2010 Epcot International
Food & Wine Festival

Celebrating Family and Friends
in the Kitchen

Celebrating Family & Friends in the Kitchen

October 15, 2010

Guest Chef Andrea Robinson, M.S.

'Everyday Dining with Wine'

by John Bowers
AllEars.Net Guest Writer


Wasabi, Goat Cheese and Herbed Popcorn

Steak Three Ways

Dark Chocolate Lava Cake


Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Riesling

Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc

Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon

The Celebrating Family and Friends in the Kitchen series continued at the 15th Epcot International Food and Wine Festival on Friday morning, October 15, 2010. The two-hour event was held again in the Festival Center, the former Wonders of Life pavilion, its home for the past few years. 

The guest chef was Andrea Robinson, who is familiar to television viewers as host of her earlier show 'Simply Wine,' and her current one, 'Pairings With Andrea.' She is one of only 15 women in the world who have been appointed Master Sommelier by the Court of Master Sommeliers. She was the first woman ever chosen Best Sommelier in the United States by the Sommelier Society of America.  Andrea noted that she has been coming to events at the Food and Wine Festival for about 10 years, and she feels like she and Festival have grown up together.

As she has been in the past, Andrea was joined on stage by her witty husband John, and the two of them are quite the pair, engaging in a steady stream of humorous insights into their life together. John is fond of relating his courtship efforts to impress Andrea that he was more than a 'guy cook' and he knew more than how to 'sear meat.' Festival veteran Pam Smith was also on hand, as she is for many of the special events, to help host.

Eight or nine tables of six persons each were filled, and each table was graced with a nice centerpiece of small pumpkins, winter squashes, and wine corks.  All three of the wines were poured before our first course, rather than one at a time with each course.  The riesling that was listed, a Dr. Loosen, wasn't available, and an S.A. Prum was offered instead.

After Pam introduced Andrea and John, they expressed their appreciation for being invited, and how much their young children (and they) enjoy being at Disney World.  John said he took the kids on Soarin' and when the hang glider soars over Napa Valley, one of his kids shouted 'Daddy, that's where WE LIVE!'

Our first course was quite a surprise: popcorn. This being the Food and Wine Festival, it was not what you might think of when you think of popcorn at Disney World. Nope. Andrea had made the point that when preparing unexpected food and wine pairings, it's 'not the protein, it's the preparation.'  The cooking style, the seasonings, and the spices are most important in determining a good wine pairing, as we were about to find out by pairing wines with popcorn.

Each of us had four small containers of popcorn, and each of the four had been seasoned in ways one might not think of without guidance from John and Andrea, who admitted that they have popcorn nearly every night at home. In fact, they have a backup corn popper in case their primary one goes on the blink. The four seasonings on the popcorn were a rosemary/thyme combination, finely ground roasted wasabi peas, truffle salt, and finally goat cheese and lemon zest. All three wines were poured and ready for us to try any and all combinations of the wines with the four kinds of popcorn.  The popcorn was very slightly seasoned with each of the blends, almost too slightly seasoned, in fact, to really appreciate the flavor combinations.  John said he mixes half yellow popping corn and half white popping corn at home, then seasons it with salt and butter before adding whatever unusual seasonings sound worth a try.

As strange as it sounds, wine and popcorn, everyone seemed to enjoy the unusual combinations.  The riesling was bright and slightly sweet without the petrol character that sometimes… surprises… people. The fume blanc (which is sauvignon blanc) was characteristically floral, fruity, and herbaceous. Both whites were light enough to complement all four of the popcorn varieties, while the Mt. Veeder cabernet, a classic Napa Valley cab, seemed to slightly overpower delicately seasoned popcorn.  But that didn't stop everyone from keeping the wine pourers scurrying about!

The second course was 'Steak Three Ways.' John (the meat searer) suggested that any good steak such as hanger steak, strip steak, or filet, can be pan-seared or grill-seared to a nice medium rare, then sliced. Again we had not only a combination of three different steak preps, and three different wines, but also three different sauce accompaniments. A few slices of steak were atop coconut jasmine rice, a few were served in a small corn tortilla, and a few were served atop a crostini with some fabulous basil pesto made with manchego cheese. The three accompaniments were John's own guacamole, more of the basil pesto, and a mango salsa. So the trick was to try a little of each sauce accompaniment with each steak prep, and a sip of each of the three wines!

If my math is correct, that's 27 different possibilities. As you might expect, though, good steak loves a big red wine, and the cabernet was a hit with everything.  Special mention to the basil pesto, made with manchego cheese instead of the more traditional parmigiano or romano cheeses.  Andrea made repeated mention of how she loves manchego, saying it truly goes with almost any wine.  Everyone agreed the basil pesto was wonderful.

Our final course was Dark Chocolate Lava Cake, the kind of dessert that really pushes everyone's chocolate-loving button into overdrive. Served warm, made with semisweet chocolate and plenty of egg yolks and butter, it had most people scraping their ramekins as hard as they could. And asking for more of that cabernet, which suddenly tasted of chocolate itself, as cabernet often does.

Andrea wrapped it up by telling everyone to be adventurous, drink what you like, and don't be afraid to try things that sound unusual, like wine and popcorn.  And keep plenty of manchego cheese on hand.