Food & Wine Classic 2010… Classy and Classic it was…. Part One
October 12, 2010
On October 8 and 9, 2010, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts presented a new gastronomic event: the Food & Wine Classic.
Held during the second weekend of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, the Food & Wine Classic (let’s just shorten that to “Classic” for the most part now, shall we?) featured booths by many of the restaurants located in the Swan and Dolphin (just a stones throw from Epcot), as well as several adult beverage stations from other purveyors of wines and beer. From 5:30 to 9:30 on Friday and Saturday evenings you could wander the causeway on Crescent Lake located between the two resorts and partake of the goodies.
Also there were several specialized “Educational Seminars” (their phrase…) pertaining to many types of alcoholic beverages that took place in the hour before the booths opened. Okay, the two seminars I attended were informative and I did actually learn quite a bit, but I just find calling learning about booze “educational” a bit humorous… alcohol wasn’t so helpful in my educational history…
We’ll get to details shortly, but to cut to the chase, this was a fantastic event – when the dates for next year are announced I’ll be among the first to sign up!
So here’s how the thing worked… you could book a room package that included your room (of course) and admission for two to one of the seminars and all you could eat and drink (yeah, baby!) at the booths. If you booked the package for both nights you got a seminar each night in addition to the eating and drinking frenzy.
The basic package was $169.00 (with a big asterisk after that) a night for two people. The asterisk was of course the “resort fee” (your gonna charge me for the stuff anyway, just build it into the damn price please) and parking fees (ditto). With taxes, etc. the total was just a hair over $200.00 a night at the Dolphin (the Swan was a bit higher).
You didn’t have to get one of the packages or stay at either of the resorts to participate – one could also just buy a wristband for $50.00 a night that gave you all you can eat and drink as well as admission to one of the seminars (if they weren’t all booked, more on that later…). Alternately you could buy any number of tickets at $2.00 each (or a booklet of 25 for $45.00) and redeem these at the booths (most items were 2 tickets, with one, the filet at Shula’s, being 5).
So with much of the Harem in tow during the weekend (Lil Sis Lindsay was there both nights, Miss Bonnie and perhaps a new member Yet-To-Be-Named were along on Friday, and Mistress Sandra made an appearance on Saturday), let’s take a look…
There were six seminars originally announced (Wine Blending; Riesling Rendezvous; Modern Mixology; All Things Sake; Beer, Please! and Bubbles). Later a Saturday only Vino of Veneto seminar was added.
Modern Mixology, devoted to “unconventional libations” (read fancy-ass cocktails) by the folks at bluezoo, filled up quickly both nights… I called to make my reservations the first morning they started selling packages and it was filled even then…
I’d also been wanting to learn more about Sake (a beverage I still hadn’t found that I liked much, despite my fondness for sushi and Japanese cuisine – yeah, like I need another alcohol to like…), so that was my other first choice (and not surprisingly, I was the first to sign up for that either night…). And as a default, I chose the beer seminar as my second… hell, I may not learn too much about beer, but at least I figured I’d get to drink some…
The seminars were held in meeting rooms on the lobby level of the Dolphin.
We (Miss Bonnie, Little Sister Lindsay and myself) attended the Beer, Please! seminar on Friday. That night was devoted to some beers brewed by Trappist monks in Belgium.
As you signed in for the seminars, you were given your wristbands that would later give you access to the outside eats and drinks. We were soon greeted and welcomed into the room by Adam Bagwell, the Speciality Restaurants Manager of the Swan/Dolphin – Adam was an affable host, and had, let’s say, been sampling the beverages we would soon taste… quality-control, I’m sure…
Rob Nelson from the importer Merchant Du Vin gave us the lowdown on Westmalle and Orval brews, while James Wilson represented the Chimay brand. Two lovely and attentive ladies also assisted the beverage delivery during the event.
We tasted several brews, and a flask of water was on each table to rinse our glasses between samples as our hosts brought buckets by for us to pour the rinse water into.
A film showing the monks and the brewing process was mostly ignored (most in the room were primarily interested in downing the brews, and many seemed to have been partaking well before the seminar… but I’m not here to judge… those who live in glass houses…). The hosts did their best to get their points across above the relative din of conversation in the room, but all did seem to have a good time.
I actually did learn a bit, and tasted a couple of beers I wasn’t too familiar with that I’d actually want to try again (the Westmalle Triple especially – 9.5% alcohol BTW…).
It was nice to learn that the Trappist brewers use all their profits for charitable ends, and it all stays in their local areas.
I didn’t take a head count, but the seminar was kept to a reasonable size, I’d guess maybe 40 attendees or so.
Here let’s bring up the limited/filled events… when Lindsay booked her room (just a few days before the event), she was told all the seminars were already full, so Miss Bonnie and I left her behind as she whimpered about wanting to come with us and drink beer… as Bonnie and I sat down, it was obvious there were at least two totally empty tables… I took our host Adam aside and explained the situation to him and he quickly told me to call Lindsay and have her come down – he instructed the people outside who had checked us in to let her enter as soon as she arrived. Quite the happy girl, she soon joined us…
I’ll chalk up the discrepancy to this being he first year, and I give Adam and his staff big props for quickly and graciously rectifying the situation.
We were given the nice Chimay glasses to take home (and I was slipped a Chimay bottle-opener by one of the ladies…).
Miss Bonnie had claimed not to being a “beer drinker”… but you sure couldn’t tell that by her behavior that evening…
As we exited the room at the end of the presentation we picked up plates and glasses from the back of the room to take with us down to the food and wine area… (we’ll get to the main event of the eats & drinks in Part Two…).
Saturday Mistress Sandra and I attended the All Things Sake seminar.
We were seated at a long table and in front of us were several glasses of sake and a couple of food samples.
There was a description of the various types of sakes and the names of what we would be sampling. Also provided was a sheet of paper and pen for tasting notes.
Our host and main instructor was the manager of Kimonos Restaurant, Chad Lobner – he gave us the nuts and bolts of sushi production and led us through the tastings of the various styles. Along was another gentleman (whose name sadly escapes me at the moment – if you know, please post in comments!) who gave the cultural side of the sake experience – his comments were very interesting and added much to the presentation.
During the seminar we sampled eight generous servings of various sakes (and yes, we did walk out under our own power) along with a couple of food items (a pineapple/shrimp salad and a spicy octopus carpaccio with miso, both of which were delicious) designed to show how sake can be pared with foods.
Chad did a great job of walking us through the different styles/qualities of sushi along with the history and more technical aspects of the beverage.
This presentation was much more formal in style than the beer seminar, and considering we were actually looking for some “learnin’” on sake, this fit well…
As with the night before we were given goodies: a Kimonos sake glass as well as a cedar sake box to take with us on this night.
And again as on Friday, we picked up out plate and glass for the causeway dining as we exited the room.
I really enjoyed both seminars, even though they were very different in style (and not that that’s a bad thing) – the beer event was more “fun”, while I felt the sake seminar was more informative (which was exactly what I was looking for out of it – now I’m afraid I’ve actually found some sakes that I could really like…).
Next time (and soon, I promise…) we’ll head downstairs to the main event… for food and drinks on the causeway…
Here’s a few pics to hopefully whet your appetite for Part Two…
See you soon…
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