It’s not often you’ll stroll through Walt Disney World and find an event that competes directly with another Disney event. Believe it or not such an event exists. In fact, this event is in its second year. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts are considered partner hotels, but are owned and operated by the Starwood hotel brand. Each year the Swan and Dolphin resorts host a food and wine event that rivals EPCOT’s Food and Wine Festival. The past two years the Swan and Dolphin’s Food & Wine Classic has taken place around the second weekend of October. Usually around the time EPCOT kicks off their annual Food and Wine Festival. Call it a coincidence, but these two events come together when many Disney World foodies converge on the mega resort.
I was fortunate to be able to attend this year’s Food & Wine Classic at the Swan and Dolphin Resort on Friday evening, October 7th. After spending a lot of time inside EPCOT’s World Showcase enjoying the Food and Wine Festival I was looking forward to the change of pace and scenery this event would provide. The event takes place along the causeway that connects the two hotels. It also extends out along a pathway leading to the resort’s mega pool. Approximately 35 food and wine booths are setup along the pathways. Technically, admission to this event is free; however, if you want to sample some of the various food and wine you will have to purchase individual tickets or a wristband. The wristband provides you unlimited sampling at the various food and wine booths. In my opinion the wristband is a much better value. Just make sure you come to this event hungry. Portion sizes are a little bigger than just a sampling.
Food & Wine Classic Fast Facts
When – The event is typically held the second weekend of October on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:30PM until 9:00PM.
Cost per ticket - $1 Most booths require 5 or 6 tickets for a sampling.
Wristband - $74 Provides unlimited food and drink sampling throughout the event evening.
Food booths – They are represented by restaurants inside the Swan & Dolphin resorts like Shula’s and Il Mulino. A few Orlando area restaurants are represented as well. Some booths serve terrific dessert samples.
Drink booths – Most booths offer wine from various wineries across the country and around the globe. Some booths offer other alcoholic beverages like beer and sake.
What really sets this event apart from the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT? Well, it is in a much smaller space. The food and drink booths are closer together making the event feel more intimate. Another difference is the food comes directly from restaurants located inside the Swan and Dolphin hotels. Even Shula’s Steakhouse is in attendance serving Angus beef. If you purchased a wristband you can visit these booths as much as you’d like. There’s also a band playing on stage near the large fountain just outside the Dolphin hotel. The music is not overbearing and provides a nice compliment to the event. The Swan and Dolphin have learned that chairs and tables are very important to their food and wine event. There’s plenty of seating and tables available for guests who are attending the event. You will not have to worry about walking and eating or enjoying your food on top of a garbage can. There are also wine and mixology educational seminars inside the resort's conference center. they are usually well attended and require an admission fee of $35 each. Another great added touch is some of the celebrity chefs are onsite handing out food and drink samples. they greet guests individually. I was able to meet Todd English and even speak with him for a couple of minutes.
Celebrity Chef Todd English and I spend a few minutes together sharing a laugh and discussing lobster roll
This event does have a few flaws that need to be discussed. Hopefully, these problems will be addressed for the 2012 Food & Wine Classic. First of all there was only 1 booth serving non-alcoholic beverages. To top it off you had to purchase water or soft drinks from the booth for $2 even if you had a wristband. I do enjoy a few alcoholic beverages, but if all I’m able to drink the entire evening is wine, sake, and moonshine with my wristband I might have to good of a time later on during the event. Also consider some of the guests attending this event have driven their cars. If you don’t offer or encourage the consumption of non-alcoholic beverages it may create a dangerous situation outside of the event. Secondly, the number of drink booths greatly out-weighed the number of food booths. This wasn’t a huge problem because there were some great selections of food; however, a little more balance would have been welcomed. Since the number of food booths was limited the lines became very long, especially as the evening moved along. It did rain later that night and some booths did close, but you can’t blame the event staff for poor weather conditions. Some booths did stay open allowing guests to sample the great food available throughout the evening.
Overall this is a terrific event. I love the Food & Wine Festival at EPCOT, but this event is more enjoyable. Some of the flaws in EPCOT’s festival are fixed with the Food & Wine Classic. In my opinion, this event provides a better value since you can purchase an unlimited food and drink wristband. If only EPCOT offered an unlimited food and drink option. I wonder what something like that would cost? I hope next year’s Food & Wine Classic is expanded beyond one weekend. This event holds a lot of promise and I’m certain if it was expanded beyond one weekend it would still be well attended.
If you plan on visiting Walt Disney World during the second week of October in 2012 definitely consider attending the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic. It’s a great evening that can especially be enjoyed by couples. For more information about this past year’s Food & Wine Classic you can visit the event’s website here. It can help you prepare for next year's event (October 12th & 13th 2012) if you are thinking about attending. Give this event serious consideration because it is a strong alternative and competitor to EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival.
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Some photos courtesy of the Swan & Dolphin Resort