Bringing together two of my favorite things, Disney and food, this year’s Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival takes place from March 10 to April 16 at at the Anaheim theme park. Disneyworld hosts a similar but larger event at Epcot featuring international cuisine taking place every fall.
For a Disneyland annual passholder, the festival brings an exciting new twist to the beloved California Adventure experience. For a special-visit vacationer, it makes a potentially once-in-a-life-time experience more memorable, all while Disney takes more money out of our oh-too-willing hands.
This year’s festival has 15 unique booths featuring different foods with a combination of California and Disney themes. Some choice stops at the festival include “Nuts About Cheese”, which features combinations of nuts and cheese in small toast and bread servings with different flavor pairings. “Uncork California” is its complement, featuring flights and glasses of California wines. “I (heart) Artichokes” includes multiple preparations of the not-so-approachable vegetable.
Other highlights include “Garlic Kissed”, which cranks up the stinky breath with delectably hearty tastings as well as unique garlicy ice cream. “Olive Us” showcases my favorite salty snack in preparations from warm focaccia bread to dirty vodka martinis, while “The Onion Lair” brings back the stinky breath in sweet, savory, and drink preparations. “Off the Cob” features quintessential summer corn in new dishes, and “Sweet and Sourdough” pays homage to the San Francisco classic, tying to Boudin (which is also available in the park).
Aside from the food at the kiosks, the festival also offers tastings and samplings of different products including olive oils, hot sauces, handmade bath products, and more.
In addition to food, the Food and Wine Festival also offers activities such as “In the Kitchen With…,” which offers visitors a chance to see celebrity chefs cook, taste their dishes, and even meet them and get autographs. This year’s celebrity chef line-up includes G. Gavin of Road Trip with G. Gavin, Robert Irvine of Restaurant: Impossible, Graham Elliot of Masterchef, Guy Fieri of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Cat Cora of Iron Chef: America, and Jet Tila of Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen.
The “Sweet Sundays” demonstrations are similar to “In the Kitchen With…” but are exclusively baking and dessert demonstrations with pastry chefs. The lineup includes Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes, Emily Ellyn of Food Network Star and Cutthroat Kitchen, and Keegan Gerard of Food Network Challenge.
“Winemaker Dinners” includes a four course dinner with selected wines from featured winemakers. This year's winemakers are Flora Springs Winery, Buckhorn Vineyards, and Disney Family of Wines. The Flora Springs and Buckhorn dinners cost $150 per guest plus tax and tip while the Disney Family of Wines dinner costs a whopping $200 per guest plus tax and tip.
Other festival demonstrations include “Winemaker Dinners”, “Wine Education and Tasting seminars”, “Beer and Spirit Education and Tasting seminars”, and “Culinary Demonstrations,” which require reservations.
Disneyland and California Adventure are expensive, there is no doubt about it. But for me, this festival is an even bigger draw to the allure and joy that is Disneyland. Items at the kiosks are up to five dollars for tiny bites and fourteen dollars for a sip of a martini, yet people don’t stop going. Disney has always found bigger and better ways to take our money. Featuring local and sustainable foods and showcasing artists and both small-scale and big-time celebrity chefs, however, is fun, entertaining, enticing, tasty, and maybe even worth it.