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Guest Review: Epcot Food & Wine Festival French Regional Lunch

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!

Table Setting

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!!

The Wines

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.

Eats
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.

Amuse Bouche -- Lobster Bisque

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!

Mediterranean tuna tartare

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.

lamb chop with roasted thyme

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.

Fromager d'Affinois

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.

Strawberry Tart

Overall
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!!

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14 Comments

  1. Sarah says:

    Brenda, I am so jealous! What a fantastic meal! Next year has been dubbed “The year of doing more than just a couple demos” during F&W. Heading over in a few to add more stamps to my passport!

    And I’m still chuckling over “celestial choir of cheesemongers”… :)

  2. AJ says:

    Sarah — I’m jealous, too! It looks amazing! Thanks, Brenda.

  3. We were at the same Frunch! Thanks for capturing it so eloquently.

  4. Alex (@ajcenac) says:

    Brenda & AJ:

    I loved the Fromage section. Chateau Neuf de Pape is my favorite French wine as well. I had a lucky chance to study in Aix-en-Provence, so we were able to try many Chateau Neuf. This is a great aspect of the F&W Festival that I haven’t experienced. After Disneyland cancelled their F&W for 2011 & 2012, we need to head back to WDW next October. Are you doing Foodiefest again?

    Thanks again for the great site and the hard work!

    ajc

  5. Kyle says:

    Apart from the lack of mushroom love (learn to love the fungus among us), I’m digging the review here, lots of great details and humor. It makes me want to get my fromage on.

  6. AJ says:

    Colin — You had such a fun trip!

    Alex — Yep — we’re planning on doing Foodie Fest again! It will likely be the first week on October, so stay tuned to WDWFoodieFest.com for more info. :-) Thanks for the comment!

    Kyle — Just went to check out your site(s); great vibe!! (BTW, Brenda has a way of making people want to get their fromage on…it’s like a side effect)

  7. Brenda says:

    Hey, thanks everyone for the comments! :-)

    Sarah, we have been fans of the Bistro lunches since we first attended them in 2008 – they are a great deal for the cost and the food is always great. I don’t think you will be disappointed if you book one next year. How did mission passport go today?

    AJ, I think you and your hubby need to try one of these next year. Way better than the F&W pairing in Morocco! ;-)

    Colin … no way! I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did – Jorge is a terrific presenter and so generous with his time and his wine. And … he even found a way to get me some extra cheese! I think I’m in love!

    Alex, thanks very much for your kind words. I love French cheese and being served them this year was a lovely surprise (Bistro has not done that in our past experience at these lunches). You should think about booking one next year if you head back for F&W … with your background you would probably really enjoy it in ways that the rest of us might not.

    Kyle, thank you! I am all about the cheese (in more ways than one .. haha!). :-)

    AJ, thanks again for letting me share some of our foodie fun with your readers; I hope it helps someone with their decision making for next year!

  8. Abby says:

    Another great review Brenda! Man I wish I could make a Frunch this year…hmm guess it’s a good reason to HAVE to go again next year though, eh?

  9. Rose says:

    Love it! You have such a fun way of writing:)

  10. Josh says:

    Great review Brenda!

    I’d have to say those are pretty decent sizes for a five-course meal.

  11. Brenda says:

    Hi Abby! Any reason is a good reason to head back to F&W and if there is way for you to get into a Frunch then should really try. Having attended at least four of them now over the past couple of years I feel very confident recommending them to others. You do take a risk on the food, in that they might serve something you don’t care for (mushroom bisque, anyone???) but the quality is wonderful. Go for it next time!

    Josh, thanks very much! And yes, those portion sizes are definitely not scaled down for lunch. We received very generous food portions at each Frunch we attended and they are comparable with portion sizes served at dinner.

  12. Brenda says:

    Opps, Rose, I’m sorry I missed you when I responded earlier! Thank you very much for reading and the compliment. We always have so much fun at these kind of events and I try to bring that out for readers, so thank you!! :-)

  13. Cleo says:

    tasty not delicious or awe inspiring?

  14. Alicia M. says:

    Which region of France was this for?

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