Since I’m not based in Florida, I asked my great friend and colleague (and Disney World Moms Panelist) Suzannah DiMarzio of ZannaLand, to attend the Tables in Wonderland preview of the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival in my place. She kindly obliged and put together this fantastic review of the evening!
Of course, for all the latest information and breaking news, check out our 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival pages. Take it away, Zanna!
On July 8, 2010, I was given the amazing opportunity to be a special reporter for the Disney Food Blog and experience the Tables in Wonderland Food & Wine Festival Sneak Preview. This was the third Tables in Wonderland special event I’ve attended and the experience was, as always, uncompromisingly good. Here is a rundown of the evening’s service, all of which were previews for upcoming dishes at Epcot’s 15th Annual International Food & Wine Festival:
The event took place in the retired Wonders of Life pavilion. It had been quite some time since I’d been inside, so it was really cool to see the building still there (though it could really use some pressure washing on the outside!) and most of the inside still intact. Of course it was sad not seeing the big Cranium Command sign, the cool exercise bikes that showed Main Street, USA, on the TV screens as you pedaled, and Body Wars.
We were escorted backstage through an area next to Body Wars at the old Frontiers exhibit (still there for the most part). We ascended in a beautiful, mirrored elevator to the second floor and what used to be the VIP Lounge when Wonders of Life was functioning with a sponsor.
The moment we stepped off the elevator and found our place card with table location on it, we were given our first wine selection: Paul Cheneau “Lady” Blanc de Blanc Cava from Spain. It was a lovely sparkling wine that came in a beautiful bottle.
Soon servers came around with our reception selections: Roasted Corn and Cheese Empanada from the Argentina kiosk;
Lettuce Wraps with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw from the new kid on the block, South Korea;
and Shrimp Ceviche from Chile.
The empanada was the item I thought I’d like the most, but compared to the other two it was a bit on the bland side for me. My husband did enjoy it, though.
The next item I tried was the ceviche, which was amazing. The fresh Laughing Bird shrimp were soft and delectable and the corn nuts were a fun addition that really added to the texture and flavor. The burst of lime juice had the perfect amount of spice, giving the dish a delightful combination of kick and zest.
Next up, however, was the winner of the evening. The roast pork lettuce wraps were delicious. The portion was just the right size for folding up and eating with your hands and the pork was marinated with a smoky mix of flavors that blended well with the kimchi slaw. Everyone in the room seemed to instantly love this selection, and as servers came out of the kitchen with a new tray they could only take steps before the tray was empty again. Be sure to look for them at the South Korea kiosk this fall!
Plated Meal and 2010 Food and Wine Festival Preview Presentation
After about 30 minutes we were all seated. Each table was named after a particular Food and Wine event and our table was named after a new event which kicks off the Festival: the First Bites Opening Reception on September 30th. Other tables included the Party for the Senses, Cheese Seminar, Epcot Wine School, “3D” Disney Dessert Discovery, the all new Grape Getaway, and more. (Editors Note: You can find out detailed information about all of these events on our 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Signature Events Page) There was also a screen at the front of the room, which would show us a Power Point presentation during dinner, highlighting all the upcoming events at this year’s Festival.
Our appetizer was a Seared Albacore Tuna with Romesco Sauce from the Spain kiosk. I am not a tuna person, unless it’s in sandwich form, but I loved this dish. It had a nice blend of spices including salt and pepper, smoked pepper, and toasted almonds.
We were then given our second wine of the evening: Bodega Norton Cosecha Tardia from Argentina. The grapes for this wine are held much longer on the vine, resulting in a sweet, toasty finish that I adored. I will be investing in this wine!
Next up was the salad course: Heirloom Tomatoes with Oregon Blue Cheese, Mascerated Red Onions, and Basil from the United States kiosk. The blue cheese was a sublime complement to these fresh tomatoes and really made the dish. Well done, Oregon!
We were then treated to the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival preview presentation from Pam Smith, Michael Jenner, Mary Ann Hunnel, and Chef Al Youngman from the Food and Wine Festival team, which showcased what the Festival had to offer this year. For information and details on the events discussed click on the links for the corresponding Disney Food Blog pages:
2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival International Marketplace Booths. Purchasing tapas-sized portions of food from these booths will cost an extra $2-$7 depending on the item. Don’t forget to check out the up-close-look at the brand new South Korea and Belgium booths AJ posted on Saturday. The menus look delicious!
Free and Low-Cost 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Seminars, Demonstrations, and Attractions. Some of these do require pre-booking, so take a look at the details on the page. Those events that require a separate ticket will be open for booking on August 26th for DVC members, Annual Passholders, and Tables in Wonderland Members. Booking will open to the general public on August 28th.
2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special and Signature Events. These usually require pre-booking as well as a significant extra cost. Booking will open to the general public on July 20th at 7am ET; call 407-WDW-FEST to book.
Eat to the Beat Concerts showcase 7 new acts this year, including Rick Springfield, 38 Special, and Sugar Ray.
Of course, the surprise of the evening was the Grape Getaway, which seemed to create quite the buzz and left all of us looking forward to receiving more information.
Here are a few key dates to be aware of:
And don’t forget that many famous and celebrity chefs will be involved in the festival this year. Everyone from Cat Cora and Robert Irvine to Jamie Dean and Todd English will be in attendance. Here are just a few of the faces you’ll see at the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival:
In addition to all the culinary experiences, there is a fun addition to the Marketplaces this year for those making the quest to experience all 27 countries represented. The Marketplace Discovery Passport will allow guests to obtain a unique stamp in each location as they travel around the World Showcase lagoon. I love that my kids, (who already love the Food and Wine Festival) will now have another fun activity as we eat around the World. Of course even without kids, this would be a great way to mark your Festival foods!
The presenters also discussed the new graphic design for the 2010 event. Here are a few of the highlights:
Now where was I? Oh yes, it’s time for our entree. Hailing from the Australia kiosk, Grilled Lamb Chop with Roasted Potato Salad, Red Wine Reduction and Murray River Sea Salt. Now again, I must shamefully admit, I’m not a big lamb person. These chops, however, were delectable. Not a hint of gaminess in their tender, perfectly cooked form. I have to say though, I loved the roasted potatoes. They were prepared with some lovely goat cheese and red peppers, which really made the dish. Of course, as Chef Al Youngman noted, the portions served during the Festival will be slightly reduced from our generous plate!
We were also served a lovely Penfolds Rawson’s Retreat Merlot from Australia to complement our meal.
Something I noted at our table: the couple dining next to us had requested something other than lamb and were served a nice salmon dish. I’m not sure why the thought never occurred to me to make special requests if one had certain dietary needs or restrictions at a Tables in Wonderland event. Of course Disney chefs would be more than happy to oblige.
Saving the best for last is not really possible at an event like this, but dessert was definitely no disappointment. We were treated to a trio of creations from three different countries. From Germany, a Pear-Streusel Pudding Cake which was smooth and delicious. Just the right amount of sweetness in the streusel topping. From Belgium, Dark Chocolate Sensation, which to me, seemed like little brownie bites with some chocolate mousse on top. America chimed in with its Strawberry Angel Verrine (layered dessert served in a small glass) in a martini glass. This was a little serving of angel food cake covered in a light vanilla pudding-like custard, topped with diced strawberries. Delicious!
But wait, there’s more. Belgium wanted to give us a kiss goodnight with a divine Godiva Chocolate Iced Coffee. Now, for those unfamiliar with me, my second biggest obsession after Disney is iced coffee. I would’ve been happy to drink nothing but that drink all night! I absolutely cannot wait for the Belgium kiosk this year to enjoy another Godiva iced coffee, or twelve.
All in all, it was a fabulous evening and I am now more excited than ever for October and the start of the Food & Wine Festival. The cast members from the Festival planning team were excited to let us know that many of our favorite chefs and experiences would be returning, along with some new adventures as well.
They were very proud of the Belgium and South Korea Marketplaces, and after hearing about freshly made Belgian waffles and enjoying the Roasted Pork Lettuce Wrap, I can see why! We were told about the interesting indigenous potables from South Korea: a black raspberry rice wine called Bohae, and Soju, a drink similar to sake but apparently much more potent.
Chef Al was also eager to share a new dessert item in Canada this year, so be on the look out for that.
At the question and answer session there was some rumbling about a Tables in Wonderland Beer Dinner as well as a Spirits Dinner, which I know I’d love to partake in. We’ll have to see what the future holds.
A huge thank you to AJ here for the opportunity to undertake this adventure for her, and to my husband for tagging along with me so I would have a second opinion and someone to confer with. It was a tough assignment, but someone had to do it. Stay tuned to the Disney Food Blog for the most in-depth coverage of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. See you in October!
Thanks, Zanna! Suzannah DiMarzio is a lifelong fan of Walt Disney World and its food. When she isn’t in the parks or answering questions on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel, she writes on her own blog, ZannaLand.com, and many other sites as well.
Note: Most of these photos are from the slideshow/powerpoint presented during the Tables in Wonderland Food and Wine Festival preview evening. Graphics in the slideshow are all copyright Disney, and photos are copyright S. DiMarzio and Disney Food Blog. Please do not re-print without explicit, written permission.