With a full week plus a weekend, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy the 2014 Epcot Food and Wine Festival, going on right now at Walt Disney World!
Today, I’m back to tell you about one of the Food and Wine Festival Special Events I had the opportunity to attend recently.
While I love spending time strolling the Promenade around World Showcase and taking in all of the fantastic food and drink, there’s so much more to the Festival than the International Marketplace Booths.
Each year, I also enjoy attending a sampling of the Low Cost Demonstrations and Seminars as well as Festival Special Events. And one of the biggest highlights is enjoying time with chefs whom we’ve admired in an up close and personal way!
Recently, I was given the opportunity to attend Food For Thought, a Festival Special Event that’s new for 2014. Replacing the Kitchen Memories series from past years, Food For Thought events allow guests to hear the story of a favorite chef before he or she walks the audience through a demonstration of dishes.
I was so excited when I learned that one of my favorites, Chef Rick Bayless, would be rejoining the Festival line up after an absence of several years! Bayless is the Chef and Owner of Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago, in addition to a collection of quick casual dining spots.
In addition, he’s about to begin the tenth season of his critically acclaimed PBS cooking show Mexico — One Plate at a Time. You can also find his line of Frontera Food Products throughout the country.
Join me as we listen into his conversation with Disney’s Pam Smith, and watch as he puts his apron on and provides us with a dose of kitchen wisdom via authentic Mexican flavors.
Food For Thought with Chef Rick Bayless
My husband and I have followed the career of Rick Bayless for a while. We were first inspired to explore authentic Mexican cuisine by cooking our way through his books. Having the opportunity to hear more about his journey in such an intimate setting was a great way to spend the morning.
If you’ve watched his PBS series Mexico — One Plate at a Time, then you know that Chef Rick excels at telling a good story and conveying the excitement of an experience. That combination, along with his wry sense of humor, made for an interesting chat session. Having grown up working in his family’s restaurant, his passion for Mexican cuisine was born out of his study of and love for that country’s rich culture.
Soon, however, it was time to turn our attention to the food! At that point, Chef Rick and Pam made their way to the exhibition kitchen for a demonstration of the food and drink we’d be sampling.
While a big draw of Food for Thought is getting to hear the backstory of a culinary notable, the event also makes for a delicious morning, as the featured chef shares a few of his recipes.
It’s always fun to see what the suggested pairings are for courses during an event. Typically, guests enjoy a few different wines with tasting portions of dishes, but on this occasion, we had the chance to enjoy a beer pairing instead. A glass of Negra Modelo stood at each place setting.
Normally, servings are tasting portions, but we enjoyed a full glass of beer as we’d be pairing it with each of the three courses. In addition, we learned how we might use the beer to create a delicious Fall-themed drink! Let’s check it out.
Mexican Snakebite Cocktail
As we were shown to our seats, Cast Members passed out Mexican Snakebite Cocktails. While we began enjoying them long before Chef Rick took the stage, showing us how to prepare them was his first order of business.
Recipes for each of the dishes as well as the cocktail were provided as part of our event program. Here’s a shot of the Mexican Snakebite Cocktail recipe so you can make the goodness at home!
Historically, a snake bite is a beer cocktail made with a mixture of lager and cider. Hard, or alcoholic cider, is typically preferred.
However, we were after a lighter drink that showcased the complexity of Mexican flavors rather than high alcohol content, so Chef Rick opted for Fresh Pressed Cider. He suggested that you might want to use a local, unpasteurized variety if you live in an area where you can find such a wonderful thing.
He gave the cocktail a Mexican twist by adding Tamarind Pulp, which has a bright, refreshing fruit flavor. You can find prepared tamarind pulp in the frozen section of some large grocery stores and Mexican markets. But he also demonstrated how to make your own, starting with how to choose the right Tamarind Pods and prepare the pulp from scratch.
I love that Disney has these handy overhead cameras and monitors to display just what the chef is doing. It really is like being on set for a cooking show.
He then blended the pulp together with Apple Cider.
To serve, he added the Cider Mixture to a glass and added the Negra Modelo.
And behold — the finished product! This cocktail has terrific balance, and it’s light enough to serve your guests as soon as they arrive. The tamarind brightened up the flavors, and the caramel notes in the Negra Modelo really complemented the fresh apple cider.
If you prefer a sweeter mix, or would like to bring out more of the apple flavor, Chef Rick suggested that you add a little sugar to the mix.
We will definitely be making this one at home! It’s a perfect Fall apple drink, especially for warmer climes like Florida.
Grilled Corn and Poblano Guacamole
It wouldn’t be a Mexican party without a little guacamole, right? And that’s the dish we turned our attention to next. For the event, we sampled Grilled Corn and Poblano Guacamole.
Incidentally, be sure to read through these recipes. You get a sense of Chef Rick’s writing style, which I just love. It’s conversational yet educational, and really makes his books a joy to read, even if you aren’t looking to cook. They have literary merit on their own.
This also is a great time to discuss ingredients. A cooking demo with Rick Bayless is peppered with practical information. Earlier, as we showed you, we were given the run down on how to prepare tamarind, and the difference between tamarind in Mexican and Asian or Indian dishes. Here, Chef Rick is discussing different types of Avocadoes, and how this fruit is grown and handled.
Next up, he demonstrated the proper way to use a juicer — by flipping the lime half upside down. That way you won’t get so much juice in your eye, down your shirt, and so forth. (C’mon. We’ve all been there.)
He also demonstrated how to grill the Corn and Poblano Chile and explained that Cilantro can be substituted for Epazote if you can’t find the latter.
The finished Guacamole was delicious, with an earthy bite from the roasted Poblanos.
Chicken Tinga Tostadas with Avocado and Cheese
Next, we were treated to a demonstration of Chicken Tinga Tostadas.
A mixture of Shredded Chicken, Tomatoes, and Chipotle Chile Salsa, it’s a versatile filling that can be thrown together in a snap for tostadas, tacos, or just about anything you’d like!
As he prepped onions for the dish, Chef Rick took the opportunity to impart more fundamentals of Mexican cooking. Use White Onions when cooking Mexican cuisine. The flavor of white onions is sharper and cleaner than their yellow onion cousins, which tend to impart a somewhat “muddy” flavor to dishes.
Again, that handy “Chefcam” saves the day, as ingredients come together to simmer.
The finished dish was mildly spicy, smokey, and full of flavor.
It’s a great recipe to add to your repertoire — quick and easy for weekday home-cooked meals!
Frontera’s Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars
Finally, we came to the sweet ending of the meal. We were treated to Frontera’s Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars.
What, you were expecting churros? Chef Rick explained that, although Pecan Pie is pretty much an American thing, you’ll find versions of it in Mexico. This particular recipe, or some variation of it, has been a staple of the Frontera Grill menu for more than 20 years.
Isn’t it gorgeous? And it’s every bit as delicious as it is beautiful.
And I was really surprised at just how perfectly it paired with the beer! I hadn’t given much thought to pairing beer with sweets, but the caramelized flavors matched the brown sugar sweetness of the dessert perfectly.
After the presentation concluded, guests lined up to meet Chef Rick and have pictures taken. His latest book, Frontera — Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks, was available for purchase to autograph.
He was also happy to sign the publicity pictures that were made available.
I thoroughly enjoyed this event. Although I’m fairly familiar with his style and many of his recipes, I really enjoy seeing him in a setting like this; he’s very personable and passionate about his craft. I always leave an experience with him feeling like I’ve learned something, but it’s more than that. I haven’t just learned — I’m excited about what I’ve learned.
The pairing choice of beer with the entire meal was also interesting to me. While we’ve enjoyed our share of Modelo Especial here at DFB, I hadn’t experienced Negra Modelo before (though I know AJ’s husband likes it!). I really enjoyed the body and deeper flavor of the darker beer, especially this time of year, as days shorten and temperatures begin to dip.
I’m glad that Disney continues to offer events like Food for Thought to round out the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. It’s always a good day when you can learn something. And when the lesson is delicious as well? Even better.
Will you be making any of these fantastic recipes from Chef Rick Bayless and Food for Thought? Leave a comment and tell us which ones sound good to you!
DFB author Brooke Fehr attended this event on behalf of Disney Food Blog courtesy of the event’s sponsor, Negra Modelo. However, she was not obligated to report on the event or provide a positive review of the experience. Read more about our Disclosure Policy here.