Food & Wine – Day 1 (or 2?)

November 1, 2009

Now that we’re almost to the end of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, I figured it was about time to go into the first day…. actually Real Life (and three Disney race weekends in the past six weeks) has interfered the past few weeks or this would have been posted sooner, but as they say, better late…

So Friday September 25 was the official opening day of Food & Wine, and I had originally planned on being there at “rope drop” of the opening day, but after the events of the day before (see “Mission Impossible?” below), I felt that actually being there at that exact moment was now not necessary…

Instead I started my day by going to the sports complex to do packet pickup for the next days Expedition Everest Challenge (the event that turned into the Expedition Everest Deluge…) – ran into several friends (including the lovely Gazette Girls) and spent some time socializing. From there I did eventually make my way to the World Showcase to continue the culinary adventure.

I tried several items that I had not had the day before – since my plan was to make at least four trips during Food & Wine, I felt no rush to try everything the first go-round or two. And I won’t try to enumerate all the dishes yet, will save that for a series of posts that will probably show up way after the event is over…

One of the new booths I was eager to try was Thailand – I love Thai food and was curious to see how Disney would present this wonderful cuisine (as I’ve always been a bit disappointed in the way they give us another of my favorites, Indian food…). So I made my way to Bangkok (no giggling, please…) and ordered up the Papaya Salad with Shrimp and, of course, a Singha. There was also a soup on the menu that sounded tasty (Chicken and Coconut with Mushrooms, Lemongrass & Ginger), but I was simply saving that for a later trip.

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I paid for my food and made my way around to corner to hand in my ticket, and low and behold, who’s serving me again but my New Best Friend to be, Chef Dahlmann!

One of the things they are doing differently this year at the festival is that there is a good deal of actual cooking that’s going on inside the booths. Soups, sauces, sides, prep-work, etc is all done in kitchens off stage as usual, but items that can be fairly quickly grilled or finished off in the actual kiosk, such as the beef items in South Africa or Argentina, the lamb in Australia, or as in this case, the shrimp, are being done right in front of you. I think this was a great idea, as the food generally won’t be sitting around for long waiting to be served, and it adds a bit of extra show, as well as the great aromas of cooking food!

So that being said, Chef Dahlmann, okay now that we’re going to be buddies I guess I could just call him Jens, was finishing last minute training for the cook in the Thai booth, showing him how to tell when the shrimp was just perfectly done.

As he handed me my dish, I mentioned to him how he had served me the first meal of the festival the day before, he smiled and said yes, he remembered. I pulled out my trusty iPhone and showed him a picture of the meal… he casually asked me what I’d though of the food I’d has so far, and since he asked, I told him… most of it was good, but I did mention that I thought both the dishes in New Orleans were not as spicy as I thought they should be (understanding of course that they probably couldn’t serve anything to the mass public that would actually be as spicy as I’d like!), and how when I was at New Orleans, they had all the utensils except spoons…. And that both gumbo and the stew were a bit difficult to eat with a fork! He made a quick call at this news to correct that situation, and he actually seemed interested as to my comments on the food. He even gave me a serving of the soup I hadn’t ordered to try out – will wonders never cease – free food at Disney! Unheard of!
And when I casually mentioned that I wrote a blog mostly about food at Disney, he sensed I was a person of great import and influence on my massive single-digit numbers of readers and he pulled out his card and handed it to me – so now I have the email, phone, Fax and pager number (do people really still have pagers?) of the Executive Chef at Epcot – Chef Jens probably didn’t realize he may have made the biggest mistake of his life – okay, I probably won’t culinarily stalk him too much – I can’t afford to have a restraining order put on me that would prevent me from going to the World Showcase now can I!
We chatted so much that as I left the booth, I actually forgot my Singha and had to go back and dig out my receipt to retrieve it… me, of all people, forgetting beer, imagine that!

So how was the food? Actually pretty tasty – the shrimp nicely seasoned and grilled on a bed of marinated julienned papaya and carrots and the soup was thick and flavorful (of course, could have been a bit hotter, spice-wise, for my tastes…). I have since had the shrimp a second time, and if it’s not 100 degrees out next weekend, will likely have the soup again as well.

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There was much more food and drink as the day progressed… but we’ll get to that later…

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