Best and Worst of the Fest: What to Eat (and What to Skip) at the 2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival

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!

The 2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Has Begun!

The 2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Has Begun!

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.

2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Giftcard

2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Giftcard

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.

Off the Cob

Off the Cob

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!

Baked Ham and Swiss Cheese Croque Monsieur

The Baked Ham and Swiss Cheese Croque Monsieur Roll with Smoked Pistachios at the Nuts About Cheese Booth had SO much going on!

Baked ham and Swiss cheese croque monsieur roll with smoked pistachios

Baked ham and Swiss cheese croque monsieur roll with smoked pistachios

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.

Creamy Artichoke and Dark Chocolate Cake Pop

My next choice, the Creamy Artichoke and Dark Chocolate Cake Pop from I Heart Artichokes was a little, well, controversial.

Creamy artichoke and dark chocolate cake pop

Creamy artichoke and dark chocolate cake pop

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! :-D

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!

Creamy artichoke and dark chocolate cake pop

Creamy artichoke and dark chocolate cake pop

Except…softer. Super soft cookie dough. :-)

Orange Iced Tea with Orange Pearls

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.

Orange iced tea with orange pearls

Orange iced tea with orange pearls

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

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.

Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese with barbecue-seasoned crispy onions

Smoked Bacon Mac and Cheese with barbecue-seasoned crispy onions

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!

Maple-Bacon Whoopie Pie

Just like its predecessor last year, the Maple Bacon Whoopie Pie from Bacon Twist is a can’t miss.

Maple-bacon Whoopie Pie

Maple-bacon Whoopie Pie

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.

Duck Confit on Potato Mash and Meyer Lemon Preserves

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 on potato smash with Meyer lemon preserves

Duck confit on potato smash with Meyer lemon preserves

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.

Meyer Lemon Ginger Mule

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.)

But the one notable exception is the Meyer Lemon Ginger Mule at Lemon Grove.

Meyer Lemon Ginger Mule Cocktail

Meyer Lemon Ginger Mule Cocktail

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.

French Onion Mac and Cheese

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.

French onion mac and cheese topped with parmesan crumble and chives

French onion mac and cheese topped with parmesan crumble and chives

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

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.

Sweet corn nuggets with beef chili, spring onions and sour cream

Sweet corn nuggets with beef chili, spring onions and sour cream

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.

White Cheddar Lager Soup Topped with Bacon, served in a Mini Boudin Sourdough Boule

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.

White cheddar lager soup topped with bacon, served in a mini Boudin sourdough boule

White cheddar lager soup topped with bacon, served in a mini Boudin sourdough boule

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.

Milk Chocolate Sourdough Bread Pudding with Vanilla Bean Sauce

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

Milk chocolate sourdough bread pudding with vanilla bean sauce

Milk chocolate sourdough bread pudding with vanilla bean sauce

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.

Dole® Pineapple-Strawberry Float with Vanilla Ice Cream and Strawberry Pearls

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.

Dole® Pineapple-strawberry Float with vanilla ice cream and strawberry pearls

Dole® Pineapple-strawberry Float with vanilla ice cream and strawberry pearls

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.

Almond Milk Tea with Pudding

We found the Almond Milk Tea with Pudding at Nuts About Cheese to be… confusing. To be more blunt, we all took one taste and started looking for somewhere to spit it out.

Almond milk tea with pudding

Almond milk tea with pudding

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.

Almond milk tea with pudding

Almond milk tea with pudding

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.

Jackfruit Carnitas Banh Mi Nachos with Cilantro Crèma and “Pickled” de Gallo

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.

Jackfruit carnitas banh mi nachos with cilantro crèma and “pickled” de gallo

Jackfruit carnitas banh mi nachos with cilantro crèma and “pickled” de gallo

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

Garlic-Rosemary and Avocado Oil Ice Cream Pop

Finally, we arrive at our vote for the Weirdest Dish at the Fest: Garlic-Rosemary and Avocado Oil Ice Cream Pop from Garlic Kissed. This one was…fascinating

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.

Garlic-Rosemary and Avocado Oil Ice Cream Pop

Garlic-Rosemary and Avocado Oil Ice Cream Pop

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!

Be sure to check out our photos of ALL THE FOOD at the Festival by clicking here!

We’ll be back with more from Disneyland soon!!

2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Index

2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Booth and Menu Index — NOW WITH PHOTOS AND PRICES FOR EVERYTHING!
2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Low-Cost Seminar and Demonstrations
2017 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Special Events
Epcot Festival Fans Facebook Page
2016 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Menus and FOOD PHOTOS

How to Book Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival Events

Booking is available as of February 1 for all Low-Cost Seminar and Demonstrations as well as Premium Special Events! To obtain tickets, go to Disneyland.com or call (714) 781-DINE. (Please note: some events may only be available to book by calling.)

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!

Comments

  1. Tammy says

    The hybrid of milk tea and pudding is not a new concept. Many popular boba stores (in primarily Asian areas) have egg pudding on the list of add-ons available alongside other staples such as boba, lychee, green grass jelly, etc.

  2. says

    Lol, the jackfruit carnitas nachos was one I was specifically looking forward to! That being said, we’re veggie and absolutely LOVE pulled jackfruit. Do think somebody who generally is a a jackfruit fan would like it (we literally eat it at least once or twice a week at our house).

  3. Tori says

    I know it’s been mentioned before but I feel like the way you spoke about the pudding milk tea was incredibly insensitive to the communities who’ve been drinking pudding milk tea for years and love it.

  4. Patrick says

    My girlfriend and I loved the nachos. I somehow didn’t even realize that it wasn’t meat until you mentioned it here, which is surprising, since I typically don’t like meat substitutes. And while the garlic pop was definitely weird, I’m glad I tried it. I doubt I’ll ever get to eat anything like that again for at least a long while.

    We loved the carnitas tacos with the apple slaw. The apple was perfectly pickled and delicious while providing some slight sweetness to the taco.

    One thing we had which we loved that you didn’t mention on here was the Jalapeno Margarita. Regular lemon flavor with just a bit of a kick so that you could taste it, but no lasting spiciness. It was very refreshing. I downed that and a mule. The alcohol content wasn’t that crazy though, I remember the Egg Nog that they had at the Christmas festival. THAT will mess you up, lol.

    The slider was also very good, I didn’t see that on your list. The beef was EXTREMELY tender and flavorful, and definitely very garlicy.

    The only non-alcoholic drink we tried was the Mango Fresca. It was good, but not great. I would say that the Strawberry Agua Fresca from last year was far superior and much more refreshing, while the Guava Fresca from Christmas time was not quite as good as the Mango.

    I totally agree with you on the bacon Mac, the bread pudding and the Duck Confit, though my girlfriend didn’t like the confit. She felt the tots were a copout. I enjoyed it.

    I’m looking forward to trying everything else on your list when we make it back in a couple of weeks. Really looking forward to the French onion mac and the Bao taco.

  5. says

    Jasmine — I can only suggest that you give it a try and report back with your impressions, because you always steer us the right way where vegetarian dishes are concerned! :-D AJ specifically mentioned that the fruit was sweet. Honestly, I’ve never eaten jackfruit, but in my reading, I believe that it’s normally unripe jackfruit that’s usually used in this manner? Is it possible that ripe fruit was used here instead, and that’s the problem?

  6. says

    Tori — Thanks so much for your comment! I have no problem with pudding milk tea or those who love it. I’m saying that the flavors Disney used here weren’t pleasing to our palates. I’m from Buffalo and love Buffalo Wings, but if someone tells me they don’t like how they taste, I’m not going to be offended one bit! I understand that they don’t dislike me or my culture/community — they just have a difference in opinion about what kind of food they like.

  7. Amy says

    Tori-
    So it’s “insensitive” now when doesn’t like something just because you do? It’s just a drink! Get over it and stop being so whiny!

  8. Cheryl J says

    Gotta agree that the strawberry-pineapple float was DIVINE! Loved that. Another favorite was the Lemon Macaron with Blueberry (we shared three of them over the 5 days we were there). We also liked the beef tenderloin slider with chimichurri. The Korean Beef Short Rib Tacos were good and my daughter liked the chicken teriyaki slider.

    Our least favorites were the Fried artichoke carbonara…we each took a bite and threw it away. The maple-bacon whoopie pie pretty much tasted like pancakes and syrup…not amazing. The milk chocolate sourdough bread pudding was nowhere near as good as bread pudding I have had at various restaurants in our hometown. Also wasn’t floored with the smoked bacon mac n cheese.

    I actually watched a Disney chef make the Jackfruit nachos. Someone sitting next to me said she got an order and loved it…she said the Jackfruit tasted like meat :)

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