If you’ve been to one or more of the Food and Wine Festivals over the past couple of years, you should know what to expect from the Festival Center, which is located in Future World East near Ellen’s Energy Adventure.
This shot with one of the flowers in focus and the rest of the picture out of focus didn’t turn out so well, since I used the wrong settings. But that’s the Festival Center up ahead.
Once inside, you’ll be elevated a bit as you look out across the former Wonders of Life Pavilion. We’ll take a closer look later, but off to the left you have ticket pickup if you’re scheduled for one of the seminars. Further down the walkway is a variety of wine, beer, and alcohol for sale at The Festival Center Wine Shop.
Continue walking past that and you’ll see “The Vineyard” where the mixology and beverage seminars are held. More on these later.
To the right, you’ll see the Art of Food and Wine around the corner on the right.
As pictured from the ramp.
A little further down the ramp, the Spotlight Stage, where the day’s free first come, first served seminars take place. Ahead is the largest display of Food and Wine Festival merchandise at The Stockpot Shop. If you want to see as much event merchandise as possible in one place, along with some other related merchandise, head over here.
Somehow I neglected to take a picture of it, but those seats to our right in the picture above are for the Intermissions Cafe, which is the Festival Center’s only ordinary food outlet. It might be fun (AND DISNEY WOULD AGREE!) to order a glass of wine and peruse the merchandise.
Culinary demonstrations take place on this stage in the back of the Festival Center.
The Chocolate Experience: From Bean to the Bar is new this year and located in between the culinary demo area and The Vineyard just about straight across from the main entrance. Around here is also where you’ll find a nice set of restooms.
And then all the way in the back right of that area, you’ll find the “Chase Lounge.” Considering there’s virtually no signage and the entrance is this sad little doorway, I’m not sure Disney wants to give out too much free Coca Cola. Anyway, if you have a Chase credit or debit card, you can enter the Lounge where you’ll find free Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Lite Lemonade, coffee, water, and tea along with a place to relax, charge your electronics, and connect to their WiFi connection. At least on Friday, Disney has turned the regular free Park-wide WiFi off completely to the rest of the Park. It’s open from 9am – 7pm. Also at the Lounge, Chase card holders can get free preferred seating for one of that night’s Eat to Beat Concert. There’s a limited number of wristbands, so head over before 10am to secure seats if you’d like to take advantage of that perk.
Disney staff created chocolate creations for the Festival. They are in reflective plastic cases or some such, making them hard to photograph:
Otherwise, the Ghirardelli exhibit is sort of like the panel section of Living with the Land without the water or boats. You read a little bit about how chocolate is produced.
And they offer a short menu.
And assorted Ghirardelli Chocolate as one might expect.
This 80 count, 30 ounce bag of Ghirardelli Squares runs $25.95. That isn’t insanity I don’t think.
We’ll start with the wine/booze store and work our way clockwise around the Festival Center. Directly behind us is the kiosk where you’ll need to pick up your ticket if you’ve elected to do any of the paid seminars. Just give them your name and they’ll check it against a printed list. You may also ask if there’s day of availability or a standby line.
They have many wines available.
Pricing is actually pretty decent on the wine. Knowing that a lot of visitors are locals or otherwise have their own transportation, they can’t get away with the astronomical prices they charge resort guests. The local Total Wine would sell you a bottle of the Cold Creek on the left for $29.99. On the Paul Dolan, they’d actually sell it to you direct from http://store.pauldolanwine.com for $24.99, so it’s cheaper here. Wine.com has it for $21.99. Direct from Schweiger, that bottle on the right runs an even $58.
The Key Limen and Hurricane Class 5 are available to sample at the Florida booth. 187ml is obviously 24.93% of a regular 750ml bottle of wine. Florida Orange Groves would sell you a 750ml bottle directly for $19.95, so this might be a convenient way to bring home an “Adult Capri Sun.”
From left to right, Total Wine prices are $48.99, $36.97 (sale), $25.99.
Liquor pricing is a little worse. Disney wants $61.95 for the Macallan 12, compared to $45.99 at Total Wine. The Belevedere Grapefruit is $35.95 here compared to $24.99 at Total Wine. Anyway, that’s enough of this. If you’re staying on site and don’t have a car, you can do very well in the wine section and pretty decently at the liquor. And depending on taxes back home, bottles might actually be cheaper, though probably not enough to bother with the hassle.
Last one. Not sure why you’d pay $6.75 for an 11.2 ounce Stella, but that’s a 22 ounce Boston Lager for $7.75. I’m glad they don’t put scotch in skulls, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.
As you know, I’m really a scotch-loving undercover Disney operative, so I decided to schedule The Macallan over the first weekend.
You’ll notice there’s more bourbons, whiskeys, and scotches than years past at the mixologies. All of the mixology seminars are $14 and include three drinks and a 45 minute presentation. They begin daily at 6pm here inside the Festival Center. There’s really no reason to arrive much earlier than 5:50pm. Everyone’s guaranteed a seat and the first people to arrive will be put all the way in the corner of the first row. Seating isn’t first come, first served. Well, it is, but you don’t get to pick your seats.
At each seat sits an explanation of what you’ll be sampling during the presentation. Tables also receive a pitcher of water and crackers for in between drinks and a piece of paper if you want to record (tasting) notes. In this case, mixology might not be the right word as I would come through your monitor and slap you if you poured Coke or something over your Macallan 15. Remember, the key word is “operative.”
The discussion was led by Randolph Adams, the Brand Ambassador for the Southeast.
Who knew scotch production was so dangerous? So sexy! The presentations are helped along by visuals off to the sides of the stage. The presenter will undoubtedly describe why their product is superior to others. In The Macallan’s case, they spend over 20 million dollars on barrels a year, which is more than the competition combined. They don’t use artificial colors, they have “The Nose,” who will “literally” tell the board that they can’t sell the scotch under the Macallan name, and the sons of the sons of the original owner still work and live on the estate in Scotland, right along the river. So if you see another brand advertising Macallan, it’s because Macallan sold it to them. Randolph reminded us that the scotch Macallan sells off is still among the best in the business. Famous Grouse uses a lot of Macallan in their blended scotch whiskeys. They’re also the most expensive scotch to produce and control the entire process, to the point where they have a gentleman with the official title, “Master of Wood,” because he oversees the wood. Or so they say.
We started out with what looked to be a half ounce of The Macallan 12 Year, which would run you $45.99/bottle at Total Wine. Randolph explained that this wasn’t like sniffing wine, where you’d stick your nose up to the glass and take a big whiff. He recommended moving it from side to side underneath the nose and then take a small sip that’s absorbed by the tongue to get an idea of the flavors. There are over 150 discernible (this isn’t the right word) flavors in the whiskey, even though Randolph himself only picked up on four to six. When sipping scotch, one of its most important characteristics is the aftertaste, which should be somewhere around sherry and smoked wood.
This sucker will transform a hunk of ice into a perfect 65mm ice ball every time. The purpose is that the thick ice won’t melt as quickly because less surface area is exposed and thus, your scotch will be chilled but not diluted. It’d run you 650 quid or Pound sterling as the case may be. Here are better pictures of the process.
Here’s the glass as served with their Fine Oak 15 Year, which is a $90 bottle of scotch. Remember when I said this was a good value? Out on the promenade, they’re selling three ounces of Moet for $12.75 and maybe one ounce of Neige Apple Ice Wine for $5.25. That’s two small sips. The scotch melted more than it probably should have because staff had to press so many balls. This was quite enjoyable, though it would have been better if it was not as diluted.
The last drink is where a little mixology comes into play. I think everyone in the audience enjoyed this one. Scotch is a bit of an acquired taste. I remember the first expensive bottle I bought and expected it to taste like honey nectar or something, compared to the Lauder’s (*cough*) I had been drinking. That isn’t exactly the case. Keep at it!
So for 14 bucks, we were entertained for almost an hour by one of The Macallan’s brand ambassadors for the entire southeast region. We got to try a $90 scotch. Out on the promenade, that glass of Fine Oak 15 would “literally” run you $20 if they offered it in the UK.
The only thing I found infuriating was how much these two in the back let go to waste! CURSES!
I’d recommend any of the mixology seminars. They’re all informative and you’ll probably be surprised how much you enjoy the drinks, even if you’re not as much of a booze hound as I am. Amusingly I was making conversation with a woman who was wondering if I liked carrying around such a large camera. To which I remarked, “only when people notice.” As we approached the tables, she finally asked, “So what kind of vodkas are these?” I was pretty sure I was being trolled, so I didn’t take the bait. But it turns out her husband originally told her it was vodka to get her to go with him. I recommend this approach.
The Culinary Demonstrations run $11 – $14 depending on who’s presenting and are also a great value.
You’ll be poured a decent glass of wine, more than you’d get for the $3 – $5 out on the promenade, but it really depends on the presenter. This is archival footage because I don’t have a culinary demo this year until Tuesday!
The presenter will prepare the dish on stage. Last year, Robert Irvine touched my back. TOUCHED ME BACK!
Last year, I booked a “TBA” presenter. It turned out to be Alfonso Blanco, head chef at the Crystal Palace buffet over at Magic Kingdom. Because I’m the biggest jerk in the world, I snicked inside of my brain, “Oh great, chief nugget fryer.”
But he busted out a Western Caribbean Crab Cake and the best coleslaw I’ve ever had. And I don’t like Coleslaw. That Crab Cake is easily $6 if they served it out at the Caribbean booth and you’d get half as much coleslaw for $3.50 And it was paired with a glass of Sam Adams Boston Lager.
So don’t scoff at whoever is presenting on the day you’re planning to visit if you’ve never heard of them or they work at a “lesser restaurant.”
Fruited Brie in a Puff Pastry is another example from last year. This one was made by Bill Clark from the Grand Floridian, so we got to hear all about the Grand Floridian Gingerbread House and how they prepare every morning for baking around the resort.
With virtually no exceptions, all of the presenters are personable, answer questions, and stick around after the presentation.
And if the event is sold out, but you still want to see the presenter, you can stand in the back and listen.
For those sitting and looking away from the presenter, monitors around the stage show it in real time. And any time the presenter starts preparing something, a camera shows the audience what’s happening.
This was the 5pm presentation on Friday, which I believe was a chef from Trail’s End. I only caught a minute, but he was discussing curing bacon for weeks at a time or somesuch. Everyone has a nice glass of wine and gets a nice size portion of an open face BLT Sandwich that is easily three times as big as any of the samples out in the World Showcase.
Cutco continues to hawk knives in the front. They didn’t cut me a check, so I’ll remind you to buy Bosch.
Home and Garden Television is back as a sponsor. Here’s more info on those.
That’s all around the Wine and Festival Center. We’ll head out to check on the Bog, the Watermelon Patch, and the menus around the World Showcase next.