Last weekend, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hosted their annual Food and Wine Classic for it’s 12th year. While I had never attended the event personally, I had always heard great things and trust me when I say I was not disappointed.
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic is where the food and beverage department of these three (now including the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve) get to go off menu and try new things, or serve up fan favorites to from the restaurants of the resorts, including:
- The Fountain
- Shula’s Steakhouse
- Amare (the new Mediterranean restaurant at the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve)
- Cabana Bar and Beach Club
- Il Mulino New York Trattoria
- Todd English’s Bluezoo
Shortly before the event took place, I was able to speak with Chef Dan Herman about the offerings and the menu, where he told me that not only are the restaurants of the resort involved, but other concepts like Smokin’ D’s Barbecue and Frida’s Kitchen would be on scene to showcase new culinary ideas and concepts that aren’t regularly available at the resorts.
All of the booths are staged between the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin along the causeway that connects the two resorts near the Friendship boat dock. The pathway of offerings stretches down the resort’s beach up to the pool in a sort of crescent moon shape that covers most of this part of the property, with a beer garden found on the other end of the path as well.
Admission to the event includes unlimited amounts of the food and drink, with booths and tables where you approach, grab the dish, and move on. Standout items were found at Shula’s Steakhouse, where a Roasted Linz Heritage Black Angus Beef Tenderloin was so tender you can cut it with a sideways plastic fork. Pan Roasted Pork Dumplings found in Chinatown were also delicious, and the Arkansas “BLT” from Cabana Bar and Beach Club were delicious. The “BLT” consisted of double smoked bacon, pimiento cheese, iceberg lettuce, and a fried green tomato in lieu of more traditional fare.
The favorite of the event, whose menu differed depending on which night you went, was the Grilled Mahi Mahi from the new restaurant at the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, Amare. The fish was served over Tuscan kale and a toasted Fregola Sarda with a Spanish Caper sauce that had a line (for a free item) that stretched down half the causeway.
Along with all the food were about three times as many booths featuring wines, beers, and ciders. While the booths dot the causeway and beachside promenade, there are also special areas like The Bubble Lounge, which had Champagnes, Roses, and Proseccos and the Terrace Beer Garden, which had a concentration of local ales and breweries (though these permeated the event elsewhere as well).
50 (FIFTY!) Tents and tables served up wine from California, Italy, France, Oregon, Washington, Beers from around the country and in some cases, down the street in Winter Garden, Florida (Crooked Can Brewery), and even Sake and Whiskey from Japan. Personally, I kept going back to the booth featuring Lexington Brewing Co.’s Kentucky Vanilla Barrel Cream Ale and their Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Strawberry Ale. My girlfriend, who accompanied me for the evening, found herself enjoying everything in the Bubble Lounge, especially Mionetto, a Prosecco featured in the area.
While we were invited to enjoy the event, I must say that now I’m a convert, and will likely be back for years to come. The chance to try new food and new drinks while enjoying lively entertainment (concerts on the causeway, jazz singers in the bubble lounge, and a guitarist in the beer garden just to name a few) had me convinced that this is one of the greatest annual events in Central Florida. But more than that, the exceptional value that is offered for this evening of entertainment is hard to match.
A single day ticket to EPCOT, which is literally steps away from the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin, on the same night of the event went for $147.00 during the EPCOT International Food and Wine festival, where you visit each booth individually and buy whatever food you’d like from the offerings on top of the admission you’ve already paid, with individual items ranging from $4 or $5 up to $15 or $16 depending on the food or drink. Say I want to try a new soup with a wine pairing. That would cost me almost $20.00 on top of park admission, and that’s just one booth of over 30 that the event usually has. And if I don’t like it, I feel like I’ve wasted that money.
This year’s event admission for the Food and Wine Classic at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin was $165.00 per person, with unlimited food and beverages included with the admission. To me, the value speaks for itself instantly, especially when compared to the similar event next door.
I can revisit the same booths, I can enjoy food throughout the event and into the night, loading up on delicious entrees and savory desserts (I’m still thinking about the Bourbon apples from the Swan and Dolphin Pastry Kitchen) and wash it all back with hundreds of selections of drinks. My only complaint is that this event is so limited. This year, it took place on only two nights, October 29th and October 30th.
We were also treated to a special sneak preview of The VUE at the new Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, which you can read about here. While this year’s Food and Wine Classic has sadly come and gone, it will return next year so get ready to attend because if you haven’t been yet, it will be the first of an annual tradition that you’ll create for yourself.