TASTE: FOOD + WINE + LIFE
For our second visit to this year’s Disney’s California Adventure (DCA) Food & Wine Festival, we decided to focus on the main event for us — Taste: Food + Wine + Life. We had gotten tickets early at a discounted Annual Passholder rate.
The night of the event arrived, Saturday, May 28. We had already scouted out the location, so we headed into DCA via the Grand Californian entrance and arrived at the event location. Unfortunately, we were told that to get into the event, we had to go outside DCA and sign in at the table near the entrance gates. Huh? When did this plan come about? We had received no information about where to meet, so we were quite frustrated.
Dutifully, we headed out of the park, found the table, and signed in. Then we got in a long line with everyone else. Why in the world didn’t they let attendees who already had park admission go right to the event? Duh!
While in line we met a mother and daughter who we chatted with for awhile. The daughter had also been to the Party for the Senses at Walt Disney World, so we compared notes about the two.
Kathy’s Note: We had a blast chatting with these two women while waiting in the long line and gave them our phone number when asked at the end of the evening. It was the daughter’s first trip to Disneyland, so we gave her some tips and tricks, which she was so happy to receive. I always wonder what people will think when they’re regular Disney World park-goers and they go to Disneyland for the first time.
But chatting with these ladies made me miss Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival so much – it really is far superior to the one at DCA – just too small of a venue so everything is scaled back. The daughter couldn’t believe we were handed cards with every menu item listed. Apparently, the Party for the Senses has a huge number of items and listing them on a card would be impossible.
Back to Rich: Finally, at 7:30 we were finally led into the park and into the venue. It was crowded. The early birds had already gobbled up the seats at the tables, so the rest of us were left to fight the crowds for standing room at smaller tables. (Apparently, at Epcot, you can pay extra to reserve special tables – something new at last year’s Festival – we’re thinking it’s probably worth it.)
Andrew Sutton, Napa Rose
Grilled Salmon Cone
Jason Martin, Steakhouse 55
Buffalo Short Rib Cassoulet
Sean Layne, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue
Petite Lamb Chop
Moises Carranz, Blue Bayou
Cast Iron Prawns
Martha Sigala, Cafe Orleans
Beef Braccole & Chicory Fava Bean Puree
Darrin Finkel, Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen
Cajun Boudin Stuffed Quail
Wendie Huffman, House of Blues
Smoked Cowboy Steak Sliders
Marcel St Pierre, Club 33
Blue Foot Chicken Gougere and Purslane Sabayon
Nick Weber, Catal Resstaurant & Uva Bar
Piquillo Peppers with Goat Cheese
Greg Stillman, Naples Ristorante
Gazpacho with Avocado & Spicy Rock Shrimp
A delightful suite of tempting sweets to celebrate the art of flavor
Special Guest Chefs:
Chef Jamie Gwen
Steak & Mushroom Reuben Sliders
Chef Anne Burrell
Chicken Milanese & Escarole Salad
Despite the crowds, the long lines for food and wine, and general chaos, we managed to try most of the tastings and plenty of wine. We also had some beer tastings too.
Rich’s favorite tastings: Grilled Salmon Cone, Petite Lamb Chop, Chicken Milanese & Escarole Salad, and several yummy desserts. Runners Up: Buffalo Short Rib Cassoulet and Piquillo Peppers with Goat Cheese. Least favorite: Steak & Mushroom Reuben Sliders – the meat was so chewy it caused the mushroom to fall on my shoe.
Kathy’s favorite tastings: I think I liked everything, even the Steak & Mushroom Reuben slider – mine didn’t fall on my shoe – lol! But the two most memorable were the Petite Lamp Chop and the Grilled Salmon Cone.
The true highlight of the evening was meeting, chatting with, and getting a photo of Andrew Sutton, the amazing executive chef of Napa Rose at the Grand Californian. The wonderful thing about Andrew is that he is an incredible chef, but he is also very humble. He took the time to talk to us (and pose for a photo). When we mentioned that we had had his tasting menu, he proceeded to tell us how they chose the items for the menu. Unbelievable. If we get back to the Food & Wine Festival next year, I want to sign up for the event where I can cook with Andrew in his kitchen.
Jason Martin of Steakhouse 55 sure knows how to cook a steak (as he should), but he is not comfortable with crowds. He basically stood there and passed out plates of food.
Jamie Gwen was very friendly, although her sliders were not very good.
Anne Burrell presented a yummy plate of food, but she hid behind a sign, acting as if she would catch something unfortunate from the rift-raft visiting her table.
Kathy’s Comment: The previous night we were almost run over by Chef Anne Burrell as she was heading for the Hearthstone Lounge to pick up her entourage and then head off somewhere – she was probably late to some event, but her behavior was rather rude. Contrast that to the gracious humility of Chef Andrew Sutton – a pro is a pro is a pro.
Kathy’s Comment: From what we understand, entertainment at the Party for the Senses at WDW is often La Nouba (Le Cirque). Well, the opening entertainment here was what we’re calling a California-style Latin band – this type of music seems to be quite popular at Downtown Disney and we love it. But, later, this music was replaced by some loud, crazy, bartender showman who had 2 volunteers come up on stage and prepare a drink. He was rather lame but one of the guests was absolutely hilarious and we enjoyed cheering him on. But right after that, we decided it was time to duck out. lol!
After trying most of the food, much of the wine, and a couple of the beers, we decided to head out. We were tired, and we wanted to head over to Downtown Disney to listen to Alturas, the fantastic Bolivian band, and buy a couple of their CDs.
The friendly guys at the beer tasting booth rinsed out our beer glasses and put them in plush bags. Then, as we headed out of the venue, a CM put our wine glasses in another bag.
Overall it was a fine event. The food was delicious (mostly), the wine was plentiful (although the servers knew absolutely nothing about the wines they were serving except whether they were red or white), and the souvenir glasses are lovely.
We would do this event again? Probably not. Too many people in too small a space and too few tastings. Unfortunately, DCA does not have the space that WDW has for these events, and they suffer because of that.
If I can just cook with Andrew Sutton next year, that will make the 2011 DCA Food & Wine Festival worth it. I leave you with a description of the Napa Rose Cooking School:
“Napa Rose Cooking School: Disney Executive Chef Andrew Sutton leads this hands-on course. Each class creates and enjoys a four-course meal, expertly paired with wines, and each class member goes home with a white chef’s coat embroidered with the festival logo. This rare opportunity takes place in the show kitchen of the renowned Napa Rose restaurant at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa.”