Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, CA
On this Pi Day, 3/14, it is most appropriate that today's update centers around all things deliciousness. Yes, the Food & Wine Festival is back at Disney California Adventure for a second consecutive year after like five years off, which itself followed several years of happenings. And though the previous sentence may be extremely sloppily written, the event is a great, fantastic, delicious thing! This year is the biggest yet at California Adventure, with attractions spanning a new record three different areas--Hollywood Land, Pacific Wharf, and Paradise Pier. There are cooking demonstrations, food presentations, live entertainment, pop-up boutiques, and of course, food, booze, and more food!
This event runs now through Easter Sunday, April 16, which means you have five more weekends to savor all the delectable offerings. Still not swayed? Well, read on to check out nearly everything there is to experience!
As has been the case in previous years, this year's Food & Wine Festival offers a plethora of premium upcharge signature events and celebrity chef workshops, free culinary demonstrations, and talks from various people connected to Disney foodstuffs. In fact, this past Saturday and Sunday, our friends from Disney Food Blog, AJ and Heather, were on hand to talk about secret menu items at the Disneyland Resort and share their insight on the meals only those in the know can order. This was their second year giving a talk, and it was fun and mouth-watering time.
Festival Showplace & AP Corner
There are two welcome areas of sorts at this year's Food & Wine Festival. Over in Hollywood Land, at Stage 17 (to the left of Monsters Inc.), the Festival Showplace offers souvenir shopping, and chance to purhcase the Sip and Savor Pass (more on that below), and the aforementioned free culinary demonstrations. In Paradise Pier, beside the Garden Grill, an AP corner provides Annual Passholders with a chance to grab a collectible button and pose for a photo op.
New for the Food & Wine Festival this year is an actual entertainment line-up. This follows the lead that the Festival of Holidays established by providing more than just a tasting experience. Various bands and musical acts perform at Paradise Gardens and Paradise Park, offering yet another diverse line-up of live entertainment for guests to enjoy. There are also a couple of cute shows that draw from the culinary nature of the Food & Wine Festival event that provide some interactive fun.
Here are some shots of the country rock band, Smith, as they gave an energetic performance Sunday afternoon.
I happened to stumble upon the Jr. Chef show as I passed by also. It was pretty cute, with kids volunteering to help Chef Goofy make some tasty treats, including a giant oatmeal raisin Mickey cookie that ended up being shared amongst said volunteers!
Of course, the highlight of the Food & Wine Festival is the Festival Marketplace, which contains the dining and shopping features of the event. Once again, this year saw a medley of various boutiques and stands featuring many small business purveyors vending their wares. From soaps to vinegars to hot sauces, there was a nice mom-and-pop shop feel. Of course, there were also stands hawking Food & Wine Festival merchandise. And above everything else, there were the food and beverage stands--15 in all this year, topping last year's count--brimming with tasty samples of delectable treats.
Here are the menus of all 15 food and beverage stands. This year, rather than theming the foods geographically, the stands sorted things out by general ingredients. There are three stands in Hollywood Land, while the remaining dozen are strung along the main walkway of Pacific Wharf just past Carthay Circle all the way to Paradise Pier and the Golden Zephyr area. The stands also featured informational bits of the food themes, adding an EPCOT-esque educational aspect to the presentation.
Of course, it's one thing to talk about what's being offered. It's probably easier to just show you some of the many food, dessert, and beverage offerings. On this past Sunday's visit, I happened to run into Shaun and Jessica, who provided welcome company in a food binge all afternoon. The food overall was pretty delicious, and I was pleased to see that prices this year actually seemed to have stabilized and even gone down a bit on average. Although the prices listed are still probably $1-$2 more than they'd be at a regular restaurant (call it the theme park surcharge), it was still better than the $2-$3 overage that I felt many of last year's items were charged. It was also nice to see certain favorites and big hits from last year come back this year, some slightly modified but still retaining the essence of what made them popular last year.
Also refined from last year was the pricing scheme. For whatever reason, 2016's Food & Wine Festival had food prices that excluded tax, which meant that totals came out to odd, irregular numbers (and also required a bit more math to determine value for last year's version of the Sip and Savor Pass). This issue was rectified during the Festival of Holidays and Lunar New Year Marketplace offerings, and it continues here. In addition, though the lines could get pretty busy during peak meal times, I never encountered any food dish outages like last year. It might have just been chance, but overall supplies seemed to run more smoothly, although I still had a couple of instances where certain dishes weren't being offered with all their ingredients, due to temporary stock shortage.
For a full menu, click here. Based on the food I tried Sunday, I definitely highly recommend the following:
- Fried Artichoke Carbonara from "I <3 Artichokes"
- Grilled Beef Tenderloin Slider with Garlic Chimichurri Sauce from "Garlic Kissed"
- Black Garlic & Soy-Braised Pork Belly Bao from "Garlic Kissed"
- Duck Confit on Potato Smash from "Lemon Grove"
- French Onion Mac & Cheese from "The Onion Lair"
- Sweet Corn Nuggets with Beef Chili from "Off the Cob"
- Chicken Teriyaki Slider with Spicy DOLE® Pineapple Jam from "LA Style"
- Korean Barbecue Beef Short Rib Tacos with Kimchi Slaw from "LA Style"
Aside from the 15 food and beverage stands, Paradise Pier's Garden Grill has a wholly different menu exclusively for the Food & Wine Festival. I didn't have a chance to try any of the dishes, but they certainly looked interesting! And new for this year was a Festival Beer Garden featuring beers from various local breweries! It's always great to see the smaller name but still high quality booze makers get some love and attention.
That does it for today, after almost literally quite a mouthful of content. But you can see that the Food & Wine Festival has come a long way from its early days as a very pale imitation of EPCOT's long-beloved event. And while California's version still can't quite compete with Florida's, I think that the DCA event has nothing to be ashamed of. It's great to see California Adventure continue to step it up with great seasonal events and expand on past iterations of said events. This year's event seems to have corrected many of the issues that plagued last year's relaunch. While there's certainly further improvement to be done, and guests can still justifiably object to the price of the offerings on a value-per-filling basis, the event is moving in the right direction, which is a plus in my book.
So in conclusion, be sure to check this festival out! As spring rolls around, it's a great time to enjoy some great food and beverage at the parks. We'll be back tomorrow with a Disneyland Resort construction update--one with far less culinary inclinations.
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.