By Pam Kragen, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Napa Valley wines, San Diego beers, Central Coast artichoke hearts and pastries topped with Northern California-grown fruit are on the menu at Disney California Adventure theme park’s 2022 Food & Wine Festival, running through April 26.
This year’s eight-week festival is the 12th produced at Disneyland’s sister park in Anaheim since 2006. The hugely popular festival brings in large and hungry crowds during what’s usually a slow time of year for California tourism. In honour of this spring’s California-centric celebration, the Soarin’ Over California version of the park’s Soarin’ Around the World ride has returned for a limited time.
The festival features chef and mixology demonstrations, children’s cooking-themed stage shows and specialty menus at restaurants throughout the Disneyland Resort and Downtown Disney shopping district. There’s also an extensive variety of California wines, beers and cocktails available for adults located at kiosks and restaurants throughout the park.
But the main attraction of the festival each year is the Marketplace, a collection of 12 food kiosks throughout the park serving tasting-size portions of hot and cold dishes inspired by California cuisine. The menu changes every year, with just a handful of customer favourites making repeat visits from year to year. Individual food items can be purchased at prices ranging from $4.25 to $8.50, or park visitors can buy a “sip and savour” pass for a choice of eight dishes or nonalcoholic beverages for $57.
The kiosks have themes that celebrate California’s best-known crops and artisan food products. These include the Avocado Time booth, Garlic Kissed, I Heart Artichokes, Peppers Cali-Ente, Nuts about Cheese, Berry Patch and LA Style, which features some of the food truck specialties that Los Angeles is known for.
With the opening of the Avengers campus at Disney California Adventure last year, several food stations in that area of the park are also offering bite-size festival food items that can be purchased with a sip and savour pass.
Each year, Disneyland Resort’s culinary team does extensive research to determine the hottest new culinary trends, ethnic flavours, seasonings and ingredients. In recent years, this has included vegan options made with plant-based Impossible Burger filling, chicken and waffles, banh mi sandwiches, lavender-infused cold brew coffee and Anaheim chile relleno “bites.”
This year’s menu celebrates American comfort foods, with burgers, mac ‘n’ cheese options, hot dogs, barbecue and deep-fried savoury items.
What’s new to eat this year?
Here’s a look at some of this year’s new bite-size dishes, both at the Marketplace kiosks and other food locations throughout Disney California Adventure:
- Peanut Butter & Jelly Mac: Mac ‘n’ cheese dishes are among the festival’s top sellers, so there are always a few new options each year. This new twist on mac ‘n’ cheese is both toddler-friendly and a savoury dessert option. It’s macaroni and cheese topped with brown sugar streusel and strawberry “crackle” on top. It can be found at the Nuts About Cheese kiosk.
- Glazed BBQ Pork Belly: Another perennial favourite with Food & Wine Festival diners is pork belly. This year, the dish is being presented in an Asian-glazed barbecue style and served with a side of furikake-togarashimac salad. This can be found at the LA Style kiosk.
- French Onion Grilled Beef Tenderloin Slider: Festival-goers love their beef, which always turns up at the Festival Marketplace in sliders, steaks, short ribs and other cuts and styles. This year’s creation is the French Onion Grilled Beef Tenderloin Slider, topped with a Gruyère cheese sauce and caramelized onions served on an onion roll. This can be found at Cluck-A-Doodle Moo kiosk.
- IPA Sausage Dog: This hot dog-style bite is a sausage made with California-brewed India Pale Ale beer, served on a soft pretzel role with onion-pepper jardinière, cheddar cheese sauce and malt vinegar-jalapeño crunch. It can be found at the California Craft Brews kiosk.
- Raspberry Spiral Ration: Served in a booth in the Avenger’s Campus, this mini-dessert is a yellow strawberry churro twisted into a spiral shape, dusted with sugar and topped with California berry compote. It can be found at the Terran Treats stand.
- Chicharron-Crusted Fried Artichoke Dip: California artichoke hearts are rolled in crushed chicharron (crispy pork rinds), deep fried, dusted with Oaxaca cheese and served on a bed of smoked pepper crema. This dish can be found at the I Heart Artichokes kiosk.
- Snickers Caramel-Peanut Milk Chocolate Mickey Macaron: The Mickey Mouse-ear macarons are among the top-selling desserts at the festival each year. This year’s version of the treat is made with chocolate macaron cookies, filled with caramel ganache and Snickers candy bar pieces and topped with nuts and chocolate glaze. It can be found at the Nuts About Cheese kiosk.
Culinary demonstrations & wine-tasting receptions
Another feature of the festival this year are the culinary demonstrations being offered on weekend days by both Disneyland Resort chefs and visiting chefs from throughout California.
More than 30 chefs from all over California and the Disneyland Resort will present free hour-long cooking demonstrations at 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays on stage in the park’s Hollywood Land area. Among this year’s chefs are longtime San Diegan Rich Sweeney, who competed on the TV series Top Chef in Season 5 and is now executive chef at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Garden at Liberty Station. Sweeney will do a demonstration on April 3.
California winemakers will host wine-tasting receptions at the Carthay Circle Restaurant that include paired bites. Advance reservations are recommended and priced at US$140 each, plus tax and tip.
IF YOU GO
What: Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
When: Runs daily through April 26
Where: Disney California Adventure theme park, 1313 Disneyland Dr., Anaheim
Tickets: $104 for one-day admission. For $199, Southern California residents (in ZIP codes 90000-93599) can purchase a three-day, one-park-per-day pass for weekdays-only visits, through May 26.