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December 21, 2011

Tables in Wonderland Holiday Party

by John Bowers
Guest Blogger

This event was held Saturday December 17, 2011 in the Norway Lounge in Epcot.
Price: $115 per person, plus tax. Gratuity is included.

Let's pop the champagne, we have good reason!
The holidays are here and we're celebrating the season!

The cookies have been made, the wrapping is done.
It's time to sit back and have a little fun!

The decorations are up, the lights are aglow.
Let's celebrate with folks we know!

Five to ten o'clock on Saturday, the seventeenth of December
You are invited to the Tables in Wonderland Holiday Party for a night to remember.

Norway Lounge at Epcot is where we'll be,
So bring your Holiday Spirit and be ready to party!

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Please join us for a little bubbly and good cheer
to toast the Holidays and the coming New Year!

5:00pm - 5:30pm Reception
5:30pm - 7:45pm Dinner
8:15pm - 9:00pm Candlelight Processional with celebrity narrator Chita Rivera (entertainment subject to change without notice)
9:00pm - 10:00pm IllumiNations Viewing

Holidays Around the World Menu

Reception

Passed Selection of Chilled French Influenced Items
Tuna Nicoise Spoon
Wild Mushrooms with Fennel and Leeks
Grilled Poulet Rouge with Grape Pearls
Moët Impérial - France

Plated Dinner

New Zealand Influenced Salad Course
Baby Romaine Leaves with Roasted Kumara, Apple Radish Slaw and Lemon Vinaigrette
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc - New Zealand

California Influenced Appetizer Course
Grilled Artichoke, Shaved Zucchini, Heirloom Tomato and Curry Coriander Smear with Pea Tendrils and Oven Dried Prosciutto
Chandon Pinot Meunier - California


Argentinean Influenced Entrée
Green Chile Barbeque Braised Beef Shortrib
Chimi Churi Roasted Yuca with Onions and Garlic served with Fresh Roasted Corn
Terrazas Afincado Single Vineyard Malbec - Argentina

French Influenced Dessert
Grapefruit Custard Brulee with Raspberries, Mint Chifonade and Grape Tuile
Moët Ice Impérial - France

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Tables in Wonderland hosted a Holiday Party on Saturday, December 17, 2011 at the Norway Lounge at Epcot. The Norway Lounge is a space mostly above the Maelstrom attraction.

We had a nice (short) reception, with the three delicious passed tidbits (tuna nicoise,
wild mushrooms, and the poulet rouge) and an open bar featuring a chardonnay, a merlot and a champagne.

About 5:30, we were seated, eight people to a table, for dinner. I believe there were about
8 tables.

Since the theme was 'Holidays Around the World,' the food was themed around different countries. The reception treats had been French-influenced, and our salad course was New Zealand-influenced. An unusual component of the salad was roasted kumara. Kumara, it turns out, is what the Kiwis call a sweet potato. What else to pair with a light New Zealand-influenced salad, but a crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc, of course. Cloudy Bay, which burst onto the scene with outstanding sauvignon blanc in about the mid-1990s, was the winery.


Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Our next course was a California-influenced appetizer. Grilled artichoke, with some zucchini, tomato, and a nicely spicy curry coriander smear. Exotic and tasty. And a Chandon Pinot Meunier, a red wine that compares to pinot noir, to sip with it. Pinot meunier, if you haven't had it, is a real surprise.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Down to Argentina for the main course. Green Chile Barbeque Braised Beef Shortrib, along with roasted yuca. Yuca is also called cassava, it's similar to a potato. Unique, and very good. The shortrib, wow, they must have slow braised it for days. Rich and (as they say) so tender you could cut it with a fork. And with Argentinian-influenced beef, what else? An Argentinian malbec, specifically a Terrazas Afincado malbec. Similar to a cabernet or maybe a bordeaux-blend, malbec has really taken off in Argentina, and is an excellent value in red wine that pairs well with beef.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

For dessert, we headed back to France for creme brulee and raspberries. Interesting base for the creme brulee: grapefruit. It was more like a flan than a brulee, but I didn't hear any complaints about the rich taste. The dessert wine was the most interesting part of the dinner: Moet Ice Imperial Champagne. A champagne you drink over ice. Seriously! Google it, you'll see. Serve it for your holiday party, you'll be the talk of the town, I promise.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

As we departed the Norway Lounge to go to the Candlelight Processional, we were each given a beautiful potted white poinsettia. A very thoughtful gift from Disney, and quite a surprise. Imagine what about 65 people looked like, all walking from Norway over to the America Gardens theater, each one carrying a potted poinsettia.

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We had reserved seating for the Candlelight Processional, and our celebrity narrator
was the Broadway theater legend Chita Rivera. If you've seen the Processional, I don't need to tell you how beautiful and truly moving it is. If you haven't seen it, see it. There are very few dry eyes in the house at the end of that show.

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Tables in Wonderland Norway Holiday Party

Finally, we gathered our poinsettias and were led over to the terraced area in front of the Italy pavilion, for our own little private spot to watch Illuminations. After the regular Illuminations show ended, Disney nailed a big exclamation point on the holiday evening with a spectacular display of fireworks and lasers that left us all wide-eyed. No matter how many times you've seen fireworks displays out there, you always walk away impressed.

A very special evening, with all the usual Disney hospitality touches. Happy Holidays!

August 6, 2011

Narcoossee's Brunch

by John Bowers
Guest Blogger


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On Sunday, July 10, 2011, Tables in Wonderland hosted a Sunday Brunch at Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. The featured wines were from Domaine Chandon, the highly regarded winery in Yountville, California Domaine Chandon is especially known for its sparkling wines, of which we had two. We were also treated to a chardonnay, a pinot meunier, and a pinot noir. Why those three in particular? That's the answer to a trivia question! Read on....

Narcoossee's sits on the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon, and sometimes seems kind of forgotten amidst the fame of both Victoria & Albert's and Citricos, which are next to each other on the second level of the main hotel. You take a little stroll out to the lagoon to get to Narcoossee's, but once there the dining room offers a great view toward the Magic Kingdom. You can see the top of Cinderella Castle and almost all of Space Mountain, as well as a view of the monorails coming and going. It's a lovely view; if you haven't seen it, you should.

We started with a reception, which (as you might expect) featured a variety of hors d'oeuvres, plus sparkling wine (Moet Chandon Extra Dry Riche) and Bloody Marys. The Bloody Marys were made with Belvedere Bloody Mary Vodka. Belvedere combines separate vodkas that have been flavored with seven different ingredients, including black pepper, lemon, horseradish, and tomato The resulting vodka is very spicy, and all you do is add tomato juice.

If you're a Bloody Mary fan, I definitely suggest you try this vodka for an easy and fabulous drink. The bar had quite a selection of garnishes for our Bloody Marys. No plain old celery stick here! There was a skewer that held a single jumbo shrimp, one that held three kinds of olives, one that held bites of roasted garlic and sweet pickles, one that held a whole roasted/smoked pepper, and finally one that had little rolled up slices of flatbread, cheese, and ham. At least I think that adequately describes it all. One could have made a meal just out of these treats. And all of it just to garnish your Bloody Mary!


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Hors d'oeuvres-wise, we had a selection of three delightful choices. We had a Spiced Shrimp Skewer with Horseradish Foam (I didn't detect much foam, but come on, why be picky when there's this much good stuff?), Caviar on Potato Cakes with Lobster, Crème Fraiche and Chives, and Smoked Salmon with Haas Avocado and Mascarpone Cheese on Romaine Hearts. All three were, as they say, to die for. The salmon was especially wonderful.

Following the reception, we were all seated at tables and Mike Ehrbar of Moet Hennessy talked about the process of making sparkling wine. Mike is the Training and Development Manager for the Moët Hennessy Brand. Domaine Chandon is a French-owned partnership between the famous Champagne producer Moet & Chandon, and the equally-well-known cognac producer Hennessy. Mike tossed out trivia questions, and the first person with the correct answer received a bottle of sparkling wine. Here's a sample question: Name the three grapes that go into making sparkling wine. Pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier. Here's another: the formula for sparkling wine is "blank plus blank equals blank plus blank." The answer will come later.

Our first course, the appetizer trio, was a beauty. Tuna Niçoise with a Poached Quail Egg, Seared Scallop with Basil-Citrus Emulsion, and Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Remoulade Sauce. Dazzling. Paired with these three ocean-going delights was a mouth-watering Domaine Chandon Chardonnay.


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The salad course was beautiful to look at, and a treat to eat. Roasted Beet Salad with Watercress, Frisée, Goat Cheese, Candied Pecans, and Orange-Honey Vinaigrette. The beets were golden beets, not the red beets most of us are more familiar with. I'm still swooning over the flavors. Paired with the salad was a Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier. You don't see too many pinot meuniers on menus, or in wine stores, at least not here in Central Florida. Pinot meunier is a red grape, and it's mostly used in the production of sparkling wines, not so much as a still wine grape. But I'm here to tell you, this California pinot meunier was a stunning red wine. A little lighter than pinot noir, both in color and flavor, it was full of cherry, lavender, and plum. I would highly recommend finding a bottle of it if you can and giving it a try. I knew almost nothing about it, and I was very impressed.


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On to the main course. Let's see, we've had two kinds of shrimp, some lobster, smoked salmon, tuna, crab, and scallops. Not bad so far! The main course was a choice between Maine Lobster Frittata, Potato Crust, Chorizo, Asparagus, and Brie...or...Steak and Eggs with Crabmeat, Grilled Asparagus, and Bearnaise Sauce. Can I have both?

I went with the lobster frittata, my three tablemates all went with the steak. The steaks were full-sized filet mignons (or is that filets mignon?), and they were big enough to take some home for dinner. The lobster frittata? Awesome: rich and delicious. Problem was, everyone was so full, there was no way to finish either the steak or the frittata. Beautiful presentations, both of them. The artistry with which the Disney chefs can present food is something to behold.


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The wine we were served was the Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir, Carneros. If you need to find a wine that goes with both steak and lobster, pinot noir is a good choice. Most pinots are light enough to complement all but the simplest seafood dishes, but they do have some of those earthy flavors to them, which pairs just fine with beef. Really good pinots are delicious (and usually expensive), and this one was wonderful.

Take a deep breath, it's time for dessert. Almond Crusted Cheesecake with Lambert Cherry Sauce. I need a thesaurus to find adequate superlatives. Rich, decadent, delectable, scrumptious. I'm sure I saw a few eyes rolling back in a few people's heads. This is one of Narcoossee's Signature Desserts, and rightly so. The recipe can be found HERE.


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Our dessert wine was the exotic Domaine Chandon Etoile Rose, Napa and Sonoma. We started with a sparkling wine three hours ago, and this was our sparkling exclamation point. A small amount of pinot noir and pinot meunier are added to the chardonnay to get the distinctive salmon color of a rose. The winery's web site suggests you 'try this on a romantic picnic.' Yes, that would be quite the thing to try.

The only downside of the event was that it lasted a bit long. It was originally scheduled to last from noon until 2 p.m., but it was between 3 and 3:30 when we finally finished. A minor quibble, really, when you're being treated to such fine food and wine.

Narcoossee's has had some highly favorable publicity recently, and it is one of the very few restaurants at Walt Disney World that merits a 'Signature Dining' experience. Like Disney's other top tier restaurants, it isn't inexpensive. However, you get a beautiful view of Seven Seas Lagoon, a great view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks if it's that time of the evening, and certainly wonderful food. Dining there, I think, has always been very enjoyable.

And the answer to that trivia question? Yeast plus grape juice equals carbon dioxide plus alcohol.

Cheers!



July 17, 2011

2011 Food and Wine Festival Preview

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.


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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.


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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)


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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


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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)


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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.

June 11, 2011

Tables in Wonderland IllumiNations Dessert Party

by John Bowers
Guest Blogger

Tables in Wonderland hosted an "Illuminations Dessert Party" on Saturday, May 28, 2011 at Epcot. The cost was $50, which did not include park admission. However, if you arrived at Epcot at 7 p.m. or later, a Convention Guide was near Guest Relations to allow you into the park without purchasing a ticket.

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The event was to have been held outdoors. There's a terraced area in front of the France pavilion, sort of beside the bridge that leads from France to England. But the concern over the possibility of rain moved the party indoors, into the American Adventure. It was held in the rotunda, where the Voices of Liberty group sings. That was a great place to have it. Air-conditioned, plenty of room, and you could take time to read all the inspirational notes that are on the walls, celebrating the American spirit of adventure and liberty. That space gives you a wonderful sense of patriotic pride, which is really nice.

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Here's the menu:

Mini Pastry Display Station
Pistachio Cannoli
Strawberry Rhubarb Tart
Kiwi Mandarin Orange Tart
Assorted Chocolate Truffles


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Kid in You Station
Chocolate Fudge Brownie
Mickey Crispy Treats
Oreo Cheesecake Pushups
Chocolate Chip Cookies


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Fire and Ice Action Station
Warm Apple Custard Crumble with Caramel Gelato
Tropical Fruit Crème Brulee with Rum Gelato

Beer, Wine, and Cordials

There were about 13 tables set up for eight people each. The dessert stations, plus the coffee and tea setups, and the champagne and beer/wine setups, were around the outside of the room, with the tables more or less in the middle.

All I can say is if you have a sweet tooth, this was pretty close to Heaven.

It was a 'help yourself and eat all you can' event. If you wanted to try everything, you had to only take a very small amount of each one, because there were so many different goodies. Everyone seemed to get full pretty quickly, probably since most of us had already dinner somewhere else.

The Disney pastry staff never fails to 'wow' you with their amazing creations. I especially enjoyed the Pistachio Cannolis, and the Apple Custard Crumble. I didn't get to try everything, but I heard several people swooning over the Oreo Cheesecake Pushups (in the photo below on the right). Now my stomach is growling as I'm typing.


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About 10 minutes before 9 p.m., we were led out to the area in front of Italy, which is similar to the terraced area near France. It extends out a little ways into the World Showcase Lagoon, and it had been roped off for our private group. We were able to get a 'front row' seat for the nightly spectacular 'IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.'

Illuminations lasts about 15 minutes, so we were finished at 9:15.

Very nice party. Disney always seems to put quite a bit of thought and effort into these events. They often are not exactly inexpensive, but I very rarely feel like any of them are unreasonably priced, considering the number of people who show up and the quality of the food and drink. Whenever you talk to fellow attendees, everyone seems to being enjoying themselves. Disney consistently has a way of making you feel very special. If you've been to enough events, you know what I'm talking about.


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About Tables in Wonderland Events

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to All Ears® Guest Blog in the Tables in Wonderland Events category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Super Soap Weekend at the Disney Studios is the previous category.

Year of a Million Dreams is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.