Jan Norris: Food and Florida

Food, Restaurants, Recipes and Pre-Disney Florida

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EatBeat: Orlando — Epcot Foodie Fest; Vinito New Italian

October 2nd, 2009 · 1 Comment


Disney World has kicked off its annual fall homage to food enthusiasts with the 14th annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. It runs through Nov. 8 at the Orlando theme park.

It’s a huge production, even by Disney standards.

To wit, here are some numbers from the event:

  • More than 33,000 bottles of wine and champagne — 300 national and international wine varietals – will be poured into 338,000 wine glasses.
  • There are 405 wine and beer seminars during the 45-day event. 
  • 750,000 beer cups will be used for quaffing brew, including at the free Samuel Adams’ seminars.
  •  More than 690,000 samplings of 76  international foods from six continents will require 2.1 million napkins, 1.2 million hors d’oeuvre plates and 600,000 forks.
  • 100,000 miniature desserts will be plated.


  • More than 3,000 gallons of soup will be served, including cheddar cheese soup (Montreal marketplace), chicken and coconut soup (Bangkok, Thailand marketplace) and Mealie soup with crabmeat and chili oil (Capetown, South Africa marketplace)
  • jens-disneyworld More than 250 chefs are involved in cooking up these foods, with guest chef names like Warren Brown, Cat Cora, Jamie and Bobby Deen, Keegan Gerhard, Jeff Henderson, Robert Irvine, Art Smith, Jacques Torres, Alan Wong and Andrew Zimmern — among others. Epcot executive chef Jens Dahlmann (at right) who worked here in Palm Beach before moving to Disney World, heads them up.
  • More than 1,200 fireworks rockets explode each night over the World Showcase Lagoon in “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” grand finale (an impressive show and worth staying for)

Entertainers this year at the popular Eat to the Beat concerts are:

  • Sept. 30-Oct. 3 Starship, starring Mickey Thomas (“We Built This City”)
  • Oct. 4-6 En Vogue (“Free Your Mind”)
  • Oct. 7-8 Better Than Ezra (“Good”)
Sister Hazel

Sister Hazel

  • Oct. 9-11 Sister Hazel (“All for You”)
  • Oct. 12-13 Kool & The Gang (“Celebration”)
  • Oct. 14-16 Spyro Gyra (“Morning Dance”)
  • Oct. 17-18 Jon Secada (“Just Another Day”)
  • Oct. 19-20 Sister Sledge (“We Are Family”)
  • Oct. 21-22 Vanessa Carlton (“A Thousand Miles”)
  • Oct. 23-25 Taylor Dayne (“Tell It to My Heart”)
  • Oct. 26-28 Boyz II Men (“Motownphilly”)
  • Oct. 29-31 John Waite (“Missing You”)
  • Nov. 1-2 Taylor Hicks (“Do I Make You Proud”)
  • Nov. 3-5 Billy Ocean (“Caribbean Queen”)
  • Nov. 6-8 Los Lobos (“La Bamba”)

A number of new activities have been added to the annual favorites schedule that includes a Party for the Senses on Saturdays (it’s a grand tasting), with a different theme each week. New this year are Celebrating Family and Friends in the Kitchen, and Culinary Adventures in Signature Dining.

While some special seminars and most dinners and foods cost extra (dinners require reservations), included in the price of park admission are the Samuel Adams Beer Seminars, Authentic Taste seminars,  and Authors without Borders programs with special book signings at the Festival Center.

illuminationsThe Eat to the Beat! concerts, culinary and cultural adventures and the Illuminations fireworks show, and all attractions and park entertainment are included in the normal price of Epcot tickets.

Some tips from this veteran

  • I’ve been to several of these festivals and my advice is to plan on two days, to get the most out of it. (Especially true if you plan to go to any park activities other than the fest. )
  • Pick up or download the festival schedule and plan on what you’d really like to try – once you’re there among all the crowds and activities, you may forget.
  • The weekly Party for the Senses is a terrific dine-around with a lot of great food and special chef appearances, but go with a friend or group — it’s best when shared.
  • Reservations are needed at some seminars, dinners and events and the big “names” usually do sell out – but there are a lot of events that you can walk right in to on the day of – or book the same day.
  • Take it slow, especially with the alcohol – eat – protein, preferably, before you start tastings.
  • There’s a good deal of walking – dress casually and comfortably for this daytime affair.
  • Book a hotel room within the park – you’ll appreciate it greatly at the end of the day.
  • Sample some foods you ordinarily wouldn’t. You may and probably will be pleasantly surprised.
  • Stay for the Illuminations fireworks — it’s a spectacular show around the lagoon.
  • Buy a Disney Gift Card at the Visitor’s Center when you arrive — and load it up with the money you plan to spend. You won’t have to hunt for cash or deal with change every time you buy a food or wine sample, or pay for a book. It’s good for a long time if you still have money on it at the end of your visit.

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Where: Disney World’s Epcot theme park, Buena Vista, FL

When: Now through Nov. 8, daily

Information: Download the complete schedule, get information on tickets and pricing for individual events and maps at the web site: www.disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/epcot/special-events

Vinito’s New Italian in Prime Outlets Mall

vinito tower_edited-1

One-of a kind restaurants are hard to find in Orlando – new eateries there are usually a chain, since O-town is the testing grounds for most restaurants seeking to franchise across America and beyond. Where better to test new foods or concepts that play as well in Peoria as they do in Pensacola or Portland? The city has an international audience of diners.

So these individual eateries are welcomed. The latest, Vinito Ristorante, has solid classics on the menu – and a selection of Italian wines. The chef, Raffaele Marsilio, is an Italian from Naples – and though that doesn’t guarantee a great meal, it helps to have some authenticity in the kitchen. He comes from a family who owns restaurants in Europe and worked his way around kitchens to gain experience before coming to America. A  tomato sauce for one of the pasta dishes is named for his mother and has become his signature dish.

A personal review

Fellow food writer Scott Joseph of Orlando has written a review of it, and proclaimed it quite good, with both good service and ambience and some choice dishes. He recommended the antipasto and the chef’s version of the classic veal Marsala.

Along with the full meal selections, they offer flatbread pizzas, salads and sandwiches that would work well for a lunch.

vinito antipasto_edited-1

So if you happen to be up that way for the Disney festival, or just passing through – and stop to shop, check it out – they’re open for both lunch and dinner, and according to Joseph, worth the trip.

Vinito Ristorante

Prime Outlets Mall

4971 International Dr., Orlando

(407) 354-0404; www.vinitousa.com

Open daily, lunch and dinner, from 11 a.m.

Tags: The Eat Beat: Restaurant News

1 response so far ↓

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