I have just returned from Disney’s Swan and Dolphin’ 5th annual Food and Wine Classic and I can report that this is the best Festival yet! Since I first covered this increasing popular venue in 2012, I am still amazed how in just two short days, Friday October 31st and November 1st of how much fun can be had where you can drink, eat, mingle, enjoy entertainment and fireworks, all while strolling the causeways around the Swan and Dolphin’s beautiful Crescent Lake. Coinciding with EPCOT’s 19th annual Food and Wine Festival, this Festival gives Disney guests an opportunity to sample both locations, all because the resort is just a short walk from Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, making it an ideal add-on to your Disney vacation.
Unlike EPCOT’s affair which showcases cuisines from the eleven World Showcase Countries, Disney’s Swan and Dolphin offers tastes from their 17 World-Class restaurants and lounges, and the culinary talents of their nationally-recognized Chefs. Guests can sample wines and beers from around the world and enjoy treats from pastries, beef to pasta. Some of the nationally recognized culinary experts heading up this year’s classic are…Todd English from Swan and Dolphin’s Bluezoo restaurant, one of the top destinations to dine at the Swan and Dolphin, is a renowned chef, restaurateur and author. English opened his first eatery, Olives, in Charlestown, where it became an instant success. His love for cooking began in his teens and has flourished since. A sample of awards Bluezoo has assimilated are…Four Diamond Award – Designated by AAA – 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, Best Appetizers – Orlando Magazine – 2006 and Top 500 Restaurants in Florida – Florida Trend Magazine, Robert Tolf
For the dessert lovers in us all, we thank Laurent Branlard, Executive Pastry Chef at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel. Since 2003, Branlard has been responsible for the dessert menus at all of the hotel’s 17 restaurants and lounges which include Todd English’s Bluezoo, Shula’s Steak House and Il Mulino New York Trattoria as well as all the resorts banquets. A native of France, he trained there as a pastry chef, Chocolate-Maker, Ice-Cream Maker and Confectioner. He holds the as the only two-time winner of the World Pastry Team Championship. Another world-class chef is Robert J. Ciborowski Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort’s executive chef. He is known the master of the eco-friendly kitchen, meaning that he champions the use of locally grown organic products throughout the resort’s 17 restaurants and lounges as well as the in extensive banquet operation. The resort is one of the few hotels to use certified organic local ingredients.
So with that kind of experience and depth, you are assured of sampling some of the best the resort has to offer. There are a multitude of Food and Wine Classic Seminars you can attend and impress your friends with your new found culinary knowledge! The seminars take place at 4:30 on both days of the Food and Wine Classic and are a separate add on events. Here is the list of Seminars that were offered… Wine Blending – Fri. Oct. 31, 2014 4:30 p.m. and Sat. Nov. 1, 2014 4:30 pm, Let’s Make Caipirinha’s!, Sat. Nov 1, 2014 4:30 pm, It’s Better to “Wine” in Italian – Fri. Oct. 31, 2014 4:30 pm and Sat. Nov. 1, 2014 4:30 pm, TQU: Tequila University – Fri. Oct. 31, 2014 4:30 pm, Base to Bubbles – Fri. Oct. 31, 2014 4:30 pm and Sat. Nov. 1, 2014 4:30 pm, Beer, Please! – Fri. Oct. 31, 2014 4:30 pm, Modern Mixology – Fri. Oct. 31, 2014 4:30 pm, and Sat. Nov. 1, 2014 4:30 pm. For the “Foodies” in the crowd, Food Pairing Experiences, new to the Festival this year were… The Fine Art of Sushi and Sake-Fri. Oct. 31, 2014, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, The Cheese Course – Sat. Nov. 1, 2014 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 pm, and Pasta Making With Chef Cib – Sat. Nov. 1, 2014 2:30 p.m. – 4:00 pm. The seminars lasted approximately one hour. The causeways open right after from 5:30pm till 9pm.
As a member of the press, I was given the choice to attend any of the seminars offered, and I chose the Wine Blending seminar, taught by Tony Porcellini, Director of the Swan and Dolphin’s Food and Beverage and overseer of the 17 restaurants on property. Mr. Porcellini has been with the Swan and Dolphin for 27 years, and is noted for his groundbreaking concepts and venues, such as Shula’s Steakhouse and Bluezoo two popular eateries at the Swan and Dolphin. He and his team began the idea of the Festival four years ago. Tony is a certified sommelier, by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Tony’s immense knowledge and delightful humor made the class interesting and informative. I was amazed at what I learned in the hour. Tony gave a brief history of wine and how different wines are made and what causes the wines to differ. I came away with a new way to appreciate wine and a new way to enjoy it. I am sure all of the seminars were as interesting and informative.
Another new and exciting event added to this year’s festival was the very popular “The Food and Wine Classic Beer Garden!” Much like a traditional Biergarten in Germany, there was a huge selection of beers to sample plus the chefs prepared some classic bar food to go with your beverage, including German Style Potato Salad, Handcrafted German Style Sausages, Weiner Schnitzel, Soft Pretzels, Braised Cabbage and Laugen Bread. Also new was “The Cheese Course seminar”, which pays tribute to Fromage and the art of wine and cheese pairing. This is a separated ticketed event.
As I strolled around the causeways, I found boundless places to quench my thirst. There were tasting stations offering samples from all popular U.S. wine regions as well as distinguished wines from around the world. At these stations were Sommeliers who were on hand to answer questions and help you increase your wine knowledge. Every station had Chef and Beverage experts to answer any questions you might have. In addition, guests had the chance to meet and greet with the Swan and Dolphins celebrity chefs, Todd English and Laurent Branlard.
A big eater myself, I was mesmerized as I walked around the causeways, sampling everything I could! As an invited media guest, I had to opportunity to enjoy all the offerings. Some of the most popular locations were Shula’s tasting station offering their Beef Tenderloin, the line was always long! Ditto for the lines at Il Mulino New York Trattoria, and Todd English’s Bluezoo booth. Another very popular booth with long lines was Cib’s Smoke House for amazing barbeque dishes from the hotel’s executive chef Robert Ciborowski. I also enjoyed the decadent desserts from the hotel’s executive pastry chef, Laurent Branlard; he is truly a master of the desserts. New this year to the causeways was the “Farmers Gratitude Grill Truck” by Cabot Cheese. Offering five different cubes of delightful cheese samples, plus what I think was the best Mac and Cheese I have ever sampled. The lines for this truck were long all two days.
In addition to all the food and beverage, there were entertainment nightly, fireworks and the event is opened to all. For your listening pleasure, The Festival featured three talented groups…”Complicity” playing Reggae, Latin, Jazz funk and Pop. “The Current”, playing everything from current hits’ to past top 40 favorites. And my personal favorite, “Jersey Boys Tribute” This foursome played tribute to Frankie Vali and the Four Seasons. If you closed your eyes, you would not know that the original group was playing out of the past! You can purchase any or all of what is offered and walking the causeways are relaxing, you never feel the need to rush or worry about getting to the next station. The event is well managed and I am looking forward to next year’s event! The hotel features more than 70 certified wine sommeliers and 1,400 wine selections, including organic and rare vintages. The Swan and Dolphin Hotel continually receives national recognition for its food and beverage program.
But the one thing I noticed was the fervor and dedication the whole staff at the Swan and Dolphin had. No matter whom you spoke to, their passion for their Food and Wine Classic was infectious. They went all out to make it a success and it worked. Everyone seemed to have a whale of a time, and I believe that this event will continue on for many, many years. The quality of the food, the seminars, the vast choice of wines and beers, and the well-organized Festival makes this an event that should be on every guests “Must attend” list. Along with EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival, it is no wonder that Walt Disney World is the number one vacation spot on earth and I hope that the Swan and Dolphin extend the number of days the festival is presented.
Tickets to the Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic are available as part of a hotel package or individually. For more information or to book for next year, visit www.SwanDolphinfoodandwineclassic.com or call 1-800-227-1500.