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Party for the Senses Review
Food & Wine Festival
Curry, Flying Fish
-- Steamed Black Grouper with White Bean Puree, Radicchio and White Trufle Oil Vinaigrette
Lanza and Bob Getchell, Narcoossee's
-- Lemon and Mint Kefta with Eggplant Ketchup, Goat Cheese, and Baby Arugula on Sunflower Seed Bread
-- Braised Veal Cassoulet with Wilted Collard Greens and Black-Pepper Brioche
Hal Taylor and Page Weibley, Wide World of Sports
-- Duck Ragout on BBQ Potatoes
Cape Malay Cuisine South Africa
-- Lamb Sosoati with Dhaltjies
Gray Byrum, Citricos
-- Sauteed Crab and Rock Shrimp with Shiitake Mushrooms and Trixi's Gnocchi
Hudson Valley Foie Gras, New York
-- Venison Tenderloin with Terrine of Foie Gras, Caramelized Shallots and Truffled Fig Glaze
-- Ancho Chile and Coffee Braised Beef Short Ribs with Rustic Blue Cheese Polenta
Wade Camerer, Randy Koehler & Christian Rumpler, Cinderella's Royal
-- Roasted Vegetables in a Mild Curry with Citrus Infused Moroccan Couscous
Farallon, San Francisco, California
-- Seared Tuna with Foie Gras, Leek Puree, and Black Truffle Maderia Syrup
Le Cellier Steakhouse
-- Braised Short Ribs, Sweet Potato Puree, with Fig and Sundried Cranberry Sauce
Yan Can Cook
-- Minced Chicken with Soynuts in a Lettuce Cup with Hoisin Sauce
Diego's Coral Gables Florida
-- Paella Valenciana: Chicken and Seafood Paella
and Harry McLaughlin, Port Orleans
-- Medallion of Venison with Chestnut Puree and Celeriac, Michigan Kiln-dried Cherry Sauce
Tim Healea and Ciril Hitz, US Bread Team 2002
-- American Harvest Grain, Gibassier, and Mount Hood Bread
Yacht and Beach Club
-- White Chocolate Passion Fruit Mousse a la Eve
Perennou, the Waldorf-Astoria NY
-- Chocolate Banana Tart
Farallon, San Francisco California
-- Pecan Shortcake with Chunky Applesauce and Caramel Cream
-- Gingersnap-Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches
-- Apple Chutney Cones with Yogurt Rum Foam
Martini House, St. Helena, California
-- Acorn Squash Madeleines with Quince Marmalade
-- Spaghetti Squash Confit and Chickory Caramel
|Champagne Pommery||Seghesio Family Vineyards|
|Louis Jadot||Trinchero Winery|
|Charles Krug - Peter Mondavi Family||Dr. Loosen - Villa Wolf|
|Franciscan||Maison Albert Bichot|
|Porcupine Ridge||Rosemount Estate|
|Valley of the Moon||Remy Martin|
|Lindemans||Concha y Toro|
|Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves||Stonehaven Vineyards|
|Bunratty Meade Winery||Masi|
While the Food and Wine Festival is known for its exclusive dining experiences, they sell out quickly. Tickets are much easier to obtain for the special tasting event called Party for the Senses, held at the World Showplace (formerly the Millennium Village). For $85, guests receive preferred seating for the 5:45 p.m. performance of the Eat to the Beat concert series at America Gardens Theater, and from 6:30 to 9 p.m., guests are treated to tasty morsels prepared by more than 15 respected chefs, as well as wines, champagnes and beers from around the world.
Despite the reserved seating area, my fellow partygoers and I decided to forego the Eat to the Beat concert -- we had no interest in seeing Sister Sledge perform. (Had it been Three Dog Night, who will be performing later in the series, I would have been in the front row!) Instead, we spent extra time preparing for the Party -- and devising our eating and drinking strategies!
Having been to the Party for the Senses last year, I knew what to expect in terms of set-up and quality -- that's why I was looking forward to the evening so much. I also knew that, once inside World Showplace, most other folks would try to grab the first tables they saw. We instead planned to make a beeline for the rear right side of the room so that we could ensure we all had a comfy chair to sit in.
We entered the World Showplace to check in, received our wristbands (and we can't recall whether we had wristbands last year), our notched plates and our keepsake Food and Wine Fest etched glasses, and we waited to be allowed further inside. It all seemed a little more disorganized than last year -- the Cast Member actually thrust the wristbands at us and told us to put them on ourselves when she realized the long line waiting to get in behind us. But eventually, shortly after 6:30, the doors opened and we all rushed inside. Our strategy worked, and we obtained a larger table with plenty of seats for our party of seven. We took a few moments to survey our dimly lit surroundings.
Unlike last year, the Living Fountain did not seem to be appearing -- this was a shame, because she is a truly gifted performance artist and I had been hoping to marvel at her again. Entertainment instead included a group of models who provided atmosphere by strolling around the room -- they changed their wild costumes several times throughout the evening. Also on hand were a South American band with pan pipes, other New Age-y musicians, and a group of gymnasts (were they Kristos?) who performed several times during the event. An artist sat at an easel painting a still life, and several times throughout the night rollerbladers skated through the crowds. We were also treated to two wheelchair-bound entertainers who performed a choreographed dance.
And then the eating (and drinking) began!
Deb Koma's Story:
Last year, my favorite taste of the evening came from the station headed by Robert Curry, chef at Flying Fish Cafe on Disney's Boardwalk. Yet again, this station "curried" my favor (bad pun, sorry) -- this time with Steamed Black Grouper with White Bean Puree, Radicchio and White Truffle Oil Vinaigrette. The grouper was outstanding, moist and flavorful, sitting atop the bed of swirled white beans, infused with that distinctive truffle flavor. Mmmm...
Coming in at a close second was the Ancho Chile and Coffee Braised Beef Short Ribs with Rustic Blue Cheese Polenta by Ted Cizma (www.cheftedcizma.com). This was a real winner! Just a bit of a kick from the chile, slightly sweet, with the tenderest of beef, perfectly accented by the fabulous blue cheese polenta. My only complaint? I wanted more! Good thing you get unlimited trips back to the station!
What else I really, really liked:
The Venison Tenderloin with Terrine of Foie Gras, Caramelized Shallots and Truffled Fig Glaze by Michael Ginor, Hudson Valley Foie Gras, New York. The venison was a little on the rare side, but the foie gras was smooth and the accompanying glaze gave the right hint of sweetness.
The Sauteed Crab and Rock Shrimp with Shiitake Mushrooms and Trixi's Gnocchi by Gray Byrum, Citricos. This was a buttery concoction with light pillows of dough, a little on the peppery side, but still very yummy.
Also worth mentioning is the bread and cheese table. Breads were by Tim Foley, Tim Healea and Ciril Hitz of the 2002 US Bread Team and were outstanding -- chewy inside, make-your-gums bleed crusty on the outside. (What, *you* don't judge a bread by how crunchy the crust is?) I sampled a variety of international cheeses, which it seems will be present for most of the subsequent Parties, and discovered two new favorites: creamy Tete de Moine, which is scraped into feathery fan shapes to bring out its nutty flavor, and Saint Marcellin, an almost runny, pungent cheese, not quite the same as a true blue, but tasty nonetheless.
What about dessert? Surely, an event such as this must have had some awesome sweets, right? Well, I hate to disappoint, but I was disappointed.
Exactly ONE dessert featured chocolate (unless you count the white chocolate mousse, which I don't) -- what's up with that? The Chocolate Banana Tart, by Jean-Claude Perennou of the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, was just OK -- the banana flavor was not very intense, and there wasn't nearly enough chocolate.
By far, the most outstanding dessert of the evening, in my opinion of course, was the Gingersnap-Lemon Ice Cream Sandwich by Emily Luchetti of San Francisco's Farallon restaurant. Crisp, spicy cookies with light lemony filling -- not too rich, and definitely left you wanting more.
Finally, the wines. I sampled as many as I could without needing a stretcher to carry me home. My favorite of the night? The Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz. As I look at my notes, I see that I gave it five stars after the first sip. Spicy, with strong berry undertones, this wine paired particularly well with the venison and the short ribs. It's a wine I'll be looking for in the future.
As a lover of deep, dark reds, I also found the Lindemans Reserve Shiraz, the Masi Amarone, and the Franciscan Simi Cabernet Sauvignon quite noteworthy.
Once again, the Party for the Senses proved to be a night to remember, both for me and my fellow partygoers. Now if only I can convince my husband to come down again NEXT year!
Dotti Saroufim's Story
I'm the type of person who has a very, very hard time making decisions, whether I'm choosing between a bagel or a muffin for breakfast, or agonizing over what shoes to pack for a trip to Walt Disney World. I have to admit that I was excited but also a bit intimidated about my first foray into the Party for the Senses, described in the literature to be featuring "the flavors of 19 eminent chefs and over 50 wines and beers." How would I decide what to eat? What wines should I choose? Even more important, what shoes should I wear?
I was lucky enough to be traveling with a few Food and Wine Festival "veterans" who were more than patient in showing me the ropes. After the reconnaissance mission and diversionary tactics that successfully secured all of us a comfortable seat for the evening, I looked around at my surroundings, and thought that this wouldn't be such a hard assignment after all. I love to eat, and these dedicated chefs most definitely love to cook. Maybe my toughest decision wouldn't be what to eat, but what to eat first.
I began by deciding to use my "Festival Dining Guide" only as a tool in deciphering what it was I was eating. I wasn't about to balance my dish, my wine glass and a map while wandering through the maze of tastes and smells. By sheer good fortune, I began with the Braised Veal Cassoulet, prepared by Phillip Ponticelli from the Yachtman's Steakhouse. The meat was fork tender, and the overall flavor was tangy but not overly strong. I liked this very much, and the Porcupine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon was a perfect accompaniment.
I've never met a cheese I didn't like, so the bread, international cheeses and Del Monte fresh fruit tables were my next target. The Tete de Moine, a new cheese for me, was exceptional, but as I continued to sample, I realized that each new taste was as good or better than the last. I was in cholesterol heaven. I also discovered that I have a liking for Pinot Noir, especially that offered by the Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves.
As I worked my way around the 20 food booths and 21 wine and beer stations, I realized that there was no way, in the allotted time for this event, I'd be able to sample even a small percentage of what was offered. I chose more carefully, and found a few favorites -- one that I even dreamed about last night -- the Venison Tenderloin with Terrine of Foie Gras, Caramelized Shallots, and Truffled Fig Glaze, prepared by Michael Ginor of Hudson Valley Foie Gras. I enjoyed this so much that I even went back for another taste after dessert -- all in the name of research, of course.
Other favorites were the Minced Chicken with Soynuts, offered by the very personable Martin Yan of "Yan Can Cook," and the White Chocolate Passion Fruit Mousse a la Eve, prepared by Stefan Riemer from the Yacht and Beach Club Resort. Unlike Deb Koma (see her review above), I did find a dessert to get excited about -- this one had just the right mixture of chocolate and fruit to make me swoon. (Okay..maybe it was all that sugar.) Somewhere along the way, I was served a lovely dry Riesling from the Dr. Loosen Vineyards, and decided that this was to be my white wine forever.
Some random thoughts from a first-timer:
For someone who doesn't often get the chance to sample a variety of wines, this was an ideal opportunity to see what different flavors and vineyards I would enjoy. Of course, after 2.5 hours of "sampling" I'm grateful that I had my little notebook with me to remember what it was that I liked.
World Showplace, formerly the Millennium Village, is a huge expanse of a building with high ceilings and a cavernous interior. Surprisingly, the ambiance was quite intimate despite the size, and the acoustics were more than tolerable. We were seated directly next to one of the stages, and the music never overpowered our conversation.
When one arrives to an event such as this, one usually brings an appetite. Foods and wines that still taste good at the end of the evening, when that appetite is sated, are surely the winners. See "venison for dessert" above.
This is a great event for a group of friends, and is especially easy with a group -- there is always someone at the table with whom to converse while others are in search of more food.
One of our dinner-mates, the Czarina, asked me if my three grown boys would like Party for the Senses. Since they collectively weigh in at around 650 pounds, and have appetites that show how they got this way, I'd say no. They would love the food, but wouldn't have the patience to queue up for a small sample -- I can imagine them comparing it to having to wait in line for "It's a Small World." For a "normal" eater, however, the portions were perfect, allowing a taste of many different foods, with almost a forced discipline to pace oneself.
I originally thought that the $85 price tag was a bit hefty for a "buffet," but now that I've experienced Party for the Senses, I realize that this is a buffet like no other. My senses were indeed partied, and I wouldn't hesitate to do this again... and again... and again