Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Fifth Annual Food & Wine Classic

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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.

2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-mapThe Classic has a strong emphasis on wines, but beer fans are for from ignored, especially with this year’s addition of the Beer Garden.

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.

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2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-base-to-bubbles-olivier-zambauxOlivier Zambaux – Certified Sommelier/Assistant Director of Banquets

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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.

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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.

2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-base-to-bubbles-chardonnay-taittingerChardonnay and Taittinger Prestige

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The Piper-Heidsieck Rose Sauvage was our third place for taste, but it’s still something I would buy to enjoy at home.

2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-base-to-bubbles-pinot-meunier-rosePinot Meunier and Piper-Heidsieck Rose Sauvage

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Our favorite was the slightly sweet Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial, even though we tend to lean toward dry wines and champagnes.

2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-base-to-bubbles-pinot-noir-moetPinot Noir and Moet & Chandon Nectar Imperial

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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.

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The cheese selection included a triple creme cheese (the one on top) that was literally like butter.

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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.

2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-tentsCold temperatures and gusty winds did not deter guests from enjoying the Classic!

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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.

2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-jersey-boys-performingJersey Boys performing

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.

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Upon entering, guests are provided a plastic cup for their sampling pleasure.

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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!

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2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-beer-garden-foodHandcrafted 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-bluezoo-flight-of-the-halibut-seared-halibutSeared Halibut with Hobb’s Bacon, Parsnip Fonduta, Baby Fennel

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2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-bluezoo-flight-of-the-halibut-artichoke-beignetHalibut & Artichoke “Beignet” with Sauce Romeseco and Melted Leeks

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2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-bluezoo-flight-of-the-halibut-poached-halibutPoached Halibut with Clams, Caper Emulsion, and Black Batard

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-kimonos-spicy-yellow-fin-tunaSpicy Yellow Fin Tuna, Nori, Seasoned Rice – Presented by Kimonos

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.

2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-chocolate-dome-bavaroiseChocolate dome bavaroise, caramel cremeu, chocolate flourless cake, milk chocolate glaze

2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-raspberry-compoteRaspberry compote, yogurt panacotta, jam filled raspberry, raspberry marshmallow

2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-orange-peel-grand-marnier-cream-puffOrange peel and Grand Marnier cream puff, almond sable, chocolate coated almonds

 2014-swan-dolphin-food-wine-classic-espresso-gelato-chocolate-crunchEspresso Gelato with Chocolate Crunch Sandwich

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.

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8 responses to “Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Fifth Annual Food & Wine Classic

  1. This was our first year and we went both nights. Friday was my favorite night. The weather was great and it was not crowded at all. I was surprised how crowded and how long the lines were on Saturday. Shula’s was my favorite. We went back several times, I loved the potatoes. Unfortunately, on Saturday our serving was stone cold and not as good. We also loved the arrachini from Il Mulino the first night. I found the second nights pasta to be too thick and tough.

    I also am just now trying to learn to eat fish. I tried everything available and like the halibut much better than the first nights trio. I agree the sea bass was greasy and probably too big a portion but I was surprised how much I liked it.

    I was happy to be able to try so many things I would have never ordered in a restaurant and was surprised by the quality of the food served. I was really surprised by the amount of different wines/beers/sakes offered. We counted well over 80. I usually don’t drink wine but found several that I liked.

    I’m sure I’m in the minority but I didn’t think the beer garden was a good value. For $20, the small amount of beers and food offered compared to the offerings and price of the causeway seemed high. The pretzels, sausage on a pretzel roll and schnitzel were okay but nothing special and not many beers were offered considering the amount of wines showcased. I do agree though I loved the sweet potato/mallow beer as well as the Delerium black cherry beer. We live close to the Florida Brewing Company and it was good to sample the beer and need to head there soon. I’m not sure we would add the beer garden on next year but was happy it was included in our Dophin 2 night package.

  2. Glad to hear you were able to experience both nights! The food lines were a bit long on Saturday, but they seemed to move at a good pace. I think having the wristband/ticket system helps things run smoothly, along with only having one offering at a tent. As for the wine, I didn’t have any, but Matt stopped for sake. Since we’re primarily beer drinkers, I enjoyed the Beer Garden (I didn’t eat anything though), but there were still several beers we enjoyed on the Causeway that are included with the regular wristband.

    Did you find the crowd to be a bit more tipsy on Saturday evening? I think a lot of people spent the day drinking at Food & Wine before heading over to the Classic. Stumbling people and crowds do not mix well!

  3. Fantastic! I just added this event to my to-do list and hopefully I can plan to be there next year!

    Question… for folks not staying at the Dolphin/Swan, is there enough parking space for everyone attending the event? Or do they have to park offsite?

  4. I agree the wrist band really sped things up and we never ran into someone being rude or complaining in line. We also are not wine drinkers and prefer beer. We used the nights to try different types of the wines to see if we could find something we like. I did the same with seafood, which I also don’t care for. Sadly, I’m still not a wine or fish lover but have at least found things I could eat/drink when in a social situation.

    I was really surprised how many more tipsy the people we encountered on Saturday than Friday night. We joked people must be drinking more to warm up. Most noticeable was around 9:00 as it was ending and people were walking back into the Dolphin. Several loud and tipsy people. They all seemed to be having fun and not causing problems. I’m not sure that was true as the night went on though. The Dolphin bar was packed.

  5. Tracy – We had stopped at the Dolphin bar prior to the Classic to watch some football. We got there within minutes of it opening at 3pm and it was busy. We were lucky to get a seat, and lots of guests were getting drinks to go. I think around 7:30-8:00 I really noticed that I was beginning to have people stumble into me. I hope that the hotel was relatively quiet for sleeping, though!

    Ricardo – I’m sure you’ll have a fantastic time if you have the opportunity to go next year! The Swan and Dolphin have regular parking as well as valet, and there are fees for both. I would recommend arriving early to ensure parking as it does get busy, especially on Saturday. We knew we would be drinking, so we instead opted for a taxi. We went to the BoardWalk first for a beer prior to walking over to the Classic (yes, guest parking at BoardWalk was quite full even around 2pm). Then, after the Classic, walked back to BoardWalk for people to clear out and enjoy a couple of beers before grabbing a taxi home. It might be more convenient – and close to a wash in price – to taxi from your hotel to the Swan or Dolphin.

  6. Ricardo – the parking lots are huge so you could be parking pretty far away. Also as a hotel guest the cost is $16 to self park not sure if it’s more if you aren’t staying there. The Swan/Dolphin offer Disney bus service so if you are staying on property you could take a bus to a hub (park or Downtown Disney) and hop a bus to your resort. But I agree with Sarah, a taxi is the way to go unless you have far to travel.

  7. Got it! Thanks Sarah!

  8. Tracy – I think the cost is the same to park whether or not you are staying at the resort. Good tip regarding the bus!