*This culinary demonstration took place on October 2, 2013. This does not reflect a typical culinary demo experience at Food & Wine as I was able to connect with the Raglan Road staff ahead of time. Guests attending culinary demonstrations with a special diet should contact WDW’s Special Diets Department in advance.
Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival offers a variety of culinary and mixology demonstrations which provide unique food experiences at a reasonable price. Many of Epcot’s signature experiences are quite costly, and I have found that these demos provide wonderful experiences at a fraction of the cost. It’s nice to get just a taste of what the Food & Wine experiences are about.
In the past, I’ve been to a few culinary demos that have provided sort of hit or miss experiences with a special diet. For the most part, I’ve been able to get a modified version of the featured dish, though it hasn’t always proven the most tasty versions.
I was particularly excited this year when I went through the demo list to see Chef Kevin Dundon from Raglan Road would be returning. I’d not been to his demos before, but I was thrilled at the idea of going because I had been working with Raglan Road for our upcoming Lunch & Learn on October 12, 2013. I had mentioned to the manager I’d been working with at Raglan Road that I would be attending the event, in addition to contacting the Special Diets Department.
|Line at the demo|
Upon arriving at the Welcome Center, where the festival is held, I met with cast members at the demo venue to alert them that I had a special diet and that I had been in contact with Special Diets & the chef (via RR) ahead of time. This is something I highly recommend to anyone attending a demo. It’s a good idea because the CMs know who you are and can easily recognize you. Another tip is that I tend to sit in the back, so that if they have questions they can speak with me without interrupting or making any big intrusion on the demo itself.
|Recipe for the trout dish|
I was very excited because Chef Kevin was featuring trout as his protein, and I’m a huge fish fan. I also love that when you arrive at a demo, you have the featured recipe available. I could tell right away that I would be mostly OK with the trout minus the Champagne Lemon Butter Emulsion (which sounded amazing).
|Amy Meddins (Wine Representative) and John Ekin (WDW Emcee)|
First up was a brief introduction to the featured wine pairing for this demo. Amy talked about the Chalone Estate Vineyard Chardonnay, although I will say her discussion was much briefer than some of the demos I’ve experienced. I actually quite liked this as it gave us more time with Chef Kevin, who had not one but two dishes, and also gave us an opportunity to chat with Amy afterwards. Emcee John Ekin is always very good and quite entertaining. It’s pretty obvious that they have a good rapport and that they are seasoned pros at this.
|Our wine sample. I quite liked it, and it paired nicely with the trout.|
|Chef Kevin begins his demo|
I will say that I had not seen Chef Kevin live before. He’s very personable, fun, and makes the demo light-hearted and funny! And you really learn a lot. I appreciated that he really gave us his culinary viewpoint and his perspectives on fresh, sustainable ingredients. You can also tell how much he highly values simple & quality ingredients. He talked a lot about some of the problems with getting really fresh & quality fish in Florida (crazy, but true!) and that he gets his fish from the fishmonger Foley’s in Boston.
There’s definitely a high level of attention to detail in every part of Raglan Road and the food served there. It was rather impressive to hear some of the things that they do to ensure that quality. Here’s a brief video from the demo that I shot of him explaining about fish.
Of course, a demo wouldn’t be a demo without some shameless plugging of books and kitchen gadgets, etc. And this one was no exception. Chef Kevin has tons of great books and even some fantastic pans. I loved that he really made this funny as our emcee talked with him about them. Humor was definitely a theme throughout this presentation.
In fact, one lovely audience member got to experience this first-hand as he called her on stage. There was some fun banter between the two of them, and he even left the stage at one point telling her to finish her dish as she answered a food related question. And of course, he popped back up on the other side of the stage to surprise her.
All the while, Chef Kevin was actually cooking (not something you see at every demo). He really described his dish well and explained his choices and how Irish cooking really is very simple & flavorful! I was so excited to see that when the tastings came out, I actually had a very similar looking dish to the dish others were being served. Mine of course was missing the potato mash and the sauce, but otherwise, it was a very composed dish.
I have to say, that bar none, this was the best culinary tasting I’d been to at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, to date. The fish was so flavorful and perfectly cooked. The fish was very crispy and yet maintained its delicate texture. I was in love with the toasted almonds and the green bean salad that accompanied it. It was seriously amazing. Paired with the wine, this was an excellent dish.
As we finished Chef Kevin began discussing dessert. He had a lemon tart that was to be served as the second course. Now, normally you only get one dish to taste at a demo like this, so this was a real treat for guests to have two. Based on the recipe, I really expected that I wouldn’t get anything or maybe just some fresh berries and I was OK with that. However, what happened next turned out to be a big surprise for me. Chef Kevin asked if I was in the audience. Uh-oh! I knew where this was going — Sarah was going to officially be a part of the demo! He asked if I could come on stage.
|Hey that’s me!|
Chef Kevin talked a lot about how Celiac disease is very common in Ireland and how they try to make their dishes as naturally GF as possible. He also asked me about my special diets and if I was celiac or gluten intolerant. It was nice because it provided a quick opportunity to discuss the seriousness of being GF and how chefs can address this. The audience could also learn how Raglan Road offers a very gluten free friendly menu because of this. I really appreciated Chef Kevin’s very good knowledge of gluten free diets but also the fact that he was making me a dessert, which is a rare treat. As he said it was for me to feel “spoiled rotten.” Love this!
|This photo is copyright http://www.extrawdwmagic.com/|
I have to say, I was pretty nervous up there, but Chef Kevin really tried to put me at ease. That and Amy also offered me up some extra wine–that always helps! The dish he prepared for me was super simple, and I really want to make it at home. It was a homemade meringue which he toasted and a compote of fresh mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) which had been mixed with some sugar, fresh squeezed orange juice, and flambeed with Grand Marnier (or Cognac…I was a bit too excited to remember). It looked gorgeous and almost too good to eat (well almost!)
|This may have been one of my most favorite desserts I’ve ever had. Seriously!|
This dessert was so amazing. As you can tell by the photo, this was very a very light yet rich dessert. The meringue was out of this world! And the toasted part of the meringue, even better. I can’t even tell you how good the berries were in that simple sauce. It was honestly divine.
|Me with Chef Kevin|
As an overall, this was hands down the most dynamic and wonderful demo that I’ve been too. And not just because I was treated to delicious food (which I was) but also because Chef Kevin has a great presentation style and real enthusiasm and passion for food. It really exudes from him! He was so wonderfully kind and accommodating to my dietary needs that I can’t wait until next year’s demos. In fact, I’m hoping to participate in his big dinner that he usually hosts at Raglan Road. I think it will be a true treat.
A special thanks to Chef Kevin, the Raglan Road team, and the cast members who made my visit extra special.
For another terrific, non-special diets related review of this demo, head over to my friends at Extra Walt Disney World Magic for their review of the demo. They have amazing photos of the entire demonstration, with lots of great up close shots and descriptions of the demo itself! You can find that review HERE.