Interview: Marianne Hunnel, Epcot Food & Wine Festival Content Development

Chef Marianne Hunnel

As you know, I was given the opportunity to speak yesterday evening with Marianne Hunnel, Area Manager, Event Content Development for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. She has a job that seems to be in equal parts exhilarating and difficult — and she loves it!

Without further ado, let’s jump into what I learned about the Epcot Food and Wine Festival and its true headliner, Marianne Hunnel! At the end of this post, we have a few pieces of news about what you’ll find that’s new at the 2011 Festival!

How A Festival Comes Together

With five years of directing content development for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival (six festivals altogether), Marianne Hunnel is an expert at shepherding her small, mighty team when it comes to building something bigger and better every single year. Of course, her 15 years working as a Chef on Disney World Property doesn’t hurt in terms of knowing what Disney guests are looking for when it comes to a dining experience!

Planning and development for these 45 festival days takes all year, and includes a lot of research. The first place they turn? Last year’s Food and Wine Festival guests! “[We] take a look at feedback from guests — what people liked, what was not doing very well. We really listen to the guests.”

After taking stock of what you, me, and the rest of the guests preferred last year, the team begins scouting the global trends taking over the food space and begin putting together menu items and tastings. To get unique and authentic input, Hunnel and the team speak with cast members — especially those hailing from countries represented in the World Showcase Marketplace Booths — to collect ideas, reviews, and even family recipes!

According to Hunnel, the festival should always be “interesting, exciting, and educational.”

Trends and Concepts Affecting the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Healthy Dining
An ongoing focus of the festival is healthy dining. “[We are] trying to incorporate fresh and healthy foods that are indigenous to the regions represented around the marketplace. …And we do it in subtle ways. Guests can say, ‘Wow, you can eat healthy and enjoy going to a festival without feeling really guilty,'” says Hunnel.

In fact, a new event focusing on families and healthy dining will take place on October 29th, featuring Andrew Zimmern and two other celebrity chefs, Bryan Voltaggio and Chris Cosentino. The event will “show the Chefs as Dads. They’re going to have their kids with them, who will be showing techniques that the family can [Read more…]

2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special Events Details

Great news! Dates have been announced for some of the 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival special events!

If you’ll be at the 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival between September 30 and November 13, you can now start planning what dates you might be attending certain specific events in Epcot.

Check out our 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special Events page for dates for Sweet Sundays, Grand Marnier Tastings, Cheese Seminars, Wine Schools, Party for the Senses, Kitchen Memories, 3D Delicious Dessert Discovery, HGTV Home Entertaining Seminars, Food and Wine Pairing Dinners, and Signature Dinners (restaurants are not yet available). Booking for these events opens August 16th at 7am ET. Call 407-WDW-FEST.

Note that we do not yet have the dates or details on the low-cost seminars and demonstrations that will be taking place during the week at the Festival.

As always, we’re bringing you the most up-to-date details on the 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival!

Follow along over on our 2011 Epcot Food and Wine Festival index page!

Thanks to Stitch Kingdom for a heads up on a recent press release!

Guest Review: Epcot Food and Wine Festival Party for the Senses

One of my favorite people in the whole internet, Kelly Tressler, captured her 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Party for the Senses experience for us! Sit back, relax, and get ready for a treat…

Party for the Senses

I just returned from a week-long trip to Walt Disney World (mainly for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival) where I had the pleasure of attending the first Party for the Senses of the year on October 2, 2010. This was my fourth trip to Disney World during Food & Wine, but the first time I experienced any paid events. My traveling party consisted of myself and my fiance — both of us newcomers to the Party for the Senses — and my parents, who enjoyed the Party 2 years ago.


The Party for the Senses is held between Epcot’s UK and Canada pavilions in the old Millennium Village (now called World Showplace). The Party offers [Read more…]

2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Preview

Since I’m not based in Florida, I asked my great friend and colleague (and Disney World Moms Panelist) Suzannah DiMarzio of ZannaLand, to attend the Tables in Wonderland preview of the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival in my place. She kindly obliged and put together this fantastic review of the evening!

Of course, for all the latest information and breaking news, check out our 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival pages. Take it away, Zanna!

Concept Art for the 2010 Food and Wine Festival Entryway Display at Epcot

On July 8, 2010, I was given the amazing opportunity to be a special reporter for the Disney Food Blog and experience the Tables in Wonderland Food & Wine Festival Sneak Preview. This was the third Tables in Wonderland special event I’ve attended and the experience was, as always, uncompromisingly good. Here is a rundown of the evening’s service, all of which were previews for upcoming dishes at Epcot’s 15th Annual International Food & Wine Festival:


The event took place in the retired Wonders of Life pavilion. It had been quite some time since I’d been inside, so it was really cool to see the building still there (though it could really use some pressure washing on the outside!) and most of the inside still intact. Of course it was sad not seeing the big Cranium Command sign, the cool exercise bikes that showed Main Street, USA, on the TV screens as you pedaled, and Body Wars.

We were escorted backstage through an area next to Body Wars at the old Frontiers exhibit (still there for the most part). We ascended in a beautiful, mirrored elevator to the second floor and what used to be the VIP Lounge when Wonders of Life was functioning with a sponsor.

Passed Appetizers

The moment we stepped off the elevator and found our place card with table location on it, we were given our first wine selection: Paul Cheneau “Lady” Blanc de Blanc Cava from Spain. It was a lovely sparkling wine that came in a beautiful bottle.

Soon servers came around with our reception selections: Roasted Corn and Cheese Empanada from the Argentina kiosk;

Corn and Cheese Empanada from Argentina

Lettuce Wraps with Roast Pork and Kimchi Slaw from the new kid on the block, South Korea; [Read more…]

Latest News: Epcot Food and Wine Festival Info, Taste of Africa, and a New Cookbook

Whew! There’s been a multitude of news items that have popped up in the Disney Food world, so I decided to devote a post to all of them this morning:

Bangkok Marketplace Booth

2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Booths

The Food and Wine Festival CMS website is now showing the 27 Epcot Food and Wine Festival International Marketplace Booths slated for the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival. As we know, these include new additions South Korea and Belgium, and returning booth Singapore. It also includes another new addition, Charcuterie and Cheese (perhaps replacing The Mouse Catch booth)!

Check out the 2009 Food and Wine Festival Booth menus and photos here for inspiration about what might be offered this year!

Food and Wine Festival Event General Info … and Cirque du Soleil News?

The same website also offers information on general timing for each of the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival seminars, demonstrations, and signature special events. While specific details (e.g. which Chefs will present on which days) have not yet been announced, this information can help with basic trip planning around the Festival:

Also exciting, it looks like Cirque du Soleil will be returning to the Food and Wine Festival’s Party for the Senses this year.

As always, stay tuned to the master 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Page, where we’ll link out to all of the latest news, details, and information.

Dawa Bar in Harambe Village

Taste of Africa Street Party News

A new culinary and cultural experience is coming to Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom this summer. The Taste of Africa street party will take place every evening from July 9th through July 24th in Harambe Village in Animal Kingdom’s Africa.

The party will begin right after Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade and will continue through closing time (even during Extra Magic Hours). Included will be food and beverage tastings, authentic African entertainment, unique merchandise, and more.

New Disney Cookbook on the Horizon

Pam Brandon, Disney’s food writer extraordinaire, will be releasing a new official Disney cookbook this Fall. Currently titled Treasures from the Vault & Delicious New Favorites, I’m eager to see what dishes made the cut! If you’re wondering about the other cookbooks available, check our our Disney Cookbooks post! (Thanks to Stitch Kingdom for the tip!)

Remember, because we’re reporting this news so far ahead of time, details are always subject to change.

Now, in addition to all of that awesomeness, stay tuned tomorrow for an exclusive guest review of the Ariel’s Grotto World of Color Prix Fixe menu!

Cirque du Soleil Returning to 2010 Party for the Senses?

It looks like acrobatic group Cirque du Soleil will be returning to Disney World’s 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Party for the Senses events!

Cirque du Soleil La Nouba

While the troupe was one of the highlights of parties in the past, they were noticeably absent from 2009 parties. Now, Disney’s dedicated Food and Wine Festival website is claiming that the performers will return to the event once more!

This is great news for those spending $135 on top of Epcot’s admission price for entry into this extravagant evening of culinary adventures and outstanding entertainment.

As always, we’ll post more details as we have them. In the meantime, check out all of our information on the 2010 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

Details are subject to change.

Food Post Weekly Round-Up: October 25, 2009

backlot noticeA quick reminder: As of Tuesday, October 27, 2009, Disney Advanced Dining Reservations have been moved back to 180 days ahead of arrival date! So those of you headed to Disney during the next six months, plan to be on that phone or online on Tuesday :)

On to the round-up, I’m amazed every week by the number of fun Disney food posts there are around the web. I’m so lucky to have found each and every one of these blogs and videos, and I hope you’ll benefit from (and bookmark!) these great sites. Lots of great information here this week… Away we go!

One of my favorite baking blogs, Cookie Madness, headed to Disney World a couple of weeks ago and returned with a fantastic trip report complete with photos from Citricos and Yachtsman Steakhouse. Also, be sure to check out her post about the S’mores Fudge from the Main Street Confectionery!

Everything Walt Disney World has an information-packed review of where to go to get groceries around Disney World, including a great FAQ about grocery delivery!

Okay, this one is from September, but I just found it and had to include (I LOVE this blog). So, Watch Me Eat spends some time at the Yak and Yeti Local Foods Cafe quick-service spot in Animal Kingdom. I love that they serve your food in take-out containers here.

The Disney Blog announces that Stone Crab Season has begun at Fulton’s! There’s even a special menu…

If you love chocolate cake, you’ll love this! The Mouse For Less has a fun article where 12-year-old chocolate cake critic, Max, rates five different Disney World chocolate cakes on a scale of one to ten!

Have $375 to burn on a great New Year’s Eve event? Disney Parks Blog announces the Victoria and Albert’s New Year’s Eve experience, beginning this year. Sounds divine…

The Orange County Register’s Around Disney Blog reports that Hook’s Pointe in the Disneyland Hotel has re-branded to become the only seafood-focused dining spot in Disneyland. The blog also posts a great round-up of where to find halloween treats and desserts in Disneyland!

Domestic Debacle posts photos and a review of the Polynesian Resort Spirit of Aloha Luau show.

Mommy Musings has a superb bunch of Party for the Senses Photos from the week celebrating “Classical Cuisine.”

In the Orlando Sentinel’s Daily Disney Blog (this is a new blog that’s in beta for the OS — very cool), Heather McPherson shares the recipe for Citricos’ Onion Tart.

etckt has a fun description of Hoop Dee Doo Revue, accompanied by a list-o-facts about the dinner show.

Finally, a couple of fun videos for you this week!

Chef Brian Piasecki, currently presiding over the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill, demonstrates the recipe for Le Cellier‘s Cheddar Cheese Soup in this cool video!

And Cat Cora, who’s new signature restaurant Kouzzina just opened in September, joins the muppets to promote Disney’s Give a Day, Get a Disney Day promotion!

Disney Food Post Weekly Round-Up: October 11, 2009

Hi all! The top story in Disney dining this week is that Disney World is trying out a new seating system at four Magic Kingdom counter-service restaurants.

Disney has been restricting seating to groups who have already received their food, hoping to cut down on the amount of people “saving tables” while the rest of their group is still ordering food. It remains to be seen what the outcome will be. In the meantime, Robert Niles at Theme Park Insider has discussed the issue in his blog post: Pecos Bill and the Prisoner’s Dilemma.

But while that debate rages on, there’s still plenty of other great Disney food writing going on. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival continues, brand new hotels have opened (which means brand new eating establishments!), there’s a new food spot for the Alaska cruises, and more! Here we go!

Epcot Food and Wine Festival News
Attractions Magazine takes a look at Epcot’s Party for the Senses, including photos and a video! Haven’t had enough? Laughing Place adds their Party for the Senses photos as well! This is one event I would LOVE to attend someday.

Etckt stopped by the Food and Wine Festival to sample some dishes from the International Marketplaces. He’s an incredible photographer, so be sure to check this one out!

And the Disney Parks Blog posted some great videos and recipes from celebrity chef team The Deen Brothers and Food Network’s Dinner Impossible Chef Robert Irvine. The blog also posted their highlights from the Wine chat with Gary Vaynerchuk.

Other Disney Dining News and Web Posts
Orlando Sentinel’s The Dish columnist Heather Mcpherson reports on honors received by Central Florida’s authentic Mexican restaurants, including two in Disney World!

Disney and More reports and comments on an expansion at the Last Chance Cafe in Disneyland Paris’ Frontierland.

Mouseplanet contributor Chris Barry discusses his Top Five Dining Moments in Disney World.

Main Street Gazette highlights some great themeing by Magic Kingdom imagineers via the Popcorn Kiosks in the park.

Scott Joseph Orlando gives us a first look at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando bars and restaurants.

Stuff From the Park shares a Golden Horseshoe menu circa the late 1970’s — back when there were waiters here! Hmm… that’s the first time I’ve seen Pepsi listed on a Disney Park menu…

Stitch Kingdom shares some photos of the construction of the Outlook Cafe on the Disney Wonder. The Cafe is being built in preparation for the upcoming Alaska cruises.

Thanks for all the great dining news and updates this week, all! We’re grateful for all the great writing you do!

Interview: National Pie Champion and Orlando Chef, Dawn Viola

I’m thrilled to be able to write up a quick profile and interview of Dawn Viola, a first place winner at the 2009 Crisco National Pie Championships and a past volunteer sous chef at Disney World’s Food and Wine Festival Party for the Senses!

Dawn's 1st Place Apple Pie

Dawn's 1st Place Apple Pie

A nationally recognized artist, competitive cook, and food writer from Central Florida, Dawn has worked in the design and marketing industry as a creative director and copywriter for 18 years. In addition to food writing and recipe development, Dawn is a marketing manager with The Walt Disney Company, where she produces mini documentaries on how Disney runs its business.

Dawn’s work has been featured in Bride’s Magazine, The Knot, Weddingbells, The Wall Street Journal, and the Orlando Sentinel. She has also been featured on Orlando’s Mix 105.1 Scott and Erica Show and Martha Stewart Radio.

Pies and Parties
As a competitive cook, Dawn was recently awarded first place in the 2009 Crisco National Pie Championships, Apple category – Professional Division, for her Vanilla-Vanilla Bean Roasted Apple Pie recipe. The competition aired in early September on Food Network as part of the Food Network Challenge series. To read more of Dawn’s thoughts and ideas, check out her blog, Wicked Good Dinner.

DisneyFoodBlog: How many versions of the Apple pie recipe did you try before landing on the winning version?
Dawn Viola: The pie crust was the first part of the recipe I developed, and the most challenging part of the development. About two years ago I discovered I had a food allergy to soy that prevented me from using vegetable shortening. This lead me on the path of creating an all-butter pie dough. Test after test, I failed to duplicate the flaky texture I was able to achieve with shortening, until I started incorporating an acid into the dough mixture. I think I made a pie about once a month for two years until I was happy with the texture of the dough. All of my hard work paid off at the Pie Championships!

DFB: What are the ingredients/techniques that made yours different from the other entrants’ recipes?
DV: I make my own butter from local cream. European style butter is listed in the recipe, which is the closest texture to making it yourself. My dough is slightly sweeter than most – somewhere between a pate brisee and pate sucre dough. I add vanilla bean and vanilla powder to the dough, and vanilla bean to the apples. I broil the apples with a little bit of sugar, which adds another dimension of flavor to the filling. The dough also contains an acid in the form of apple cider vinegar. Any acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, or even vodka, will help to shorten the gluten strands during the mixing process and contribute to the flaky texture.

The other secret to flaky dough is the mixing process when cutting in the butter. It’s imperative that the ingredients stay cold to keep the butter cold and solid. The cold butter should be in chunks varying in size from a nickel to a dime.

DFB: Have you entered the contest before? What prompted you to enter this year?
DV:This was my first year entering, but I had been preparing for an entire year. I didn’t feel my dough was ready in 2008, so I continued to test and entered the recipe in 2009.

DFB: Was it difficult to prepare and bake the pie with all of the cameras and commotion, or was the set relatively quiet during baking?
DV: It wasn’t difficult to cook with the cameras there – the crew stayed on the other side of our work tables so we had a bit of breathing room. The challenging part was trying to smile, cook and talk at the same time, explainig what you were cooking to the cameras. It’s not as easy as it looks. Everyone was completely focused, so there wasn’t much noise or talking going on unless we were talking to the camera.

DFB: Would you recommend this competition to other amateur and professional bakers? Why?
DV: If you love to bake, this competition is highly recommended. It’s well organized and so much fun. There is a friendly competition among entrants, which keeps everyone on their toes, but there is also a lot of camaraderie and support. Many of us have become good friends and keep in touch through Facebook and email.

DFB: How early in advance do you suggest working on a recipe for the competition?
DV: It’s never too early to start testing recipes, but it should always be fun, and never a chore. And you’ll be surprised at how many “taste testers” step forward when they hear you’re testing pie recipes!

DFB: What lessons were you able to take away from the competition?
DV: It’s impossible to guess what the judges will enjoy and mark with high accolades. I talked with a lot of bakers who were extremely disappointed because they created recipes specifically for the competition, with the intent to win. Bake for the joy of baking, bake for yourself, not just for the judges, and you’ll never be disappointed.

DFB: Now on to Disney food! When have you had the opportunity to volunteer at the Party for the Senses and other Disney events?
DV: As a Disney Cast Member, I have volunteered with the catering and events team during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival for the past two years.

DFB: What was the experience like?
DV: Volunteering has been a wonderful experience, and an exciting opportunity to meet Disney’s world-renowned chefs and connect with visiting top chefs from around the world. Last year I had the privilege of meeting Daniel Boulud, Patrick O’Connell, and Paul Bocuse during the Bocuse d’Or competition — an experience I’ll never forget.

American Pie CouncilFinally…The Recipe
Many thanks to Dawn Viola for sharing some of her insights into her volunteer work and competitive baking experience! If you’d like to compete in next year’s National Pie Championship (which takes place April 23-25, 2010, in Orlando, FL!), check out this information on the American Pie Council website. And if you’d like to try your hand at Dawn’s award-winning Vanilla – Vanilla Bean Roasted Apple Pie, here’s the recipe!:

Dawn Viola's Apple Pie, Step by Step Photos

Dawn Viola's Apple Pie, Step by Step Photos

For the crust:
2 1/2 cups Organic all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting/rolling
2 teaspoons Salt
1 tablespoon Vanilla powder
3 tablespoons Organic sugar
1 Vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 1/2 sticks unsalted Danish butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 tablespoon White vinegar, chilled
6 – 8 tablespoons Ice water

For the filling:
4 tablespoons Danish butter
12 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced in large chunks
1 Vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
2 teaspoons Ground cinnamon
1 cup Organic sugar
4 tablespoons Organic all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Apple cider
1 tablespoon heavy cream

For the egg wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon of cream
Coarse sugar

Measure out all ingredients and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Place the food processor blade and bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Make the dough:
Place the food processor bowl back on the motor with the blade, as directed by the manufacturer. Combine flour, salt, vanilla powder, sugar and vanilla bean seeds in the food processor; pulse to mix. Add butter cubes and pulse 10 times, or until the mixture begins to resemble coarse meal with pea-sized pieces.

Add the vinegar and pulse to mix. Add one tablespoon of water at a time, pulsing to incorporate, until the mixture begins to clump together. Pinch some of the dough in your hand. If it sticks together, the dough is ready. If the dough does not stick to itself, add another tablespoon of water, pulse, and pinch the dough together again. Repeat until the dough holds together without being overly wet. Dough should be slightly crumbly, but hold together when pinched.

Remove dough from the food processor and transfer to a work surface. Divide the dough into two equal parts and gently shape into two flat round discs. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Prepare the apples:
Preheat the broiler. Add apples, vanilla bean seeds, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of the sugar to a roasting pan; toss apples to coat. Broil until the tops of the apples begin to brown. Apples can burn easily under the broiler, so don’t walk too far away. Toss apples as soon as you notice browning. Once apples are caramelized (but not cooked through), remove from heat and add the remaining sugar, the flour, vanilla extract and salt.
Add the apple cider and cream, stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning – add additional salt, sugar, vanilla or cinnamon to taste.

Finish the pie:
Place a 9” pie plate into the freezer. Remove one dough disc from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 5 – 10 minutes, or just long enough for it to become easy to roll, but still chilled. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out to a 12” circle. Place in the bottom of the chilled 9” pie plate. Return to the refrigerator to chill. Remove after 5 minutes and add apples.

Remove second dough disc and roll out to a 12” circle on a lightly floured surface. Place on top of the apples and pinch the top and bottom dough edges together to enclose the apples. Add decorative edge if desired, and slice 1” air vents around the top of the pie.

Make the egg wash:
Beat the egg in a small dish and mix in cream. Lightly brush the egg wash over the top of the pie and along the edges. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Cover edges with aluminum foil if browning too quickly. Turn the pie in the oven, and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Continue to cook for 7 minutes, as needed, until the crust is golden brown and flakey.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least two hours before cutting and serving

Disney Food Post Weekly Round-Up: Part II

Animal Kingdom eat here
Here’s the second in this week’s Round-Up series! Thanks to everyone out there covering such great Disney Food topics!

Main Street Gazette bids farewell to Spoodles: Main Street Gazette designer Eric Hoffman provides a tribute to Spoodles and memories of his family’s most recent meal there.

Scott Joseph discusses Party for the Senses changes and Paradiso 37: Legendary food critic Scott Joseph gives his view on this year’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival Party for the Senses updates as well as his review of Paradiso 37.

The Orange County Register analyzes Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue menu changes in Disneyland: Scroll down through the article to catch the info about the barbecue. It follows some other interesting info about Disneyland’s recent changes and construction.

SoloFriendly recaps her trip to Tangierine Cafe: SoloFriendly reviews the very popular counter service restaurant in World Showcase’s Morocco pavilion — and explains why the name has that weird spelling!

StitchKingdom shares the new Cap’n Jack’s All-Day Menu: WDW’s Downtown Disney has added Cap’n Jack’s to its list of all-day eateries.