The next morning, I got up, tarted up, packed up, checked out, and zipped over to Epcot in the rental car for my first-ever Food & Wine Festival seminar.
Once again, the Festival Center was waaaaay out in the hinterlands of Epcot at the Wonders of Life Pavilion.
Stumbling upon a CUTCO sales booth, I stifled a shriek and leapt behind the nearest potted palm. Cautiously, I parted its leaves and peered at the shills behind the knife display, scanning for signs of “Trevor” (Patrick’s name for all of my exes), a CUTCO acolyte with whom I’d had a short-lived long-distance relationship that ended when I realized the only thing we had in common was our mutual interest in him.
Finally satisfied that Trevor was off cutting pennies with kitchen shears at some other convention that day, I sidled over to the check-in table for my seminar (possibly holding a palm frond in front of my face as I went).
Because this is Disney fans we’re talking about here, people were already lined up, even though we were told to go enjoy the rest of the pavilion after checking in and to just come back a few minutes before 10am.
The seminar was one of the weekly Sweet Sundays events, at which a famous pastry chef prepares three treats while the audience chows down on a buffet and knocks back a glass or five of Champagne. I figured the brunch and focus on desserts made it more worth this teetotaler’s festival dollar than, say, a wine pairing seminar.
At 10am they let us into the event space and everyone scrambled for a table. I got as close as I could, with a good angle for taking pictures.
A friendly server offered to take pictures of me, so here you have rare shots of Lurkyloo in the wild…
Disney had crammed six of us at each table and then PILED each place setting with useless Martini-logo promo items: a vinyl pouch, a notepad, pencils, a bottle stopper, and a brochure in addition to four cups and glasses and four sets of silverware per person. Snug!
Oh yeah, and they’d still found room for centerpieces!
I dumped all the promo shwag into my hat and stashed it in a nearby plant, then asked the waitress to remove the various cups and glasses for drinking stuff I don’t drink. Much better!
The chef’s workspace was similarly cluttered…
After everyone was seated, the waitstaff let us know when each table could go behind the plant wall to the hit the buffet.
It was your typical Disney convention food—beautiful presentation, mediocre execution—like bland quiches, chewy bacon, doughy bread rolls shaped like croissants… at least there were Mickey waffles!
On the bill for this Sweet Sunday was Warren Brown, owner of CakeLove Washington, DC and host of the Food Network’s Sugar Rush. He was assisted by CakeLove’s Mary Meyers and Kim LaMore, and the host of the presentation was Disney Parks Blog food writer Pam Brandon. Pam turned out to be far less exasperating in person because you can’t hear typos…
For about 90 minutes, Brown demonstrated how to make three different sweets—Hoosier Cream Pie, Coffee Cake, and Sweet Potato Cake—and passed out full dessert-sized portions to try. Overhead cameras captured the action up close and broadcast it on monitors.
Meanwhile, Brandon would interject descriptions at regular intervals as yet another glass of alcohol was passed out—I think there were about five by the time we finished—and jokes about drinking so early in the day flowed as freely as the booze.
When Brown told us that cinnamon and nutmeg are his favorite spices, he wasn’t kidding. They were in EVERYTHING, and everything tasted the same. It was well made (the cakes were tender and moist, the frosting just sweet enough) but I felt like I was eating three different shapes of the same thing.
Overall, I enjoyed the mostly stress-free experience and convenience of the higher priced event over the long lines and crowding of the low-priced cooking demos, but $75 seems too high for what you get. Oh wait, unless you count all the booze. Again it was reinforced to me that the International Food & Wine Festival is really geared toward those who know and like wine and spirits.
On my way out, I grabbed shots of some of the other “deminars,” as I believe the Food & Wine Festival regulars call them…
By this time, I was playing an epic game of text tag with Sam from Disneymooner.com in order to set up an interview for my Inside Disney Weddings podcast. What I love about Disney World is that it makes it so easy to meet up with Disney fans from all over the (real) world, because everyone goes there at some point. Thanks to WDW, I’ve been able to meet with people from all over the country, plus Canada and, in Sam’s case, the UK—sometimes more frequently than I see friends who live in LA!
Sam and I finally were able to meet up in the lobby of the Dolphin, and she turned out to be one of those wonderful people who instantly makes you feel like you’ve known her forever. We ended up talking and talking, then getting French fries and a milkshake, then more talking—and this was all before the interview! I was just so excited to be hanging out with another Disney bride and weddings fan that I wouldn’t shut up.
Eventually I realized I’d better start recording the interview before one or both of us lost our voices, so we hunted down the quietest place we could find—the bottom floor of the Swolphin convention center at the end of a hall, as far away from whatever was generating that incessant hum as possible. Sam was very patient as I fiddled with the iPhone recording app and then shoved my phone in her face like a microphone. You can hear what we talked about by clicking HERE and scrolling down to Episode 11!
After I said “ta” to Sam, I was completely knackered, so I took the lift to pick up my baggage from bell services, put it in the boot of my lorry and legged it for my next resort. I may also have picked up a few new vocab words from Sam…
Off to Old Key West!
I was looking forward to trying out Old Key West—partly because it’s one of the cheapest DVC resorts to buy into and one of the easiest to book a room at, so I sometimes fantasize about buying a teeny tiny contract there just so I can own DVC. Or I did until they introduced Premium Annual Passes, which made the DVC discount on regular WDW annual passes (foolishly my greatest incentive for buying DVC) irrelevant. I also hoped to take lots of pictures of a newly refurbished room at Old Key West for PassPorter’s Disney Vacation Club Guide. Except that when I checked in, no amount of wheedling would get them to put me in a refurbished room. On the bright side, I had been upgraded from a studio to an accessible one-bedroom unit. I really dislike the bathrooms in accessible units, but hooray for free in-room laundry!!!
I’ve always liked the exteriors at Old Key West—the pastel colors are so cheery against the tropical landscaping.
The unit was clean, but it definitely had that shabbily spartan aura of corporate housing or a rental cabin. I wondered if they even bothered to do more than clean it since it was due to be renovated; there were several burned-out light bulbs, along with the usual scuffs and dings and scratches. My view was slightly swampy, and the main road went right past my windows—no Risky Business-style underwear boogie for ME!
The accessible bathroom was sort of like two bathrooms. There was a room with one sink and a ginormous old-skool Jacuzzi tub (which turned out to be my second-favorite place), then another room with roll-in shower, toilet and another sink.
The first order of business was to get cleaned up for my highly anticipated dinner at Jiko. While that happens, please enjoy this photo of one of Old Key West’s permanent residents:
And then I was off to dinner!
Food & Wine Fest + Free Dining = PACKED Jiko! I had to wait 45 minutes past my ADR to get a table, which means I had plenty of time to take pictures.
Then, once I finally got a seat and placed my order, I had to wait ANOTHER 45 minutes to get my food! The thing is, I’m not sure this was an isolated incident—when I was back there this March, 5 months later, I once again had to wait 45 minutes after ordering to get my food. They need to revamp the management of that kitchen!
I got my usual, and it was excellent as always, but the slowness of the service left a bad taste in my mouth.
There’s never anything fruit-free on Jiko’s dessert menu, so I set out for Downtown Disney and Ghirardelli.
First I stopped in at the (now) late, lamented Basin store. OK, true, I never shopped there in Anaheim cuz it’s right across the street from Sephora, but in Florida it was a great place to treat yourself to a bath bomb for your ginormous Jacuzzi tub! Fortunately there’s still one at the Grand Floridian… Actually, what they really need at Downtown Disney is a Lush store.
They were doing stand-up at the new Marketplace stage. Wait, didn’t they used to have an ENTIRE CLUB for comedy at Downtown Disney? Sheesh!
I also stopped in at Goofy’s Candy Co. to pick up a giant Oreo for later—after all, I needed to put something in my huge kitchen!
It was SUPER-crowded in Ghirardelli, and unusually filthy. I mean, all ice cream parlors seem to be slightly grubby for some reason (is it the stickiness of the ice cream?), but this was pretty bad even for a place staffed by high school kids.
I forgot to ask for a sidecar of hot fudge, so I had to make due with the merest suggestion of it in my hot fudge sundae.
When I got back to my cavernous cabin at Old Key West, I had a nice Skype chat with Patrick before discovering that I’d left my camera battery charger in my room at the Swolphin…