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Epcot's 2007 International
Food & Wine Festival
Party for the Senses
September 29, 2007
Duffy, Tristan Restaurant, Charleston, SC
--Scallops with Cauliflower Risotto, Celeriac, Coconut Curry Sauce
Oudin, Pascal's on Ponce, Coral Gables, FL
-- Roasted Loin of Axis Venison, Creamy Polenta, Juniper Berry Reduction
Rivera, Victoria & Albert's, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort &
--Tamari-glazed Duck with Tsukemono and Bamboo Rice
Grecchi Gray, Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, The Colony, TX
--Three Beans Two Ways: with Cilantro-Cumin Lime Vinaigrette and Whole Wheat Lavosh Crisp
Hazzard, Roland Muller, Joel Schaefer & Jerry Stasi, WDW Product Development
--Baby Mozzarella with Tomato Lollipop and Prosciutto Hash
Besson, Bistro de Paris, France Pavilion, Epcot
--Soupe de Moules de Bouchots au Safran
(Mussel and Saffron Soup)
Riemer, Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resort
-- Chocolate Three Ways: Chocolate Mousse, Foam and Macaroons
McCarey, Mike's Amazing Cakes, Redmond, WA
--California Strawberry Lemonade Cake
Marotta, Spoodles, Disney's BoardWalk Resort
--Cheese Ravioli and Fire-roasted Eggplant with Sun-dried Tomato Emulsion and 10-year-old Balsamic Vinegar
Max, 3030 Ocean Restaurant, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
-- Curry Corn Soup with Maryland Crab Salad
Waggoner, Charleston Grill, Charleston, SC
--Seared Diver Scallops in Pineapple, Pink Peppercorn and Cilantro Salsa
Sward, Le Cellier Steakhouse, Canada Pavilion, Epcot
--Hazelnut-crusted Lamb with Guatemalan Coffee and Mint-scented Tapioca
Tjetjep Sudiswa, Boma - Flavors of Africa, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
--Spicy Ostrich Bobotie
Wilson, Narcoossee's, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
--Smoked Beef Tenderloin with Heirloom Apple Salad, Cacao Nibs and Goat Cheese
Brennar, Tony's Town Square Restaurant, Magic Kingdom
--Apple-brandy glazed Pork Medallions with Apple and Cranberry Slaw
Macquet, Dominique's, New Orleans, LA
--Sugarcane Brochettes with Swordfish
Martin, Liberty Tree Tavern, Magic Kingdom Park
--Rotissage of Pork, Preserved Radish Hachee, Crispy Aubergines
Kleinschmidt, Banquets, Disney's Contemporary Resort
Gray, Equinox Restaurant, Washington, DC
--Lump Crab and Sweet Corn Beignets with Creme Fraiche and Bottarga
Gutierrez, Encoure Restaurant and Bar, Memphis, TN
--Golden Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp
Weibley, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park
--Root Beer Braised Bison Short Ribs with a Vanilla-scented Fondue and Candied Bacon
Ruiz, Banquets, Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts
--Demi-braised Beef with Coconut and White Balsamic Toy Box Tomatoes and Green Tomatillo Jelly
-- A selection of International Cheese
-- Kerrygold Cheeses and Butters from Ireland
-- Culinary Source
Flores, Johnson and Wales University, Providence, RI
-- Chocolate Bombe with Vanilla Custard and Macerated Raspberries
Neumaier, Pastry Chef, Epcot
--Spice-infused chocolate bonnet and Sabayon with Mango Sauce
Osborne, Culinard, Birmingham, AL
-- Pineapple Nage, Frozen Coconut Sabayon
Mission Hill Family Estate
Montes Premium Wine
& Chandon Champagne
Chimney Rock Winery
Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor, ALL EARS®
Ouch! That's starting to hurt!
Why do I say that? Well, after returning from the Epcot Food and Wine Festival's Party for the Senses for the sixth year running, I still feel that it's a wonderful experience -- but the price is creeping up toward the point of diminishing returns.
This year, this annual tasting of random samples of cuisines prepared by chefs from all over, paired with wines and other beverage, jumped in price from $125 to $135 per person. (That's an increase of $40 over the price the first year I attended this event in 2002.) And while you still get the chance of sampling wares from chefs from near (Liberty Tree Tavern, Spoodles, Boma, Tony's Town Square) and far (Washington, DC, Texas, Washington state, Rhode Island), the cost/benefit ratio is perhaps slightly lower than it used to be.
The basics of this event don't change from year to year, but if you've never gone to a Party for the Senses, here's what you need to know to prepare: As part of the event, you get preferred seating for the 5:45 p.m. "Eat to the Beat" Concert staged at the America Gardens Theatre. (This year, British singer Al "Year of the Cat" Stewart opened the series.)
When you arrive at the theatre, check in with the Cast Member there and receive a wristband that will get you into the Party for the Senses later. After the concert, walk over to the World ShowPlace (located in World Showcase between the United Kingdom and Canada pavilions), where you can pick up your program, souvenir glass and notched plate for the evening. At 6:30 p.m., the doors to the venue will open and you can join the crowds rushing in to find a table. If you choose not to attend the Eat to the Beat concert, you can proceed directly to World ShowPlace, where you will have to wait to check in and receive your glass, plate and program.
Once inside the cavernous World ShowPlace, locate a table for yourself and your party. There are both large tables that seat 10, smaller tables for six, and cocktail tables with high chairs for just a few people. There's still a rush for the best tables, but finally this year they seem to provide adequate seating for most attendees.
Colored fabric streamers are draped from the ceiling inside the World ShowPlace. It's a color-coding system that matches up with the colored sections of your party program. For example, if the taste treats you read about on the pink page sound appetizing, look up to find the "pink zone" -- that's where the tables with your desired food targets will be. There's no rhyme or reason behind the arrangement of the tables, so you can visit whichever areas you want, in whatever order you want. Best of all, you can return to any table again and again as often as you'd like until closing time at 9 p.m.
The event usually does a good job of mixing Disney chefs with those from around the country, but this year it seemed a little heavy on chefs from the World. In fact, better than half (14 out of 25) of the chefs at this Party were from Disney kitchens.
No matter. They still served up some good grub.
There were a few items featuring game or off-beat ingredients this year, and each of those selections that I tried were delicious. The Root Beer Braised Bison Short Ribs came from an unexpected source -- Chef Page Weibley of Disney's Typhoon Lagoon water park. Tender and tasty, this was an interesting dish that I paired with Kaiken's Ultra Malbec Reserve. A great combo. Another game option, the Roasted Loin of Venison, was also very tender and not strong-flavored at all. But of all the non-traditional meats there, I think the true winner was the Ostrich Bobotie, prepared by Boma Chef Tjetjep Sudiswa -- a spicy, flavorful ground meat in a flaky phyllo pastry. This was one of the items that was definitely worth sampling more than once.
Since the offerings vary from week to week, it would be rather cruel of me to tell you how awesome the Beef Tenderloin with Heirloom Apple Salad was, or how big and juicy and delicious the Scallops with Cauliflower Risotto were -- since they probably won't be available when you visit. But I will tell you that you should be glad you missed the Diver Scallops in Pineapple, Pink Peppercorn and Cilantro Salsa. Shudder.
I must admit that this year there were a number of wineries that were new to me, scattered amongst the old standbys of Louis Jadot, Moet & Chandon, Rosemount and Penfolds. I found the Ultra Malbec Reserve from Kaiken (mentioned above) and the Guenoc Lake County Petite Sirah to be quite good, and will look for them on my next outing to the wine store. I also very much enjoyed the chance to again sample the Canadian wine, Mission Hill Estate Oculus, a red blend that I had tried last year at a Food & Wine Pairing event in Le Cellier (the restaurant in Epcot's Canada pavilion). That I know I can't find in a wine shop near me -- and that's a shame.
Adding an extra dash of panache to the evening are the ever-extraordinary performers from Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba, who performed periodically on a centrally located stage. (They did not stroll among the participants this year as they have done in years past -- or if they did, they never made their way to the very back of World ShowPlace, where I was seated.) These tiny tastes of the most excellent Cirque, along with occasional performances by a group of live musicians, complement the evening quite nicely.
I still do believe that if you want to splurge on just one big-ticket event during the Food and Wine Festival, the Party for the Senses is well worth the money. However, I will add that if the price continues its upward trend, this may well be the last year I attend.