I am going to save the surprises to the end, but all in all the food I had at the two Disneyland parks was great. Yes, there are weak points, but if you skip burgers and pizza you will probably have a decent eating experience. Yes, it is expensive, but if you want something cheaper you are more than welcome to go to another Theme/Amusement park with far lower cleanliness and maintenance standards or maybe you shouldn't be wasting your money on an ironic visit to Disneyland.
Much like Disney classic cartoons versus modern Disney and Pixar movies, and old-school rides like the merry-go-round and the railroad versus Star Tours:The Adventures Continue and Radiator Springs Racers, the classic foods are continued there for a reason, and that is because so many people have fond childhood memories of being with their favorite cartoon characters and day dreaming that they are a princess or adventurer in the South Pacific/Old West/Space, and they are probably blocking out their parents bickering over who ruined who's whole vacation and who's job it is to fill out the divorce papers when they get home. The modern food is keeping the park's dining moving towards the future with updates to stay relevant, much like Moana and Coco, or Star Wars:Galaxy's Edge, Guardians of the Galaxy:Mission Breakout, or any other combination of "Galaxy" and "X" joined by a colon.
This isn't to say that you, as an adult, cannot develop a strong emotional connection to the iconic Disney treats. As a matter of fact, my love for these did not start until I was older. My biggest Disney food memories as a kid were the Biergarten and the now defunct Alfredo's at Epcot. Go figure that the kid who ended up as an alleged chef remembers sitting down to eat at the nicer places and watching his dad chow down on calamari tentacles.
The pretzel aside, most of the classics require being in a specific land to order. The great thing about that is they have tied that treat to that area's theme. Having a smoked turkey leg in Frontierland makes sense. Wolfing down a Dole Whip in Adventureland makes sense. Eating a lightsaber churro in Tomorrowland makes...well, it doesn't make sense, per se, but it at least isn't soylent green.
As I said before I don't really have a whole lot of childhood ties to these. My brain has probably decided to latch onto them as I have grown as an adult and shed some of my cynicism. It's actually a pretty good place to be since I have a strong tie to Disney Parks from my childhood and the last memories of one of my grandmothers before her death. It's the same thing for me and Big Macs. As I developed as a young cook I refused to eat at McDonalds. As I got older and started eating there out of misplaced irony I learned to enjoy it for what it was and remembered when Grandma Carolyn used to take us there as her body slowly destroyed itself.
The Little Red Wagon corn dog. If you get it while brass band is passing by and it fresh and crunchy it will transport you to idyllic time that never was, in a way that no movie could. If you get it and it has steamed in it's bag a bit and you have to listen to a couple arguing about one of them blatantly checking out another person, well, then you get to enjoy the time it actually is and relax in your schadenfrueh with the peace of mind that stuff could be a whole lot worse for you.
These are available a Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe in Main Street, USA near the entrance to Adventureland. Outside of the macaroon, I'm pretty sure not many of these were available in small town america until the 1990s, but that's okay. This is this history we want, not the history that we got.
If you like coconut like me, but are not a fan of white chocolate, also like me, don't be scared of the white chocolate on the Matterhorn Macaroon. You don't even notice it in the midst of all of it's chewy-toasty coconut goodness. This will definitely become a must have for future trips, mostly because I love macaroons but I can't justify keeping them around because of the damage I would do to my diet with them. I can, however, justify loosing myself in one hedonistic moment while in the happiest place on earth. Well, happiest for me, at least. I don't know about the guy yelling into his phone at his sibling that never ponied up their money for their share of the trip and then bailed at the last moment.
The Raspberry Mickey Macaron is not only an gorgeous Mickey-fied take on a Parisian classic, it is also delicious and it has several fresh raspberries in it to give it a brightness without making it cloyingly sweet. It is everything a macaron should be, but bigger. It is crunchy on the outside. The shells are chewy on the inside. There is not an excessive amount of filling in relation to the size of it. It feels light, even though it is a sweet, and it counts as a serving of fruit, right? The brush stroke of gold cocoa butter is a classy touch, too. It is both a modern accent that breaks up the monochrome nature of the shells and it gives a nod to the Disney Company's history with painting.
The Lime Eclair. I guess I should switch this so it ends on a higher note, but I'm not gonna. It wasn't bad. It was actually a really good eclair and they are taking the extra step of putting a piece of decorated chocolate on top, but as a coconut whore, the macaroon was tops. The pastry cream was tasty, but it could have have benefited from some candied lime or a bit more citrus pizzaz. To me, at least. You might be more of an eclair aficionado and feel otherwise.
Probably not the best time to declare that I would love to trail in one of Disney's corporate bakeries for a day to see how the pull everything together after downplaying one of their desserts. I really want to. I cannot imagine the scale of their organization or efficiency. I know it's not everybody's idea of a great way to spend a day of vacation but it would be like the classic vision of Epcot to me, Edutainment.
The infamous Smoked Turkey Leg. I had three of them while I was there, and not in DCA like some plebe. All of them in Adventureland as Walt intended(?). Now, the most important thing to know with eating the Turkey Leg is where is the nearest restroom. You are going to grab napkins. These are useless. The smoked turkey leg is so unctuous from gelatin that you will only end up with shredded napkin on your hands and face. Find some wet naps if you can. These will help, but you will still need to give yourself a good scrubbing with soap. They might even have wet naps at the stand where they sell the legs but I am notoriously oblivious to things directly in front of my face.
Pull the skin away. Do not throw it away. The skin is wonderfully smoky. I am not going to argue that the skin is the best part. That only counts when it is crispy. This skin is just a salty, smoky, fatty perfect mess. Pull it away and get the few bites you can without work. This is going to get a little aggressive. After you get those out of the way, you will need to start ripping out the tendons. It might take a little work, but do not despair. The cured turkey meat is worth the efforts. Hopefully you found a place to sit down. If you hadn't, do it. You can post up on top of a rubbish bin if you like, but I feel just slightly more civilized sitting down while I rip apart my food and bathe in its juices.
If you have decent enough grip strength rip the greasy tendons out do it, and set them neatly on the napkins at your side on the bench which is all they are good for. Otherwise you will just have to finagle them aside while you work towards your goal. You should find a good rhythm with it and be done in a startling short amount of time. Hopefully you took a short break it the middle of to enjoy the skin. If not, consider it your dessert. As you finish it off, try to stave off the feeling of embarrassment you may feel being all greasy. It happens to us all.
As you stand up to shuffle off to the bathroom and come back to reality, take note of the cries of children. Your children. Your inadequacies as a parent take hold. Take a deep breath, and explain to them that it was too hot for them and that you will get them a new one. A cooler one that they won't burn their mouths on. Wash the shame and the patina of turkey fat off your face you vile, disgusting animal. Buy your kids another one. Watch them struggle with it until they give up, then eat that one, too.
Finally up is The Red Rose Tavern in Fantasyland. Please note that with either of the sandwiches order them with extra aioli. They were decent with how much was on there, but when I got bites of them with the sauce they were way better. Both sandwiches also caught me off guard. We initially went there so I could try the Grey Stuff since I will be in WDW in spring time and I hear that they go about their Grey Stuff differently. We figured we might as well chill and get a burger to settle the rumblies in our tumblies. My brother and I decided on Beast Burgers which come with a burger, gruyere, horseradish aioli, and braised beef. Solid choice. My SIL had their take on Poutine with waffle fries, cheese curds, gravy, pickled red onions...and the braised beef. Both options were great, and would probably satisify any omnivore, just don't forget the extra aioli.
Now, I had already opted for the Beast, but I was intrigued by their vegetarian sandwich option, and thankfully the corporate chefs didn't phone it in(do their chefs count as imagineers, too?), so ordered that, too. It was not your average veggie wrap or grilled portobello "burger." They once again, kept their finger close to the culinary zeitgeist and went the route of a large seared slab of cauliflower, fried green beans, and spicy lime aioli. Extra aioli. It easily counts as a serving of vegetables and is probably closer to two. It wants a little salt, too, but this one is an non-issue for me. Nothing in Disney is done without careful consideration, and our industry is accused of using too much salt, so I am running under the assumption that they are purposely holding back to keep sodium levels down in response to consumer demand. Toss a little salt on your Beast Burger, while you are at it. If your child is being a little beast, throw some salt on them, too.
Now, The Grey Stuff. The reason we went in the first place. It was delicious, even though I was visibly upset I was not being served by an anthropomorphic candelabra. White(grey) chocolate mousse, red velvet cake, raspberry, and shortbread. I've read it elsewhere that the shortbread was a let down. Do not be of this mindset. With all the other flavors being pretty, I guess, "elegant" and clean, flavors from any other cookie would have overshadowed the mousse and cake and it was a nice addition of texture, too. The raspberry at the center provided a little hint of tartness in the midst of all the mousse.
That does it for now. I really wish I had the fried chicken at the Plaza Inn, but that seems like a reasonable excuse to go back for me. Next time I will take you on a brief trip through some serious shockers at Disney's California Adventure and it's Festival of Holidays.