Last weekend we had the pleasure of attending the ninth annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic. The event was held Friday and Saturday evenings, Oct. 26 and 27, and featured the talents of the resorts best chefs and dozens of beverage vendors. We were invited by the Swan and Dolphin Resort to attend the event for this review and it included the opportunity to enjoy a seminar ahead of the main causeway event.
There are 11 different seminars offered at the Classic. We ended up attending the Wine Blending seminar — a $50 per person add-on that started at 4:30 p.m. and lasted right up until the Crescent Lake causeway opened for the full event at 5:30 p.m.
The enthusiastic and knowledgeable instructor Luciano Sperduto is a certified sommelier and director of Food & Beverage at the Swan and Dolphin. And he had his hands full with us, two people who know next to nothing about wine and typically opt for the strongest margarita we can find. I mean, my husband noticed a stain on his wine-blending pipette and called it “this straw thingy,” so, yeah, we’re pretty much elitists.
We started the seminar with six glasses of red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Sperduto took us through each one, explaining them in detail before having us sample and then cleanse our palates with (my favorite part) a yummy cheese and bread spread.
Full disclosure: The seminar wasn’t totally full, so I may have pulled another basket of bread off an empty table.
It all culminated with the opportunity to use that fancy straw thingy to blend our own meritage. To do that, we’d fill up the pipette for every 10% of wine we wanted in our blend, mixing it all together in another glass. Mine ended up with 10% Cab Sauvignon, 50% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot (So fruity! This was my clear fav) and 20% Malbec.
I wish I could tell you if it was any good, in official wine terms, but it didn’t taste bad! And it was a lot of fun to make. I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to pay $50 to do wine blending again, but I’m glad I did it! Next time, maybe the Cheese Course or Pasta Making seminar? That’s more my speed.
Once 5:30 p.m. hit, some people were still sipping their meritage blends, but all the bread baskets were empty and we weren’t wasting any food time, so we headed out to the causeway.
It’s no secret that people love dogs. Many of those same people also love hanging with friends over a cold beer or a good cup of coffee. Sadly, most venues won’t let you enjoy both. Jason Underwood and Lauren Wyckoff developed the concept for BrewHound, an off-leash dog park with an open-air bar, to create a common ground for people to enjoy all of what they love in a natural setting.
“That’s really what we want to generate is this core community of animal lovers and a place for everybody to hang out and share ideas,” says Wyckoff. “It’s a cool way to get people out of their comfort zone and doing other things, not just being there, but the bigger picture of coordinating stuff together and getting back to the center of what it’s all about.”
Located on an acre of wooded land between Florida and Atlantic boulevards in Neptune Beach, BrewHound will offer designated areas for small and large breed dogs, trail maps, a bicycle pump station and “the porch” where guests can enjoy a craft beer, glass of wine, or locally roasted Bold Bean coffee. The property is also situated on the East Coast Greenway and connects to a new 1,050-foot paved trail which runs along Florida Boulevard from Fifth Street to A1A.
The 1,200-square-foot open air beer garden will be open to anyone with or without a dog. Daily, weekly or monthly membership fees will be required to enter the leash-free area to ensure all dogs are current with their vaccinations. Discounted rates will be offered on annual memberships for all current service-members, veterans, and first responders.
“Ruffarees” will be on hand to monitor behavior and even keep an eye on your pup while you refresh your drink. “We figured we should be able to take our dogs literally everywhere we go to hang out,” says Underwood. “So, we had this crafty idea of combining both the social setting and dogs, off leash.”
When the couple first unleashed the concept for BrewHound, they had recently rescued their third dog and were missing the new addition to their family while they were out of town. The idea started brewing over poolside cocktails, fittingly Greyhounds. Both Underwood and Wyckoff are environmental scientists who share a love of the outdoors. Whether camping, hiking or just enjoying nature, their three dogs, Too, Wicket and Scrambles, are always in tow. A project like BrewHound was the perfect way to fuse their love of dogs with their passion for the outdoors.
“They say that ideas come and go, and not every one is a winner. But when you find one that’s a winner right off the bat, you either make it happen or you let it cruise on by,” says Underwood. “What I didn’t know was on the way home, Lauren’s wheels were turning.”
With her entrepreneurial spirit in overdrive, Wyckoff quickly catalogued the couple’s available resources. By the following week, she’d framed a business plan, developed marketing strategies and tapped into her professional network to get the dog park off the ground. The pair worked with The Pratt Guys to complete renderings of the property and an architect helped develop the engineering plans for city approval.
The pair researched similar projects located in progressive, metropolitan markets including Seattle, Austin and Charlotte and realized that a mixed-use park would be the perfect fit for the Beaches community. “The beach is such a unique community. There is culture, but you still have that small-town feel,” says Wyckoff. “There’s a bit of everything, so I thought what a cool place to do something like that. What if we could find some land?”
Underwood tapped into money he saved from his yearlong deployment to Afghanistan to buy the oddly-shaped and overgrown parcel of land. After finally closing on the property in April, the couple have invested countless hours clearing the brush and cutting away branches on their own to reveal a diamond in the “ruff.”
“I had some money saved up from when I was in the Army, so I said, ‘let’s make it happen. It really does make a difference when you just get outside. That’s why we’re really trying to make this a space for people to do that,” he says. “After work, take your dog and let him run crazy and get tired, and you don’t have the guilt factor of wanting to take your dog out but want to go to dinner or happy hour. So, you either let your dog out real quick and leave again or don’t go anywhere. This way you can do both.”
Being a combat veteran also played a significant role in his appreciation for pups and the services they provide for men and women who have experienced combat. He joined the Army right out of college, serving as a maneuver platoon leader with the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado. At 24, he was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan in the summer of 2010.
He remembers Cali, a stray puppy he encountered on patrol in Kandahar during a routine patrol of the city. Underwood recalls the small mixed breed pup sniffing around outside of one of the patrol base gates. They named her “Cali” after the small company-sized outpost they manned in Kandahar.
“There were signs posted around some of the bigger bases overseas stating that under no circumstances were soldiers to befriend or even pet stray animals, but after nine straight months of being over there with no break, I didn’t pay much thought to what the signs said,” remembers Underwood. “I was going to get that puppy and hold it, pet it, name it, and carry it around wherever I could until someone made me stop. Metaphorically, that little puppy was a lit candle in a dark room. We kept her for as long as we could until we were moved to a new position in the city. Unfortunately, we couldn’t bring her with us.”
After he got out of the Army, Underwood left Anchorage, Alaska, behind to start a new life in Florida with Wyckoff and her dog Too, whom she rescued off the street in Orlando over 12 years ago. While he was tying up loose ends in Alaska, Wyckoff rescued Wicket, a feisty little border-collie mix, from the Clay County kill shelter. With Underwood finally settled in Florida for good, the couple brought home Scrambles, a food-crazy hound mix, from the Amelia Island Humane Society.
Underwood also decided it was time to seek treatment for anxiety and trauma he experienced during his time in service. In addition to counseling and therapy, he credits the dogs for providing a sense of balance and comfort. “I can’t put into words how crucial an animal is to a combat veteran. Coming from a life of constant uncertainty, stress, and that uneasy feeling that makes you constantly look over your shoulder, the girls gave me a reason to seek help. In a lot of ways, [they] kept me grounded. I feel at ease around them,” he says.
“It’s almost magical that they can sense our feelings and adjust their behavior based off them. Dogs often train us more efficaciously than we believe we train them. They react to our emotions, feelings, and actions in ways that make sense to them, but often not us. This pattern of behavior, if we pay attention, can teach us to keep our own behavior in check,” he says.
Once BrewHound is up and running, a weekly trainer will be on site to provide instruction on various behaviors. Planned events will also include a quarterly pet market and partnership with such organizations as Go Ruck, Canines for Warriors and the VFW in Jacksonville Beach. Future collaborations could also include the Wounded Warrior Project.
“I believe dogs can give service members the most similar feeling of ‘brotherhood’ that you feel when in a combat scenario. They always have your back. They love you. They would do anything for you,” says Underwood. “My girls aren’t service dogs. They are not professionally trained to perform the duties of a service dog. However, they continue to impress upon me the strength to be a good leader and never give up.”
There are still a few hurdles to clear before breaking ground. Plans for the space are still in development review in Neptune Beach, and once approved, it will take an estimated six to seven months to complete build-out and open the fences. Until then, Underwood and Wyckoff will enjoy watching their dream take shape with a cold beer or a good cup of coffee and their three dogs by their side.
Are you ready to enjoy the global feast and culinary celebration that is the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival? Disney has released the preliminary menus for the global marketplace kitchens that will be attracting guests to queue up for a taste of their gourmet plates and exotic beverages.
Among the new items to watch out for this year are:
New Brunswick Slider: Slow-braised Beef Brisket “Pot Roast Style” with Horseradish Cream, Crispy Fried Onions on a Potato Roll with Pickled Vegetables on the side (Located at Hops & Barley Marketplace)
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Vinaigrette, Parmesan Cheese, and Pumpkin Seeds (Vegetarian) (Located at The Wine & Dine Studio)
Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak, smoked Corn Cake with Pickled Vegetable Slaw and Cilantro (Located at Flavors from Fire)
Here are the full menus from the Global Marketplaces around the World Showcase:
Please your palate with these healthy, action-packed bites for pure taste bud bliss!
Loaded Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Nueske’s® Pepper Bacon, Cheddar Cheese, Peppers and Green Onions (KA)
Spice-crusted Verlasso® Salmon with Warm Lentil Power Salad, Crushed Avocado and Sherry Vinegar (GF)
Active Eats Energy Bar Bites: a mixture of Chocolate, Nuts, Dried Fruit and Dates (V) (KA)
M.I.A. Beer Company HRD WTR Pineapple Coconut Hard Sparkling Water, Doral, FL
L’Ecole No. 41 Chenin Blanc Old Vines, Columbia Valley, WA
Evolution by Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, OR
Delve into a delectable menu inspired by countries abundant with history, mystery and cultural diversity.
Berbere-style Beef Tenderloin Tips with Onions, Jalapeños, Tomato and Pap (GF)
Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew with Vegan Yogurt and Quinoa (V)
Cederberg Chenin Blanc
Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz
Groot Constantia Pinotage
The Almond Orchard hosted by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze®
Go nuts for tasty plates and beverages created with one of the world’s most popular snacks.
Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Pulled Chicken, Toasted Blue Diamond Almonds and Parmesan Cheese served with Nut Thins® Crackers
Fire-roasted Tomato Hummus topped with Blue Diamond Lightly Salted Roasted Almonds and served with Blue Diamond Artisan Nut Thins® Multi-seeds Crackers
Banana Almond Soft-serve Sundae with Fresh Berries and Chocolate Almond Streusel (KA) (V)
All food items are made with Almond Breeze Almond Milk.
Explore an exotic array of food and drink options from the Land Down Under.
Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas (GF)
Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies (GF)
Lamington: Yellow Cake Dipped in Chocolate and Shredded Coconut (V)
Coopers Brewery Original Pale Ale
Hope Estate “Wollombi Brook” Semillon, Hunter Valley
Franklin Tate Estates Chardonnay, Margaret River
Yangarra Shiraz, McLaren Vale
Indulge in dessert-like waffles, savory treats and thirst-quenchers with a kick—courtesy of the Kingdom of Belgium!
Beer-braised Beef served with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes
Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream (V) (KA)
Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream (V) (KA)
Leffe Blonde Belgian Pale Ale (Flight)
St. Bernardus Witbier (Flight)
St. Bernardus Abt 12 (Flight)
Stella Artois Hard Cider
Chilled Coffee featuring Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
Dig into South American cuisine and culture with the Land of the Palms’ finest fare.
Moqueca: Brazilian Seafood Stew featuring Scallops, Shrimp and White Fish with Coconut-lime Sauce and Steamed Rice
Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Tomato and Onions (GF)
Pão de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread (GF) (V) (KA)
M.I.A. Beer Company Barbossa Black Beer, Doral, FL
Casa Valduga Brut Rosé
Quinta do Crasto Duoro Red
Frozen Caipirinha featuring LeBlon Cachaça
Wet your whistle with a glass or flight of Europe’s best brews—from Pilsners to wheat beers.
Radeberger Zwickel Pilsner (Unfiltered)
Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse Naturtrüb
Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Pomegranate Beer
Take your taste buds to the Yukon, with delightful dishes, lagers and wines from the Great White North.
Canadian Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Soup served with a Pretzel Roll
Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce (GF)
Moosehead Radler: Lager infused with Grapefruit, Grape and Lemon Juices, New Brunswick
Château Des Charmes Equuleus Red Blend, St. David’s Bench
Château Des Charmes Vidal Icewine, Niagara-on-the-Lake
The Cheese Studio hosted by Boursin® Cheese
Nibble delish cheesy dishes paired with the perfect vintage for an unforgettable nosh stop!
Braised Beef Stroganoff with Tiny Egg Noodles, Wild Mushroom and Boursin Garlic with Fine Herbs Cheese Sauce (KA)
Cheese Trio: Profiterole topped with Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese and Orange Apricot Jam; Smoked Salmon Pinwheel with Boursin Shallot and Chive Cheese and Everything Seasoning; Strawberry Macaron with Boursin Pepper Cheese
Maple Bourbon Boursin Cheesecake with Maple Bourbon Cream, Caramel and Pecan Crunch (V)
Florida Orange Groves Winery Sparkling Blueberry Wine, St. Petersburg, FL
La Crema Pinot Gris, Monterey
Domaine Saint André de Figuière Rosé, Côtes de Provence
Alta Vista Estate Malbec, Mendoza
Introduce your palate to a diverse variety of popular plates and potables from one of the world’s greatest cuisines!
Xi’an Pancake with Beef
Chicken Dumplings with Chinese Slaw (KA)
Beijing Roasted Duck Bao Bun with Hoisin Sauce
Black Pepper Shrimp with Garlic Noodles
Mango Bubble Tea with Assam Black Tea and Milk (Non-alcoholic)
Jasmine Draft Beer
Happy Peach: Peach Liqueur and Dark Rum
Kung Fu Punch: Vodka and Triple Sec
Byejoe Punch: Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit, Lychee, Coconut and Pineapple Juice
Honeydew Bai Jiu Cocktail: Chinese Bai Jiu Spirit and Honeydew Syrup
The Chocolate Studio
Sate confectionery cravings with a trip to our one-stop chocolate shop for delectably dark and milky sweet treats!
Liquid Nitro Chocolate-Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey-Caramel (GF) (KA)
Sweet Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tart with Whipped Cream (V)
Twinings® Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea and Chocolate Shake (Non-alcoholic) (KA)
Banfi Rosa Regale Sparkling Red, Piedmont
Daou Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles
Croft 10 Year Tawny
Twinings® Pumpkin Spice Chai Tea Frozen Cocktail with Caramel Vodka
Savor the ocean’s finest flavors along with wines grown near the Pacific coastline—you can almost feel the sea breeze!
Lump Crab Cake with Napa Cabbage Slaw and Avocado-lemongrass Cream
Baked Shrimp Scampi Dip with Sourdough Baguette
Seared Scallops with Roasted Corn, Butterbean Succotash and Chili-chipotle Butter Sauce
A to Z Wineworks Pinot Gris, Oregon
ROCO Gravel Road Pinot Noir, Oregon
Elevate your tastes with cool brews or a refreshing flight of American craft beer from some of Florida’s best breweries!
Central 28 Beer Company Waff-Ale, DeBary, FL (Flight 1)
Bold City Brewing 1901 Roasted Red Ale, Jacksonville, FL (Flight 1)
Frozen Wine Cocktail featuring Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
Shimmering Sips Mimosa Bar
Get the brunch party started—sample fresh-baked goods and mimosas mixed with the perfect twist!
Chocolate Croissant: Flaky Croissant stuffed with Chocolate
Almond Croissant: Flaky Croissant topped with Toasted Almonds
Jumbo Blueberry Muffin with Streusel Topping
Cheese Danish with Sweet Icing
Frozen Apple Pie (Non-alcoholic) (KA)
Tropical Mimosa with Sparkling Wine and Pomegranate, Orange and Grapefruit Juices
Key Lime Mimosa with Key Lime Sparkling Wine and Cranberry Juice
Blood Orange Mimosa with Sparkling Wine and Blood Orange Juice
Madras Mimosa with Cranberry Sparkling Wine and Orange Juice
Fromosa: Frozen Mimosa featuring White Claw Lime Hard Seltzer
Joffrey’s Cold Brew Coffee
Travel to España for pleasing cuisine that’s unrivaled—from paella to seafood that’s straight from Basque Country.
Charcuterie in a Cone with imported Spanish Meats, Cheeses and Olives with an Herb Vinaigrette
Spanish-style Paella with Chorizo and Roasted Chicken
Seafood Salad with Shrimp, Bay Scallops, Mussels, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Balsamic Vinegar and Smoked Paprika (GF)
Lagar de Bouza Albariño, Rías Baixas
Casa Castillo Monastrell, Jumilla
Espelt Garnacha Old Vines, Catalonia
Wine Flight also available
Exotic specialties from Southeast Asia await as the Land of Smiles serves up a flavorful foodie phenom!
Marinated Chicken with Peanut Sauce and Stir-fried Vegetables (KA)
Seared Shrimp and Scallop Cake with Cold Noodle Salad
Red Hot Spicy Thai Curry Beef with Steamed Rice
Maison Willm Gewürztraminer, Alsace
Wine & Dine Studio
Sample signature dishes along with an elegant medley of wines hailing from the Golden State’s renowned vineyards.
Seared Scallops, Truffled Celery Root Purée, Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms featuring Melissa’s Produce
Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Vinaigrette, Parmesan Cheese and Pumpkin Seeds (V) (KA)
Trio of Artisan Cheese featuring La Bottega di BelGioioso® Cheeses (V)
La Bottega di BelGioioso Crescenza-Stracchino®
La Bottega di BelGioioso CreamyGorg® Gorgonzola Dolce
La Bottega di BelGioioso Artigiano® Vino Rosso
Artist Palette of Wine and Cheese
Trio of Artisan Cheese paired with Rainstorm Silver Linings Pinot Noir Rosé, Reata Chardonnay and Spellbound Petite Sirah
Reata Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
Rainstorm Silver Linings Pinot Noir Rosé, Oregon
Spellbound Petite Sirah, California
Additional Dining Experiences
Refreshment Outpost Nibble like there’s no tomorrow—stop by for satisfying snacks and beverages to go!
Spicy Hot Dog with Kimchi and Mustard Sauce
Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky & Frozen Coke
Refreshment Port Try a tropical infusion of delicious pineapple treats… bask in the sunny rays of flavor!
Beef Brisket Poutine: French Fries with Beef Brisket, Beer Cheese Sauce and Poutine Gravy topped with Crispy Onions
Sweet Potato Poutine: Sweet Potato Fries with Caramel Sauce, Mini Marshmallows and Pecans (V)
Pineapple Soft-Serve Ice Cream (V)
Pineapple Soft-Serve Ice Cream with Bacardi Coconut Rum
Dragon Berry Refresher featuring Bacardi Dragon Berry Rum
Enter a doughnut lover’s dream—if you can’t choose one, try them all!
Croissant Doughnut Tossed in Cinnamon Sugar (KA)
Croissant Doughnut with Chocolate and Marshmallows (KA)
Croissant Doughnut with Chocolate Hazelnut Cream (KA)
Croissant Doughnut with Sprinkles (KA)
Add Chocolate, Hazelnut, White Chocolate Raspberry or Vanilla Bean Gelato for an additional charge
Pancake Milkshake (KA)
The Chocolate Experience: From Bean to the Bar Hosted by Ghirardelli Chocolate Company Cover it in chocolate and delicious dreams come true—this chocolate-lovers paradise is the sweetest stop in Epcot!
Banfi Rosa Regale Sparkling Red, Piedmont
Ghirardelli® Drinking Chocolate (Non-alcoholic)
Or course beyond the menus there are festival center talks and signings, seminars and the popular party for the senses. This year’s festival starts August 30 and runs through November 12. How many days do you plan to visit and which menu items will you be trying first?