Coinciding with Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival is the third annual Food & Wine Weekends at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek. I was invited to experience this culinary celebration and began my visit satisfying my love of sushi with an evening at the Hilton’s Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge.
Coincidentally, this month marks the nine-year anniversary of when I was introduced to authentic sushi as a participant in Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange program to Japan. How did Zeta’s sushi compare?
Oishii desu! (It’s delicious!)
Orlando Food & Wine Weekends Offer Complimentary Delights & Flights
Fridays and Saturdays during Food & Wine Weekends, guests walking into the Hilton lobby are welcomed with Delights & Flights, a complimentary offering of a light bite paired with signature beverages. It so happened sushi was being offered with Japanese wine and sake. It was the perfect sampling before heading into Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge for the evening’s main event.
Pea Ringu, Anyone?
Zeta Bar’s offering during Food & Wine Weekends is Pea Ringu – The Art of Sushi Pairing which pairs the restaurant’s favorite dishes with beer, wine and sake. Sushi is served in a bento box and four beverages, as recommended by the chef, are served alongside.
Luckily, there was a cheat sheet which walked me through what I was eating (although I was very impressed my server rattled off every little detail about each of the five items) along with recommendations of which beverage I should taste with each bite. Once I sampled each item with its recommended pairing I got a little out of the box and sampled the sushi with other beverages. How daring, right?
The gorgeous bento box, both a visual and tasty work of art, consisted of:
Seared tuna was served over two nori crackers with avocado, spicy mayo and smelt roe. Bottom of the nori appeared to have been dipped in batter and fried, like tempura, which resulted in a satisfying crunch and blended nicely with the tenderness of the tuna and creaminess of the avocado. This item also had a nice spicy kick.
Pairing: Cigar City Florida Cracker White Ale (Florida-made!) This delightful nori cracker brought out the beer’s citrus notes.
Half of a spicy tuna roll is topped with barbequed eel, avocado, eel sauce and tempura crunch and served with a sample of red snapper nigiri topped with half a shiso leaf and salmon nigiri topped with a thinly sliced lemon half-moon. Honestly, I’m not sure how the chef did it but this little portion of the bento box was an explosion of colorful flavors.
Pairing: Schloss Vollrads Kabinett 2011, a pleasantly sweet Riesling, enhanced the palate experience. The shiso leaf transformed the flavor of the red snapper from a subtle fish to a bold, zesty sesame-like flavor.
Pork gyoza and vegetables fried in the dumplings and topped with a ginger and shallot vinaigrette were delightfully light and flavor changed before and after drinking the recommended sake.
Pairing: Gekkeikan Zipang Sparkling Sake – a sparkling sake, who knew? Sake is an acquired taste – one I enjoy – and Zipang is more like lightly sweet and dry champagne than sake. This is an example of the Hilton Bonnet Creek creating an approachable pairing, one that doesn’t intimidate or turn off the diner.
Simple yet a nice, spicy bite. Three pieces of yellowtail sashimi were complemented with jalapenos slices topped with fish roe, Tobiko Yuzo dressing, Tamari Shoy and truffle oil.
Pairing: Takara Plum Wine is very sweet for my taste but it complemented the spiciness of the sashimi and jalapenos nicely.
I’ve always enjoyed the crunch and earthy flavor of a classic Japanese seaweed salad. This one didn’t disappoint and sat atop thin cucumber slices.
Pairing: Whatever I wished, although the Gekkeikan Zipang Sparkling Sake is recommended. The bubbliness of the sparkling sake was a nice texture to the pop and crunch of the seaweed.
Being able to experiment with different flavors of beverages and food made this bento box a playful and fun Japanese culinary journey. Don’t be surprised if a bento box is added to Zeta’s permanent menu.
Food & Wine Weekends at the Waldorf Astoria & Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
The third annual Food & Wine Weekends at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek began September 27 and runs for seven weekends through November 9, 2013. Foodies visiting Epcot for the International Food & Wine Festival will find either one of these properties the perfect place to stay. Since they are sister properties, guests staying at one of the resorts can enjoy most amenities at both properties.
Friday and Saturday evenings during the Food & Wine Festival, at the Waldorf Astoria guests can indulge in A Taste of Waldorf Astoria at Bull & Bear (it’ll take me a week to digest this seven-course meal around the world so stay tuned for a post), Bar du Chocolat and champagne tasting (an amazing assortment of chocolate), Astoria After Dark (children’s program including dinner allowing parents some adult time) and live entertainment in the resort’s Peacock Alley. Royal Tea is served Sunday afternoon.
In addition to Pea Ringu, during Food & Wine Weekends the Hilton is offering Il Cibo Della Vita at La Luce, Chef Donna Scala’s restaurant. A new tasting menu and wine pairing is presented each weekend through November 9.
Of course, you don’t need to be staying at one of the resorts to enjoy their culinary creations. I’m told they’re popular with the locals, too.
Nuts & Bolts About Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando
Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and Waldorf Astoria Orlando are surrounded by Walt Disney World Resort so it makes it easy to hop on a nearby free shuttle to visit the park of your choice. A 482-acre nature preserve surrounds the resort making it a quiet retreat from the thrill of Central Florida’s theme parks. I’m a Hilton Honors member so these resorts also appeal to me because I can earn points for future free stays or upgrades. Plus, I like the recognition I receive as a Hilton Honors member.
Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek
14100 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane
Orlando, Fla. 32821
Waldorf Astoria Orlando
14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane
Orlando Fla. 32821