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Food & Wine Festival
American Adventure Pavilion at Epcot
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Mustard Cured Beef with Blue Cheese on a Pretzel Chip
Butternut Squash Soup
Blue Crab Johnny Cakes
Cranberry Risotto Cake with Smoked Duck Confit
Apple Walnut Pork Loin with White Cheeddar macaroni & Cheese
Venison Stew with Yukon Gold and Carmalized Shallot Mashed Potatoes
Lingonberry Crepes with Bakes Apples, Persimmons, Hazelnuts and Maple Syrup Sabayon
Drinks from the Ice Bar
Bell - Bacardi Light, Cranberry and Pineapple juice
Captain Pat's Punch - Bacardi O, Sprite and Orange Juice
Bacardi Limon, Pineapple Juice and Blue Curacao
Admiral Alexander's Grog -Bacardi Big Apple, Sprite & Cranberry Juice
This is the first year Disney has offered a variety of "specialty dinners" as part of their International Food & Wine Festival. Unfortunately, The Spirited Ball didn't have a lot of spirit. The setting was lovely and certain touches were inspired, but the evening as a whole lacked any real zing that would make you want to go again next year unless some serious changed were made.
As the doors opened, an eerie mist drifted from the American Adventure pavilion. As you passed through the front hall, guests were invited to select a mask, ladies' on wands; gentlemen's with elastic bands. (These are the lovely masks available for purchase in the Italy pavilion.)
Upon entering the oval room (where American Vybe and Voices of Liberty perform), guests found themselves in a totally transformed and spooky ballroom. Chairs were covered in silver/gray stretch covers (same type used for Party for the Senses) and tables draped with lace, topped with a large hurricane glass and candle. Ghostly servers, dressed in beautiful colonial costumes, complete with white wigs, were on hand with trays of colorful cocktails for the arriving guests.
In the back of the room was perhaps the highlight of the evening, the ice sculpture bar. Although the style was very angular and modern (a bit out of place style-wise), it was great fun to watch the appropriately costumed bartender pour your drink through the top of the sculpture, watch the colorful liquid wind its way down a spiral "tube" in the ice and end up in a martini glass which guests pulled from the center of the sculpture.
With drinks firmly in hand, we began to explore a bit. The first ghost we encountered was an old sea captain; then an astronaut and then Calamity Jane. By the time we made the rounds of the ballroom, we'd also seen a Pilgrim, Rosie the Riveter, what appeared to be an Ellis Island immigrant, a steelworker, a pioneer and a teacher. It was my husband who put two and two together and realized that each of the ghost characters related in some way to one of the paintings that hang in the American Adventure's Main Hall.
These ghostly ancestors walked (very slowly, pantomime-style) around the ballroom, mixing with the guests, but never speaking or changing their facial expressions throughout the evening. They would pose for pictures with guests, but didn't interact in any other way. They were, after all, ghosts!
A wonderfully droll Town Crier announced each course of the menu and invited guests to partake of the feast that was set up at various stations around the periphery of the Main Hall. Each station was elegantly decorated in variations of brocade, black and silver, some with candelabras draped in cobwebs. Utensils were cleverly contained in small chests.
At various times throughout the evening, two couples dressed in what looked to be Civil War period costumes came out to dance for the guests and with the guests. Other guests were invited to join them on the dance floor. Unfortunately, I don't think there were ever more than three or four guest couples on the dance floor at one time.
Considering the beautiful acoustics of the oval Main Hall, it was hard to believe how bad the sound was for the evening. The music (canned, not live) seemed to be coming from speakers on the far side of the room and was hard to hear. Musical selections for the most part were not the kind of music that encouraged guests to get up and dance.
There were also some old radio broadcasts (or, at least, that's what I think they were supposed to be), but the sound was so bad that I really couldn't make out even one of them. Numerous times during the evening, we said, "Someone is saying something, but I can't understand a word of it."
Once dinner was over, guests were invited to the Isola in Italy for an up-front-and-personal viewing of IllumiNations. It sounds like a wonderful evening, but had it not been for the great company of the other couple we were with, it would have been downright boring.
There was absolutely no excitement to the evening, no surprises, no entertainment (other than the ghosts and dancers). At one point a patriotic song boomed out and the lights came up a bit and our group thought something interesting was going to happen. All the ancestor ghosts had come forward a bit and were standing near the pillars around the outside of the oval, but they didn't do anything except stand there. The music died down, the lights dimmed a bit again and that was that. What a let down.
We kept expecting some live entertainment, maybe a jazz trio, banjo player, a piano player; maybe American Vybe or Voices of Liberty. We kept expecting the dancers to do something other than the waltz. Unfortunately, the guests were just as sedate as their ghostly ancestors and many, I suspect, were like us, wondering why we'd wasted a beautiful evening being more bored than entertained.
At $145 per person, we expected some nice wines and the spectacular foods similar to what we'd experienced at a number of other Food & Wine Festival events this year. There were the mixed Bacardi drinks and chocolate (and other) martinis, but the wines were Kendall Jackson and Cavit --not bad, just not the quality that was expected at a Food & Wine Festival event with such a hefty price tag. (Later in the evening they did bring out some Penfolds.) The food was only a step above the best of the walkway foods -- not bad at all, even tasty, but not the quality you'd expect for such a pricey dinner. The notable exception was the butternut squash soup -- exquisite, both in taste and presentation.
Of the five Food and Wine Festival events we attended this year, this was the most expensive, the most anticipated, and unfortunately, the only one that really disappointed us... and disappointed by a lot.