A Hopeful Taste Of Calico

In the year 2020, nothing seems to surprise.  From Ebola to the Swine Flu to Murder Hornets.  And we haven’t even gotten to the problem of the Coronapocalypse.  Whatever you want to do, you need to get away from the humdrum for just a moment and find yourself eating warm biscuits, munching on some pastrami sandwiches with a pretzel bun, and cooling off your lips with a delicious Boysenberry Beer to top it off.  This means you need to get yourself over to the last weekend of a Taste of Calico going on at Knott’s Berry Farm.

A Hopeful Taste Of Calico

Before we get fully into the Taste of Calico event at Knott’s Berry Farm, I want to get a few caveats out of the way.  I do love me some Knott’s Berry Farm.  And I have been missing it quite a bit over these past few months.  It was very disappointing when the Boysenberry Festival was canceled.  And then it was Ghost Town Alive, and I’m pretty sure there will not be any Summer Nights this year, no matter how much I want them. 

I ran into one of the persons in charge of social media who helped see me through all of my adventures at Knott’s Berry Farm. And she seemed optimistic.  I know she’s probably one of the most optimistic people I have ever seen.  She’s got a smile so wide I could see it through her face mask when we talked.  I really want to believe what she said and that things might open up before we know it.  So I try to be hopeful about everything. 

A Hopeful Taste of Calico at Knott's Berry Farm

With that in mind, let’s discuss this Taste of Calico Event.  Because, while you do have the opportunity to chow down on some delicious food, with a cast who religiously cleans up after every little soul (even if they touch a counter), the event isn’t as much about the opening up of the park.  I feel like the event is really about bringing hope to this little patch of Southern California.

It’s about taking the humdrum of everyone’s everyday life and giving them something to lift their spirits.  If only to get out of the house for a few minutes and enjoy yourself.  And if the Governor of California is going to insist that all of California eat their food in some outdoor fashion if they don’t eat it in their homes, what better place to eat than at on open, outdoor amusement park where they can space out the tables and give you some excellent food choices to choose from.

Here is the list of all the amazing food offerings they have for the 5 tastings on the card at Knott’s Berry Farm.

Knott’s Berry Farm Taste Of Calico Tastings

A-  Sutter’s Grill

– Basil Lemonade

– Pulled Pork Sliders

– Mac & Cheese Bites with French Fries and Sriracha Ketchup

– Boysenberry BBQ Wings

– Samosas with a Boysenberry Chutney

B-  Ghost Town Grub

– Mini Funnel Cake with Boysenberry Topping

– Mr. Knott’s Biscuit Bites with Boysenberry Butter Dipping Sauce

– Bread Pudding with a Creme Anglaise

C-  Fireman’s BBQ

– Boysenberry Sausage on a Hoagie Bun

– Roasted Corn with Butter and Cotija Cheese

– Basil Lemonade

D-   Wilderness Broiler

– Cucumber Lemonade

– Deep Fried Potato Chips with an Onion Dip

– Pastrami Sandwich on a Pretzel Bun with Boysenberry Mustard and a Side of Chips

E-   Wilderness Dance Hall Patio

– Gumbo with Chicken, Shrimp, and Boysenberry Sausage on Basmati Rice

– Boysenberry Flavored Beer, Wine, or Sangria

– Boysenberry Smoothie

F-   Gourmet Churro Factory

– Mini Stuffed Churro with Boysenberry Filling

G-   Mix-It-Up

– Boysenberry Jam Sugar Cookiewich

– Boysenberry Icee Float

– Cucumber Lemonade

H-   Judge Roy Bean

– Steak Chili with a Boysenberry Cornbread Muffin

– Boysenberry Flavored Beer, Wine, or Sangria

– Boysenberry Smoothie

The Guidelines For A Taste Of Calico –

When it comes to this, you have approximately 6 hours’ worth of event to go to.  That does seem like it should be a lot.  And given the fact they limit the number of people allowed to come, it feels like it should be plenty of time.  And on Sundays, it’s actually 8 hours worth of time.

Masks are required for coming to this event and must be worn unless you are munching in a designated eating area (which basically means one of the many tables they have strewn throughout the park.)  For each card that you have, you should get 5 tastings with which to try out.  And you can get more than one item at any one location.  In addition, each person is able to get up to two alcoholic beverages on each card, if you so choose.  (Although I would purchase those separately as a 3 oz drink will barely whet your whistle.)

My Take On The Taste Of Calico Tastings

Obviously, even with two cards (which I was only able to get nine tastings from), there would be no way to try each and every item at this event.  So I strayed away from items which I had tried before.  This means throwing out the Chicken wings, Steak Chili, Smoothie, Cucumber Lemonade, the mini stuffed Churros, the cookiewich, the Icee float, the roasted corn, the boysenberry sausage on a bun, and the funnel cake. 

I did have to get something to drink, so I did get the basil lemonade and a boysenberry beer.  But for all of these items, I have covered them in previous food events, so having a discussion about them here I felt would be redundant.  I did miss out on the Biscuit Bites with the Boysenberry Butter Dipping Sauce.  I suppose I had to miss out on something.  And I couldn’t fix the last tasting card issue.

My Taste Of Calico Food Thoughts:

Pork Sliders –

Who doesn’t love a delicious Pork Slider?  Delicious pulled pork in a Hawaiian Roll?  It’s heaven in a bite.  Although it can be very filling and kind of carb-heavy for a start, so watch out.

Mac & Cheese Bites with French Fries and Sriracha Ketchup –

These bites were surprisingly spicy on their own.  So if you don’t love spice, I might stay away.  I was hoping for more flavor from the ketchup.  But the bites themselves, if you don’t mind a little spice, are delicious.

Samosas with a Boysenberry Chutney –

A Hopeful Taste of Calico at Knott's Berry Farm

You have no idea how excited I was about these.  When they were going to do them for the 2020 Boysenberry festival I was geeked.  As was my daughter.  So knowing these were on the list, I had to try.  I will say this.  The Chutney was good.  And the Samosa flavor was good.  But it just wasn’t heated up enough.  It didn’t have that crispness that I would have loved in a good Samosa.  So maybe I just caught them in the rush.  Who knows?  I just hoped for more.

Deep-Fried Potato Chips with an Onion Dip –

I like the chips.  I do.  But if I were you, I wouldn’t order them.  I would get the Pastrami Sandwich that comes with chips.  I do think you would like the onion dip and wished they included it with the sandwich.  If you have a large group tasting these, it’s not a bad filler addition to what you are eating.  But as a solo act, I might pass.

Pastrami Sandwich on a Pretzel Bun with Boysenberry Mustard and a Side of Chips –

A Hopeful Taste of Calico at Knott's Berry Farm

My second favorite thing at the festival.  When I am tasting so many different food items, rarely do I eat everything in a dish.  I had to eat ALL of this sandwich.  It was delicious.  And the mustard was great.  Little tangy.  Little sweet.  All delicious.  If you want those good chips, they come with this sandwich.  But you will be missing the onion dip.

Gumbo with Chicken, Shrimp, and Boysenberry Sausage on Basmati Rice –

If I could, I would have ordered 5 of these alone.  It was delicious.  They had done Jambalaya before.  And I was worried about how the Gumbo would be.  Don’t.  It’s a melt in your mouth dish you will want to come back for again and again.

Bread Pudding With a Creme Anglaise –

A Hopeful Taste of Calico at Knott's Berry Farm

I got this at the end of the night, in the craziest line.  So it would have been hard to live up to any expectations.  I did love the taste of the Creme Anglaise.  I think I would have liked a little more from the bread pudding.  I’m not saying it’s bad.  But with the Biscuit Bites and Funnel Cake as alternatives in the dessert category, as well as the cookiewich, I might go in a different direction.

My Concerns On A Taste Of Calico –

I’m hoping much of this gets settled out with a second weekend. And if they do well enough maybe more things like this in the near future.  But I had a few things which I think could have been done differently.  And some things which were just complete mess-ups.  Which given it was the first time they had done something like this, go figure.  One, someone screwed up with my tasting cards.  I paid for two. 

They took my picture upfront with both of them.  When I took one to the first station of the night, they said the card had been all used up already.  I hadn’t used a single tasting.  They were nice and took pity and gave me the tasting after waiting in the line.  They then asked what I would do with the last tasting.  I told them and they seemed to sound like it would be ok.

But things would go from bad to worse after the second REALLY long line.  I decided to use the second card because they couldn’t screw up two cards right?  Wrong.  Both had been a screw-up.  I had only planned on two tastings at this place.  And he went through the same “we will give you what you wish,” but you need to take this to guest service.  After two huge lines, and one that moved slower than molasses,  they had the temerity to tell me to wait in another long line at Guest Service to correct something the person at the front gate had messed up.  I admit I was less than pleased.  Thankfully a manager came out to correct the situation.  But it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Next, there is a table issue.  If you do not come in a group larger than a couple, you might have problems finding a place to sit down to eat.  Many people come in and take up all the tables while they have other people rotate through the lines for tastings.  I admit as a solo on this night this made it really tough.  But thinking about doing this with a family with kids younger than 12, or even just a couple, and this could get to be a real problem running around finding a table.  And the Knott’s staff doesn’t have the time or ability to force people to rotate through tables.  So my suggestion, open up more of the park and have more tables.

In addition, the locations themselves cause a problem.  I don’t know why it seemed to be worse than a Summer Nights Tasting.  But it would work way better if they did it like the boysenberry festival they do every April with a ton of delicious boysenberry delights and individual stations for almost every food choice.  Check out a past festival here.  With fewer tastings and fewer items at each station, things could get better.  You would have a long line as it was.  And then the one person in front of you would magically turn into five as their friends would hop out of their line to make sure they could get their tastings.  Lots of tastings at each place just seemed to slow things down to a crawl.  Recommendation:  More stations, fewer tastings at each station.  Or fewer things you could get from the card, to begin with.

Finally, the long lines were a problem. No, I was not upset the lines were long in length.  I was all for that.  And by having them so long, it was kind of crazy when you found out how really long these lines were.  But two of the lines were ridiculous.  So bad I decided to march in place just to see how long it took.  Between one six-foot social distance marker (meaning beginning on one and moving to the next) I marched in place 1100 steps.  I suppose I can thank Knott’s for the ten thousand steps in one line, but you might not, and neither will your kids.

Whether there was something particularly wrong with the line or not, it’s hard to say.  Could have been an end of the night issue with one of them.  Regardless, I think having more stations with fewer tastings per station would be helpful.  And have one place that sold drinks by themselves.  Just an idea.

I Loved Taste Of Calico All The Same

Getting back to the message of hope.  We have all been cooped up for way too long.  And some people are so anxious they cannot get out to any event whether socially distanced or not.  It’s a hard time for all.  We need to believe in something and hope for something.  And as difficult as some of the lines were and the issue with the cards, hope infused the air.  People were cautiously optimistic we could be hoping for more.  Everyone obeyed.  Everyone masked.  I never felt pressured by the people in front or behind me as I have at several grocery stores.  People seemed to get it.

And as a friend reminded me recently from the great movie Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a good thing.  Maybe the best of things.  And no good thing ever dies.”  We could all use a little spark of hope.   Something to remind us of what normal can look like, even if it’s not perfectly normal.  And maybe, maybe someday soon, I will be sitting sipping a beer in the Saloon at Knott’s Scary Farm and worried about the monsters who have all left the closet to come after me.

For that, and for some of the delicious food, this Taste of Calico was an unqualified success.  And if you just need anything to spur you on, think Pastrami Sandwiches and Gumbo.  Just the thought is causing me to salivate right now.  It’s going on next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  And you can check the hours out on the Knott’s Website.

Wrapping Up A Hopeful Taste of Calico

When it comes to amusement parks, very few hold quite the nostalgia to me of Knott’s Berry Farm.  When you talk about a park which infuses the era of the old west, and yet has modern, and up to date amusement park rides, included shows, food offerings, festivals, and live entertainment, it’s hard to beat the bang for the proverbial buck. 

My family and I have spent so many pleasant afternoons there enjoying the ambiance and taking a bit of nostalgia at the same time.  It’s something we have missed during all of this craziness.  While nothing can or probably should be fully opened yet, it was nice to see a place that looked prepared to get things moving once opening can and does occur.  Knott’s Berry Farm could put together a fun evening of food tastings with the ability to feel normal again.  Even if just for a short while.

If you are in Southern California, and you need something to do, even if just going for a little bit, consider Knott’s Berry Farm, a local park which has done so much to support the community and lift spirits for a hundred years.  And while I in no ways want a massive onslaught at the park, I hope you can enjoy a lazy afternoon there in the near future.

A Hopeful Taste of Calico at Knott's Berry Farm

Taking On A Taste Of Calico

What do you hope for most in the future?  Where have you missed going to the most since COVID 19?  Which of the food tasting sounds the most appetizing to you?   And what will you do first, once all of this craziness is behind us?

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Until next time, this is me signing off.

David Elliott, The Single Dad’s Guide to Life

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