Today Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival officially opened. This event is held throughout the park and features samplings of food dishes, wines and specialty beers from thirteen kiosks. The event also has cooking demonstrations from local Chef Virginia Willis, as well as other fun events such as Grape Smashers, a interactive Grape Stomping show. The event runs weekends from 11:30am till 1 hour prior to park closing.
Today I arrived at the park well before the opening to get a few photos. I picked up a “Your Guide to the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival 2013″ book and headed into the park. Remember to bring a pen to check off when you try a dish and to take notes in your book!
Busch Gardens is offering a wristband system of payment as well as cash and credit cards. I tried out the wristband but was told when I picked it up at Bella Casa that they would go on sale at 11:30 when the event started. I was told that as of now this was the plan but could change later. If you use a credit card you are charged $50 to start with, then if you use that up it will automatically charge again $50. At midnight the wristbands are de activated and any remaining amount on the wristband is refunded to your credit card. Also for Passholders, you must show your pass for each transaction, it is not tied to the wristband in any way. The wristbands are offered at the following locations…
Food & Wine Festival Welcome Center
Castle O’ Sullivan
I did not try any of the foods this morning as we will be going back this evening to work our way through as much as we can eat. From opening at 11:30 till around 1pm the booths had hardly anyone trying dishes. This is likely because of the large number of school groups at the park today. I was hoping to get to see more of the preparation but there wasn’t much activity at any of the booths with the exception of Crepes & Coffee. Here there was only a couple guests in line but what did surprise me was that the Crepes were prepackaged and frozen. There was also only one Discus Crepe Machine in the booth and that was being used to thaw the product not cook it. That was very disappointing as I really expected to have fresh made product at all the booths. This also makes me wonder how much is pre packaged product in use at other booths.
Other than that the event looks like it will be a success, and as with all Busch Gardens events it takes a couple weeks to get all the kinks worked out. One thing they do need to add is more High Top Tables, there are very few places to sit your samplings as you try them. There are a few High Tops and some tables but tables with chairs are not great at this type of event. Most today were taken up by park guests just taking a break, not sampling food. At one point I saw Carl Lum, park President eating off a trash can lid near the Scotland booth.
Evening Update….Upon returning to Busch Gardens around 6pm there were still hardly any one at the various booths. We first stopped at Scotland for a Scottish egg and walked right up with no wait. Our second stop was Greece which had about 6 people waiting which was a good sign….except they were all waiting for the Griddle Cheese. They were moving very slow and we waited about 10 minutes for them to prepare our order. From then on there was never any wait with the exception of the Crepes & Coffee which we skipped tonight, we need to save some for tomorrow, right?
Venison Sausage & Corn Porridge – Canada – $5.00
Overall this dish was very good and my best savory choice of the night. The sausage was cooked just right, caramelized onions were flavorful and the polenta was good.
Pumpkin Caramel Mousse – Canada – $2.00
This “Crème Brulee- Style” dish was nothing what I expected. It was a cold mousse that was almost frozen with a great pumpkin flavor topped with caramel. The caramel to me tasted like maple syrup but this was a good dish.
Paprikash – Austria – $4.00
This savory dish had a decent amount of flavor, chicken was tender but not overcooked, and it was topped with sour cream which really pulled everything together. Very good!
Schinken Nudel – Germany – $3.00
This Noodle bake to me tasted just like chicken soup. It was tender and full of flavor with the ham and cheese adding just the right amount of texture to make this dish great.
German Carrot Cake – Germany – $3.00 Note: this replaced the Griesspudding in the Festival Guide
This was my overall winner for the sweet category. This dense Carrot Cake covered with berry compote was sweet but not too sweet. I could have had two of these!
Venera con Jamon – Spain – $7.00
This dish was on the higher priced side but overall was good. The scallop wrapped in bacon was very tender and full of flavor. The sauce it was paired with to me tasted like it should have been on a pizza. The rice was cooked well but had limited flavor. I expected to taste some heat in this dish, yet there was none. Over all good.
Souvlaki Tzatziki – Greece – $5.00
This skewer was not a winner for me. The meat was dry and lacked flavor, and it was paired with greens of no flavor. The sauce was good but did not help overall. I just had the impression this was prepared much earlier in the day and had been kept in a hot box too long.
Halloumi – Greece – $4.00
This griddled cheese was a winner. Grilled just right to bring out the flavors of the cheese and paired with a small piece of toasted bread drizzled with honey.
Scottish Egg – Scotland – $4.00
This half of a sausage wrapped breaded egg was very good. The sauce was slightly spicy and had a great flavor profile.
Finally we have the “Grape Smashes”. I thought this was going to be a demonstration on how grapes were stomped to make wine. However this was a very short “Game Show” which pitted 4 pre selected park guests to “stomp” grapes against each other and see who could fill a carafe first. This was all a show and was not what I expected for the Food and Wine Festival.
That about wraps up day one of the Busch Gardens Va Food & Wine Festival. Please leave any questions or comments below……Bon Appétit