Yes, the sarcasm is dripping as quickly as my sweat as I make my way around Disney California Adventure this afternoon, for the first official day of the park's new "Festival of the Holidays." The new World of Color - Season of Light is debuting at 9 tonight, but before then, I'm tasting many of the selections available at the festival's 14 food and beverage booths.
There's way too much here for one person to eat in a day, so I'm picking what looks good to me. And even if I had an inexhaustible appetite, I don't know that my bank account would support a complete tour of the festival. Disney's charging entree prices for many of these bites, running the risk that you'll empty your credit before filling your stomach.
That said, I enjoyed almost everything I ate today. Let's start with a favorite from Walt Disney World's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, the Kalua Pork Slider [$7.50], which I tried along with the Roaster Turkey Slider [$8.00] at the Winter Sliderland booth.
One bite taught me why so many Epcot fans rave about this pork sandwich. The pineapple jam and cider slaw complement the well-seasoned pork, making this my favorite selection at the festival so far. The turkey slider was a bit of a mess - the cranberry sauce and gravy conspired to lubricate the sandwich beyond the point where it could be eaten comfortably as finger food. But that turkey! With the taste of perfectly roasted turkey breast in the middle of a schmear of stuffing and all that gravy, this was a taste of Thanksgiving dinner, as it should be. But I still preferred the more complex flavor of the pork — which tastes like Thanksgiving dinner on a beach in Maui. Waaaaay better. Aloha, pilgrims.
For my next course, I walked next door to the Southern Hope Holidays booth, where I tried the Grilled Spicy Chicken Sausage with Red Beans and Rice [$7.50], the Sweet Potato Pie [$4.50], and a Cranberry Sweet Tea [$6.50].
It's about one-fourth of a sausage link here, with a dab of red beans and a spoonful of rice. But if Disney skimped on the portions here, it did not skimp on the spiciness. The red beans delivered even more heat than the sausage, which I found a touch dry, though flavorful. But the sweet potato pie starred here. I always prefer the heartier flavor of a sweet potato pie over the more cloying pumpkin, and this was as flavorful as full slice of pie, with a lovely dollop of cinnamon cream on top providing a perfect accompaniment. The cranberry tea, served with Disney's ubiquitous berry foam, was... well... sweet. But could we please quit slapping foam on top of iced drinks? Foam + ice cubes = awkward.
My third stop required me to double back toward The Little Mermaid ride to visit Yuletide Yummies.
This booth wins the Instagram award for most photogenic food. But, as the cynic in me will suggest, good looks doesn't always equal great taste. The Mini Turkey Pot Pie [$8.00] was the one disappointment I tried today. Thin, with only flecks of turkey and veggies and no discernible gravy, this was pretty much a flaky crust under a cranberry drizzle.
The Eggnog Cheesecake [$4.25] was as advertised, but more the taste and consistency of a homemade Jell-O cheesecake mix than a hefty New York-style slice. The Mocha Yule Log [$4.75] is by far the most handsome dish served at the festival, and the tastiest of the three food options I tried here. But there's not that much mocha in this cake, which needs some time to come to room temperature for its flavors to emerge. Fortunately, with today's heat — that didn't take long.
But that heat certainly helped amplify my enjoyment of the Frozen Chocolate Milk [$6.50]. ("It's not really frozen," the cast member at the register warned. "Today, what is?" I replied.) It's a refreshing twist on a chocolate milk shake — not as heavy but just as cold — and with an audacious helping of whipped cream and sprinkles on top.
My recommendation? Go with the Chocolate Milk, then pick up a Kalua Pork Slider and wrap your meal with the Sweet Potato Pie. At $18.50, that's not the best deal you'll find in a local theme park, but that combo provides a rewarding line-up of flavors that will put you in the holiday spirit.
Even if the 92-degree day won't.
Update, 5:28pm: The sun's down, as is the temperature, so I ventured back outside for the dinner round. Not as ambitious this time, but I tried four more items that interested me.
The Holiday Swedish Meatballs [$7] from Mistletoe Morsels were pretty much the same as the meatballs Disney served at the Frozen snow-play pavilion last year. The creamy brown gravy and lingonberry sauce were good enough, but three meatballs for seven bucks encourages me to do the math on how much I should be charging my family the next time I make these for Sunday dinner. The Merry Berry Sherbet Punch [$4.25] was a couple of tiny scoops of Breyer's raspberry sherbet topped with about half a can of Sprite. (I watched the CM make it.)
Behold, the $8.75 spring roll, from Good Fortune's Feast. It's smoked duck in there, tasty as can be, but spending nearly nine bucks for this three-bite taste made me wonder if I'd incurred neurological damage in the unseasonal heat earlier today. Good fortune for Disney, not so much for me.
But let's end on an encouraging note, shall we? The best dish I tasted today was the final one — the Braised Beef Short Ribs, with Smashed Potatoes and Sauerbraten Sauce [$8.75], from Heritage Cottage. This was a reasonable cut of short ribs for the price, with a hefty dollop of potatoes and a tasty sauce. Definitely the best choice of the evening.
Festival of the Holidays runs through January 8 at Disney California Adventure.
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