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Food & Wine Festival
Cook, Book and Bottle
Friday, September 29, 2006
by Deb Wills
Featuring Francois Payard
Payard's Patisserie and Bistro, New York City
Polenta with Pistou Sauce and Parmesan Shavings
Etude Carneros Pinot Gris
Marinated Salmon on a Potato Crisp
Etude Carneros Rose of Pinot Noir
Tomato, Goat Cheese Tart
Etude Pinot Noir
The advertisement for this event stated: "Observe a celebrity chef demonstrate the preparation of a delicious three course meal. The chef's menu will then be served for lunch and you leave with a gift bag containing an autographed book and a commemorative bottle of wine. A notable wine principle presents the accompanying wines."
If you've participated in previous Food and Wine special events, you may recognize this as a reincarnation of previous years' Lunch and Learn events ($75), only now you receive an autographed book and bottle of wine.
Given that the price doubled, I was very curious to see what changes were made. I have always been a fan of the Lunch and Learn events and felt they were a wonderful deal for the price. The Cook, the Book and the Bottle, however, fell far far short of not only my expectations, but those of several other attendees. We got the Cook, Book and Bottle OK, but someone forgot the three courses of food!
We waited outside the Odyssey pavilion until 10:30am sharp. Upon entering our names were checked and we were each handed a woven tote bag containing -- you guessed it -- a bottle of wine and a cookbook by the presenting chef, Francois Payard.
Each place setting was meticulously arranged with wine glasses, water, ice tea, utensils and a booklet with the program and recipes. No bread or crackers were on the table.
Pam Smith, host of several Food and Wine Festival events, was on hand to greet everyone and kick off the demo. Tables were set up facing the stage. On each side of the room was a large screen, which provided live close-ups from the camera man that wandered about during the demonstration. Unfortunately, the camera that was looking down at the Chef's cooking area from above was not used nearly enough. There were no mirrors set up either, so we were often given a less than ideal view.
Center stage, Chef Francois Payard was busily preparing for his talk. He was very entertaining, informative and enjoyable to listen to. He made the event (as presenters so often do). A third generation French Pastry chef whose new book, Bite Size, contained recipes for entertaining, canapes. His vision of a canape is to create something that's both visually appealing for the taster as well as easy to manipulate with one hand, as the other holds a glass of wine. I will say that the presentations of the canapes were visually stimulating, as well as quite tasty.
As our first course, the Crispy Polenta with Pistou Sauce and Parmesan Shavings was served and I could only stare at my plate in disbelief. Surely there was to be more food than this one, quarter-sized canapé. I decided this must be one of several items being served for the first course. As it turned out, we received just two of these canapés, one served cold and the other warm (each had its own unique blending of flavors)! This course was paired with the Etude Pinot Gris, presented by Chad Robison. The Pinot was light and refreshing and aged in stainless steel. The Pinot Gris is the bottle of wine we were given as part of the event. While I enjoyed the wine, I only drank about half of the serving since it was still morning and the 2 canapes really weren't much food to offset the wine.
I quickly discovered as our next course took center stage, that we were only to be provided bite-size canapes, two per course. Hardly what I would consider what was advertised as "a three course meal". The disappointment in the serving sizes really put a damper on my enjoyment of the chef's presentation, as well as the wine tasting. There was no way I could have three glasses of wine at 10:30 am, with six little bite size food servings.
The Lime Marinated Salmon on a Potato Crisp was our next course. Chef Payard explained how he freezes the salmon (no cooking involved) into a rectangular shape. This not only makes for more uniform pieces on the potato crisp but also allows for very thin slices. I must admit, salmon is not a favorite of mine, far from it, but I also never had raw salmon before. Presented on a potato crisp, the salmon was rolled in lime zest with a touch of special sea salt and had a segment of fresh lime on top. I was very surprised at how the lime just exploded in my mouth, combined with the sea salt and fresh potato crisp -- the flavors all blended together perfectly! Ah! However, again, we were served just two of these small canapes for our course.
The wine pairing for the salmon was the Etude Carneros Rose of Pinot Noir, served chilled. I'm not a fan of rose type wines and this one did nothing to change my opinion, but I will admit that the pairing with the salmon worked well.
By now it was clear that our three courses amounted in reality to only one course. Our last course was the Eggplant, Tomato, Goat Cheese Tart. The eggplant was Japanese, which was very small and much less meaty. I actually liked this one OK. The tomato and goat cheese portions of this canape were delicious!
The final pairing of the Etude Pinot Noir left me disappointed, as did the entire event. I only had a few sips of the wine since it was our third glass with virtually no food for the stomach. I will admit it did pair with the eggplant tart, which softened the wine. I learned I much prefer the Pinot Noirs from the Pacific Northwest. Overall, however, I always welcome the opportunity to try new wines, especially when accompanied by delish food!
Like I said in the beginning, if not for Chef Payard's humor and informative talk, I would have rated this a big zero. I thought that for $150+ we would have received the three courses that were advertised. Even then, I'm not sure I would be able to recommend you spend this amount on the Cook, Book and Bottle event.
The talk ran a bit over the allotted time, which normally I would be fine with. However I had to get back to the Epcot resort area for a meeting and time was running short. Due to my needing to leave right away, I did not have the pleasure to meet Chef Payard in person nor get my book signed.
The following day I went to Epcot's Guest Relations to complain about the event. I can't even think of the last time I went to Guest Relations about a problem, but I really felt, well, ripped off. Apparently, I was not alone, as I learned several folks had visited right after the event. The Cast Member I spoke with indicated he had heard other concerns about the event. Later on, I also ran into folks who attended and learned of their displeasure. Guest Relations gave me a Disney Gift Card to offset some of the price I paid for the event.
The other concern, but not Disney's problem, is that with the new airline restrictions, bottles of wine can no longer be taken as carry-on items. I was quite hesitant to pack my bottle in my checked luggage. I had done this once before about two years ago and the bottle was missing when I arrived at home. I decided to give my bottle of Pinot Gris to local friends I saw later that weekend.
From my limited understanding of how these events work, the Disney folks most certainly are aware of what will be served during each event. I hope that the Food and Wine officials heard loud and clear that the first Cook, Book and Bottle was most disappointing and not acceptable for the price. It actually left me thinking of that old slogan...."Where's the Beef?"
Fortunately, the other events I attended all lived up to the level of excellence I expect from Epcot's Food and Wine Festival and the special ticketed (for additional cost) events.