With two new food kiosks and an extra two weekends on the calendar, Busch Gardens' Food and Wine Festival is bringing double the foodie fun to the Williamsburg park. This second annual event takes place on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from May 23 - June 29, 2014.
Members of the media were invited to preview this year's Food and Wine Festival on the opening day. Park President Carl Lum welcomed the media and Executive Chef Justin Watson spoke briefly about what goes into creating an event of this type. The media then had the chance to sample cheeses, appetizers and other delicious treats from around the world. Being a member of the media does have its benefits!
For those unfamiliar with Busch Gardens’ Food and Wine Festival, kiosks - or “stands” - are set up around the park serving sample-sized portions of food, wine, beer and desserts from a variety of countries, even ones not featured in the park’s line-up of European-themed sections. There is no additional fee to attend the Food and Wine Festival, however park admission is required. Sample-sized portions of food and beverages range from $2 - $6.
Countries represented at this year’s Food and Wine Festival include: Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia, Scotland and Spain. Austria did not return, however some of its menu items have been incorporated into the Germany section, including the amazing linzer torte. The two new countries, voted on by Facebook fans, are the Caribbean and the American Southwest.
During the Media Event, I had the opportunity to try the smorrebrod from Scandinavia, which is an open-faced roast beef sandwich on dark rye bread with horseradish and pickled red onions. Now, this sounds like something I would not normally like (mainly because of the horseradish and pickled red onions), however, it was very good and I plan to try it again ... just to make sure. I also had the ratatouille, a tomato stuffed with roasted vegetables and topped with parmesan bread crumbs with extra virgin olive oil, from France and liked that as well. I did not have time to try as many items as I would have liked, but I will be back and will post more photos and recommendations.
Based on last year, here are some of the items that I currently recommend: Spain’s venera con jamon, a scallop wrapped in ham with saffron rice and romesco sauce and Germany’s schinken nudel, schnitzelwich and the linzer torte (what can I say, I’m German at heart). I also very much enjoyed the pumpkin caramel mousse from Canada - if you’ve ever had pumpkin juice at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, it is a very similar, mousse-like version of that - and the Scottish toffee. All of these items are available this year. Also, cheese. Any cheese. If it's cheese, just eat it, it’s all delicious.
The items I’m most looking forward to trying at this year’s Food and Wine Festival are the Caribbean’s gamba fritters and frozen cocktails, the American Southwest’s chocolate lava cake - which has a spiced chocolate filling – France’s gazpacho con ceviche (a chilled tomato cucumber soup with citrus-marinated shrimp, scallop, ham and cucumber salad) and Canada’s macaroni and cheese with panmeal bacon. I have heard many wonderful things about that macaroni and cheese.
Be sure to pick up a booklet with all of the menu items. Everything is listed by country, and you can check off each item as you sample it. Check out last year’s Food and Wine Festival, including pictures of several returning items, by clicking right here.
Park guests have the option of purchasing a cashless wristband to make the purchase process quick and easy. Simply visit the Welcome Center or any ticket window and link your credit card or cash. Then, you can just scan the barcode at the food kiosk instead of having to dig for a wallet every time you want to make a purchase.
The park is also offering special food events such as the Food and Wine Insider Tour, Wine Tasting and a Wine on the Rhine River Cruise.
Wine Tasting Experiences
- Enchanted Wine Tasting – Located at German Gifts, guests get a fairytale welcome with selections such as A Charming Pinot, The Big Bad Red Blend, The Lost Slipper Sauvignon Blanc and The Fairest Chardonnay.
- Dessert Wine Tasting – In Oktoberfest Village, dessert wines include Lost Vineyards Spumante, Meadowsweet Grapefruit Rose, Washington Hills Late Harvest Riesling and Chocolate Shop Chocolate Strawberry.
- French Wine Tasting – Found at La Belle Maison, this fine French wine selection includes Caves de L’Angevine Ros D’Anjou, Charles de Fere Cuvee Jean-Louis Bland de Blancs Brut, Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Village and Louis Laurent Vouvray.
- Italian Wine Tasting – Located at Bella Casa, Italian wines include Barone Fini Pinot Grigio, Montepulcciano Zaccagnini, Moscato L’Armangia and Ricossa Casorzo Malvesia.
Wine selections may vary depending upon availability.
There are also specialty cocktails such as Italian limoncello, frozen concoctions from the Caribbean, Spanish pancho sangria and ouzo from Greece as well as German and Belgian beer flights with selections such as Stella Artois, Wittekerke, Spaten Optimator and Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company’s Schwartz Bier.
Don’t miss the Art of Food exhibitions. Chef James Parker, Chef Dean Murray and master ice carver Greg Butauski will be carving fruits and vegetables into all kinds of objects and designs in Ireland, France and Italy during the course of the event.
To learn more about Busch Gardens’ 2014 Food and Wine Festival, please visit BuschGardens.com/va.
Disclaimer: The Theme Park Examiner attended the Food and Wine Festival Media Event as part of Busch Gardens' Ambassador Blogger/Thrill Chaser's program. All opinion expressed herein are solely those of the author.