On Oct. 27, we stepped into the lobby of the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel ready to fill our bellies at the 9th Annual Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic. But first we headed down the hallway to the seminar area to learn about wine blending from the pros. The Wine Blending seminar is held alongside nine others. The list also includes Italian Wines, Base to Bubbles, Beer Please, Riesling So Sweet & So Dry, Craft Cocktails, Fine Art of Sushi and Sake, The Cheese Course, Pasta Making and Grand Tasting Experience.
When we took our seats, there were five wines in front of us – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec – in addition to a cheese plate. Instructor Luciano Sperduto, the property’s director of food and beverage and a certified sommelier, began by explaining that “wine is exclusive to you.” That means everyone tastes wine differently. Then he went over the flavor profile of all five wines, noting what each one would bring to a meritage blend (or a blend that includes at least three of the five wines on the table). Interesting enough, the body of each wine was likened to a type of milk, from skim to full milk, to make it a bit more familiar. To end the seminar, we blended our own wine and had a chance to sip before heading out to the causeway.
Next, it was onto the main event. In addition to the booths along the causeway between the Swan and Dolphin hotels, the tasting portion of the evening was separated into five themed areas: Beer Garden, Bubble Lounge, Carnival Corner, Chinatown and The Pig & Poke. Each one had its own selection of bites and accompanying alcoholic options. The brand new The Pig & Poke area was a standout for me. Situated on the resort’s private beach with soothing live music in the background, I felt truly transported to the Pacific islands. One of my favorite dishes of the evening was the Tuna Poke, a delicate Hawaiian yellowfin tuna over sushi rice, avocado relish and crispy fried wontons.
I also couldn’t get enough of every item in the Carnival Corner. The Little Smokies with barbecue sauce and crumbled Cheez-Its were playful while the Frito Pie and Mac Attack with beef barbacoa offered substantial tasty servings. For dessert, the Funfetti Fried Oreo Cookie was warm, fluffy and perfectly sweet, even when dipped in the rich dark chocolate ganache.
The main causeway menu differed between Friday and Saturday nights for the most part, except for the sought-after Oven Roasted Beef Rib Eye from Shula’s Steakhouse. That was actually the first line we jumped in to ensure we got a piece. Other favorites of ours included the Chimichurri Lobster Taco with generous portions of lobster meat, cauliflower and squash blossom on a corn tortilla as well as the Braised Beef Agnolotti, plump pockets of beef with caponato agrodolce, baby leeks and glace de viande “mornay” sauce.
The Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic is held every year at the end of October. It’s a not-to-be-missed foodie event.
Here’s a look at just some of this year’s mouthwatering menu.
2018 By the Numbers
90 food and beverage stations
12,000 agnolotti made fresh in-house
6,400 pieces of sushi
3,000 handmade pork dumplings
625 pounds of mac ‘n cheese
125 Peking ducks
70+ certified wine sommeliers on staff at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin
60+ participating wineries
11 wine regions represented
26 beer vendors
2 featured steaks
5 themed areas
11 resort restaurants represented
10 interactive food and beverage seminars
6 live musical acts
3 acts making their festival debut
9 years of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic