Food & Wine Classic 2010… Classy and Classic it was…. Part Two
November 15, 2010
In early October the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts debuted a new event for foodies: the Food & Wine Classic.
A while back in Part One, I gave you an overview of a couple of the beverage seminars (you can stop now an go read that here, we’ll wait for you to come back…).
Now let’s take a look at the “Meat and Potatoes” of the event: the food and beverage tastings located on the causeway between the Swan and Dolphin.
Even though I know all of you either went and read (or re-read) Part One just now, let’s go over again some of the costs and details before we get to the consumables…
One could book a room package that included your room and admission for two to one of the seminars and all you could eat and drink at the booths on the causeway.
The basic package was $169.00 a night for two people. In addition to that was of course the “resort fee” and parking fees (if you drove your own vehicle). 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 in the eating frenzy – 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 available – see Part One…). You could also 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 two or three tickets, with one, the filet at Shula’s, being five).
Most of the Harem made an appearance at some point during the weekend – Mama Ginny, Lil Sis Lindsay, Mistress Sandra and Miss Bonnie were all along for the fun. In addition we had a Harem-Wanna-Be: Five Shot Allison (aka MBSiL or Miss Bonnie’s Sis in Law) and she made quite a debut in her first Harem test run…
So now let’s gather up the ladies and move on outside…
There were seven food stations representing many of the restaurants located in the two resorts: Todd English’s bluezoo, Il Mulino, Shula’s Steak House, Kimonos, The Fountain, Cabana and a dessert sampling from the Executive Pastry Chef Laurent Brainard. Some locations provided the same item on both nights, while a few offered a different selection on the second night. There was only one item provided for sampling at each food stop.
Eleven booths (yeah!) were providing tastes of a variety of adult beverages – most were sponsored by wineries or wine importers/distributors, with one devoted to beer, another presented a couple of drinks based on the domestic sake Ty Ku and a couple showcasing various and (hopefully innovative) cocktails.
So, now let’s wander around, shall we???
If you were exiting the Dolphin after one of the seminars, the first booth on your right was Beer Please! Sponsored by the distributors that put on the beer seminars, Friday night featured the Trappist brews they had showcased that night in the seminar, while on Saturday they had quite a good variety of domestic craft beers. The staff there was very obliging and if you so desired you could have sampled many styles of brew over both nights.
Next along was the first food stop: the Cabana Bar and Beach Club, whose “real” location is poolside at the Dolphin Resort.
Friday night we were presented with a Tuna Nacho comprised of minced raw yellowfin tuna with sirachia aioli and sesame-soy vinaigrette served atop a piece of crispy corn tortilla.
The tortilla was cut so as to provide the diner with a nice little handle. This item was simply outstanding, fresh and tasty with a nice bit of bite – I did have more than one of these…
Saturday’s selection here was a Crab & Watermelon Salad.
This featured a compressed square of watermelon topped with generous lumps of crabmeat dressed with an avocado cream and lemon vinaigrette garnished with micro cilantro greens.
Again, many more than one of these were consumed by the Harem and I on that night…
Wow – these items were from what amounts to a pool bar??? Both were delicious and out-of-the-ordinary. After tasting these I’m definitely going to make a special trip to Cabana to try out their daily fare!
Just past the Cabana booth was Down Under featuring Penfolds wines from Australia.
Next was a good-sized dessert selection featuring choices from the two time World Pastry Champion Laurent Brainard. All the items I sampled (and remember I’m not a huge “sweets guy”) were good, but nothing spectacular (and that seemed to be the consensus of the Harem as well, but of course my memory could be clouded as I was several beverages in already by that point…).
The best (and messiest) item was a made-to-order ice cream sandwich with your choice of ingredients.
Taste of New Zealand was next in line, and presented several wines from, where else, but New Zealand…
The Fountain restaurant served the same item both nights, fried Falafel Balls with a creamy dipping sauce.
Presented in paper cones, these chickpea based treats were good, if not exactly innovative – it would have been nice if they had offered a different item on the second night as they weren’t that great you really had to go back for them more than once (okay, maybe twice…).
Just past the Fountain was fresh-squeezed lemonade… what? Lemonade? Who cares…
Kimonos, the sushi and karaoke spot from the Swan was next in line.
Both nights hard-working production lines gave us very delicious sushi rolls.
Presented in nice sectioned, plastic serving dishes, the sushi pieces were served with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi. We were (surprisingly) given smooth, very nice-quality wooden chopsticks to help us devour the rice-wrapped goodness.
Friday night we got to sample (okay, we more than “sampled”…) the delicious Dragon Roll (featuring crispy shrimp and tuna with a spicy mayo topping).
Saturday was a bit more pedestrian (but still good) Shrimp Tempura Roll.
A couple of unusual cocktails based on TY KU Sake were next. There was a Lemon Drop (with lemonade) and a Sangria (with raspberries and lychee). I think the consesus was that the Lemon Drop was the real winner here…
At the end of the line was the Base to Bubbles booth.
The idea behind this area seemed to be that you would taste small samples of vine varietals and see how they progressed into a finished glass of bubbly champagne… on the surface it seems like a great idea, but in reality most people just opted for getting a glass poured and moving on… the Harem seemed quite adept at getting glasses of champagne, even without all of them having to stand in line (shake your wristbands in the air, ladies!).
Moving to the other side of the causeway we now come to perhaps the most popular food offering, the “Pick Your Own Filet” from Shula’s Steak House. Here we had a 4 ounce grilled filet served with a delightful creamed spinach.
Now the “pick your own” was a bit of a misnomer, as it seemed liked you’d point to a piece of meat and have it cooked to order, and this may have actually been the original idea, but with the long lines that would have been practically impossible…
As you neared the head of the line, you were asked as to your doneness preference, and fairly shortly you were presented with a grilled tournedo that pretty much resembled the way you liked it cooked and a side of the (oh-so-healthy Popeye favorite) creamed spinach.
All in all it was good, but if I was paying by the ticket (and this was $10.00 worth of tickets) I’d have been disappointed… the meat was tender (and yes you could cut it with the provided plastic utensils), but somewhat lacking in flavor – the naturally lean tenderloin lacks much of the flavor-giving natural fat, so it usually needs some seasoning or sauce help, which was lacking here. The best part of the plate was the spinach – if fact, Little Sister Lindsay stood in line and passed on the meat – asking for a double-helping of the creamed spinach instead!
Our next beverage stop is the Cocktail Competition where “Swan & Dolphin Bartenders unite with Square One Organic Vodka to create an unforgettable cocktail. Who will do the best? We’ll let you be the judge!”
Don’t remember much… must not have been unforgettable… okay the Cucumber Cocktail wasn’t too bad…
Next Vino of Veneto showcased a selection of Venetian varietals.
Next to the Italian wines were the offerings of the Swan’s Italian eatery, Il Mulino. On Friday we were given a Handcrafted Meatball Sandwich while Saturdays effort was Handcrafted (they like that word…) Tagliatelle Pasta (with a sauce of lamb and porcini mushrooms with sardo cheese).
The sandwich was great – tender tomato braised meatballs served on a mini Cuban roll topped with parmesan – nothing flashy but well executed and a perfect size and style choice for the type of event.
Saturday’s pasta wasn’t quite as successful… it wasn’t bad by any means, but was certainly nothing out of the ordinary (this was the consesus of the Harem, and I overheard others saying something similar). There weren’t many second helpings taken of this…
Another wine station, Malbec of Mendoza, was next along the causeway.
Right afterwards was yet another wine purveyor. Wines of Washington featured three varieties from the Pacific Northwest.
Stumbling along we next came to the total fun of Modern Mixology.
One side they were making “Dipping Dots” versions of cocktails – sweet, frozen, Space-Age alcohol! Fun with liquid nitrogen!
The other side of the table had white or red sangria – but not just any sangria…
add some deep-frozen dried fruits…
and you had a smokey, fuming beverage that was just cool to look at and even tasted great –
they pretty much had to kick Lindsay out of the line here…
The next (and last) food venue was by far the most fun, innovative and perhaps best-tasting of the event… I certainly made the most trips there…
Celebrity chef Todd English’s bluezoo gave us “a creative take on molecular cuisine with ‘Steamrollers’ and and ‘Pipettes’ ”…
Friday were the “Steamrollers” – deconstructed shrimp cocktails presented in a glass tube – all the traditional flavors of the stodgy old shrimp cocktail but in a great, fun presentation.
You picked up the tube and held your finger over one end while the other end went into you mouth… suck, remove your finger, and the fresh and tasty cocktail spewed into your mouth.
Yes, more than one double-entendre accompanied the dining that night…
As fun and as good as that was, Saturdays Buffalo Chicken-style “Pipettes” were even better (if not quite as much fun to eat).
Small plastic squeeze bottles were filled with a blue cheese dressing – speared on the tip of these was a piece of sweet, pickled celery.
This was topped with a chunk of buffalo wing-sauced chicken.
You bit the solids off the end and squirted the blue cheese dressing in afterwards… spicy, a little bit of sweet then the tangy and savory dressing… delicious and fun… I hovered around quite a bit here…
Last on the counter-clockwise trek was Super Sonoma.
Yet another wine booth featuring selections from Sonoma Valley’s oldest winery, Valley of the Moon.
Okay, so if you haven’t gathered already (or didn’t really read Part One), I loved this event. For a first time it was well run with very few snafus.
And even though nothing has been officially announced (at least as of this writing), all the employees kept talking about “next year” and referring to this as the “first annual” event… I can only expect next year’s Classic to be even better.
Assuming the idea behind this was to as much promote the resorts’ restaurants as it was to get butts into the rooms, I think it succeeded well… bluezoo had been on my “big list” of places I haven’t eaten, and has now moved to my short list of “try soon”… likewise the Cabana (that I wasn’t even aware of) is now on the “must visit” list…
And if I was them what would I do differently? They certainly missed out on merchandise – an apron with the logo was about all there was to buy… I was ready to offer up some cash for one of the nice embroidered shirts the Swan/Dolphin castmembers were wearing…
I would also like to see more food items offered each night – two from most booths shouldn’t be that difficult – if nothing else be sure that all the featured restaurants offered different items on each night. Not that I’d be one to complain about too much alcohol, but I’d like to have at least one or two more food stations, even if it meant having less booze… crazy talk, I know…
It will be interesting to see what happens next year – the Harem all commented that they’d be shocked if the prices didn’t increase significantly next year (the price for the wristband and the room/food combos were both great values).. though if the main intent of the event is promotion, they could get away without any significant increases (and as pretty much all the proffered alcohol was apparently supplied by distributors/wineries/etc. that should have been of essentially zero cost to the folks at the Swan/Dolphin…).
But in any case the Harem and I will be first in line next year to see what the second Food and Wine Classic has in store for us – let’s hope we see you there!