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2013 Epcot International
Food & Wine Festival
Debra Martin Koma
New this year at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is the Parisian Breakfast, a program designed to showcase the goodies produced by the France pavilion's recently redesigned Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie. I'm always eager to try the new offerings each year at the Festival, but this program really excited me. It's been a while since I've been to France, but memories of so-called "continental breakfasts" of buttery brioche, flaky croissants smeared with strawberry jam and deep, dark French coffee strong enough to crawl out of the cup linger in my mind... not to mention on my hips!
So on the first Saturday of this year's festival, shortly before 9 a.m., I found myself, along with approximately 200 others, anxiously waiting for the rope to drop at the International Gateway entrance to Epcot's World Showcase. (Seems that the cast members hadn't been forewarned that a couple hundred hungry guests were going to descend upon them that early for this event. I'm sure they'll be prepared for subsequent Saturdays!)
Once allowed entry into World Showcase, we strode en masse toward the beckoning Tour Eiffel and Les Chefs de France Restaurant, where we were greeted by many smiling cast members ready for this new experience.
It took some time to get everyone into the restaurant and seated, but once you found your place, a handsome server armed with pitchers of mimosas and strong French brew came by the table. After a brief introduction to other beverage options available (decaf, tea, sparkling and still water and more), we were turned loose on the spread in the restaurant's main dining area. (Oops, no one told us we had to take our plates from the table with us when we ventured over to the buffet. Easily remedied, though.)
There we found four long tables, each stocked with the same set of items: assorted croissants and pastries, both sweet (pain de chocolat, apple turnovers, etc.) and savory, brioche, baguettes, an assortment of cheeses, yummy French butter and preserves, and ham and cheese baguette sandwiches.
Unlike other many other programs during the Food and Wine Festival, there is no educational aspect to this breakfast -- and that's not a complaint! The main goal is to enjoy the ambience and the baked goods, and just eat. What a great way to start your day of feasting at the festival!
In this instance, a picture truly is worth a thousand words, so I'll just share some more photos of the gorgeous goodies with you.
As you can see from the photos, there was no skimping. All the pastries were full size, just as they would be if you were to buy them from the French bakery next door.
In spite of all the sweet treats in front of me, my personal favorite this morning was the brioche -- a delicate, light and airy brioche, bursting with the flavor of butter and egg, not the doughy bread that some chain bakeries try to pass off as the French specialty. I also really enjoyed the ham and cheese baguette -- with a coarse, chewy crust that was oh so good -- and a savory roll that turned out to be bursting with bacony flavor. Its anemic color had made me hesitant to try it at first, but I was rewarded for my adventurousness. Honestly, is there anything that bacon DOESN'T make taste better?
As I looked around the room, I saw many smiling faces, not to mention many plates heaped to the overflowing point. This was a real unlimited bounty -- if I'd had more room, I could have returned to the buffet as often as I wished. There was absolutely no reason to leave this breakfast hungry, and I daresay no one did.
As an unexpected finishing touch, we were presented gift bags as we departed with an orange-flavored madeleine and a meringue for if we needed a snack later. (Not likely! Though I did actually enjoy the madeleine the next day, and relished its buttery goodness as much as I would have had it been fresh baked.)
My tablemates and I only had a few thoughts that might make this breakfast even better than it already is.
1. Seating 200 diners all at the same time proved to be challenging. Even though the line moved quickly and the cast members were as efficient as they could be under the circumstances, the line extended at times from the restaurant's entrance nearly to the bottom of the bridge that connects the France pavilion to the United Kingdom pavilion. Perhaps staggered arrivals would help in this regard? I don't have a good solution, but I know I heard several grumblings from those who had to wait more than a few minutes to be seated.
2. If it were up to me, I think I could live on bread and cheese, so there are no complaints from me as to the variety of the breakfast's offerings. But as some others pointed out, the addition of fresh fruit would have been a nice touch. Not only would it have offset all the carbs for those of us counting, it would have added a boost of color to the spread.
3. While the breads and pastries were plentiful, there were several times where there was no cheese to be found at any of the four stations. They definitely could have doubled the cheese trays to accommodate the number of people passing through.
These are minor quibbles, however -- I thoroughly enjoyed this breakfast, and expect it to become very popular as it's possibly the best value at the Food and Wine Festival this year. Just $37 plus tax for all you can eat French breads and pastries? Yes, please, sign me up again! I just hope my raving about it this year won't curse it to a hefty price increase if it returns next year (which I have no doubt it will!).
Parisian Breakfast -- Begin the morning with a mimosa, brioches, croissants, unlimited coffee and more. Plus, enjoy a tartine prepared atop a hand-shaped baguette, freshly made at Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie next door.
When: Saturdays at 9 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.
Where: Les Chefs de France Restaurant in the France pavilion in Epcot.
Price: $37 plus tax - Theme Park admission required.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I was a guest of Disney at this Parisian Breakfast, but that did not influence my opinion. My views are my own.
If you attend this breakfast, please leave a review on our Rate and Review page HERE.