Dining in Disneyland columnist Heather Sievers is back with a review of the Thanksgiving Feast at Disneyland Hotel in the Disneyland Resort! (And, can I just say, posts this long and in-depth take FOREVER to write; thank you, thank you Heather for this amazing report!) Here we go!
We’ve always heard how amazing the Grand Ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel is for Thanksgiving. I’ve seen photos and read about it online the past few years. This year, we decided to make it happen. I mean someone had to review it for the Disney Food Blog, right? Nothing like taking one for the team…
Atmosphere and Specs
Let me start by telling you how elaborate the check in process was. After entering the Disneyland Hotel, we waited in line to check in. Sievers, party of 4. Nope, we don’t need a high chair. Yes, still 2 adults and two children. OK, we’re checked in. Next we go around the corner to another area where we pay.
Before you freak out on the price, I know it is expensive. But, remember we are at Disneyland! Adults are $69, children ages 3-9 are $18.99 (which really isn’t too bad, but they don’t eat that much either), and children under 3 are free. We were able to use our premium annual passes for a 15% discount (annual passes offer a 10% discount, and if you are a cast member the discount is 20%).
After we paid, we went into the “lounge” where there was coffee, tea, lemonade and a movie for the kids to watch until our name was called. Our reservation was for 1:15 and our name was called right around that time. Want to know something awesome? There was a guy there in a tuxedo whose sole job was to call the family names, it was hilarious. So, when we were called, we headed over to the man in the tux, were handed our commemorative “Chip and Dale” event buttons, and were led to our table.
Keep in mind, we had never been into The Disneyland Hotel’s Grand Ballroom. Walking in was such an overwhelming experience for all of us. We weren’t sure what to look at first. Food, entertainment, more food, tons of people, characters, even more food. It was insane.
The room was so gigantic that there were three identical stations of each part of the buffet set up in the room. At each end of the ballroom there were character experiences as well as a full buffet, which included 6 different sections: Children’s Buffet, Main Entrees, Soups & Breads, Pasta Station, Cold Selections and Desserts. The center of the ballroom had the third full buffet, which was set up in front of the stage where the band was playing jazzy holiday tunes.
Eyes wide open, we made it to our table and decided to hit the Children’s Buffet first. We immediately noticed that each item was labeled with a sign naming the food and then indicating whether it contained dairy or was gluten free, vegetarian, etc. Although food allergies do not affect my family, how great of Disney to consider this and make it easy for families with special dietary needs?
The Children’s Buffet was adorable; little-kid-height tables were lined with all of the dreamy kid food you could think of: mac-n-cheese, pizza, fruit salad, jello, green bean casserole, and get this — there was a chef making peanut butter and jelly panini. They were tasty, but not as good as the PB & J pizza at Goofy’s Kitchen (we’ll discuss that another time).
There was also a mini salad bar, Mandarin orange chicken, and macaroni with meat sauce. The Children’s Buffet even had its own dessert table. The dirt n’ worms were a huge hit with my boys. The most delicious item at the Children’s Buffet? Sweet corn nuggets. Seriously heavenly. Little fried balls with sweet creamed corn inside. Fabulous.
Next, on to the Main Entrees. This was the part of the buffet where you could find all of your traditional Thanksgiving foods. There were two cast members carving meats: turkey, ham & prime rib. I had the turkey, which was so moist and flavorful. I usually don’t eat much turkey on Thanksgiving; I tend to stick to the side dishes, which are my favorites. This year though, I ate my whole slice of turkey. It helped that the buffet had the most delicious cranberry orange sauce to drench it in!
My boys and husband had the prime rib, and they ate every bite. There was also sweet potato casserole (yummy but not as sweet as I usually like mine) with toasted marshmallows, smashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, baked Alaskan salmon, savory herb and sun dried berry stuffing (amazingly flavorful, especially when drenched in gravy), and roasted pork loin with cinnamon apple rum compote. The pork was the only dish that wasn’t a hit at our table — too much cinnamon.
Bread and Soup Buffet
The Bread and Soup Buffet was our next stop. There were many different types of rolls along with freshly made banana muffins and pumpkin muffins. As for the soups, I love, love, love soup. So when I saw the butternut squash soup, I got pretty excited. It was amazing. Great flavor, creamy and just the right amount of spice to make it “Thanksgiving-ish.” There was also a very tasty grilled Fall vegetable bisque.
By this time, I was getting pretty full, but there were still 3 more buffets to hit, so I had to start pacing myself. After finishing my main plate and soup, I had a bite of the pumpkin muffin and realized it wasn’t worth finishing. The pumpkin muffin at the Blue Ribbon Bakery on Main Street in Disneyland was WAY better.
Cold Selections Buffet
So, I got in line for the Cold Selections Buffet. Jackpot. I am a huge cheese addict, give me a good cheese platter and I’m a happy camper. I’ve even ordered cheese for dinner before. I love cheese. So, when I saw the Double Cream French Brie with honey comb and dried cranberries, Rouge Creamery Smokey Blue with figs, and Gourmandise Walnut cheese, I pretty much lost my mind. Why didn’t I start here? Dang.
Anyhow I had no problem filling myself with cheese. The brie with honeycomb and dried cranberries was the best brie I’ve ever had. So soft and creamy, and that honeycomb, oh man. It was really hard for me to focus on the other “cold selections” after eyeing that cheese.
Other items at the table were smoked and cured meats; pickled vegetables; a build your own Caesar salad bar; an Autumn harvest salad bar; orzo pasta salad with roasted vegetable ratatouille basil vinaigrette (a little over the top for me — odd flavor); and sweet potato & yam salad with golden raisins, sweet onions and cinnamon dressing, which was very tasty. The cold selection buffet also featured piles and piles of crab legs and shrimp.
I have to say that at this point I was becoming comatose. I purposely went for small portions so I could try everything, but I had to have dessert, so the Pasta Station would not get a visit from me. I did check it out though and it looked amazing. There were two types of pasta to choose from, three cheese tortellini and penne.
Both were bare naked and you got to choose your sauce and ingredients to customize your dish. The sauce choices were tomato pomodoro and classic beurre blanc (white) sauce. The add-ons were aplenty and included olives, spinach, garlic, sun dried tomatoes, wild mushrooms, Andouille sausage, parmesan cheese, and ratatouille mix. After you make your choices, the chef cooks it all up right there in front of you. It really looked yummy. Maybe next time.
You ready for dessert? I think our dessert course was approximately an hour long. Something very nice about the meal was that no one was trying to rush us along. The cast members were very attentive, keeping our drinks topped off, offering coffee and clearing away the dirties. Our table was centrally located to each buffet, but it was directly next to the dessert table. This was so much fun for our boys. They’d head over, grab something to try, come back, taste test. If they liked it, they’d finish it off; if not, they’d go back for something different. Heavenly.
I think I made about 4 trips and still didn’t try everything I wanted to try. It was literally impossible, and I did not want to puke. I started with a personal pumpkin pie, a hazelnut caramel “lollipop,” and a mini red velvet cupcake. All were divine, but I wanted to try more, so I just took a bite of each and headed back to the table. I tried a cream puff, some cheesecake, and had a chocolate dipped strawberry.
I do regret the fact that I did not have a crepe. There was a chef making them right there. What was I thinking? I am also sad that I didn’t try some of the pecan boysenberry crisp with vanilla ice cream. Am I stupid? Nope, just unbelievably full.
My boys loved the chocolate fountain. They dipped strawberries, marshmallows, and gingerbread men. There were other various fruits to dip as well as macaroons and lady fingers. Honestly, there were so many desserts there’s no way I could even list them all. I made a few different rounds to take photos and every time I finished someone would come out with a new tray of something that wasn’t there before. It was really crazy.
After our meal we rolled ourselves over to the character experiences where we visited Geppetto, Pocahontas & her raccoon buddy Meeko, Donald and Daisy. As we were leaving we saw Chip and Dale as well as Minnie and Pluto, but the lines were long and we were ready to head home.
I have to say that this was such a fun and different thing to do for Thanksgiving. We noticed lots of large parties dining; it was obvious that it was an annual tradition for many of them. I can definitely see why people would want to come year after year. Good food, good company, and no clean up. A really great way to celebrate. I am thankful for such a nice day with my three favorite guys.