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Epcot’s annual food and wine festival still on at Walt Disney World, but on a much smaller scale due to COVID-19

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Although scaled down this year, food and wine are still being celebrated at Epcot.

Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival features dishes and drinks from six continents and includes more than 20 marketplaces, reports Florida Today, which is a part of the USA TODAY Network. It hasn’t been announced how long the festival will last, but it’s likely to run at least until the beginning of November.

An extra bonus: The festival includes touches from the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which was cut short when Walt Disney World closed back in March because of COVID-19.

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This year’s smaller festival allowed the chefs to concentrate on perfecting the offerings available, said Kevin Downing, chef for Epcot Festivals.

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“Guests have enjoyed this year a little bit more than years past because it isn’t so big,” Downing said. “It’s a little slower paced (and) the lines aren’t as long to get food items. I think we’ve really done a good job of putting forth the best versions of these dishes.”

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Downing and his team were strategic in picking what items would be offered. They made sure to include some classic favorites — Canadian cheddar cheese and bacon soup served with a pretzel roll, Le Cellier Wild Mushroom beef filet mignon and spanakopita are among them.

They also came up with some new creations that festivalgoers have been loving. The most popular so far, according to Downing, is the mac and cheese kitchen hosted by Boursin Cheese. There are four offerings: gourmet macaroni and cheese with garlic and fine herbs topped with herbed panko, the gourmet option with buffalo chicken, the gourmet option with lobster and vegan mac and cheese made with (plant-based) Italian sausage and peppers.

Another new item this year popping up all over social media is the cake pop, but this isn’t your average cake pop. It’s more like the size of a donut with your choice of Twix topping, M&M topping or plain chocolate. Upon ordering, the pops are dipped in liquid nitrogen and presented with a smoky trail.

Both of these new items are available in the Marketplace, a large indoor (which means the bonus of air conditioning) event space between Canada and England. Four booths are there, as well as a merchandise shop and entertainment. Every so often a pianist comes on stage and performs Disney tunes.

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There are plenty of tables and chairs, allowing guests to take a break from the heat and mask wearing while enjoying a Guinness Bailey’s milkshake or a frozen s’mores beverage (with or without alcohol).

“This year is worth the experience,” Downing said. “If you can handle some of the protocols that are in place, I think it’s worth your while. Between the food offerings and the drink offerings.”

While the Eat to the Beat Concert series isn’t happening this year, there is still music in the amphitheater at American Adventure. The JAMMitors, a drumming crew that uses trash cans, brooms and tin cans as instruments, and the Mariachi Cobre, well-known musicians who usually entertain in the Mexico pavilion, perform 30-minute shows.

“We know a lot of people are nervous, but we want them to come and feel like, ‘Wow it was worth coming out here,’” Downing said.

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Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

Where: Epcot, 200 Epcot Center Drive, Orlando

Cost: Entrance is included with the cost of an Epcot ticket, $109. Each food/beverage item is an additional cost.

When: The festival runs through at least Nov. 15.

Info: Disneyworld.com

Also: Disney World has taken multiple safety measures because of COVID-19. Reservations in addition to a park ticket, temperature checks and face coverings are required.

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