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March 1 marked the beginning of this year’s Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, a popular annual event that runs until April 23. The celebration of Golden State fare features 14 festival marketplace kiosks — plus other locations throughout the park — serving 35 menu items that represent California’s diverse food landscape, from local wines and beers to savory snacks and sweet treats celebrating the state’s fresh ingredients.
“It’s not difficult to find a hero when you come into Disney California Adventure park,” said John State, culinary director of food and beverage for Disneyland Resort. “I’m not talking about Spiderman or Black Panther, I’m talking about the hero ingredients that we celebrate here in California.”
Festival FavesFifteen festival favorites are back this year, including the Harris Ranch grilled-beef tenderloin slider with chimichurri sauce. According to Gary Maggetti, general manager of Disney California Adventure Park West at the Disneyland Resort, the slider was the most popular menu item last year.
Also back is mac and cheese. This year, there are two varieties of this comfort food: creamy mac and cheese with garlic crumble, and ghost-pepper mac and cheese with chili-cheese corn-chip dust (fair warning: this dish is not for the faint of heart).
“We understood when we [named a marketplace] Peppers Cali-ente, that people are expecting something hot and memorable,” State said. “And the ghost-pepper mac and cheese will get people’s attention.”
But there’s only one thing that has been at the festival every year: beer cheddar soup.
“The one item that has been on the festival menu since 2006 is a beer cheddar cheese soup,” Maggetti said. “We’ve changed it up — for example, we’ve made it with lager, and we’ve made with ale — but that offering is one that our guests look forward to.”
This year the guest favorite is being offered as a vegetarian Fiscalini white-cheddar lager soup in a mini Boudin sourdough bread bowl.
Global TastesTaking a cue from California’s diverse mix of cultures, the festival presents items inspired by international cuisines, including Anaheim chile relleno bites with salsa verde; spiced roasted chicken on pita with avocado hummus; and a deconstructed teriyaki chicken musubi topped with sweet pineapple relish.
Maggetti notes that the musubi is being offered along with a BLT chicharron duro with ranch crema at Golden Dreams, a new marketplace celebrating the fusion of international flavors in Southern Californian cuisine.
Meatless OptionsTaking note that Disney park guests want plant-based options, the chefs included 12 items that are vegan or vegetarian, including artichoke toast with cream cheese spread and California olive tapenade. Also on the menu is an “no meat” ball sandwich made from the Impossible Burger, topped with marinara and soy cheese; the sandwich was vegetarian last year, but is now vegan and features a hidden Mickey on the roll. The Disney chefs also created a vegan cauliflower ceviche with chile corn crumble.
“I try not to use the word ‘favorite,’ but the cauliflower ceviche is pretty cool,” State said. “It looks, feels and acts like ceviche. There are no flavors missing in this experience.”
Plus, the popular guacamole beef slider from past festivals has been reimagined as a vegetarian offering by substituting the meat patty with an Impossible Burger.
Sweet TreatsLast, but certainly not least, are the desserts. Each festival marketplace offers a sweet treat that complements the theme, such as creamy Greek yogurt cheesecake topped with dehydrated basil and raspberry jam at Nuts About Cheese; fresh California berry fruit pie at Berry Patch; and a decadent chocolate-peanut-caramel parfait at Golden Dreams.
And because Disney has become famous for its innovative macarons, a Meyer lemon almond macaron with blueberry jam is on offer at Citrus Grove. For the ultimate sugar high, there is also a special pineapple jalapeno cotton candy created for the festival.
Sip & SavorTo make the most of the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, clients can purchase a Sip and Savor Pass for $54 ($49 for annual passholders) that allows them to sample any eight festival offerings (excluding alcohol).
“The Sip and Savor Pass can be used at the marketplaces, Paradise Garden Grill, the cappuccino cart and all the outdoor seasonal carts — so 21 different locations,” Maggetti said. “The idea is to add festival-inspired menu items to as many locations as possible so you really have that immersive feel.”
Any marketplace item can be purchased from any marketplace cashier, so guests only need to wait in one line and then can go directly to the pickup windows.
The 54-day Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival also features live entertainment, family-friendly crafts, culinary demonstrations and even a Junior Chef experience where Chef Goofy “supervises” as kids ages 3 to 11 bake cookies.
Clients can also participate in separately ticketed events such as Dinner With Disney Chefs; Winemaker Receptions at Carthay Circle Restaurant; and the “In the Kitchen With” series and “Sweet Sundays” series with visiting celebrity chefs.
The DetailsDisney California Adventure Food & Wine Festivaldisneyland.disney.go.com