At a time when many are relishing the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, a nearby venue recently offered guests another opportunity to sample foods and wines they might not usually try. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, within walking distance of Epcot, hosted its third annual Food & Wine Classic this past weekend on the walkways between the two buildings.
For those who wanted to learn a bit more about adult beverages, seminars were offered in the Swan during the hour before the festival started. Guests could taste wines, mixed drinks and beer paired with various foods to bring out their best flavors. My husband attended "Beer -- please," which was an entertaining and informing session.
The seminar was designed, instructors said, to explore beers beyond the typical Budweisers, Coors and Miller Lites. Brian Exner, general manager of the resort’s Kimonos, led the discussion for about 22 participants. The group first explored the major ingredients of beer-making and the different styles of beers. Then the seminar launched into what the participants found the most enlightening – a tasting of different styles of beers and some of the foods they complement. Some of the choices: a Czech-style pilsner, Mama’s Little Yella Pils, an Innis & Gunn aged ale and a Mountain Livin’ Pale Ale brewed in Colorado. The highlight, though, was enjoying samples of Einbecker schwarzbier and slices of crispy bacon. For those who wanted something sweet, there even was a Rogue Chocolate Stout sampled over chocolate ice cream. Yes, you read that right – beer over chocolate ice cream.
Meanwhile, out on the promenade, booths with food, wine and beer samples from the hotel's restaurants and lounges were ready for hungry guests to start nibbling at 5:30 p.m. There were twelve food stations, and our group made it to most of them during the three-and-a-half-hour festival without having to rush.
Among my favorites were Shrimp Cocktail Steam Rollers from bluezoo, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake Sliders from Garden Grove, Fried Pickles from Cib's Steak House and the s'more dessert from Laurent Branlard. The steam roller is an individual serving of shrimp cocktail served in a glass tube that you consume all in one shot. It's a fun and clever way to serve a classic appetizer. Fried pickles were a novelty for me and quite yummy. If the line weren't so long for the popular Cib's booth, I would have gone back for another serving. The desserts looked like works of art, but the adult version of a s'more was what captured my tastebuds. Just like at a Fort Wilderness campfire, s'mores are tough to resist!
Kimonos restaurant came highly recommended, so I was persuaded to try sushi for the first time. I had a Dragon Roll with crispy shrimp, tuna and avocado, and it was delicious. On Saturday, Kimonos was serving Spicy Yellow Fin Tuna, Nori and Seasoned Rice. Most of the food booths have different menus for each of the two nights, so guests can attend both nights and have different experiences.
We stopped by the Todd English booth so some of the people in our group could try oysters served with various sauces and Bloody Mary shooters. I didn't try them, but my husband enjoyed both. The outgoing celebrity chef was present to greet guests, sign autographs and pose for photos. (Chef Michael Mina also joined the outdoor festival this year with his Hamachi Parfait, Crispy Rice Cake and Wasabi Tobiko.)
There were 32 beverage stations, most of which served wines, but a couple had beer, and even sake. Plus, a recurring class, Cocktail 101, was offered on the terrace. Throughout the Food & Wine Classic, guests enjoyed live music from three bands on a stage in front of the Dolphin.
Wristbands for the festival, which provided unlimited access to food and beverages, were $80 per night. Guests also could choose to buy a la carte tickets for $2 apiece; most dishes cost 2 to 4 tickets each. Beverage classes before the festival cost $40 per person. The hotel also offered packages for guests who wanted to stay the night after sampling the beverages.
Perhaps the best part of the experience is that if you find a food or beverage that you love, you won't have to wait a whole year to sample it again. Most of the Food & Wine Classic menu items are served year-round in the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin.
One further note: Although children are welcome to attend the Food & Wine Classic, we did not see many there. Our own children had a great time at the hotel's Camp Dolphin kids club, which I will be writing about in another blog post.
DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin for its Food & Wine Classic. This did not influence my review, and my opinions are my own.
The previous post in this blog was Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid and Ariel's Grotto soft open in Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland.
The next post in this blog is Parents can enjoy night out while kids have fun at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin's Camp Dolphin.