Last year, Matt and I attended the second evening of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Fourth Annual Food & Wine Classic and were thoroughly impressed by not only by the food and beverage offerings, but the event as a whole. The two-evening Classic features hour and hour and a half-long seminars which begin prior to the Causeway festivities, which officially begin at 5:30 p.m. The Classic goes strong until 9:00 p.m. each night, and you will be immersed in fantastic food, beverages, and live entertainment, including fireworks on the beach.
We were ecstatic to have to opportunity to return to the event this year on Saturday evening. New to us this year was attending the Base to Bubbles seminar, which is just one of several seminar offerings available to guests. If you enjoy visiting Walt Disney World during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, I highly recommend you plan your trip to coincide with the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic. The event has a different vibe than what you’ll find at Epcot, and with it lasting only two evenings, you’ll want to indulge in the food, beverages, and entertainment as much as possible.
Matt and I started our evening at the Base to Bubbles seminar presented by Olivier Zambaux, a Certified Sommelier and the Swan and Dolphin’s Assistant Director of Banquets. If you follow the blog regularly, you likely know that Matt and I are not big wine drinkers, but we do have an appreciation for it. Through attending this seminar, we learned quite a bit about the process of making champagne and sparkling wines. It was also nice to step out of our comfort zone of beer.
To start the seminar, we sat down to a Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. Each of these were the base to creating three styles of champagne.
While we enjoyed all three of the champagnes for different reasons, Matt and I found that we had similar tastes. Our second favorite was the Taittinger Prestige.
The Piper-Heidsieck Rose Sauvage was our third place for taste, but it’s still something I would buy to enjoy at home.
Our favorite was the slightly sweet Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial, even though we tend to lean toward dry wines and champagnes.
Of course, we couldn’t have all that wine and champagne on an empty stomach! We were served a selection of bread and cheese along with a chocolate covered strawberry and pastry.
The cheese selection included a triple creme cheese (the one on top) that was literally like butter.
Seminars are available for an additional fee (Base to Bubbles cost $45.00 per guest) and are an excellent way to begin an evening at the Classic. We definitely walked away with more knowledge of Champagne, and were pleased by the presentation in its entirety.
After the seminar, it was time to make our way to the causeway to enjoy the rest of the Classic! Guests can enjoy the food and wine in two ways: a la carte tickets (25 tickets for $50) or a wristband ($89.45 for the causeway tents only, or $108.26 for additional access to the Beer Garden). Food options vary each night, and pricing varies between two and six tickets. The value here is definitely with the wristband, as you will have unlimited access to both the food options as well as well as wine, sake and beer.
Live entertainment was performed on the causeway in front of the Dolphin and featured Complicity, Four Divo – Jersey Boys, and The Current. Many guests were enjoying the music in front of the stage, but it could be heard all over the causeway, creating a really fun atmosphere.
Tucked off to the side of the Swan, the Beer Garden was a popular spot for guests who added the option to their wristband, and beer fans would definitely want to add this should it return next year. This portion of the Classic was new for 2014 and featured several great breweries. Brews could be found from Shipyard, Breckenridge, Delirium Tremens, Peak Organic, Highland, Bell’s, Terrapin, Orange Blossom Pilsner, Abita, Anchor Steam, Florida Beer Company, Boulevard, and Ommegang.
Upon entering, guests are provided a plastic cup for their sampling pleasure.
My two favorite brews were created by Shipyard, and featured Sweet and Mallow, created with sweet potatoes and marshmallow, and a Tiramisu Porter. I really wish these were available for purchase outside of the Classic!
Handcrafted German Style Sausages, Braised Cabbage, Laugen Bread, Assorted Mustards, Soft Pretzels, Weiner Schnitzel, and German Style Potato Salad were served to hungry guests visiting the Beer Garden.
Back on the Causeway, our first bite of the evening was Tenderloin with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sauce Bordelaise presented by Shula’s Steak House. The beef was very tender and the sauce had a nice richness to it.
The Lamb Gyro, presented by The Fountain, featured Braised Lamb tucked in a Toasted Pita. Tzatziki Sauce was available and you were able to add the sauce yourself, but I instead opted for feta to add a bit of saltiness.
Picabu presented a Braised Heritage Pork Taco as well as a Grilled Organic Vegetable version. I thought the vegetable version was quite flavorful, and I liked being able to add cheddar and hot sauce from the toppings table.
One of our favorite bites was the Smoked Pork Collar with Corn Bread Puree, Charred Corn, and Smoked Tomato & Bacon Ragout presented by Cib’s Smokehouse. It had a wonderful smokiness and virtually melted in your mouth.
Il Mulino New York Trattoria presented a Black Pepper Campanelle with Parsnips, Pancetta, and Truffle-Parmesan Brodo. We both loved the garlic-heavy flavor from this dish.
Chef Todd English was out greeting guests, and his “Flight of the Halibut” was fantastic (this coming from someone who is only beginning to really appreciate fish!). The trio featured Seared Halibut with Hobb’s Bacon, Parsnip Fonduta, Baby Fennel, a Halibut & Artichoke “Beignet” with Sauce Romeseco and Melted Leeks, and a Poached Halibut with Clams, Caper Emulsion, and Black Batard. The “Beignet” was a stand-out, followed closely by the Seared Halibut for both Matt and me.
Chef English’s bluezoo featured a Shrimp Cocktail Steamroller, which was a bit awkward to eat, but had a great flavor with a bit of kick to it.
Fresh Mediterranean Market’s Southwest Shrimp Salad featured Crispy Rock Shrimp, Organic Greens, Roasted Bell Peppers and Chipotle Dressing, but I was not a fan. I think the shrimp may have sat too long, and otherwise I think I would have liked it.
Garden Grove’s Fish ’n’ Chips featured Beer Battered Sustainable Bass, Tartar Foam, and Vinegar “Chips.” I found the fish to be a bit on the greasy side, but we both enjoyed the chips.
We missed out on Cabana Bar & Beach Club’s Grilled Scallop with Puffed Rice, Edamame, Ponzu Jelly. It sounds like we would have enjoyed it!
Laurent Branlard creates visually beautiful desserts, and they are even more delicious than they look. The Raspberry Compote was my favorite of the three, though the Chocolate Dome was a close second.
If you’ve never been to the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic, you’ll definitely want to plan your visit around the event in 2015 (we’ll let you know when the dates are announced!). The food and drinks are truly outstanding, the entertainment is lively, and the seminar we attended was informative and fun (not to mention delicious!). It’s easily at the top of my must-do events at Walt Disney World, and I think if you attend or have attended the Classic, you would agree.
Did you attend the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Fifth Annual Food & Wine Classic this year? What was your favorite food to taste or beverage to sip? Let us know in the comments!
Disclosure: Matt and I were guests of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin for this event. Photos that are not © eatingwdw.com are property of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. The views expressed in this post are my own.