So this is pretty exciting — I finally got to attend a Party for the Senses at this year’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival!
For those who aren’t sure what I’m talking about (I know — “Party for the Senses” can sound a bit odd!), the Party for the Senses is held most Saturdays during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival each year. This exclusive event impresses the taste buds, of course, but it also aims to awaken all of your senses. During this 2 1/2 hour extravaganza, food and beverages flow freely as awe-inspiring entertainment is performed by Cirque du Soleil, La Nouba.
There are two more parties being offered this year — November 5, and November 12 — for $145 per ticket (plus you’ll need Epcot park admission). Note that the Wine View Lounge upgrade, which includes private tables ($260) is sold out. Reservations can be made at 407-WDW-FEST or at Disneyworld.com/foodandwine.
Interestingly, the artfully prepared menus (including chefs and vinters) change, so your party may not have the same offerings as the one that we attended.
Now that we have the specs out of the way, let’s get into the meat of the night!
We attended the Party for the Senses during the “Deluge of 2011,” as I like to call it. That’s right; we got all gussied up and sloshed over to Epcot on October 8th. When we arrived at the World Showplace entry — between the UK and Canada in Epcot’s World Showcase — the line to get into the event was about 200 people long!!
With just one umbrella and a poncho, the two of us decided to wait out the line under the warm and welcoming cover of Canada’s Trading Post shop; but after another half hour of staring at Moose jammies and maple candy, we decided that the line was just getting longer and we should bite the bullet.
We ended up waiting for another 30 minutes in the rain before our soggy selves were allowed into the Party. That was definitely not the most logical way to check-in high-paying guests, I don’t think. It had been raining for two days straight at that point; I would have thought Disney would have put up a few temporary tents to keep the waiting (well-dressed) guests a bit more dry.
Alas, at this point we passed through the gate and were handed our snazzy Food and Wine Festival wine glasses and “palette plates,” as I call them.
Oddly, it seems that there was a serious spelling error at the crate factory when they were packing up the gear for the party…
Once we got inside the actual building, we were greeted with a landscape of color and food! The Party is held in a ginormous room, where individual cooking and pouring stations are set up for each represented Chef, restaurant, and winery/beverage company.
Tables are scattered around the room and covered in colorful cloths. Tables are first come, first served, and from what I hear, the number of tables has been increased over the past few years. We had no trouble finding a table when we were there.
Throughout the event, guests are entertained by performances from Cirque du Soleil, La Nouba — the spectacular show that’s put on in Downtown Disney every evening.
The combined acts and music are truly outstanding, and I think this is one of the most compelling reasons to visit the Party for the Senses.
Once your eyes have adjusted to the dark and you’ve scanned the room for your plan of attack, it’s time to start hitting the food tables…
The food tables at the Party for the Senses each week are taken up by Disney chefs as well as chefs and beverage companies who are visiting presenters that week at the Food and Wine Festival Culinary and Beverage demonstrations. This means that you’ll always get to try something a little bit different, and you might even see a celebrity or two!
Of course, I wanted to try a little bit of everything, so…I went with dessert first! I happened to be at a table right by Chef Deran Lanpher, who is taking up the post of Pastry Chef at the Yachtsman Steakhouse this month. His offering was a Peanut Butter and Pretzel Gianduja with a Valhrona Brownie and Caramel Milk Chocolate Mousse, which will be introduced on the Yachtsman dessert menu very soon (if it hasn’t been already!).
This dessert was fantastic. Clearly Chef Lanpher is going back to the flavors we all loved as kids — caramel, chocolate, pretzels, and peanut butter — to create a high end, melt-in-your-mouth dessert. This is a winner.
From here, I headed over to the sign that said both “PORK BELLY” and “GORGONZOLA.” Those are two foods I like very much, and I was intrigued to try them together. The Braised Pork Belly served over Gorgonzola and Chive Yukon Gold and Parsnip Mash Accompanied by Fig and Amarone was created by Chef Javier Pareja of Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club.
Next up — the Kurobota Pork Sliders I’d seen everyone wandering around the room with! I had to try one! These were done by Chef Charles “Bubba” Dolson of Cinderella’s Royal Table.
Then I went next door to the table occupied by Chef Francesco Santin of Epcot’s Bistro de Paris. His dish was called …take a deep breath… Pied de Conchon Panee with Soupe de Moules au Saffran (Whole Pork Trotter Gently Braised – Deboned – Seized in a Delicately Crunchy Crust and Mussels Soup with Saffron).
Now it was time to head over to some delicious Kobe Beef Short Ribs! These were served with Wasabi Potato Puree, Shiitakes, and Sweet and Sour Onions. A delicious dish from Chef Douglas James of Grand Floridian catering.
Then we explored the front of the room and sampled a Tagine of Lamb with Peas and Artichokes from Chef Samad Benzari of Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot. YUM!
Finally, this trip to WDW had been peppered with duck dishes, so I had to try the Motswako wa Sehudi Five Spice Duck Breast with Crispy Rind Crackling from Chef Sutilak Martin of Boma in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. This was a delicious dish, but I didn’t hear any crackling.
Of course we had to sample a bit of wine. I found the table for Chateau Ste Michelle Winery, which seems to be very prevalent on wine menus these days.
And just in case you’ve indulged a bit too much, grab yourself a coffee on the way out!
Wine View Lounge
While I didn’t experience the Wine View Lounge, I wanted to at least report about it. Guests who pay for the Wine View Lounge upgrade spend $260 for the event and have access to specialty beverages and food items. They also have a guaranteed table and are let into the event 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the guests.
The Wine View Lounge is a very large area in the middle of the World Showplace — much larger than I expected — with a dedicated “guard” to be sure none of the riff raff is let in.
Here’s a photo I shot with my camera all zoomed in. I felt a bit like paparazzi!
Lots of folks ask if the Wine View Lounge upgrade is worth the money. Really, it depends on how much a dedicated table and some extra, upgraded food and drinks means to you. Hopefully some Wine View Loungers will chime in with comments about their thoughts!
So — is the Party for the Senses worth the money? Yes and no.
The reason I’ve never attended Party for the Senses before is because the cost has always been a bit too rich for me.* I’d have rather spent my dollars on demos and smaller events…and the World Showcase Booths…than spend it all at once at Party for the Senses.
That said, if you’re looking to be exposed to a LOT of different food and beverages all at once in a classy and sophisticated atmosphere (c’mon…La Nouba?! That’s awesome!), the Party might indeed be for you! It’s a very fun event, and the opportunity to chat one on one with some fantastic chefs is a once in a lifetime chance!
So, if you’re visiting the festival on a budget and are wondering how to stretech your vacation dollars, I’d do so by attending a few seminars and demos, visiting the World Showcase Booths, and possibly doing a food and wine pairing or the 3D Disney Dessert Discovery event instead of spending it all on Party for the Senses. However, if you have a bit more room in your budget and want to truly indulge for an evening — the Party for the Senses is a great option!
Have you attended a Party for the Senses this year? Let us know in the comments below about your experience!
* I was lucky enough this year to be contacted by some folks at Guylian Chocolates who kindly offered to sponsor me to attend the Party for the Senses. In exchange, they asked if I would report back about their chocolates at the Belgium Booth. Considering the fact that I used to spend the last of my pennies on Guylian chocolates when I was in college, I said “Heck yeah!” Seriously — I love those little seashell truffles and I’m more than happy to write about them (expect a chocolate-y post coming soon!). Thanks again to Guylian!