Sunday, June 20, 2010

Disney's California Food & Wine Festival

Here is my "better late than never" blog post on the day I spent at Disney's California Food & Wine Festival way back April.  I had a great time attending a few of the culinary and wine demonstrations. 

I was a bit concerned that the demonstration area looked a little small... and I wondered how long I would have to wait in line if I wanted to make sure I got a seat.   But a kind Cast Member said that if I got in line about 45 minutes early, I would be okay.  That didn't seem too bad to me. 

The first demonstration of the day was by Bret Thompson, of MILK cafe/bakeshop in Los Angeles.  I hadn't heard of him or his shop at the time, but oddly enough I just saw him on the Food Network today competing on "Cupcake Wars".  So, maybe he is a culinary star in the making. 

Along with his Executive Pastry Chef, David Baker (yes, that's his real name), he proceded to make Banana Dulce de Leche Ice Cream with Almonds and a topping of Banana's Foster. 

His easy receipe for making Dulce de Leche is to just take a can of condensed milk and slowly simmer the unopened can in water for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  Cool the can completely and then when you open it you will have a lovely caramel.  I remember a friend's mother doing this when I was a kid, and I couldn't believe that the condensed milk could transform into something so delicious.  I haven't done it myself, but I have to say I am going to have to give it a try.

Along with the ice cream, the duo also made Anzac cookies, which originate from Austrailia.  They are basically an oatmeal and coconut cookie with macadamia nuts.

I was pleasantly surprised by the generous size of the food sample (and the bottle of water Disney provided each audience member).   The quality of the food was very good, although I am not a huge fan of banana or coconut. So, neither the ice cream, nor the cookie would be something I would make myself.  The ice cream was very, very banana-y.. so, not a winner for me.  However, the cookie was delicious.  I couldn't really taste the coconut (a plus to me) and it was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  Yum! 

Unfortunately, Bret did not have printed recipes to give out to the audience.  Instead, he directed everyone to his cafe's website.  However when I went to the the site, I could not find the recipes for these particular treats.  There is a recipe for a delicious-sounding double chocolate cookie... which I think I might like better, so I will not complain too much.  The website is and the recipe is under the Press section. 

Overall, the presentation was entertaining, but since it was hard to follow the actual cooking... and there was no recipe to take home, it wasn't as informative as I was hoping.

The second presentation of the day was by Greg Stillman, who is Executive Chef of Naples Restaurant in Downtown Disney and previously was the chef at Catal (also in Downtown Disney).  I had been hoping for some Italian cooking, but instead Greg decided to present a Spanish dish... Gazpacho.

Greg suggested using a Vita-Prep blender, as he says it is THE BEST.  Well, I hope it is, because I researched it and they run $500 and up.  Yikes!  I think I will stick with my food processor.

For the Gazpacho, he rough chopped in the blender:
1/2 red onion
a cucumber (the regular skin kind, not the english kind... he feels there is more flavor)
2 plum tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
2 red bell peppers
a serrano pepper (remove the ribs and seeds for less heat)
smoked paprika
apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper

He combined all of the ingredients into the blender and then chilled the gazpacho... but he did not strain it.  He really likes to have the texture of some of the vegetable pieces and not have it completely smooth.  His recipe is also different from a lot of gazpachos because it is more vegetable (red peppers, cucumbers, etc.) and less tomato. 

Chef Stillman also added a shrimp sauted with harissa as a lovely accent to the soup.  The whole dish was beautiful and delicious.




I really enjoyed the smokey flavor of the gazpacho and the fact that I could really taste the red bell pepper and cucumber.  It was refreshing and had a bit of a kick to it.  The shrimp didn't have a pronounced flavor from the harissa, but it was cooked nicely and went well with the soup.  Chef Stillman suggested that a nice dab of avocado would be great on top as well ... and I agree.  That would put it over-the-top.

Well, since this is getting long, I will end this post here.  I will continue with my "coverage" of the food & wine festival (including a wine seminar) in my next post. 

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