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Epcot's 2007 International
Food & Wine Festival
Cook, Book and Bottle
Friday, September 28, 2007
by Jack Spence
former Vice President of Veuve Clicquot, Inc.
Author of French Women for All Seasons
Veuve Clicquot, Champagne
Chicken au Champagne with Brown Rice,
Braised Fennel with Ginger
Chocolate Petits Pots
One of the exclusive culinary events at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is called The Cook, The Book, and The Bottle, which is each Friday throughout the festival.
This is an early lunch from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Odyssey Chef's Showplace facility, between Test Track and Mexico. It consists of a three-course lunch presented by a cookbook author. The author demonstrates how to prepare the items as they are being served.
Since each Friday has a different author and different menu, I'm certain each is a different experience. I had the pleasure of attending the first of the 2007 events with guest speaker Mireille Guiliano, author of two cookbooks, French Women Don't Get Fat and French Women for All Seasons. Also, Ms. Guiliano was the former President and CEO of Clicquot, Inc. New York, NY. Because of her connection, the featured winery was Veuve Clicquot Champagne.
We arrived 15 minutes early to find a line forming outside. A Disney Cast Member had a clipboard with reservation information and was working her way through the line to verify who had arrived.
When we entered
the dining room, we found eight round tables attractively set with white
table cloths and maroon napkins. Iced water and iced tea were both on
the table, along with three empty champagne glasses. Also on the table
was the menu for the meal, along with the recipes for each item, taken
from the French Women for All Seasons cookbook.
Another nice touch: although the tables were large enough to seat 10 people, they were set for eight. The two missing chairs were those that would have had their backs to the presentation area.
The presentation area included a show kitchen on a raised stage. To either side of the stage were large TV screens. The televised images varied from several distant views of the stage, to overhead close-ups of the food preparation area as Ms. Guiliano worked.
Once everybody was seated, canvas bags were handed out. In each bag were a signed copy of French Women for All Seasons and a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne.
As the first sampling of champagne was being poured, the MC welcomed us to the first event of the 2007 Food and Wine Festival, then asked us to drink a toast to the event and to our "new friends" seated at our table.
Next, Ms. Guiliano was introduced. She started by talking about the champagne we had been served. She explained the importance of eating something while drinking, and took a small piece of bread to enjoy with her champagne. It was ironic that at this point, we had no food available at our tables.
Ms. Guiliano then started to describe and prepare the appetizer, Leeks Mozzarella. During her demonstration, the servers brought the same dish from the "real" kitchen, so we were enjoying the dish as we watched her work. Along the way, she also provided some history of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, including the interesting fact that in the early 1800s Madame Clicquot developed the process of riddling, the method still used today to remove sediment from champagne.
As the event progressed, Ms. Guiliano described the subsequent champagnes, and prepared the entree, and finally dessert, and interspersed her descriptions with anecdotes.
What's my opinion of the event? The food was wonderful. Mireille Guiliano was an interesting and entertaining speaker. I'm certainly planning to try some of the recipes from her cookbook.
Another important question would be, "Is it worth $150 per person?" Well, that depends on what you are looking for. This is a presentation. Despite the MC telling us we would make new friends among our dining companions, I don't see how it would be possible. Because of the ongoing presentation, you couldn't have a conversation with your table mates. You could only watch, listen, and eat.
Of course, you need to subtract the value of the cookbook and the bottle of champagne. Checking online, the two come to $75. So the event itself cost around $75.
While the meal was excellent, it isn't worth the cost. You are paying to see the guest author. However, there is no opportunity to meet the author. She was introduced, did her presentation. At the end she was whisked away to do a book signing at a different Epcot venue.
If you want a fine meal with the opportunity for conversation, you money would be better spent at Victoria and Albert's, or any of Disney's other fine restaurants. If you want to see the guest author, then this is the place.
Some other random comments:
The event started late. The doors to the Odyssey didn't open until five minutes after the announced starting time, and nothing else happened for 10 more minutes.
This is a banquet event, with banquet service. Tables on one side of the room would be served and start eating, while the service continued across the room. It's a set menu, and the service isn't as attentive as you'd expect in a restaurant. For banquet style service, it was excellent, but it is still banquet style service.
While dining in another Disney restaurant recently, the manager told me that Sweet & Low was still being used at special events although it's not used in the restaurants. Sure enough, the "pink stuff" was available here. Why can't Disney provide it at all restaurants?