It seems that every year the weather gods smile on the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin’s Food & Wine Classic. Well, there was that one year – the second, in 2011, if I remember correctly – when torrential rains forced the resort’s team to move everything inside into a ballroom at the last minute. But for the most part, the outdoor event is usually held under the sort of conditions it had last weekend.
Which is to say gorgeous.
The Food & Wine Classic began in 2010 as a way of piggybacking off of the neighboring Epcot’s larger International Food & Wine Festival. It was a smart thing to do. Plenty of local food and wine fans who liked the idea of Disney’s festival cringed at having to pay the entrance fee to the park and then buy pay for any samples they wanted to try.
So Swan and Dolphin structured its event with one entrance fee and no extra charge for the food, wine and beer, no matter how much you had. And soon, it wasn’t just locals attending. According to the resort’s managers, fans were flying in from across the country specifically to experience the Food & Wine Classic.
As from the beginning, the food selections are from the myriad restaurants in the two hotels, including upscale venues like Shula’s Steak House, Todd English’s bluezoo and Kimonos. But then they started offering vendors created specifically for the event, adding barbecue, Chinese, Hawaiian and Mexican to the mix.
So it has grown to include 50 beer, wine and cocktail stations, including a whole room dedicated to only sparkling wines (the only part of the event that was not outdoors), and more than 20 food stations.
After 12 years, it has turned into a smoothly run event.
I was invited to attend Friday night’s event – some of the stations offered different items on the second night. My favorites included the lemon pepper seared salmon from Picabu.
I also liked the hand-crafted smoked pork belly from Smokin’ D’s BBQ – the D stands for Dan Herman, the Swan and Dolphin’s executive chef.
Todd English was on hand serving guests his duck birria tacos.
And throughout the evening there were bands offering entertainment.
The only things missing – as they were last year, as well – were the educational seminars that have always been a feature of the Classic. Covid-19 precautions necessitated their suspension since they are held indoors. But word is they’ll be back in 2022.