The Christmas and holiday season at Disney officially began on November 10, my fiance, Zach, and I had the chance to be in the parks that weekend to experience all the magic that is Disneyland at Christmas.
When I visited the parks this time last year, Disney’s California Adventure hosted the Festival of Holidays. The goal of the festival is to celebrate multiple cultures with food, music, and dance. This year, the Festival of Holidays is back in full force with a lot of new offerings. The celebration includes lots of new food, music, and shows.
A multitude of new seasonal foods are provided at the Festive Foods Marketplace kiosks. As you walk through the park, past Carthay Circle toward Bugs and Cars lands, the street is lined with 12 Marketplace kiosks, each themed differently and offering unique dining options. A full list of the kiosks is available here.
As an annual passholder (AP), you are eligible to purchase a Sip and Savor Pass. This is exclusive to passholders and costs $45. With it, you get a commemorative 2017 Festival of Holidays lanyard and eight coupons for food and beverages at the kiosks (excluding alcohol). Passholders also receive an AP button at each Marketplace kiosk they visit with coupon redemptions. Each kiosk has its own color scheme, so there is opportunity to get at least eight different buttons. Zach and I remember from last year not buying anything from the Marketplace kiosks because they’re pretty pricey for small portions. Most of the offerings range from $5-$8 depending on what you get, and it definitely isn’t enough to be a meal for one person — probably more of a snack-size portion. However, because we love food so much and were so enticed by the unique and interesting food options at the kiosks, we really wanted to try a few things. Since the Sip and Savor Pass comes with some commemorative items, we decided to purchase one and just share all the food we got with our coupons.
With the opportunity to try eight different items, I feel like we got a decent idea of the taste and quality of the food available at the Festival of Holidays. I created a ranking of everything we tried, in order of worst to best. Enjoy!
8. Ghirardelli White Hot Chocolate from Winter Sliderland ($5.00)
The Ghirardelli White Hot Chocolate was the last item we purchased with our Sip and Savor pass, thinking it would be nice to end the evening with a sweet and warm beverage. However, after one sip, I was pretty grossed out. It’s so sweet; it really tastes like you’re just drinking warm milk with a bag of sugar dissolved into it. There was nothing that tasted distinctly like white chocolate, since white chocolate is mostly just a sweet vanilla flavor anyway. Zach liked it, since he loves painfully sweet drinks, but it even became too much for him after about five sips. I ended up buying a plain coffee to relieve myself from the sweetness and poured some into his remaining white hot chocolate, which he said helped a lot. However, he still couldn’t finish it because of how sweet it was. I definitely would not order this ever again.
7. Braised Pork Belly Adobo with Garlic Fried Rice from Blissfully Braised ($7.50)
Both Zach and I love pork belly because of how juicy and flavorful it usually is. However, this was very underwhelming. The pork belly was surprisingly pretty dry, and the braise just tasted like vinegar. The garlic fried rice was fine but pretty generic and bland — kind of like Rice-A-Roni. This didn’t taste bad per se, but it definitely felt like a waste of money for how underwhelming it was, especially with a $7.50 price tag!
6. Chocolate Yule Log with Candied Chestnuts and Clementine Compote from A Twist on Tradition ($5.00)
The Chocolate Yule Log was one of the most picturesque offerings of Festival of Holidays and why we were so enticed to get it (we were also craving something sweet). The yule log is a chocolate cake swirled with a chocolatey cream, topped with chestnuts and a clementine compote served on the side. It’s topped with a little mushroom decoration and a holly leaf made of chocolate. The flavor of the log was good and tasted similar to a chocolate grocery store birthday cake — tasty, but not amazing. I don’t think I would get it again, but I enjoyed trying it and thought the decoration was beautiful. The clementine compote had a great flavor, and the fresh citrus helped cut the sweetness of the log for a very enjoyable bite. I do wish they gave you a little more! And yes, we did try the mushroom, and yes, it was made of pure sugar.
5. Chana Masala with Grilled Garlic Naan from Classic Crocks & Casseroles ($6.50)
Zach and I love Indian food and were immediately drawn to this item. It’s actually what initially inspired us to get the Sip and Savor passport. The chana masala was very food and tasted like your standard chana masala that you would get in a decent Indian restaurant. It was also quite spicy, which we enjoyed. It was topped with freshly diced tomatoes and onions, which was a really nice addition. Chana masala is rich and heavy, so having the contrast of fresh veggies was really nice. The naan was also delicious, well baked, and flavorful.
4. Butternut Squash & Almond Pakora Fritters from A Twist on Tradition ($6.00)
As I said, we love Indian food, so we knew we had to try these pakoras, although we both thought we wouldn’t like them since the fillings sounded a bit bland. However, the mix of Indian spices with the butternut squash, almonds, greens, drizzle of sauces (which we think were yogurt and a green chutney), and yellow raisins was absolutely delicious. It tasted like something you would get in a high-end restaurant. I noticed online and on Instagram that not many people are buying these, but I definitely recommend trying them out. They are definitely a little different with a lot of unique flavors, but it’s exciting to see Disney really step up their culinary game.
3. Chorizo Queso Fundido with Homemade Tortilla Chips from Chips, Breads & Holiday Spreads ($6.00)
Zach and I love any form of queso, nacho, and dippable cheeses, so this was an immediate must for us. We also are big fans of spicy meats, so add in that chorizo and you have our hearts. This was delicious! I know everyone was excited when Chipotle started selling queso (which, yes, I have tried), and this was way better. It was gooey and flavorful, had a good balance of tasting like real cheese as well as plastic (like delicious nacho cheese) cheese, and had the perfect amount of spice inthe chorizo. The chips were also delicious and tasted homemade or like they came from a Mexican restaurant — much better than normal bagged chips. The portion is also decent (not big by any means) and a better value than some of the other Marketplace offerings. We would definitely consider getting this again!
2. Cookie Butter and Jelly Cheesecake from Holiday Duets ($4.50)
Now, since we could get anything with our Sip and Savor coupons, it wasn’t the best bang for our buck by getting a lower-priced item. But I love cookie butter and cheesecake, and this is what I wanted, and I am an adult and can make my own life choices. So, we got these adorable little tarts and thought they were SO delicious! Definitely make sure to get all the elements in your first bite. I took more of a nibble and wasn’t impressed, but once I got a full bite of the cookie butter, cheesecake, jelly, and crust, I was like WHAT’S UP, this is so tasty. They are also topped with a chocolate holly leaf, so they also look beautiful. I would really like to get these little guys again!
1. Macaroni and Cheese with Cornbread Crumbles from Holiday Duets ($7.25)
I don’t know what to say about this except… it was some delicious macaroni and cheese. It didn’t taste like generic cafeteria macaroni and cheese like expected. It had a unique flavor — cheesy but with a slightly smokey flavor, as well. We couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was that made it so delicious, but it just was. The cornbread crumbles were also wonderful and added a nice crunch (although they give you too little of them!). I'm sorry I don't have more to say about this one because it is just macaroni and cheese, but just trust me, it's very good, and was our favorite food item we tried at the Marketplace. This was definitely the most popular kiosk and always had the longest line while we were in the park (but it is home to the mac n cheese AND tarts so it makes sense).
If we had purchased all of these items separately, without the Sip and Savor pass, we would have spent about $47, so we only saved $2. However, we did try some lower-cost options like the cheesecake tarts and the white hot chocolate. If you are an AP and want the most bang for your buck with the Sip and Savor pass, definitely stick to the higher, $6+ items. Regardless of savings though, it was fun to get some extra souvenirs by using the pass and collecting all the buttons! This also shows that the savings for an AP member aren't all that amazing, so you’re not missing out on much (except for cute buttons) if you just pay for everything as usual. Also, I think you would need to get at least two or three food items to feel full or to make a full meal out of it, but it’s a really fun option if you just want a snack and decide to get one or two.
Tasting so many of the items at the Marketplace was, overall, a really fun experience. Not only was most of the food really good, but also the ambiance is stellar. Throughout the Marketplace, they are playing holiday music from multiple cultures — we heard several songs in Spanish and Hindi! — and also have live bands and performances throughout the day. We had the chance to watch some of the live performances, including a Jewish band called Mostly Kosher and a jazz, rockabilly group called Phat Cat Swinger. Both were excellent, and it was really awesome to see live music in the parks. A full list of entertainment options at Festival of Holidays can be found here.
The Festival of Holidays has been pretty popular, so I imagine it’s something that will be around for years to come. I’m already looking forward to whatever new stuff they add next year!
With love and yule logs,