Disney California Adventure, Anaheim, CA
Hey there, folks! A few days late and a few bucks short (because we spent it devouring tasty food throughout the park), here is our recap of this year's Food & Wine Festival at Disney California Adventure! Yes, the most gastronomical time of the year at the Disneyland Resort is back. This year's Food & Wine Festival started earlier this month and runs through Thursday, April 12. That's six weeks of foodie and boozy goodness, plus gourmet presentations and some fun entertainment.
Since its return two years ago, Food & Wine at California Adventure has settled into a familiar pattern that's even used for some of the park's other seasonal and cultural overlays. The park has become a bit of an "EPCOT West," and it's appropriate that Food & Wine leads this direction, since it originated from EPCOT.
This time of the year always sees a renewed energy at the parks. The coming of spring brings fresh foliage and new life, and the Food & Wine Festival has reflected this in some of the cute planting used to decorate the various booths used for the special offerings and attractions.
The event is once again scattered across areas of Hollywood Land, Pacific Wharf (along the main path connecting Buena Vista Street to Paradise Pier) and Paradise Pier (soon to be Paradise Park). There are celebrity chef seminars, cooking demonstrations, plenty of food booths sampling modern takes on Californian cuisine, and live entertainment.
Lets see what's going on this year!
AP Goodies & Festival Merchandise
As with any seasonal event, there is a wide selection of merchandise catered to Annual Passholders. Guests can find these located in the back of Hollywood Land, next to the Monsters, Inc. attraction as well as in the Festival Marketplace along the Parade Corridor. Glasses, mugs, shirts, hats, books, kitchen furnishings and more are all available. There's an AP Photo Op by Stage 17, next to the old MuppetVision Theater too, for those interested.
The Sip and Savor Pass is also back this year for Annual Passholders. For $45, this provides tastings to (8) food and non-alcoholic beverage options, offering a savings over buying items one by one. That is, of course, assuming you do the math. Basically, the pass is worth using for food and drink items $5.75 or over, but not worth it for anything $5.50 and under. Most desserts and beverages fall under the later category. Most of the savory foods fall under the former. The Sip and Savor Pass does not have to be used all in one visit. Passholders can come back and use the remainder of their tabs on a future visit--as long as it is before the festival ends.
There's plenty of general Food & Wine merchandise too. Most of this is located along a couple of booths on the Parade Corridor. In addition, several independent third party vendors have set up shop along the Festival Marketplace to sell their wares. You can find specialty candles, gourmet chili sauces, and herbal body care products, for example.
The festival also has a variety of culinary and dining exhibitions. There are the celebrity chef experiences at the Hyperion Theater, which are already sold out for the year and typically run out well in advance of the actual event. But the park also offers cooking demonstrations, wine and beer lectures, even children's chef activities on a first-come-first serve basis. Some of them are also an upcharge, so check the DCA Food & Wine Festival page for more information.
Of course, the highlight of the Food & Wine Festival are all the specialty food items on display. There are 13 booths located across Hollywood Land, Pacific Wharf, and Paradise Pier, plus a seasonal menu at Paradise Garden Grill. The booths feature tapas sized items that are more geared toward snacking (though, believe me, if you try to indulge in all the booths in one sitting, you'll still be very, very full--and your wallet very, very empty!).
Here are the menus for all of the food stands this year, plus the Garden Grill. You can see that the prices remain fairly consistent with the past couple of years. You're getting the theme park upcharge (it's hard to justify $8 for one slider, for example), but as I mentioned earlier, Annual Passholders can mitigate this by using the Sip 'n' Savor Pass.
We sampled a plethora of food items last Sunday for your food porn viewing pleasure. This year features a lot of returning favorites, plus new items as well. The food stands themselves are about half new in name, with many familiar themes coming from California-centric ingredients like cheese, avocados, garlic, and artichoke. Food items and descriptions follow below, but our overall favorites included:
White Cheddar Lager Soup (CHOUP!! ...ish) @ California Craft Brews
Jalapeño Popper Mac 'n' Cheese @ Peppers Cali-Ente
Avocado and Pepper Jack Petite Guacamole Burger @ Avocado Time
Citrus-brined Pork Roast @ Citrus Grove
Fried Artichoke Carbonara @ I <3 Artichokes
Grilled Harris Ranch Beef Tenderloin Slider @ Cluck-a-Doodle-Moo
Sweet Corn Nuggets @ Off the Cob
Black Garlic and Soy-braised Pork Belly Banh Mi @ Garlic Kissed
Chicken Teriyaki Slider @ L.A. Style
Korean BBQ Beef Short Rib Tacos @ L.A. Style
We didn't get a chance to actually try them, but the Strawberry and Coconut Rice "Frushi" @ Strawberry Patch and the Compressed Asian Cucumbers @ Eat Your Greens were also supposedly highly regarded by guests we asked.
Also back is the Festival Beer Garden, located in the Boardwalk area next to Goofy's Sky School. There are local and not-so-local craft beers for sale there. These will be more exotic to people who are used to domestic beers. For beer connoisseurs, you probably won't find anything you haven't heard of before. But still, it's nice to have expanded selections for booze!
One of my favorite aspects of the Food & Wine Festival (and other cultural events, like the Lunar New Year Celebration and the Festival of Holidays) is how much entertainment there is for guests throughout the day. At stages located in Paradise Park and in the Paradise Garden Bandstand, guests can see a variety of different musical performances multiple times a day, with styles ranging from jazz and swing to reggae and pop covers. The schedule varies daily, so check at the park. Here is just a small smattering of the performers available!
This is actually a part of official park entertainment. The percussion-based show features a group of "chefs" banging and rattling pots and pans to an energetic beat. They're joined by Chip 'n' Dale, who make anything better, and they perform several times a day in front of the obelisk at Paradise Pier, just across from the Little Mermaid ride.
Phat Cat Swinger
Popular swing performers Phat Cat Swinger are back at DCA. These guys seems to regularly garner a crowd, and their fun, upbeat melodies reinforce the festival atmosphere if the Food & Wine event. PCS can be found at the Paradise Park stage, right front and center.
Five Got Rhythm
Located in the Paradise Garden Bandstand, this snazzy quintet melds a variety of jazz rhythms and styles for a relaxing but head bobbing experience.
Tina Saldana Band
One of the artists whose schedule stretches into nighttime, Tina Saldana and her band bring a medley of popular song covers from the past several decades. From a disco medley to their iterations of song from big hit artists today, these four musicians bring a great attitude and beat to the Paradise Gardens Bandstand!
That wraps it up from this year's Food & Wine Festival. There's plenty of experience, and partaking in the activities can be something that lasts just an hour or two or all day, depending on what you want to do. It's a great event, with a little bit of everything, and a fantastic celebration of California potables and delectables! Check it out before it ends on April 12!
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.