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:
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.
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!