After attending Party for the Senses at Epcot each of the last three years, I thought I would take a year off from that event and instead give the Swan & Dolphin’s Food & Wine Classic a shot.
The Classic is sort of like a condensed version of Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, as the event typically takes place over the last weekend in October.
From there, about a dozen seminars are offered with prices ranging from $50 to $300 per person.
I attended last year’s Wine Blending seminar, which is about an hour long at a cost of $50 per person. It starts at 4:30pm, which is an hour before the causeway booths open.
Over the last six years of covering the Epcot event, I’ve attended more than a dozen wine tasting seminars and sampled well over 200 different wines.
And to this day, I don’t think I’ve ever tasted one that didn’t taste like wine.
From an educational standpoint, the Wine Blending seminar was a complete waste of time. The presenter had little interest in talking about anything other than himself. At the end, he stopped at the table in front of us to sample the wine that a couple of ladies had put together. He did the swirling thing, took a sip, and announced that they had done a nice job of creating a bold, cabernet-forward blend. One of the ladies remarked that she didn’t like cabernet and there was actually none in the blend that they had put together. I may have giggled.
Fortunately, the seminar included five nice pours of wine and an assortment of cheese that paired well with the various red varietals. But I think I would save my $50 and order three or four glasses of wine from the bar at Flying Fish while pulling up the Wikipedia page for Pinot Noir. You’ll enjoy better wine and learn more about what you’re drinking even if you close the page after reading the second sentence.
The Food & Wine Classic is otherwise an outdoor event, making the experience somewhat dependent on the weather.
The night I attended last year was luckily a clear, pleasant evening. Hopefully this year’s forecast for thunderstorms will change between now and the weekend.
Otherwise, the Food and Wine Classic is heavier on the alcohol than the majority of Disney’s own events.
Of the 50ish booths offered, about 40 of them exclusively serve wine and beer.
Only one or two cocktails were offered and about eight food kiosks were littered across a vast area, which made finding any particular item a hassle, especially when it was virtually pitch black out by 7:30pm.
In this picture, you’ve got one food booth and at least five wine booths. Which one is serving Greek Yogurt Domes and which one is serving Santa Margherita Prosecco is anybody’s guess.
I enjoyed the self-contained Beer Garden the most:
I was impressed with the variety of beer and cider options and the food was easy to find, hearty, and prepared well. It was also easy to find a table in the center of the action.
The Beer Garden is an additional cost – $25 more on top of the $115 causeway ticket that grants access to unlimited samples from the kiosks. With the event running for a full three-and-a-half hours, from 5:30pm through 9pm, you can do some real damage. As someone that does enjoy the occasional cocktail, it’s not unusual to find me telling some of the loudest stories by the end of the night, but I wasn’t even in the top 50% of drunks come closing time. It was a little refreshing to not be the person singing and dancing in the street while trying to figure out if I was staying at the Swan, Dolphin, or All-Star Sports that night.
With just a handful of food stations, lines were on the long side to open the night.
Here we are waiting to enter the politically correct Chinatown.
This is the “Crispy Duck – Steamed Bun, Cucumber, Hoisin” that is available this year as well. “Crusty” is probably a more accurate word.
The “Shanghai Dumpling – Pan Roasted Pork Dumpling, Spicy Sauce” was a soupy mess.
This puppet in the middle of the sand pit is the only decoration. Not exactly transformative, but once the sun goes down, we won’t be able to see anything anyway.
“Carnival Corner” is another of the themed areas complete with some carnival games that cost more money.
The event is not among the most kid-friendly, especially after the sun goes down, but there is an a la carte option to purchase 25 tickets food/drink tickets for $50. Each item costs between two and six tickets, or between $4 and $12. So if you do bring the kids or have someone in your party that is not going to go to town on 300,000 glasses of wine, then you can opt not to purchase an unlimited causeway ticket for them.
A corn dog is available again this year.
As is the Nitro Kettle Corn. Perhaps a stretch at a cost of $4-$6.
One of my favorite items from last year won’t be making a return appearance, perhaps because it doesn’t make for a particularly attractive picture. But as someone that does not typically gush about macaroni, this was impossibly creamy with a decadent cheesy flavor. The earthy mushrooms added an aromatic quality. I think I would have spent my entire $50 ticket book on these if I didn’t have the causeway ticket.
Typically, I think Swan & Dolphin goes for simpler flavors than Party for the Senses, which may be an intelligent choice given the atmosphere. Sometimes enjoying straightforward comfort food is more pleasant than trying to figure out what the heck is accompanying the leek root parfait at Epcot. Above is a funnel cake with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce.
The Arancini were really good too. Unlike Party for the Senses, where about 30 guest chefs typically serve up specialties, the food at the Swan & Dolphin Classic is served up by the various restaurants found inside and around the hotels.
Cib’s Handcrafted Barbecue was less popular, but part of that may be its location away from the causeway.
The pork belly was mostly fat.
Kimonos Dragon Roll wasn’t particularly fresh.
Perhaps too many sliders waiting to be picked up.
The Seared Striped Bass would have probably been tasty if it was served hotter.
But I think the Swan and Dolphin Classic is best for those looking to put back a lot of wine and beer in a festive outdoor atmosphere.
There are a ton of options and the brand ambassadors doing the pouring are typically friendly and knowledgeable. They may also be doing the majority of the drinking at the event.
At $140 per person per night, the Classic is on the expensive side of things. But for those that don’t mind getting a little rowdy and imbibing a little too much, the event potentially offers some value. If you’re looking for a more sophisticated experience and more upscale food, then Party for the Senses is a better choice. If you’re looking for a more relaxed experience in a more elegant atmosphere, then $280 would go a long way towards a romantic dinner for two at something like nearby Flying Fish. But as far as outdoor all-you-can-drink events at Walt Disney World go, this is easily number one. Maybe because it’s the only one.
You’ll find me at Party for the Senses on November 11th.