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Guest Review: Culinary Demos at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

It’s time to start getting excited about the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival! Today, we’re whetting your whistle as guest reviewer @MealTrip joins us with mini-reviews from four culinary demos presented at the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Read on and learn what to expect this year at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival culinary demos.

The Culinary Demonstrations held at the Festival Welcome Center (the old Wonders of Life Pavilion), provide a great gateway for those looking into any of the extra “pay to attend” events at the Food and Wine Festival. At $12 to $15 per person, per seminar, they really are one of the best values at the festival.

Festival Center - Outside View

A representative from the winery, a chef, and an interviewer are present during the experience to talk about the wine you’re sampling, and actually prepare a version of the dish in an on-stage kitchen. In most cases, there’s also time to get a few questions from the audience answered. (Okay, again for the realists out there, there’s a much larger kitchen behind the kitchen on stage, where your food is being prepared at the same time.)

While it is recommended that you reserve a spot early (booking begins on August 13th for everyone; August 9th for Tables in Wonderland and DVC members, Golden Oak Residents, and Annual Passholders), you can also check in at the Festival Center when the park opens to see what’s still available for the day.

Demo and Seminar Check In

On to the fun stuff, a recap of a few events from the first week of the 2012 festival…

Celebrity Chef Cat Cora Culinary Demonstration

Details: Chef Cat Cora from Kouzzina – Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. Dish: Seared Shrimp with Spiced Hummus and Peppedew Relish. Wine: Brampton UnWooded Chardonnay.

We’ll start our little recap with the Iron Chef herself, Cat Cora.

Chef Cat Cora.

Chef Cora’s dish was Seared Shrimp with Spiced Hummus and Peppedew Relish, and it was paired with a DCG (South Africa) Brampton UnWooded Chardonnay.

Brampton Unwooded Chardonnay

In Orlando, it would be hard to mention Cat Cora’s name without talking about Kouzzina at Disney’s BoardWalk, and Chef de Cuisine Dee Foundoukis, who was also in attendance at the Demonstration.

Cat Cora’s name is attached to Kouzzina, but Chef Foundoukis is at the restaurant eight days a week, can make phyllo dough from scratch, and if you ask really nicely… will even cut the head off your fish so that creepy little eye isn’t staring at you when the plate arrives. Okay… maybe that last one is just for me.

I have been to demonstrations featuring both Cat Cora and Dee Foundoukis, and they always, always bring the goods. Spicy/sweet, hot/cold, crunchy/smooth… there are multiple contrasts to everything they do, and multiple layers of flavor.

Cora's Dish.

The shrimp dish they prepared for the demonstration was no exception… my favorite dish of the week! I have never really thought about using a warm hummus before (made from scratch by the way), but it really worked well against the cold (but spicy) Peppedew Relish. This really was a top notch dish.

Celebrity Chef Kevin Dundon Culinary Demonstration

Details: Chef Kevin Dundon from Raglan Road – Downtown Disney. Dish: Coquille St. Jacque’s (Scallops). Wine: Acacia Vineyards Chardonnay, Carneros – Diageo Chateau & Estate.

The next celebrity chef in our lineup here is Kevin Dundon (Raglan Road – Downtown Disney). He’s the kind of bloke that all the ladies swoon over and all the gentlemen want to take out for a beer. He’s also not afraid to casually start giant stove-top fires with a torch and Irish whiskey in the middle of a theme park… how can you not love this guy?

Kevin

Kevin made Coquille St. Jacque’s, which is Scallops floating in a cloud of mashed potatoes. It’s really all about the St. Jacques sauce though.

With ingredients like butter, bacon, white wine, heavy cream and Dubliner cheese… it’s just going to taste great!

Kevin's Dish.

The dish was paired with Acacia Vineyards Chardonnay, and as an added bonus… Chef Dundon made a second dish for everyone, Cherries Jubilee! Complete with flaming cherries and cold ice cream.

You never know what you’re going to get at a culinary demo!

“What’s A Cassava?” Culinary Demonstration

Details: Chef Amanda Lauder, Boma – Animal Kingdom. Dish: Cassava Cake with Tropical Fruit Salsa. Wine: Spice Route Chenin Blanc – The Spice Route Winery (South Africa)

Next up, Amanda Lauder and Jose (Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boma) were recreating one of Jose’s pastry recipes: Cassava Cake with Tropical Fruit Salsa. If you have eaten at Boma over the last couple of years, Jose’s probably the guy that made your Zebra Domes.

Chef Amanda

Cassava root (also sometimes called yuca root) natively grows in South America, but was brought to Africa by Portuguese traders. When dried to a powdery extract, Cassava root is known as tapioca. Who knew? The Cassava root must also be cooked properly, because in its raw state… it’s toxic. So don’t go sprinkling some raw Cassava on your ice cream at home.

Jose and Amanda created a flour-less heavy cake using the Cassava root and many coconut bits (milked, shredded, toasted), and paired it with a Tropical Fruit Salsa containing dried pineapple, mango, and papaya.

Cassava Cake

I’m not sure you would really eat the cake by itself, but with the Fruit Salsa and the wine, it all made perfect sense.

The successful wine pairing was a Chenin Blanc from Spice Route South Africa, which has a full bodied palate and a fresh, pineapple finish.

Charl du Plessis (not the pianist) representing Spice Route's Chenin Blanc.

“Fooding Your Salt” Culinary Demonstration

Details: Chef Alisa Malavenda from POSH Salt, Cliffside Park, New Jersey. Dish: Cured Norwegian Gravlax with Cucumber Dill Creme Fraiche, Crispy Capers and Micro Greens, Himalayan Salt Seared Spiedini di Manzo and Purple Potato Hash. Wine: Handcraft Chardonnay – Handcraft Artisian Winery (California).

Next up, Alisa Malavenda and Laura E. Castelli from POSH Salt in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. I can’t possibly condense their presentation down to a few paragraphs, but Chef Alisa’s message was this… instead of salting your food, food your salt.

Chef Alisa Malavenda

There are two basic products here: tableware made out of salt, and cooking surfaces made out of salt. Just to give an example, you could serve cucumbers and tomatoes on a plate made out of Himalayan salt, or put unsalted potato salad in a bowl made out of salt.

With your food being served right out of the salt-made tableware, it will naturally pick up the flavor without having to add additional salt to the recipe. You could even make (for example) chocolate ganache truffles, and serve them right on a beautiful piece of salt-ware. Talk about dinner party drama!

The second notion is to actually cook food on a giant piece of salt, such as hash browns, a fried egg, steak, pizza… anything that you can sear or bake can be made on a block of really hot salt!

Chef Malavenda cured some Salmon, overnight, in between two giant Himalayan Salt Blocks to make Norwegian Gravlax with Cucumber Dill Creme Fraiche and Crispy Capers.

Fish in Salt Blocks

She then seared thinly sliced beef on a pre-heated block of salt, along with Purple Potato Hash. Some micro greens were added and the whole ensemble was plated on a block of salt!

Posh Salt

The food was not any more or less salty than any other food I’ve eaten, everything was just delicious. As an added bonus, everyone got to keep the salt slab that their food was served on! We were all given a little plastic bag to put it in, and a 30% off coupon code for any more salt-ware that you might want to order.

The food entry was served with HandCraft’s Artesian Collection Chardonnay, which is a Chardonnay, Viognier, and Chenin Blanc blend. This is a really accessible wine that just goes with everything, and can stand by itself as well. Very pleasant aromatics and a well balanced medium body. I may be in the minority here, but I don’t believe you should have to think too hard about a food and wine pairing, and all of HandCraft’s wines just seem to go with everything. My favorite Chardonnay of the week, hands down.

Overall

So if you have plans to attend the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival and would like to try out one of the Culinary Demonstrations, book your spot as soon as possible.

No matter if there’s a “celebrity” chef in attendance or not, there’s always something new to learn or taste, and the demos provide a really nice relaxing contrast to most of the day’s other activities. I also think that they highlight a point (more so than any of the other Food and Wine Festival events), and that is… “people” make food, not restaurants… and that’s really fun to watch!

Did you attend a culinary demo last year? Will you sign up for a demo in 2013? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

News! The DFB Guide to the 2013 Epcot Food & Wine Festival e-Book is now available for pre-order!

The best part? By pre-ordering, you automatically get our 2012 Food and Wine Festival Guide for FREE, instantly! That means you can start planning NOW for your trip!

Use code prefoodwine at check-out for a $3 discount!

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10 Comments

  1. Christina says:

    Is there a specific date that the full list of low-cost seminars will be available?

  2. Dana says:

    We attended Chef Kevin Dundon’s seminar last year, and he forever changed my mind about scallops. And the cherry jubilee desert at the end – heaven! We’re definitely doing another seminar this year!

  3. Paula says:

    Were all these listed as seafood (except the Boma one)? My husband is allergic to seafood so I want to make sure that we aren’t paying $14 for a splash of wine!

  4. Beth says:

    When they do finally list the low cost events there will be a seafood, beef,chicken or pork dish listed. Some may say to T.B.A. which means they are not sure and these you can wait for. There are also desert events mixed in. I’m hoping they come out soon so we can plan more than the day before

  5. Grandpa Dick says:

    I think we went to every one of those culinary demos last year and had at least a couple of the wines mentioned. We’re DVC members (Kidani Village), so we can begin reserving on 8/9. We should be getting the list of culinary demos and wine tastings ANY DAY now. We try to do at least one each of the culinary demos and wine tastings every afternoon. That leaves the mornings open for the parks (Epcot World Showcase doesn’t open until 11:00 am). This year, we’re going to have a daily plan for which kiosks we hit each day, instead of just strolling willy nilly around the loop. Most nights, we’ve had so many samples, we only want a small dinner. We’ll be there a week, but that’s never seemed to be long enough.

    We’re also waiting for the DFB Guide to the Food and Wine Fest, which I realize can’t be completed until the schedule of culinary demos and wine tastings is released. Sometimes I think I’m reverting to my childhood, when I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning to roll around.

    Paula, when the list is released, it’ll generally tell you the dish that’ll be prepared, so you can avoid seafood dishes. BTW, I pity your husband, because I absolutely love seafood, especially Kevin Dundon’s scallops last year.

  6. AJ says:

    Christina — Nope; no specific date. Usually they come out a few days before booking begins.

    Dana — Thanks for your review! Enjoy the festival this year!

    Paula — I’m not 100% sure, but they do usually list what the main ingredient is going to be when the schedule is released.

    Beth — I’m hoping the same!

    Grandpa Dick — We’re eagerly awaiting the events list and can’t wait to get the book out to everyone! :-)

  7. Nicola says:

    Is buddy here this year? I cant find any info about when or what he will be doing if he is?? Thanks

  8. Paula says:

    Yes I noticed last year that they listed the main item but then I know some changed. I would hope they are aware that people may book based on those items!

    Grandpa Dick – I pity my husband too for his seafood allergy! It is a complete bummer! For both of us in a way as I try and avoid eating too much seafood when we are out so as not to make him jealous! He loves seafood but it does not love him back!

  9. Stefanie says:

    I was just looking at the schedule for this year. I’ve been to the festival but never to a demo & am thinking about it. Thanks for your reviews! I was wondering whether it would be worth the cost & time being there is so much to do besides demos. So, the schedule only lists the name of the chef, date, time & dish but not the title? I guess you find out what the topic is when you arrive?

  10. Grandpa Dick says:

    Stephanie, everything at the F&WF seems expensive, but, believe me, the culinary demos and wine tastings are worth every penny. We usually go for a week and figure on one each culinary and wine event each day. Check the schedule and find the ones you think you’d like. Call early, because the popular ones fill up pretty quickly.

    Maybe it’s because we’re getting older, but we’ve found that a culinary demo, along with one or two food kiosks along the trail just about takes care of dinner. That’s actually less than the cost of lunch and dinner at a resort. We actually have to force ourselves to go light on a meal or two just so we can hit the places we look forward to, like The Brown Derby (tossed Cobb salad), Marakesh Restaurant (lunch), Sanaa at Kidani Village or appetizers in the bar with Kat.

    We love being at WDW with our grandchildren, but being at the F&WF by ourselves is pretty special, too. I hope you have a great time this year.

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