Cars Land Food: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Part 3)

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All photos by Seth Kubersky

Welcome to the final chapter of our savory series examining the best, worst, and strangest new foods found at Disney California Adventure’s Cars Land. So far in this trilogy, we’ve enjoyed the citrus turkey salad at Flo’s V8 Cafe, and endured the indelibly inedible eggs served by the Cozy Cone Motel.

To complete the circle, today we’ll take a taste of two of the oddest, must unusual eating options in DCA’s new expansion area. These “Eli Wallach” items appear unappetizing, or even absurd, at first glance. But dig beneath the aesthetically challenged surface, may you find something unexpectedly interesting on the inside.

…and The Ugly

I originally hail from the Northeast, where we pride ourselves on our overpaid sports franchises, sprawling landfills, and convenience stores stocked with bizarre flavors of snack food. If you’ve ever road tripped around Southern Jersey or Philadelphia, you may have discovered the wonders of Wawa convenience stores, where you will find an unrivaled variety of surreal potato chips styles; not merely sour cream or BBQ, but tomato ketchup, steak & onion, and hot dog. For me, the pinnacle (or nadir) of potato chip perversity has always been “dill pickle” flavor, which is just as powerfully pungent and olfactoraly off-putting as it sounds.

Naturally, when I heard that Disney was attempting their own Dill-icious snack in Cars Land, I had to try it for myself. Each day the Cozy Cone counter service complex prepares 2 different flavors of popcorn, ranging from the everyday (salt & vinegar) to the eyebrow-raising (cheese & bacon). When I spotted the “dill pickle” sign outside of Cone #5 during my second afternoon inside the area, I knew I had to “take one for the team” and give it a taste.

Like all the popcorn flavors that the Cozy Cone sells, you can get your dill delivered inside a expensive souvenir Lightning McQueen container, or in a cardboard box (as I chose). Either way, you’ll get a sizable (if not quite movie-theater-sized) quantity of warm ‘corn, coated in a distinctly greenish powder. Popping an exploratory handful in my mouth, I braced myself for the intense burst of sour, salty pickle punch — which never came.

Instead of the eye-watering infusion of sharp flavors that I anticipated enduring, I found myself enjoying an unexpectedly edible (and surprising mild) balance of herbs that accentuated the underlying popcorn flavor without utterly overwhelming it. The taste doesn’t scream “pickle,” but rather whispers it gently; if you hunt for the dill with your taste buds, you’ll find it, but it wouldn’t be the first thing you’d think of in a blind taste test. While I went in expecting the dill popcorn to be the Beverly of DCA, the experience turned out to be politely pleasant, instead of the masochistic endurance test I expected.

Naturally, you need something cold to wash down your dill popcorn, so I picked a cup of Red’s Apple Freeze. This custom-crafted beverage is clearly Disney’s answer to Universal’s blockbuster Butterbeer; both feature a slushy yellow base topped with a “head” of fluffy foam. The difference is that, from my very first sip, I fell in love with Butterbeer’s vanilla shortbread sweetness — in the past 2 years, I’ve probably spent well over $100 on Potter’s liquid crack.

My first involuntary response to Red’s, on the other hand, was for my mouth to pucker so tightly I think I could taste my tonsils. The bulk of the beverage is a frozen apple juice that is so tart it tastes more like unfiltered cider than anything Mott’s makes. Honestly, that first sip was so shocking that I nearly tossed the cup in the trash can within a second of the straw touching my tongue.

But there was something undeniably addictive underlying that initial awful experience, encouraging me to try another sip. Among fans of wooden roller coasters and advanced yoga, this phenomenon is well-recognized, and often accompanied by the phrase “that was terrible, let’s do it again!” Gradually, the shock of the drink’s tartness subsided, revealing subtler sweet notes of toasted marshmallow beneath the sour. I never really warmed to the “passion fruit /mango” foam floating on top, but a quick stir of the straw submerged it beneath the icy surface. Much to my shock, 20 minutes after nearly dumping the drink out, I found myself sucking the final specks from the bottom of my cup, and wondering if I should order a second.

Finally, a brief note to illustrate how even the ugliest eating incident can have a beautiful ending at the Disneyland resort. As I sat with my purchases outside the Blue Sky Cellar, eating and watching the Pixar Play Parade pass by, I accidentally spilled my half-full box of dill popcorn on the ground. As I crouched in the sidewalk, sadly sweeping my spoiled snack off the cement, a plaid-clad cast member approached. The spill was 100% due to my clumsiness, and I had no expectation of any compensation. But this observant employee (who turned out to be a VIP tour manager) took the initiative to give me a “no strings attached” replacement voucher, and insisted I take it, despite my protestations that it was unnecessary. No matter what your opinion of some of DCA’s new menu items — bad, ugly, or otherwise — any downside at Disneyland is definitely outweighed by the good.

What new food item at DCA surprised you the most? Leave your menu recommendations in the comments below!

 

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Posted on August 16, 2012
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