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April 6, 2017

2017 Disney California Food and Wine Festival - Sweet Sundays

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Disney California Food and Wine Festival

This year's Disney California Food and Wine Festival includes additional Premium Events that weren't a part of last year's Festival. One of them is Sweet Sundays, which was a part of the original Festival. I've attended these events at both Epcot and DCA's Food and Wine Festivals, and I was happy to see it return this year.

Sweet Sundays starts with a light breakfast and features a guest celebrity chef who demonstrates the preparation of several desserts. All guests receive their own desserts to sample. In past sessions I've learned several interesting techniques and ways to make some desserts even better.

The cost is $79/person plus tax and gratuity. There are three Sweet Sundays events this year, featuring Duff Goldman, Emily Ellyn, and Keegan Gerhard. We saw Emily Ellyn. I have to admit I'd never heard of her before. She's been on a number of Food Network shows, like "Food Network Star", "Cupcake Wars", and "Cutthroat Kitchen." She's known as the "Retro Rad Chef", and wears vintage clothing styles and trademark cat-eye glasses.

The events are held in the Festival Showplace - Stage 17 in Hollywood Land. It started at 10:30, and check-in was supposed to start at 9:45. But no one was there at that time. We wandered around a bit and went back about 10:00 and there was a short line. Unfortunately the check-in process was very slow - it took 20 minutes until we were seated. I had made the reservation and pre-paid so all the cast members had to do was verify my last name and then check our ids and give us a wristband. It doesn't seem like that should be a really slow process.

We were seated at a table rather than choosing our own seats. The event is fairly small - there were 15 tables, each seating 6 people. Half the tables were already full. Servers came around fairly quickly and offered us glasses of sparkling wine. There were carafes of orange juice and cranberry juice already on the table so that we could help ourselves. I was surprised that we were not offered coffee or tea. We later asked for coffee and tea, and eventually it was brought to us, but it was very difficult to get a refill. I wish that a beverage station had been available so that we could've gotten our own hot beverages.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

There was a basket of assorted pastries on the table for us serve ourselves.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

In past events there's been a breakfast buffet, but this year we had a "light breakfast" that was pre-plated and served to us at our tables. It definitely saved a lot of time to do it that way, but there wasn't the selection there has been in the past. We received scrambled eggs, bacon, and a potato cake. The scrambled eggs had some salmon in them, we think. I didn't think they were cooked quite enough, and they were too soft for me. The bacon wasn't crispy, and the potato cake was just ok. I was pretty disappointed in the breakfast.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Emily Ellyn came out while we were still eating. Rather than staying on stage and starting to cook she came out into the audience. She told us a lot about her background and her cooking philosophy - like taking tried and true recipes and make them your own. It was entertaining, but we were there for a cooking demonstration.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Finally she went up on stage and started working on the different parts of her desserts with the assistance of the host, who is a Disney chef. I was really not excited about her desserts at all. "Candied Fennel Upside-Down Cake served with Citrus Chocolate Pudding, Toasted Fennel Sesame Brittle and Orange Ash." Does that sound like dessert to you? I do not like fennel - I can't stand that licorice flavor. And as far as I'm concerned citrus and chocolate should NEVER be combined. Sigh.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Her presentation was enjoyable, but there wasn't a lot of substance to it. As I mentioned earlier, I usually learn something from these sessions - I really didn't learn much from this one. And these recipes are nothing that I will ever make. (Fennel desserts???? Did she think she was competing on Chopped?)

I will say that she's the first person that I've ever seen who engaged with the cameraman to make sure that something she wanted us to see was going up on the big screen - she was often talking to him as she showed things to him.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

The desserts themselves...I took a bite of the Citrus and Chocolate Pudding but couldn't eat it, and the Fennel Sesame Seed Brittle on top was just nasty.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

The Upside-Down Cake was not as bad as I thought - the cake itself was moist and didn't have any fennel flavor to it as long as I stayed away from the pieces of fennel that were on top. I still have no idea what the Orange Ash (the black stuff) was supposed to add - it simply tasted like ash.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

When she finished and we'd eaten our desserts she took a few questions. By then it was 12:00, and time to leave. They needed to get us out of there since they were going to have to completely re-set the area for the 2:00 Culinary Demonstration. Those use rows of long tables and not the round tables we had.

Ms. Ellyn was available afterward for photos, but we didn't wait in line for that.

While I was happy to see the return of Sweet Sundays, this one wasn't as good as those I have attended in the past. The desserts were really out there, and just not very appealing to me at all. I think this is the first one I've been to where the presenter was a "celebrity chef" rather than a recognized chef who is not necessarily famous. I would have preferred to see less personality and more demonstration of skill.

In contrast, here's the review I wrote about the last Sweet Sundays event I attended in 2010:

Sweet Sundays - 2010 Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I think that's more like it.

In other Food and Wine Festival news...we sampled some additional menu items from the various Festival Marketplaces, and also tried one of the full-size menu items at the Paradise Garden Grill Beer Garden.


As I did in my previous blog on the food items, I'm going to assign grades to each for Taste, Presentation, and Value. "Presentation" combines a number of factors such as creativity, interesting use of ingredients, and the way it looked. GIA denotes whether or not I would Get It Again.

From I (Heart) Artichokes: Creamy artichoke and dark chocolate cake pop. $4.25

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: D
Presentation: B
Value: C
GIA: No way
Comments: When asked about Festival food items, this is one that almost everyone mentioned that they liked and that we should try. (The fact that Emily Ellyn raved about it should've warned me.) There was nothing "cakey" about this at all. The inside was a sort of firm artichoke mousse. I thought it was tasteless, but Lee said it tasted vaguely of artichoke, which he doesn't really like. Even the chocolate on the outside didn't have much flavor.

From Garlic Kissed: Grilled beef tenderloin slider with chimichurri sauce. $7.75

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A-
Value: C-
GIA: Yes
Comments: Lee tried this and really liked it.


From Bacon Twist: Smoked bacon mac and cheese with barbecue-seasoned crispy onions. $7.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A-
Presentation: B+
Value: C+
GIA: Yes
Comments: Lee really enjoyed this. He's more of a mac and cheese fan than I am. I thought it was fine - I liked the crispy onions on top the best.

From Bacon Twist I also tried: Bloody Mary Cocktail with candied caramel bacon strip & blue cheese stuffed olives. $11.25

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A
Value: C+
GIA: Yes
Comments: This was yummy. A little bit spicy, but not too much, and the bacon was very good. A reasonable amount of alcohol in it.

From Seafood...Sustained: Verlasso sustainable salmon tataki with avocado-wasabi puree and Furikake dust. $7.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: D
Presentation: B
Value: C-
GIA: No
Comments: The salmon was completely tasteless.

From Off the Cob: Sweet corn nuggets with beef chili, spring onion and sour cream. $6.25

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A
Presentation: A
Value: C+
GIA: Yes
Comments: Lee described this as "a bite of awesomeness." I tried one of the corn nuggets and it was very good - a bit creamy inside with a nice fresh corn flavor.

From Sweet & Sourdough: Milk chocolate sourdough bread pudding with vanilla bean sauce. $4.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: C
Presentation: A-
Value: C+
GIA: No
Comments: This was good bread pudding, but where was the chocolate? When the name starts with "Milk chocolate" I expected it to be chocolatey, but there were just a few small pieces.

From Paradise Garden Grill Beer Garden: Beer-braised pork tacos served with pickled apple slaw, black beans and queso. $10.99

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: A-
Presentation: A-
Value: B
GIA: Yes
Comments: The tacos were quite tasty. The pickled apples on top had a nice vinegary zing. The items at Paradise Garden Grill are full-size dishes, and as such are a better value than those at the Marketplaces.

Still more misses than hits in this year's food items. I may get back to the Festival one more time before it closes on April 16 - though I think most of what I really want to try is either desserts or the full-size items at Paradise Garden Grill.







March 19, 2017

First Bites at the 2017 Disney California Food and Wine Festival

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Disney California Food and Wine Festival

The Disney California Food and Wine Festival runs from March 10 through April 16 this year. The schedule has been expanded this year with culinary demonstrations and wine, beer, and spirits tastings scheduled daily. A number of Premium events were also added, including Sweet Sundays (my favorite) and Winemaker and Brew Master dinners. There are new Festival Marketplaces and new entertainment offerings. With all of the new events the Festival has expanded into new locations around Paradise Bay and Hollywood Land such as Paradise Park and Paradise Gardens, The Vineyard Room, and Stage 17.

Jason already posted an overview of the Food and Wine Festival from opening day. I'm going to focus on some of the other things that I experienced on my first visit to the Festival, such as Marketplace items and demonstrations and tastings.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I went to the Festival on Tuesday. Disney California Adventure seemed surprisingly crowded for a weekday, but apparently it's Spring Break for some schools. Despite the crowds in the park, the lines at the Marketplaces were short. I saw much longer lines at the quick service restaurants like Award Wieners and Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta.

One of my complaints about last year's Festival, as well as the Festival of Holidays, is that I thought the food prices were too high. That really hasn't changed. Last year the most expensive food item was $8.00, and this year it's $7.75 - but there are several at that price. There are more items in the $5.50-$6.50 range this year, but desserts are all $4.25 and over, up from $3.50 at the low end last year. Returning items like the Lemon Macaron, Cheddar Cheese Soup, and Pork Belly Bao all went up $0.50.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

One of the things we really enjoyed about last year's Festival was the shaded arbors next to many of the food booths - and many of those returned this year as well. There were also some high tables, and a few with chairs.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I tried a number of food items. As something a little different I'm going to assign grades to each, for Taste, Presentation, and Value. Though I'll warn you that nothing got an "A" for value. "Presentation" combines a number of factors such as creativity, interesting use of ingredients, and the way it looked. GIA denotes whether or not I would Get It Again.

From Nuts About Cheese: Baked ham and Swiss cheese croque monsieur roll with smoked pistachios. $7.00

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Taste: B
Presentation: A-
Value: D
GIA: No
Comments: Small serving size.

From I (Heart) Artichokes: Artichoke carbonara with garlic aioli and smoked bacon. $6.00

Disney California Food and Wine Festival
Taste: B Presentation: B Value: C GIA: Probably not Comments: This was surprisingly spicy (spicy hot).

From Garlic Kissed: Black garlic-soy braised pork belly bao with pickled vegetables. $7.00

Disney California Food and Wine Festival
Taste: A Presentation: A- Value: C- GIA: Yes Comments: Basically the same as one of last year's items - but $0.50 more this year. But it's really good - I'd eat the sauce with just the bun.

From Lemon Grove:
Roasted cauliflower and Meyer lemon-infused Dannon Oikos Greek nonfat yogurt cauliflower puree with sundried tomatoes and fried capers. $6.00

Disney California Food and Wine Festival
Taste: B Presentation: A- Value: C GIA: Maybe Comments: This dish was really interesting. It took them a while to prepare it because so much went on top - sundried tomatoes, fried capers, diced green onions.

Duck confit on potato smash with Meyer lemon preserves. $7.00

Disney California Food and Wine Festival
Taste: B- Presentation: B- Value: C- GIA: No Comments: The duck was a little dry. The green stuff on top - pickled asparagus, I think? - was tasty. The "smashed potatoes" were smashed tater tots.

From The Onion Lair: French onion mac and cheese topped with parmesan crumble and chives. $7.75

Disney California Food and Wine Festival
Taste: A- Presentation: B+ Value: C+ GIA: Yes Comments: The caramelized onions and parmesan crumble on top were delicious. It was a pretty good-sized serving, so it got a C+. :-)

From Off the Cob: Jackfruit carnitas banh mi nachos with cilantro crema and "pickled" de gallo. $6.75

Disney California Food and Wine Festival
Taste: D Presentation: A- Value: C GIA: No Comments: The "carnitas" are really made of jackfruit. But that gave them a weird texture and a really odd flavor that I found very unpleasant. But they still get an A- for presentation because it was a really interesting idea, and it looked good.

From Sweet & Sourdough: Bay shrimp Louie salad served in a mini Boudin sourdough boule. $6.75

Disney California Food and Wine Festival
Taste: A Presentation: A Value: B GIA: Yes Comments: This had a surprising number of shrimp in it, but there was too much dressing. It was very filling because of the bread bowl.

From LA Style: Chicken Teriyaki slider with spicy Dole pineapple jam. $6.50

Disney California Food and Wine Festival
Taste: B Presentation: B Value: C GIA: Probably not Comments: It had two pieces of chicken which were cooked well. I didn't care for the pineapple jam, which had red and green peppers in it, and was too sweet.

So...more misses than hits for me. I didn't get a chance to try any of the dessert items, though to be honest most of them did not appeal to me at all.

Festival Marketplace Menus

Annual Passholders can purchase a "Sip and Savor Pass". It's $45, and has 8 tabs that can be redeemed for any food or beverage item - excluding alcohol - at the Festival Marketplaces. I did the math - you want to use it for items costing more than $5.60. That still gives you a lot of choices, though.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Each Marketplace has a different AP button that you receive when you redeem one of the tabs there. I only have five of them so far. I think it's a decent value if you plan to purchase a lot of the $6.50-$7.75 items - it actually makes them more the price that I think they actually should be. :-)

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

There are several ways to find out about Festival events. Everything is listed on-line at disneyland.com/foodandwine. A few different brochures are available at the park. The Food and Wine Festival Guide has a map of the Festival Marketplaces and the other event locations as well as an overview of the events. There's a weekly single page Festival Schedule which provides details on the times and topics of the Culinary Demonstrations and Wine/Beer/Spirits tasting seminars in addition to information on the Premium events like "In the Kitchen With...", Sweet Sundays, and the Winemaker/Brewmaster dinners. The regular park Times guide lists the schedule for the Festival live entertainment like bands, the Jr. Chef program, and the Jammin' Chefs.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I attended one of the winetasting sessions, which I had reserved in advance. These take place in the Sonoma Terrace area, as they have at previous festivals. It's a nice outdoor patio, mostly shaded by wooden patio cover. Check-in is at the entrance, by last name. The sessions are open to those age 21 and over only, and everyone is required to show id to get a wristband.

This presentation was by MacRostie Winery in Sonoma County. Most of these presentations include three wine tastings: we had two Chardonnays and a Pinot Noir. It was an interesting talk by the winemaker.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

This year the culinary demonstrations and beer/spirits tastings are being held in the Festival Showplace - Stage 17 in Hollywood Land. The culinary demonstrations are a pre-paid event this year where attendees receive samples - last year they were free, but no samples were available.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Inside there are two different seating areas - a larger one with a kitchen, and a smaller one for the beverage tastings. Check-in for events is at a table just inside the entrance. Upon checking in guests receive a paper ticket. The ticket is presented upon entering the line for the seating area.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Stage 17 is awfully dark...I prefer the outdoor locations they've had for these types of events in the past - particularly for the beverage tasting. The lighting was better over in the culinary demonstration area.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I attended a culinary demonstration by one of the Disneyland candy makers. The topic was Barks and Clusters.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

The chef made the Sangria Bark, which is one of the offerings on sale at the Wineology Marketplace, and a chocolate cluster with hazelnuts and port wine-soaked cherries. The Sangria Bark was topped with fruits that had been soaked in sangria. We received samples of both of them. It was very interesting to watch a professional temper chocolate on the fly!

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Later I attended a beverage tasting by ACE Cider. That was really very interesting, and I learned a lot about the history of hard cider! It was the drink of choice during Colonial times in America, until immigrants from Germany and Austria introduced beer brewing.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

There's still availability for a lot of the wine/beer/spirit tasting sessions. They can be reserved on-line at disneyland.com/foodandwine. Monday-Thursday sessions are $15, plus tax and gratuity, and Friday-Sunday sessions are $20. Culinary demonstrations are $10 during the week and $15 on the weekend. Sessions can be reserved same day at the Festival Showplace if there is availability.

Also inside the Festival Showplace is a merchandise area - the same merchandise that is available at other locations around the park.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

There's also a wine bar. 1 oz, 2 oz, or 5 oz pours are available of the different wines. The process is somewhat unwieldy, though - you have to go to the register to make your purchase, then take it to the bar area to get the wine. And at this point there aren't any prices posted anywhere! So be careful, because some of them are quite expensive: up to $24 for a 5 oz pour!

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I didn't try it, but one of the wines that really intrigued me is called Toad Hall. Somewhat more modestly priced - $57 for a bottle, and $15 for a 5 oz glass.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

One event that was part of previous Food and Wine Festivals, and is back this year is the Junior Chef program. This is a complimentary event for kids which takes place several times a day. Kids get to help Chef Goofy make oatmeal cookies, and at the end they get a sweet treat to take with them. The sessions take place outdoors in Paradise Park (though there are umbrellas to provide a little shade). It looks like they can accommodate about 30 kids per session, and each session takes about 20 minutes.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

Another activity for kids (and adults) is crafts. In front of Ariel's Undersea Adventure are several craft tables where guests can color their own chef hats.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival

I made the most of my first Festival day, and was able to get a pretty good overview of the available events. I'm looking forward to returning a few more times during the Festival's run.

Disney California Food and Wine Festival







March 14, 2017

Disneyland Resort Updates - 3/10/17 - Food and Wine Festival Opening Day

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Friday, March 10, 2017.

Let us start off with a video overview of the Star Wars / Rivers of America Construction site.

A couple pictures of the Star Wars / Rivers of America construction this week (I have many more in my full picture set on my site). The large show building continues to grow as more steel is lifted into place. Notice the new structures on the ground.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

A closer look. Speculation on many sites is these are AT-AT structures.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Trees have been planted on the new berm since last week.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

The 2017 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival kicked off today and runs through April 16th.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

The festival followed the signage format from the Festival of Holidays.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Here is a representative marketplace. Each has the main items on the top under the sign as well as with a picture on the booth. The other side of the booth has some info about the topic/theme of the booth. There is also a visual menu with prices near the queue entrance and a smaller text menu at each register.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Here is the full list of menus, with prices:
     Festival Marketplace Menus

A look at one of the merchandise carts.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Another merchandise location in Paradise Pier.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Paradise Park features concerts five times a day. Today Tomasina was performing (you may remember them from Tomorrowland Terrace). Upcoming groups are SMITH and Phat Cat Swinger.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Paradise Park also hosts a Jr. Chef event three times a day. Cast Members are preparing for the next event.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Paradise Gardens is the Festival Beer Garden.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

To the right when you enter is a beer sales area this year.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

New tables in Paradise Gardens.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Bands perform a half dozen times a day on the Paradise Garden Bandstand. Today was the Mariachi Divas. Future groups are m-pact, Faultlines, Quattrosound, and Streetlight Cadence.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

There is an AP Corner near Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Annual Passholder buttons.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

An ad for AP Items.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

They also had leftover recipe cards from AP Days out.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

The Garden Grill has a special menu for the event.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Not related to the Food & Wine Festival but thought I would mention that the pizza at Boardwalk Pizza has changed crusts recently.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

New MaxPass poles and a digital wait time sign are installed at Toy Story now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Walls are down on the FastPass distribution area too. Still no date announced as to when this will be operational but it seems like it should be sooner rather than later now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

The Jr. Chef event was going on as I walked by. There was a Disney camera crew there. Between the umbrellas and the camera guy it was hard to get any decent pictures.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Goofy was the star of the show.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

A couple video clips from the Jr. Chef show.

The Jammin' Chefs perform in Paradise Pier and feature Chip and Dale.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Some video clips of the Jammin' Chefs performance.

A second set of Jammin' Chefs video this time with a wider lens.

Ghirardelli was passing out chocolate bunnies today.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017
The Backlot stage is hosting Lifestyle seminars. On the stage Kris Bonner was talking about tomatoes.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Stage 17 hosts the Festival Showcase.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Inside the showcase is a shopping area then two presentation spaces.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017


Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

A large area for Culinary Demonstrations (there is a cost to attend these)

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

There is a smaller venue set up for Beer & Spirits Education & Tasting Seminars (also a fee to attend).

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Spring flowers were in bloom in Paradise Park.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

A large crane is onsite and parked behind walls onstage. It is holding a banner when not in use.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Moving over to Disneyland and looking at the new trees that partially obstruct the parking structure now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

From Critter Country a look at the current state of the Rivers of America as it races toward a summer reopening.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto were working the crowd line. They were high fouring (fiving) guests and waving.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Clsoed out my evening with Remember Dreams Come True.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Friday, March 10, 2017

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.








April 13, 2016

Disneyland Resort Updates - 4/10/16

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Contributing photographer Jason of disneygeek.com sends us these photos from his trip to the parks on Sunday, April 10, 2016.

Laura covered the Food & Wine Festival in a separate post so I have included some general park update pictures from the visit. My day started off with a calm drive through Los Angeles, but came to a stand still waiting to enter the parking structure at 8:05am.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

An overview of the Star Wars construction site on this cloudy morning. The backstage buildings on the left have been cleared.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Here is a pan across the site from left to right.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

In the foreground the buildings that were removed this past week. The green fences mark a road connecting the two parts of backstage right now.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016



Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

No visible progress on the rest of the LCD screens for the ticket booths. The project appears to have stalled.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

The current park map and inside ads.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Only 26 days until the Jungle Cruise returns (scheduled to re-open on May 6) and this skipper was excited.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Trees now obstructed most of the parking structure. I am assuming these are the ones they saved from the berm/island.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

The views up river are getting more limited. Here is one of the few left from near the Canoes.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Critter Country was empty and I was waiting for the rest of my group so took a look at the critter benches.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Decided to take a hike up the tree house to see what can be seen. A clear view backstage beyond Big Thunder.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Looking up river the other direction you can see the trees right behind the screen and the bare berm beyond.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Moving on to the far end of the Big Thunder Trail.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

More cleanup/removal in the Ranch area but not much else visible through the fence.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Scaffolding still up on the hills of Toontown as the final details are replaced.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Autopia refurbishment continues. The blue matches the Monorail station.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Super Hero HQ signage is still up even though the area is closed and the meet and greet has moved to DCA.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

The skies were turning darker on us...there was a 10-30% chance of rain in the forecast.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Lilly Belle was not out today. Guessing with the rain they moved it back to the round house.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Stopped by Off the Page in Disney California Adventure. There is a rack of vinyl records now. They had some film sound tracks and these.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Captain America and Spider-Man are on Sunset Blvd, where the Monsters University space was. There was a healthy line and no good angle to get them without waiting.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

A look at some of the props.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016



Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Captain America heading off, to the left you can see Spider-Man

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Spider-Man

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Laura went to a seminar/tasting, I stopped by the Lifestyle stage and Jenn Fujikawa was talking about Food & Fandom: The Recipes of Star Wars. As she talked and answered questions a slide show of some of her creations played in the background.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Something new to me...today they had all the popcorn flavors available at the Cozy Cone and you could pick what you wanted instead of just the two for the day.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

By Disney Jr they were passing out free buttons.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

To close out some brighter views from the parking structure.

Jason @ disneygeek.com image from Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hope you enjoyed this highlight tour of the Disneyland Resort. For additional photos and details from this trip you can check out the full Disneyland Update I posted on my site, https://disneygeek.com Also be sure to follow me on twitter @disneygeekcom for pictures from the parks.







April 12, 2016

2016 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival - Update and Additional Experiences

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On Sunday I returned for my second taste of this year's Food and Wine Festival.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

There was a new Festival guide map at the turnstiles for the weekend.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

We went to the Blue Sky Cellar to get our AP button and recipe cards - but the button was the same as last weekend. The cast member said they will change on Mondays. So the next day the new button and recipe cards would be released. The Festival is mostly on weekends...but the buttons are released on Mondays??? Doesn't make much sense to me.

Last week I mentioned the AP Passport - which was $45 for 6 tastings (food only), which made it not a good value at all unless you stuck to the three items that were $7.50, $7.75, and $8.00. I'm happy to say that they fixed that - the passport is $39 now. So if you buy food items that cost $6.50 or more, and there are six of those, then you will at least break even, if not come out a little bit ahead.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

AND, for those of us who purchased it last week when it was $45, there is a $10 gift card by way of apology. I went to the Blue Sky Cellar where they scanned my AP and punched a hole in the lanyard, then gave me the gift card. It didn't matter that I'd already used several tabs off the lanyard. So I thought they handled that well.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

At 11:00 on Sunday morning, the lines were already long at the Festival Marketplaces. Last Friday the wait was mostly to order, but this week there were lengthy waits both to order and to pickup the food. In some cases the booths were waiting to be re-supplied with one of the food items - most are prepared in a remote kitchen somewhere. In other cases, there's some plating that happens in the booths, and that seemed to be going very slowly.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

Cast members were building masking tape queues - it had rained earlier and they had to wait until the ground was dry.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

The good news is that there still seemed to be plenty of interest in the Festival Marketplace booths, and lots of people were trying and enjoying the various food and beverage offerings. But by the end of the second full weekend I would've thought the supply and service issues would have been worked out a little better. (The long line in the photo below is for pick-up - it's especially slow at the beer and wine booths.)

DCA Food and Wine Festival

From the Viva Fresca! Marketplace I was finally able to try the Anaheim Chile and Roasted Cauliflower Burrito with Jack cheese and avocado-lime crema. Last weekend they ran out of them, and it was going to be a 15-20 minute wait. This time they were also out of them, but were expecting more within 5 minutes. There were probably 8 people in front of me also waiting for the burritos. Once they arrived they were served up pretty quickly. This was really good - it's now my favorite Festival item. For $5.50 it's a generous serving. The flour tortilla is stuffed full of mild green chiles, cauliflower and lots of melted cheese. It's a little spicy, and the avocado crema helps to cool it off.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Chile and Cauliflower Burrito

From the same Marketplace I also ordered the Fried Shrimp Soft Taco with pickled red onion and jalapeno, queso fresco, and avocado-lime crema. This was actually two soft tacos - one on a white corn tortilla and one on blue corn. These were also very good, though the pickled vegetables were a little strong and made me cough. I liked them, though. $6.50 for this one.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Fried Shrimp Soft Taco

At LA Style I tried the Pork Belly Bao Taco - also with pickled vegetables, for $6.50. These pickled vegetables weren't nearly as strong, though. This dish was also a winner - the steamed "taco shell" was soft and chewy and the pork belly and veggies inside had a very good flavor. It wasn't nearly as fatty as I expected.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Pork Belly Bao Taco

Both last weekend and this weekend I went to one of the Beverage Seminars. I booked these at the beginning of March when the schedule first went up. They are $15/person (plus tax and gratuity), paid in advance, though the reservation can be cancelled up to 24 hours in advance. There's very little availability for the remaining sessions. Most of them are wine tastings (and you'll find wines from some of the wineries for sale in the Festival Marketplaces), but there are also beer and liquor tastings as well.

The beverage seminars are held outside at the Sonoma Terrace. The area is open-air and only partially covered. Plenty of shade, but not windproof. The trees around it sometimes shed leaves, blossoms, etc. that can end up in the wine glasses.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

About 30 minutes before the seminar starts, cast members start going down the line and checking off names. Showing a photo id is also required at this time, as only those aged 21 and over are allowed into the tasting area. You don't need to be there 30 minutes early - they will continue to check off names as people arrive at the end of the line. Anywhere from 10 minutes before to 5 minutes after they will let people in. It's open seating, and first come,first serve, so if you want to sit in the front, you'll want to be one of the first 8-10 people in line. The presenters have microphones, so you don't need to be in the front to be able to hear them.

The first tasting I attended was Hill Family Estates. They grow a lot of grapes that they supply to well-known wineries, but they started making their own wines, also. The presenter was Ryan Hill, who was a very engaging speaker. We sampled three wines, a chardonnay and two red blends. They weren't really to my taste, but a lot of people in the audience enjoyed them. Ryan had lots of interesting things to tell us and there were a number of questions, so this seminar lasted about 45 minutes.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

This past weekend I went to Sparkling Wines: Cava, Champagne, and Prosecco. This one started late - it was supposed to start at noon but we weren't even admitted into the area until after that. I was expecting to taste Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) Champagne and Prosecco, but we didn't get to try any Cava. And unfortunately all three wines we sampled had been sitting around too long and there were no bubbles! Very disappointing. We tried a real Champagne from the Champagne region of France (Landon), as well as the Iron Horse Fairy Tale Cuvee, which is a sparkling wine from California made in the Champagne method. The third wine was Rosa Regale, which is a red sparkling wine made in the Italian style. I'd had the Iron Horse and the Rosa Regale before, and enjoy them very much. The Landon was also very good.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

This seminar was presented by two Disneyland Resort Sommeliers. They seemed a little nervous, and the seminar was only about 30 minutes.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

Last weekend I also went to one of the Culinary Demonstrations. These are held on the stage in the Hollywood Backlot. There's a demonstration kitchen set up, but NO samples are served. There are benches available for those who arrive early enough, with standing room at the back. Since there's no samples, there doesn't seem to be nearly the demand for these that there was in the past. While all of the benches were full, there was still plenty of standing room.

We saw Chef Jamie Gwen - we remember seeing her at previous Festivals. This was her first demonstration this year and she was very excited to be back!

DCA Food and Wine Festival

She made buffalo meatball sliders - with two meatballs piled on top of each other. They looked very good. She was an entertaining and informative speaker - I learned how chefs dice an onion. :-)

DCA Food and Wine Festival

Also in the Backlot area, but on the opposite stage (where the Mad T Party band used to perform) are the Lifestyle Seminars. There is quite the variety of topics for these - in addition to gardening and wellness tips, there's also topics like home brewing, "Improving Social Media Photos", and "The Recipes of Star Wars." A number of the sessions also feature artists creating pieces of art right in front of you. Jason saw this session by Stephen Fishwick.

And this past weekend I saw Craig Fraser.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Craig Fraser

It looks like these are pretty lightly attended - there's only one row of bench seating and not much standing room behind it.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

As part of the Festival, several of the artists also have art featured in "Off the Page" and have signing sessions scheduled there.

DCA Food and Wine Festival


DCA Food and Wine Festival








April 4, 2016

It's Back! The 2016 Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival

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A long time ago, in a theme park not so far away....there was a Food and Wine Festival. It wasn't the biggest one around, but it experienced steady growth over the years, and every year there were even more interesting events and unique experiences. Its faithful fans loved it, and looked forward to it each spring.

And then came construction. And the Festival went on hiatus.

Construction ended, and the theme park was re-dedicated. And guests started asking: "When will the Food and Wine Festival return?" But the question went unanswered.

Several years passed. Guests asked: "WILL the Food and Wine Festival return?" But the question still went unanswered.

Until February 15, 2016. When there was an entry on the Disney Parks blog announcing that the Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival would be held on weekends from April 1 to May 1. The announcement was very brief, with few details: there would be Festival Marketplaces serving food and beverages, there would be "culinary demonstrations, appearances by celebrity chefs and informative seminars", and there would be some "premium experiences" which could be reserved.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

Much excitement and celebration ensued - ok, maybe that was just me. :-) No, really, there were a lot of other people equally as enthused, though I think we were all a little puzzled that there was so little information available when the opening date wasn't very far away!

Some additional details emerged over the next month. Reservations opened for the Beverage Seminars ($15/person) and the Celebrity Kitchen featuring a star lineup of chefs ($99/person, with an Annual Passholder VIP experience offered for $149). And my mouth watered when I read about some of the menu items that would be available at the Festival Marketplaces.

Then we waited for April 1 to arrive...

Upon arriving at DCA that morning, I was a little surprised to see that there was no banner across the park entrance, nor on Buena Vista Street, advertising the Festival. However, there was a nice fold-out Festival brochure available at the turnstiles as we entered. I thought it interesting that the brochure contained a schedule only for the first weekend, and not for the entire Festival. (Click on the map image below to see the full-sized version.)

DCA Food and Wine Festival Map



DCA Food and Wine Festival Map

The first sight of the Festival is the Festival Marketplaces. There are eight of them, and they are placed along the parade route between the Carthay Circle Theater and the entrance to Paradise Pier. This is a big change from previous Food and Wine Festivals, where all of the food items had to be sold out of existing restaurant spaces. These new Marketplaces made it feel much more like what we're used to at Epcot. I thought it also made the Festival experience much more central to the park - we didn't have to seek food items out (and previously they were sometimes in very out-of-the-way areas) like we did in the past.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

The booths were not highly decorated (we found out later that they were built on pretty short notice), but I thought they made a good attempt to fit in with the Golden Vine Winery area.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

One very nice thing: they all had eating areas attached to them. There were counters with lattice-type roofs over them to provide some shade. In addition there were tables as well as wine barrels that could be used as places to set your food down.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

The Pixar Play Parade is on hiatus during the Festival - the food booths take up too much space along the parade route. It makes the area feel more crowded than it really is.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

We had a short conversation with Jim Ames, Show Producer for the Festival. As you might imagine, he was quite busy on Friday. :-) The reason that there wasn't much advance notice on the Festival is that the decision to hold the Festival was made on December 31, 2015! The decision was also made to focus on the Festival Marketplaces this year. Those individual food kiosks are something quite new to us, since California food handling laws are quite different than those in Florida. This time Disney was able to work with the people who regulate such things to get permission to build and run them. One of the considerations which is not an issue in Florida is earthquake safety - Jim told us that they are all have bolts that go 1-1/2 feet into the ground! So if they come back next year they will be in exactly the same places.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Marketplaces

Considering the very short timetable I'm pretty surprised they were able to put as much together as they did. A lot of hard work by a lot of dedicated people.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

But back to the Festival overview...

The rest of the Festival events take place in Hollywood Land and in the Golden Vine Winery area. The Sonoma Terrace at the Golden Vine Winery hosts the Beverage Seminars. There are three each day on Fridays and four each day on Saturdays and Sundays. Most of the sessions are wine tasting with a featured winery, but at least one each day involves beer tasting or spirits such as vodka, whiskey, or tequila. These sessions are $15/person, plus tax and gratuity, and must be booked in advance. There is still limited availability. Reservations can be canceled up to 24 hours in advance, so it's possible there could be some last-minute openings.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

The Blue Sky Cellar is hosting an Annual Passholder Lounge during the Festival. Each weekend a different button and recipe card will be available to Passholders. This week the recipe was for fried artichokes.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

There are tables inside where passholders can charge phones, etc. Passholders can also sit in the viewing area and watch the Seasons of the Vine movie, which played in the cellar when DCA originally opened in 2001.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

The remaining Festival events are held in Hollywood Land.

Stage 17 in Hollywood Land is where the Celebrity Kitchen events take place. There are two sessions on most Saturdays. Participants receive food tastings, and there's featured wine pairings for those 21 and older. Following the presentation is an autograph session. The scheduled chefs are:

-- Robert Irvine (Restaurant Impossible)
-- Andrew Sutton (Disneyland Resort Executive Chef)
-- Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives)
-- Keegan Gerhard (Food Network Challenge) and Hayden Wood (“Flair” Bartender)
-- G. Garvin (Road Trip with G. Garvin)
-- Graham Elliot (MasterChef)

As I mentioned earlier, the price is $99, or $149 for the Annual Passholder VIP experience. Plus tax and gratuity. Cancellations must take place at least 72 hours in advance to be refunded.

A new event was just announced on the Festival's opening day: A Conversation with Kurt Russell. During this 90-minute Q&A session Kurt Russell will talk about his experiences as a wine maker. Wine tasting will be included. This event will be held in Stage 17 on April 16. Reservations can only be made by calling 714-781-DINE. The price is $199/person plus tax and gratuity.

Also in Hollywood Land, the Culinary Demonstrations and Lifestyle Seminars take place in the backlot area. The Culinary Demonstrations are held on the Backlot Stage, where a demonstration kitchen has been set up. This is a free event but it is a demonstration only - no tastings will be served. There is some seating available on benches, and there is standing room at the back. (The web site and the Festival Guide both say that the Culinary and Lifestyle demos are standing room only, but that was not the case on opening day.)

DCA Food and Wine Festival Culinary Demos

The Lifestyle Seminars take place on the stage most recently occupied by the Mad T Party band. These are more of a mixed bag: presentations on topics like gardening, wellness, and entertaining, but also live demonstrations by featured artists. This area also has some bench seating available, but most of the viewing area is standing room only.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Lifestyle Seminars

Festival merchandise is available at The Studio Store in Hollywood Land, just outside Stage 17.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

There were several different t-shirts, including an AP-exclusive shirt, as well as hats, wine glasses, and other event merchandise.

DCA Food and Wine Festival merchandise

DCA Food and Wine Festival shirt

DCA Food and Wine Festival



DCA Food and Wine Festival

These combination plate and glass holders were popular items.

DCA Food and Wine Festival merchandise

It was opening day, and there were some opening day hiccups. The biggest issue seemed to be with point-of-sale terminals that weren't working, resulting in long lines at most of the food booths in the beginning. Most of the booths had only one working register - and sometimes it wasn't working. That situation improved as the day went on - by late afternoon the lines were short/non-existent. There were also some supply issues - they either ran out of a couple of Marketplace items before the day was over, or had to tell guests that it would be a 15-20 minute wait until they had more. That was frustrating.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

Still, people were excited - lots of people there who were fans of the previous Festivals. But we saw lots of young people, too, who would have been too young to drink five years ago when the last Festival took place. :-)

And now I'm sure you're asking: "So what about the food???"

There were only two of us, but we attempted to sample a variety of items. We were hampered in the beginning because of the long lines, but eventually we just couldn't eat any more. Overall I thought the food was good. Nothing that I'm going to rave that "you've got to try this!", though there were several items I'd recommend because I thought they were interesting. I'm looking forward to trying additional items on future visits. I felt the portion sizes and prices were in-line with what you see at the Epcot F&W Festival.

Festival Marketplace Menus

We started at the Gold Rush booth, where we tried all three food items plus a glass of wine. First up was Triple Cheese Mac with smoked chicken, Fontina, cheddar, and Gouda cheeses. This may have been our favorite item of the day. It was a good-sized portion for $6.00, and the mix of cheeses and smoked chicken was very tasty. The crunchy bits on top added some nice texture.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Triple Cheese Mac

Next was the Artichoke Chips with Spicy Aioli for $5.00. This was not what I was expecting, but it was good. I was expecting the artichokes to be crisp like a chip, but they weren't. I think they had a bit of a Parmesan crust, which was crunchy.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Artichoke Chips

The dessert was Apple Bacon Whoopie Pie with maple cream cheese icing and bacon brittle for $3.75. I was really not sure what this was going to be - but it was really very good! This would be one of those "I recommend you try it" things. It did not taste bacony to me - I wouldn't have known the bits on top were bacon. The apple-cream cheese filling was really good. Maybe too sweet for some people, though.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Apple Bacon Whoopie Pie

I also tried the glass of Zaca Mesa Viognier for $5.00. I like white wines, and this was nice and refreshing. Not as dry as a Sauvignon Blanc, but not as sweet as a Riesling. In between.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Zaca Mesa Viognier

Lee wanted to try the MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir, but that was one of the things that was unavailable.

By the way, those eating areas attached to the booths that I mentioned earlier? Brilliant. Even though the booths were busy, we never had a problem finding a place to set our food down so that we could eat.

DCA Food and Wine Festival

Next we visited The Farm. Lee tried the Tenderloin Slider with chimichurri. At $7.75 this was one of the most expensive Marketplace items. He said that it was very good.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Tenderloin Slider

I tried the Golden Thai Vegetable Curry with jasmine rice for $5.75. This was a pretty generous serving but the vegetables were mostly red peppers and mushrooms, two things that I don't like. The curry sauce was good - a little bit of heat, but not too bad. Tasted good on the rice.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Thai Curry

Lee tried the Southern California Beer Flight from The Brewhouse for $12.25. It was supposed to include Hanger 24's Orange Wheat, Karl Strauss Columbia Street Amber, Bootlegger's Brewery Palomino Pale Ale, and Barley Forge's "The Patsy" Coconut Rye Stout. But no Columbia Street Amber, so they substituted something else. The Coconut Rye Stout was really good - definitely could taste the coconut.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Beer Flight

By the Bay is appropriately named, as it's the last Marketplace and closest to Paradise Pier. We tried all of the food items here, also, though it took us two visits, because they were out of the Chilled Shrimp and Snow Crab Cocktail the first time. (And on the second visit I got the next to last one!) It was good, but again not what I expected - instead of cocktail sauce, it was more like gazpacho. And a gazpacho that was very heavy on the cucumber, which I don't like. This one was $8.00. For the amount of shrimp in it, that's probably a reasonable price, as long as you like the cucumber in the sauce.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Shrimp and Crab Cocktail

The winner here was the White Cheddar Ale and Bacon Soup served in a Boudin sourdough mini-boule for $5.50. The soup was really good, though it was a very small serving. But the mini-boule was crunchy and chewy and filling and all of those things that good sourdough bread should be.

DCA Food and Wine Festival White Cheddar Ale and Bacon Soup

We also tried the dessert: Coconut Tapioca layered with fresh mango and lychee boba, topped with green tea micro sponge and mango-couli sesame tuile. What, you might ask, is green tea micro sponge? I wondered that too. It really was an airy spongey thing. Edible, but weird texture and flavor. The tapioca and fruit and boba were interesting, but not really my thing, and $4.25 seemed too pricey. Though given all the layers, there was a fair bit of work assembling this.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Coconut Tapioca

At the Wine Country Marketplace Lee tried the other $8.00 Festival item: Zinfandel-Braised Wagyu Beef with creamy polenta and spring pea puree. He said the Tenderloin Slider was a lot better.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Wagyu Beef

To pay for our more expensive Festival items we used our Festival Marketplace Tasting Passport. These are available for purchase by Annual Passholders. Each passport comes on a lanyard and has 6 detachable tabs. Each can be exchanged for one food item at any of the Marketplaces. Food items only, no beer or wine. The Marketplace menus are listed on the back of the passport, which is handy. The passport costs $45. So if you use it for food items that cost $7.50 or above (and there's only three of those) you'll come out ahead. Otherwise, there's no savings at all.

DCA Food and Wine Festival passport



DCA Food and Wine Festival Passport

One thing I didn't mention before: in addition to the Festival Marketplaces, there were also special Festival-Inspired Menus available at some of the restaurants. We tried the Shredded Pork Tostadas from Cocina Cucamonga. This was the standout item of the day. Plenty of shredded pork, topped with grilled pineapple slaw and chipotle crema, and served with Mexican rice, gucamole, sour cream, and salsa fresca. This is a full-sized entree, and was $13.49. It was served on two tortillas, which looked like they were made of a mix of blue corn and yellow corn - very interesting color. We could've shared this, and then gotten something else later.

DCA Food and Wine Festival Pork Tostadas

Here is the list of the other participating restaurants, and their menu items:

Festival-Inspired Menus

I haven't yet talked about the Beverage Seminar and Culinary Demonstrations that we attended, but this is enough for now. Overall it was a good first day. I'm looking forward to going back again next weekend.







November 10, 2010

Disneyland New and Upcoming Events

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First the bad news...as announced November 3 on the Disney Parks Blog, there will be no Disney's California Food and Wine Festival in 2011 or 2012. The wording was such that some speculated that it just wouldn't be at DCA, but AllEars has verified with a Disney representative that there will be NO Festival.

I'm very disappointed, since this is one of my favorite events, but I can understand that the construction at DCA would make it difficult - some of the areas they have used in the past for the Festival will not be available. I'm still bummed, though.

Some things that are relatively new at the parks...

The Duffy the Disney Bear Meet and Greet location in Paradise Pier, next to Treasures in Paradise. Jeanine wrote about that in this blog entry. Those who visit the area get an "I Just Hugged Duffy" sticker.

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The Tangled Meet and Greet area is located in Fantasyland next to Pinocchio's Daring Journey. Guests can meet Rapunzel and Flynn Rider.

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The new Disney Dance Crew show debuted on October 22 at DCA's Hollywood Pictures Backlot theater, replacing the Drawn to the Magic show. The show features the new talking Mickey Mouse character, who can move his mouth and blink his eyes. This Mickey also has all the moves, as he brings together two rival dance crews. They perform to modern versions of classic Disney tunes - some of them rather surprising - like "A Pirate's Life for Me". After the show Mickey comes out to meet and greet guests - but this character is not the talking Mickey. Same costume, different head (and I'm guessing a different person inside, too!).

One fun thing I noticed - take a look at the glowing logo on the cover of the DJ's laptop. :-)

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The Disney Channel Rocks! show, which premiered in Florida on October 22 (see the AllEars page HERE, has been postponed until November 26. The new show, featuring music from the Disney Channel's "High School Musical" series, "Camp Rock" and "StarStruck" will be performed on the Palisades Stage in Paradise Park next to Paradise Bay in the morning and early afternoon.

In anticipation of the upcoming TRON: Legacy movie, opening in theaters December 17, there are several tie-ins at Disney California Adventure. ElecTRONica brings the world of TRON to the Hollywood Pictures Backlot Friday-Sunday nights (it will run nightly from December 17-January 2). In addition to the techno dance party in the streets, guests can view a 9-minute 3D preview of the movie in the MuppetVision theater, experience the LASERMAN show, or enjoy a "Glowjito" or "Digitini" at theEnd of Line Club. (For the true TRON geeks: I still have a computer system that displays "END OF LINE" on my screen when I log off.) And for a real blast from the past there's Flynn's Arcade, which has quite a selection of 1980s video games - everything from Air Hockey to Pac-man to, yes, the TRON game. One cool thing: the game tokens (25 cents each) actually are custom "Flynn's Arcade" tokens!

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According to a recent Disneyland press release, ElecTRONica will continue into spring, 2011.

There's also a new TRON: Legacy encore to World of Color - the very first one. We were told that adding encores was something they planned to do with World of Color, so it's great to see that we got one this soon after the show opened! The encore runs at the end of each World of Color show as that pesky Master Control Program manages to take control of the show for a while. Disney has stated that the encore will run for several months, so while there is no official end date, it will definitely be with us through the holidays and for some time beyond.

And speaking of the holidays...the Disneyland Resort's holiday celebration begins on Friday, November 12. At Disneyland this includes favorites like the "A Christmas Fantasy" parade, Sleeping Beauty Winter Castle, Santa's Reindeer Round-up, "it's a small world" Holiday, and the "Believe...in Holiday Magic" fireworks. Over at DCA the familiar candy cane-striped letters of "CALIFORNIA" will be back, as well as the over-sized ornaments and decorations at Flik's Fun Fair. Santa Claus will greet guests at Paradise Pier.

See the Holidays at Disneyland page for more information and photos.




August 18, 2010

Disneyland Upcoming Events

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Just thought I'd post a list of some upcoming events at Disneyland:

September 3-5 - Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend. Events include the Health and Fitness Expo on Friday and Saturday, the Family Fun Run 5K and Kids Races on Saturday, and then the Half Marathon on Sunday. All Ears Team members Deb Wills, Cathy Bock, and Lee and I will all be participating in the half marathon. There will be a meet and greet on Saturday at 9:00 a.m. - see http://allears.net/btp/teammeets.htm for more information - hope to see you there!

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September 17 to October 31, 2010 - Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort. I have to say this is one of my favorite times of year - the parks are really festive with lots of pumpkins and decor in autumn colors. New this year, the hard-ticketed Halloween party moves from DCA to Disneyland, where it also gets a new name: Mickey's Halloween Party. Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy and Haunted Mansion Holiday return to Disneyland, and at DCA's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror guests might encounter some new "phantom patrons" of the hotel.

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September 24-26 - D23's Destination D Event and Scavenger Hunt - Destination D takes place Friday and Saturday at the Disneyland Hotel Convention Center. And the Scavenger Hunt on Sunday? Who knows! Sounds like it'll take us all over the resort! Deb Wills, Jeanine Yamanaka, Lee and I will comprise the All Ears Team for that event. There will be two Meet and Greets - one on Thursday afternoon and one on Saturday morning. Again, see the see All Ears Team Meets page for more information.

October 15 - Rapunzel, from the upcoming animated feature Tangled, will begin greetings guests in the Fantasyland location formerly occupied by Gepetto's Sweet Shoppe.

November 12-January 2 - Holidays at the Disneyland Resort, including all of the perennial favorites: Holiday "it's a small world", A Christmas Fantasy Parade, Santa's Reindeer Roundup, Sleeping Beauty Winter Castle, and the magical Believe...in Holiday Magic fireworks show. And it's also fun to see what special holiday food treats the Disneyland chefs will come up with!

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April 29 - June 11, 2011 - Disney's California Food and Wine Festival returns for the sixth annual festival. (Another of my favorite events!) If you're a DVC member like me and want to stay in the Villas at the Grand Californian during your visit to the Festival, starting thinking about your booking dates!

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Also coming up next year, we have the opening of Star Tours - The Adventures Continue at Disneyland, and The Little Mermaid - Ariel's Undersea Adventure, at DCA.

This isn't specifically Disneyland, but the Disney Wonder will move to its new home at the port of Los Angeles in January, where it will be be sailing to the Mexican Riviera, and later to Alaska. A number of All Ears Team Members and readers will be on the Inaugural Alaska cruise which begins on May 3 in Vancouver. If you'd like to join us, there's more information HERE.

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April 28, 2010

Disney's Food and Wine Festival - Interview with Gary Maggetti

Lee writes:

"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:

General Overview of the Festival

What's New in 2010 and Touring Tips

2010 Festival Menus

2010 Photo Gallery

Sweet Sundays 4/18/10

April 19, 2010

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.


April 18, 2010

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.

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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.

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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.

And that's enough about today for now.


April 17, 2010

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.

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Here's a look at some of the viewing area, which is called Paradise Park.

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And here's something you don't see every day - blue-suited Disney Divers!

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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The new Star Lounge is also located in the Festival Showplace. It offers Belgian beers, Festival wines and even some special cocktails.

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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!

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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".

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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It was a great day!



April 12, 2010

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2010

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!

The Daily Schedule has been posted on the Food and Wine web site:
Daily Schedule PDF file

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!

Will I see any of you there?

February 6, 2010

2010 Disney's California Food and Wine Festival

The 5th annual Disney's California Food and Wine Festival returns from April 16 through May 31 this year. It's a day longer than last year's Festival, taking advantage of the Memorial Day holiday on May 31. There will be daily events and some new venues this year, though there have been a few changes and even cutbacks in the Signature events. We have more information on the Festival on our web page HERE, which we will be updating as additional information becomes available, and I plan to blog live from the Festival's opening weekend. You can also visit the official site: http://www.disneyland.com/FoodandWine.

This year's theme is The Art of Flavor, and one of the new venues is the Festival Artisans area in the Pacific Wharf. There's not a lot of information on this yet, but the Food and Wine web site describes it as: "local artisans...an array of culinary and wine-inspired crafts, original art, and gourmet home and food products."

One of the biggest changes will be the addition of the Festival Showplace, which sounds like it will be the new location for just about everything that was at the Golden Vine Winery during previous Festivals. The Showplace is located in Stage 12 of the Hollywood Backlot area, the building that was originally the Hollywood and Dine food court, and has more recently been the Annual Pass Processing Center. Sweet Sundays and culinary demonstrations will be held there, and the Festival Gift Shop and "Wine Sellers" shop will also be located there. The thing I'm most excited about coming to the Festival Showplace, though, is the return of the Taste of California Marketplace, with its menu of tapas-sized Festival food items. There was no Marketplace last year because the restaurant location they had been using for it was in the process of becoming Cocina Cucamonga, so it's very nice to see that they found a new location for it this year.

There are a lot fewer Signature Events this year, some, like the World Celebration dinners, "Behind the Scenes With", and Festival Wine Receptions are not returning at all, while others have fewer dates available. The Winemaker Dinners are back at Steakhouse 55 on Friday nights, though there are only four and not six. On one of the off Fridays Steakhouse 55 will be hosting a new offering, the Brewmaster Dinner, featuring a multi-course meal paired with Karl Strauss beers. Napa Rose Cooking School also returns on five different Saturdays, as do the Taste Wine Like an Expert classes (4 classes) and the very popular Sweet Sundays (every Sunday). As of this date, the guest pastry chefs have not yet been announced for Sweet Sundays. Taste Food-Wine-Life also returns, but for only one evening (May 29) instead of two, and surprisingly it also returns with a lower price - $135 instead of $150. Winemaker dinners have held steady at $135 while tickets are up $5 each for the Wine class and Sweet Sundays, at $55 and $70, respectively, and up $25, to $475, for the Napa Rose Cooking School. The Brewmaster dinner is $110. All of these prices include gratuity but not tax.

Another price increase...the wine, beer, and spirits seminars are no longer complimentary, though the price for a wristband is a nominal $1.00, cash only. Wristbands must be purchased in the queue line. It appears that the cooking and culinary demos are still free.

Other returning Festival offerings are the Festival Wine and Beer Walks, where guests can sample different wines and beers. The Jr. Chef program for younger guests will also return. In addition to the Taste of California Marketplace, special Festival food items will be available at many restaurants at Disney's California Adventure, and selected Disneyland Resort restaurants will be offering a special prix-fixe menu.

Tickets for the Signature events go on sale on February 16, but, as reported on the Disney Parks Blog, tickets for some events went on sale to Annual Passholders on February 4. Through February 15, AP holders may purchase these tickets at discounted prices. Visit http://www.disneyland.com/ap for details.

Hope to see you at the Festival!



July 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

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54 years young!

This year we've already seen the opening of the updated "it's a small world" attraction, the new Celebrate! A Street Party, the Celebration Round-up and BBQ dining experience, and the new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Over at DCA, the Food and Wine Festival returned for a 4th year, Cocina Cucamonga moved to a new location with an expanded menu, Mickey's Fun Wheel opened, and the Blue Sky Cellar preview center just re-opened with updated exhibits on what we can expect in DCA's continuing expansion.

I think Disneyland received some of its birthday presents early this year with the premiere of the new Summer Nightastic! event, featuring the return of revamped favorites like Disney's Electrical Parade and Fantasmic!, and the new TLT Dance Club, Pixie Hollow Enchantment, and the all new fireworks show, Magical, where Dumbo flies around the castle.

The Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend returns Labor Day weekend, with events Friday-Sunday - Lee and I will be running the half marathon on Sunday. And the very first D23 Expo takes place at the Anaheim Convention Center September 10-13.

Disney's HalloweenTime returns on September 25, including the popular Haunted Mansion Holiday and the return of Mickey's Trick or Treat Party at DCA on selected nights in October.

Also this fall, the very first DVC resort in California, The Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Resort & Spa opens its doors.

The holidays return to Disneyland in November as Disneyland is transformed into the "Merriest Place on Earth", with all of the special decorations, parade and fireworks that go with it.

Next spring the new Disney's World of Color nighttime spectacular opens in DCA and who knows what else Disney might have planned?

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Happy Birthday, Disneyland!

AllEars pages on some of the events and attractions mentioned above:
"it's a small world"
Celebrate! A Street Party
Celebration Roundup and BBQ
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Disney's California Food and Wine Festival
Mickey's Fun Wheel
Summer Nightastic!
Disney's Electrical Parade
Fantasmic!
Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend
Mickey's Trick or Treat Party

May 25, 2009

Disneyland Bits and Bites

A few updates from my visit to Disneyland/Disney's California Adventure on Friday. The Spring Break crowds seem to finally be gone, and crowd levels were more what I would expect on a post-Spring Break week-day afternoon. Nice.

The featured entertainment at Taste, the finale event of the Food and Wine Festival, will be a Korean group called Nanta. Definitely fits in with their World Celebration theme this year! Here's some information on the group from their web site:

'NANTA' figuratively refers to reckless punching as in a boxing match. 'NANTA' is a non-verbal performance of free rhythmical movements that dramatize customary Korean percussions in a strikingly comedic stage show. Integrating unique Korean traditional drumbeats in a western performance style, NANTA storms into a huge kitchen where four capricious cooks are preparing a wedding banquet. While cooking, they turn all kinds of kitchen items - pots, pans, dishes, knives, chopping boards, water bottles, brooms and even each other- into percussion instruments."

Sounds like the "cooking" aspect fits in well with the Festival, also.

Tickets for this year's Mickey's Trick or Treat Party at DCA are now on sale to Annual Passholders. We have information on this year's party, including the dates, on our page HERE.

At DCA, the new restrooms in the Golden State area have opened. They are across the "street" from the old ones, which will be demolished when they start to build the new Little Mermaid attraction. The new restrooms (the womens' side, at least) are huge. And I'm happy to say that the new faucets are the really nice aerated ones - they don't spray water all over the place like most of the other restroom faucets in the park do. (That's one of my pet peeves.) They also have the motion-activated paper towel dispensers, too.

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King Triton's Carousel of the Sea has re-opened after a fairly lengthy rehab. I just love all of the colorful and smiling sea creatures on this attraction. And they are all bright and shiny and look like new. It looks to me like the major change was re-theming the top of the attraction.

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Work continues in on the World of Color show in Paradise Bay. There's more stuff on on the bottom every time I visit.

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They are also working on the amphitheater viewing area.

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I visited the Wine Shop again to get some more of the Sapphire Hill Very Late Harvest Zinfandel that I bought a couple of weeks ago - I served it at my Chocolate Party last weekend and we all really enjoyed it.

Over at Disneyland, I was surprised to see the Evil Queen from Snow White greeting guests in Fantasyland. She was appropriately disdainful and haughty - some of the kids didn't quite know what to make of her.

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Peter Pan's Flight is undergoing refurbishment and is scheduled to re-open on June 8. There are signs on the walls around it that say "Sorry, no flights to Never Land today". :-)

When writing the blog on the Celebration Roundup and BBQ, one question Deb Koma raised was whether there were food alternatives for picky kids - like mac and cheese. So I asked. Nope, what's on the menu is what everyone gets - no alternatives. It was about 3:30 in the afternoon when I was there - there weren't too many people dining there.

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Magical, the new fireworks show, actually has its first show on Thursday, June 11 at 8:45. And it has quite a long official name, too - the Disneyland Calendar shows it as: Magical - Disney's New Nighttime Spectacular of Magical Celebrations In the Stars. Wow. That's quite a lot to live up to.

May 14, 2009

A Friday at the Food and Wine Festival

I visited the Food and Wine Festival on Friday with my friend Kristin - yes, that is my third visit in as many weekends to the Festival. :-) We had a wonderful day - the weather was just about as perfect as it gets in southern California, and the crowds were a lot more manageable than on my recent weekend visits.

On this trip I was finally able to attend some of the cooking demonstrations since we didn't have to arrive so early to get a spot! In fact the Cake Monkey Bakery demo, which was at 10:30 on Friday, was only about 2/3 full. Which was a shame, since it was an excellent demo! Pastry chef Elizabeth Belkind made a rocky road type of cookie - a chocolate cookie with chocolate chunks, homemade marshmallow, pecans, and caramel. It was really good, and it was a very good demonstration. I'm sure her Sweet Sundays session that weekend was awesome.

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After the demo Kristin and I did a couple of rides - Toy Story Mania had only a 25-minute wait posted (and it was shorter than that) and California Screamin' was about 20 minutes - we waited a little extra so that we could ride in the first row. That was a lot of fun, it's a much different ride especially when going over the tops of the hills because you hang there for a second before you start down, and you can really see the steepness of the track in front of you.

Mickey's Fun Wheel opened earlier in the week but we didn't ride that.

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I was really missing the appetizer-sized food items of previous Festivals at that point - we both wanted a little something to eat before we went to a wine tasting session, but weren't ready (and didn't have time) for lunch. So we went to the Mission Tortilla Factory and got free flour tortillas instead. :-) I know this "attraction" is usually maligned, but I find the video of the kids doing their report on the history of the tortilla to be very entertaining and it always makes me smile.

We arrived about 25 minutes early for the wine tasting session because it was on Iron Horse sparkling wines, and we wanted to make sure we got in. And sometimes you gotta take time to smell the roses. :-)

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As it turned out we didn't need to be there that early (though it was a full session by the time it started), but by arriving early we had front row seats. Winemaker David Munksgard was the speaker, and he was really interesting, and told us a lot about how sparkling wine is made. Oh, and did you know that Dom Perignon, whose name is practically synonymous with champagne (though he did not invent the process), actually spent most of his career trying to figure out how to eliminate bubbles from wine?

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We had the 2003 Blanc de Blanc, the Fairy Tale Cuvee (made by Iron Horse exclusively for Disney) and the Wedding Cuvee. Unfortunately they had been poured long enough before we sat down that they had lost a lot of their effervescence. I liked the Fairy Tale Cuvee the best, and Kristin preferred the Wedding Cuvee. I wouldn't turn any of them down, though!

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After wine it was time for lunch! We both had the Chicken Panzarotti, which is the Festival food offering at Pizza Oom Mow Mow. It was chicken ravioli Ravioli in Taleggio-Parmigiano sauce topped with sun dried tomatoes and basil. The breadstick was dry and seemed stale and the dish could have been served hotter, but otherwise it was very tasty and we both enjoyed it.

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So what to do after lunch...how about more eating!!! There was a Celebrate India cooking demo at 2:30. We arrived about 2:15 which was plenty early - we had seats about halfway back. The chef, Paul Okamura, works at Club 33, and he prepared Coconut Chicken Curry with Basmati Rice. This dish had an amazing number of ingredients (as you can see in the photo) - there are: coriander seed, serrano chiles, coconut milk, cloves, cinnamon sticks, onions, curry powder, garlic, ginger, chicken stock, potatoes, brown sugar, lime juice, cilantro, yogurt, and chicken legs.

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It really didn't take too long to make - though of course it helps if all of the prep work is already done! Even with the serrano chiles it wasn't spicy at all. The samples served to us were very nicely presented.

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After the demo it was time for more wine, so we tried one of the Wine Walks. These are new this year - there is a California Wine Walk and an International Wine Walk. For $10 ($10.88 with tax) you get a wine glass and a "passport" allowing you to taste four different wines of your choice from the available selections (or the same wine four times if you like!). The Cast Member stamps your passport after each pour.

We did the International Wine Walk, which featured wines from South America, New Zealand, Italy, and the "Old World" (France and Spain). There were three wines at each station - generally two reds and a white - for a total of 12 in all. I think we both tried different wines. My favorite was the Trumpeter Torrontes from Argentina, and I also had the Vin Rusco Rosato from Italy, the Matua Valley Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, and the Chateau de Jau Grenache from France. There's not a lot of room at each station - enough for one party at a time, really. And there's no place to sit down or even much of a place to stand, so it's not really something you linger over, which I think is a little unfortunate. One of the servers told us that they have been busy on weekends (and that's been my observation when I've passed by) but not busy during the week. Though there were three other parties in there when we were.

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I had noticed last weekend that the California Wine Walk had been relocated - the first weekend of the Festival it was next to the Bountiful Valley Farm stage, where it was very out-of-the-way, and now it's been moved to the Pacific Wharf area, in the walkway between the Tortilla Factory and the Boudin Bakery. They have wines from Napa Valley, Monterey and Sonoma.

We arrived only 10 minutes early for the Celebrate Greece cooking demo, but still got in easily. Chef Julio Castillo prepared dolmas - grape leaves stuffed with chicken, veggies, and couscous. These were really good, but it's obviously a very labor-intensive process, so I don't think I'd ever do it myself.

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We had Fastpasses for Soarin' so we used those - even with Fastpasses there's sometimes a pretty long wait for Soarin', but it wasn't at all bad - we were at the boarding gate in not much over 5 minutes. We were in the top row, which is always the best place to be, though we were on the left. This is always a great ride - and it was especially fun to go "soaring" over Napa Valley, since the Food and Wine Festival was going on.

Last thing on our agenda for the day was to try another of the Festival menu items - the Driscoll Strawberry Parfait with Ghirardelli Chocolate that is available at the Wine Shop Bistro and The Lounge (though it's $4 cheaper at the Bistro!). It's layers of dark chocolate, chocolate mousse, red velvet cake, strawberries and cream cheese. Oh. My. It was SO good!!! Definitely the best counter service dessert I've ever had in a theme park (and it's better than most table service desserts I've had, too!). It was lick the bowl clean good - but we didn't do that.

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We ate it at the Bistro, which is next to the area where the wine tasting sessions were held, and the Sapphire Hills Winery tasting was in progress at the time. We arrived after it started (and the session was full anyways), but we were very entertained by listening to the speaker. I can't remember at all what he said, but he was very funny. Though I do remember one thing he said: "Late Harvest Zinfandel" - which was for sale at the Wine Bistro. I love late harvest wines, so I went and bought a bottle. We'll open it at my annual chocolate party this weekend and I'll let you know what we think.

As we were leaving the parade was about to start - but before that we saw the Up Pre-Parade - in fact we saw that float's maiden voyage down the parade route. But I wrote more about that in this blog entry.

It was another great day at the park with Kristin! Even though it was my third trip to the Festival I was still able to try several new things - the Wine Walk and two different Festival food items - and I finally got to not just one but three cooking demonstrations! Moral of that story of course is: Go during the week!

May 6, 2009

A Day at the Food and Wine Festival

On Sunday Lee and I spent a day at the Disney's California Food and Wine Festival, so I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on that experience.

Our day began with the very first Sweet Sundays event at the California Food and Wine Festival - Festival director Jim Ames attended one in Florida and liked it so much that he wanted to bring it here. I was very happy to see it on the schedule this year because it's always been one of my favorite events at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. (Apparently I'm not the only one, since these are the only events that sold out even before the Festival started!)

I've posted a Sweet Sundays Review, but here's a few thoughts and comments. The event was held outside at the Lower Patio of the Golden Vine Winery - the same venue they use for the wine tastings. It's not very big, and only accommodates 60 people when they set it up with tables for dining instead of tasting. They had a buffet breakfast for us, but because it was outdoors the food had to be covered except when it was being served, so Cast Members served it to us. It's a little odd telling someone else exactly what pieces of fruit you want! ("I'd like two strawberries, some blackberries, a piece of honeydew...")

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There are trees over part of the seating area, and they were shedding some seed pods - most of us were covering our wine glasses to keep the debris out. But really, for the most part it was very pleasant being outside. They had set up big umbrellas so that most of the tables were in the shade.

They had two different sparkling wines available to us - the Fairy Tale Cuvee, which we like, and another Disney-exclusive wine called Magicale. This is a lightly sparkling refreshingly sweet red wine from Italy - very similar to the Rosa Regale that we have enjoyed at Epcot (and at home!). They were really generous with both, and kept filling our glasses throughout the presentation.

We had two guest pastry chefs from Sweet Cheeks Baking Co. in San Diego, and they demonstrated three different desserts - and we received three full-sized servings of each one. Oh my. (They had to-go boxes available at the end!) There was the Tosca Cake, which was sort of a pound cake with a caramelized almond topping, a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin with cream cheese frosting, and a banana cake with chocolate ganache and peanut butter mousse. Two of the three were very good - unfortunately I don't care for bananas or peanut butter, so the last dessert was disappointing to me, but Lee said it was excellent. I wish there had been more chocolate desserts, though!

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Chef Jamie Gwen was the host of the event, and she was really good - really a lot of fun. And the two guest pastry chefs were interesting as well - though to look at them you'd think they were aerobics instructors and not pastry chefs! :-)

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The event ended about noon, and we met up with two other friends - ASK and CL, who had flown in earlier in the week just to attend the Food and Wine Festival. (A couple of you have asked me about the World Celebration dinners this year - ASK attended the Lafite Rothschild event and enjoyed it - it was similar to the Winemaker dinners in that it was a multi-course dinner with wine pairings. Sounds like they had an amazing dessert course for the kickoff dinner: "Chocolate Around the World", with multiple small chocolate desserts. I'm sorry I missed *that*!)

Chef Jamie had invited all of us at Sweet Sundays to come and see her cooking demonstration at 12:30. Since it was already 12:00 we figured there was no way we would get in but that we'd check anyway - and yes, we were right. They had run out of tickets a while before - I think that on weekends you have to be there at least an hour in advance to make sure you get a ticket, and longer than that for one of the celebrity chefs - ASK and CL had waited for two hours to see Cat Cora on Saturday. (Which they said was great - she demonstrated and served three different things!)

While we were over there by the demonstration area we saw this duck family in the Sunshine Plaza fountain - dad had taken several of them swimming, but most of them were napping with mom. So cute!

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We wandered over to the Pacific Wharf where Lee did the Beer Walk. For $10.88 (including tax) he got a "passport" entitling him to tastes of 5 different beers. They had beers from all over the world - France, Italy, Germany, China, Japan, Singapore, the UK, Mexico, and the U.S.

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While he was doing that the three of us got in line for the Remick Ridge wine tasting at 1:15. We were in line about 35-40 minutes prior to the start, I'd say that anyone who arrived 10 minutes after us was turned away. We ran into Sean and Pamela from RADP on the way there, and they kept us company for a while while we waited.

Remick Ridge is owned by Tom and Marcy Smothers (yes, as in the Smothers Brothers). Marcy Smothers was the presenter. They produce certified organically grown grapes and use only their own grapes to make their wine. Their wine is 100% of the varietal, rather than a blend of different grapes. So, at this point they only make one wine, the Remick Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, so that's what we had to taste. Their winemaker is Richard Arrowood, who was featured at the Winemaker dinner that Lee and I attended the week before. It was an interesting presentation since Marcy was an animated speaker with lots of good stories, but it was disappointing to only have one wine, since usually there's three or four at these things.

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Afterwards we went up to The Lounge to get something to eat. There were quite a few people up there, but no tables in the shade, and even though it wasn't an overly hot day it was still pretty warm to be sitting in full sun. Finally someone left and we were able to get their table. At The Lounge there is table service, and our server moved one of the umbrellas so that we were all in the shade. It was really a very nice and relaxing experience to be there (once we got into the shade!). Our server kept our water glasses filled and we tried some different foods and drinks.

CL had the Flight Around the World, which included four different wines from Spain, New Zealand, South Africa, and Argentina. And I had the Riesling Flight, which included two different German rieslings and a third from Washington state. It was kind of comical having 7 glasses on the table, though! :-) I really prefer white wines to red wines, so after having so much red wine over the last week or so between the various wine tastings and the Winemaker dinner it was VERY nice to have something that I really liked.

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We tried several different food items on the menu. Since the Lucky Fortune Cookery is closed, the offerings at The Lounge this year are really the closest that this year's Festival comes to having the more unusual "tapas" kinds of foods that many of us have enjoyed at previous Festivals. Though they are higher-priced than I'd like. But it is table service, and everything is nicely plated and presented on real plates with real stainless flatware. CL had been looking forward to the Kimchi Bulgogi Tacos (Kimchi and BBQ Beef Tacos), and she was very pleased with them. They were served on warm tortillas with fresh Cabbage, Korean Hot Chili Sauce, Kimchi, Mozzarella and Cheddar cheeses, and she said they were quite spicy, which she really liked. I think her only "complaint" was that for $11 they could have been a bit larger.

ASK tried the Succulent Shrimp Flatbread, which was Artisan bread topped with shrimp, cheese, onions, and capers. She liked it.

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I tried the Cheese Plate, which came with smoked cheddar, Camembert, Manchego, and Gorgonzola, though I requested more cheddar in place of the Gogonzola. It also included about half a loaf of sliced bread, some pecans and a raisin and currant conserve. A little pricey at $15, but it was pretty filling.

Lee arrived later - he had been attending the World Beer Styles demonstration, which he enjoyed. They sampled two beers, a Stella Artois from Belgium and the Kona Firerock from Hawaii. He finished off my cheese plate, and then he ordered the Duo of Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin Sliders for $12. One was topped with a roasted red pepper aioli, and the other with blue cheese and fried onions. They were both good, but he really enjoyed the blue cheese and onion slider.

We wandered around the Paradise Pier area of DCA. There have been big changes in the Bay area even since last week. Looks like they have put the fountain heads for the World of Color show in place, though CL took a look and said "What's with all of the Ewoks?" :-) We'd thought about riding something, but the park was crowded and the lines were long - 40 minutes for California Screamin' and probably closer to 50 for Toy Story Mania. They were actually running all three towers of the Maliboomer, and even had a queue set up for the Orange Stinger! I guess all of the various ticket incentives they have been doing this year (the 2fer ticket, everyone plays for the kid's price, get two days free) have been very successful, because the parks have been VERY busy the last two weekends. And it certainly didn't look like the Swine flu threat had any affect on attendance.

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The other three had never visited the Blue Sky Cellar preview center, so we went there. It's in need of some updating, since there are a few things in there (like Games of the Boardwalk) that are now open, and I think dates have changed on some other things.

We tried to get into the "Celebrate Scotland" cooking demo, but it was only 30 minutes away and it was already full. (Who knew that haggis was so popular? ;-) ) So we went to see the Aladdin show instead. I've never seen such a huge line for that - we arrived about 20 minutes before the show and ended up on Standby. We did get in, but were up in the balcony on the far left - not the best viewing. But we were mostly there to see if the Genie had any topical comments - and he did. :-) Bailout money and the swine flu.

After the show we said goodbye to ASK and CL - it was fun spending part of our day with them! They headed back to their hotel and we went to the Pacific Wharf Cafe to try the Festival menu item there - the White Cheddar Cheese Soup in a Bread Bowl. This has been a very popular item at past festivals when it was served appetizer-sized in a small bread bowl. I think it's a lot better in the small size - it's so rich. Lee and I split this one, and we still didn't finish it all. It was good, but as I said, it's just too rich for me to eat very much of it. It was very popular, though - we saw lots of people ordering it.

As usual at Pacific Wharf Cafe the line was to the door (though better than at lunch time when it was out the door!), but it moved pretty quickly - still took about 15 minutes, though. We found a table outside, and we could see the Pixar Play Parade going by in the distance. I noticed when Deb and I saw the parade last week that the Ratatouille float is gone, and it was still missing - apparently it's been gone for a while.

Lee had talked to a Cast Member earlier about the construction at the former Lucky Fortune Cookery - the plan is for Cocina Cucamonga to move into that space. Since it's larger, that will allow for an expanded menu - they are talking about bringing some menu items similar to those at Rancho del Zocalo to the new location. I hope they will keep those yummy Chicken Tamales (the Festival food item) on the menu! Eventually an Asian-themed quick service restaurant will move into the former Cocina Cucamonga space. It will be nice to have some other food options in the Pacific Wharf area - the lines get so long now! (I do have to say that the lines at Cocina Cucamonga seemed to be a lot shorter and moving a lot faster than they did when I was in line for 30 minutes last weekend, so hopefully they addressed whatever issue they had.)

We went into Disneyland after that to do a little shopping at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique - our niece has a birthday soon and is crazy for both princesses and pink. So where else would we shop for her? :-) In the Boutique we saw a couple of older ladies getting their own Boutique makeovers - so it's not just for little girls, but also for big girls who are young at heart! :-)

What's wrong with this picture???

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Yes, no Astro Orbitor! Looks more like they are removing it than refurbishing it.

There were lots of people over at Disneyland, too, though we were only there to shop and didn't even try to go on any attractions. We did see the 40-minute line for Buzz Lightyear, though interestingly enough Star Tours only had a 10-minute wait.

It was a great day, though it would have been nicer if the parks hadn't been so crowded! I'm disappointed that I still haven't been able to attend a cooking demonstration - maybe this coming Friday when I visit with my friend Kristin.

April 29, 2009

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2009 Opening Weekend

The 2009 run of Disney's California Food and Wine Festival opened at Disney's California Adventure on Friday, April 24.

Deb and I were quite busy with the Disneyland Press Event that day, so we didn't get to spend much time enjoying the Festival. I was in the park for about 45 minutes in the morning just walking around and taking a look at the different venues - there are some pretty significant changes this year. But we spent almost all day Saturday there.

First, the main demo kitchen has been moved to Sunshine Plaza, and is called the Chef's Showcase Stage. The entire stage and seating area is under a big tent, which anyone who has sat through a cooking demo in the hot sun over the last few years will appreciate! (The queue area is still largely in the sun, though.) That takes up just about ALL of Sunshine Plaza, though, and with the Festival Merchandise cart also located in that area it creates quite a bottleneck in the Plaza. And when people are lined up along the street for either High School Musical or the Pixar Play Parade it makes it very difficult to get to/from the Hollywood Backlot area.

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I did not have the opportunity to attend any of the cooking demos over the weekend - every time I passed by there seemed to be a very long line. It looked like the sessions were filled at least 30-45 minutes in advance, and for this weekend's Celebrity Chef (Robert Irvine) it was filled over an hour in advance, at least on Saturday.

The Taste of California Marketplace is gone this year, since the restaurant location they had been using in previous years (Lucky Fortune Cookery) is being renovated. Instead, most of the Festival food offerings are full size (and full price) menu items at the various counter service restaurants around the park. You can find the menus HERE. There are also some additional items available at The Lounge (upstairs at the Golden Vine Winery) and the Wine Shop and Bistro at the Lower Patio is also offering food items this year in addition to special Festival wines by the glass or the bottle. But nothing is really "tapas" sized or priced, so unless you're with a large group who is sharing, I think it's going to be difficult to try very many of the items in a day or even two.

The food lines at the counter service restaurants were insane on Saturday afternoon. Pacific Wharf Cafe was out the door and across the walkway so we didn't even try that. I wanted to try the Chicken Tamales, which were the Festival offering at Cocina Cucamonga, so I got in line there, with about 8 people ahead of me. It took 25 minutes just to order. Fortunately the food came within just a few minutes after that, but still - 30 minutes to get a counter service meal??? Deb wanted to try the Festival's Lobster Salad Roll at Award Wieners - and it took 30 minutes for her, too. Ridiculous. I guess the good news is that there were a lot of people ordering the special Festival menu items, especially the tamales. (And by the way, the tamales were quite good - I hope they will become a permanent menu addition like some of the other food items did last year. Deb said the lobster roll was good, but not as good as the lobster roll at the Epcot F&W Festival - but it was also a whole lot bigger for about the same price.)

But I digress -- I was talking about new things this year!

The Wine and Beer Walks are new this year, and they seemed to be quite well-received from the crowds I saw around them. At the wine walks, for $10 you purchase a "passport" that allows you to taste four different wines. There are two wine walks - one with International wines, and one with California wines. I didn't see the price for the beer walk, but I would imagine that it's similar - there is only one beer walk, but I know they had beers from Asia and the "Old World" in addition to the United States.

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2009 Opening Weekend

There is a second "kitchen" demonstration area at Bountiful Farm again this year, but this year it is just for "Kitchen Conversations": demos of various culinary techniques or talks on using spices, picking produce, etc. and no samples are served. We saw a demo on how to filet a fish. These you can just walk into - no need to arrive early. In fact, we arrived at the fish filet demo a few minutes after it started and there were still plenty of seats.

As I mentioned, the Festival Merchandise Cart has moved to Sunshine Plaza. There is also some merchandise for sale at a cart at the Lower Patio of the Winery.

The Festival Welcome Center is still near the entrance of the park, but it's next to the Information Booth now instead of in Sunshine Plaza. It looks like a nicely decorated and staffed area, with Cast Members available to answer questions or make reservations for people who wish to attend some of the Signature Events.

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2009 Opening Weekend

Deb and I attended two wine tasting sessions on Saturday - Quintessa/Veramonte and Duckhorn. (Duckhorn is suddenly famous because two different Duckhorn wines were served at President Obama's Inauguration lunch.) Quintessa was the first of the day and was not full, Duckhorn was at 3:00 and reached capacity about 30 minutes before it started. There were wine spills at both of them - I don't know if the tables are closer together this year or what, but people were banging their chairs into the tables behind them hard enough to spill the wine and crash the glasses onto the floor. Such a waste of good wine...

We also watched one of the Junior Chef sessions - that was fun. The area looks like it would accommodate about 25 kids, but there were only about 12 in the one we saw. The kids all get paper chef hats and a place at one of the three tables. Ingredients for Magical Mango Fruit Bars were already laid out, and with some instruction by Chef Lily (with some help from guest Chef Goofy!), the kids mix up the ingredients which get poured into a large popsicle mold, which goes into the Magic Freezer and turns into a huge frozen fruit bar. On their way out the kids get a real frozen fruit bar to eat. Cute show. Some of the kids are really into it, and then there was the poor girl who was terrorized when Goofy came out, and another small boy who had a meltdown when his chef's hat came undone and fell over his eyes.

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2009 Opening Weekend

On Friday night we attended the first Winemaker dinner, which was Arrowood Vineyards. It was really awesome - definitely my favorite of the three we have attended in the last two years. But I'll have a whole review of that on the site later.

Lee and I will be back this weekend for the first Sweet Sundays event (those are new this year), and I hope to try one of the wine walks and some of the other Festival food offerings. And I'll be sending Lee off to do the research on beer tasting and beer walks. :-)

April 13, 2009

Disneyland: Upcoming Events

Actually the first event is one that's already happened - and that's the opening of the Celebration Roundup and Barbecue at Big Thunder Ranch. We have the menu on-line - it's fixed price barbecue chicken, ribs, beans, coleslaw etc., served family style. There are vegetarian options, also. Though not billed as a character meal, Woody and Jessie make the rounds, and there is a fairly continuous show going on featuring Tex Tumbleweed and Miss Chris, the owner of the place.

I haven't been there yet, but from most reports I've seen people have been pleased with it - the main thing that seems to put people off is the price - $28.99 for adults and $18.99 for kids, not including tax and tip.

Next up is the opening of the new Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Fantasyland, behind Sleeping Beauty Castle. That will be opening on Friday, April 17. Appointments are already being accepted - call 714-781-STYLE (714-781-7895). We have information on the services available as well as the prices HERE.

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival starts Friday, April 24. Deb Koma and I will both be covering the opening weekend. There is still availability for most of the Signature Events - though all but two of the Napa Rose Cooking Schools are sold out. And the new Sweet Sundays event is also proving to be very popular, as four of the six are also sold out. (I will be attending the opening session on May 3.) Sample menus for the World Celebration Dinners are available though to see them you have to get to the actual event sign-up page which means completing the first page of the registration process. The daily event schedule has not yet been published, but I hope that happens soon so I can plan. Deb and I hope to see some of you there!

February 27, 2009

Update: Disney's California Food and Wine Festival

Registration for the "Signature Events" of this year's Disney's California Food and Wine Festival is now open on Disney's web site: http://www.disneyland.com/foodandwine.

We have all of the updated information on All Ears HERE

They were pretty late in getting all of the event information out this year - prices didn't go up until Monday, and registration opened on Tuesday!

One thing they've done this year that I really like: Theme park admission is no longer required for certain events, such as Taste, the World Celebration dinners and the "Behind the Scenes with..." events. I know that in past years the theme park admission requirement is one thing that has prevented us from inviting friends/family to join us at Taste - pay $125 for the event, PLUS then pay $60 for admission to the park - when you're not even going to the park??? That's pretty cost prohibitive! So hooray for that.

Of course, the waiving of park admission comes with a price - a price increase. Taste is $150 this year, up $25 from last year. But for those who had to purchase park admission, including many Annual Passholders who had to pay $40 for a blockout day ticket, I guess it's actually a decrease in price. :-)

I have to say the one that really shocked me was the $185 price tag on the "Behind the Scenes with..." events. I had been planning to sign up for the John Lasseter event, but $185 for wine and appetizers is too rich for my blood. So we'll be passing on that one.

We do plan to attend one of the Winemaker dinners (up $10, to $135), and one of the Sweet Sundays events ($65), and I want to make it to one of the World Celebration dinners ($135), but their mid-week schedule makes it more difficult since I don't live in the L.A./Orange County area.

Another new pricing wrinkle this year - in the past the event price has included tax and gratuity - this year it's just gratuity, so tack another 8% or so onto the price, which of course makes the price increases that much more.

The events look great, but with those prices in this economy I have to wonder how well they are going to do in filling them this year.

February 11, 2009

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2009

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival 2009, one of my favorite annual events, will be back in 2009 with a longer run and an expanded slate of "Signature" events. This year's Festival is six weeks long, from April 24-June 7, with events held daily. There will be over 600 complimentary demonstrations - everything from cooking demonstrations to wine, beer, and spirit tasting sessions.

There are several new signature events this year that look very interesting to me - starting, not surprisingly, with Sweet Sundays. :-) This appears to be very much like the Epcot Food and Wine Festival event of the same name - a buffet breakfast accompanied by sparkling wine, followed by a cooking demonstration by a noted pastry chef, who prepares three desserts that participants then get to sample for themselves. Details as to location, time, and price are not yet available on Disney's web site, but I'm told they are coming Soon. We will be updating our AllEars page accordingly, so keep an eye HERE, too.

Another new event is called Behind the Scenes With.... There's not a lot of information on this one yet, but it looks to be a more intimate gathering with a celebrity chef or winemaker, where guests will have the opportunity to interact with him/her and ask questions, all while enjoying appetizers and wine. Scheduled to appear are Guy Fieri, Keegan Gerhard, and John Lasseter. I'm especially excited about the John Lasseter event - I had no idea he and his wife owned a winery. These are currently scheduled to be held in the Animation Courtyard (inside the Animation Building) on select Thursday and Sunday evenings.

The theme of this year's event is World Celebration, and the World Celebration Dinners are another new event. Each World Celebration dinner will feature a menu and wines from a single country or region. They will be held on select Wednesday evenings at The Vineyard Room restaurant inside Disney's California Adventure. Again, more details will be forthcoming Soon.

By popular demand, they have added a new Advanced Wine Course class this year. It will also be taught by Michael Jordan, Master Sommelier at the Napa Rose restaurant. This will be a much more intensive experience, and will be taught in a series of three two-hour sessions, held on consecutive days. Students must attend all three days of their session. This one will be held in the Convention Center at the Grand Californian Hotel. There are two sessions: May 5, 6, and 7, and May 12, 13 and 14.

Returning Signature events include the Winemaker Dinners, held on Fridays at Steakhouse 55, the Festival Wine Receptions, the Introduction to Wine Tasting classes, and the Napa Rose Cooking School. In a post from Barry in the rec.arts.disney.parks newsgroup, he said that he had spoken to Chef Andrew Sutton about the cooking school. When Barry expressed an interest in learning about sauces, Chef Sutton said he was going to incorporate that into the class.

Also returning is the popular Taste event. And apparently its popularity has continued to grow since this year it will be held on two nights - June 5 and June 6. The June 5 night is a bonus for those who have Deluxe Annual passes - since that is not a blockout day they won't be required to purchase a blockout day pass to attend, like they would on June 6. (Southern California and Southern California Select AP holders are still out of luck, though - both days are blocked out for them.)

One area where they are cutting back this year is the food offerings. The Lucky Fortune Cookery is closed for renovation, so they won't have it available as a location for the Festival Marketplace, where they were able to offer appetizer-sized servings of special Festival foods, wines, and beers. Instead, as they did last year, they will be offering special menu items at most of the restaurants around DCA: Taste Pilot's Grill, Farmer's Market, Cocina Cucamonga, Pacific Wharf Cafe, Award Wieners, Pizza Oom Mow Mow and Wine Country Trattoria. If it's like last year these will be full-sized menu items and not appetizer-sized - which makes it hard to try very many of them. There will also be tapas offered at the Lounge at the Golden Vine Winery, so perhaps they will expand the selection there.

Registration for the Signature Events opens on the Food and Wine web site, http://www.disneyland.com/foodandwine, at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 24. Additional information as to locations, prices, and times should be available there soon, if it isn't already.

Hope to see you at the Festival!

May 5, 2008

Back from Disneyland - A Few Observations

I'm just back from a short overnight trip to Disneyland - we went up to attend Taste - the final signature event of this year's Food and Wine Festival. Taste was fun - I'll have more information and pictures up later.

We stayed at the Paradise Pier - the last time I stayed there was almost 11 years ago, when it was still called the Pan-Pacific. We had a room with a view of the Paradise Pier area of DCA - it was really pretty at night:

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And in the early morning:

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It also gave us quite an interesting perspective for viewing the Pixar Play Parade, which has changed (again) from what I saw a couple of weeks ago, as I reported in this blog entry. Lightning McQueen and Mater were back at the beginning and end of the parade. And the stilt-walking chefs of Ratatouille also returned - though there were only three of them.

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From the room we could see many of the floats on the parade route

The biggest change, though, is the return of the "bug's life" parade unit - Heimlich and his many parts plus the float. The float was modified significantly - only the front part with Flik and Atta on the swing is there now. It looks a little odd when you compare it with the size of the floats for all of the other units.

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Even with the "bug's life" float back, the weird Toy Story Tinker Toy creature is still part of the parade (but don't get me wrong, I think it looks pretty cool):

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The acrobats have not returned to the Toy Story float - it's still just the monkeys hanging on the bar.

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A while ago I talked about the Prince Caspian Pre-Parade that was coming to Disneyland at the end of April, and I had a chance to see that. I didn't notice any swooning females, but Caspian looked pretty good. And the horse was quite beautiful, and BIG.

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He had quite an entourage - the banner bearers in front, the standard bearers, plus the courtier leading the horse - but it was his final attendant who cracked me up - The Royal Pooper Scooper. :-)

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During Magic Morning I had a chance to get a close look at Jingles, the lead horse on the King Arthur Carrousel, which was dedicated to Julie Andrews last month. If you look closely you can see Mary Poppins' umbrella on the rump. Her initials, JA, the number 50, and Mary Poppins' boots and flying silhouette are on the saddle. It's really beautiful - so detailed!

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The sparkling/chasing lights that are on the floral Mickey at the entrance to Disneyland cooperated with me a lot better than they did when I was there with Lisa Berton back in March - this time the light show was running almost continuously. It's more impressive in person when you can watch the lights as they move and twinkle, but hopefully you get the idea.

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And now that I'm back from Disneyland I'm leaving for Disney World, where I'm planning to blog live this week. A little bonus trip for me - but I'll be writing more about that in my next blog entry.

May 3, 2008

Food and Wine Festival - How to Bake a Chocolate Souffle

Warning: This blog entry contains explicit chocolate photos. Not recommended for non-chocoholics.

Chocolate Souffle was the star of the first Sweet Sundays demonstration of this year's Food and Wine Festival, prepared by Napa Rose's pastry chef Jorge Sotelo, and his assistant Sergio.

Chocolate Souffle

Makes 8 servings

6-1/2 ounces 62% Scharffen Berger Dark chocolate (or other chocolate with cocoa content no higher than 72%)
1/2 C. plus 6 T unsalted butter
5 large eggs, separated - bring to room temperature before separating, 4 hours or overnight
1/4 C. plus 3 T sugar
1 T all purpose flour

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All the ingredients were set out in advance.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bring a pan of water barely to a simmer. Place the chocolate and butter over the pan of water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is melted.

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Chef Sotelo finishes melting the chocolate.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar together until thickened slightly and lighter in color. Whisk in the flour and then the chocolate mixture.

Place the egg whites in a metal bowl and place over hot water until warmed slightly. Add 1 T of sugar and whip with an electric mixture on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1-1/2 tablespoons more sugar. Turn the speed to high and add the last 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar and whip until the whites form stiff peaks.

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Chef Sotelo warms the egg whites.

Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg whites.

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Sergio pours the chocolate as Chef Sotelo mixes it into the egg whites by hand.

Divide the mixture among 8 buttered ramekins, filled 3/4 full. Place the ramekins on a baking tray and bake about 9 to 10 minutes. The tops should be puffed and feel firm to the touch but are very liquid in the center.

The batter can be made the day before and poured into the ramekins. Remove from the refrigerator one hour before baking.

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Chef Sotelo demonstrates the technique of making fancifully shaped garnishes out of hot sugar "taffy".

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He finishes a heart-shaped decoration, while a finished corkscrew-shaped decoration sits on the counter.

And voila, the finished souffle, garnished with a white chocolate medallion, a crunchy cookie and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Looks good enough to eat! It was yummy.

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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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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 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 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 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.

March 29, 2008

DCA Food and Wine Festival Update

I was checking out Disney's California Food and Wine Festival website (http://www.disneyland.com/foodandwine) last night and noticed that some new things have been added recently.

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Most weekends are going to feature a celebrity chef who will be conducting cooking demonstrations as well as book signings. In addition to Chef Jamie Gwen, who will be there every weekend, Cat Cora is scheduled on April 12-13, Bret Thompson on April 19-20, and both Nancy Silverton and Guy Fieri on April 26.

Hmm...with all those chefs around, I hope there aren't too many cooks in the kitchen...

A new "Signature" event has been added: A Special Evening with the Gallo Family Winery is scheduled for Sunday, April 20. This dinner will be held from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Vineyard Room restaurant inside Disney's California Adventure. The cost is $85/person.

I hadn't planned to be at the parks that weekend but that sounds intriguing...I love Chef Tae's food!

The Daily Schedule for the Food and Wine Festival complimentary events is now up on the web site also, so I've been checking out things I want to attend on the weekend of the 11th-13th and the weekend of the 2nd-3rd.

Ghirardelli Sweet Sundays...oooooooooooh! (Every Sunday at 11:00)

Wine and Chocolate...oh my. (Every weekend at 5:30)

They're starting the Festival off right as far as I'm concerned - Delicious Desserts on April 11 is the very first demonstration. Also that weekend are demos for Gilroy Garlic and Melissa's Produce, and a What's for Brunch session on Saturday.

With the Festival going to a daily schedule this year, there's many more wineries represented - 24 if I counted correctly. Beer tasting sessions will feature either the returning Karl Straus Brewing Company or (new this year) Widmer Beers. Don Julio Tequila sponsors tequila tasting sessions every weekend, and there's a new Mixology 101: Drinks 1-2-3 session offered every Monday afternoon.

If you haven't made plans yet to attend any of the Signature events...The Napa Rose Cooking School is sold out, but there are still tickets left for all of the other events, though some are getting close to capacity.

I plan to try to blog live from the Festival the first weekend, so there will be lots of photos and reports coming both here and on the AllEars.net Disney's California Food and Wine Festival web page, which is HERE.

Please send me any reports or comments that you have, too!

February 21, 2008

Blog Follow-ups

I thought I'd post some follow-ups to a couple of previous blog entries.

Last week I wrote about the new House of the Future, coming to Disneyland in May. (That blog entry can be found HERE.) One thing the article didn't mention is that it was going in on the ground floor of Innoventions. We asked a Cast Member when we were there last week who confirmed that. There have been quite a few changes to the upper floor of Innoventions since we were last there - the Disney Interactive gaming area has received several different kinds of "virtual gaming kiosks", and the Virtual Resort area has been replaced (at least temporarily) by a Segway demonstration. The ASIMO demonstration and Stitch's Picture Phone areas are still there, though.

My second follow-up has to do with DCA's upcoming Food and Wine Festival (original blog entry is HERE). The Signature events for the Food and Wine Festival went on sale Friday morning. Though the web site with pricing information was supposed to be up earlier in the week, it didn't go on-line until they opened it for reservations, so no one knew how much the events were going to be until it was time to sign up for them. That made it a little bit difficult to know what the budget would stand, though fortunately DCA's events don't sell out immediately...at least not yet.

As I expected, there were price increases almost across the board - the most notable being that Taste went from $100 last year to $125 this year - though it's still $10 cheaper than Party for the Senses at Epcot. (Though it still requires separate admission to DCA, and since May 3 is a blockout day for all but Premium Passholders, a lot of people attending will have to pay an additional $40 for a blockout day ticket, or otherwise pay for park admission to DCA.) The Festival Wine Receptions also went up $10, to $55 (though this year they include a premium viewing location for Disney's Electrical Parade, which wasn't running during the Food and Wine Festival last year), and the Taste Wine Like an Expert class is up $25, to $45, though its format will be different this year. The Napa Rose Cooking School went up a whopping $75, to $400/person, and the Celebrity Chef dinner went from $145 to $185. Interestingly enough, the price of the Winemaker dinners stayed the same - $125.

As of this writing, nothing has sold out yet, and there still seems to be plenty of availability for all of the events. Check out http://www.disneyland.com/foodandwine to make reservations.

February 6, 2008

Disney's California Food and Wine Festival

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Jim Ames, the producer of Disney's California Food and Wine Festival, about this year's upcoming Festival.

This is the Festival's third year, and it keeps getting a little bigger (and I think a little better) every year. The major change this year is that the Festival will be held daily from April 11 - May 5, rather than just on weekends like it was the first two years. Hence a new name this year - Disney's California Food and Wine Festival.

The Festival will be expanding from the Pacific Wharf and Golden Vine Winery areas into the Bountiful Farm area as well. Among other things, this expansion allows for larger areas for the demonstration kitchens - Jim said they were turning guests away at almost every demonstration last year, and the expansion will allow them to accommodate more guests.

Expanded Festival food offerings will be available - in addition to the Festival Marketplace at the Lucky Fortune Cookery (which will have 9-10 tapas-style items on the menu, plus beer and wine), other counter service restaurants in the park will be serving up special Festival menu items. These items will be in keeping with the existing menu and price point at each location. For example, Award Wieners will be offering a hot dog with peppers and onions and a beer sauce. Other participating restaurants include Corn Dog Castle, Pizza Oom Mow Mow, Cocina Cucamonga, Pacific Wharf Cafe, and Farmer's Market.

Other restaurants around the Disneyland Resort will be offering a special prix-fixe Vintner's Menu during the Festival. These multi-course menus will be available from Napa Rose, Steakhouse 55, the Vineyard Room, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen, and Catal.

Also new this year will be the Sparkling Bar, located on the Upper Terrace of the Golden Vine Winery (in previous years the site of one of the demonstration kitchens). At this location champagne and sparkling wines will be available by the glass and various wine country tapas will also be for sale.

The Taste event will be returning on the final Saturday evening (May 3) of the Festival. This year tickets will be available to the general public, and not just to Annual Passholders. In response to guest comments, Jim told me there will be more sit-down tables available this year, but they feel they can do that without making the event feel cramped and overcrowded. That was one of my favorite parts about last year's Taste event - it was easy to move around the room to the various food and wine stations, but we could still always find a table (even if it was a standing table) where we could set our plates and glasses down and eat.

Other "ticketed" events returning this year are the Winemaker Dinners, the Napa Rose Cooking School, the Festival Wine Receptions (which this year include special viewing of the Electrical Parade), and the Taste Wine Like an Expert classes.

Registration for the ticketed events begins on February 15. To register, visit http://www.disneyland.com/foodandwine. The web site should go-live by February 10, if not before.

More information on the Festival and its events is available on AllEars' Disney's California Food and Wine Festival page, where we'll be adding more information on the schedule, menus, events and prices as it becomes available, and once the Festival starts we'll have event reviews and guest comments.

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About Food and Wine Festival

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Food and Wine Festival category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Festival of Holidays is the previous category.

Limited Time Magic is the next category.

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