2009 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Marrakesh, Morocco, Food and Wine Pairing

Here’s one I was really looking forward to — the Marrakesh Food and Wine pairing! This was the most expensive event we signed up for, at around ~$60 per person.

Marrakesh Sign

Marrakesh Tables and Pink? Lighting

Marrakesh Tables and Pink? Lighting

There were about 30 people there for the event, and we were seated in an upper corner of the restaurant at about four large tables. Each place setting had a wine-tasting placemat printed with the names of the three wines we would be trying: Les Trois Domaines, Guerrouane Rouge, from Meknes, Morocco; Now & Zen, Alsace White, Alsace, France; and Chateau Trois Moulins, Haut-Medoc, Bordeaux, France.

Trio of Wines for Tasting

Trio of Wines for Tasting

Once we were all seated, the event began with the Marrakesh chef introducing us to the restaurant, which was fully decorated with top-to-bottom mosaic art by the Moroccan King’s own artisans (as was the Morocco pavilion itself). It’s truly a stunning location for a meal.

The chef has been at the restaurant since its opening, and touched on a few of the differences between the American and Morrocan cultures and foods. He then announced the wine expert and presenter for the afternoon, who proceeded to lead us through the tasting.

Marrakesh Food and Wine Pairing Cast Members and Moderators

Marrakesh Food and Wine Pairing Cast Members and Moderators

Most of the afternoon was about the wines — their origins, geography, and taste profiles. The food, mostly in tapas-sized portions, was largely not discussed. I wasn’t expecting this, and really was quite disappointed that we weren’t talking about the food flavors, preparations, and choices very much. So although I was very interested in hearing about the wine choices, this was a “con” of the afternoon for me.

The Wines
Our first wine, Guerrouane Rouge les Trois Domaines, paired with a delicious, spicy lamb sausage, was from the Guerrouane growing region of Morocco and resembles a Rhone style blend. The primary grapes in this blend are Cinsault, Grenache, and Carignan.

And this wine carries with it a fascinating fact: while the first two grapes are fermented traditionally, the Carignan grapes are fermented through something called “carbonic maceration” fermentation. If you’re a wine gourmet, you’ll probably know what that means, but I was utterly impressed! Carbonic maceration means that fermentation takes place within the grape, and actually makes the grape explode! The result is a light, fruity wine, and the process can increase the alcohol level of the grape’s fermented juice.

This wine’s fruity aromas paired well with the spicy sausage; it was probably my favorite pairing of the day.

Lamb Sausage with Lamb Stock and Tomato Sauce

Lamb Sausage with Lamb Stock and Tomato Sauce

Our second wine, the Alsatian Now & Zen, is made from a blend of Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer grapes, and hails from the long-contested segment of sometimes-France sometimes-Germany, Alsace, located between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine River. The cool climate of this area means the grapes ripen slowly, and, according to our wine moderator, this gave the the wine a wider array of aromas, including citrus and spice (coriander, nutmeg, cumin).

This was the only white that we tried (therefore, it was my favorite wine of the afternoon — I’m a white wine fan), and it was paired with Marrakesh’s delicious lemon chicken and couscous. The dryness of the wine paired nicely with the sweet and tangy lemon flavors of the dish. Overall, this was a more mellow pairing than the first.

Lemon Chicken and Couscous

Lemon Chicken and Couscous

Our final wine, Chateau Trois Moulins of the Haut-Medoc appellation of Bordeaux, is a Cru Bourgeois wine, which essentially means that it’s not classed as highly as some “bigger name” wines, but it is very highly regarded nonetheless. (This is the case for most Haut-Medoc wines, as I understand.) Made mostly from Merlot grapes, with some Cabernet and Petit Verdot as well, this wine has a deep color and flavor, with aromas of dark red fruits and deep tastes, like cassis, blackberry, cigar, and chocolate.

This wine was paired with the darkest meat we were served — a beef shish kabob, which included roasted mushroom. I think the pairing would have gone much more smoothly had the meat not been so badly overdone. The wine alone, though heavy, was tasty.

Shish Kabob with Mushroom

Shish Kabob with Mushroom

Tips on Wine Pairings
We were able to ask questions throughout the pairing, and we received a couple of great “pointers” for pairing food and wine:

  • Make decisions based on body and weight, not on colors, necessarily. Full-bodied and heavy foods and sauces pair well with full-bodied and heavy wines. Wines that feel lighter in your mouth will pair better with lighter foods/proteins. Wines that have deeper, heavier flavors will pair better with heavier foods/proteins.
  • Wines that are higher in acidity will turn up the flavors of other foods. For example, Chianti can be used, essentially, as a condiment to peak the flavors of the foods with which it’s paired.

Hopefully those are helpful to some of you. As I’m a wine novice, I found it extremely useful!

But Was it Worth the Money?
Now, a lot of folks have asked me if the more expensive events at the Food and Wine Festival are “worth it,” and while I can’t speak for every event, I’m not sure I’d do the Marrakesh food and wine pairing again. The food was consistently overdone, the portions were small for the price, and I didn’t find that it was a good representation of the dining opportunities available at the restaurant. Unless you’re a true wine-lover, consider spending the money to have a meal in the restaurant instead.

That’s just my two cents though, folks! I look forward to hearing about your positive AND negative experiences at Food and Wine Festival events.

Food Blog Weekly Round-Up: August 16

Animal Kingdom eat hereThanks for this weeks food posts, all!

Theme Park Insider offers some Advice for First Time Visitors to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival: Wondering how many days you should plan to spend at the Festival or when you need to book your chosen Party for the Senses before it sells out? Find out here.

ImagiNERDing remembers the Haunted Mansion “I Scream Sundae”: Promotional food from way back when…great images on this one, too!

The Orlando Sentinel recounts a not-so-pleasant experience at Yak and Yeti: If you’re looking for vegetarian options, you may have to “ask around.”

DLRPToday takes a look at the Disney Blockbuster Cafe refurb in Disneyland Paris: Check this out for some cool photos of the upcoming “pirate” room!

LaughingPlace reminds us that Mexico’s La Cava del Tequila will be opening August 28th: 70 types of authentic tequila and exotic and unique-blended margaritas? Sounds good to me!

Main Street Gazette lists Disney spots serving Egg Rolls: I love this idea! Pick your favorite Disney food and list where you can find it! (DisneyFoodBlog scribbles notes…)

CakeWrecks shows us Castle Cakes!: These AREN’T Cake Wrecks…I promise. Be sure to check out the Cinderella Castle cake!

2009 Epcot Food and Wine Festival…Info Almost Here!

Update! It’s here! Check out my Epcot Food and Wine Festival page-o-links for all the details!

So, I’ve been watching Disney World’s Food and Wine Festival Web Page like a hawk so that I can post info immediately! So far, they’ve clearly put in links that will click over to the detailed info…but the links are 404 at the moment! Stay tuned… I sense info coming soon… !

2009 Eat to the Beat Concert Series Announced

Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Thanks to Tim Weston over at The Daily Mickey blog for the tip that Disney’s finalized its Eat to the Beat concert series line-up!

These folks are set to light up the stage at this year’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival. For more information about the festival, click here!.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A platinum lineup of popular music acts, including several Grammy-winning bands, will unleash an eclectic mix of classic and current tunes during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Sept. 25-Nov. 8 at Walt Disney World Resort.

The Eat to the Beat! concert series will bring 17 acts – showcasing everything from rock to jazz, funk to pop – to the America Gardens Theatre stage during the 45-day festival. The lineup includes five performers playing the festival for the first time: Richard Marx, Better Than Ezra, Vanessa Carlton, John Waite and Billy Ocean.

Concerts, which are included with Epcot admission, begin at 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 p.m. daily. The lineup (subject to change) includes:

Sept. 25-27
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (“You & Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)”
Sept. 28-29 Richard Marx (“Hold On to the Nights”)
Sept. 30-Oct. 3 Starship starring Mickey Thomas (“We Built This City”)
Oct. 4-6 En Vogue (“Free Your Mind”)
Oct. 7-8 Better Than Ezra (“Good”)
Oct. 9-11 Sister Hazel (“All for You”)
Oct. 12-13 Kool & The Gang (“Celebration”)
Oct. 14-16 Spyro Gyra (“Morning Dance”)
Oct. 17-18 Jon Secada (“Just Another Day”)
Oct. 19-20 Sister Sledge (“We Are Family”)
Oct. 21-22 Vanessa Carlton (“A Thousand Miles”)
Oct. 23-25 Taylor Dayne (“Tell It to My Heart”)
Oct. 26-28 Boyz II Men (“Motownphilly”)
Oct. 29-31 John Waite (“Missing You”)
Nov. 1-2 Night Ranger (“Sister Christian”)
Nov. 3-5 Billy Ocean (“Caribbean Queen”)
Nov. 6-8 Los Lobos (“La Bamba”)

2009 Food and Wine Festival update

2009 Food and Wine Festival

2009 Food and Wine Festival

Click the link for the full details and information about the 14th Annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

And here’s Disney’s Official Press Release on the 2009 Food and Wine Festival:

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Epcot kitchens turn up the heat for a global tasting experience worthy of every palate Sept. 25-Nov. 8 at the 14th annual Epcot International Food &Wine Festival at Walt Disney World Resort. During the six-week, entertainment-packed event, park guests can taste fine cuisine and wines from the top “foodie” cities of the world.

Whether sampling bites of Camarões com Palmito (shrimp with palms) from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, or sipping the trendiest wine from Buenos Aires, Argentina, festival guests can enjoy the flavors of more than 25 international marketplaces dotting the World Showcase promenade. The festival will spotlight tastes from cities on six continents, including Bologna, Italy; Bangkok, Thailand; Wellington, New Zealand; Santiago, Chile; Marrakesh, Morocco; Shanghai, China; and, from the United States – New Orleans.

Tapas-sized portions of regional specialties run $2-to-$7 each, and recommended wines and beers make perfect pairings at each kiosk. Puglia, Italy, returns as a sponsor this year, presenting culinary demonstrations with regional chefs and showcasing “Adventures of Pasta and Olive Oils.” Live regional entertainment is scheduled throughout each day along the promenade.

Daily wine and beer tastings serve up sips from around the world, and culinary demonstrations dish up featured taste treats. A series of special culinary programs features a lineup of renowned winemakers, guest chefs and speakers participating in elegant dinners, luncheons, seminars and wine schools.

Live music kicks the festival up several notches each evening during the Eat to the Beat! concert series featuring acts from many musical genres including classic rock, jazz, R&B, funk and soul. Concerts are performed three times each evening at America Gardens Theatre along the World Showcase lagoon. Scheduled to appear for the first time on the Eat to the Beat! stage are: Richard Marx, Better than Ezra, Vanessa Carlton, John Waite and Billy Ocean. Returning acts scheduled are Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Starship, En Vogue, Sister Hazel, Kool & The Gang, Spyro Gyra, Jon Secada, Sister Sledge, Taylor Dayne, Boyz II Men, Night Ranger and Los Lobos.

Each fall, the festival attracts a diverse audience of more than one million guests ranging from wine connoisseurs and epicures to neophytes wishing to boost their wine IQs. Beer aficionados can raise their steins at several tasting locations, including Germany’s Biergarten, which specialize in brews from light to dark.

Festival highlights include:
The Festival Welcome Center, with a Champagne and Wine Bar, educational wine seminars, celebrity chef book signings, and festival keepsakes including exclusive festival pins and an official festival cookbook.

Some 250 chefs including Disney chefs and guest chefs from across the country conducting culinary demonstrations and hosting elegant dinners and tasting events. Guest chefs who appeared last year included Tory McPhail of Commander’s Palace, Rock Harper of “Hell’s Kitchen,” Robert Irvine from Food Network’s “Dinner Impossible,” plus Jeff Henderson, Todd English, Warren Brown, Mary Meyers, Jamie Deen, Iron Chef Cat Cora and many other culinary stars. This year’s lineup currently is being booked.

New culinary programs to feature Celebration Dinners, Culinary Adventure Signature Dining and Celebrating Family and Friends in the Kitchen. Popular returning events include French Regional Lunches at Bistro de Paris in the France pavilion, Epcot Wine Schools, Food and Wine Pairings and Sweet Sundays. The weekly Party for the Senses grand tasting event with tempting bites from eminent chefs, more than 50 wines and beers and live entertainment.

Festival guests can enjoy free admission on their birthdays as well as fresh Epcot experiences including the re-launched Spaceship Earth attraction in Future World and the high-tech, ultra-interactive Disney’s Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. Also in World Showcase, several new and updated restaurants welcome guests: at the Italy pavilion, Tutto Italia, with cuisine from different regions of Italy; at the Japan pavilion, Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo restaurants; and at the China showcase, the redesigned Nine Dragons with a new menu.

Included with Epcot Admission:
Samuel Adams beer seminars, Authentic Taste seminars and Authors without Borders programs with special book signings at the Festival Center, Eat to the Beat! concerts, culinary and cultural adventures, and all attractions and park entertainment are included with regular Epcot admission.

Special Programming by Reservation:
The Party for the Senses grand tasting events, Food and Wine Pairings at select Epcot restaurants, Signature Dining, Epcot Wine Schools, Sweet Sundays, and other special wine and culinary programs require reservations and separate event admission.

Guests can call 407/WDW-FEST (939-3378) for information and to make reservations for special events and programs. Festival details will be available by late July at www.disneyworld.com/foodandwine, and guests can book special events and programs beginning Aug. 11.

Epcot Food & Wine Festival Countdown



The Epcot Food & Wine Festival is one of the premier foodie events in the nation, welcoming specialty chefs, wineries, breweries, and other food professionals from around the globe to showcase their talents in an extravaganza of cultural tastes and experiences.
Food and Wine Festival

No. Disney did not pay me to write that. But if they want to use the text, they can send me an email.

This year, the Food & Wine Festival is scheduled for September 25-November 8, 2009.
The festival will share tastes from several countries through over two dozen kiosks set up around Epcot’s World Showcase. Kiosks serve tapas-sized portions of regional specialties for between $2 and $5 each, and recommended wines and beers for pairing.

The event also features several special dining events and culinary programs; you’ll have to make reservations for these and pay for them separately and in advance. These will (likely) be announced sometime in July 2009 and be up for booking starting in August 2009 by calling 1-407-WDW-FEST. (All bookings are non-transferable and non-refundable.)

For those of us who can’t wait the three months until the 2009 agenda comes out (and for those of you who want to see an idea of what you might be able to expect from the festival this year), here’s the 2008 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Guide.