This past weekend, my brother Josh and I had the chance to visit Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival at Disney’s California Adventure theme park. I have never been to this festival, nor the similarly-named annual event at Epcot in Florida, so I didn’t know quite what to expect.
I really enjoyed my time at the California Food and Wine Festival. I was surprised to find that the festival’s cooking demonstrations are free to attend for anyone with park admission. The seating is first come/first serve, but for nearly every event, there was seating available up until the very last second.
The celebrity chef cooking demonstrations were a different story. There were people lined up, waiting for the Guy Fieri demonstration since 7 a.m and the event didn’t take place till 3:30 p.m. That is dedication.
The “Taste of California” Marketplace is the hub of the event. It is located in Stage 12 on the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, a building I had never been in before as it is only used on special occasions. The building itself is themed in old-school Hollywood decor. Inside are several local California dishes offered in tapas portions. I had a bread bowl of cheese soup. Scrumptious. My only complaint with it is that I couldn’t order a bigger bowl.
This weekend I saw a demonstration sponsored by Driscoll’s Berries. The chef (who is head chef at a restaurant one mile from my apartment in Burbank) prepared Mascarpone crepes with lavender infused strawberry sauce. Delicious. I’m already planning a visit to her restaurant.
Disney had their own host at the demonstration to make sure it wasn’t too dull, just in case the chef wasn’t entertaining. The host also served as emcee when they opened it up for questions. The host/actor can often be found in Frontierland as a cowboy. It’s always fun to recognize cast members out of their typical element – and it shows I visit the parks A LOT!
The other demonstration I attended was put on by Dole. The co-chefs were very entertaining as they made a smoothie, a dish with shrimp and scallops wrapped in bacon served on rice, and a desert. All were very tasty and resulted in a surprisingly large amount of free food.
The exhibitors throughout Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival are fun to visit as well. I love that this is truly a celebration of California. We were able to sample about a dozen different varieties of olive oil made by Lucero, a family-owned olive grove in California. I didn’t even know different kinds of olive oils exist.
The highlight of my day at the festival was getting to see John Lasseter, Disney/Pixar’s head of animation and Imagineering, and his wife speak about their wine vineyard. For the price of only one dollar, I had the opportunity to sample three of his Lasseter Family wines. John, his wife, and his chief wine maker spoke for a little more than 30 minutes. It was fascinating. (You can listen to their whole presentation from Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival on Show 263 of the Inside the Magic podcast.)
As a filmmaker myself, this was a good reminder that I should maintain an interest/hobby outside of filmmaking. I’m sure Lasseter’s obsession with wine serves to make him a more well-rounded filmmaker.
There were a few areas I bypassed, such as the Jr. Chef exhibit where kids can “cook” food. I didn’t get a chance to visit the two wine walks or the beer walk. Those cost $10 a piece and I had already gotten so much for free or nearly free, I didn’t see a need. Maybe next time.
There is so much more to see at Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival than what I have described here, so visit Disney’s official festival site to find out about everything you can do there.
I will be going back several more times before the festival ends on May 16. I want a chance to try the other dishes at the Marketplace.
Jeremiah and Josh Daws are theme park fans and filmmakers living the dream in California.
Follow their adventures at DawsBrothers.com.
More photos from Disney’s California Food and Wine Festival 2010:
Disney’s official video overview of the California Food and Wine Festival: