2013 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – Culinary Demonstration – lobster “yes”, what we expected “no”

Well, this was supposed to be a lobster dish with Ben Sergeant… it wasn’t. It was a lobster dish with a Disney chef (we were trying to avoid the Disney chefs this year, their demos just aren’t as good – we don’t consider Kevin Dundon to be a Disney chef, he’s Ireland’s Chef!)…

Pam Smith was hosting and introducing – she assured us that the butter poached lobster with lobster ravioli was going to be a “phenomenal” pairing with the Iron Horse Chardonnay.

Culinary Demostration Lobster Ravioli by Chef Nicholas Crispino - 2013 Epcot Food Wine Festival - 1

Winemaker Dave Munksgard and Hostess Pam Smith

Dave Munksgard has been presenting his wines at Food & Wine for at least 7 years – his presentation was one of the best we’ve seen from an actual winemaker (well, we really liked Jim Bernau from Willamette Valley Vineyards). Iron Horse Vineyards began in 1976 and it continues to be family run and operated, Dave isn’t a family member but he’s been there quite a while making wines. Some things we found interesting:

  • The name Iron Horse came from a train that stopped at Ross Station at the turn of the 20th Century. The logo, the rampant horse on a weathervane, came from an actual weathervane that was unearthed when they were leveling the ground to build the winery.
  • A cluster of Chardonnay grapes (well, wine grapes in general) is made up of hens and chicks (“hens” are large berries and “chicks” are little berries) – the “chicks” are particularly prized in making wine because of the high concentration of flavors
  • Nearly all vineyards had clonal variations of vines from somewhere else. It wasn’t uncommon in history for someone to just take (a.k.a. steal) clippings in winter months to populate their own vineyards – we drank a toast to “pirate winemakers and grape growers”

So, what did we think? You all know by now, we aren’t chardonnay drinkers (usually too oaky, too buttery, too sour)… Nick’s comment “they say balanced, I say sour.” I thought that it smelled very sour and acidic and oaky = yuck. Swirling it around didn’t help the nose at all. I thought the taste was quite sour but there wasn’t a lot of oak. [I think we just don’t like Chardonnay grapes.]

Chef Nick Crispino from Cinderella Castle (soon to be at Be Our Guest)

Chef Nick Crispino from Cinderella Castle (soon to be at Be Our Guest)

There’s not a whole lot to say about the cooking method and such for this dish. It’s interesting that the lobster atop our ravioli were poached in butter (NOT fried in butter), we had oil poached eggs in Scotland and we’ve had butter poached fish dishes before. Here’s the recipe – it’s a long one… culinary demo november 9 2013

Butter Poached Lobster Ravioli with White Wine Butter Sauce

Butter Poached Lobster Ravioli with White Wine Butter Sauce

First of all, it was lobster and ricotta ravioli topped with butter poached lobster and a white wine butter sauce.

Secondly, see those dark bits on the lobster? That stuff was tough and crunchy (yuck, Nick has just begun to like lobster and this was really off-putting for him), this membrane should have been removed before serving. Oh, did I mention that it was cold?

Culinary Demostration Lobster Ravioli by Chef Nicholas Crispino - 2013 Epcot Food Wine Festival - 3

interior of ravioli

The raviolis themselves were cold and not even at al dente, they were tough. It may be that they were al dente when cooked, but they sat around for so long that they dried out. Nick’s actual comment “that ravioli sucks”

The sauce (what little bit there was) was tasty, but not what is given in the recipe. The recipe has tomato in the white wine sauce – we didn’t get that (and I suspect that there were other deficiencies in what we received versus the recipes).

The wine was better with the food than without. ‘Nough said.

Lobster and ravioli

Lobster and ravioli

Okay, I’m going to rant for a bit now…

We specifically decided to avoid Disney World Chefs this year. Why? Because the food is usually subpar. If that’s what they’re serving in their signature dining restaurants, they should be ashamed. Kevin Dundon would have a freaking cow on-stage if his food came out at the same quality level as what the Disney Chefs’ food usually comes out.

There must be a few things going on –

  • The Disney Chefs just assume that things are going to be handled according to their instructions AND they don’t actually supervise what’s going on back there
  • The junior chefs actually doing the food preparation are way out of their league when it comes to cooking

Yes, there is a decent sized group of people at the culinary demonstrations, but for crying out loud people! You KNOW the venue, you KNOW how many plates you have to serve, you KNOW the timing for serving the food – is it so difficult to get it right?

Food on stage looks great, and I’m pretty darned sure it tastes great. Do you remember last year when we actually tasted a cake made by Warren Brown INSTEAD of the cakes made for the demonstration guests and the Sweet Sundays guests?

I think that it’s becoming a common theme with the Food & Wine Festival – the marketplace booths are generally not impressive (and sometimes downright disappointing unless you’re very judicious), the culinary demos by Disney food & beverage staff are consistently poor, and the beverage demos are downright sad. If you get lucky on your dates and your choices, I’m sure you may have a stellar experience. Since, we’ve been able to go to Food & Wine repeatedly throughout the Festival, it’s clear that there’s a MAJOR lack of consistency on every level.

Which is a shame, because the food and the experience at the lunches is always pleasant (even if not to our tastes) AND the food booths during Flower & Garden 2013 did an outstanding job compared to Food & Wine 2012 and Food & Wine 2013.

Now, I’m going to shut up (and hope that our last culinary demonstration is a good one!)



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