Party for the Senses

Along with my friends, Paula, Hunter, and Beth, I attended the Party for the Senses held at Epcot on Friday evening, Oct. 28th.   Since it was Halloween weekend, the parties held on both Friday and Saturday nights had a special theme of Yelloween Masquerade and the attendees were encouraged to wear yellow and black party attire.

Normally these parties are held most every Saturday night during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival but for the first time (that I’m aware of) they held parties on back to back nights (Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28 and 29).  These two parties were the last of only six held this year during the festival.

Party for the Senses takes place in the World Showplace pavilion (located between the UK and Canada, behind a gate that is normally closed).

Someone told me recently that this is actually just a huge, inflatable tent.

Officially the party does not start until 7:00 (and ends at 9:30), but the guests who have purchased either Reserve Seating or Wine View Lounge are allowed to enter much earlier.  And speaking of the seating arrangements, the number of guests purchasing the upgraded seating seemed much higher this year than in the three parties I have attended in previous years.  Let me explain further.

When you purchase your ticket for a Party for the Senses there are three options:

General Admission: $169 per person, plus tax (Epcot admission required) gains you admittance into the party but does not guarantee you a seat.  They say there is limited seating, but this year the seating for general admission guests seemed non-existent. I saw only small standing tables for these guests.

On the other hand the Reserved Seating tables seemed to be plentiful.  In past years these were located in the center of the room, behind the Wine View Lounge but this year they were also located to the right of center and the left.  So what is Reserved Seating?

Reserved Seating: $199 per person, plus tax, gratuity included.  This includes a reserved table for the size of your party (a pre-assigned table with your name on it).  Last year I had a small table for one, this year the table was bigger to accommodate four.  Also included with Reserved Seating is early entrance into the party and a specialty cocktail toast (typically sparkling wine or champagne).

But if you are okay with spending another $30 per person then you could go all out with the…

Wine View Lounge: $229 per person, plus tax, gratuity included.  WVL guests are the first to enter the party.  They are seated at reserved tables within a gated and guarded area.  Also, in addition to the specialty cocktail toast, there is a premium bar, artisanal cheese station, etc. located within this area that is exclusively for WVL guests.

Okay, let’s get back to party which I attended on Oct. 28.  We arrived early, probably around 6:00, and there were already guests in both the Reserved Seating and WVL lines.  As these lines continued to quickly build, I noticed that the “holding pen” area for the General Admission guests seemed nearly empty.  So it appeared to me that most of the guests at this party had paid for the upgraded admission, which is different than what I had seen in previous years.   I’m curious to see now if the General Admission option is even offered next year.

Anyway, I forgot to check the time when they starting letting those in the WVL line enter the party room but I’m guessing it was around 6:30.  Once they were all in, then our line (Reserved Seating) began to move through the party entrance.  Different this year though was that rather than being shown to our reserved table, we were given our table number and left to find it ourselves.  This was very confusing and I didn’t like that change at all!!  I think it was Paula who located our table, which was to the right of the room’s center.  It was conveniently located by the areas which had the best food stations though (in my opinion), so that was nice.

The room was divided into six areas, most of these with 3 or 4 stations serving food and 3 or 4 serving adult beverages (mostly wine, but also a few serving beer).  I concentrated on the food, so had only the glass of champagne that we were given at the beginning plus one glass of wine.  But if you were there for the wine tastings you probably would not have been disappointed as there were at least 15 different wineries represented (about half of them from the west coast of the U.S. and the rest were from Australia, France, Italy, Spain, and Argentina).  And if beer is your drink of choice, they had some beers from Germany (including a popular grapefruit one), three varieties of both Sam Adams and Goose Island, a few craft beers from a Colorado brewery that I’d not heard of, plus Angry Orchard hard cider.

So anyway, we started our evening with a champagne toast, as demonstrated by Paula & Hunter…

Then it was on to the food.  While I wasn’t able to try all of the food offerings at the 20+ stations, I did photograph almost all of them.  So let’s bring on the food, shall we???

While waiting in line I had perused the book with the party menu.  I had zeroed in on a dessert and was happy to find that the station that was serving it was very close to our assigned table.  So I cheated and started with dessert, lol.

Peach Cobbler served with Sweet Corn-Maple Bacon Ice Cream (prepared by Dana Herbert of Desserts by Dana, Newark, DE)

This was delicious!  One of my favorites from the party.

In that same area was the station preparing Paula’s favorite…

Maple-Bourbon-smoked Pork Belly with Butternut Squash, Brandied Figs, Sage Crumble, and Pickled Mustard Seed (prepared by Dave Barrette of Golden Oak, WDW Resort)

The next nearby area had four stations, two of them serving items that made my favorites list.  The first of these was…

Lobster Mac ‘n’ Cheese (prepared by G Garvin of LowCountry Restaurants, Atlanta, GA)

This was also a favorite of Paula’s.

Another favorite of mine was this chicken dish…

Grilled Curry Chicken with Lemon Gremolata (prepared by Elliott Farmer of Farmer’s Gourmet Catering of Douglasville, GA)

I wasn’t really a fan of the gremolata (don’t like lemon flavoring very much) but I really liked the chicken breast.  I think Hunter liked this dish also.

Another station in this area was serving…

This was listed in the book’s menu (and on the station’s sign) as Chinese-style Vegetarian Lettuce Wrap (prepared by Shan Guo Xu of Epcot’s China pavilion)

This didn’t look like any lettuce wrap that I’ve ever seen.  Instead, this looked and tasted like Chinese dumplings/pot stickers.  They were okay.

The fourth station in this area was serving…

Vitello (Veal) e Risotto with Smoked Carrots and Cherry Glace de Veau (prepared by Daniel Rogers of Trattoria al Forno, Disney’s Boardwalk)

I think I was the only one who got to try this one.  I remember it being pretty good but didn’t make my favorites list.

Moving on to the third area of the party, where there was a station serving another of my favorites…

Jerk Sea Scallops with Coconut Polenta, Banana Guacamole, and Banana Chip (prepared by Shanna & Brian O’Hea of the Academe at the Kennebunk Inn, Kennebunk, ME)

Another station in this area was serving one of Hunter’s favorites…

Beef Tongue Tacos with Pickled Onion and Queso Fresco (prepared by Derek Paradise of Be our Guest Restaurant, Magic Kingdom)

And the last station of this area was serving…

Ras el Hanout Lamb Loin, Kamut Risotto, Cured Lamb Crisp, and Warwick Pinotage Gastrique (prepared by Yianni Markogiannakis of Boma, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge)

I think I tried this but don’t remember how it tasted.  Hunter said the meat was flavorless so maybe that’s why I don’t remember it all.

There were three food stations in the next area, starting with one hosted by a celebrity chef…

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Verrine (prepared by Keegan Gerhard of D Bar Restaurant, Denver, CO)

And here’s a photo of Paula and Hunter with Chef Gerhard…

Another station here was serving…

Samaki Wa Kupaka: Spiced Verlasso Salmon, Zanzibari Rice, Tumeric-Coconut Emulsion, and Tamarind Gastrique (prepared by Sahib Bhatti of Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

This was just okay.

And the third station was serving…

L’Oreiller de la Belle Aurore (Game Pie) prepared by Nicolas Lemoyne of Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie & L’Artisan des Glaces, Epcot

I didn’t try this but Paula and Hunter did.  They said the flavors were good but it was a bit dry in the middle.

Okay, on to Area #5 and a station serving this pork dish…

Milk-fed Porchetta with Herb-roasted Garlic Jus (prepared by Christopher Lee of Barcelona Wine Bar, Norwalk, CT)

I don’t think I tried this but Paula and Hunter said it tasted raw.

I did try this though and it was pretty good…

Pan-seared Wild Caught Striped Bass with Cauliflower Puree, Sauteed Fennel, and Grapefruit Beurre Blanc (prepared by Dom Filoni of Citricos, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort)

And I also liked this dish…

Wattle Seed-crusted Lamb Loin with Vanilla-Parsnip Puree, Roasted Romanesco (broccoli) Florets, and Pickled Mustard-Lamb Demi (prepared by David Nguyen of Cinderella’s Royal Table, Magic Kingdom)

The 6th and last area had a station which served another of our favorites…

Truffle Churros topped with Blue Crab Mousse and Candied Jalapeno (prepared by Andrew Yeo of The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, FL)

We had attended Chef Yeo’s Cooking Demo the day before and he had given us a sneak peak as to what he would be preparing at the party so we were on the lookout for this one.  It did not disappoint.  Due to his allergy, Hunter had the churro minus the crab and still thought it was delicious.

But delicious was not a word used by Hunter and Paula to describe this dish…

Rabbit Cassoulet with Parmesan Crisp, Confit Rabbit, Champagne Gastric, and Micro Greens (prepared by Stephen Lawlor of Sunshine Seasons, Epcot)

I didn’t have this but Paula and Hunter said it wasn’t good.

I did though try this next dish and it was pretty good…

Bacon-wrapped Char Siu Shrimp with Coconut Rice and Jicama Kimchi (prepared by Tjetjep Sudiswa of Pioneer Hall, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort)

I also liked this dessert…

Cronuts prepared by Ran Sacagiu of Douce France Bakery, Winter Garden, FL

I completely missed this station but luckily the hosting chef prepared the same dish at the Cooking Demo that Paula and Hunter attended so we have a photo…

I also missed another station (hosted by Keith Hiner of the Bakery at Disney’s Contemporary Resort) in this last area that was preparing a dessert.  So unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the “Tab Tim Grab Contemporary Style Mango Sorbet, Jasmine Coconut Cream, and Mock Pomegranate Seeds” that was offered there.

That just leaves the station serving these Assorted Chocolate Truffles…

I remember that the caramel one was very good.  Hunter said the pumpkin one was a rude awakening though! Lol.  Btw, these were Callebaut Belgian chocolates.

Also there were two Artisanal Cheese Tables, one on each side of the room.  Both tables were hosted by Gourmet Foods International…

The offerings at this table also included fresh fruit, crackers, etc.

And that’s all I have.  Of the dishes I tried, there was more good than not.  A few were very good.  Since this was my 4th Party for the Senses in 3 years (2 parties in 2014, 1 in 2015), I will probably take next year off and use the money to try something new.   But by July when it comes time to book this again, I could change my mind.  Lol

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