It's beyond cliché to use the word magical when describing anything involving Disney World. I make fun. Don't you? But guess what? A recent Field to Feast dinner prepared by the theme park complex's tippy-top chefs was so -- errr ... magical, that I concede and choose that most overused-in-Orlando adjective. No other will do. Although casual -- we're talking plaid shirts and bales-of-hay countrified -- this was one extraordinary pixie-dusted evening. I'm ready to buy my ticket for the 2018 follow-up.
Field to Feast is, essentially, an outdoor dinner event with food stations. It's held both under a tent and alfresco at Long and Scott Farms, where Zellwood corn is grown. Mellow live music plays as guests visit each station as often as they wish, sampling the chef-prepared foods and the wines paired with them. That's the short description.
This is so much more than that, though. Field to Feast, which is open to anyone who buys a ticket, has several integral components:
- Disney chefs. The food at each pod is prepared by chefs of one of Walt Disney World's highest-end restaurants. Know which were represented? Citricos, (with Victoria and Albert's chef Scott Hunnel cheerfully 'assisting'), California Grill, Tiffins, Artist Point, Jiko – The Cooking Place, and The Ganachery. Chefs of the respected Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Bakery, Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, and Park Event Operations and Premium Events teams also participated.
- Paired wines by George Miliotes. A superstar himself, Miliotes is a Master Sommelier who will be opening Wine Bar George at Disney Springs later this year. The Orlando native developed the original wine menu for California Grill, then for Seasons 52, when they were newbies.
- Sponsorship by Edible Orlando. The local magazine that focuses on locally produced foods (and my client) put the event together.
- Support by the Field to Feast cookbook authors. Pam Brandon and Katie Farmand, both on the Edible Orlando staff, together with food writer and publicist Heather McPherson, are the authors of Field to Feast, the Florida-centric cookbook that began it all. They also wrote Good Catch, which introduces readers to the bounty of Florida's waters and the folks who haul it in for the rest of us.
- Fun extras. From cocktails made with locally produced vodka and free samples of Palm Ridge Reserve whiskey and Sweet Grass Dairy cheeses (I'm insane for the Green Hill, which is occasionally sold in town), to a goody bag upon parting loaded with wooden spoons, chocolate-and-nut toffee, and other welcome surprises, guests were outright indulged.
- Feeding hungry neighbors. Every penny of profit for this event -- $38,000 -- was donated to Kids Cafe, a program through which the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida provides after-school meals to children who might otherwise go hungry.
Tickets to the 2017 Edible Orlando Field to Feast dinner were $175 -- and they sold out, many to guests who have participated before. The venue is that special, and the food is that good, that the splurgy event is worth the price -- especially given that your ticket price goes to feed local kids. If you give to Second Harvest anyway, you might as well get to enjoy this dinner for your generosity, no?
Some of my pics aren't worth sharing, but I promise you, these, too, were wonderful: shrimp 'n' grits (Epcot Food & Wine Festival); swordfish belly with green tehina, carrot cake, green pea tabouleh and kohlrabi ajar (Jiko); and limo saltado -- smoked brisket with tomatoes, charred onion, purple potatoes, ahi amarillo, coriander and soy.
I'd like to add as a disclaimer that I paid a discounted rate because of my relationship with the magazine. And to that disclaimer I'll note that I heartily encouraged friends to join me at full price, and they are glad they did. They even bought both cookbooks on the way out.
To join in next year, watch the Edible Orlando website for details, sign up for the newsletter, or check in on Facebook. The menu will be all new, and I'm sure it will be just as satisfying -- dare I say it? Magical.