I just returned from a week-long trip to Walt Disney World (mainly for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival) where I had the pleasure of attending the first Party for the Senses of the year on October 2, 2010. This was my fourth trip to Disney World during Food & Wine, but the first time I experienced any paid events. My traveling party consisted of myself and my fiance — both of us newcomers to the Party for the Senses — and my parents, who enjoyed the Party 2 years ago.
The Party for the Senses is held between Epcot’s UK and Canada pavilions in the old Millennium Village (now called World Showplace). The Party offers reserved seating for that night’s Eat to the Beat Concert, which we didn’t take advantage of, and party check-in was either at the Concert or across from the Party location. All attendees must check-in as they placed wrist bands on us and checked IDs there. The Party was scheduled to start at 6:30pm, and at around 6:15pm the gates were opened so everyone could receive their plate and wine glass. The party doors opened at 6:25.
Tip: If you want to be sure to get a seat at a table, I’d arrive early to get to the front of the pack. If you don’t care if you have a seat, getting there around 6:15 would be fine.
The room is set up in different sections; this year it was organized by colored kitchen item, like a yellow wine glass or an orange whisk (figuring out the sections makes it easier to find different food items in the program). There were two main set ups:
- Sets of four items in the middle that each contained two food items and two wineries
- Sets of tables along the edges of the room that alternated between food items and wineries
Desserts could be found in the back of the room along with coffee & tea stations. The Wine View Lounge — a specialty lounge available at an extra cost — was set up right in the middle of the room with a good view of the stage and live music performances. Every 45 minutes or so there was a short show from Cirque du Soleil performers.
One of the concerns that I heard from prior years was a lack of seating. Between my parents and others I chatted to throughout the night, all were in agreement that there were more tables and chairs this year. If we had moved directly to the back of the room when the doors opened, I’m sure we could have obtained a table and chairs, but we were fine with the tall tables as they allowed for easier grazing. About a half hour before the end of the night, we moved to sit down to enjoy our final glass of wine & dessert.
OK, that’s all nice, but what about the food & wine?!
There were 23 different stations that offered beverages. Most places were wineries, but there were a few with beer and one that featured hard liquor. I suffer from migraines, so I can’t have red wine at all and I do need to watch how much I have to drink. Luckily, most wineries offered white wine, and I could ask for just a sip or two. Enough to try, but I still felt well at the end of the evening. Almost all of the winery representatives were extremely friendly and happy to answer any questions I had.
The wine glass you got in the beginning was used to try all the wines, and while water was available to rinse your glass, many wineries were using one of their wines to “rinse.” My fiancé decided he couldn’t let that good wine go to waste, so he “rinsed” by drinking it.
I enjoyed trying wines that I wouldn’t normally try. I found out that I love an Argentinian wine called Torrentés. All 4 of us wound up finding things that we loved; my fiancé’s favorite was a French Beaujolais. I had heard that in years past the Champagne booth would run out of alcohol by the end of the night; but on our visit there was a Sparkling Wine (Champagne from California) and a French Champagne that were both pouring until the end!
As for food, there were 25 different stations that all offered a tasting sized portion, including two cheese tables with nice assortments.
We started out each getting our own dish, but found out very quickly that it was too much! By the end of the night we were splitting dishes.
I will say that you should be a rather adventurous eater to enjoy the Party for the Senses. If you’re picky or afraid to try things you haven’t before, I’m not sure there would be that much for you to enjoy. My Dad has always disliked lamb, but he wound up trying a lamb loin and discovered he really liked it.
I tried Squab for the first time…and discovered I’m not a fan of Squab! But at least I tried it, right?
They had everything from Boar to Venison to figs! There was a fair amount of beef and pork spare ribs (we joked that Disney must have gotten a good deal!). Every week they have different chefs and different food, so I won’t go into each dish here. (There are photos and descriptions of every single dish on Kelly’s Party for the Senses Flickr page for those who want to explore.)
One comment I heard was, in comparison to past years at the party, it didn’t seem like there were as many celebrity chefs. This could have been because it was the first party of the year. But I don’t think the food suffered; everything had a great flavor and I don’t particularly have a need to meet famous chefs. The one famous chef that was there that night was Keegan Gerhard from the Food Network Challenges. I tried his dessert just to see if he was as good as everyone said he was! He was very gracious and talked to everyone briefly before handing over each dessert.
Wine View Lounge Review
I spoke to someone who purchased tickets for the Wine View Lounge to get her opinion on the value. For an extra $90, it gets you a guaranteed seat, early admission (15 minutes), a larger bar selection (including hard liquor), and a gift bag at the end of the night. I think the biggest perk would be the guaranteed seat.
Overall Review, Tips, and Info
We left right before Illuminations started and were able to watch it before leaving; it made a great finish to the evening. All in all, I had a wonderful time and would definitely recommend the experience to anyone. I would certainly do it again!
Regarding the dress code, we were told it was Business Casual, but my parents felt overdressed the last time they went. I saw everything from suits & cocktail dresses (with heels!) to shorts and tee-shirts. We wore somewhere in between and didn’t feel out of place. So I’d wear something nicer than you would to the park on a normal day, but there’s no need to glam it up (it’s still HOT in October)! The biggest piece of advice I can give is to wear comfy shoes!
The Party itself costs $135/person, which I think is appropriate, I felt we definitely got our monies worth. The Wine View Lounge is an extra $90/person. To me, it’s not worth it, but if you really want to guarantee a seat, or if you have someone who isn’t a wine drinker, it might be worth it to you.
There’s so much more I could share, but I know this is long already! I’ll check the comments and I’ll be happy to answer any questions!
Thank you, Kelly! Everyone, don’t forget to go check out even more food photos from Party for the Senses over on Kelly’s Party for the Senses Flickr page.