From sunny southern California Laura Gilbreath, Jeanine Yamanaka and photographer Jason Dz bring a west coast perspective as they blog about trips to Disneyland, D23 events, Disney cruises, runDisney events and occasional pilgrimages to Walt Disney World.
This year's Disney's California Food and Wine Festival begins this Friday, April 16. Lee and I will be there for opening weekend, and will be blogging about this year's Festival, including lots of pictures!
I'm excited that Lasseter Family Vineyards is going to be there opening weekend - we really enjoyed the wine we had from their vineyard last year at the Winemaker dinner. Guy Fieri is the featured celebrity chef, and will be appearing at the Chef's Showcase Stage in Sunshine Plaza on Friday and Saturday. In upcoming weekends Cat Cora, Jeffrey Saad, Sunny Anderson, Art Smith, Jamie Gwen, Keegan Gerhard, and Robert Irvine will be appearing. If previous years are any indication, you want to arrive at least a couple of hours early if you want to get into the culinary demonstration of any of the big name chefs.
I think it will be very interesting to see how they use the new Festival Showplace area which is located at the very back of the Hollywood Pictures Backlot. The wine, beer, and spirits seminars will be there, as will the Taste of California Marketplace and the Kitchen Conversations demos. I hope it's not so out of the way that casual park visitors (e.g. those not explicitly coming for the Food and Wine Festival) are able to find it.
The Jr. Chef program has moved from the Bountiful Valley farm area to the Hollywood Backlot, also, though I don't know where it will be located - in/near the Hollywood Backlot Theater?
There have been some new Signature Events added since my original blog post a couple of months ago.
There are two Grand Reserve Wine Pairing Dinners on May 8 and May 22. These will be held in a private dining room at the Napa Rose restaurant, and are limited to only 24 guests. Nat Komes of Flora Springs is the featured winemaker on May 8, David Long of David Arthur Vineyards is featured on May 22. At this point there are only a couple of places left for these dinners.
That reminds me of one thing that I like about the Food and Wine web site this year - when you go to make a reservation it tells you what events are sold out, or that availability is "limited", or even how many spots are left. Very helpful.
Another new event this year is the Reidel Glass Tasting. "Professor Claus J. Riedel was the first designer to recognize that the bouquet, taste, balance and finish of wines are affected by the shape of the glass from which they are drunk. In this fascinating class led by an expert from Riedel, discover why the glass matters." These evening sessions will be held on Saturday, April 24 and Friday, May 28 in the Festival Showplace, for $90/person. Participants get to take home a set of four lead crystal wine tasting glasses.
A number of events are already sold out, and several others are very close. The popular Napa Rose Cooking School has only one spot left. The new Brewmaster Dinner is also sold out, as are two of the Winemaker dinners and two of the Sweet Sundays sessions (including The Art of Chocolate with Ghirardelli Master Chocolatier, which is the one we will be attending - I'm sure that comes as no great surprise to anyone who knows me.)
It looks like another great Festival - I'm looking forward to it!
On April 4th, one of the long-standing stores in Disneyland's New Orleans Square closed its doors. The Jewel of Orleans, an estate jewelry store, had been resident there since 1997 (taking the place of Mlle. Antoinette's Perfumerie) but finally fell victim to the poor economy this year. It was run by Dianne's Estate Jewellery which will continue to have two locations open in San Francisco and Healdsburg, and will hold the occasional local trunk show for people on their mailing list.
The store itself was fairly small but elegantly decorated, with much of the decor said to be supervised by Lillian Disney herself. It sold a variety of attractive baubles, some priced as high as $45,000. While perhaps not a priority attraction for the typical park-goer, it was apparently not uncommon for couples to buy engagement rings there and propose in the parks with them later.
Losing a place like this might not seem like much, in the grand scheme of things. For me, however, the presence of a store that sold merchandise so specific to the land it was in, that had nothing in it so overtly trademarked as to draw you out of the illusion of place, was fairly significant. People argue that pins and vinylmation are what the buyers want, and they may well be right--but it seems as though there should be room for these small specialty retailers as well, particularly when they lend the area such an air of verisimilitude.
On one of the last days it was open, I went by and took a few photos and assembled them into a slideshow. Some of the jewelry is doubtless available at their website, www.DiannesEstateJewelry.com, but the dragon ring is not, as it came into my possession from there many years ago.
-I know it sounds boring, but it's the boring things I remember most.
Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2010 Opening Weekend - Part 1
Today was opening day for the 2010 edition of Disney's California Food and Wine Festival. Wow...I'm not even sure where to begin!
I'll start with a little bit of a World of Color update, though. (For which there is still no official opening date, unfortunately!) The construction walls around the viewing area are finally down (came down last week), and when we arrived they were actually testing some of the fountains.
Here's a look at some of the viewing area, which is called Paradise Park.
And here's something you don't see every day - blue-suited Disney Divers!
But back to the Festival...
The Festival is certainly bigger than ever, with more events, more demos, more guest chefs, more merchandise and more food and wine offerings than ever before.
This year's theme is The Art of Flavor, and new banners are set up all over the park.
In past years it has been centered mostly in the Golden Vine Winery and Pacific Wharf areas, but this year, partly because of all of the construction going on, most of the activity takes place in Stage 12 of the Hollywood Pictures Backlot (now called the Festival Showplace), and in the Chef's Showcase Stage which is still in Sunshine Plaza.
The Festival Showplace is home to the Wine, Beer, and Spirits demos. I think it's going to be very nice to have those in an indoor area - in past years the wine and beer got much too warm sitting outside on a hot day. This area is also where the Sweet Sundays events will be held, again, much nicer in an area where you can control the elements and not worry about the wind blowing things over, or stray leaves falling into the food! (I had a leaf fall into my wine glass last year.)
The new Star Lounge is also located in the Festival Showplace. It offers Belgian beers, Festival wines and even some special cocktails.
The Wine "Seller" has a large selection of bottles of wines from wineries appearing at the Festival. In addition there's a larger selection of Festival merchandise than I've ever seen, with more of a variety. While browsing there we met All Ears reader Kimberly who had come all the way from American Samoa! Hello Kimberly!
I'll talk more about the Taste of California Marketplace later.
Also back in the Hollywood Backlot area is the Belgian Brewer's Collection and the area used for the Jr. Chef program.
The Wine and Beer Walks have moved from the Pacific Wharf area to the walkway between Grizzly Peak and "a bug's land".
I was able to interview Moises Carranza, the chef d'cuisine at the Blue Bayou (or the "world famous Blue Bayou", as he told me.)
And I also spoke to April Ventura, Sommelier at the Golden Vine Winery, about the soon-to-reopen Wine Country Trattoria restaurant.
For lunch, the Disney people gave us a $25 gift card (the same type of wrist card they have at Epcot's F&W Festival) that we could use at the Taste of California Marketplace. I'm SO glad this is back this year - last year they didn't offer it because of restaurant renovations that were going on at the time. This year it's in the new Festival Showplace, which used to be the Hollywood and Dine food court when DCA first opened, but has been closed for years. Anyway...they offer 10 different food items - we tried about 5 of them. (I will get a menu posted to the F&W page Real Soon.)
For fountain drinks, rather than the usual serve-yourself they had one of those new Freestyle Coca-Cola beverage dispensers that lets you pick from a couple of menus to customize your beverage.
First you pick a type of beverage, such as Coke Zero or Dasani Water, and then on the next menu you can pick a flavor to add to it.
Supposedly there's over 400 flavor combinations possible. There's more information on it on this Wikipedia page. It was fun to try it.
I think the consensus among the five of us dining together was that the Beer Battered Halibut was the most outstanding - it was featherlight and crispy. Really wonderful.
The Karl Strauss Pale Ale and Canadian White Cheddar Cheese Soup is back - always a Festival favorite. And this year I have the recipe for it - it was included in our press kit. I will be posting that.
More on other things we tried later.
We were able to attend Guy Fieri's cooking demo - which was VERY popular - people arrived at park opening and immediately got in line to get into it, even though the demo didn't start until 3:30!!! I'd really never seen him before, but he was very entertaining and well-spoken. He brought his 13-1/2 year-old son Hunter up on stage to help him out- and it was Hunter who actually did most of the cooking! They made Lemongrass Chicken and Green Papaya Slaw. Fieri is the host of the new show Minute to Win It, and actually brought three audience members up front to play the "Face the Cookie" game. One guy almost managed to do it before the time ran out.
He told us that he wasn't feeling well and was loaded up on Claritin-D and only operating at about half his normal energy level - if that was Guy Fieri at half-strength, wow...I think he'd be downright scary at full strength! :-)
Afterwards we had the opportunity for a short interview with him - we'll have more on that later.
As we were leaving the Chef's Showcase stage area, we saw a new group, The Jammin' Chefs, who were performing at the entrance to Sunshine Plaza. Percussion, tap dancing, and even getting audience members to participate in a game of Follow the Leader (drumstyle) and a conga line. Lots of fun to watch.
This year's Festival also features special menu items at most of the counter service restaurants around DCA, so we tried a combination of those for dinner.
First was the Southwest Pulled Pork Sandwich from Taste Pilot's Grill. This is pulled pork in chipotle bbq sauce with caramelized apples and onions on a toasted cornmeal bun. This was good, except that the apples and onions had a really odd flavor - tasted of something that wasn't apples and onions so we didn't enjoy it as much as we had expected to.
Next was the Thai Rice Spring Roll from the Lucky Fortune Cookery. Rice noodles with carrots, green onions, basil and red bell peppers wrapped in a rice paper wrapper and served with ginger sauce. Not bad, but a bit small for $3.99.
Last but not least was the Anaheim Chile Relleno from Cocina Cucamonga. Battered Anaheim chiles stuffed with cheese and covered in Ranchero sauce. Served with rice and beans, guacamole and pico de gallo. I thought the sauce was overwhelming on this - it was a little too spicy, and I couldn't taste the chile relleno until I scraped the sauce off. Other than that I really enjoyed it.
We also did the California Classics Wine Walk. This was quite popular - it was pretty crowded when we went in. For $10 each we were able to sample four different wines out of the 12 that were available. I have to say that I was really impressed - I really enjoyed all of the wines that I tried, and Lee did, too. Between the two of us we tried 7 of the 12 - we both had the Tobin James Zinfandel, which was awesome.
There we met All Ears reader Yvonne from Florida, and her friends whose names I didn't catch. They were out visiting the California parks for the first time - though compared to Epcot's Food and Wine Festival they were a bit underwhelmed by the one here. And I understand that - there's not the variety of foods here - it's more about the events than "eating around the park".
A couple of special treats tonight after we returned to our room - we were able to see Disney's Electrical Parade (soon to be on its way to Florida) from our room - sort of. With all of the construction walls that are between us and the parade route we could really only see the taller floats.
And even more exciting - we were able to see a run-through of the World of Color show, which they did about an hour after the park closed. Video of that will be posted soon, if it hasn't been already. It was pretty cool - we were off to the side and couldn't see the projections on the mist screens at all, but the fountains themselves were pretty amazing!
Lee and I are staying in the Villas at the Grand Californian for our Food and Wine weekend. I requested a Paradise Pier view when I booked it, and we got one - we are on the 4th floor.
We knew that World of Color testing was going on, so hoped to see some of that, but last night around 10:30 after DCA closed we saw something even better - what looked to be a full run-through, complete with sound, of the much-anticipated World of Color show.
We are off to the side, so were not able to see the projections on the mist screens at all, but had a pretty good view of the fountains. Since this wasn't planned, Lee didn't have a tripod, so the camera was hand-held and a little shaky in places. It's about 25 minutes long, so we posted it to youtube in three parts.
Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2010 Opening Weekend - Part 2
Another great day at the Food and Wine Festival - but just a short blog entry today since it's late and we're tired after a short night last night between watching World of Color and then trying to get the video uploaded.
The highlight of today was definitely the Wine Seminar by Lasseter Family Winery - John and Nancy Lasseter were there presenting in addition to their winemaker Julia Iantosca.
New this year, the Festival is charging $1 for a ticket to each of the Wine, Beer, and Spirits seminars. Tickets go on sale an hour before the event starts - once you have your ticket you are free to leave and return just in time for the event, though you of course won't get front-row seating. :-) We thought Lasseter Family would be fairly popular, so we arrived at the Festival Showplace about 15 minutes before tickets went on sale, and there was already a line - though it was a lot longer by the time they started selling tickets! I think anyone who showed up only 45 minutes in advance was out of luck.
We returned about 10 minutes before the seminar was due to start, and were surprised that there weren't more people in front of us.
This particular seminar started about 10 minutes late - because it was John Lasseter there were a lot of Disney people around and camera crews and all of that.
John and Nancy are both engaging speakers, and passionate about wine-making - they make the types of wines that they like to drink. Which are blended wines more in the French style. They also grow their grapes organically.
The first wine we sample was the Lasseter Family Rose - we had tried this last year at a winemaker dinner and really liked it, but it was sold out. I saw that they had it in the wine store yesterday so I bought a couple of bottles. It's a dry rose, not at all like a white zinfandel, but it's very crisp and refreshing - a great summer day wine.
There were also two red wines - the 2008 Rhone Style Red Blend and the 2006 St. Emilion Style Red Blend. These weren't really to my taste, but Lee enjoyed them.
They are in the process of building a new state-of-the art winery, which will open this fall, allowing them to expand their production. Eventually the winery will be solar powered.
We had an opportunity to speak briefly with Julia Iantosca afterwards and asked her if she had seen World of Color the night before - she had, and loved it - said they wanted them to run it over again after they saw it.
Laura and Lee decided to take a Mediterranean cruise on the Disney Magic in May 2010.
That was back in January 2009 when we took our first Disney cruise. It really seems like a long time ago!
So now it's April 2010, and we leave for Barcelona, Spain, on May 12. All of a sudden that's coming up very fast! I've never been to Europe before, and our Caribbean cruise was the first time I'd been outside the U.S. in over 25 years, so this foreign travel thing is very new to me.
Fortunately several of our AllEars team did the Disney Mediterranean cruises the first time around, back in 2007, and THEY BLOGGED ABOUT IT!!! I read the blogs at the time, but now I am re-reading them with renewed interest, since we will be visiting many of the same places.
One aspect of the blogs that is especially helpful to me right now are those that Linda Eckwerth wrote BEFORE the trip where she outlined the pre-trip preparations that they made, which includes some things I had not previously considered:
Monday, May 24 - Villefranche, France (Monte Carlo, Cannes, Nice). Ashore 8:00 am, Onboard 7:00 pm
Tuesday, May 25 - At sea
Wednesday, May 26 - Barcelona. Ashore 7:00 a.m. Sightseeing.
Thursday, May 27 - Fly home
We have selected excursions in most of the ports we will be visiting - I think I am most excited about climbing Mt. Vesuvius! (Followed by a tour of Pompeii.) In Rome we will be doing the same Jumping Back Into Eternal Rome tour that Deb and Linda did - aka "See as much of Rome as you can in 10 hours or less".
When I did our on-line check-in last week I got a wonderful surprise - I found that we had been upgraded from a Category 9 stateroom on Deck 2 to a Category 5 stateroom on Deck 7 - which has a veranda! Woo hoo!
Any suggestions from any of you on things to see (especially in Barcelona), things to pack, or anything else to make our trip even better?
Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2010 Opening Weekend - Part 3
We're back home after a nice weekend at the Food and Wine Festival. As usual, I am short on time, so this will be shorter than I wanted - hope to catch up with some other info later this week.
I have updated the Festival Menu Page with the menu items for this year, including pictures of many of them.
We had a wonderful time at the Sweet Sundays event this morning, but I will have a LOT more to say about that. For now I will say that they certainly didn't scrimp on the desserts - dessert #3 was called "A Trio of Chocolate", with *three* different chocolate desserts. I was a VERY happy camper. :-)
But for now I thought I'd talk in a little more detail about the menu items that we sampled this weekend.
Our favorite from the Taste of California Marketplace was definitely the Beer Battered Halibut ($5.00). Made with Karl Strauss Woodie Gold beer and served with malt vinegar and a slice of lime rather than with tartar sauce. The halibut was on the menu for a couple of the first Festivals, but has been missing for the past two. This was featherlight, crisp, moist and a pretty good-sized piece of fish, too. It might be even better than the fish & chip shop at Epcot.
Also returning this year is the Beer Cheddar Cheese Soup served in a mini sourdough boule ($4.25). Last year they served it at the Pacific Wharf Cafe in a full-sized boule - I thought it was too much since the soup is so rich. The soup is just as good as ever, but unfortunately both times we tried it they hadn't been very good about hollowing out the sourdough boule, and so all we got was a couple of tablespoons of soup. A little more than that would have been nice! I do have the recipe for this, which I promise to post.
Lee tried the Marketplace Slider, braised beef with spicy mayo on a brioche roll ($4.50). He enjoyed his, but one of our dining companions said that hers was dry. It was a pretty reasonable serving for the price.
We split the Mucho Gusto Quesadilla ($4.25). This had chunks of chicken and melted pepper jack cheese in a spinach tortilla, with some pico de gallo on the side. It was pretty tasty - a little bit of kick from the pepper jack cheese, but not overly spicy.
The Santa Rosa Pear Salad is another dish we both enjoyed ($3.75). Very nice fresh greens with slices of pear, toasted almonds, and crumbled bleu cheese, tossed in a light vinaigrette. I thought it needed more pears, though. One interesting thing about this is that the salad was served in a lettuce leaf (a nice big bibb or butter lettuce leaf - NOT iceberg), so you could roll it up and eat it like a wrap. It was great to see something green on the menu - one of my complaints about Epcot's F&W Festival is that there's not much in the way of fresh vegetables being served - but this really fills that niche very nicely here. I thought it was a pretty generous serving for the price.
The Island Ahi ($5.00) I was a little reluctant to try, since I don't like the texture of raw fish. This was poached/marinated in broth, so it's more like a ceviche, and didn't have that "raw" texture. A couple of my dining companions ARE sushi fans, though, and said that it was not really "raw" enough for them, but that it's a good compromise for those not used to eating sushi. The cabbage slaw served with it was good, though I didn't taste the wasabi aioli. But there wasn't very much ahi - just four pieces, I think, and you can hardly see it in the photo next to the slaw.
I think the thing I was most disappointed in was the Artisan Cheeses plate ($5.00). There were four different cheeses, but they were very small servings, and the ones I got had apparently been sitting out and uncovered for a while because they were very dry on one side - I should have taken it back and gotten a different plate. Two very small pieces of bread and a small bunch of raisins came with it. So it seemed overpriced and not very good.
The last thing we tried at the Taste of California Marketplace was the Ghirardelli Chocolate Profiterole ($3.75). I should know better by now - cream puffs are just not my thing - the pastry is too dry and I don't care for custard. So, this might have been an excellent profiterole, and it was certainly attractive and nicely presented, but it just didn't appeal much to me, or to Lee either.
We only had the chance to sample three of the offerings at the counter service restaurants - for the most part these are full-size entrees and not appetizer-sized, so it's harder just to sample them unless you're having a meal.
The one that appealed most to us from the description was the Southwest Pulled Pork Sandwich from Taste Pilot's Grill ($9.59). Pulled pork with chipotle BBQ sauce, caramelized apples and onions, served on a toasted cornbread muffin. Unfortunately it didn't quite live up to the description. The pork was good, but there was some weird flavor in the apples and onions that I thought was pretty nasty. At least it was the bottom layer on the bun, so it was easy to get rid of it. This came with the usual fries served at Taste Pilot's Grill. The price/size was comparable to the other sandwiches served there.
Our favorite of the counter service offerings we tried was the Anaheim Chile Relleno from Cocina Cucamonga ($9.99). This was served with their usual sides of rice and beans, a little lettuce and guacamole, and some pico de gallo. It was covered in Ranchero sauce, and here we had a difference of opinion - I thought the sauce was a little too hot, and overwhelmed the flavor of the chile relleno, whereas Lee really liked the sauce - he took what I had scraped off and put it on the rice and beans, too. This is one that we would get again, and would be happy to see it remain on the permanent menu - though not if that means replacing the chicken tamales with this. (The chicken tamales were last year's Festival food item that remained on the menu after the Festival was over, and are still one of my favorites.)
Last but not least was the Thai Rice Spring Roll from Lucky Fortune Cookery ($3.99). This and the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake at Cocina Cucamonga are the only two non-entree-sized food offerings from the counter service restaurants. It was cute - came in its own miniature take-out food carton with a container of ginger sauce. It was tasty - filled with carrot and red bell pepper strips, green onion, and rice noodles in a rice wrapper. This would have fit in price-wise with the offerings at the Marketplace, but seemed a little out of place at the Lucky Fortune Cookery - it wasn't enough of a meal by itself, but your meal suddenly got very pricey if you got one of the Asian rice bowls to go with it.
So food-wise at this year's Festival... definitely a few hits, a couple of foul balls, but also a few misses as well. It's great to have the Marketplace back again -- I really missed that last year - with a slightly larger selection than they have had in the past.
Disney's Food and Wine Festival - Interview with Gary Maggetti
"On opening day of the Festival we recorded a fantastic 17 minute interview with Gary Maggetti, the General Manager of Food and Beverage for Disneyland. He was charming, he was informative, Laura asked probing questions - it was great stuff. Unfortunately, my video camera decided to eat that particular clip, the only time it's ever done that. So instead, between us, are going to write what we can remember of that interview."
We started off asking Mr. Maggetti about the changes in the Festival this year, including the new venue in the Hollywood area, the Festival Showplace. He told us that this festival has proved to be flexible and portable over the years, and able to take advantage of whatever space has been available to it. The Festival Showplace gives them the opportunity to host a number of parts of the Festival in one location.
The Taste of California Marketplace returned this year, they were unable to feature it last year because of restaurant renovations. They brought back two Marketplace favorites from past years: the Cheddar Cheese Soup in a mini boule and the Beer Battered Halibut. We asked him about his favorites on the menu, and he told us that he really liked the Island Ahi - it's marinated overnight (more like a ceviche) and served with coleslaw. His other favorite is the Festival offering at Taste Pilot's Grill - the Southwest Pulled Pork Sandwich. He said that they often have to experiment a number of times when they try to come up with a new menu item, but they decided they'd gotten this one right the first time.
One new Signature event this year is the Riedel Glass Tasting sessions. Participants will have the opportunity to see how the shape of the glass affects their wine tasting experience.
Cast members actually volunteer to work this event, and many of them return year after year. In response to guest feedback, this year they were able to provide more training for the cast, especially those working the wine and beer tasting areas where guests ask a lot of questions.
Last year there were hundreds of cooking demos over the course of the event - the majority done by Disney chefs. This year in addition to the very popular celebrity chefs there is increased participation from local chefs - this reduces the load on the Disney cast and brings the community more into the event.
The Food and Wine Festival adds some new and more interesting items to menus in DCA, and we asked about expanding menus at Disneyland with something behind the usual burgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches. Mr. Maggetti said that they have been doing some of that: the Troubadour Tavern offers baked potatoes and the re-tooled Harbour Galley offers specialty salads instead of french fries. He also mentioned the on-going renovation of the kitchen at the Tomorrowland Terrace. The restaurant is scheduled to reopen early this summer with a new menu. It will still include burgers, including a new "signature" burger, but will also feature some more interesting menu choices.
Since 2008 they have been trying to offer healthier food choices - something they call "Stealth Health". They discontinued the used of trans fats in 2008, and all of their hamburger and hot dogs buns contain about 20% whole grains. The goal is to make it easier to make healthy choices. For example, by default, all kid's meals come with fruit instead of fries and milk or juice instead of sodas. Those are available by request, but they have found that most guests stick with the healthy choice. They have added many more fruit carts which offer a wider selection of fruits and healthier options - soon there will be a fruit cart in every land. He recommended the slices of fresh mango, which we tried the next day, and it was really good.
We had noticed that in past years, some of the special Festival menu items have ended up on the permanent menu, and we asked about what determines that. Part of it of course is the popularity of the item, but also how difficult/time consuming it is for the kitchen to produce is also a factor. If Festival food items are added in the future it will probably mean swapping them out for an existing menu item due to limitations on how much the restaurant kitchen can really handle.
They just completed the renovation/expansion of the central kitchen under New Orleans Square which provides the food for all of the restaurants there. This will allow them to add new menu items and even make some old favorites show up in new locations. For example, the Mickey Mouse beignets from Cafe Orleans will also be available at the Mint Julep Bar - but don't worry, that doesn't mean the fritters are going away.
Hope we've given you enough to pique your interest about this year's Festival - it's an event we look forward to every year!
Here's some additional AllEars pages on the Festival: