Some of the top Disney chefs are getting together to create some exquisite dinners this summer, and you can’t go.
Well, maybe you can. Maybe you have.
It’s all part of a program that’s being tried out called Delicious Disney Summer Chef Series that invites chefs from some of the resort’s more notable restaurants to cook at Markham’s at Golden Oak. Golden Oak is the new home development where you can’t live.
Or maybe you can. Maybe you do — if you have multiple millions to spend on a house.
If so, you may have been among the lucky few who have been able to snatch the coveted few seats for this series, which concludes August 31 with an already sold out dinner.
So why am I telling you this if you can’t go? Because I’m thinking that with the success of the summer series the Disney culinears will extend it to the other three seasons and offer more opportunities to experience what I did at the July dinner.
That one featured the team from California Grill, including the new chef de cuisine, Dennis Thompson, who took over the kitchen there from Brian Piasecki, who moved on to another culinary position within the company. You’ll recall that over the past several months there has been an elaborate game of Musical Chefs that had the top talent circling the stoves waiting for the music to stop. When it did, Phillip Ponticelli, who had been at Citricos at the Grand Floridian, grabbed the stove at Markham’s, the dining room in the Golden Oaks clubhouse of sorts. (In that game of Musical Chefs, it was Timothy Keating of Flying Fish who came up stoveless.)
Ponticelli and his team served as hosts for the Delicious Disney dinner I was invited to attend. Besides Thompson, CaliGrill’s pastry chef, Jeff Barnes, and general manager and sommelier, Michael Scheifler, were on hand.
And I have to special kudos for Scheifler’s wine pairings for the evening. It’s always nice when one of the pairings hits its mark. It’s extraordinary when each course is spot on. That was the case with Scheifler’s selections.
Of course he had good material to work with.
Dinner, which was served in Markham’s tastefully casual dining room, began with a Duck Dumpling amuse bouche, a potsticker style pocket filled with chili-spiced meat in a dashi mushroom broth. Instead of wine, Scheifler paired it, appropriately, with a cold Asahi Dry Lager. Our collective bouches were sufficiently amused.
Berkshire Pork Rillettes was the first course. The porcine paté was graced with sweet cherry preserves that offered a counterpoint to the pickles. All were slightly overshadowed by the crispy chicharrones. And what goes better with pork rinds than pinot noir? The Sonoma Coast CrossBarn pinot from Paul Hobbs had a deeper cherry taste than the preserves on the rillettes.
Fragrant Poached Maine Lobster followed, more of a salad than a full fish course. The sweet meat was accompanied by flowers and lettuces with tomatoes, avocado and blood orange, all dressed with a citrus and basil vinaigrette. The flowers on the plate made sense with the honeysuckle and jasmine notes of the Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc from Russian River Valley. Or maybe it was the other way around.
The meat course couldn’t have been meatier. It featured an American style Wagyu seared eye of ribeye — talk about zeroing in on tender — from Snake River Farms. As if that weren’t enough, the plate also had braised short rib in richly reduced jus. Potato mille-feuille and various vegetables accompanied. Cade Estate’s Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon was the spot-on pairing, offering hints of berries and dark chocolate.
Barnes’ dessert course was themed Georgia Peaches on My Mind and featured a pêche tatin decorated with flakes of gold along with peach-brandy ice cream and ginger-peach compote. A trail of crumbled pistachios led to violet-colored Kisses. Quady Essensia Orange Muscat offered more sippable sweet notes.
It was one of the more enjoyable meals I’ve had in quite some time. And it’s a fine platform to allow the talented stable of Disney chefs to stretch beyond their regular menus.
The series concludes with executive chef Lenny DeGeorge and pastry chef Stefan Riemer of Disney’s Flavor Lab, with wines from master sommelier Brian Koziol. It’s sold out, at $199 per person, which is a good thing. Maybe the demand will demonstrate that the dining public wants more of this.