How can you make America’s most beautiful park even more beautiful and fun? Add The Food & Wine event! Busch Gardens true to their nature doesn’t just plop out little carts and boring kiosks for their Food & Wine event, they go an additional step and design beautiful structures themed to the area they are showcasing. This includes music and sometimes even smells. From cork to fork there are over 70 wonderful tastes and samples to try. Don’t worry about it going from lips to hips, with all the walking you do from one kiosk to another, you’re just refueling. This event is so much fun we travel over 600 miles round trip. Busch Gardens is worth every mile.
The food first off is of high quality. Much of it is local, all the fish used is sustainable. They smoke their own meats, bake their own desserts and breads, and have a near legendary saucier (sosje)taking care of the sauces. (all homemade). The menu is thought over for a long period of time to decide what will be added each year. Executive Chef Justin has said he can sometimes have too many ideas and eventually scales them down. This year fans selected the two new kiosks Virginia Local and Hawaii. The Hawaiian theme got park employees excited for the possibilities of design elements, and it did not disappoint.
New kiosks replaced the least popular ones from the previous year. So no Scandinavia (oh little meatballs) or Scotland (Scottish Egg will be missed, but at least Thanks to Justin, I know how it’s made-shush it’s a multi-step process which involves both deep frying and refrigeration).This maybe the last year for new kiosks for a little while. But one can’t be sure until the season concludes.
This year we were treated to trying everything in the new kiosks. Plus given Sampler tickets. A sampler will give you 10 samples of entrees or dessert (not beverages) for $35. You can also get a deluxe sampler for $50 which includes 15 samples. This picture shows 10 samples, we each had 5 which had you satisfied without being too full.
Root Vegetable Chips with Maui Onion Dip- Sweet Potato, Taro Root and Beet Root, made into chips with a caramelized sweet onion dip (vegetarian)
Spam Slider-Spam with Sriracha Mayo, grilled pineapple and pineapple-coconut Cole slaw
Huli Huli Chicken- Sweet Pineapple and Soy BBQ Chicken served with Orange and Purple sweet potato salad
Tuna Poke- Soy & Sesame Sushi tuna served in a wonton flower with wasabi aioli, wakame seaweed salad
Haupi Tart- Sweet coconut mousse with Kona coffee ganache in a crispy tart shell
Drinks :consist of two types of beer, a Blue Hawaiian and a Hibiscus Lemonade
Hawaii was fantastic!! Noah, our resident “picky eater’ who eats like 5 things did try the spam Slider, he liked it! He loved the hibiscus lemonade.
Virginia replaced the Scotland kiosk, in the Highland Stables area.
Local Virginia Menu
Pork Rinds with Virginia dips- Deviled ham pate, smoked bacon onion dip, Pimento cheese dip.
She-Crab Soup- a Virginian favorite, creamy crab soup made with Chesapeake bay crabs, sherry, and crostini instead of croutons.
Smithfield Ham tasting- Red Eye Country Ham, Hickory Smoked Pit Ham, Applewood carved ham; served with biscuit, apple butter, raspberry jam and honey mustard
Bacon & Cheddar hush puppies-cornmeal fritters with Virginia honey butter(may be magical)
Pecan, Bacon & Chocolate Bars
Beverages: 4 kinds of Beer, 4 types of Wine and Apple Pie Moonshine
Everything at the new Kiosks, like everything we have tried has been amazing. If I had to pick a favorite at each I would recommend the Spam Slider in Hawaii and Hibiscus Lemonade, and the Pecan Chocolate bacon bars from Virginia for dessert. I also realized I am a huge fan of pimento spread, really loved the Virginia dips. The She-Crab soup was one of the best I ever had, only rivaled by a place on the Eastern shore of Virginia that has perfected it over the past 15 years, it was that good.
Noah's favorite was the Hibiscus Lemonade
However, that is always there at Fest Haus, & now the Marco Polo Marketplace (different review)
This year’s Kiosks
· American South West
· Crepes & Coffee
· France (adding Beignets- French doughnuts)
· French Quarter
· Germany (swapped out the linzer torte for a German Chocolate cake)
· Italy (no more Italian bites)
· Spain (no more dessert)
Our Favorites (everything!)
This year tried the chicken mole,(American South West) also repeated some of our favs the Jamaican Jerk chicken, Gamba fritters from the Caribbean, the Venison and Polenta in Canada (eh!) Joe loves the beef peppercorn crusted with brandy cream sauce in France. I like the Muffaletta in French quarter, Empanadas in Spain, scallop bacon wrapped ...um everything, it all was delicious.
SPAIN: Scallop and Bacon, with a little rice.
Samples are generous portions for being a sample, I highly recommend the sampler ticket. 10 will get you through the day, 5 samples can fill u up. It’s nice to have it prepaid and then you just scan it where ever you go, no need to dig for money. If you don’t use all your samples during the weekend, they can be used anytime during the event (all month long).
Seriously our Favorites
Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Guava BBQ sauce
EASIEST WITHOUT A TABLE
The Gamba Fritters in the Caribbean or the Empanadas in Spain
Couldn't pick one, these have stolen our tastebuds, The New dessert in Virginia and the Bananas Fosters in France.
SO GOOD WE WENT BACK A SECOND TIME
The Venison Sausage in Canada, and the New Spam Slider in Hawaii. I also ate my Dad & Ginger's Tuna Poke's since they aren't sushi fans. So very fresh, wasabi aoli was perfectly balanced.
Here are a few tips to make your time at the Food & Wine even the most fun, and maximize your food time if you are only going for a day. This is our third event, the first one we missed by a day (however I did get to sample one thing that opened early ) This year I went to all 3 days of opening weekend, by day 3 Joe and Noah were done, but not I. I had a sampler ticket to use, Tupperware, a backpack and a can-do attitude! The people of BG were both impressed and helpful with my exploits. Some of them even packed my food for me. Gosh I love this place.
* Look at the kiosks on the website beforehand, try to narrow down where you want to go (in case of only having a day) if you have all weekend, well then just get your stomach ready.
It will have descriptions, a map and even more tips.
*Consider the Sampler or Deluxe Sampler for a good value, or the cashless wristbands. We used them last year I linked a credit card, which closed out at the end of the day. You can also just prepay in cash. I was able to also use this for regular dining, as well, not just the Food & Wine. It was really convenient and I kept to my budget. The bands can be found at the Welcome Center before you enter, England at Guest Services, Castle O Sullivan (back of Ireland) and three other locations in the park (Griffon Gifts in France, Marketplace in Germany and Bella Casa in Italy)
*Stash a couple of cheapo Ziploc type Tupperware in your bag or sandwich bags, if you want to take some food out to enjoy later. Better if you have an insulated type. I was in the park for 2 hours the day I gathered food, it was still warm, not spoiled when I returned.
Enjoy yourself! Take in the ambiance, catch the art of food displays or the Ice sculpting it’s a cool show. (pun intended)
The Festival lasts from May 27 - June 26 and is on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. (Plus was open Memorial Day). Kiosks open at 11 am. and serve all day.
Related- Last Year’s Review
What kind of Thrill Seeker are you ?
Tell Next time!
But if you can't wait, here is a video montage of photos of a walkthrough America's most beautiful park