As part of our Food and Wine Festival experience, we decided to purchase tickets to this year’s Party of the Senses. We found out that historically, famous chefs have participated in this event. This year they featured Disney chefs from around the world, cooking food representing their own culture and the Disney Parks they came from.
It was a little chaotic waiting for the party to begin. It is a popular event and it was very crowded in the entrance while we were waiting for the doors to open. If you happen to be thinking of going in the future and purchasing general admission tickets, make sure you come early. Though there are seats and tables inside, people get concerned about being able to see the show and can get very aggressive once the curtain opens. We didn’t realize we could have gotten reserved seating, but at the end of the night if you could make it through the wait in the crowd, it is still a great time and may not have mattered.
Once seated, guests can make their way through the food stations, designed as “flavorsome tributes to the sensory arts” as per Disney. You can get “bites” and drinks and if the drinks are in glasses that had the brand’s names on them, you could take them home with you as souvenirs (along with the Food and Wine Festival wine glass souvenir for every guest).
My favorite savory dish was Executive Sous Chef Tony Leung’s and Sous Chef Jason Ho’s (Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, Hong Kong, China) braised pork belly with Chinese herbs in “For Dew” wine. This dish is listed first on the souvenir program and my boyfriend and I spent most of the night locating this station. We finally found it at the opposite end from where we were sitting, and it was worth it. I went back there twice for the succulent, perfectly cooked pork in the sauce that was just the right amount of salty and herby.
Executive Chef Gregg Hannon and Chef de Cuisine Al Youngman of Epcot in Disney World’s offering was called “Duck, Duck, Goose.” I remember going to their station and seeing these bowls. They said “this is duck.” The roast duck dumpling, duck broth, duck chicharrones and goose egg royal was not your average dumpling. The duck broth and chicharrones took it to the next level.
One of the best desserts of the night was Pastry Chef Deran Lanpher of Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts’ sweet corn mousse with milk chocolate gelato and bacon crunch. Both my boyfriend and I agree on this one — we gave him high marks on taste and creativity. It reminds me of when my stepdad and my boyfriend got the chicken and waffles ice cream at the CIA’s American Bounty. There are just those chefs with a vision. We wouldn’t have thought all these ingredients would work well together but the dessert tasted not only interesting, the textures and flavors were good together.
My boyfriend loves scallops, so he tried the deep-fried mille-feuille of scallop and mushrooms duxelles with nori sauce and wasabi oil prepared by Executive Chef Masayoshi Suzuki (Tokyo Disney Resort) and Executive Chef Junichi Miyazono (Tokyo DisneySea Resort MiraCosta, Tokyo, Japan). Unfortunately, he was a little disappointed with this dish.
Another favorite dessert of ours was Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Marc Viallet’s (Disneyland Resort) and Executive Pastry Chef Jorge’s (Napa Rose and Carthay Circle Restaurant, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, Disney California Adventure Park) club 33 traditional opera cake with gianduja chocolate curl and mecker raspberry coulis. The chocolate was rich and smooth, and had a perfect amount of sweetness. The raspberry was refreshing, and when you take a bite with all the elements of the dessert in it, it combined all the taste beautifully. It also had a very elegant look that you almost did not want to put your spoon into it.
We were sitting with these two guys who would get back to the table with different dishes, and we would ask them where they found their food (they would do the same with us), which made for a fun expedition. One of those dishes was Executive Chef Robert’s and Catering Sous Chef Matt Maslowski’s (Walt Disney World Events Catering, Walt Disney World Resort) warm Florida shrimp salad with tomato-tupelo honey sorbet. I saw one of the guys with this and went on a hunt. I remember getting to the station and one of the chefs asking me, “do you like shrimp? how about gelato?” And their passion for their food was what stuck with me. Every time we go to a place when the people have passion for their food, we have such a great experience, and that is exactly what we were having that night.
I didn’t get to taste the seared high plains bison tenderloin with chanterelle tamale and goat cheese cream, prepared by Executive Chef Robert Adams and Chef Joey Guilla (Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort), but my boyfriend did and he said it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t however, one of the best dishes there.
He also said he liked the seared mushroom terrine with vegetable “couscous” and three olives-preserved lemon salsa the least, prepared by Executive Chef Michael Pythoud and Chef de Cuisine Michael Thompson of Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Disney World. I do like, however, that that Animal Kingdom chefs prepared vegetarian dishes.
I personally did not like Pastry Chef Ron Viloria’s (from Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina hi Hawaii) butter mochi cake with pineapple. The texture and taste were not reminiscent of any mochi I have ever had before, and mochi is one of my favorite things to have so I was disappointed. The pineapple taste was a little artificial to the palate.
During the start of the year, we made a resolution to eat something we’ve never had before. We have had some interesting dishes and think already fulfilled this resolution, for instance my boyfriend had wild ramps in the Pluckemin Inn in Jersey, something he has never had before. I never had venison and I decided to try it that night — it was the perfect time to do so as it was very good. My boyfriend said it is usually gamy but this time it was perfectly cooked and very flavorful. I am talking about Chef de Cuisine Tim Oakley’s (Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney World) char-crusted venison tenderloin with salsify silk, cracked black pepper jam, smoked mushroom and echo mountain blue strudel. We and the guys in our table went back to the venison station a few times.
I personally liked Fleet Culinary Standards and Consistency Chef Steve Walker’s and Disney Cruise Line Standards Traveling Chef, Disney Cruise Line Brian McLaughlin’s braised short ribs with porcini wine sauce, parsnip purer, crispy shallots and baby radish greens. I would put this on my top 3 savory dishes as I went back to this station twice. The short ribs were cooked to the right temperature, with simple flavor and the parsnip puree was silky and creamy. Everything else on the dish added to the taste of the dish.
While looking for the pork belly which I ranked as my favorite, we came across the station for the braised pork belly steam bun with green papaya salad by Chef de Cuisine Peter Bruenen (Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney World). I didn’t like it as I didn’t think the pork was as juicy and flavorful as it should have been (I have had a lot of pork in my life, it is my meat of choice).
My boyfriend’s favorite dish of the night — surprisingly, may I add, him being not a fish person — was Chef de Cuisine Tim Keating’s and Chef Tim Majoras’ (Disney’s Boardwalk, Walt Disney World) fragrantly blackened wild oceans day-boat fish taco with poblano-tomatillo-cilantro salsa, pickled onions, Epcot cucumbers, jalapenos, hearts of palm, queso fresco and crema mexicana. I tasted it and did not like it, but I always say that food is very subjective. I thought there was something that tasted too much like bell peppers and sun dried tomatoes in the dish, which I don’t eat.
There were a lot more dishes in the party that we probably did not get the chance to taste. By the end of the night, we were so full and we thought we have circled the room how many times that we did not know what we missed (even after looking through the list of dishes in the program). It was a great night of good food, good conversation in our table and trying new things. We felt very blessed to have been there, walking away happy (and with some souvenir glasses) and will definitely be willing to try it again.