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April 12, 2008

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival - Day 1

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Finally! The first weekend of Disney's California Food and Wine Festival at Disney's California Adventure. The Festival will have daily events from April 11-May 5.

Lee and I will be here at Disneyland for the first weekend of the Festival - we are spending two nights at the Grand Californian, and I will be attempting to submit daily blog entries while we are here.

Disney certainly got a gorgeous weekend for their Festival - though a little warmer than they would like, I think. It was supposed to be 83 today (Friday), though I'm not sure it was quite that warm. Still, when you were standing in full sun waiting in line for an event, it was very warm! There was a nice breeze though.

So...what's new with the Festival this year? A lot, actually. As I mentioned, it's daily this year, with complimentary cooking demos and wine and beer tasting each day. More on the weekends, of course.

They have new venues this year - in addition to the Golden Vine Winery and Pacific Wharf areas they've used the last two years, they have also expanded into the Bountiful Farm area, with a new (larger) demonstration kitchen area there which seats 72 people. The Jr. Chef program has relocated there, also. The upper terrace of the Golden Vine Winery, formerly a demonstration kitchen, is now the Sparkling Bar, where they serve flights of wines as well as tapas like cheese platters, bruschetta and flatbread. The demonstration kitchen in the Pacific Wharf area has also been expanded and seats 80 people. The Festival Welcome Center has been relocated to Sunshine Plaza.

One really great (in my opinion) addition this year: all of the counter service restaurants in DCA (with the exception of Burger Invasion) are offering special food and/or beverage items during the Festival. One of my complaints in the past has been that there just isn't a lot of variety in the Festival food items, and that with Festival foods served just at the Lucky Fortune Cookery, that you can't wander around and eat. This goes a long way to helping with that! Though these food items are full-size orders and not appetizer-sized, so unless you're sharing with a group it's hard to try too many of them in a day.

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Anyway...the food items are themed to the restaurant serving them, and for the most part they look really wonderful to me. Farmer's Market has a California Wrap, Award Wieners has the Portabello "Philly" (yes, made with mushrooms - no meat!), Cocina Cucamonga offers Bunuelo Fritters,Pacific Wharf Cafe is serving a Chinese Chicken Salad in a bread bowl, there's a Gourmet Cheese Corn Dog at Corn Dog Castle, and Pizza Oom Mow Mow has a Chilled Shrimp Pasta Salad. (Taste Pilot's Grill is only offering an additional wine and beer, as far as I can tell.) A number of these offerings are healthier/lighter fare than the normal theme park foods, but yet they sound delicious. Lee and I tried the California Wrap, which is a spinach tortilla filled with marinated chicken, mandarin oranges, sliced red flame grapes, apricots, cilantro, and baby spinach, with a light honey/low-fat yogurt dressing. It was quite tasty, though a bit heavy on the cilantro for my taste (since I really don't like cilantro.)

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The Lucky Fortune Cookery is still serving appetizer-sized offerings for the Festival, but I don't think there are as many selections this year. I'm running out of time, so more on those later this weekend.

Another thing that's new this year...crowds! Even the first events on Friday were at capacity, and of the people we talked to in line, most had come because of the Festival - not a lot of people just walked up and participated. All of the events we attended today - Delicious Desserts and BBQ cooking demos and Flora Springs and Rosenthal - the Malibu Estate wine tastings were turning people away. You were ok if you got in line at least 15 minutes in advance...but I'll bet that won't be true tomorrow!

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Marinated BBQ Pork on Rice "Cake" wrapped with English Cucumber

While we were wandering around the Festival today we ran into Jim Ames, Producer of the Festival, who of course is busy, busy, busy, but took several minutes to chat with us. He gave me the menu for Taste (I will get that on-line after I get home) and told us who the entertainment will be for Taste this year - jazz guitarist and two-time Grammy winner Paul Brown, accompanied by a band led by the guy who leads the band on Dancing with the Stars. (If I watched the show I might know who that was, but I don't.) Anyway...it will be quite a different experience from Barrage last year.

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Flora Springs Winetasting

Tonight we attended the Winemaker Dinner at Steakhouse 55, featuring the wines of Chappellet Winery. Dinner was quite good - especially the dessert - goat cheese cheesecake and Valhrona Chocolate Pate. The latter was especially good. I'll have more on that later, too.

It'll be a busy day tomorrow, starting off with early entry at Disneyland where hopefully Lee will finally get a chance to ride the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. I'll write more as I have time.

A special hello to AllEars reader Don and his family - we had a nice chat with them after the Rosenthal winetasting.

April 13, 2008

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival - Day 2

Another busy day today...and it was *hot*. Definitely high 80s, if not in the 90s. Whew. There was quite a breeze blowing, too - which was good, because it helped keep us a little cooler, but it was also bad, because they couldn't put up all of the big umbrellas, for fear they would topple over. So some of the venues, and especially the waiting areas, didn't have as much shade today.

Oh, before I forget...I put the menus for the Festival on-line - you can find them HERE.

We started our day off by taking advantage of the Early Entry...I mean Magic Morning...perq that we get for being guests at one of the Disney resorts. Normally the only way to get into Disneyland early is to have a three-day (or more) hopper ticket - most of these have one MM entry on them. But if you're staying at the Disney resorts, then one of the unpublished benefits is that you get MM entry every morning of your stay that it's offered. For people like us who have annual passes, that's the only way that we ever get to enjoy MM.

The park opened to the public at 8:00, which meant MM began at 7:00...pretty early when we had a long day yesterday. But we got there a few minutes before they opened the gates, and made the long trip back to the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage queue our first destination. Even though the fastest way to the ride entrance is through Tomorrowland, they make everyone go up to the hub and onto Matterhorn Way, then around the *left* side of the Matterhorn. And then they held us under the monorail track, all the way across the lagoon from the sub loading area, before finally walking us through the queue and into the loading area. We were on the second or third sub of the day, and really didn't have much of a wait at all.

Lee had never ridden it before - he said it was ok, but not something he needs to do very often. He said when you're an adult and you know that the submarine isn't actually going down, it loses an awful lot of the magic. If you've ever spent time underwater (as he has, between scuba diving and snorkeling) then it looks incredibly fake. But he thought the "projections" of the fish (or whatever they do) were effective and interesting. (Ok, now he's trying to blame it on me, and saying that his entire Nemo experience was ruined because I told him last year that it wasn't that good.)

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30 minutes of our magic hour was gone by then...but we were still able to vanquish Zurg, blast through space in a rocket ship, and take a trip to Wonderland before our hour was up.

We had breakfast at the Carnation Cafe for the first time. We had two of their most popular dishes - Oscar's Cafe Scramble and the Mickey Waffle. Service was efficient and we both thought the food was good and not really overpriced at all - $27.00 for both of us with tax and tip, and we usually spend about that much at our favorite breakfast place at home. You can see their breakfast menu HERE.

As we were walking up Main Street after breakfast Lee noticed the chairs that are up on the porch in front of one of the shops were empty, so we sat there and watched the world go by for a few minutes. Just something we'd never had a chance to do before!

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We wandered around the park for a while (research, you know!), and then decided to take a ride on Splash Mountain. Neither of us had been on it since it came out of a lengthy refurbishment almost a year ago - I was quite pleasantly surprised at how much brighter and more colorful it is inside, and the sound is a lot clearer, too. We sat in the back (I *always* ask to sit in back because it's drier!), and stayed pretty dry - several of the girls in front of us were pretty wet, though. :-)

DCA was open by then, so we started off another day at the Food and Wine Festival. On our way into the park I noticed Cast Members standing on the walkway to the Golden Vine Winery who were handing out Dream Fastpasses, so we detoured and picked those up. That's the first time that Lee has been "dreamed" - it's the second time I've gotten the Fastpasses (I received a pin lanyard the other time).

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This year, in addition to celebrity chef Jamie Gwen, the Festival is featuring other celebrity chefs on weekends, who participate in cooking demonstrations, book/photo signings, or both. This weekend's chef is Cat Cora, the first female Iron Chef, and star of various things on the Food Network. Or so they tell me...I don't watch the Food Network, though I had at least heard her name. Anyway...I was pretty sure her two cooking demos would be popular, so we arrived at about 10:40 for her 11:30 demo. There were already about 30 people waiting - the venue only holds 80. They started turning people away about 15-20 minutes before the event started.

We found her to be a very entertaining speaker. She talked about "cooking from the hip", which is also the title of her latest cookbook. There were obviously lots of Cat Cora fans in the audience who were interested in asking about her Iron Chef experiences. Her demonstration was on kid-friendly, but healthy, foods - white bean hummus and veggie wraps, and fruit skewers with yogurt-honey sauce. Both excellent.

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After that we made haste over to the Beer area, to try to get in on the 12:00 Champagne and Sparkling Wine demonstration. We barely made it - they were out of the "reservation cards" they've been handing out at all the events, but once everyone was seated we made it in on "standby". This demo was conducted by Elizabeth, a very knowledgeable Cast Member who works at the Terrace Wine Tasting area at the Golden Vine Winery, where people can taste wine every day. (For a "small" fee, of course.)

We had three different sparkling wines to taste (and I'm sure you know that sparkling wine can't be called champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region of France - even French sparkling wines that don't come from Champagne have that restriction). There was the Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee, which was developed especially for Disney. Initially it was only offered on the Disney cruise ships, but now it is occasionally available in the parks - I know I've seen it at Epcot's Food and Wine Festival. It was very nice and light. I've never really cared for champagne...obviously I just haven't been drinking the good stuff. :-)

Next up was a French (non-Champagne region) sparkling wine called St. Hilaire. This was also excellent. And the third was one of my favorites - Castello Banfi's Rosa Regale. This is red in color instead of white, and somewhat sweet, and really just a lovely wine. We have a couple of bottles of this at home. (We didn't pay $45 a bottle, which is what Disney charges for it, though!)

For lunch we tried the Festival offering at the Pacific Wharf Cafe - the Chinese Chicken Salad. It was served in a sourdough bread bowl - lettuce with mandarin oranges, sesame seeds, lots of white meat chicken chunks, cabbage, rice noodles, and a ginger-soy dressing. It was pretty good.

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We used one of our dream Fastpasses to ride Soarin' Over California (which had a 60-minute standby line). There were actually a lot of people in the theater who apparently hadn't done the ride before, since there was a pretty good round of applause when it ended. I still think that's one of the best rides Disney has ever done.

We went separate ways after that - Lee went to the Karl Strauss Beer Tasting session and I went to see what the Jr. Chefs program was like this year. For this weekend, at least, the kids get to make sugar cookies with Chef Jamie Gwen and Chef Goofy. They seemed to enjoy it. And the kids did, too. :-) (The kids get a pre-baked and decorated cookie to take with them.)

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I also attended the Gilroy Garlic cooking demo - a session that filled up with 30 minutes still to go - I arrived 40 minutes early and had a long wait in the sun for that one. One nice thing that I don't think I've mentioned about all the demonstrations - Disney provides a small bottle of Dasani water at each table setting, along with a pencil and something to take notes on. The water was most appreciated this weekend! Chef Castillo from the Paradise Pier made a roasted red pepper soup - he apologized for serving us soup on such a warm day. I liked it, which I found interesting because it contains red peppers and fennel, two ingredients I don't really like. Must be all of the marriage of the flavors and that sort of thing! :-)

Lee says that at the beer tasting, in addition to tasting beers they also tasted the barley grain itself - both toasted and untoasted. He says the beer tasting was very educational - it was conducted by the Brew Master for Karl Strauss Brewing Company who explained each of the steps in the process of making beer, and how variations in the process and the ingredients result in different kinds of beer. And the beers were pretty good, too, though after sitting out on such a hot day they were warmer than most Americans would drink them. While waiting in line he was talking to an AllEars reader whose name he didn't get...but hello to you, Mr. Unnamed, Beer-Tasting, All Ears Reader!

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We met back at our room - it felt good to relax and get out of the heat for a while! We wanted to attend the 5:30 Wine and Chocolate tasting session, but knew that would be popular so we should get there early. By the time we arrived at 4:50 they had already given away all of the available "tickets", and there were several people ahead of us for "standby" seating. Wow. We decided to go use a couple of our Fastpasses instead, and we rode California Screamin' and Grizzly River Run. This Dream Fastpass thing is pretty nice! Believe it or not, this was actually the first time I'd ever ridden Grizzly River Run - I have this thing about getting soaking wet. But since in this case I knew I could go back to the hotel it was ok. The ride was fun, and we DID get pretty wet, but since it was so hot it felt really good!

Instead of heading back to our room we went back to the Wine/Chocolate tasting session...though we couldn't participate we could at least stand there and listen. Elizabeth, the Cast Member we'd seen at the Sparkling Wine demo, was also the speaker for this one. The participants got to sample three different Ghirardelli chocolates - 60% cacao, 72% cacao and 86% cacao, and three wines - a merlot, the Rosa Regale we had earlier, and Bonny Doon Framboise, which is a "wine" made of raspberries, and very sweet. It looked like fun....

We attended one last cooking demonstration - From the Marketplace, with Chef Jesse Tiscareno, who we also saw yesterday in a demonstration I haven't written about yet. This time he was demonstrating how to make the white cheddar cheese soup that they are serving at the Festival Marketplace (for the third year in a row!). This was a lot better than what they serve at the Marketplace, though - it was garnished with crispy onions and a couple of crostinis. Really good.

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We had a little bit of time to relax in our room before our dinner tonight at Napa Rose - the first time we've ever eaten there. I've heard many people say that it's incredible, but the sample menus I've seen looked a little "gourmet" for my taste. I'll be writing a whole blog entry on it later, but for now let me say that we had a wonderful dinner, and if our experience was typical to that of other Napa Rose diners, I can understand why it has the reputation it does. It was an exceptional meal - really a dining experience.

And now I'll bring this incredibly long-winded blog entry to a close. We still have a few hours at the Festival tomorrow before we head home, so I'll have some more wrap-up type stuff to post tomorrow.

April 14, 2008

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival - Day 3

Yikes...it was a scorcher of a day today. We headed home a little after noon, and it was 96 degrees at that point.

So, since I really don't have much in the way of events to report on from today, guess what, I'm going to go back to Friday and give you more of a report of what we did that day. Aren't you excited? (Unless it's in the affirmative, please don't answer that.)

We arrived at the hotel (Grand Californian) about 10:00 Friday morning and checked in - our room wasn't ready yet, so we headed into Disney's California Adventure (DCA). Since the park had only opened at 10:00, and it was about 10:30 by then, they were actually asking to see a room key before letting people use the "private" Grand Californian entrance. I've never seen that before - but when I've used that entrance it's always been afternoon or evening.

Our first stop was the Festival Welcome Center at Sunshine Plaza to pick up a Festival Guide. Since the daily schedule has been on-line for a couple of weeks I already knew we wanted to head to the demonstration kitchen at Bountiful Farm (that's a new venue for the Festival this year) for the very first demo of this year's Festival - Delicious Desserts. Although the new venue has about twice the capacity (72 people) as the former area they were using on the patio of the Vineyard Room the chairs and tables are still crammed pretty close together - if you're seated in the middle you won't be moving anywhere until everyone else gets up and moves!

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The featured dessert was Berry Crisp, which we actually saw last year, made by the pastry chef at the Grand Californian, Jorge Sotelo, and his assistant, Mario Ramirez. It was the Jorge and Mario show - in addition to Jorge having a microphone, Mario did also - the first time I've seen that. They were very personable and played off each other and were great fun to watch. Last year we got a very large serving of the Berry Crisp - this year it was a lot smaller, which was fine. Still tasty, though. It was served with a scoop of strawberry sorbet and was very attractively presented - one of the things Chef Jorge told us was that people start eating with their eyes.

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After the demo we went to check out some of the food offerings. As I mentioned in Part 1, many of the DCA restaurants have special menu items during the Festival, and we split the California Wrap, which I also talked about.

We wandered around for a while after that, checking out all the restaurants that are offering special menus items, to see what we wanted to come back and try. I thought the Chilled Shrimp Pasta Salad at Pizza Oom Mow Mow looked especially good, but we didn't get chance to try it this weekend. We also checked out the Sparkling Bar located on the Upper Terrace of the winery - it looked like a great place to kick back and relax for a while, and maybe enjoy an appetizer. I thought the wine flight prices were a little high - or more than I'd want to pay, at least. Especially when you can go downstairs to one of the wine tasting sessions and drink for free.

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We attended the "Rosenthal - The Malibu Estate" wine tasting session, which was conducted by their Director of Sales, Neil McNally. He was really an interesting speaker, and gave a fair bit of information on how to taste wine (including slurping it!), which is always helpful for those of us who don't know much about it. (I guess Lee and I don't have very educated palates, because we rarely pick up on those hints of "raspberry, vanilla, tobacco, apples", etc. that people talk about in wine.)

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These grapes really ARE grown in Malibu, in the hills about 4 miles from the ocean, and about 1500 feet about sea level. All of the grapes used in their wines are grown on the estate. We tasted a chardonnay, their Surfrider Red (a blend of several kinds of grapes), and their cabernet sauvignon. Nice wines, but none of them really to my taste.

We needed some more food by then, so we went back over to the Festival Marketplace. The menu for the Marketplace is included in the Festival Guide this year, which is nice. We shared the White Cheddar Cheese Soup, which has been on the menu all three years (we later found out that it's their most popular item), and the Hummus with Pita Chips, which is served with veggies in a martini glass. I really liked the presentation of that. We took those with us when we went to wait in line for the Flora Springs wine tasting session.

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Flora Springs is owned by a couple of families, and the session was led by family member Matt Komes. The winery got its name from Flora, the mother of the founders, and from the natural springs on the estate that are used to water the grapes. We tried a chardonnay (the only white anyone seems to bring to these things!), followed by two red blends: Poggio del Papa and Trilogy. The chardonnay was pretty good, but I didn't care much for the other two...Lee really liked the Trilogy, though.

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Our final event of the day in the park was the BBQ cooking demonstration, done by Jesse Tiscareno, sous chef at Rancho del Zocalo. He really enjoys cooking with an Asian flair...which I don't think is something he gets to do at Rancho del Zocalo! (It serves Mexican food.) He made a marinated pork dish of thin-sliced pork that was pan-seared, then roasted in the oven, and then served on a round "cake" of rice, which was encircled by a thin slice of cucumber, to resemble sushi. He also suggested serving it in a lettuce wrap. It was very good. He was another speaker who obviously really enjoys being in front of an audience and answering questions.

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Did I mention it was warm that day? Though compared to Saturday and Sunday, when it was in the high 90s, mid-80s now seems comfortable. Just goes to show that even Disney doesn't control the weather. :-)

We spent the evening at the Chappellet Winemaker Dinner at Steakhouse 55. I'll have a review of that up on AllEars Real Soon Now.

Today (Sunday) we slept in. Those "blackout curtains" in our room really work...I got up at 8:00 and opened the curtains a bit and discovered that it was blindingly bright outside.

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See? Even the camera couldn't handle that much light.

We packed and took our bags to the car, then walked over to Downtown Disney to have breakfast at La Brea Bakery Cafe. It was about 8:45 by then but people were just streaming past us into the parks. It was also already very warm - over 80 by 9:00 in the morning! Since we were willing to sit inside (though there's only a few tables in there) we were seated immediately. Lee actually ordered coffee - I had their passion fruit iced tea instead. After our huge dinner last night I wasn't real hungry, but I ordered the Open Faced Egg Sandwich - scrambled eggs and sauteed spinach on toasted sourdough bread, topped with feta cheese and served with roasted potatoes and a small salad. It was pretty good, though it needed more feta and less spinach. :-) Lee ordered their special, which was a thick slice of French toast, scrambled eggs, bacon (sausage was another choice) and roasted potatoes. I had a bite of his French toast, and it was pretty good.

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We walked off breakfast by walking almost all the way around Disneyland (hit everything but Toontown) afterwards. Have I mentioned it was warm? Whew. And there were lots of people in the park.

After DCA opened we went back to the Bountiful Valley farm area and got in line for the Sweet Sundays w/Ghirardelli demo. At least that's what it says in the program - the chef actually used Scharffenberger chocolate. :-) It was still almost 40 minutes until the start of the event, and we were #27 and 28 in line. This one also filled up long before show time - 20 minutes or so. Fortunately we were able to wait in the shade of the building!

When we walked in we were given the recipe for Chocolate Souffle, which is what Chef Jorge Sotelo (remember him?) was making. That was really nice to have. He was assisted this time by Sergio, who wasn't miked - he was more the silent type, I guess. It was another excellent presentation, and Chef Jorge gave lots of good tips. The souffle was not served warm, which was actually ok today. It was a nice way for us to end our Festival weekend - we walked back out through the Grand Californian and back to our car, where my temperature gauge read 92...it was up to 96 by the time I got to the freeway. Lee says I kept myself amused on the drive home by watching the temperature change - it got all the way up to 99 at one point, and then briefly down to 79. It was back up to 95 by the time we got home - and that's VERY hot for us.

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So that was our weekend...we will be back at the Food and Wine Festival at least once, to attend the Taste event on May 3. You can be sure I will have a few things to say about that. :-) And here is the Menu for Taste.

From what I've heard it sounds like this may be a "make or break" year for the Festival and determine whether or not it will continue in the future. They are certainly soliciting a lot of guest input and there were CMs handing out guest surveys at the end of most of the sessions we attended. I will be interested in hearing what the attendance is like during the week...I have some friends going this week, so I hope to hear from them, or if you are there, please let me know your experiences! And if you want to submit comments on the Festival, there's a Rate and Review section for it on AllEars HERE.

Coming next...Tips on Surviving the Food and Wine Festival

April 16, 2008

California Disney Food and Wine Festival Survival Tips

1. Check out the event schedule on-line before you go to find out what's happening during your visit.

2. Pick up the Festival Guide at the Festival Welcome Center on your way into the park.

3. Study the event schedule to decide what events you want to try to attend - but be aware that events overlap and it isn't possible to attend all of them!

4. On weekends, plan to arrive at an event at least 30 minutes before it starts to get an admission card - and 40 minutes is even better. If you want to sit in the front row you need to arrive closer to an hour early.

5. Please be considerate of your fellow guests who are waiting just as long as you are. Everyone in your party must arrive together to stand in line together. You may not hold a place in line for others. Bathroom breaks are ok, extended absences (like going off to ride an attraction) are not.

6. Realize that most of the waiting areas are not shaded, and most of the demonstration seating areas also have unshaded sections (particularly later in the day), so come prepared with sunscreen, a hat, something to drink, and a way to entertain yourself while waiting.

7. Strike up a conversation with your fellow food/wine fans while you're waiting.

8. Don't forget your photo id - you may be asked to produce it before you are admitted to any of the demonstrations where alcohol is consumed.

9. Take a friend with you, and share menu items from the Festival Marketplace and other restaurants. You'll get to try a much wider variety that way!

10. Lose 5 pounds before it starts. (Oops, too late for that!)

April 19, 2008

The PCH Grill

All Ears Picture This! blogger Lisa Berton and I recently had dinner at the PCH Grill at the Paradise Pier Hotel - it was a first time for both of us.

We arrived at the restaurant at the same time as a large group of cheerleaders...uh oh. But the restaurant actually handled them very well - they were in their own part of the restaurant and were not terribly loud or distracting. The main difficulty is that they took ALL the menus, and we had to wait until some of them were done with them (about 10 minutes) before our server was able to bring us a couple of menus. Our server made sure that our meal orders got into the kitchen before theirs did, though. :-) But even so, the kitchen did a good job of getting the group's meals prepared and served in a reasonable amount of time.

Lisa has some dietary restrictions, and told the woman at the podium that she needed to talk to a chef. No problem - she quickly brought out a chef and our server, and they came up with a meal for Lisa.

The restaurant is casual with a beachy theme (which goes both with the theme of the hotel and the Lilo and Stitch character breakfast that is hosted at the restaurant), but the menu is more classic diner/comfort fare, with selections like patty melts, hamburgers, and a BLT, though they also serve pizzas and steak. On the kid's menu is a "build-your-own pizza" - a pizza crust, tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni are brought on a Mickey head-shaped platter, and the child gets to sprinkle as much or as little as they like on the crust, then return it to the kitchen where it's baked in the wood-fired pizza oven. These seemed to be very popular. :-)

I ordered the Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich - topped with roasted chiles, lettuce, tomato, guacamole and jack cheese. It was a large chicken breast, nicely grilled and not dry, with a generous serving of guacamole on top. The roasted (mild) green chiles were very flavorful. I really enjoyed it - I couldn't eat all of the bun, but the rest of it disappeared. And I have to say that the french fries served with it were maybe the best fries I've ever had - they were peel-on, but were thin-cut and crisp and not at all greasy.

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Lisa ordered the Grilled New York steak, which normally comes with green beans, but since she'd just had a big plate of green beans at Goofy's Kitchen the night before she asked if they could give her mixed vegetables instead, and the chef said sure - how about broccoli, squash and carrots? Lisa said great. So when her dinner arrived, guess what...the plate contained a generous serving of green beans. The best-laid plans...our server apologized, but Lisa stuck with the green beans. She enjoyed the steak, though!

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We had a very nice meal - nothing fancy at all, but it was very tasty and satisfying. We passed on dessert, but they offer sundaes and banana splits, and a "molten apple pie". If you have a large group (or are really hungry!) you can try The Whole PCH Grill & Kitchen Sink - which is 10 scoops of ice cream and "then tell us what you don't want on it." Wow.

The menu for the PCH Grill is available HERE

If you've dined there, please share your review on AllEars' Rate and Review section HERE

April 25, 2008

Weekday Fun at Disneyland and DCA

Out-of-town friends gave me the excuse to play hooky from work one afternoon last week and spend some time at Disney's California Adventure and Disneyland. And I thought I'd share a few observations.

My friend AK and I attended the Miner Family Wine Tasting Seminar at DCA's Food and Wine Festival. I was pleased to see that even on a Thursday afternoon the tasting area was about 3/4 full! There was also a very good turnout for the cooking demonstration, though we didn't attend, so I don't know if it was full. (By the way, the Miner Family Rosato is still a very nice wine!)

When we went over to Disneyland, AK suggested that we ask about using the "Observation Oupost" viewing area at the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. The Cast Members weren't as organized/helpful with this as they could have been, but eventually we got in there. The CM at the end of the Nemo line told us we needed to go to the exit, rather than waiting in the 45-minute line, so that was nice. So we walked in the Exit...and then stood there for several minutes while various CMs walked by and ignored us. We finally got the attention of one, and explained we wanted to use the viewing room, and he said, sure, but someone was in it (the light outside was red), but when the light turned green someone would come and get us.

So after a few minutes the light turned green, but no one came out of the room, and no CMs paid any more attention to us. We finally asked another one who looked over, saw the green light was on, and took us over there and got the experience going for us. (It turns out the exit is on the opposite side of the room, which is why we didn't see anyone come out.)

I must say that with that high-definition large-screen TV, I think the viewing is actually better in the room than it is when you're looking out of the tiny little porthole. The narration at the beginning and the end is a little different, since the sub captain welcomed us as those joining them from the remote marine observation post. But once the sub leaves the docks, the narration and sights are the same.

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Marine Observation Outpost logo

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Back over at DCA I watched the Pixar Play Parade with my friends Randi and Rick. I hadn't seen the parade since opening day on March 14 - the following week the "bug's life" float failed during the parade (one of the "flower swings" actually detached from the float, but fortunately no one was hurt), and the parade was on hiatus for almost a week while they ran safety checks. There are a few differences in the new version. The "bug's life" segment has not returned - instead they've added this weird "TinkerToy" creation that precedes the Toy Story section. (I'm sorry these photos are not of great quality - I wasn't expecting to have any reason to take any!)

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Lightning McQueen, who originally led off the parade, and Mater, who closed it, were both missing, too. And in the Ratatouille section, the chefs who lead it out weren't on stilts...and the rats weren't bungee-jumping. In my original blog on the parade (HERE) I noted this: "I found the Ratatouille float a little bit creepy - the jumping rats were ok, but there were several rats hanging upside down in some ropes looking rather lifeless. It just looked odd." Apparently I'm not the only person who thought so, because the upside-down rats are gone.

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Original Ratatouille float - note the "hanging rats"
on the front and on the spoon.

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New Ratatouille float - the rat on the front
is now perched in the mouth of the pitcher
and the one on the spoon is hanging by his tail

On the Toy Story float the acrobatic cowboys and cowgirls who used to swing on the high bar were also MIA - now there's several large "Barrel of Monkeys" monkeys hanging on the bar.

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Now, for all I know a few of these things, especially the more acrobatic components like the bar performers and the stiltwalkers, could depend on the availability of cast, and are still part of the parade during its busier weekend performances. But I thought it was interesting that the parade had changed so much in just its first month!

After the three of us had dinner at the Wine Country Trattoria (review to come, which will also include comments from acclaimed food critic "Cheap Rick") we took a quick trip through Monstropolis and then used our Tower of Terror fastpasses. Maybe after seeing the Pixar Play Parade we were on a monkey theme, since Rick suggested posing for the photo in the classic "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" poses. That was fun, and the photo turned out well. After another drive through Monstropolis (where Roz said the same thing to us she had the first time), it was 8:00 and DCA was closing, and I headed home, since it was a "school night" for me. Though it was a short trip, I really enjoyed my time with AK, Randi and Rick - nice of them to give me the excuse to get away from work for the afternoon. :-)

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About April 2008

This page contains all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in April 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2008 is the previous archive.

May 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.