Review: Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop in Disney California Adventure

Recently, I was in Disneyland for the Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival. And while I ate a lot of wonderful food and attended some delicious special events, I KNEW it was time for me to finally hit up Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop for some super sweets. And by super sweets, I mean SUPER BIG ICE CREAM!

Signs

Welcome to Ghirardelli!

See, I had heard that one of my all time favorite Ghirardelli treats — the Gold Rush Sundae — was alive and well at the DCA location, even though it’s not listed on the menu (and no longer found at all at the Disney Springs location in Walt Disney World).

With that insider track, I made it my mission to pencil in a dessert date here.

Atmosphere

We gave you an extensive look around the shop when it first opened a while back, but we’ll share a few photos so that you can get your bearings.

The shop has a vintage feel to it, channeling a time around the early part of the 20th century, with tile floors, dark wood, and brass trim. Photos lining the walls share snapshots of history and show the chocolate making process.

Photographs

Photographs

Have you ever wondered exactly how to pronounce Ghirardelli? You’re not alone! Here you go!

It's Official! THIS is How You Pronounce Ghirardelli!

It’s Official! THIS is How You Pronounce Ghirardelli!

The history on the walls fits the chocolate company’s image. Ghirardelli emphasizes its bean to bar process as well as their 160-year history of making chocolate from start to finish. Read more about the background of the company and the chocolate making process in our previous post.

And while ice cream goodies are the focus at this store, they also have typical Ghirardelli merch. When you first enter the shop, you find a retail space, where you can buy a large array of Ghirardelli chocolate treats to take home with you.

Chocolate Bars

Chocolate Bars

Chocolate Display

Chocolate Display

Treats also include a selection of candies in bulk bins.

Bulk Chocolate for Sale

Bulk Chocolate for Sale

Want some gourmet Chocolate Almonds, or Malted Milk Balls? Grab a bag, fill it, and head to the registers!

Bulk Bins -- Up Close

Bulk Bins — Up Close

You’ll also find Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries and an assortment of baked goods, like Chocolate Chip Cookies and Brownies. The cookies and brownies also take center stage in a couple of Ghirardelli sundaes.

Counter Top Display of Pre-Made Treats

Counter Top Display of Pre-Made Treats

Registers are located at one side of the shop. Here, you can purchase your chocolate treats, or order something from menu!

Cash Registers in the Ordering Area

Cash Registers in the Ordering Area

Once you place your order, you simply wait until your name is called at one of the numbered windows. While you’re waiting, be sure to check out the beautiful mural, which depicts landmarks from San Francisco.

Checkout and Ordering Area

Pick Up Windows

The mural is actually interactive! It comes to life based upon what you order. For instance, if you order the Earthquake, the buildings will shake!

Ghirardelli Mural with Golden Gate Mural

Ghirardelli Mural with Golden Gate Mural

See that guy in the forefront? He comes to life, panning for gold, when you order the Gold Rush. :-D

Another Mural

Another Mural

Once you’ve had your fill of mural watching, and you’ve gathered your sundaes, shakes, and chocolate goodies, you’ll head back outside to enjoy them. The only seating is outdoors, but most of it is shaded by umbrellas or the shop’s porch.

Outdoor Seating

Outdoor Seating

I don’t know about you, but I can only talk about chocolate so long before I want to eat some. :-) Time to figure out which treats we’ll indulge in during this visit.

Eats

Whether you’re choosing a Sundae or a Cone, you’ll find that you have options. And in addition to all of the other lovely smells in the shop, you’ll also catch a whiff of the waffles, as they emerge warm from irons. By all means, splurge on a handmade waffle cone or bowl! And don’t skip the Hot Fudge that’s made right here. You get to choose between the dark chocolate and the milk chocolate! YUM.

Options

Options

After deliberations, I knew this was the time. The time to finally try the decadent — and HUGE — Earthquake Family Favorite.

Eight scoops of Ice Cream, Bananas and eight different toppings, Whipped Cream, chopped Almonds, semi-sweet Chocolate Chips, and Cherries, we didn’t know quite where to begin. This sundae, which is clearly meant for sharing, will easily feed four people, if not more. It definitely gives the Mickey Pants Sundae and the Kitchen Sink Sundae at Beaches and Cream in Disney World a run for their money!

Earthquake Family Favorite

Earthquake Family Favorite

But there’s no way we could pass up enjoying a little variety, so we didn’t stop there. Since both Salted Caramel and Peanut Butter make me very happy, we also tried the Ocean Beach Sea Salt Caramel Sundae and the Gold Rush Sundae.

Ocean Beach Sea Salt Caramel Sundae and Gold Rush Sundae

Ocean Beach Sea Salt Caramel Sundae and Gold Rush Sundae

You won’t find the Gold Rush — a combo of Hot Fudge and Melted Peanut Butter – on the official menu, since Ghirardelli started a push to go peanut-free a while back.

Gold Rush Sundae

Gold Rush Sundae

But for whatever reason, you can still ask for this one. And I’m SO glad, because it’s my favorite! I’m a big fan of the chocolate-peanut butter combo, and they execute it perfectly here. Whipped Cream, Chopped Almonds, and a Cherry finish the picture.

Gold Rush Sundae -- Up Close

Gold Rush Sundae — Up Close

Our other selection, the Ocean Beach Sea Salt Caramel Sundae, was also a show stopper. This one includes Vanilla Ice Cream, Caramel, housemade Hot Fudge, and just a touch of Sea Salt. It’s crowned with Whipped Cream, and more Caramel and Sea Salt. Then, just for good measure, they tuck a square of Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate into the top.

Now, believe it or not, I actually liked this one better than the peanut butter one (and THAT’S saying something for THIS peanut butter lover).

Ocean Beach Sea Salt Caramel Sundae

Ocean Beach Sea Salt Caramel Sundae

Killer.

Overall

Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop is exactly what you would expect to find at Disney: over the top, absolutely perfect sundaes and ice cream treats. Toppings are fresh, and some are made right there. Portions are large and frequently shareable…if you’re so inclined. :-)

And because the theme of Disney California Adventure is a celebration of The Golden State, it makes sense that this company with such a wonderful history has found a home here. And with treats as big as a meal, you won’t leave hungry. :-)

Is Ghirardelli one of your favorite stops for ice cream and chocolate in Disneyland? Leave a comment and tell us what you think!

Top 14 Disney Sweet-Salty Eats — Share Your Favorite!

We’re all about snacks lately on DFB, and we recently shared a list of our Top 12 Salty Snacks at Disney World! We came up with a couple of obvious choices (Popcorn!), but we also surprised some of you with other outside-the-box suggestions, like the Sleepy Hollow Waffle Sandwiches.

Out of that post, however, there came a fantastic suggestion from a DFB reader: we needed a list of sweet-meets-salty recommendations, too! I mean, you know how much I lurve some sea-salty sweets. :-)

And so today, we answer that challenge! Presenting, the DFB Top 14 Disney Sweet-Salty Foods (and Drinks!).

And yep, this one spans BOTH coasts. You’re gonna love it…

King Cupcake

When I first heard about the King Cupcake at Everything Pop Food Court, I absolutely couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

A chocolate cupcake with banana pudding filling, peanut butter frosting, and candied bacon? Yes, pls.

So what’s up with this daring (for Disney) cupcake? I tried it…and I loved it!

King Cupcake from Everything Pop Food Court

The name is, of course, an homage to the King himself, Elvis Presley, and his love of peanut butter and banana sandwiches. But throw in the sweet-salty candied bacon, and you have the makings of a truly epic cupcake. You will be all shook up. (Ba ha ha ha!) I guarantee.

Chocolate-Covered Sea Salt Caramel

Ah, this is one of my favorites…and one of Disney’s truly hidden gems if you ask me. If you are seeking a few perfect bites of decadence, then look no further than the Chocolate-covered Sea Salt Caramel at Karamell-Küche in Epcot’s Germany.

(Seriously. This one could have a commercial made for it. One of those ads where the chick, like, shuts the door and locks it so that she’s all alone with her chocolate-covered caramel? You know what I mean.)

Chocolate-Covered Sea Salt Caramel at Karamell-Küche in Epcot

This is the quintessential sweet salty treat — super sweet caramel enrobed in chocolate (your choice of milk or dark), and sprinkled generously with crystals of sea salt. Each bite is the perfect combination of flavors and textures.

I’ve been known to walk around Epcot with one of these in my camera bag taking surreptitious bites throughout the day. Just sayin’.

Cinnamon-Glazed Nuts

If you’re looking for a sweet-salty treat that also packs a protein punch, then Cinnamon-glazed Almonds and Pecans are the indulgence for you.

We’ve spotted the treats in Epcot and Magic Kingdom, and our guest author Joey B. wrote about them just recently in a review of Animal Kingdom’s Dino Diner Snacks as well.

Cinnamon Glazed Almonds

Sweet, salty, and spicy, you smell these amazing pecans and almonds before you see them — and then you must have them!

And because they’re a snack that really stays with you (AND they don’t melt — a snack requirement in Orlando through most of the year), they’re perfect to tide you over until that next advanced dining reservation.

Monte Cristo Sandwich

No list of sweet salty favorites would be complete without paying tribute to what is quite possibly the best sandwich on the planet: the Monte Cristo Sandwich at Cafe Orleans in Disneyland. While not technically a “snack,” — it’s hard to finish this even as a meal — it’s still an awesome addition for any of you sweet-salty lovers out there.

Monte Cristo Sandwich

Also available at Blue Bayou, this is probably the closest that a sandwich ever came to being a donut! ;-)

Thick, rich bread envelops a combination of [Read more…]

New Menu Items at Disney World Restaurants

While I’ll always have my favorite Disney World restaurant menu items, I always like to hear about new things to try. And while this is by no means an exhaustive list (menus are changing all the time), I wanted to share with you a few changes I heard about and experienced during my recent WDW trip.

If you’ve heard about or experienced other menu changes, let me know! You can contact me via twitter, facebook, or email!

Liberty Tree Tavern
You might have read the Liberty Tree Tavern menu changes blog when I posted it a couple of weeks ago, but I figured I’d get all the info in one place!

There are two brand new dishes at LTT: Chicken and Dumplings and Salmon Cakes!

New Liberty Tree Tavern Menu Items

New Liberty Tree Tavern Menu Items

The chicken and dumplings was not what we expected, and almost tasted like a very hearty, VERY peppery chicken soup. A bit too homogeneous a taste for an entree (we like some sides with our meals), but not a bad dish.

Liberty Tree Tavern Chicken and Dumplings

Liberty Tree Tavern Chicken and Dumplings

Unfortunately, the pasta dish has been taken off the menu.

Le Cellier
There have been a few changes over at Le Cellier as well, but one that we tried and loved was the Poutine. Although I grew up very close to Canada, I’d never heard of this French Canadian delicacy! Luckily, our server explained it perfectly. Fries. Cheese. Gravy. Sounds good to us! I asked for the gravy on the side (sorry, Canada!), so that’s what you get in the photo.

Le Cellier Poutine, with gravy on the side

Le Cellier Poutine, with gravy on the side

Now, let me pay homage to all of the twitter-ers who commented on my Poutine twitpic that it didn’t do justice to real Canadian poutine. For example, in most Canadian poutine, the cheese is not usually yellow, and it is always in curd form — not melted. (Our server DID mention that he considered this Le Cellier version to be “American” poutine, but it doesn’t make it any less delicious!)

We also tried a few new desserts over at Le Cellier: the Le Cellier Mont Blanc Semifreddo with chilled fruit soup, the Chocolate-on-Chocolate Whiskey Cake, and the Warm Apple Tart with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Maple Syrup.

Le Cellier Semifreddo

Le Cellier Semifreddo

Le Cellier Semifreddo Inside

Le Cellier Semifreddo Inside

Le Cellier Warm Apple Tart

Le Cellier Warm Apple Tart

Le Cellier Chocolate on Chocolate Whiskey Cake

Le Cellier Chocolate on Chocolate Whiskey Cake

While none of these desserts wowed us, the chocolate cake would have been the best of the three. Our suggestion: forget dessert and head over for a Kaki Gori! ;-)

Rose and Crown Dining Room
The Cottage Pie makes a re-appearance on Rose and Crown’s menu! I can recall Cottage Pie on the menu years and years ago, but it’s back again for all of you Anglophiles (including me…).

Rose and Crown updated menu

Rose and Crown updated menu

Rose and Crown Cottage Pie

Rose and Crown Cottage Pie

Rose and Crown Cottage Pie Inside

Rose and Crown Cottage Pie Inside

We also sampled the brand new Lemon Pie at Rose and Crown. It’s pretty much your standard lemon meringue pie, so if you love it, order it. Otherwise, stick with something else.

Rose and Crown Lemon Pie

Rose and Crown Lemon Pie

California Grill
California Grill, as always, is playing around with the “market-inspired” menu as it should, but the dessert menu has really been changed up this time around.

California Grill dessert menu 10-1-09

California Grill dessert menu 10-1-09

We sampled the Valrhona Chocolate Cake, which used to be paired with cherries and is now coupled with salted caramel ice cream and roasted pineapple. They’re riding the salted caramel train down at The Wave as well, so I think it’s a “Contemporary” thing. Either way, we loved it.

California Grill Valrhona Chocolate Cake

California Grill Valrhona Chocolate Cake

We also tried their “Sweet Celebration” item, which is a Fall Apple Cobbler, with Walnut-Oatmeal Streusel, Calvados Ice Cream, and Apple Caramel Drizzle. Our waiter kindly let us know that the cobbler wasn’t a standard “gooey” item, but instead was more of a dry dish, with the apples well-formed and not mushy. We’re BIG cobbler fans, so ordered it anyway. We loved the dish, but were glad for his warning as we would have expected something different without it.

California Grill Apple Cobbler

California Grill Apple Cobbler

Yachtsman Steakhouse
Yachtsman Steakhouse is doing all kinds of fun things with its menu — a couple of raviolis to try (including Potato and Leek Ravioli!), escargot, and a Cowboy Steak (my favorite!).

But what I’ve got to rave about here is the new Mushroom Risotto side dish. I really dislike mushrooms, but because I was so taken with Le Cellier’s Mushroom Risotto I knew I had to try the new Yachtsman version. And as a result, I have two comments: 1.) They are completely different dishes, and 2.) Yachtsman’s mushroom risotto is unbelievable.

Yachtsman Steakhouse Mushroom Risotto

Yachtsman Steakhouse Mushroom Risotto

I couldn’t stop eating it, and probably would have ordered a whole bowl if I could. It’s just that good.

Sanaa
Finally, although I didn’t get a chance to dine there this trip, Sanaa, one of Disney World’s newest restaurants, has changed up a few menu items as well (thanks to Amanda Tinney for the tip).

While many things on the menu remain, the Dum Biryani has been removed as an entree (replaced with a Lamb Kefta, at least at lunch), and the “Slow-Cooked in Gravy” section has been divided into a meat section and a vegetarian section (no more mixing!). Stewed Lentils and Spicy Cauliflower, Onions, Tomatoes, and Mint have been added as options on the vegetarian list, along with the old Paneer Cheese and Spinach.

Be sure to keep me updated on the new things you sample on your next trip! Bon Appetit!