by John Bowers
AllEars Guest Blogger
The 2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is not too far away, and Tables in Wonderland played host to a Sneak Preview of the Festival on Saturday night, July 16.
The event was held in the Wonders Retreat, one of the 'hidden' event rooms that are in many of the Epcot pavilions. The Wonders Retreat is above the main floor of the former Wonders of Life pavilion. Since the pavilion ceased to be the Wonders of Life, it has hosted many events during the Flower and Garden Festivals as well as the Food and Wine Festivals. Up above the area where the Body Wars attraction used to be, you can see a row of windows -- that's where the Retreat is.
The food we were served was a preview the samples that will be served in some of the kiosks (or "International Marketplaces" that will join the many others encircling World Showcase during the Festival. The three new kiosks this year will be Portugal, Hawaii, and the Caribbean. We also tasted food from another booth, Scandinavia, which is making a return to the Festival this year.
For our buffet reception, we were treated to:
-- Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise (Hawaii)
-- Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberries (Scandinavia)
-- Shrimp on the Barbie with Pepper Berry - Citrus Glaze (Australia)
Our appetizers were:
-- Seared Sea Scallop with Kumara-Red Curry Puree (New Zealand)
-- Apple Radish Salad (New Zealand)
And for the entrees:
-- Ropa Vieja (Braised Beef) with White Rice (Caribbean)
-- Jerk spiced Chicken Drumstick with Mango Salsa (Caribbean)
Ocean Spray Craisin Bread with Butter
Wines paired with the entrees were an Argentinian chardonnay and an Australian shiraz.
Our dessert trio included:
-- White Chocolate Macadamia Mousse with Dark Chocolate Pearls
Tres Leches Verrine (Caribbean)
-- Pastel de Nata (Portugal)
The pastel de nata was a delicious egg tart pastry made famous in Portugal. They better get ready to serve about a million of these at the Festival. It was that good. Wow. We had a unique Apple Ice Wine from Canada along with the desserts.
Our hostess, Pam Smith, spoke about some of the effort and the planning that goes into the Festival. About halfway through each year's Festival, they start sifting through the feedback from guests as they begin preparations for the following year.
She introduced Greg Hannon, the chef who oversees all of the food kiosks. Greg spoke about the intricacies of putting all the kiosks together, how they decide what will be new and what will change or be retired from previous years.
Pam also introduced David Buckley, the Imagineer who works on many design projects for Walt Disney World. David has designed the banners, posters, and many of the large visual displays which will highlight the theme of this fall's festival, "Passport To A World of Flavors."
There are many new events this year. A few of them include The Discovery of Chocolate, the return of the Vertical Wine Tasting featuring Napa Valley's legendary Freemark Abbey, Mexico Tequila Lunch, Italy Food and Beer Pairing, Italy Dessert and Wine Pairing, Italian White Truffle Lunch, a Best of Bocuse Dinner, and a real, live Cranberry Bog. Not sure if we'll all get to play in it, but it's going to be between the Fountain (behind Spaceship Earth) and the entrance to World Showcase.
It's not easy to get a sense of how they manage to put the Food And Wine Festival together every year, and keep it going for 45 days. 'Remarkable' is hardly the word for it. Living in Orlando, I can vouch for the fact that it is the most-anticipated yearly event for us locals.
On the weekends, it's always crowded with area residents. But no matter when you go, weekday or weekend, don't miss it. It's Magic.
The previous post in this blog was New Character Meet-and-Greets at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The next post in this blog is A Taste of the Americas at Paradiso 37.