REVIEW: A Twist on Tradition – Disney California Adventure Festival of Holidays

Native Mexicans, southern Californians, Spaniards*, and, let’s face it, those of a worldly culinary bent may wonder just what traditions Disney is twisting at this particular Marketplace kiosk. Yes, Pazole is a widely held holiday staple, and you’ll find Mole in everything from Carnitas to chocolate. Still, not sure our Abuelita would recognize these specific Disney California Adventure Festival of Holidays dishes.

Granted, my Grandmother and I are tough critics. The family enchilada recipe is as closely guarded as it is revered. These Twist on Tradition creations have a decent flavor, it’s just that I know these recipes are capable of so much more.

As I absolutely adore this style of fare, and selection, I cannot advise skipping this booth. If these traditions are as much a part of your holidays, and most of the rest of the year, to be honest, you are going to want to suspend your likely well-established partiality.

Pazole Rojo Beef with Hominy Polenta – $7.50

I may have to admit to not having the most sophisticated palate, but give me a taco that creates a flavor party in my mouth and a mess in my hands, and I am a happy man. I relish a symphony of taste, all at once, with complimentary elements uniting, even competing to some extent. The Festival of Holidays Pazole is tasty, though is about as far as one can get from the bountiful stew that I am used to, and that I adore.

It works as a pulled beef dish. Again, it has a really good flavor. The cabbage topping lends an almost ideal crisp counterpoint. Even the polenta, which I often eschew as a waste of plate and stomach space, is admittedly good. They just don’t do much as an entity, and I can’t get myself to accept it as Pazole.

It doesn’t need to be dripping brine for me to appreciate it, but I had better not be able to employ the term ‘subtle.’ And that’s just what this is. It’s light, it’s understated, it’s practically subdued. Were it marketed as a pulled beef sandwich I suspect I would have a more charitable impression. But, the strongest sentiment this particular traditional dish elicits is a wanting for something more.

Chicken-less” Mole with Spanish Rice – $7.00

An unapologetic disciple of chicken-intensive and chicken-deficient mole, it saddens me how profoundly I advise guests to lower their expectations. For those in doubt, the substitute chicken is not the issue. Not remotely. In a taco, torta, or something not nearly as arid, this not-chicken would be wonderful. In this particular combination, it is impossible to appreciate.

It’s just far too dry. If you’ve sampled it you know exactly what I am talking about. Even verily bathed in mole, it is still desperately lacking. It is as if the rice and soy substance repel moisture. They also do a yeoman’s job of fighting off the Mole’s flavor influence. Even though I am one who prefers to bathe my meal in ketchup, bbq, and similar appropriate sauces, I don’t believe that my gringo predilection is at play here. I also can’t ignore how much a splash of salsa would improve this otherwise tasty, sorely disjointed dish.

Black Forest Yule Log $5.50

As someone who is passionate about exotic, spicy food, and fairly ambivalent regarding postre, take it to heart when I tell you this is positively the best offering at this particular booth. At home I help myself to additional helpings of Mole until I lose my enthusiasm for dessert, but not here. If you’re into chocolate, save room for this.

I grew up on those cheap frozen Black Forest cakes, ingrained with those gelatinous cherries and gobs of whipped cream. This Disney version is far more refined and aesthetically pleasing, though they captured the essence and taste that reminds me of home. Finally. The cake I remember didn’t have moose or white chocolate accenting, though I now wish it had. Both are an improvement.

At such festivals I often lament how I haven’t the capacity in my body to enjoy each entree, plus desserts, in a manner that does not cause physical discomfort. Having not filled up on mildly inspiring Mole and Pazole, I scarfed chocolate log cake with ease and enthusiasm. I implore guests to follow suit.

Winter Michelada – $11.00

As with a number of the Festival of Holidays specialty beverages, the Winter Michelada was not available at the soft open. This one is to consist of Negra Modelo. There is no justice in this world.

*we are well aware of Pozole’s pre-Hispanic origin. Any who wish to discuss it further are encouraged to express themselves in the comment field below. In the interim, know that Chris intentionally took a Nahuatl history course and has been positively frothing to expound upon the topic, as family, friends (loosely defined), and unwitting strangers have proven universally non-receptive.