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Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Archives

November 3, 2016

Here's why you don't want to miss 2017 Food and Wine Classic at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

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Yesterday, I told you about two of the entertaining and informative beverage seminars at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin’s Food & Wine Classic. Today, I’m describing the main attraction: the food and beverage stations lining the outdoor causeway and the specialty areas.

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For those not familiar with the event, the Food & Wine Classic is two evenings of sampling appetizer-size portions of food, wine and beer in an outdoor atmosphere with live entertainment. Each night has a different menu at the 12 food stations that represent restaurants and chefs that are part of the resort. Over the last seven years, the event has grown to also include two specialty areas: Carnival Corner and Chinatown.

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This year was the first year for Chinatown, which was located at the far end of the walkway between the beach and the main pool for the Dolphin. From the feedback we heard -- and our own tastings -- we found the new area to be quite successful. Guests entered through a pagoda-style arch, and the area was decorated with a Chinese sculpture, red lighting in the landscape, projections on the food kiosk and even Bruce Lee movies playing silently on a building facade. Patrons could sample the Shanghai Dumpling, a pan roasted duck dumpling in spicy sauce, and a portion of crispy duck served on a steamed bun with cucumber hoisin. Both were outstanding. The dishes were paired with the Happy Buddha and Tsingtao beers.

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Nearby, the Carnival Corner returned with food trucks serving the same specialty items as they did at their debut last year: Texas-Style Corn Dogs, Funnel Cakes, Nitro Kettle Corn, Cabot Creamery Mac & Cheese, and Wines. We had sampled each of the dishes last year, and we were happy to go back for our favorites this year. Three carnival-style games had been added to this area, one included in the cost of a wristband and the others charging a nominal fee, and each offered prizes, such as a bottle of wine ot a can of the resort’s own beer, Phins & Feathers Pale Ale. This area seemed to attract the younger crowd and was busy throughout the night.

Out on the causeway, popular food stations included those of celebrity chef Todd English, Kimonos, Cib's Smoke Shop, Shula's Steakhouse and Il Mulino. Lines appeared long at times -- especially at the start of the event at 5:30 p.m. -- but we’ve learned over the years that they ebb and flow. There’s no need to stand in a long line. If you do choose to wait, though, know that the lines move quickly, and people seem to be enjoying the time chatting.

Here are some of the dishes we sampled this year:

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Cib’s Smokehouse: Hand-crafted Bacon with Sweet Corn Puree, Fried Brussel Sprouts and Compressed Heirloom Apple

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Fresh: Thai Chicken Salad – Organic Greens, Green Papaya and Tamarind-Ginger Dressing

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BlueZoo: Shrimp Cocktail Steamroller

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Chef Laurent Branlard’s Desserts: Caramel Sea Salt Éclair with Vanilla Whipped Cream and Comfit Ginger Pears; Lemon Meringue Cup with Lemon Gelee and Frangipan; and Chocolate Fondant with Orange Pate de Fruit Milk, Chocolate Cremeux and Orange Cream. Plus, a Chocolate cake and Vinalla Sundae with Caramelized Banana, Peanuts and Whipped Cream.

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Fountain: Southern Pulled Pork, Apple Fennel Slaw, Smoked Tomato BBQ Sauce and Pullman Bun

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Il Mulino: Arancini – Braised Osso Buco, Carnaroli Risoto, Sauce Fra Diavolo

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Shula’s Steakhouse: Salt Roasted Prime New York Strip, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sauce Bordelaise

As the name indicates, the Food & Wine Classic is also all about the beverages. In fact, there are 42 beverage stations along the causeway.

Deb Wills and Linda Eckwerth attended the event on Friday, and because they are more wine aficionados than me, I asked their thoughts about the offerings. Here’s what they had to say:

“The causeway provides a great opportunity to taste new wines and learn more about what you like or may not like,” Deb said. “One of my favorites, Justin winery, was back, and I enjoyed tasting their newest Cabernet. I found the St. Francis kiosk and it had been a while since I tasted those and enjoyed the old vines Zinfandel. I am learning more about Pinot Grigio and was happy to find a few on the causeway I could try.”

Linda also found some old favorites and a new wine she liked.

“I enjoyed one of my favorite Chardonnays from Cambria. I learned that the Katharine brand will be elevated in cost and grapes. The current Katharine has been renamed to Benchbreak,” she said. “I also found a new Chianti I liked: Rocca della Macie. The original wine I wanted to taste from St Francis had a long line, and there wasn't line at the Chianti table. I tried something new and I liked it.”

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Guests who prefer beer to wine had plenty of beverage options, as well, on the causeway and especially if they chose to upgrade their Food & Wine Classic tickets to include the Beer Garden for an additional $25. The Beer Garden was located on the Crescent Terrace near the canal with a view of the nearby Boardwalk. The area, under a canopy of shade trees, was populated with various beer and food vendors. My husband enjoyed some familiar beers from brewers such as Sam Adams, Highland Brewing, Swamp Head, MIA Brewing and more. Along with the great-tasting beer offerings were warm pretzels and various mustards, and vendors offering German Style sausage and Wiener Schnitzel, too, for a perfect beer-pairing snack.

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The offerings from Winter Garden-based Crooked Can Brewing Co. included the High Stepper American IPA, the McSwagger’s Own amber ale and the Cloud Chaser, which is a Hefeweizen, or wheat, beer. My husband had the IPA and the amber and enjoyed both. He’s an IPA fan but doesn’t always enjoy the American-style variety as much as the real thing. Still, he had praise for it and the McSwagger’s Own.

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The beer he liked the most, though was the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale that, like its name implies, is aged in bourbon barrels to give it a distinctive flavor. It was a good sipping beer for many of the dishes sampled at the event, my husband said. Plus, the full-flavored brew can stand alone on cooler days and nights, too.

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This was my fourth year covering the Food & Wine Classic for AllEars.Net, and it’s an event I look forward to every year. It’s a great value for your money with the event lasting for three and a half hours, and it does not feel rushed. If you haven’t tried this event, I recommend putting it on your calendar for next year. It’s a great date night! Official dates for 2017 have not yet been announced, but it typically is held the last weekend in October.

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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November 1, 2016

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin delivers on its Food & Wine Classic seminars

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Although I often write about fun for families in Orlando, these next two blog posts are for adults. Parents need some time away from the kids to recharge, and we at AllEars.Net think the annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic is the perfect date night opportunity. Kids are welcome at the event, but it’s definitely the grown-ups who will have the most fun at it.

My husband and I attended the seventh annual Food & Wine Classic on Saturday night, and Deb Wills and Linda Eckwerth were there enjoying the offerings Friday night. There were 12 food stations, 42 beverage stops and three specialty areas. Plus, guests could choose to attend one of 10 food and beverage seminars before the main event opened. With so much to cover, I’m going to dedicate this first blog post to the amazing seminars the four of us attended. Then, I’ll move on to the causeway and specialty areas.

I had the opportunity to attend the Base to Bubbles champagne class with Deb, while Linda and my husband, Steven, went to the Craft Cocktails seminar.

Unlike Deb, I am a wine novice, so everything about the class was new to me. Our instructor was Olivier Zambaux, a certified sommelier, director of banquets at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, and a native of France, which is, of course, also the birthplace of champagne. So, clearly, Mr. Zambaux was well-qualified to teach our seminar, but he also was entertaining, so our time together did not become a dry history lesson.

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He walked us through the steps of making champagne, which requires first making wine. We tasted three wines that are ideal and usually used for creating the best champagne:

Chardonnay: It provides a wine with floral and sometimes mineral aromas. Its slow development makes it ideal for aging.

Pinot Meunier: This variety is supple and fruity. Its bouquet is intense; it develops quickly over time and gives a certain roundness to a wine.

Pinot Noir: This noble variety imparts structure and power to the blend, as well as aromas of fruits.

And then we sipped three types of wine blends, otherwise known as champagne:

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Pommery: This label was crisp and aged in steel tanks rather than barrels to create that flavor.

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Veuve Clicquot, Rosé: Red grapes and sometimes their skins, which are left on for a short time, create this beautiful pink champagne that is sweet to taste.

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Moet & Chandon, Nectar Imperial: This champagne is very sweet, smooth and bubbly.

The taste of champagne changes with the food that it is paired with, so we were given different kinds of bread with fancy cheeses and spreads, as well as a large strawberry dipped in chocolate and a sweet biscuit, to experiment with.

The Base to Bubbles seminar cost $50 per person, which included the instruction, three wine tastings, three champagne tastings, the food samples, a glass of champagne to enjoy while we waited for the presentation to start, and a bottle of water.

Deb, who has attended many such wine seminars and is very knowledgeable about wines, said, “This seminar was excellent and provided lots of information about both the grape varietals in champagne but also explained how champagne is produced. I had never tasted the Pinot Meunier before so I enjoyed that aspect. The class was well-done, and I would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about champagne.”

As a wine and champagne novice, I wondered if I would feel out of place among the connoisseurs at this class. I certainly did not. The instruction was appealing to attendees of all backgrounds, and I, too, would recommend this seminar if it is offered again next year.

While Deb and I were learning about champagne, Linda and Steven were shaking things up a bit in the popular Craft Cocktails seminar next door.

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Craft Cocktails was led by Aaron Simmons, general manager of Cabana Bar and Beach Club and Splash Grill and Terrace, and Ariel Bruckner, general manager of Garden Grove. Both were dressed in costumes to create the feeling that participants were in a speakeasy.

“The seminar is designed to give the home bartender more confidence in creating cocktails at home and enjoying their home parties,” Linda said. “I enjoyed so much about this seminar: Getting to use the "gadgets" bartenders use to learning about bitters and how they enhance a cocktail and even the different forms of ice used in a drink. At the end we were handed a flyer that included the recipes for our cocktails and how to make our own bitters.

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Cucumber Southside Fizz
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Whiskey Sour

“We were greeted with a St. George Street Punch. While it was tasty, it is not something I would drink regularly. I enjoyed both of the cocktails we made, the Whiskey Sour and Cucumber Southside Fizz. The Fizz had a slight advantage for my favorite because it was light and refreshing."

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The cocktails were served with traditional speakeasy snacks, such as cheese-flavored bread sticks, a deviled egg and a salmon-flavored cheese and cracker. The Craft Cocktails seminar also cost $50.

Linda and Steven both said the Craft Cocktails seminar was well worth the price. “This was a fun seminar and I would recommend it to anyone wanted to get a quick lesson on how easy it is to make a good cocktail at home,” Linda said.

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin at its Food & Wine Classic events. This did not affect my review, and my opinions are my own. Deb and Linda purchased their own tickets to the events.



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December 19, 2015

Last chance for Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin's unique Christmas experiences

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Orlando visitors and locals looking for a Christmas experience unlike others at our renowned theme parks might want to check out the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort. They’ll leave with unique photos and memories of a Florida holiday.

Guests are invited to “vacation with Santa & Mrs. Claus” while they rest up before the big night, Christmas Eve. What’s notable about this experience is that the pair is dressed in their tropical vacation clothes, and their tiki hut is decorated in Florida kitsch with pink flamingos and palm trees. Plus, their elf Kandy Kane is available to lend a hand and strike a pose. Cool photos, huh?

Santa and Mrs. Claus make appearances on select nights at the resort, and they only have two more dates left: tonight (Dec. 19) and Sunday (Dec. 20).

The fun begins at 6 p.m. when Mrs. Claus chooses a family to help her light the poinsettia tree in the Dolphin lobby. Then she invites guests to join her on the causeway, where the meet-and-greets start at 6:15 p.m. and last until 8 p.m.

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While outside enjoy the lighted palm trees, which “dance” in a musical light display every 10 minutes. Santa’s Dancing Lights Spectacular takes place through Dec. 31.

Families can begin their evenings early with complimentary cookie decorating in the Swan lobby at 5 p.m. This activity is also available both days. Nearby, guests can see an amazing chocolate Santa sculpture hand-crafted by two-time World Pastry Chef, Laurent Branlard. It features chocolate Santa sitting in his chair; a 7-foot tall, 400-pound chocolate nutcracker; chocolate fireplace; chocolate Christmas tree; and chocolate toy train. And it’s all completely edible!

Want to get in the holiday spirit even earlier in the day? Children are invited to visit the Holiday Hideout (on the first floor of the Dolphin near the central elevators ) between 12 and 4 p.m. for crafts, video games, board games and more. Children must be accompanied by an adult; this is not a babysitting service.

You don’t have to be staying at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin to participate in the above Christmas activities. You will have to pay to park, which is $18 for self-parking and $26 for valet service.

Families staying at the resort can request an Elf Tuck-In on Christmas Eve. An elf will come to your room to read a bedtime story and tuck in the children. The elf brings cookies and milk, a holiday plush toy, a magic key for Santa and a story book. This service costs $59 for one child and $25 for each additional child, and reservations are required. A service charge of 20 percent also is added.

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin also offers continuous holiday movies on its in-room TVs and milk and cookies during the holiday movies through room service. And isn't that as much a holiday tradition as opening presents?



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October 22, 2013

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin 2013 Food & Wine Classic - Review

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In addition to all the great food, there were 35 beverage stations, most with more than one wine or beer selection.

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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.

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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.

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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.


October 18, 2013

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin's pastry chef talks about sweet selections at Food & Wine Classic

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Foodies who enjoy sampling gourmet foods paired with fine wines and beers likely have already visited this year's Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. But this weekend, they have another opportunity waiting for them at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, where the fourth annual Food & Wine Classic takes place along the causeway between the hotels.

I spoke with the resort's executive pastry chef, Laurent Branlard, about his role in creating the mouth-watering desserts that will be available at the Classic. A native of France, Branlard began his pursuit of a culinary career at age 16 in Paris. He moved to the United States about 15 years ago and has been at the Swan & Dolphin since 2002. During that time, he won the World Pastry Team Championship not once, but twice. Branlard is responsible for the dessert menus at all of the hotel's 17 restaurants and lounges, including Todd English's bluezoo, Shula's Steak House and Il Mulino New York Trattoria, as well as banquets at the Walt Disney World Resort.

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O Saint O


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Tropic


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Intense

The dessert menu at this year's Food & Wine Classic differs each night. Guests tonight can sample O Saint O -- an orange cream-filled puff, milk chocolate covered orange cooked and whipped vanilla cream; Tropic -- passion fruit cream, mango papaya pineapple compote, coconut cake and mango vanilla sauce; and Intense -- flourless chocolate sponge and Arriba 72% chocolate mousse. On Saturday, guests will be offered Dome -- milk chocolate mousse and caramel cream center, hazelnut dacquoise sponge, milk chocolate glaze; Bla -- blueberry compote, lemon creme Fraiche Panacotta, almond pound cake; and Raspberry S'More -- raspberry marshmallow, raspberry compote and white chocolate cream on cinnamon sable dough.

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Dome


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Bla


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Raspberry S'More

Here's what Branlard had to say about this weekend's event:

What are you most excited about at this year's Food & Wine Classic?

Every year I'm very excited because it's a good opportunity to showcase our desserts not only to our hotel customers but also to people coming from town. For me, it's always great! It's also an opportunity to do the desserts we like to do because it's up to us to decide what we want to serve, so it's exciting.

How do you determine what the desserts will be?

I like to bring some French influence to the desserts. On Friday, we have O Saint O. It's a mini version of a classic French dessert that I tweaked a little bit. So I bring desserts that come from my background but that everyone will recognize. Of course, I always have a chocolate dessert because you cannot do a menu without chocolate. People like chocolate!

In the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin restaurants, do you find that kids like different desserts than adults?

I like to tweak the desserts a little because I know that American kids have a palate that's a lot determined by what they eat every day ... When it comes to sweets, it has a lot to do with what they find in the grocery store. I try to understand what they're used to, so they don't have a shock when they eat my desserts. In a chocolate dessert for kids, I'm going to tone down the cocoa percentage so it's not too strong, too bitter for them. But I will still use a really intense and dark chocolate.

We do it a little bit different, but not too much because that's the way we function. I like to educate about food. Like my son: I always wanted him to grow up very fast as far as taste goes. For me, it was very important that he understand right away what is good food.

Is there a particular dessert that you think is a favorite for kids and also for adults?

That's a tricky question " always chocolate desserts. In bluezoo, for instance, we do a molten chocolate cake. It doesn't matter what you put on the menu, you know that about 50 percent of the dessert sales will be the molten chocolate cake. It's a moist, soft chocolate cake, so kids will order it, too. You can't beat that.

How do you appeal to the palates of tourists not just from the United States, but all over the world?

In general, globally the dessert world has evolved and especially in America these past 10 years. People are more aware of what's going on as far as European flavors. It's all mixed now. I don't think the customer makes a big difference as far as taste choices.

Where can guests go to get your desserts served at the Classic during the rest of the year?

They are not available in the hotel. They are specially designed in smaller portions for the Food & Wine Classic. We [repeat] them sometimes when we have VIP parties and things like that. People that come often to the Swan & Dolphin in our restaurants might recognize what we do, but the way that they are served is very different than what we do in the restaurants.

Will you be out on the causeway or in the kitchen during the Classic?

I will be in both locations. I will be back and forth. Usually I spend a good amount of time on the stations. I always like to spend time with the guests.

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Looking ahead, the holiday season is traditionally associated with wonderful desserts and sweets of all kinds. Can you give our readers a preview of what they can expect at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin?

[The holiday desserts] are usually something traditional with a twist for Thanksgiving and Christmas. [The pastry chefs] also put up the display in the Swan lobby and we have very large chocolate pieces -- Santa Claus, a Christmas tree, a fireplace, a train and a nutcracker. We decorate with gingerbread houses everywhere, in the restaurants, to get in the Christmas spirit.

For now, guests can sample Branlard's desserts at the Food & Wine Classic, which begins at 5:30 tonight and Saturday and goes until 9 p.m. Wristbands, which allow unlimited food and beverage tastings on the causeway, are about $80. Guests also can choose to purchase a la carte tickets as $2 apiece; most items take two to six tickets each. The Food & Wine Classic also is offering one-hour beverage seminars, plus a new pasta class, beginning at 4:30 p.m. The cost of those is $60 per person.

The Food & Wine Classic will feature plenty of alluring samples of main-course selections, and different wine and beer pairings, too. But the desserts alone just might be the sweetest part of this delicious event.

October 20, 2012

Parents can enjoy night out while kids have fun at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin's Camp Dolphin

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Walt Disney World Swan


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Walt Disney World Dolphin

Parents visiting the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin can enjoy an evening to themselves while their children have their own special kind of fun. Camp Dolphin, located on the lower level of the Dolphin building, is designed just for kids ages 4 to 12.

The concept of a kids club in a large resort is not foreign to my own kids, who have enjoyed themselves at The Sandcastle Club at Disney's Beach Club on several occasions. Until recently, they had yet to visit Camp Dolphin, though. Their opportunity came last weekend when my husband and I attended the Food and Wine Classic at the resort.

Camp Dolphin operates a little differently than kids clubs in other Disney World hotels. That's because the Swan and Dolphin belongs to the Westin hotel chain, even though it is located on Walt Disney World property.

There are similarities, though. Both experiences begin with parents making reservations for their children, though the clubs will take walk-ups if space is available. Camp Dolphin opens at 5:30 p.m. each day, an hour later than the Disney World clubs, but they all close when Cinderella's coach turns into a pumpkin (which we all know is midnight).

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Miss Thelma

Perhaps the most obvious comparison comes when families see the physical size of Camp Dolphin -- it's quite small compared to The Sandcastle Club. Camp Dolphin can accommodate up to 18 children with two counselors present. Thelma, who has been a camp coordinator at the Dolphin for 19 years, explained that during busy periods, such as holidays, the camp moves to one of the ballrooms.

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Still, Camp Dolphin has all the basic components for kid fun: Video games, movies, crafts and counselors who will supervise and entertain youngsters in an environment where parents will not worry about their well-being. On the night my children visited, the theme for the crafts was "A Very Merry Unbirthday," which included card-making and birthday tiaras for the participants. Blackout Bingo was played for prizes, and when we arrived to pick up our children, they were just settling down with a mound of pillows for movie time.

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Dinner at Picabu

Dinner is included for children who are in Camp Dolphin from 7 to 8 p.m. Counselors take the kids to nearby Picabu (Peek-A-Boo) restaurant, where the meals they have pre-selected from a menu of traditional kid favorites, such as cheeseburgers, mac and cheese, chicken fingers and hot dogs, are served. Then, they are treated to ice cream from The Fountain ice cream shop. (At The Sandcastle Club, parents help children place dinner orders when they are dropped off and the meals are served in the club. They are served cookies and milk later in the evening.)

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Ice cream from The Fountain

Pricing varies slightly between the five Disney World kids clubs and Camp Dolphin, as well. At The Sandcastle Club, parents pay $11.50 per child per hour, with a two-hour minimum. At Camp Dolphin, the price is $10 per child per hour with no minimum. Plus, each adult who orders an entree at Shula's Steak House, Todd English's bluezoo or Il Mulino New York Trattoria in the hotel earns two complimentary hours for a child at Camp Dolphin. This offers also applies to an adult who purchases a spa service at Mandara Spa.

Our children enjoyed Camp Dolphin, and my husband and I appreciated the ease of checking them into a safe environment so nearby as we enjoyed what the resort had to offer. It's not hard to imagine that we will return, giving the kids a night out and enjoying the same ourselves.


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About Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin

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