How many times have you said to yourself, “I wish I could eat CHOCOLATE for dinner!!!!” I know. TONS, right? Well the dream has finally come true! And it happened at the 2013 Epcot Food and Wine Festival!
This year, a brand new signature dining experience kicked off the festival during opening weekend. The Chocolate Dinner, hosted by Ghirardelli Chocolate, promised to be a sumptuous experience for the discriminating chocolate lover.
The dinner consisted of a reception, followed by six plated courses, presented by the Disney chefs who created them.
Let’s head over to Epcot’s World Showplace Event Pavilion for a look at this decadent event!
Ever wonder what’s behind those enormous brown doors between the Canada and UK Pavilions within Epcot’s World Showcase? You might, if you’ve never attended an event at the World Showplace Pavilion. But if you look closely at your Epcot map, you’ll see it there.
That was the setting for the evening’s event, and the sign above the beautiful awning announced it in style.
Pan back a bit, and you can see the main entrance to the building. A reception preceding the plated dinner took place in the World Showplace courtyard, to the left of the main entrance.
As we entered through the massive brown wooden doors, a team of servers greeted us with beverages. Guests could choose from Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, Chocolate Martinis, or Sparkling Wine. The drinks disappeared quickly every time the staff came out with another tray of them!
While guests sipped on their cocktails, beer, and wine, teams of cast members passed trays of Hors d’oeuvres prepared by Chef Lisa Rios. Because they were passed and unlabeled, it was hard to get all of the details for the various components, but they were very good — and pretty, as you can see.
I had to ask about this one, because I thought the little “bowl” was a rose petal.
Actually, it was a shaved beet cup, and the texture and taste were sweet and light.
The presentation of every tray that appeared was impressive.
These Shredded Chicken in Waffle Cones were coated in chocolate and filled with a pulled chicken mixture that contained a bit of chili spice. They were inventive and delicious.
Cocoa-dusted Scallops were nestled on a bed of cauliflower puree, and were garnished with “caviar.” (I’m pretty sure the garnish was some type of molecular culinary artistry and not actual fish roe, since the spheres were enormous. But I can’t tell you for sure.)
We milled around a bit, as you do when you’re at a party with people that you don’t know. Soon, it was time for the doors to open and we were ushered inside for dinner.
World Showplace is a fairly large venue. Since our dinner was a comparatively small affair — only around 100 guests — it actually took place in the lobby area of the event space.
As we entered, the swirling light was soft and tinted in cool shades. Crystal chandeliers above dressed up the space.
Brick accents around the sides and stage area depicted some of the architectural features of Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, where the company’s factory was located during the 1800s.
Steve Genzoli, Vice President Quality Assurance and Research and Development with Ghirardelli, talked a bit about the company’s history and the steps that ensure their commitment to making the finest chocolate.
Chef Dale Reynolds, who headed up the kitchen’s efforts, shared about the creation of the menu. Throughout the course of the evening, the individual chefs who prepared each course would appear to explain their dishes.
One of the most eye-catching details was the beautiful round tables, which seated eight guests, and were set with a full compliment of flatware.
Lighting in World Showplace makes it a challenging venue from a photographer’s perspective, unfortunately. You can’t really tell it here, but the linens were a deep brown chocolate color.
Each guest received a menu, which came in handy as we navigated the complex courses.
I can’t wait to show y’all around this event! Let’s dig in.
In case you’re wondering what a chocolate dinner could be — well, it’s just what it sounds like. Chefs were challenged to use chocolate in significant ways throughout each course they presented. We’re not talking a mere wafting of cocoa powder above a component. There was full-on chocolate everywhere. In addition, each course was paired with a wine or beverage.
We began with a soup course. Chef Rebeca Modia prepared Oxtail Consommé with Dark Chocolate Chili Ravioli. The clear soup was flavored with sea salt and chili, and had a strong beef flavor with just a bit of zip.
The ravioli garnish contained chocolate in both the dough and filling. The pasta filling did have a hint of sweetness, but it wasn’t overwhelming. It was the perfect way to kick off the meal.
For our second course, Chef Alejandro Ocanto prepared a variation on a dish that’s currently hot in culinary circles — Chicken and Waffles. His plate featured a portion of braised chicken served in a mole sauce, rather than the traditional fried version.
The plate was garnished with a cherry tomato dipped into a wonderful sauce featuring the flavors of horseradish and white chocolate. Everyone at our table loved the garnish especially.
The waffle chips were similar to a cross between a waffle and a cookie. While good, I think this dish would have been incredible had fresh waffles been used…but that may pose a logistical impossibility for a plated dinner of this magnitude.
As I mentioned before, each of the courses were paired with wines (except for dessert — we’ll talk about that in a bit). While the wines enhanced each course, the real star here was the creative use of chocolate within each dish.
Next, we enjoyed a Sorbet course prepared by chef Dennis Byras. While the sorbet itself was delicious — more dessert-like than a typical palate cleanser, but delicious nevertheless — the really interesting component on the plate was the tuile garnish.
Normally, tuiles are made of cookie batter that is pliable immediately after it’s removed from the oven, but then becomes hard upon cooling. This tuile was actually fashioned out of a chocolate pastry cream base that was spread onto sheet pans, baked, and cut into spaghetti-like ribbons! Call me a pastry geek if you must, but these are the touches that I love.
The yellow swath of color was a cocoa painting. While it was merely decoration, it was still a lovely use of the featured ingredient.
Bread arrived with the main course, and it looked so yummy! I couldn’t pass up a chance to take a nibble, even though it meant a sacrifice of precious stomach space. The House Made Balsamic Marble Chocolate Brioche had a garnish of miniature bittersweet chocolate chips, and was delicious slathered in butter.
We had arrived at the main course — Maine Lobster with White Chocolate Beurre Blanc and Chocolate Rosemary Braised Short Ribs, served with Cocoa Bean Smoked Shallot Mashed Potato and Baby Vegetables.
There are few more beautiful words in the English — well, French — language than beurre blanc. This ultra rich sauce couldn’t possibly get any better. Unless you add silky white chocolate to it.
The chocolate-rosemary combination on the short rib had a beautiful, almost masculine air to it. The shellfish and beef complemented one another well, and the smoky mashed potatoes and tender vegetables rounded out the plate perfectly.
Guests were offered a choice of either La Crema Chardonnay (brilliant with the lobster) or La Crema Pinot Noir. After many of us suggested that we needed both, our request was granted, and we received a half pour of each.
It’s hard to believe there’s more! But next came a cheese course. Chef Jason Jakubowski explained that the Baked Brie was more specifically Brillat Savarin. A triple cream Brie, this has become one of my favorite cheeses of all time since I sampled it last year at the From Base to Bubbles seminar at last year’s Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic.
Rosa Regale, a brachetto from Italy, matched the cheese and chocolate components extremely well.
Our final course of the evening was Milk Chocolate Risotto, prepared by Chef Melissa Webster. A riff on the wonderful comfort food rice pudding, the dish had a thick, creamy texture and velvety chocolate flavor.
I really enjoyed the contrast of the garnishes here. The drunken cherries were macerated in bourbon, and the pistachio brittle brought a welcome note of crunch to the dish.
To zip dessert up a bit, we were offered a cordial of JDK & Sons Crave Chocolate Cherry Liqueur. This could be a delightful dessert on its own.
With a smile on our faces, we were ready to head out for some much-needed exercise as Illuminations unfolded over World Showcase Lagoon, with a small bag of Ghirardelli Chocolates to remind us of the evening.
So many of us think of the Food and Wine Festival as only the Marketplace Booths. And they are fantastic to be sure! But there really is so much more to the festival, and the signature dining events are great opportunities for the talented culinary staff of Disney to shine. The mission of this dinner was not an easy one. After all, unless you think out of the box, it may be hard to imagine an entire menu centered around an ingredient that we mostly consider a sweet.
I felt like they pulled it off, though — and in grand style. Every dish was a delightful surprise, and many challenged my notion of just how I might use chocolate in dishes beyond dessert.
For that reason, The Chocolate Dinner proved to be not only delicious, but educational. And it’s always a good time when you can combine the two.
Does chocolate for every course sound like the best idea ever to you? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of the dishes!
Many thanks again to MealTrip for the beautiful photos. Brilliant, eh?!
I attended The Chocolate Dinner Hosted by Ghirardelli Chocolate as a media guest, and we thank Epcot Events Planning for their kind invitation. The Disney Food Blog was under no obligation to write a review of the event, let alone a favorable one. Read more about our disclosure policy here.