If there’s one thing you can count on at Disneyland, it’s that the culinary powers that be will take the foods to which you have the most nostalgic childhood attachments and make them very, very weird. It happened with corn dogs – remember that pickle dog that broke the internet? – and with ice cream, when someone decided to mash an entire Thanksgiving dinner, Willy Wonka style, into dessert.

In total fairness to Disney, the company didn’t make those other frankenfoods – they were both offered in Downtown Disney by independently run restaurants. The pickle corn dog was (and still is) available at an independently run kiosk called Blue Ribbon Corn Dogs, and the ice cream was a limited seasonal offering from Salt & Straw.

I tried them all, and to my surprise, I actually enjoyed them too. So when I read about the newest, weirdest culinary offering at Disneyland, I was all in, even before I saw the way it’s been taking the internet by storm. This one, though, I was pretty sure I was going to hate.


Why? Because Disney took peanut butter and jelly and turned it into – wait for it – dessert pasta.

I’m going to let that sink in for a minute.

Dessert.

Paste.

The “peanut butter & jelly mac” is one of the limited-time offerings at the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival, which started on March 4 and runs through April 26. Disney describes the festival as a celebration of “California’s incredible bounty with vibrant cuisine, entertainment and more, ”though I am hard pressed to think of what’s distinctively Californian about peanut butter-coated pasta covered in candy.

Oh, I didn’t mention that part yet. Not only is this concoction full of sandwich ingredients and macaroni, it also involves Pop Rocks.

You are probably not surprised that I went into this taste test with a deep sense of trepidation.

I started my festival day with some foods that seemed safer and, well, less potentially gag-inducing. I had the Carbonara Mac & Cheese, from the Garlic Kissed booth, and two different forms of artichoke deliciousness from I Heart Artichokes. All of those made total sense to me in a celebration of California foods: Gilroy is so deeply garlicky that I can smell it from the freeway, and artichokes are so ubiquitous here that Monterey even hosts an Artichoke Festival every June.

How pasta coated in peanut butter, then topped with strawberry jelly, brown sugar streusel and strawberry crackle represents California cuisine is still a mystery to me. We grow peanuts, but we’re not the leading producer in the country by a mile: that distinction belongs to Georgia.

When I went to the Nuts about Cheese booth to pick up my order, I was so wary that I couldn’t help but express my doubts to the Cast Member at the window. “I don’t know,” he said. “People like it.”

Then he handed me my plate, and I went off to try it.

The not-quite-as-creamy-as-promised Peanut Butter & Jelly Mac I received from Nuts about Cheese on the day of my taste test.

Julie Tremaine

The first bite, I got only the peanut butter-coated pasta, and none of the toppings. That was savory and strange, not my favorite flavor combination, especially when it came in the form of a should-have-been-creamy sauce dried onto pasta. My friend and I were sharing the mac, and she had been saving her utensils from kiosk to kiosk to reduce her plastic consumption. She took one bite and was not impressed.

“After this,” she said, “I’m throwing away my fork.”

I, however, was intrigued. I didn’t like that first bite either, but I wanted to fully experience the dish. On my next bite, I made sure to get some of the jelly and the streusel. With some brightness from the strawberry and some sweetness from the brown sugar, the pasta actually tasted, dare it say it, better. The next time, I included some “crackle,” which was really strawberry Pop Rocks.

All of a sudden, there was a savory / sweet / fruity combination that worked, especially propelled by the popping sensation that lasted through the bite.

At that point, I was pleasantly surprised.

“Take another bite,” I said to my friend. “You need to get all the stuff.” For journalism, she obliged… then winced.

“This is not for me,” she said.

In total honesty, it’s not for me, either. I’m glad I tried it, but I wouldn’t order it again.

After I tried this nutty oddity, I wanted to know more. It turns out dessert pasta is a real thing that dates back to the Italian Renaissance. La Cucina Italiana even has a recipe for a sweet pasta soup, made with penne, almond milk, pistachios and candied orange. Even after this peanut butter and jelly mac fiasco, it still sounds pretty good to me.

Who knows? If we’re calling dessert pasta “California cuisine” now, maybe dessert pasta soup will end up on next year’s Food & Wine menu.



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