Food & Wine 2010 – Party for the Senses Wine View Lounge

Background:

We’ve never attended the Party for the Senses, but when the Food & Wine Festival schedule was released for this year, we started thinking “hmmmm, that might be fun… IF we can get another couple to go with us and IF they’ll agree to pay extra for the Wine View Lounge because we aren’t fighting over table space and food.” As it turned out, Judith wanted to go and Al would only agree to that if WE agreed to go with them AND if we agreed to “do” the Wine View Lounge. It all worked out and the four of us attended Party for the Senses Wine View Lounge recently.

Now you may be asking (1) what is Party for the Senses? and (2) what is the Wine View Lounge?

Party for the Senses is a hard-ticketed event held on Saturday nights (6:30 to 9:00) during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival (at least that’s what it is in 2010, Nora seems to remember that it used to be held on multiple nights each week). Some of the visiting chefs and the resident Disney World chefs prepare one food item that will be served at the Party for the Senses. Some of the visiting wine/beer/spirit demonstrators will provide wine/beer/mixed drinks showcasing their wares. Along with the food & alcohol, in recent years small groups from La Nouba perform periodically during the event.

The Wine View Lounge is a new twist on the Party for the Senses (to the best of our knowledge, the Wine View Lounge came into being at the 2009 Food & Wine Festival). For an additional $90 per person, you and the members of your immediate party, receive a reserved table in the lounge and etched wine glasses. In addition, you have a reserved seating area for that evening’s Eat to the Beat Concert and you may enter the Party for the Senses at 5:45. You have a server assigned to your table, there is a “full” open bar available ONLY to Wine View Loungers, there is also a large cheese buffet in the Lounge, and the last exclusive we noticed during the event, an interesting dessert created on the spot using liquid nitrogen. At the end of the evening, we each received an embossed gift bag containing Werther’s Dark Chocolate & Salt Caramels, a red foam rubber nose from La Nouba, bottle openers, and a few other gee-gaws. One thing that the Wine View Lounge did not include, and we think it should (if anyone from Disney World is listening), is a reserved fireworks viewing area! By the time we left the Party, there weren’t any good spots for watching Illuminations – and honestly, if there had been a nice place to go to with cordials and chocolates or such, it would have been a wonderful way to cap off the event.

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A special sign awaited us in the foyer of the World Showplace

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Guests gathered to enjoy their champagne cocktails

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The Wine View Lounge - each table was set up for whatever that party size was. You can see the open bar over on the left hand side.

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Another view, you can see the stage for La Nouba in the far background

Entertainment… La Nouba

The evening’s entertainment was provided by various acts from La Nouba.

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The majority of the sets were musical. Nora’s complaint — they mostly sang in French. Nick’s complaint — they were too damned loud, and they got louder and louder as the evening went on. At one point, we asked our server (Jean) to get the manager – we were shouting at each other at our table and even then we could barely hear. The manager had a shouted conversation with Nick and agreed that the noise level was too loud. Now, perhaps it was exceptionally loud because the Wine View Lounge was right in front of the stage; regardless, it didn’t need to be rock-concert-loud in that venue. The manager said she’d go and see if there was any way to get the volume reduced.

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Notice, one of the singers has on rabbit-ears; we have no idea if it was because of Halloween or if this is her normal appearance (it seemed a bit strange to us)

In addition to the band and the singers, the stunt bicyclist from La Nouba performed (no photos) and the trampoline-wall-walking act performed. That was really cool! It was mesmerizing how they bounced and climbed the wall and went in and out of the windows.

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The acrobats seemed to float in mid-air as they reached the top of the wall and as they climbed into the windows

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in this photo, you can get a sense of the movement from the "red" performer

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here they're falling (?) or jumping (?) off the building

Food…

Luckily, we were provided a menu – otherwise, we’d never be able to remember what we ate!

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The various serving areas were designated by icon-shapes and colors

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Shrimp, Sausage & Grits (by Rock Harper from Chef Rock Inc., Washington, DC); Vanilla Rooibos Rubbed Wild Boar Tenderloin, Carmelized Apple Compote, Whipped Sweet Potato-Squash Puree, Game Reduction (by David Njoroge from Jiko, Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge); Lamb Soutzoukakia, Marinated Barrel Aged Feta and Phyllo Crisp (by Bobby Sayles with Cat Cora from Kouzzina, Disney's BoardWalk Inn)

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Italian 'Cigar and Ash' (by Joe Haverlin from Disney's Contemporary Resort Catering)

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Asian Tamarind Glazed Rack of Lamb with Mediterranean Polenta (by Andrew Selz from Chez Selz, Inc.); Coriander Sea Scallop with Curried Bananas (by Brian Bell from Pacific Time, Miami, FL)

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Pot Roast over Whipped Potatoes with Aromatic Root Vegetables and Wild Mushroom Gravy (by Brett McKee & Brannon Florie from Roadside Kitchen, Charleston, SC); Rabbit Rillette in Crispy Phyllo with Chile Jam (by Sutilak Martin from Liberty Tree Tavern, Magic Kingdom Park)

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Nonna's Sunday Pork Ragu (by Steven Richard from Portobello, Downtown Disney); Tacos de Pato duck tacos (by Ernesto Sandejas from San Angel Inn, Mexico Pavilion, Epcot)

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Farmer Lee Jones Heirloom Ratatouille Nicoise with Zucchini Flower, Chevere de Provencal, Tomato Broth & Fresh Herbs de Provence (by Jonathan Sawyer from The Greenhouse Tavern, Cleveland, OH)

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Shrimp, Sausage & Grits again; Quail Saltimbocca (by Terry Letson from Fume Bistro and Bar, Napa, CA)

Final Thoughts…

Judith clearly had a wonderful time! And we were all so glad that she did. We’ve talked to Al since then, the three of us agreed that if Judith wants to do it again next year (& if they add the fireworks viewing) – we’d do it without a second thought.

Nick is going to try out some earplugs to see if it helps with the noise level at other restaurants (why in the devil does everything seem so loud lately? Nora thinks it’s because people don’t have inside and outside voices anymore. This extremely loud cacophony was repeated at our two signature dinners – more on those coming soon).

Going to Party for the Senses for food … the food was clearly better than the food at the booths. Is it incredible enough to pay to go to the Party for the Senses to eat? Probably not. At least to us it isn’t. If you attend conventions with “cocktail parties” at higher end hotels or other venues (we’ve been to Sea World in California, Georgia Aquarium, and the Field Museum for these types of events in the last few years) – the Party for the Senses nothing spectacular. Enjoyable, yes but not ohmigod amazing.

All that being said – we had a good time and would go again with friends. We certainly wouldn’t spend the money to go just the two of us.

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