Festival Center is the home base to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival’s demonstrations, seminars, talks, Festival merchandise shopping, Intermissions Cafe, and more. We stopped by on Saturday, September 27 to watch Robert Irvine’s Culinary Demonstration.
The demo started at 1pm, and we showed up to Festival Center around 12:30 to pick up our tickets (which we ordered as soon as they went on pre-sale for Annual Passholders/Tables in Wonderland Members). We made our way to the stage and got in line, which spanned the entire back of seating area already. This tends to happen with the more recognizable names, so be sure to arrive early if you want to get a “good seat.”
Our menu for the day featured Cambria 2012 Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir and a Tasting of Hudson Valley Duck, Brined Moulard Breast, Puy Lentils, Butternut Squash, Preserved Duck Confit, Cashew Mousse, and Fermented Garlic Jus. The recipe and assorted Robert Irvine marketing pieces adorned each seat.
Our view wasn’t too bad, but Matt was sitting across from me and had an obstructed view due to a pillar. Fortunately, TVs are set up for easier viewing.
Host Pam Smith talked a bit about the wine before introducing Robert Irvine, and promptly gave him an enthusiastic hug…
…after which he responded with an enthusiastic drink of wine.
We saw Irvine several years ago, and he was very entertaining and interactive with the crowd, but he didn’t spend as much time on stage as we had hoped. This year, he was both entertaining and had several guests get involved, but spent seemingly more time on stage where everyone could see him. Overall, I thought this presentation was better than the last time we saw him.
He talked us through several of the techniques that would be presented in the recipe, and it was very helpful in understanding the “whys” and “hows.” Unfortunately, some of the things he addressed in the demo, like smoking the duck, was not in the recipe. I suggest reading through the recipe after being seated to get a handle on it, and recommend bringing a pen to take notes on the sheet. I’ve done this in the past, and wish I had this time.
Our wine was Cambria 2012 Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. Matt’s bigger on red wines, but I did enjoy this one. I’m not much of a wine reviewer, so I can’t really say much more than whether or not we liked it. We certainly had no complaints, but it didn’t leave such an impression on us that we felt the need to rush out an buy a bottle. Note that the wine is brought out early in the demo, and it meant to be paired with the food sample that is brought out later on. While you are encouraged to sample during the demo, remember to save some to pair with the dish (no refills!). 😉
Our dish for the demo was a Tasting of Hudson Valley Duck, Brined Moulard Breast, Puy Lentils, Butternut Squash, Preserved Duck Confit, Cashew Mousse, and Fermented Garlic Jus. One of the main reasons we were excited to see Irvine again was because we knew he would be serving duck.
The Brined Moulard Breast was amazingly tender. Some of the fat could have been a bit more rendered, but it still had a nice smokiness and was delicious. Matt was eyeballing my plate as I still had some on mine when he finished his.
Underneath the breast were the lentils with butternut squash and duck confit. The lentils were nicely cooked, and even though neither Matt nor I care much for butternut squash, we gladly ate it here. Having ordered both the tacos and sliders featuring duck confit at the Brown Derby Lounge, we both enjoyed the addition of it in this dish.
I was surprised to find that Matt enjoyed the Cashew Mousse as much as he did, since he’s not a fan of nut. Its subtle sweetness help cut the richness of the duck.
While guests were enjoying their duck and wine, Irvine joined Pam on the floor for a Q&A and to talk about some of his upcoming shows that will be premiering. After several minutes, he was whisked away for a meet and greet (I believe).
Here is the recipe we were given at the demo, incomplete to Irvine’s direction on stage and with typos:
For $15 per person, we felt like we got out money’s worth at this Culinary Demonstration. Irvine was engaging, the food was delicious, and, with some sleuthing for the missing pieces, I imagine we could pull this recipe off at home. While I was a bit wishy-washy on seeing Irvine this year based on our experience a few years ago, I felt this presentation was scores better and would be more inclined to see him at a future Food & Wine.
Did you attend the Robert Irvine Culinary Demonstration this year? What did you think? Have you attended any others this year, or have any lined up?