Disney California Adventure’s beloved Food and Wine Festival returned last year after a lengthy absence, and folks seemed to really enjoy the revived Festival, but were turned off by high prices and small portions. After visiting the festival this year, it’s clear that those concerns were heard. For 2017, prices are down, portions are larger, and the available food items have been somewhat simplified to make them more appealing to a wider audience. The upshot? The first weekend of the Festival was incredibly popular, with food selling out, long lines, and lots of happy guests. While not perfect, this was a huge improvement over previous offerings and hopefully a step in the right direction for future festivals in the park. Let’s take a look and this year’s Food and Wine Festival and how we’d like to see it evolve in the future.
Food and Wine Market Place Booths
The Festival features 15 food and wine kiosks. The booths feature the flavors and beverages of California (for the most part). Brian Pinsky, Dusty Sage, Matt Scott, and myself (Scott Attula) were able to try out many of the offerings. Dusty took the Sundays at Disneyland MiceChat Facebook Group on a tour of the festival on Sunday as well. Their combined thoughts are included below. Here are the booths you’ll find:
Nuts about Cheese and Uncork California
Cheese and wine is easily one of the most well-known pairings, so it’s appropriate that first booth you encounter on the main route is dedicated to this classic duo. Unfortunately, because the ham and cheese roll was tiny and $7, we decided to skip it since there were many other items on menus further down the route that we were more excited to try. We’ll be back later in the festival to try the fig and mint toast and tartine.
Offerings at Nuts About Cheese include:
- Brie toast with fig and mint and roasted California almond crumble
- Baked ham and Swiss cheese croque monsieur roll with smoked pistachios
- Chèvre fromage blanc tartine infused with rosemary and honey, topped with toasted hazelnuts
- Almond milk tea with pudding
Options at Uncork California include:
- White wine flight
- Red wine flight
- Mimosa flight
I ❤️ Artichokes
For all your artichoke needs. I personally don’t eat artichokes that often, and although I’d prefer an avocado booth, the MiceChatters report that they did indeed ❤️ the fried artichoke carbonara. It was savory, crunchy and creamy with a healthy dose of bacon (which is always popular).
Options here include:
- Artichoke carbonara with garlic aioli and smoked bacon
- Grilled and chilled artichoke hearts with Romesco sauce
- Creamy artichoke and dark chocolate cake pop
- Orange iced tea with orange pearls
The orange iced tea was too sweet for our taste, though some may like it. Sweet teas aren’t as common in California, that’s more of a southern thing, so it came as a bit of a surprise. The “orange pearls” are boba and are a fun addition as they pop in your mouth with a satisfying flavor burst. There are different flavors of boba added to other drinks along the route as well.
This booth brings back two favorites from the festival last year, both of which I thought were highlights of the offerings.
The menu here includes:
- Grilled beef tenderloin slider with chimichurri sauce
- Black garlic soy-braised pork belly bao with pickled vegetables
- Garlic-rosemary and avocado oil ice cream pop
Brian ordered the slider and ice cream pop. He described the beef tenderloin slider as delicious through and through. The beef is tender, and the chimichurri is a nice unique flavor. When he passed by later in the day, they were actually out of this option for about an hour. The same thing happened on Sunday when the MiceChat group visited this booth at 1pm, they were out of the beef slider. So, it’s clearly a popular dish. Hopefully they’ll figure out a way to meet demand as the festival continues.
Brian said that the garlic-rosemary and avocado oil ice cream was light and tasty. The garlic flavor was blended in and most of the taste came from the vanilla ice cream. Surprisingly, the other flavors didn’t overpower, especially the garlic, but he couldn’t detect the rosemary or avocado at all.
California Craft Brews
Lots of beer. This booth will likely have a long line most every day, just like every other location around California Adventure that serves beer. There’s a lot of breweries on the list, so that’ll make it worth coming back to this booth for a lot of people.
Options here include:
- A wide selection of beers and flights from a variety of breweries, pick your favorite
A whole booth dedicated to a delicious fruit. Offerings looked unique, particularly the focaccia.
Options here include:
- Chilled Cioppino soup with shrimp, crab claw and grilled olive bread
- Warm olive focaccia with olive oil and sea salt
- Vanilla bean crème fraîche panna cotta with Amarena cherry jus and EVOO madeleine
Unfortunately, nothing jumped out at us as essential and none of us ordered anything here.
The most American of foods, bacon, is represented here. The highlight of this booth is the mac and cheese, which was rich and creamy as you might expect. It was liberally doused with crispy onions and smoked bacon. It’s pure comfort food and sure to be a hit. The returning treat is the Maple-bacon whoopie pie.
- Baby iceberg and heirloom tomato wedge with peppered bacon and blue cheese dressing
- Smoked bacon mac and cheese with barbecue-seasoned crispy onions
- Maple-bacon Whoopie Pie
This booth sounds like San Diego to me (Lemon Grove is a city in the San Diego county), and they certainly have some of the more unique flavors of the festival offered here.
- Roasted cauliflower and Meyer lemon-infused Dannon Oikos® Greek nonfat yogurt cauliflower puree with sundried tomatoes and fried capers
- Duck confit on potato smash with Meyer lemon preserves
- Meyer lemon macaron with blueberry marmalade, Meyer lemon cream and blueberry dust
- Meyer Lemon Ginger Mule Cocktail
- Cherry lemonade with cherry pearls
The duck confit was very flavorful, fatty, and the potato was indeed smashed (you can watch the cast member smash it with a spatula just before applying the duck) and nice and crispy. We were surprised by the portion size, as it was actually quite a bit of duck, especially considering that duck is generally a premium meat.
Dusty decided to give the Mule cocktail a try and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had just finished a drink at the time, but if I hadn’t, I would’ve definitely given the cherry lemonade a try!
I’m surprised at how often people tell me they don’t like seafood considering most of us in California live within driving distance of the ocean. Seafood…Sustained celebrates this with some interesting options.
- Verlasso® sustainable salmon tataki with avocado-wasabi puree and Furikake dust
- Cage-free cream cheese deviled eggs with farm-raised smoked trout and chives
- Passion fruit posset and coconut chia with mango compote and jelly
- Mango agua fresca
During the Festival of Holidays. there was a guava agua fresca that was very refreshing, so during my next trip, the mango agua fresca will definitely be something to try, and possibly the deviled eggs if I’m feeling adventurous. One of our MiceChatters tried the salmon on Sunday during the MiceChat trip and really enjoyed it. But the lines at this booth aren’t as long as the next one on our list.
The Onion Lair
This booth was interesting in the fact that besides the Wagyu beef, the options aren’t generally viewed as premium options, but they sure felt like they were special. Please don’t make any Shrek jokes about the onions either, they’re sensitive about their layers.
- French onion mac and cheese topped with parmesan crumble and chives
- Braised Wagyu beef on creamy polenta with haricot vert and red onion salad and roasted Cipollini onion
- Chocolate-hazelnut and raspberry Feuillete tart
- Strawberry pineapple float with vanilla ice cream and strawberry pearls
We were impressed with both dishes we tried. Mac and cheese is usually a cheap and tastefully boring dish. But I’m delighted to report that in this instance, the mac and cheese was a delicious and flavor packed treat. The dish has a mixture of crunchy and gooey flavors that worked incredibly well together. On top of that, it was a huge portion; they pretty much filled up the entire small plate, which is an unheard of thing at these kinds of festivals. Definitely give this one a taste, it was one of the most surprisingly satisfying dishes I tasted all day.
The Wagyu beef was sweet, savory, and downright delicious, but the polenta was a bit too runny when we tried it. Decent portions here as well, as there was a healthy amount of polenta on the plate to fill in the smaller portion of Wagyu beef.
Matt also picked up the tart, which was puffy and flaky like a pastry should be. The filling inside had a rich flavor of chocolate and hazelnut without being overly sweet, which is a big plus for me.
This booth also served a passionfruit lemonade, which was incredibly refreshing as the days in California are getting warmer. The taste was very strong and sweet, which I enjoyed, but others may be off-put but the particularly sweet flavor compared to a more classic tart and sour lemonade. But the sweetness works with the onion flavored dishes at this venue.
For us, this was easily a standout booth, it had delicious food that was filling and seemed to be a good value as well. This is how you can tell Disney is heading in the right direction with their menus this year.
Off the Cob
Corn is a staple of many delicious dishes, and this booth will definitely cater to corn connoisseurs.
- Sweet corn nuggets with beef chili, spring onions and sour cream
- Jackfruit carnitas banh mi nachos with cilantro crèma and “pickled” de gallo
- Roasted sweet corn custard tart with honey tuille and smoked chili-infused chocolate sauce
The corn nuggets with beef chili are a standout and not to be missed. Dusty tried them during a preview of the festival earlier in the week and loved them so much that he had them again on Sunday. The corn nuggets are a bit sweet and pair perfectly with the savory, but not too spicy, chili. The Jackfruit nachos are an interesting offering as well. Jackfruit is often used in vegan restaurants as a substitute for shredded pork. Samantha in the MiceChat group tried these and enjoyed the subtle flavors. It doesn’t taste like a fruit at all, but rather like a meat. If it weren’t for the crema, this could be considered a healthy option (you can certainly ask them to hold the cream when ordering).
Sweet & Sourdough
We have a Boudin bakery on site at California Adventure, and this booth takes advantage of that with more sourdough offerings. We hear that the bakery is now operating 24/7 to accommodate the demand from the festival. We certainly appreciate their efforts, they really do make amazing bread and it’s great that it’s made fresh right on the property!
- Bay shrimp Louie salad served in a mini Boudin sourdough boule
- White cheddar lager soup topped with bacon, served in a mini Boudin sourdough boule
- Milk chocolate sourdough bread pudding with vanilla bean sauce
Tucked into the corner of Hollywood Land, LAStyle is a hidden gem of the festival. This one should be up front with the rest of the booths, as it has some of the best food options of the entire festival.
- Chicken Teriyaki slider with spicy Dole® pineapple jam
- Korean barbecue beef short rib tacos with Kimchi slaw
- Fresh strawberry compote, lemon verbena and vanilla bean shortcake parfait
- Dole® Pineapple-strawberry Float with vanilla ice cream and strawberry pearls
All of the dishes here are great! Everyone agreed that the chicken teriyaki slider was tangy and sweet with tender and juicy chicken (having a piece of chicken that’s not incredibly dry is a huge plus in my book). This one reminded me of the Hawaii booth at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, and that’s definitely a good thing. The portion size was what you’d expect for a slider. The bun tasted like a Hawaiian sweet roll and was soft and delicious.
The short rib tacos were surprisingly good, especially with the sweet taste of the Kimchi slaw mixing with the tangy taste of the short ribs. Even the tortilla wasn’t too bad, as I’m usually disappointed by tortillas at Disney.
Brian was able to have a little desert with his slider in the form of the Dole pineapple strawberry float. He reports that it was sweet and flavorful and should definitely be something to try even though it’s a little pricey for an ice cream float (that’s also considering the fact that it doesn’t have any alcohol like rum mixed in, as that was something that disappointed Dusty. There still isn’t a location where you can get Dole Whip with alcohol at the Disneyland Resort, while Walt Disney World has a handful of locations). I’m glad to hear it’s delicious, as it was one thing I want to try on my next visit.
Paradise Garden Grill Beer Garden
Another promotion, another overlay for the Paradise Garden Grill. During the Food and Wine Festival, it’s the Beer Garden, which includes a special menu for the Garden Grill itself, and a full Beer Garden booth. We were impressed with the quality of the booth and sign, as it looked to be made from real wood. We are delighted to see the money and effort being spent for more permanent festival fixtures, which definitely gives everything a more luxurious feel in this spot.
Garden Grill offerings include:
- Beer-battered cod served with steak fries, sweet slaw and spiced remoulade
- Potato and cheese pierogis with vegetarian sausage served with grilled Anaheim chilies, caramelized onions and sour cream
- Beer-braised pork tacos served with pickled apple slaw, black beans and queso
- Sausage platter trio served with braised red cabbage and warm potato salad
- Large soft pretzel served with beer-mustard dipping sauce
- Salted caramel budino with vanilla bean Chantilly cream
- Bienenstich cake with honey-glazed almonds, filled with vanilla bean custard
Something great to note: this area had some extra tables added for the festival. There’s some standing tables near the booth, but there’s some great looking picnic-style wooden tables that have been added to the eating area outside the Paradise Grill. I hope they stay, as they look nicer than what was already there, and add a lot of extra seating to the otherwise pitiful available seating for the Paradise Gardens.
Set up in the old “Drink Me” location from Mad Tea Party, Wineology offers some good sangria offerings. It’s tucked away in Hollywood Land, so most people will miss it. It also doesn’t match the feel of the rest of the Festival.
The Brewhouse is also set up on old Mad Tea Party real estate, but it stands out as a place where you can get hard root beer floats (or regular root beer if that’s your thing). MiceChat author, Darth Daver, tried the hart root beer float during the preview with Dusty and they really liked it. There’s also a porter with chocolate ice cream. Yes, beer and ice cream! We hear it’s good too. We’ll be coming back for this one.
Festival Merchandise & Bottle Shop
Like almost everything else of the festival in Hollywood Land, f you weren’t looking for it, you’d miss the showcase and shops in the old Stage 17. Inside is one of the many festival merchandise shops, a vendor booth for Cutco if you want some premium knives, and the showcase for upcharge events.
All the booths seemed to be of higher quality this year, from the menus to the decorations on the booths themselves. We were surprised to find that instead of leaving all the “backstage” fixtures like fridges out in the open, this year they decided to hide them behind vineyard style fences and barriers. As stated before, it seems Disney has put the extra effort into making sure this festival feels more permanent and premium than past years, and it’s certainly appreciated.
Lifestyle Seminars at the 2017 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
Guest presenters will share their expertise during 20- to 30-minute appearances on select days throughout the festival. Find out about gardening, see artists in action, and other lifestyle interests. Most of these activities take place on the Hollywood Land Backlot Stage. The artists are in the Off the Page shop.
Surprisingly, Disney decided to add in a bit of extra entertainment to the festival this year than previous years. What we found was actually…well, entertaining.
At the very edge of Paradise Park, a new stage has been constructed for live musical performances. When the band started playing, my ears perked up to the sound of “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne, a very unusual type of music to hear at a Disney park. I may be a bit of a prude when it comes to Disney’s over-usage of poor quality, but crowd pleasing pop music, but I was glad to see that the band’s set list seemed to have a little bit of everything, at least from what I heard, considering that immediately following Crazy Train was a song by Lady Gaga. The band had interesting costumes, particularly with the singer looking like she was her own personal vineyard growing on her dress.
I was also surprised at the fact that the band could actually hold their own with a decently technical song like Crazy Train. Normally at Disney, butchered riffs aren’t unusual, but the guitarist didn’t do a bad job picking out the solo. Unfortunately the audio mix was absolutely terrible, my grandpa Bill would’ve been disappointed (he was in charge of entertainment for the opening of Walt Disney World). Too bad, as the band itself had some real talent.
Of note, the stage is set at water’s edge in the Paradise Pier amphitheater (where you watch World of Color). But the entire thing disappears before the big nighttime spectacular so it won’t ruin your view.
If you ever wanted to live out the “Trashing the Camp” scene from Tarzan, here’s something close. The moment I saw this, it reminded me of the drummers at Epcot during the Flower and Garden Festival who would drum on trash cans and flower pots, and the Jammin’ Chefs are just as fun. This was definitely a crowd pleaser for the younger audience, especially with Chip and Dale acting goofy and dancing around.
Brian was able to snag a video for you folks at home to preview.
A special event for kids takes place in Paradise Park (in the World of Color seating area). Kids ages 3 to 11 get to “bake” special treats. While the items they whip up aren’t really put into the oven, their labor is rewarded by a magic oven that reveals completed treats. Different favorite Disney characters will also show up to help the kids bake; when we saw the show, it was Chef Goofy. Considering this festival is more fun for adults than kids, I’m glad to see to that Disney remembered that they are known for catering to the whole family.
AP Corner at Paradise Garden offers a few extra perks for Passholders. Stop by for a free festival button, pick up recipe cards, and take a photo against a Food and Wine Festival logo backdrop.
Annual Passholders can also buy a festival tasting card for $45 which allows them to try any eight Market Place food items (the card is good for the length of the festival, so you have until April 16th to use all eight items). The card is available in several locations, including the AP Corner, Seaside Souvenirs, AP merchandise booths, and the Studio Store.
We stopped by Seaside Souvenirs and they didn’t have signage up, but they were otherwise available (make sure to stop by the register opposite the hats). The merchandise booths also stated that they may only have limited supply, so other locations are your best bet.
This is one item which SHOULD be available as the very first thing you see (across from the Nuts about Cheese booth at the Festival Info booth would have been perfect). Why make folks backtrack to Hollywood Land or walk all the way to the end of the festival in Paradise Pier just to get a tasting card? Seems counter intuitive. Still, it’s worth the effort. If you’ve got two or three people with you, split a card. If you know you’ll be back to the festival, the card is good through April 16th. Don’t be put off by the $45 up front cost, this is your best value and really brings the cost of individual items down as you’ll save nearly a couple bucks per item with the use of the card.
There’s a few vendors scattered around the festival where you can pick up items to spice up your own dishes at home.
Here’s a couple of different offerings we found:
Gourmet sauces with a more racy name. It definitely worked, as it made us want to stop.
This skin and ointment vendor is “Dusty approved,” as he’s purchased products from their booth in the past and enjoyed how well they worked. He particularly likes the “Pepper Foot” which makes your feet feel fabulous after a long day in the parks.
For those who really love balsamic vinegar, there’s a vendor dedicated just to the condiment. The young lady who was selling us on the product was actually a great saleswoman too, she impressed Dusty with her spieling and quick wit.
As mentioned before, the cutlery vendor is available in Stage 17 for when you really need to cut something, and cut it well.
There are multiple places all over the festival area to pick up merchandise, so take your pick. Some of it is exclusive, some of it is standard Disney Parks culinary merchandise, but some of it is interesting.
Here’s a couple of items you can purchase:
Some of the merch is Annual Passholder exclusive, so keep that in mind.
Reservations Required (Extra Cost) Opportunities
In addition to everything we’ve just shown you, there are also some up-charge experiences available at the festival again this year. They tend toward the expensive and we have not tried any of these yet, nor are we likely to do so. The festival offers so much already, that it almost seems obscene to have to pay up to $200 for a dining experience. Still, we know that many of you have the means and the interest. Some of these experiences will sell out, so get your tickets as early as you can if this is a must for you.
In the Kitchen With…
See favorite celebrity chefs demonstrate their kitchen prowess―you’ll have a chance to taste the final dish and get an autograph. The cost is $99.00 per person, PLUS tax and gratuities! However, you’ll get to see and possibly meet well know chefs such as: Robert Irvine, Graham Elliot, Guy Fieri, Cat Cora, and Jet Tila. You can find out more about this program and buy tickets at THIS LINK.
This popular Sunday event features a light breakfast and sparkling wine toast during a 90-minute baking demonstration. The chefs will show how they make a few of their signature desserts. Then you’ll be able to try the completed creations. This event is $79.00 per person, plus tax and gratuities. Information about availability and chefs is available HERE.
These dinners are sort of the granddaddy of the event. This is what the Festival is about. Food and Wine. Unfortunately, these dinners are also very limited in availability and very high in price. This isn’t an experience for the everyman, at $150 to $200 per person, this is an exclusive affair. The list of amazing wineries and dinner availability is listed HERE.
Brewmaster Beer Dinners
Similar to the Winemaker dinners, the Brewmaster dinners are an expensive $150 opportunity to hear the experts speak while you enjoy a fancy and perfectly paired beer and dining experience. Brewers and availability HERE.
Wine, Beer and Spirits Education & Tasting Seminars
Shorter 30 to 45 minute seminars are available for $15 during the week and $20 on the weekends. The Tequila man we photographed earlier was one of these seminars. More info HERE.
Learn cooking techniques and get sample tastings during demonstrations by various chefs. $10 during the week and $15 on weekends. More Info.
(comments and ideas from the MiceChat staff)
The 2017 Food and Wine Festival offers something for everyone. The overall quality is very high. A lot of thought has gone into making the event fun, tasty and approachable. It’s absolutely a hit and you should give it a try. However, there are some things we’d like to see happen in the future:
- More shade – There are some great trellis structures on part of the parade route. However, they do not extend to the part of the route between Little Mermaid and the Garden Grill. The Parade Corridor is a huge stretch of blacktop that gets really hot and has precious little shade. The booths protect the staff (which I imagine is appreciated), but not the guests waiting in line.
- Use more of the Winery. Strangely, they don’t use the winery facility to the maximum. The old Seasons of the Vine building doesn’t seem to be in use at all. This would be the perfect spot for tasting seminars or other activities. The same could be said of the upstairs section of the Winery. The lower beer patio at the Winery would make the perfect Festival spot as well. It’s shaded and has lots of built in tables. They used the Blue Sky Cellar last year for an AP stop, we’re not sure why they decided not to do so again this year. This is a Food and Wine Festival, take over the entire Winery and make it the centerpiece of the whole festival!
- Create new space. Possibly use the large unused lawn along the Grizzly Trail near the Grand Californian. Temporary walkways and structures could take great advantage of the shade in this area and the more rustic feel. It would be a huge improvement over the parade route (but would require the installation of electrical, water and drainage hookups). 6 to 8 booths could easily fit in this area.
- Better utilize the entire Paradise Garden area. The Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta should be completely taken over by the Festival. The same should be true of the garden area where Maliboomer once stood.
- Take over the entire Paradise Pier/World of Color seating area. Put booths toward the back and add tables and shade structures throughout the area. At night, instead of running the traditional World of Color, have smaller single song mini-shows run constantly to encourage folks to linger and enjoy the festival and theme without camping out for a nighttime spectacular. It would make this an incredibly popular spot. They could even do a nightly cocktail party in the area. The fountains would be more decorative and background entertainment than main draw, but the festival should be the main event for these 6 weeks.
- Create more cohesion. The Hollywood Pictures Backlot portion of the festival feels disjointed and not up to the look and cohesiveness of the rest of the festival. There is a single food booth seemingly plopped randomly back here by Monster’s Inc. The old Millionaire Stage 17 building is used as a shop and stage space, but it’s totally hidden out of the way. They should either add much more to this area, or not use it at all. With Marvel coming soon, perhaps this area should just be abandoned by the festival and the current offerings moved closer to the rest of the festival.
- This event still feels small. There are so many areas where new booths can be built. This festival could easily accommodate at least eight additional booths next year. This festival will never by Epcot big, but it might get closer if they are willing to think bigger and take over some attraction and dining space during the event.
We had a great time visiting this year’s festival and will no doubt return many more times before it closes on April 16th. Kudos to Disney on the evolution of this delicious event, you’ve got us wanting more.