Thanks to Brenda Meng, who writes a hilarious blog about food at her own Gastropod Travels, for putting together this detailed review of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival “Frunch” (French Regional Lunch) at Bistro de Paris on October 10, 2010!
I love the French… their fearless use of heavy cream, their puzzling adoration of Jerry Lewis, their glorious national obsession with cheese. Any country that manages to produce nearly 400 distinct cheese varieties gets a gold star in my belly’s book of delights –- in fact, it almost makes up for their unfortunate over-use of mushrooms in so many of their dishes… almost.
The absolute best restaurant at the Walt Disney World Resort for French cuisine is Epcot’s Bistro de Paris, located above Chefs de France in the World Showcase. Bistro is usually only open for dinner, but during the Food & Wine Festival they host “French Regional Lunches” on select Friday and Sunday afternoons. Each lunch, or Frunch as I like to call them, features wines and cuisine specific to a given region in France; for $95 per person, guests enjoy a five-course lunch paired with wine –- a winery principal or distributor is on-hand at each event to provide background about the wineries and their products.
Details And Presenter Information
Frunch on this Sunday afternoon featured cuisine of the Rhone Valley paired with wines from Vidal-Fleury, which was founded in 1781. The winery is located in the Northern Rhone Valley and is the oldest continuously operating wine producer in the area. Would you believe that Vidal-Fleury’s relationship with the United States goes all the way back to Colonial times? Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison visited the winery to study winemaking technique as well as to sample and purchase their wares… . I’ve always suspected the founding fathers were wineauxs, and now I’ve got proof!!
These interesting tidbits, along with a brief lesson about how to properly drink and experience wine, were provided by our presenter for the event: Jorge Hernandez, the Director of Corporate Education & Training for WJ Deutsche and Sons. We’ve attended Frunches in the past that have featured Jorge, and he was a primary reason that we booked this event. He’s a wonderful speaker whose knowledge, warmth, and humor really shine through –- he visits every table during the event and is exceptionally generous with the wines, especially when he discovers that you and your tablemates have a fondness for something poured during the afternoon.
Our meal began with an Amuse Bouche, a little taste treat from the kitchen that’s designed to awaken the taste buds and set the tone for the meal to come. In this instance we all received a small dish of Lobster Bisque topped with a dollop of crème fraiche; it was paired with a 2009 Cotes du Rhone, Rose’. I have to go on record as stating that I am not typically a fan of lobster, but I do enjoy lobster bisque now and then as long as it’s well-prepared and not overpoweringly fishy. This was amazing –- creamy and flavorful with hints of sherry and generous chunks of lobster meat.
The appetizer course was a Mediterranean Style Tuna Tartar with Avocado Mousse served with a 2009 Cotes du Rhone, Blanc. I love me some raw fishies, and Bistro’s tuna tartar was wonderfully sweet and light. I didn’t care about any of the garnishes or other items on the plate, for me it was all about the tuna, which was simply delicious!
Our main course of the afternoon was Roasted Lamb Chop with Thyme, Eggplant Caviar, and Polenta with Raisins, and it was actually served with two different wines to demonstrate how wines can both enhance and mask certain flavors within the same dish. We were served a 2007 Cotes du Rhone, Rouge, and a 2006 Chateau Neuf du Pape.
I can’t speak for anyone else in attendance that afternoon, but the Chateau Neuf du Pape knocked my socks off; it was just that good. It was a beautiful crimson color and had a deep, strong taste that paired really well with the lamb. And speaking of the lamb, did you get a good look at that portion size? There were three lamb chops on my plate –- that’s an exceptionally generous serving, especially at lunch. The lamb was well cooked for the most part, although some of the meat was fattier than it should have been. The polenta, however, was a dry, flavorless disappointment; it reminded me of day-old cornbread and in no way bore a resemblance to any polenta I’ve ever made or eaten.
We were then presented with my absolute favorite cheese, Fromager D’Affinois, and a glass of 2007 Vidal Fleury St. Joseph, a red wine made from Syrah grapes. The Fromager is a rich, silky, double-cream cow’s milk cheese that we love to eat smeared over fresh sourdough bread when we enjoy it at home. This cheese is so wonderful and tasty that a celestial choir of cheesemongers breaks out into song every time a wedge is purchased and served. If this hasn’t happened to you, you are obviously not listening hard enough or you have purchased the wrong cheese –- try again.
As for the wine, a red would not have been my personal choice with this cheese, but it actually worked quite well and almost made me forget that my cheesy drink of choice would have been a tawny port.
Dessert, which I’ve always considered a French art form, consisted of a Strawberry Tart and a Strawberry Sorbet served with a 2007 Muscat Beaumes De Venise. The strawberries were lovely and flavorful, but this was the first time in my culinary life that anyone has tried to pass off a pancake as a tart. There was no pastry with this dish, only some Bisquick and maybe a little buckwheat; it was a definite letdown, especially because we know from experience that Bistro turns out some amazing desserts on a nightly basis.
Overall, however, we were quite pleased with this event. The food and wine were generally tasty, the restaurant staff was friendly and responsive, and the presenter was energetic and personable. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon with friends, and we wouldn’t hesitate to book it again if the opportunity presented itself.
We actually attended three Frunches during this trip and the food quality ranged from good-to-excellent while the wines were poured and refilled with a generous hand. Bistro’s French Regional Lunches remain one of the best bargains of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival special event programming — five courses paired with at least as many wines for $95 per person. It’s an educational and drunkenly delicious deal!!