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EATING AT EPCOT

Epcot Food & Wine Fest becomes bigger, bulkier

Dewayne Bevil on Attractions

Theme Park Ranger

7:39 AM EDT, October 10, 2013

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Veterans of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival may notice an upgrade in their surroundings this year. Disney has been enhancing the marketplaces, the small kitchen outlets where the fest's global fare is made and sold.

"Before, they were generic marketplaces with paint treatments," says Michael Jenner, event content-development manager at Epcot. He credits David Buckley, the festival's art director, with spearheading some of the new designs.

The marketplaces — we once called them kiosks — look permanent, and some of them are. The new look is more textured, ornate, themed and sturdy. It doesn't seem like they're about to roll away.

It's an illusion, of course.

"We can actually strip these down and apply a new theme to it," Jenner says.

The size of the marketplaces is expanding, he says. Epcot Executive Chef Jens Dahlmann wants to do more cooking on the spot so guests can watch their food being prepared.

"Last year, we expanded because Chef wants to do more in the marketplaces, and more means more equipment, more space," Jenner says

"I think at one time we were 8 by 8 [feet], which is too small," he says. Through the years, the structures have grown to 12 feet by 16 feet, he says.

Inside the buildings, chefs serving up small-plate dishes and desserts share the space with equipment and supplies for beer, wine and other beverages. Each area has a handful of ordering stations with umbrellas; a tub of iced, bottled drinks; a utensil stand; potted landscaping; and stanchions for crowd control. Some marketplaces have tables for sit-down dining. Each marketplace is devoted to a locale or a food grouping such as cheese or desserts.

In the quest for more elbowroom, there are variations within the marketplaces.

"To make more room in some of the marketplaces — Scotland, Belgium and Hawaii — we put the beer outside. We have a little bar," Jenner says.

The newest marketplaces are bigger — and more robust. They are engineered to stand up to high winds of 150 mph.

If there's a hurricane, I'm going to the marketplaces," Jenner says.

Flower for thought

Speaking of theme-park eats, let's look ahead to next year's Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which this year experimented with adding food, including the famed Dole Whip. Can we have seconds, please?

Yes, we can, Jenner says. The two trademark Epcot fests will continue to have distinct offerings.

"We're not going to cut and paste the menus," he says.

Well, mostly. Maybe. A small crossover has been considered, he says.

"Maybe Flower & Garden has one Food & Wine marketplace, and maybe Food & Wine has one Flower & Garden marketplace … to kind of advertise what's next," Jenner says. "We're not there yet, but we've been toying with that idea."

On the cheap side

Is it possible to enjoy Epcot's Food & Wine fest on the (relative) cheap? We've scoured the festival menu for the five least- expensive items, not counting desserts, and found you could get a full belly without ending up with an empty wallet. The "bottom" five, if you will, include:

Almond-crusted blue cheese soufflé with fig jam, at the Cheese marketplace (near Epcot's Germany): $3.25

Schinkennudeln, a pasta dish with ham and cheese, from the Germany marketplace: $3.25

Vegetarian haggis (alongside rutabaga and mashed potatoes), from the Scotland marketplace: $3.25

Zapiekanki, (toasted mushroom, caramelized onion and cheese bread with house-made ketchup), from the Poland marketplace: $3

Dole pineapple fritters, from the Refreshment Port near the entrance to World Showcase on the Canada side: $1.99.

The least expensive overall kiosks are South Korea with two main items — kimchi dog and lettuce wraps — under $4 and Belgium, with its selection of waffle-based dishes, ranging in prices from $3.25 to $4.

The entire festival menu, complete with prices, is available at TheDailyDisney.com.

dbevil@tribune.com or 407-420-5477