Disney foodies are in their element during the month of October. There is, of course, the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which stretches for 46 mouth-watering days. This month also finds the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hosting its two-night Food & Wine Classic.
I attended the event on Friday for the second year, and it really is a fun, and potentially more affordable, event. There are many similarities between the food and beverage celebrations: an outdoor setting, live entertainment, seminars, and lots of appetizer-size portions of delicious foods, as well as samples of wine and beer.
Although children are welcome at both events, there definitely is a more adult atmosphere at the Food & Wine Classic. We saw only a handful of children at the event. (Camp Dolphin, the kids club inside the Dolphin, is a great place for kids to have a night out while you do the same. We chose that option for our children last year.)
Each night has a different menu at the 12 food stations that represent restaurants and chefs that are part of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. Both years we saw consistently long lines at stations for delicacies from celebrity chef Todd English, Kimonos, Cib's Smoke Shop and Shula's Steakhouse.
English was out for several hours greeting guests and posing for photos with them. Meanwhile, his food station offered participants Tuna Tartare with Sexy Scallions, Nitro Aioli Miso Crackling Oyster Shooter, Huckleberry Champagne Vinegar, Huckleberry Foam Rock Shrimp Tacos with Creamy Jalapeño Slaw, Pickled Onion and Micro Cilantro. The tuna dish was a firm, meaty fish that would appeal to seafood lovers, but the Nitro Aioli Miso Crackling Oyster Shooter might take a little bit more exposure before the less adventurous can get acclimated to its unique flavor. Seeing its presentation, though, was half the fun of sampling it.
Shula's Steakhouse, known for its pricey cuts of beef, was serving carved prime rib and roasted garlic mashed potatoes with horseradish creme fraiche and watercress both nights. I'm sure it won't surprise you when I say it was delicious!
Cib's Smoke Shop gave guests a taste of flavorful meat with Texas-style beef brisket, brioche purse, rhubarb pudding and garlic chips on Friday and hand-crafted bacon, black-eyed pea puree and maple fluid gel on Saturday. Everyone in our group gave the brisket high praise.
Kimono's, a sushi restaurant, offered a Dragon Roll (crispy shrimp, tuna and avocado) on Friday and a spicy yellow fin tuna with nori seasoned rice on Saturday. I never really have developed a taste for sushi, but my friends encouraged me to try the Dragon Roll. It was tasty, and my friends who love sushi declared it among the best they’ve ever tried.
A delightful surprise was Picabu's taqueria-corn tortilla barbacoa of beef, braised pork or organic vegetables. These soft tacos could be topped with cheddar cheese, lime wedge, lettuce, onion, shaved radishes, pico de gallo and assorted hot sauces. The pico de gallo added an amazingly fresh taste to the dish, and we all went back for seconds.
My favorite food, by far, for the evening was the Panini Ice Cream Sandwich served at the dessert station. It was toasted sweet Hawaiian bread stuffed with chocolate and vanilla ice cream. The combination of the thick, chewy bread with the cold treat was unexpected and delicious. Chef Laurent Branlard also offered three beautiful and distinctive desserts each night. For more on those, see my interview with Chef Branlard.
In addition to all the great food, there were 35 beverage stations, most with more than one wine or beer selection.
On the Friday night we attended, beer samples were made available from Sam Adams, Tampa’s Cigar City brewery and Highland Brewing Company out of Ashville, N.C. My husband enjoyed most everything he sampled from Cigar City, and his two new favorites were the Gaelic Ale and the Kashmir IPA offered by Highland. One of our friends with us said she enjoyed the Black Mocha Stout offered by the same brewery.
The double bock by Sam Adams and the Orchard Hard Cider were praise-worthy, too. Still, my husband returned repeatedly to the Cigar City booth, just as he did at last year’s event. Judging from the lines at the booth, others favored it, as well.
On Saturday, beer samples were offered from Gainesville’s Swamp Head Brewery, the Colorado-based Breckenridge brewery, New Belgium and Oskar Blues.
My husband did focus more on the beers than the wines, but there certainly is a large selection from various vineyards for sipping while you stroll. He did enjoy the La Crema pinot noir. This year, the Food & Wine grouped its "pink" wines on the Crescent Terrace for a Drink Pink event in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. This festive area offered six rose wines to sample.
Next year, when you’re making plans to enjoy a fall festival of food and wine, you might want to consider going beyond Epcot for this annual event at the Swan and Dolphin. Though not as expansive as the better-known Food and Wine Festival, the Food & Wine Classic offers its own smorgasbord of unique flavors, live music, and food and drink seminars. All of this, paired with its beautiful setting between the two distinctive buildings on Walt Disney World property, makes it a one-of-a-kind experience for the senses here in Central Florida.
DISCLAMER: I was a guest of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin at its Food & Wine Classic. This did not affect my review, and my opinions are my own.
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