First Bites Opening Reception will be an Intimate -- and Exclusive -- Gathering

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I’ve got some more details about the First Bites Opening Reception that will kick off the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. First Bites will be Sept. 30 -- the evening before the official opening of the festival. It’s beginning to sound like a pretty good party.

And well it should be for the $195 ticket price, not including the cost of getting into Epcot, which is sort of required since that’s where it will be. But it won’t be in the World Showplace, the gargantuan hangar of a venue where the Parties for the Senses are held. First Bites will take place in the Festival Welcome Center where, during the actual festival, many of the wine seminars and culinary demonstrations will be. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is a more intimate setting, because it’s still a sizable venue, but it will be a more intimate gathering: whereas the PftSs attract 1100 guests each Saturday, the FBOR will likely have only 200-300 guests.

And since it’s called First Bites, that means there will be plenty of foods for you to, um, bite. First. In a sort of mountain coming to Mohammed kind of thing, foods from some of the featured nations’ kiosks will be sampled without guests having to trudged around the lagoon and stand in line with mortals. I’m not saying there won’t be lines at this thing, but it’s indoors. With air conditioning. And according to festival planner Michael Jenner, the foods that will be offered will be the more high-toned items, such as the Irish lobster and scallop fisherman’s pie that was such a huge hit when it debuted last year, and the lamb sliders from Australia. And, the foods will be served on china (little c -- plates, not the country).

Besides the first bites there will also be opportunities for initial imbibements. There will be mini wine seminars and beer tastings, but instead of the usual hour-long classes, these will last only 10-15 minutes, and guests will be at cocktail tables instead of the long classroom tables. I’ve seen the list of wines, and you won’t be disappointed. There will also be a cocktail or two

Keegan Gerhard from the Food Network will do a display with Norman Love; Mike McCarey of Mike’s Amazing Cakes is creating a commemorative confection; and there will be special performances by Cirque du Soleil and Taylor Dayne. Afterwards, it is believed that Dayne will walk around the event just like a person.

The festival merchandise store will be open for purchases, but I’m also led to believe there will be a goodie bag for attendees.

First Bites Opening Reception is Thursday, Sept. 30, from 6:30-9 p.m. Cost is $195, which includes tax and gratuity but not park admission. For tickets, call the festival hotline at 407-939-3378.

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