Greetings from sunny California! We’re coming to you from Disneyland where the 2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival is in full swing!
And the Festival is running EVERYDAY this year. So that means you’ve got from now through April 16th to try your top picks at this year’s FOURTEEN Festival Marketplace Booths.
To help you make your list, I’ve tackled each and every food item at ALL of them. Well, with the help of our Dining in Disneyland columnist and best west coast dine-around pal, Heather Sievers, of course!
Click here to check out photos AND prices of ALL the food at the Festival! (Allergy-Friendly Menus, Too!)
Overall, we found the food to be fantastic. It was much better than last year, and much MUCH better than Festival of Holidays. They’re thinking outside of the box and experimenting a little with flavors, and I commend that.
PLUS — prices are down and portion sizes are up. Both things that will definitely bring this festival back in line with expectations as opposed to last year.
We also found Cast Members to be completely awesome — well informed, knowledgeable, and gracious with all the opening day kinks. They were truly excited to talk to us about the food.
While we found a LOT to love, there were also some dishes that didn’t impress us… .
Let’s take a look at the Best, Worst, and Weirdest (no joke) of the Fest. Read our thoughts below, or watch the video here to get a condensed version!
Best of the 2017 DCA Food and Wine Festival
These are all the dishes that had us at hello. We were mostly agreed, and when the vote was split between Heather and me, I’ll be sure to come clean!
The Baked Ham and Swiss Cheese Croque Monsieur Roll with Smoked Pistachios at the Nuts About Cheese Booth had SO much going on!
The Swiss Cheese is strong, but not necessarily sharp. The Ham was also remarkable — not the garden variety deli ham we anticipated. Everything was warm and all kind of melty together. I know! It totally doesn’t look like it! — which made for a nice surprise. The extra pop of salt, smoke, and color from the Smoked Pistachios elevated the pinwheel to something a little extra special.
That’s because I really, really loved it, and Heather, well…notsomuch. But I spoke to a few other folks who felt the same way as me, so it’s making the cut!
So — what do you get when you make Artichokes creamy and turn them into a cake pop? You might be surprised to find out that this tasted a lot like cookie dough to me!
Except…softer. Super soft cookie dough.
I hate iced tea. All iced tea. Except, apparently, for this one. The Orange Iced Tea with Orange Pearls tasted like a melted Orange Popsicle.
The Orange Pearls are the popping kinds, and gave us a little extra burst of flavor that made the drink even better.
And seriously, Disneyland, what is up with ALL the pearls??? Nearly every booth seemed to have a drink featuring those popping pearls. (We’re not talking about the candied ones or Boba, but the ones that you see above, which pop and contain liquid.) While we’re not exactly complaining, it was a little strange. I mean, did they get a deal at Costco or something? Weird.
Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese with Barbecue-Seasoned Crispy Onions at Bacon Twist is super awesome. Of the two mac and cheese dishes at this year’s Festival (don’t worry; you know we’re gonna get to the other one in a sec), this was probably my favorite.
While the orange color may seem a little vibrant to have occurred in nature, the flavors are fantastic. But the toppings are what took the dish to the next level. Those Crispy Onions and Bacon were EVERYTHING. A marriage made in food heaven. Ask for extra topping if you can get it!
The VERY moist cake features both Bacon and Apples in the perfect proportions, so the texture is spot-on. Besides, the lovely pillowy Icing at the heart of the matter is Cream Cheese. So. You know. This is basically killer.
We have reached the point where I tell you what the Best of the Best is, and its name is Duck Confit with Potato Mash and Meyer Lemon Preserves. Find this amazing dish at Lemon Grove.
Duck Confit is one of my favorite things in the whole world when it’s done well, and this is perfect. The “smash” uses those yummy Tater Tots from DCA’s previous festivals, so the flavor is through the roof there. I didn’t taste a lot of Lemon in here, but never mind that. It’s a great portion size and an amazing dish. If you’re like me, you should plan to get this one more than once.
By and large, I say skip the cocktails at the Festival this year. The prices are completely ridiculous, and most of the portions are ludicrously small. (Seriously. I’m looking at you, Vodka Martini.)
I’m not a huge Mule or Ginger fan, but the flavors were perfectly balanced here. It’s like a carbonated lemonade with a little ginger zing. Get it.
Next, we arrive at our second Mac and Cheese item of the day, the French Onion Mac and Cheese at the Onion Lair. Super saucy Mac and Cheese is topped with Caramelized Onions, Parmesan Crumble, and Chives.
Seriously — how could we not?? Just look at it.
This is CRAZY rich — like I don’t want to know how much Heavy Cream and Butter is happening here — and savory. Your kids might not love it, but YOU sure will. The Onions made the dish, so be sure to distribute them through the mac before you dig in.
Sweet Corn Nuggets with Beef Chili, Spring Onions and Sour Cream from Off the Cob is so unfancy, you guys. I mean, we ate an Artichoke Cake Pop a minute ago, and now we digging into Chili Cheese Fries?
It’s total pub grub! And we’re in love.
Despite the GIANT Scallions, the flavors are incredible. The Nuggets are wonderful little sweet-savory bites, but it’s the Chili that makes this dish.
Next, we come to Festival history and royalty: the White Cheddar Lager Soup Topped with Bacon, served in a Mini Boudin Sourdough Boule at Sweet & Sourdough.
This dish, in one form or another, has been at every single DCA Food and Wine Fest, right from the beginning. And with the Lager twist this year, it’s just as good, if not better.
We do miss the Bacon topper (looks a little boring, eh?), but the flavors don’t suffer. This is a hallmark festival dish. Do not miss it.
Time for more sweets — and the Milk Chocolate Sourdough Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Sauce, also at Sweet & Sourdough, fits the bill nicely. It’s sweet and pretty…just how I like my desserts! ;-D
This simple Bread Pudding has rockstar flavors, and it’s not at all dry — which is the worst thing a bread pudding can be, imo. A big thumbs up for this one.
While we recommend you skip pretty much all of the cocktails at the Fest, there are some notable non-alcoholic drinks that are worth your time, money, and stomach space. One of our favorites is the Dole® Pineapple-Strawberry Float with Vanilla Ice Cream and Strawberry Pearls at LA Style.
This is a HUGE portion and packs a lot of flavor. While the Pineapple-Strawberry Juice on top is likely just something you can buy in the store, this one has SO MUCH Ice Cream! In fact, I have a feeling this portion size will be reduced before the Festival is over. We also really loved the little strawberry pearls in the mix. (Again. Pearls.)
If the portion is reduced, I’d leave it off the must-buy list. But for now, it’s a good option!
Worst of the 2017 DCA Food and Wine Festival
So yes, here’s where we tell you the truth: it’s not all fantastic. Read on to learn about the dishes we think that when you see them, you should just just Keep. On. Walking. The good news is the list is short.
Still. Take heed.
The offputting flavor combined with the gelatinous chunks of Pudding (more like a very stiff Panna Cotta, and we all know how I feel about THAT) at the bottom just did. not. work.
We get that this is a Hot New Thing. And we don’t have a problem with the drink-dish hybrid concept. But the flavors here were just…bad.
Next, we come to the Jackfruit Carnitas Banh Mi Nachos with Cilantro Crèma and “Pickled” de Gallo from Off the Cob. Our vote is in. This one is…disturbing.
I’m sorry. But just NO.
Yes, I get that some consider Jackfruit to be a vegan equivalent to pulled pork. But we stand confidently behind our assessment: This Should Not Be a Thing.
If anyone tells you that they can dress up jackfruit to make it savory and that it will taste just like carnitas….never believe them. Never. This was probably a victim of incorrect expectations, but if you call something carnitas nachos, it shouldn’t taste sweet.
I can’t be clear enough here without using much stronger language. We enjoyed nothing about this dish. Please, for the love. Skip it.
Weirdest of the 2017 DCA Food and Wine Festival
We get it. Chef-types and the West Coast in particular are known for flavor innovation. And anyone who’s watched a Food Network competition has seen someone sneak garlic into ice cream before.
It was a little bit sweet and a little bit savory. More than anything, the pop is suuuuuper creamy, so thumbs up for that. The flavor, on the other hand, was, um, interesting. We definitely tasted the Rosemary as the prevalent flavor note, but neither of us could have eaten a whole ice cream pop. Or even half.
As we polled our fellow Festival goers, we found many people who loved it, and just as many who hated it. If you’re adventurous, don’t miss this one. But if you’ve got little kids, we’re pretty sure they’re not going to be into it.
And that’s a wrap on what you MUST eat — and what I think you should TOTALLY skip — at the 2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival!
We’ll be back with more from Disneyland soon!!
What are YOU most excited to try at this year’s Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival? Please let us know with a comment!