The Food and Wine Festival only occasional comes to Disneyland. It made an appearance a few years ago and then disappeared for a while. But it was back this year with a few new events to explore. If you are a foodie its a great opportunity to experience new tastes. If you are not, like me, then its a new thing to do at Disneyland which is also cool.
Celebrity Kitchen with Graham Elliot
One of the features of this years Food and Wine Festival was the option to join in on the Celebrity Kitchen. Six different celebrity chefs cooking up some of their favorite dishes while you watch and maybe learn something. We attended the session with Graham Elliot, of Master Chef and Master Chef Jr fame.
I’ll be honest, I went in to this event mostly because it was a Disneyland event and not really because I am much of a cook or foodie. I didn’t know what to expect but I left the event saying, “That was fun, I can’t wait to do it again next year!” Disclaimer: I was under the influence of a great deal of alcohol and carbs at the time, which may have altered my judgement.
So, here is how the experience went. We checked in, got our special VIP lanyards, waited in line for a bit and were then shown to our seats in the converted Stage 17. You can tell that this was thrown together at the last minute because all of the decorations from the Frozen Takeover where still around, with a table and kitchen just thrown on top. It gave some weird lighting and atmosphere.
Graham would cook and explain a dish as he was making it, pretty standard cooking show format, and take questions from the audience when he had downtime.
Our first dish was an Herb and Parmesan Popcorn, which was an easy way to make a simple dish seem fancy and sophisticated. The pro tip I learned with this was is that you are supposed to toast your peppercorns before you grind them up. Apparently it increases the flavor. Who knew!
Next up, was the first and only Caesar Salad that I have ever liked. Unfortunately I have to admit that by this point I was too focused on eating to really catch any of the tips or instructions. Some Chef I am! The bread piece here Graham called a “Brioche Twinkie”. Brioche bread, stuffed with cheeses and herbs and then fried in butter. It was incredible, I could have easily eaten seven of them. I have no idea what was in the dressing, but it was delicious. He dunked the wedges of lettuce in the sauce so that every bit was covered and then coated all of that with fresh parmesan. And the anchovies, I gave to my neighbor.
Our final dish was a beer, bacon, cheese risotto which was basically like a Mac & Cheese taken to level 10. With beer. It was worth every carb. Its a good thing they only gave me about a cup of it, I wouldn’t have stop eating it if there was more on the plate.
Graham was really great, funny and personable, with a lot of stories and tips. He has a way of making cooking seem very easy and possible. Even the mistakes can turn out to be great dishes. His first cookbook is available on Amazon which includes all these recipes so my lack of attention to detail will not prevent their recreation.
By the end of it I was completely stuffed and ready for a nap! As part of our VIP experience we got to have a brief meet and greet with Graham, where we got to get a photo and he signed my souvenir apron for me.
In addition to the Celebrity Kitchen, the Food and Wine Festival had several other attractions. Beverage and Lifestyle demonstrations at locations around the park and of course food. Its what I think of as the Disneyland version of a Food Truck. The main walkway through California Adventure is lined with little booths featuring small plates of a variety of foods. Some strange and some traditional. My favorite was the Artichoke Chips with Spicy Aioli. They were crunchy and spicy and reminded me of popcorn chicken, which as a vegetarian I miss having. I ate them too quickly to take a photo, not my fault, I was hungry!
Many of the restaurants around Disneyland had special additions to their menu to celebrate. My favorite was the Strawberry & Pistachio tart from the Wine Country Trattoria. It was paired with a glass of Procecco and was tart without being too sweet.
If you want to see, and eat, the things from this post here’s how…
Well you can’t actually. The 2016 Event is over and Disney has not yet announced if it will be coming back next year. So, I am going to give you some options to recreate it on your own.
- If you want to read more about this years event, check it out here.
- You could buy Graham Elliot’s cookbook and make the recipes for yourself.
- Watch past seasons of Master Chef and Master Chef Jr. on Netflix
- Go to Disneyland and just eat their normal food.
- For the most extreme option: Go visit Graham Elliot’s restaurant in Chicago and get to eat the same dishes I did, also prepared by Graham.