By Charly SHELTON
Theme parks are still closed with no indication of when they may reopen, but that hasn’t stopped Knott’s Berry Farm from welcoming guests in a different way. Rather than offering a full theme park experience with rides and shows, Knott’s has transitioned into a dining-only park hosting various food festivals. The Taste of Calico fest was slated for two weekends in July and was almost immediately extended an additional two weekends into August due to overwhelming demand. After that, the Taste of Knott’s fest expanded out of the Ghost Town of Calico and into the rest of the park, except for Camp Snoopy, and ran for four weekends in August and September. Now, during Knott’s most spooktacular time of the year, it is back and bigger than ever with Taste of Fall-o-Ween fest held for six weekends through Nov 1. And as much fun as the first two fests were, Knott’s really hit its stride with this one.
The food fest takes over the whole park, including a trick-or-treat trail in Camp Snoopy for the little ones. While the Calico fest spotlighted summer cookout foods and the Knott’s fest was a bit more specialized, offering boysenberry foods that were still rather normal fare, the Fall-o-Ween fest plows fully into the fall with pumpkin spice, caramel apple, Oreo-crumbles-and-gummy-worm-covered everything. The flavors of the season come alive in new, inventive ways suited to a theme park with no roller coasters available to rob you of your half-digested dinner. If GhostRider was open I wouldn’t be able to keep down my pumpkin cheese cannoli, graveyard funnel cake and battered buffalo cauliflower bites because there’s no saying “no” to GhostRider. The decision is simple because the ride is closed (not to mention the security guard who blocks the doorway is stronger than me). So with no rides to distract from the food booths they stand out all-the-more.
With 28 different booths and over 50 different food and beverage options from which to choose, there’s something for everyone – no matter what mood they’re in. For the beginner, there is butternut squash soup in a bread bowl and sausage chicken jambalaya – tasty and fun, and still acceptably normal. Moving into more adventurous fare, there’s the perilous pizza – a pizza slice with buffalo chicken, jalapenos, ranch and mozzarella – and the gigantic orange sugar and chocolate fudge cookiewich with pumpkin soft serve ice cream that welcomes the brave stomach. Once you hit that sugar high, the last shred of self-control is dissolved in a hurricane of orange-colored sweets and tasters get really wild. Eyesight blurs as it all rushes past in hues of orange, black and Flamin’ Cheeto Red: Diablo Fries with chili, cheese, Hot Cheeto powder and crispy jalapeno strips. Then there are the prime rib sandwich with horseradish sauce, the jalapeno poppers with ranch, chili Colorado, orange cream ICEE float with vanilla soft serve, pumpkin spice churro sticks with Bavarian cream.
About this time diners’ vision starts to tunnel and, like a high school senior cramming extra credit in finals week, they reach for the “beeting” hearts salad of mixed greens, roasted beets, artichoke hearts, butternut squash and raspberry vinaigrette, hoping to undo what their body was just put through. But then there’s the pièce de resistance – the ghoulish pumpkin bun. This is an entire cinnamon roll that is deep fried and drowned in enough orange frosting to cover a modest sheet cake. It may be the best thing ever served at Knott’s and high on the list for best in any theme park worldwide. Slip into the darkness knowing the real scare won’t come from a Halloween event, but from your cardiologist.
This fest is really one for the ages and though nothing can undo the disappointment of Knott’s Scary Farm being canceled this year, it is a soothing balm to the pain of loss. Hopefully in the future, these food fests will become regular events alongside the rest of the park, like the Boysenberry Festival is every year, and maybe at next year’s haunt guests will enjoy a ghoulish pumpkin bun in a haunted house.
At press time this event is sold out through Halloween but with success like this the next food fest event probably won’t be far away. A Festive Christmas Deep Fried Gingerbread House would be nice.
Visit Knotts.com for more info and future announcements.