With more than 270 chefs on deck, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival opens today and celebrates 15 years of global indulgences along the World Showcase promenade. From now through Nov. 14, more than 300 international and domestic wines will be poured and more than 75 types of appetizer portion treats will be served.
For such an elaborate spread, Epcot executive chef Jens Dahlmann , chef Albert Youngman and culinary programs manager Marianne Hunnel start the menu planning as soon as the previous festival wraps.
"We take into consideration guest feedback, first and foremost, and then look at dining and food trends on the horizon," says Hunnel. "We've got a great lineup of guest chefs and cookbook authors this year including Cat Cora , Todd English , Gale Gand , Robert Irvine , Art Smith , Andrew Zimmern , Debbie Gold , Rock Harper , Jeff Henderson , Robin Miller and Jamie Deen ."
Belgium , South Korea and Singapore have been added to the marketplace lineup this year, and there are new offerings at several returning kiosks including Argentina, Chile, Poland, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Australia, the United States and Spain .
"There are 25 new tastes this year," says Dahlmann. "From authentic street food to the aromas of the dishes being cooked on-site, this year's festival will be an amazing sensory experience."
Stepping into World Showcase, guests looking for the new treats should take a left turn and head to the desserts and champagne kiosk , just past Chile. Bubbles are always a popular way for regulars to begin their mini world tour and this year a pear streusel pudding cake is a fine match for the effervescent refreshers.
Across the promenade on the lagoon is Puerto Rico, where chicken soup with rice (a winner of a cast member cook-off) and the medianoche sandwich (a rich Puerto Rican turn on a Cuban sandwich) headline.
Just steps away are the South Korean lettuce wraps with roast pork and kimchi slaw and barbecued short ribs with steamed rice and cucumber kimchi . Wash it down with honey ginger tea , Bek Se Ju (an herbal rice wine) or Bohae Bokbunjajoo (black raspberry rice wine).
Pace yourself, Singapore is within sight. There you will discover a shrimp cake served with a noodle salad and coconut braised beef with jasmine rice . Both are nice matches for a sultry Singapore Sling or Tiger beer .
Between Italy and Japan, the United States shines with the flavors of the Pacific Northwest . A robust bison chili with wild mushrooms and pepper jack cheese and an heirloom tomato salad with domestic blue cheese, red onions and fresh basil are nicely balanced. Hunnel discovered a merlot and Riesling from Sagelands Vineyard to pair with the food.
Follow the scents of vanilla and garlic to Belgium, where waffles are baking fresh on the grill and steamed mussels are tossed in a roasted garlic cream sauce . For the sweet fare, try a Godiva chocolate iced coffee, and the shellfish will pop with the Leffe beer. (It has a nice sassafras finish.)
In addition to the festival's daily wine seminars, bottle signings, author events and culinary demonstrations at the Festival Welcome Center , Epcot has two new restaurants: Via Napoli , an authentic pizzeria at the Italy pavilion, and La Hacienda de San Angel at the Mexico pavilion.
15th annual Epcot Food & Wine Festival
When : Today through Nov. 14
How much : $82 general admission for adults, tapas-sized portions regional specialties are $3 to $8 each
Free extras : Authentic Taste seminars and Authors Without Borders programs with special book signings at the Festival Center, Eat to the Beat! concerts and a souvenir Marketplace Discovery Passport
Premium extras : Party for the Senses grand tasting events and other wine and culinary programs require reservations and separate event admission