What I ate at the Knott’s Boysenberry Festival (and More)

This past weekend I made it down to Knott’s Berry Farm for the final days of the annual Knott’s Boysenberry Festival, the celebration of the berry that the Knott family made famous way back in the day. I hadn’t been to the festival before, although two of the folks I went with had. All indications were that it was even bigger than it had been in the past, and this year it lasted three weeks instead of two. We tasted a lot, here’s what I thought of it all.

Too Much Boysenberry Food to Try

The map of the Boysenberry Festival makes it pretty clear how many things there were to eat (and see)

The Boysenberry Festival takes over pretty much all of Ghost Town, with special performances, booths and stands selling berry related crafts, food stalls set-up, and pretty much every restaurant in the area featuring at least some special Boysenberry treat. As you can tell in the map above, there were a lot of options, with 19 different locations selling at least one special food or drink. And that’s not including some of the food stands on the tasting card and the beer/wine garden. So, a lot to choose from, definitely too much to eat in one day.

The tasting card for the Boysenberry Festival. $25 for 6 decent sized portions of eats.

We primarily went the tasting card route, although did try a couple of other things while there. The card is $25, and the items are all marked on the map above. Each is pretty decent sized portion, with four savory-ish items and the two I’d classify as desserts.

I ate my wings too fast to get a good picture, but I think this one from Knott’s is a good representation except for having way more wings in the photo (courtesy Knott’s Berry Farm)

We started off the the Boysenberry Buffalo Wings. The tasting portion was four wings, fried and dressed with a chipotle bosyenberry sauce (which was available in bottles in the shops around Ghost Town). The wings were nice and crispy, and freshly fried, a benefit of long lines. Thanks to being fresh the crisp of the battery held up nicely under the sauce, no sogginess or lack crunch. One of my friends said in past years the wings had been grilled, and these were much better. Overall they were pretty great, with a nice hint of boysenberry flavor and a little heat in the sauce. In fact, the sauce was good enough that we shamelessly used our fingers to eat the leftover on the bottom of the tray…

Meatballs dressed in bosyenberry bbq sauce.

We followed up the wings with the Boysenberry meatballs. The meatballs were covered in the Knott’s boysenberry BBQ sauce (also for sale). They were OK in general, but there wasn’t as much boysenberry flavor as I had hoped. I think they would have been more interesting if the balls themselves had been made with a little boysenberry, or just some stronger seasoning that would blend with the sauce well.

The intensely purple boysenberry ravioli was the most interesting thing we had.

The third item on the tasting card we ate was the boysenberry ravioli. I think this was the most interesting of the dishes offered. We weren’t sure what to expect, maybe another boysenberry sauce. But, it was actually the opposite. The deep purple ravioli, clearly made with boysenberry in the dough, was served in a rich cheese sauce, and stuffed with a bright berry and cheese filling. It had a strong, unexpected boysenberry flavor, and small pieces of boysenberry and seeds could be found inside. Of everything we had this was the most “wow, bosyenberry!” of them, and it was probably my favorite dish. It was certainly the most unique.

Mr. and Mrs. Knott keeping watch in Spurs Chophouse.

The first two items came from stands, but the ravioli were served in an emptied out Spurs Chophouse (generally a nice sit down restaurant) alongside a couple of other items. These included a boysenberry crepe and the boysenberry short rib that my friends said had been on the tasting card the year before (and was really good). We didn’t try them as they weren’t on the tasting card, but all looked good and there were people getting them all.

Boysenberry nutella crepes served next to the ravioli.

I actually would have loved a little more flexibility in the tasting card to let me choose different things to eat, like those next to the ravioli, but oh well. Next door we tried the boysenberry panna cotta. Another beautiful purple color, the panna cotta had a good texture and another rich boysenberry flavor. Apparently this was on the card last year, and was one of my friends’ favorites. It held up as well this year, very tasty with a nice subtle flavor in the creme itself and the boysenberry topping with a more pronounced berry-ness.

The boysenberry panna cotta both looked really pretty and tasted very nice.

With long breaks in between (like for wine and beer, a ride or two, and just walking), we eventually made it back to try the boysenberry pizza later in the day. The pizza was one of the most anticipated items at the festival, topped with an interesting combination of boysenberry sauce, arugula, goat cheese, chunks of ham, slivered almond, andmaybe more I forgot. The toppings actually worked really well, with a balance of sweet and salty, almost the way bbq chicken can work on pizza. The main issue I had was that the crust was, as we could probably expect, regular “meh” theme park pizza crust. I admit I’m a pizza snob (comes from being born in New Jersey and living in San Francisco, I think), but it meant that while the topping was interesting, the dish wasn’t better than OK for me. I’d love to try the topping mix on a nice crispy neopolitan crust.

The toppings went well, and I definitely ate it all, but I wish it had been on a higher quality base.

Finally, we closed out the night with what rivaled the ravioli for my favorite thing on the tasting card, the boysenberry fry bread. The bread, with a churro like seasoning on it, came out from the shop nice and hot. The fried doughiness surrounded a boysenberry filling that had hints of chocolate, along with occasional chunks of boysenberry. The larger pieces of berry were a nice surprise, since we hadn’t actually had anything with this in it yet. I probably would have eaten a second one happily, despite being overfed at this point.

The fry bread tasted better than this picture makes it look…

Drinks and Entertainment

Along with all the food, we also got the tasting cards for the wine and beer garden. Unfortunately there was only one beer on offer, despite the website saying there would be four. I assume they ran out of the others earlier in the festival, as they did with the one berry cider they had some of early in the day. The boysenberry beer they did have was a Belgian white style, with just a hint of berry. It was OK, but I wish it had packed boysenberry flavor (later that evening I had a boysenberry Berliner Weisse at a local brewery that was way more boysenberry flavored and delicious).

Boysenberry beer was pretty good, but could have used more berry flavor.

The boysenberry wine was very sweet, almost juice like, but the berry flavor was good. We took the advice of one bartender and mixed it with the sparkling wine for an interesting concoction that made me realize how great a full bar with cocktails using boysenberry syrups, gins, bitters, etc. would be. Maybe some day? We also tried the boysenberry punch and boysenberry creme soda. The soda may have actually been the most interesting boysenberry drink we had, mixed up to order in the great Judge Roy Bean soda shop.

The best boysenberry entertainment we watched by far was the pie eating contest, which wasn’t really much of an eating contest. Emceed by the entertaining Phineas B. Berry, a group of kids were chosen at random and brought to the front table. Each was given a pie tin with half a pie in it. The goal was not to EAT the pie, but rather to get as much of the pie out of the tin as possible without using your hands. So basically it was a smash your face into a pie and mush it around contest, and it was hilariously entertaining. It may have been the most fun I’ve had watching a show at a theme park. The pictures below don’t do it justice, but you can see how much boysenberry filling is on some of the kids’ faces.

The kids smashing their faces into pies was amazingly entertaining, Phinneas Berry directing the kids from the front.


The amount of berry filling on their faces…

There were also tons of vendors selling things boysenberry related. Some items were from the park, like preserves and punches, while others were from independent sellers, like candles, soaps, and candies. It was great to see a bunch of independent vendors as well as the park shops embracing the boysenberries. And I definitely bought a lot of stuff to take home. And of course, the Knott’s rides were all operating. Most had pretty long lines, but other than GhostRider none were crazy in length and a few of my favorites were pretty short (or moved pretty quickly).

Newly painted Montezooma’s Revenge had a short line all day, and was great as always.

Sol Spin was up and running! We didn’t take a ride though, as the line was long. The new color, along with Monte, looks great though.

The ideal break from eating, the Calico Mine Ride

What Do We Want Next Time?

Overall there wasn’t anything I ate that I wasn’t at least OK, and some of what we tasted was really good and really unexpected. I would have loved a little more selection in the adult beverages, although there may have been some earlier in the festival. However, with so many great breweries in southern California, I’d love to see Knott’s partner with more for a wider range of berry beer. The selection of non-alcoholic boysenberry drinks was pretty solid, though.

Shorter lines for GhostRider would be another benefit of a quieter day earlier in the festival.

The only other thing I would love would be a way to try more dishes. The drink card has punch spots for “six pours” on it, but guests got to choose what six they wanted. Something similar for the food card that would allow me to taste the things that sounded most interesting to me, or let have a group of people try 12 or more different things, would have been amazing. Of course, the other lesson might be make sure to come over multiple days to taste everything. I’ll definitely be back in the future, and next year might pass on the taste card so that I can try all new things.

Well definitely be back at Knott’s for future Boysenberry Festivals.

Did you make it to the Boysenberry festival this year (or in the past)? What were your favorite things to eat and drink? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook and Twitter. And check back with Coaster101 for more food thoughts next week, as several of us head to Carowinds during the Taste of the Carolinas!


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