor in the ‘food’ choices as quick, easy to prepare in bulk with not much training involved. Supplies of certain types of food items (all the way down to certain spices) that are needed logistically now that supply lines are still stressed to a point. It is a miracle that Disney is even able to pull off a minor ‘Taste’ of F&W. This is gigantic money maker for Disney every year but without the people to work or prepare the food the juice would not be worth the squeeze – so keep it simple and as you so wonderfully stated comforting. The better half and I are headed that way from the panhandle this weekend. Can’t wait to try it all! We have done all 24 F&W up to this point and are grateful for 25! Also the bonus is the left over Flower Fest merch and feel. Cheese soup from Canada is calling my name!
In the last few years, most festival booths have been manned by random people, with little regard for their national or ethnic origins. There have been notable exceptions, such as China, France, etc. But the others have seemed random to me.
It’s almost like people have decided fun snacks aren’t worth getting and spreading Covid for. Who’d a thunk it?
Of course they have to have the SPAM Hash. It’s the best thing in the entire festival. There will be riots if they ever try not having it!
I agree. Need more sitting areas and umbrellas at Epcot even pre virus. But then there are some who park indefinitely and hog these and hold space even when people are waiting for a seat. We sit , eat, and leave unless there are no crowds.
Planning to go to Epcot 7/30 onAP. Your blog is helpful for food Â« festival Â» did I understand there are no booklets showing what is available at kiosks? We like to sit down and pick and choose. Also save for next time we go .is there a website. We are not the greatest online. Is there an app? Going aug 4 to MK Breakfast and parking at Contemporary–Reservation at The Wave. Trying to get out carefully. Went to Medieval Times the other night. Know it’s not WDW, but trying to share Our money with other places .Temp check there, MAsks except when eating. Decent Meal, server wearing masks and shields. Performers wearing masks during sword fights and jousting. Just something different and able to get discount online.
We are also going on 7/30. I was wondering same thing…do you order on app or can you still just walk up to pay?
All of the previous things that were in the booklet are not on the MDE app. All of the menus can be viewed on there (and bonus, if you’re not sure where the booth is, the app will give you directions to get to it).
And you don’t need to order through the app – you just walk up and order like normal.
I wouldn’t be surprised if heat and lack of dedicated (socially distanced) seating is also a factor in why the booths are not crowded right now. We made table service reservations on our Epcot days because I didn’t relish the idea of trying to find a shaded bench to eat out of the sun when seating in World Showcase is pretty limited. In the past, I might have grabbed a snack or drink to walk and eat but that (for good reason) is not possible now.
The prices for food and wine are way to high. I agree about the DDP and why they jack up prices. There should be AP discounts. For the portion size you get $8-$9 is just ridiculous.
Notice how it’s easier to get ADR. Because the DDP eat up all the reservations. Yes, because of social distancing you can’t get into some harder to get reservations now but once the DDP comes back you can’t get many restaurants at all. Hope it never comes back.
Agree. Wish DDP would never come back.
Where is the World ShowPlace???
It’s in a backstage area behind the large “parade gate” between the Canada and UK pavilions. You usually can’t see it from inside the park, but it’s clearly visible if you look at the Epcot map in the app or website.
The link for wine and dine booth is for 2019 article.
It’s so tempting to make a trip, but just not worth the risks on air travel, etc… If only we had the Star Trek “beam-me-up-Scotty” thing (“take us to Epcot!”). After the past few months we would love nothing better than grabbing a beer at UK and head to our spot by the bridge to France and look at World Showcase and just chill. It’s great to read your updates and absorb the pictures. It’s the next best thing for now. Thanks