Perhaps the most delicious part of the Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure each holiday season is the chance to sample some of the many different seasonally-inspired food and beverage offerings. In addition to the 10 different marketplaces there are special offerings at a number of restaurants and outdoor carts.
I’ll be honest…while there were some items that were very good, there were some that fell into the “Sorry, but no” category. Those are the ones that we tried so you do not have to.
We used the Sip and Savor pass to sample different dishes from several of the marketplaces. The lanyard is $51 to Annual Passholders, and $56 to non-passholders. (The AP version also comes with a special button.) The card on the lanyard has 8 different tabs that can be detached and redeemed for food and non-alcoholic beverage items at the marketplaces and select restaurant locations.
The very first dish we tried also ended up being our favorite. The Shrimp and Grits with Andouille Sausage from the Holiday Duets booth was excellent. Perfectly cooked shrimp (not rubbery!) and yummy cheesy grits. The sauce had a slight kick to it, but not unpleasantly so. Could have had a bit more sausage and fewer green onions.
We tried both food offerings at Winter Sliderland. The Fried Turkey Slider on Herb Roll with Cranberry Slaw was very good (pictured on the right in the photo below). It was a thick piece of turkey breast, lightly battered and deep fried. Nice and crunchy on the outside, moist inside. Though most of the flavor was in the batter – the turkey itself didn’t have much. I couldn’t have told you that it was cranberry slaw – tasted like regular cole slaw to me – but it went nicely with the turkey.
The Beef Pot Roast on Potato Roll with Horseradish Cream was also good. The beef was tender, though it was maybe a little odd to have pieces of carrot and celery as part of the sandwich filling.
There were some thoroughly modern offerings at Grandma’s Recipes, like the Shepherd’s Upside-down Pie made with plant-based ground beef. The Mickey-shaped puff pastry on top was a cute touch, though it didn’t seem very fresh. The “ground beef” was very tasty, with the texture and flavor of beef, and was the best part of the dish. The mashed potatoes were not good – they tasted like they came out of a box. Very artificial. We don’t recommend this one.
There’s always a new version of macaroni and cheese every year. This year it’s the Holiday Stuffing Mac & Cheese from Favorite Things. It was a nice creamy cheesy mac and cheese with crispy stuffing crumbs on top to give it all of those classic herb flavors that stuffing should have. It was a good dish, but ours left something to be desired because it wasn’t warm enough. It wasn’t cold, but it just wasn’t the proper temperature.
We also tried the Gingerbread Mickey Cookie there. These are available at a number of locations around the resort. The cookie itself is almost too cute to eat – but that didn’t stop me. It’s a soft gingerbread rather than crisp, and I really liked it. It had all of the yummy molasses and spice flavors that gingerbread should have.
But I think our Favorite Thing there was the Beer Flight. It included a Czech-style Pilsner from Michigan, a Blanc Witbier from France, a Hazy IPA from San Diego, and a Chocolate Cookie Milk Stout all the way from Anaheim. The pilsner was ok, but the other three were rather unexpectedly good, with the standout being the milk stout. It was called Cookies Galore, and it was really good. Dessert in a cup.
The offerings at the Merry Mashups booth lived up to its name. Let’s mix things up with a Turkey & Stuffing Tamale with Cranberry Relish. Unfortunately ours was another dish that wasn’t hot enough. And it was surprisingly bland – just not much flavor at all. Disappointing and not recommended.
The Pork al Pastor Naan Taco with Pineapple Pico de Gallo and Cilantro-Lime Greek Yogurt Crema was quite good, though. (But talk about mashups – Mexican, Indian, and Greek all in one dish!) It had a little bit of spicy heat, but not too much. Our only real problem with it is that it was difficult to pick up and eat without the filling falling out.
I mentioned earlier that some of the restaurants also have special Festival menu items. At Pacific Wharf Cafe we sampled the Apple Fritter Bread Pudding. We got it to go and I didn’t take a photo of it before it got smashed in the to-go container. It was excellent – plenty of cinnamon, chunks of apple and a nice gooey not-too-sweet sauce, covered with lots of whipped cream. Really yummy.
The winner (or loser, really) in the “Sorry, but no” category was the Holiday Dinner Pizza at Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta. Pizza topped with pretty much everything you’d find on a holiday table, including turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, bacon, carrots, green beans, and cranberry sauce. It wasn’t horrible…but it wasn’t very good. Mostly because it had very little flavor and it was bland just like the tamale had been.
The Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure runs through January 6, 2020.