Editor: please welcome back guest author Suzannah!
Tuesday night I ventured over to Epcot for one of the Culinary Demonstrations for the 16th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The demonstration I attended was sponsored by Ocean Spray’s Craisins – not only a sponsor of the Food & Wine Festival, but also an official sponsor of both Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks. The chef for the evening was Ming Tsai, owner of Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Massachusetts, author of two cookbooks: Blue Ginger and Simply Ming, and host of the PBS programs East Meets West and the Emmy nominated Simply Ming. Originally from Massachusetts, I’ve always been a fan of Ming Tsai and loved his cooking shows, so I was excited to see him create a dish for us.
Guests were greeted at the Festival Center (former Wonders of Life pavilion) with samples of Ocean Spray Craisins as they waited to be seated at tables in front of a demo kitchen stage. This was actually my first-ever culinary demo during the festival, I’m almost embarrassed to admit for the past 16 years I’ve been attending the Food & Wine Festival, I’ve only ever taken part in the Marketplace Booths and their delicious offerings, never a demo or seminar of any kind. I was pleasantly surprised at the presentation. For a mere $11-14 per person (depending on the chef), guests get an exciting cooking demonstration with a celebrity chef, either nationally known, or famous within the Walt Disney World Resort or local area. I had no idea we’d actually be seated at a table and get to enjoy the dish being prepared. I would definitely do this again and am now looking into future demos I can bring my husband or family back to.
Before Chef took the stage, we were visited by Lucia Christensen from Kaiken Wines in Argentina. We were served a Kaiken Malbec, aged in oak barrels with berry notes. When Ming Tsai took the stage, he let us know how typically, red wines full of tannins are not the best choice for spicy or Asian foods because the spice will bring out the acidic tannins. However this was not the case with our particular wine, with its oaky flavor. It was a lovely pairing.
Ming Tsai was an incredible personality, making jokes, and letting us know we could ask questions at any time. He shared his opinion on his appearance on Iron Chef America (he was robbed-and thinks the original Japanese Iron Chef was the best show, with which I tend to agree!), his thoughts on food allergies, family dinners and more. His son once suffered from 8 food allergies and is now allergy free thanks to “energy work” which he admitted would be a whole other seminar to cover. For those with food allergies, he advises cooking at home, or calling ahead to restaurants. Other than his restaurant in Massachusetts, he praises the restaurants of Walt Disney World as being the safest for those with food allergies. Chefs are ready and willing to work with guests to create meals which they will both enjoy and will be worry-free. Chef Tsai also champions family dinners, where the family takes all-important time to share their day and enjoy healthy meals together. He was truly a delight to watch and at the end of the 50 minute session, I really did want to buy his new cookbook, which should be the ultimate compliment!
Chef created a complete dish which incorporated Craisins, but not in an overly sweet or expected fashion. Up until now, the only way I’ve had Craisins in food is in a salad, which I love, but was excited to try them in a new way. Seared and roasted beef tenderloin with cranberry-red wine sauce, cranberry gingered sweet potatoes and bok choy with fermented black beans and ginger was on the menu. As Chef Tsai started to cook, cast members actually brought out completed dishes for us to enjoy while we watched. It was simply delicious and more importantly, looks simple enough to create at home. I guess I now know where he got the name for his new cookbook?
As someone that grew up in Massachusetts, I’ve been thrilled about the Ocean Spray partnership, even more so when the cranberry bog at the Food & Wine Festival was announced. I guess I take for granted that so many people visiting the parks have never seen a cranberry bog or even understand the harvesting process. It was wonderful to see in person and even better to see a world-renowned chef create a delicious meal using Craisins.
The Ocean Spray cranberry bog will be at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival through November 13th. You can find a sample dish using Craisins at the Hops & Barley booth – Pumpkin Mousse with Craisins and Orange Sauce. Chef Ming Tsai’s newest book, Simply Ming, where he covers one-pot meals for the whole family, is available at the Festival Center and other Food & Wine merchandise locations throughout the World Showcase promenade.
Suzannah DiMarzio is a lifelong Disney fan who fell in love with EPCOT Center in the 1980’s. She went on to become a cast member, manage a travel agency, and her toughest career choice, being a mom of three. Suzannah also served on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel for two years where she answered questions from a local perspective. She shares her personal memories, photos and reviews at her blog, zannaland.com as well as other freelance writing. You can follow her @zannaland on twitter.