Kidding Around the
2004 Food & Wine Festival

by Alex Koma, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the October 19, 2004, Issue #265 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Every year, we get a lot of questions about whether the Food & Wine Festival and its special events are appropriate for children. We know what WE think about these events, and how they appeal to adults, but we thought it might be interesting to hear what a kid had to say.

So we took our Kid Korrespondent, Alex, to several events to get his perspective. At 12 1/2, Alex is fast-approaching teenhood, but he's still young enough to talk about what a child sees and feels when they visit the parks and the special events this time of year. Here he shares his thoughts based on his recent Walt Disney World visit.

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Food & Wine Festival
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Overall, the Food & Wine Festival was great. The food booths were good, giving you a nice wide selection of different countries to experience. I loved the atmosphere -- it really felt like a festival! And the special displays were very interesting. In Australia, I liked listening to the guy who talked about the didgeridoo, and then played it for us. The Valencia, Spain, display was pretty interesting, too. Personally, I liked the New England display the best. I got to sample some cheddar cheese, which I really liked, and I got a little sugar rush from the maple syrup tasting! They had a hands-on mechanical cow that you could try to milk, which I saw lots of little kids having fun with. At the Tortilla Cucina exhibit I saw lots of younger kids playing with the hands-on activities they had there -- grinding corn and making tortillas.

On the down side of the festival, I found that on hot days you don't want to try hot food, and lots of the food was hot. For example, I really wanted to try the cheddar cheese soup at the Canada booth, but it was way too hot for hot soup. Instead, I sampled some of the cool stuff, like some of the desserts. The Hainan Mango Mousse at the China booth was really good! And, even though I'd had Rice Cream before, it was a cool and refreshing treat on such a very hot day.

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Food & Wine Pairing
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My parents took me to a Food & Wine Pairing at Alfredo's in Italy, and it was really great. The salad and the main course they served were really good -- I even liked the sauce on the gnocchi, and I don't usually like tomatoey sauces. The servers were really good about keeping my water glass filled, even though they didn't offer me anything else to drink, like a soda or lemonade. I think I was the only kid there, and maybe they didn't know how to treat me. I liked hearing the chef talk about how he made the food, especially when he talked about the desserts -- because even though the rest of the meal was good, the desserts won, hands down!

I would caution any parents who thought about taking little kids to a Food & Wine Pairing, though. The food is pretty "pinky up" fancy, and little kids might not like it. Also, they might get bored when the wine person is talking about the wines. For me, the person talking at our lunch gave explanations about the wines that were too detailed -- I just wanted to eat! I think a younger kid wouldn't have liked that part of the lunch at all.

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Sweet Sundays
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I was pretty excited to try this program out. When my mom described it to me, I thought, "Oh boy! Dessert for dinner!" But Sweet Sundays was definitely NOT like that at all. I would say do not bring a kid to this, especially if you're going to see a chef like the one we saw (Antony Osborne, of Culinard).

It takes a fair amount for me to be bored, because I like lots of different things, but this program was boring. I could see the kids sitting at the table across from me going out of their minds with boredom, too -- they were lots younger than me. The timing of the program was bad, too -- it didn't start until 7 p.m. and I was hungry and getting tired from a long day of walking around Epcot. We didn't get the desserts right away and had to listen to the host and the chef "blah blah blah" forever. I was so ready to eat.

Another bad thing about this event -- they took my wine glass away immediately. It's not that I would have drunk it, but then they weren't good about getting me anything else. I had some water, finally, but the servers didn't refill it often enough and didn't offer me anything else.

One other negative thing about this -- the desserts were REALLY fancy, and I don't think all kids would be willing to try stuff like this. Our chef had spent a lot of time in Asia, so his desserts all had unusual Asian ingredients, like Thai basil seed and coriander. They didn't taste bad, but they sounded odd. Maybe a different chef who isn't as fancy and made more traditional desserts, like brownies, would make this program better. But even then I don't think it would be so great for small kids -- I think it would be pretty boring to them to listen to all the talk about making the food and the wines.

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Party for the Senses
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Out of the three special Food & Wine Festival events that I did, this was the best one. I think even younger kids would enjoy it -- in fact, I saw lots of kids there who were much younger than me. The best part of this event is that it is not structured -- you could get up from your table to get more food whenever you wanted.

And the food was wonderful! I chose to try almost everything, but even for little kids or picky eaters, there was a lot to try. There was some simpler stuff, like pork with apple and beef medallions that weren't so fancy, plus a huge bread and cheese table. And there were LOTS of desserts. I think most kids could find something to eat there.

This was not boring at all, either, like some of the other events. It was totally fun! There was plenty of entertainment -- a band and performers from Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba. It was a very cool atmosphere.

The servers at the Party for the Senses were happy to accommodate me, too. They gave me soda, and refilled it often, even more than I needed. The only bad thing, and it was just a very little thing, is you would not believe how unaccustomed some chefs were to seeing a kid! Most were very nice, like the chef at the lobster pierogie station who said, "Hi, you're back again!" Others just said, "Here you go, sir -- Enjoy!" But some gave me funny looks and made me feel uncomfortable, like they were surprised to see someone young there.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the Party for the Senses a lot. I hope my mom and dad take me there again next year!

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Since we had Alex's attention, we thought we'd also ask him what he thought of Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party -- he'd never been to it, and we get very few reports from children about this event that's geared specifically to them!

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Mickey's Not So Scary
Halloween Party
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I had never been to the Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom, so I was very excited to see what all the fuss was about... and to get that CANDY that I heard they handed out!

We got to the Magic Kingdom at about 7:30 p.m. and the party was in full swing. I loved walking through Town Square and seeing the foggy pumpkin patch they had set up. I thought the background music was great, and I really liked the special effects on the buildings -- they projected flying ghosts and witches, and they had put jack-o'-lanterns in all the windows upstairs. It was very cool.

The first thing I wanted to do was get some candy, so we walked through Adventureland and Frontierland, looking for the green balloons that floated over the stations. None of the candy lines were too long -- they kept things moving pretty well. I was surprised at all the candy they handed out -- a decent handful at each place. The candy was stuff like Starbursts and Skittles, and a few places had really tiny 3 Musketeers, Twix, and Milky Ways. There was a good variety, so that even kids with allergies to nuts or chocolate could get plenty of treats. My only real complaint was that I couldn't find any treat places around the Castle -- but, like my mom said, I did manage to get plenty of goodies.

I noticed they had lots of games set up for the younger kids all around the park. They had a big dancing and hula hoop contest going over near Space Mountain, and they had a big treasure chest with fake gems over in Adventureland near Aladdin. Kids were crawling all over it, but I'm not sure exactly what the game was.

There were a lot of people there the night we went, and lines for rides seemed to be pretty long -- we even had a wait for the Tomorrowland Transit Authority! I've never had to wait for that! Sadly, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin was down when I went to ride it -- there were a lot of disappointed folks hovering around there, even when we went back later to try again.

There were fairly long lines when we went to get our photos taken, too. We ended up going over to Tomorrowland for our photos -- the station was inside the Timekeeper building. It was so sad to see the Timekeeper animatronic standing there in the dark. That was always one of my very favorite attractions.

There were also long lines for the video game exhibit they had set up in the entry to Timekeeper. They had a character from the Kingdom Hearts Playstation game there, and I think they also had demos of the game's sequel that you could try out -- but I couldn't get close enough to see for sure, there were so many kids there.

As we walked around the park, I was noticing all the special touches they had done to make it more Halloween-y. They had a Little Green Man alien from the Toy Story movies motoring around near the Carousel of Progress -- I got my picture taken with him. And they had storytellers lurking in different places, like behind the Liberty Bell.

The parade was a lot of fun, especially the Headless Horseman riding down the street beforehand. How do they do that without crashing into something? I liked the music of the parade, and seeing all the characters dressed up in Halloween costumes -- that was funny.

We stayed to watch the fireworks at 9:15 p.m. -- they were amazing. We watched them from Tomorrowland, which was a great spot. I loved seeing the fireworks go off all around us -- that was a very cool effect. And the witch flying down from the castle on her broomstick was a really neat addition -- she flew almost right over our heads, so we got a good look at her.

Maybe most teenagers would think this Halloween Party wasn't cool, but I found it really enjoyable. I'm sure that most younger kids would have a really great time, too.

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How about you? Have you and your children visited any of the Food & Wine Festival Events or Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party? Would you like to share your comments? Drop us a line at: http://allears.net/forms/feedback.htm


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.