With Knott's Berry Farm's Boysenberry Festival returning on March 20, the famous Southern California attraction hosted a special preview event showcasing this year's food and merchandise.

A wide variety of dishes were available to sample during the event, with many more displayed for mouth-watering photographs.

Personally, I enjoyed the range of flavors that were accented with boysenberry. Among our samples I found some spicy, a few were hearty and, of course, there was a collection of sweets.

Most of the dishes I sampled offered expected flavors — well-balanced so the various components were complementary, not competing. But there were a few stand-outs and one dish that totally took me by surprise.

Standouts:

  • Samosa with Boysenberry chutney
  • Pastrami Sandwich on a pretzel bun with boysenberry mustard
  • Boysenberry Cannoli
  • Boysenberry Macaron
  • Boysenberry Bread pudding topped with boysenberry coulis and creme anglaise
  • Boysenberry beer
  • Boysenberry basil lemonade
  • Boysenberry steak chili with a boysenberry cornbread muffin
  • Beef tips with boysenberry mashed potatoes

Most surprising:

  • Brussels sprouts topped with Boysenberry balsamic with bacon topping

The samosas flaky crust had a pleasant crunch and stuffed with a potato veggie mix that had enough heat to longer yet not overwhelm. The accompanying boysenberry sauce was reminiscent of sweet and sour, being neither too much one or the other. I could see pairing this dish successfully with boysenberry beer or with another surprise hit: the boysenberry basil lemonade. The basil brought an earthy quality to the bright tangy and sweet beverage that made the beverage particularly refreshing. I went back for a few refills.

Over in the sweets arena, the boysenberry cannolis velvety cream center was paired with a crispy shell that had a surprising cinnamon flavor.

But one dish that proved to be the most surprising and had me wanting seconds was the brussels sprouts topped with boysenberry balsamic. Mine was sans bacon topping by request. The roasted sprouts were well-seasoned on their own, but the boysenberry balsamic added the tangy flavor that I enjoyed — akin to a sprouts dish that utilizes cranberries for a similar effect. However, this version cuts out the texture addition that cranberries would bring, which has always been a downside of that dish for me.

As part of the Boysenberry Festival, Knott's Berry Farm will also offer a tasting card, priced at $40 with a special $38 price for season passholders. The card will allow you to sample eight choices from a pre-selected list of 26 boysenberry creations, including many of the above.

Any festival has a show-stopper food item that has everyone shaking their heads in disbelief, saying to anyone who will listen "you just have to see this." Well Knott's has two over the top creations:

An enormous cheeseburger crumble filled pastry with blackberry ketchup they simply call the "Wow" pastry

And the Mega Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner-burger that takes an enormous four-pound cheeseburger, tops that with an upside-down Boysenberry pie and then adds four gigantic Mrs. Knott's famous fried chicken breasts.

Moving on from the food, also on display was the wide array of merchandise coming this year, including a collection of event tees, a pin, and even a parasol.

Among the pantry food items, they are bringing back favorites such as the whiskey boysenberry topping while introducing new items such as the tequila boysenberry topping.

Other new offerings include a Premium Boysenberry preserve, a boysenberry sweet tea jelly, and boysenberry cake batter cookies. You'll also find boysenberry toffee at various locations.

Browsing the display my eye fell on their BEAR jelly. That's ‘b’ for boysenberry, ‘e’ for elderberry, ‘a’ for apple and ‘r’ for raspberry. Given the anticipated return of Bear-y tales, I can see this becoming a popular take-home treat.

Continuing with the nostalgia, the boysenberry soda is being packaged in a commemorative 100th-anniversary bottle this year.

Also, with this year's festival, Knott's is expanded their add-a-can line. Previously, you could purchase a cobbler mix that you could bring home along with their canned boysenberries to create your own dessert. Now they are making it easier to make your own muffins, shortcake or crispy topped with boysenberry goodness.

You can catch all the boysenberry goodness from March 20th until April 19th.