Monday, October 18, 2010

English Lessons: WDW Food & Wine Classic

Last weekend, we (my Cliff, my chef friend Jen, and I) were invited to attend the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Food & Wine Classic, aka: the food festival with the longest name in the history of food festivals.

Tuna tartare "nachos" with sriracha aioli

This is the first year of the event, and it's definitely not going to be the last. We had a wonderful time eating and drinking for seven hours straight. We started off the evening at a beer seminar, tasting seven trappiste beers from Belgium, Orval, Westmalle and Chimay (made by monks - I love anything monks make).

It was a great seminar, if only for the tasting, but next year I would love to see more of a classroom setting. That would discourage people who are just there for the alcohol and more people who really want to learn about beer (i.e. me).

"Pipettes" filled with horseradish, chilled shrimp

Outside in the quad, 20 different vendors set up with wine, food and cocktails from the Swan & Dolphin Hotel's four award-winning restaurants. There were an amazing amount of people there - I think I heard over 800 - and the event staff were only expecting about 300.

Beautiful desserts by Laurent Branlard 
Regardless, the food was top-notch (including our favorite tuna nachos, tartare on a baked tortilla chip settled on sriracha mayo) and we were sloshed by 7pm. By this time, we'd been eating and drinking for three and a half hours. We also loved the shrimp cocktail shooters by Todd English's bluezoo, the flagship restaurant for the Swan & Dolphin. Todd English is a tool, but I love his New American style of cuisine.

Shula's Steakhouse cooked to-order filets along with unremarkable creamed spinach. My long-held view that to get a steak cooked the way you want it, you have to order it one level down from what you really want. I love my steak med-rare, so I always order it rare. By the time it gets to the table, usually after sitting under a heat lamp for at least 5 or 10 minutes, it's med-rare. Just a tip.

Grouper, onion foam, shards, heirloom tomato
By 9:30, we were sitting down at Todd English's bluezoo, ready for an epic tasting menu experience. I loved the grouper first course (after an amazing amuse bouche of foie gras torchon with edible flowers and orange blossom honey).

Tuna tartare, cucumber blossom, preserved lemon
After five and a half hours of eating, the only thing getting me through this five-course tasting menu was the sheer beauty of the plating and how I couldn't bear to let such art go uneaten. After the monkfish, the Wagyu steak with butternut squash puree and the cheese course, I was tapped out. I've never felt so uncomfortable in my life, but the food I'd just eaten was perception-altering.

Brillat-Savarin and other stinky cheese w/honey, pecans

There's nothing like the elegant dance of fine dining to make one feel like royalty for a few hours. Todd English's bluezoo was all hype said it was. This is an Orlando restaurant I'd been wanting to eat at for a while, and after experiencing the gamut of the kitchen's talents, I'll be happy to fork over the $70 for another go at the daily special.
Wagyu steak, beet ribbon, turnip, butternut squash puree

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