Epcot's 2008 International
Food & Wine Festival

French Regional Lunch

Bistro de Paris
World Showcase - Epcot

October 5, 2008


Lobster and Vegetable Tartlet, celery bavarois with caviar, tarragon vinaigrette

Wine: Chateau Olivier, Pessac-Leognan, 2003

Beef Tenderloin with truffles and morels, Medoc braised Parmentier potatoes, sauteed green asparagus

Wines: Chateau Rollan de By, Cru Bourgeois, Medoc, 2003
Chateau Berliquet, Saint Emilion Grand Cru, 2003

Pistachio macaroon, chestnut cream and strawberry, Bordeaux Cannele, pistachio ice cream

Wine: Chateau Padauen, Sauternes 2005

Chef de Cuisine: Damien Besson
Winemaker: Lionel Gallula, Metrowine, Miami

Debra Martin Koma
Senior Editor, AllEars®

Bistro de Paris
in the France pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase on Sunday, October 5, was the site of this year's first French Regional Lunch, part of the theme park's annual Food and Wine Festival.

Billed as a chance to "explore the rich and unique flavors that define the many world-renowned food and wine regions of France," the event featured a three-course lunch expertly prepared by the chefs of the restaurant.

Tables in this lovely restaurant were beautifully set for the lunch with an impressive array of glassware and crisp white linens, and a printed menu made to resemble a chef's white jacket. The lunch was to run from noon to 2 p.m., and promptly at noon my party of three was seated at a table for four, located fairly far from the head table. Uh oh. I was concerned about not being able to hear the speakers, a bit of foreshadowing that would prove accurate.

To whet our appetites, a plate of appetizers was brought round to each table -- two canapes per person: one smoked salmon with a dollop of creme fraiche on a toasted bread round, another a rolled slice of prosciutto on toast. As we munched on these unexpected goodies, our servers quickly poured a white wine and introductory remarks were made by Lionel Gallula of Metrowine in Miami. Unfortunately, even though I am normally able to understand even the most heavily accented English, my distance from the speaker's table combined with Mr. Gallula's thick accent and low voice made it almost impossible to catch what he was saying. I needn't have worried, though, as he said that he preferred to let the food and wine speak for themselves and that he did not plan to talk too much. He spoke briefly about the region of Bordeaux and its popularity as a wine-producing area, and then we were on to the first course.

The first wine presented was the 2003 Chateau Olivier Pessac-Leognan Grand Cru Classe, a fine white with striking pineapple and citrus flavors. It paired beautifully with the first course -- a very generous helping of succulent lobster, presented attractively with a bright red lobster shell, and a contrasting swirl of light green tarragon vinaigrette. Finishing the plate were a flaky vegetable tartlet and a small, celery-flavored Bavarian cream topped with a sprinkle of caviar. A great way to start the afternoon's eating!

As Gallula commented on the growing popularity of white bordeaux ("it's not just for fish any more"), especially in the United States, our servers efficiently whisked away plates, and then filled our wine glasses with two different reds -- Wine #2, a 2003 Chateau Rollan de By Medoc, and Wine #3, 2003 Chateau Berliquet Merlot. The wines were soon followed by the presentation of our entree, an impressive portion of beef tenderloin resting on a lake of rich red wine sauce with truffles and morels, and asparagus spears. The meat was tender, although my particular serving was a tad overdone -- but it appeared that everyone else's was a nice pink in the middle, so I was obviously just the victim of cooking for a mass audience. Oh well, no matter, the beef was extremely flavorful and was perfectly paired with the two red wines. It was difficult to determine which wine was better -- both were full-bodied and fruity, but the merlot was slightly spicier, giving the medoc an edge, at least according to our palates. We judged the medoc our favorite, and were surprised to learn later when Galulla visted our table that it was actually the less expensive of the two ($35 a bottle vs the merlot's $60 price tag).

The meal concluded with an interesting, themed dessert sampler plate, paired with a 2005 Chateau Padouen Sauternes. I confess to not being a fan of dessert wines -- their cloying sweetness is usually too much for me. I must admit, though, that this sauterne went very well with the little sweets placed before us: a chocolate-dipped strawberry; a fluted, Bordeaux Cannele-style macaroon; chestnut cream with strawberries on a pistachio-flavored meringue; and a small scoop of the best homemade pistachio ice cream I have ever had. I couldn't have eaten another bite if I had tried. I did, however, manage another few swallows of "Wine #2" when they came around offering additional pours.

The French Regional Lunches cost $135 per person (plus tax) and last about two hours. We never felt rushed, and in fact were able to talk with the speaker after most of the other attendees had departed. The food quality and ambience were outstanding -- as was the quality of the wines presented. I think I would have appreciated a more detailed presentation on the region, with perhaps more background on the origins of the dishes we were being served, as well. Each of the upcoming lunches focuses on a different region of France (e.g. Loire Valley, Alsace), therefore features a different speaker with hopefully comparable yet different food and wines. Still, I think the $135 price tag is a bit steep for this particular lunchtime dining experience -- what do you think?