The holiday themed-meal joins several other seasonal items on the menu at the Theme Park Insider Award-winning The Three Broomsticks this month. Laurie and I started with Hot Butterbeers ($5.49 each), but caffeine aficionado Laurie decided hers would go better with a couple of shots of espresso, procured moments earlier from Universal's new Starbucks.
Laurie proclaimed it an improvement over the uncaffeinated Hot Butterbeer, but I was perfectly happy with the "normal" version. Yet that was a mere opening act for the main attraction — the Holiday Feast ($64.99).
Like the regular Great Feast offered at The Three Broomsticks, Universal says this meal serves four, though I estimated it could feed anywhere from three hungry people to eight light eaters. The Holiday Feast starts with a tureen of Butternut Squash Soup, dressed with chives and a drizzle of sour cream.
I was expecting to stop after an obligatory taste, in order to save room for the main courses ahead. But a moment later, my bowl was empty and I found myself ladling up seconds. Rich with the flavor of roasted squash, but with just enough contrast from the garnish to keep it from a being one-note experience, the soup could have satisfied me as a lunch on its own.
Minutes later, one of Universal's chefs approached our table with the rest of the feast.
Here's what you get:
Every single thing on that platter was the best thing I've ever eaten in a theme park counter service restaurant. I mean, Beef Wellington and roasted Brussels sprouts? C'mon. Universal could have laid up with turkey loaf, a dab of cranberry relish, and the same roasted potatoes it serves the rest of the year, and I — and probably every other Harry Potter fan in the LA area — would have been happy with the holiday alternative. But no. Universal's culinary team went for a ridiculous degree of difficulty here.
And they nailed it. Helping ourselves from the platter became a voyage of discovery: "Is that pate?" "Hey, there are roasted mushrooms under the spinach, too." "You have got to try the cherries." "I can't believe that a Brussels sprout can actually taste this good." For a theme park fan who dies a little inside every time a new restaurant limits itself to burgers and chicken strips, this really felt like opening a bounty of presents on Christmas morning.
Yeah, but the price, you say. Alright, let's do the math.
Split $64.99 four ways. That's $16.25 per person. For that, you get a thick slice of Beef Wellington and another slice of turkey breast, a bowl of Butternut Squash soup, and pretty much your fill of roasted winter vegetables, plus a tasty dollop of both cranberry sauce and a deceptively addictive tarragon aioli to dress it all. Given the morsels that sixteen bucks gets you at the Disney California Adventure Festival of the Holidays booths I tried last month, there's no question which holiday food destination I would recommend to theme park fans in Southern California.
If you insist that I nitpick, okay, the bread stuffing was under-seasoned and nothing special. And this meal deserved better than Universal's typical plastic cutlery. To its credit, the serrated knife got the job done here — not that cutting the tender filet and juicy turkey breast needed much effort. But the heft of real cutlery would have completed the sensation of dining on a holiday feast in Scottish pub, if we turn out backs to the door and ignore Southern California's balmy December weather.
We finished our meal with one more holiday menu speciality — Eton Mess ($4.39).
A blend of whipped cream, meringue, and strawberries, this English dessert provide a nicely sweet note to finish the meal, though we all were pretty much stuffed and beyond appreciating any additional tastes at that point.
There's also a Specialty Chicken Sandwich ($12.99) on the menu this month — a grilled chicken breast with bacon, Cheddar, and roasted tomatoes, dressed with that tarragon aioli and served on a Brioche bun, with a choice of chips or a side salad. Alas, that will have to wait for another day, when I am alone and not tempted to order the whole Holiday Feast for myself.
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