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.

Laura Gilbreath is a native of San Diego, CA. She has been making the trek up Interstate 5 to Disneyland since she was a small child and terrified of talking tikis and hitchhiking ghosts. She and her husband Lee enjoy trips to Disneyland and Walt Disney World, as well as sailings on the Disney Cruise Line.

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