Food & Wine Trip 2011

In our household October means EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, at least for the adults, it’s one of our most looked forward to trips all year and has been for 9 years now. Even though we had just been down 3 weeks prior for #EpicOctober and Wine and Dine Half Marathon, I never even made it to EPCOT to try even one dish or glass of wine.

We got to Saratoga Springs noonish and checked in, our room was ready, yay! Then we headed to Pop Century to Pick up Amanda Tinney of Disney Every Day before going to EPCOT. Amanda had already been to Food & Wine a few times and even did an episode of Travel with Rick on a few desserts we knew we wanted to try and a few dishes she was excited to share with us that she’d tasted already. We worked our way around World Showcase clockwise so we could end up in the England/Canada are later to see if we could hook up with Robert Irvine or at least see Off Kilter.

We ended up making two laps of World Showcase and saw Off Kilter play a set but Robert was heading to Magic Kingdom with his girls, Gail Kim, Chef Lee, and rest of his entourage, to a Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, so I figured they would be there all night, it’s one of the best party’s all year. So we stayed at EPCOT and enjoyed more of our favorites like lobster a& scallop fisherman’s pie, my favorite from the previous year. I swear we drank more beer than wine this trip, I’m blaming Amanda though, she’s a beer snob and doesn’t care for wine much. We never actually had a meal, lunch or dinner, we just ate our way around the lake twice so by 8:00PM we were full and tired and decided to pack it in early that evening expecting a big day Saturday.

Amanda and her "little" tea

Amanda and her "little" tea at Whispering Canyon

Saturday morning we met Amanda at Whispering Canyon in the Wilderness Lodge, its our favorite “big” breakfast place to eat lately so I called and got us a reservation that morning somehow and we got in somehow. Amanda ordered a “little” tea so of course they obliged with the biggest Mason jar of tea. We took our time though not even knowing exactly what we wanted to do that day, and enjoyed or meal. I’m a little disappointed  that they’ve changed my favorite breakfast though. The BBQ eggs benedict originally had strips of brisket on top but now its been replaced with tasso pork, you know, that famous pork EVERYBODY bbq’s.

Afterward we headed to Magic Kingdom. Kriss and I had dashed in to MK 3 weeks before on the 40th anniversary mainly just to say we were there and snap a few pics but it was so crowded we didn’t stay. I also wanted to see the “new” redone Tiki Room since it had reopened. We rode a few rides, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, then we headed to EPCOT for a little more Food and Wine.

We went straight to World Showcase to get in line at one of the booths when a little birdie told me that I should go to Rose and Crown before we got a chance to order anything. Chef Lee and Robert Irvine were there enjoying a break between demos and the Party For the Senses that night. We ordered a round of beer and made a wall around Robert, he was trying to be inconspicuous in the corner and just chill a bit but every once in a while someone would recognize him and come over to say “hey” or take a picture. He made everyone promise not to tweet or Facebook that they were there with him and they all laughed and agreed.

Robert Irvine, Kriss, and Elizabeth Falkner

Robert Irvine, Kriss, and Elizabeth Falkner

After a little while Chef Elizabeth Falkner came in after she finished up her prep for the evening. You may know her from several Food Network shows like Challenge or Next Iron Chef but she was part of Party For the Senses that night as well. She even stepped over into the dining area at Rose and Crown and ate but did pose for a few pics as well, she was funny. I think we were in there goofing off for about three hours when they all decided they needed to go change to get ready for the show that night and we all headed out to our rooms to freshen up. It  was a very quick trip to the room because we were anxious to get back and make sure we could get in to the Party For the Senses.

We got back in time for the Party For the Senses but none of us knew what to expect, Amanda had heard some about it but never been to one. Coming in through International Gateway we did run in to Lou Mongello and his wife and spoke to them a moment but then had to go figure out this PFTS thing. We checked in and got our plates and wine glasses and went to the front of the line at World Showplace which is the large building between England and Canada in EPCOT, its hard to see though because of the gates that are usually closed. When the announcement was made and the curtain opened everyone rushed in to grab a seat or get in line. I started walking down the right side and saw a wine I wanted to try right off the bat when I heard Lee yell “Bigbie! The line starts over here!” he’s a funny guy. Then he reached across several people and handed me their offering, pheasant en croute with apple salad. It was very good so I got in the “real” line and got another. Then I saw a table right in front of their station so I patted Robert on the back and went to sit down and eat while I located Kriss and Amanda. They came back with full plates so I got up and went out to find something to eat, we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I got some ribs from somewhere, they were good but overcooked, overcooked ribs were actually a popular choice from some of the chefs there that night, it was a little disappointing. Here’s your quick rib lesson, “fall off the bones” is not good, it means the ribs are overcooked and generally have a mushy consistency. There, off my soapbox.

Gail Kim

Gail Kim and yours truly

I did have several good things, lobster pancakes were pretty good and simple, the hangar steak was excellent too. While I was sitting eating and Kriss and Amanda were off foraging I noticed Gail Kim walk in to Robert’s station with his girls. Gail Kim is Robert’s fiance, we had met her at a Restaurant Impossible viewing at “eat!” a few months back in Hilton Head and fell in love with her, she’s beautiful, super sweet, and fun to talk to. She was looking around like “what to do” so I flagged her down and she brought the girls over to our little table and joined in. For the rest of the night we all took turns guarding the table and purses and going off to the different food stations to try each of the chef’s offerings.

I didn’t realize how big this room was, there were a LOT of tapas in there. I ate a black eyed pea cake that was reminiscent of a crab cake but it was a little dry, some type of sauce would have been good on it. I tried some things that I don’t even know what they were. There was an octopus carpaccio that most people would have turned their nose at but it was actually amazing, you could cut it with a plastic fork. I also found Elizabeth Falkner’s table and tried her grilled sourdough ice cream sundae with grape syrup, strawberry syrup creme, spanish peanuts, brazil nuts, and halvah, wow thats a mouthful, but it was great, I could have eaten 2-3 of them. It was sweet but not too sweet and had a lightness to it, not too rich or filling. Unfortunately for me I was actually full by then and called it quits on eating before I even got a chance to try everything and headed back to the table.

It was almost time for the show to be over and as the lines at the stations were dying down Robert came over and sat for a while as well, he was pretty excited about the evening and having his girls there, I don’t think you could slap the smile off his face. We talked for a while and Chef Falkner wrapped up and came over as well, then we realized we were the last ones in the room and Disney actually kicked us out. Kriss, Amanda, and I didn’t have any more plans but Robert told us there was a chef’s after party we could come to so we walked over to Ariel’s at the Beach Club and met them there.

Talia performing for us

Talia performing for us

This was a pretty amazing time as well, so many great chefs in such an intimate setting, with an open bar and small finger foods. Even Robert’s daughters came down for a bit and it was great to see that they are all just people too. His youngest daughter Talia even entertained us with her gymnastics for a bit before he sent them up to the room, it was getting to be a little late. We all chatted a bit longer but it was even getting a little late for this grown up even though I wish we could have enjoyed it a while longer, so we left and went back to our room since we had to get up and drive home the next morning.

A quick stop at Olivia’s for breakfast and we were on the highway headed home ending a wonderful weekend in Disney. I wish we would have had a little more time at Food and Wine this year but we still had another fun trip in Disney, one we’ll never be able to repeat.


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