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Food & Wine Festival
Sunday, October 9, 2005
French Pastry School
Tatin topped with Moist Almond Cake
and served with Apple Granite
served with Roasted Corn Ice Cream and Pecan Streusel
Red Wine Plum Stew
served with Raspberry Sorbet and Hazelnut Linzer
Wine: Prosecco and Asti Spumanti
ALL EARS NET® Photographer
There aren't many places, at least in my realm of experience, where you can drink close to a bottle of wine before noon and not be embarrassed. Add to that a wonderful breakfast buffet, a 3-course dessert menu, and an enormously funny and enlightening culinary demonstration, and you can only be experiencing Sweet Sundays at Disney's Food and Wine Festival.
On Sunday, October 9, at 9:45 a.m., two friends and I sleepily headed over to Epcot's Odyssey - The Chef's Showplace for the 10 a.m. Sweet Sundays. After indulging in the Party for the Senses the previous evening, we were questioning the wisdom of booking this event. Not only were we still feeling the effects of the night before, but two of our party are not exactly what you'd call handy in the kitchen. We do, however, have a great memory for the phone numbers of the local take-out restaurants. Would this be worth the hefty $55 price tag? Would we be bored to tears? And worse yet, how many attractions would we forfeit on this already-too-short weekend away?
After checking in (in the line outside, a Cast Member came by with a roster and checked off your name), we entered the large dining area and found a table relatively close to the front. A raised stage was set up with the necessary tools of the trade -- a blender, stovetops, counters, cooking utensils, etc. Two large mirrors were placed above, tilted to give the audience a view of the action. Also, two large screens were positioned on either side of the stage, giving even those with less optimal seating a clear view via hand-held camera.
Round tables were beautifully set with only six place settings, all positioned to allow a comfortable view of the stage. As we became settled, Mr. Tom Grey, a representative from Martini and Rossi, made his way from table to table, introducing himself and letting us know that he was available later for any questions or comments. He also told us a bit about the semi-sparkling wine being poured, Prosecco, and how its fruity undertones of apples and pears make it a lovely choice for a breakfast wine. Breakfast wine? Who knew there was such a thing?
We were then invited by our host, Pam Smith (who hosts many, if not all, of the Odyssey events) to help ourselves to what was billed as a "light breakfast." Expecting merely bagels or croissants, we were quite surprised to find a sumptuous array of hot breakfast foods, including bacon, eggs, sausages, home fries, crispy onion strips, orange juice and coffee. (Tip: Do not attend the Food and Wine Festival without elastic waist pants.)
The featured pastry chef for this particular Sunday was Jacquy Pfeiffer, co-owner and instructor at the French Pastry School in Chicago, Illinois. I didn't quite know what to expect from this event, having heard that at least one of last year's offerings was quite dry and boring. Already, though, I had a clue that this one would be different. As I approached the stage before the presentation, telling Chef Jacquy that I wanted to take a quick photo before he got busy, he responded with a twinkle in his eye, "What? Me? I am not planning to be busy at all!"
As we dove into our breakfasts, the demonstration commenced. The first dessert course was Tarte Tatin topped with Moist Almond Cake and served with Apple Granite. Chef Jacquy explained that he wanted to show us only desserts that were possible for us to make at home (no hard-to-find foreign spices, for example) and that were also easy to prepare. He obviously didn't plan on the likes of me in the audience. Showing me how to slice the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds looked very much like the rocket science he insisted it wasn't. Caramelizing the sugar looked a bit easier -- but just. However, each step was carefully explained and peppered with occasional helpful comments from Pam Smith -- and many "voila's" from the chef. ("I must say this at regular intervals, or else an electrical shock is released, causing me much pain. It is in my contract.") The cameraman was excellent, occasionally becoming a contortionist to give us close-ups of the actual cooking, even at great personal risk. ("This is very hot. I do not want to hurt you. You seem like a nice guy.")
As the chef put the finishing touches on his creation, servers brought each of us a plate to try, and not a sound was heard in the hall other than the occasional smacking of lips. It was that good. Servers were not only constantly filling our water glasses but also our Prosecco glasses, another unexpected benefit of this particular event.
The second dessert course was Vanilla Roasted Peaches served with Roasted Corn Ice Cream and Pecan Streusel. During the preparation, a large bowl of streusel was passed among the audience, so that we could see and smell what was being prepared. Chef Jacquy explained how his school is very hands-on and limits classes to 16 students, so that they can smell, touch, feel and do as well as see and hear. He regaled us with stories of his experiences with new students ("You do not need to watch the mixer. It is mixing. That is what a mixer does."), and there were more than a few of us who wanted to pack our bags, leave our spouses and children, and head to Chicago for his six month session, once we saw him at work.
The wine served with this second dessert was the Asti Spumanti, a fully sparkling wine vs. the semi-sparkling of the previous course. Thomas Grey again spoke and explained that this wine was bold and sweet with a longer finish and "bursts of flavor," and makes an excellent pairing with almost any dessert. It most definitely went very well with ours. My only recollection of drinking Asti Spumanti was the small sips I was allowed as a child on New Year's Eve. Pairing this wine with the roasted peaches of the dessert made for a much more memorable experience.
The third and last course was the Fall Red Wine Plum Stew served with Raspberry Sorbet and Hazelnut Linzer. ("We're finishing with a red wine thing in case you don't already have enough of a buzz.") The linzer, a semi-hard cookie made with butter, powdered sugar, hazelnut flour, eggs, etc., rested on the bottom of the dish, softening as it soaked up the flavors of the tart plum and wine stew. This combination, plus the sweet raspberry sorbet, made for an amazingly delicious blending of flavors that I didn't think would work. I should have had more faith in the magic of Jacquy Pfeiffer.
As we enjoyed the last course, Chef Jacquy commented on how people "eat desserts with their brain -- to satisfy the need to be happy," and how it's important to eat a "good dessert" so that smaller portions will give them that satisfaction. There may be some doubt that I'd stop with just a little bit of these creations, but these wonderful desserts -- along with the humor, wit and personality of Jacquy Pfeiffer -- had me grinning for the rest of the day.
you participated a Sweet Sundays program during this year's Food &
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