Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food & Wine Festival 2017

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food & Wine 2017. Its the most delicious time of the year where you can eat and drink your way around the park. You can also take a short cruise down the Rhine River, while delighting in some jazz music and savoring some fancy cheese and chocolate.  The park goes all out for this event with additional decorations, country flags, lights and informational boards giving interesting tid bits from the countries represented. Truly a feast for the eyes and you can fill up on knowledge.

This will mark the 5th annual Food & Wine Festival for Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. Food and Wine began in 2013 and is extended this year for the first time running from May 26-July 2. I have personally enjoyed this event for 4 out of the past 5 years. The quality of the food is amazing. Every year there are typically 2 new kiosks to replace lesser performing ones. This year however we are only losing one, and gaining 2 new ones.  But I have it under good authority they are reaching capacity on kiosks.

What is New.

The Greece Kiosk is a revamp, as Mediterranean to cover mover of the regions food. So you will find a few familiar Greece dishes and 2 new dishes. Some additional changes on the rest of the countries menus did happen but not too many.  The American Southwest kiosk moved to Scotland outside Loch Ness because of InvadR and has a ghost pepper guacamole replacing the Chicken adobo with mole sauce. The dips were removed from Hawaii and Virginia but otherwise the rest of the menu is the same. No France this year either (bye yummy Steak with Brandy sauce). However the French Quarter is still serving up that delicious Muffaletta Sandwich and Bananas Foster Cheesecake.

The new kiosks are India (in Oktoberfest near Dark Castle) and Island Freeze a frozen drink stand near the Mach Tower. Island Freeze is serving a variety of frozen drinks including Rum Runner, Frozen Mojito, Pina Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri and a Frozen Bellini as well as a few others. You can even get a drink in a festive Pineapple, which is a symbol of prosperity here in Williamsburg. India is serving Chicken Tandoori, (a tandoori is a type of oven, so its oven roasted chicken with Garam Masala spices and yogurt); Samosas (pastry with lentils, potatoes, peas in a curry sauce), Potato Curry and Mango Burfi (Mango and Coconut Snowballs) for dessert.

                          Extra Whimsy for Indian Kiosk just outside Dark Castle in Oktoberfest

Also this year there are 6 vegan dishes. (Spain, Asia, Mediterranean, India, and American Southwest). Vegan dishes are noted with a green leaf on the kiosk menus.

                                                 Vegan Lettuce Wrap in Asia

As far as the Wine part goes there are French Wine tastings, Niagara Region, German, Argentina(near Fest Haus), and Italian, as well as a Scotch tasting in Scotland.

NEW Feature Event Pairings of Note
 (additional charge)

Another new feature for 2017 is the Pairings of Note held in the back of Ireland at Castle O’Sullivan. Wine ambassadors will offer up 6 delicious samples of different wines with different foods. (e.g. Pinot Noir and Mushroom Ravioli, Cabernet Sauvignon and pepper crusted Roast Beef).There is a live band playing in this known dinner theater atmosphere.  This event is just over an hour.

Previous years have had different entertainment in the form of Chef demos, but this year they will be making some of the food from the festival in kiosks about every hour to hour and half. You will also get to try bite size samples for free.

I will be adding to this article again after another visit. We attended the Media Event June 2 and still have to see the chef demos in action as well as try a few more delicious items. Every year we make a list of the Best Of, so that may not be fully complete until another visit.

  • No additional Ticket, part of your admission. Buy what you want
  • All normal attractions are running (minus Europe in the Air, now defunct and being replaced in 2018)
  • Tastings range from $2-$3 for desserts and about $4-$5 for entrées, a few are more.
  • To make your day a bit easier, you can purchase cashless wristbands.
  • Wristbands are available in several areas of the park, 2 different spots before you even get to food (Booth before the turnstiles and guest relations after you enter), plus several other locations in the park.
  • Food & Wine is Friday, Saturdays and Sundays from May 26-July 2. 
  • Kiosks open around 11 am and serve until park close.
  • Chef Demos run once and hour in Germany, Oktoberfest, Italy, Ireland but feature food from other kiosks such as Potato curry from India, Ham pate from Virginia and Lettuce wraps from Asia
  • Sampler Tickets allow you a preset amount of samples for one price and include most beer and wine at the kiosk. (a few are not included and are marked). You can get 10 for $45 or 15 for $60. As part of the media event we were given the standard sampler. 10 is a good amount for 2 people to share as far as food goes for the day. If you're making a weekend of it you may wish to purchase more than one, and if you are drinking as well, you should consider the upgrade.
  • Wine Tasting Trio allows you 3 different wine kiosk experiences for just over $30.

Here are Kiosks of the Countries & regions represented

  • ·         American Southwest (moved to Scotland near Loch Ness Monster)
  • ·         Asia
  • ·         Canada
  • ·         Caribbean
  • ·         Coffee & Crêpes (part of France all year, but with different options for F&W)
  • ·         French Quarter
  • ·         Germany
  • ·         Greece/ Mediterranean NEW but in same location few changes
  • ·         Hawaii
  • ·         India (NEW)
  • ·         Ireland
  • ·         Italy
  • ·         Island Freeze Drinks (NEW)
  • ·         Spain
  • ·         Virginia

Favorite Samples

Favorite Dish : It truly is too hard to choose. My husband and Dad always get the Ham sampler in Virginia no matter how many times we go, and the Venison Sausage with Polenta from Canada is still a reigning champ.In fact the Canada Kiosk is our favorite, we walked over to it through a thunderstorm and waited for them to serve again.

This is why I have a list below rather than just one.

Best SandwichSpam Slider from Hawaii - Fried Spam and Sriracha Mayo with a grilled pineapple on a slider bun. Served with tropical pineapple coconut Cole slaw. Nice portion. Noah the fussy eater even ate this sandwich.

Easiest to Eat while walking in the ParkBacon & Cheddar Hush Puppies from Virginia & Gamba Fritters from Caribbean. Both are good food on the go! You can walk and eat these if you like. No muss or fuss.

Bacon & Cheddar Hush Puppies- Really these need to get on the regular menu (perhaps at Trappers, I need to talk to someone ). These are cornmeal fritters with locally made honey butter.

Gamba Fritters -Fried shrimp dumpling with pickapea dip.

German Chocolate Cake- In Germany, this cake is in a cup. The coconut is fresh and its the best version of a German Chocolate Cake that I have ever had.

                                             Gamba Fritters Caribbean

                                      Hush Puppies (don't miss out on the local butter, yum!)

                                                          German Chocolate Cake

Best Value :  Jamaican Jerk Chicken in Caribbean and Smithfield Ham tasting in Virginia.
Both are terrific portions to help fill you up or even share with someone.

The Jamaican Jerk is served as 2 drumsticks seasoned with jerk spices, guava barbecue sauce and a grilled pineapple salsa. 

The Smithfield Ham tasting has 3 types of ham with matching dips and a biscuit. (Red Eye Country Ham, Applewood Carved and Ham Pate). You can sample with Apple Butter, Whole Grain Mustard and Honey Mustard. The biscuit is excellent.

                                                    Jamaican Jerk Chicken

                                                            Smithfield Ham Tasting 

Best Vegetarian dish: Tuna Poke Hawaii - Sushi Tuna with soy and sesame in a beautiful wonton flower and dressed with a wasabi aioli. Wakame Seaweed salad served on the side. Not too salty, very tender.

Carnivore’s Delight Venison Sausage in Canada & Lamb Burger Slider in Mediterranean

The Venison Sausage is wood fired and served with a creamy polenta that is cooked in an apple cider and caramelized onions. Smoky and a little sweet. Nice portion.

The Lamb burger is new this year.  It is properly seasoned and cooked (not gamy at all) served on pita bread with a Feta cheese spread, cucumbers, tomato and an olive. It is a very meaty portion. I had to eat the slider in 2 sections. 
                                                             Venison Sausage

                                                                 Lamb Slider

Best Vegan Dish : Lettuce Wrap in Asia

Sweet Tooth Lovers : Chocolate pecan bars of Virginia...they are Fantastic!  And they have heavy competition with the Pumpkin Mousse with Real Maple Syrup in Canada, and Ireland's Guiness Mousse.

Whether you love the food, wine, or atmosphere, you can have a great time at the event. Personally I prefer to go when its just a tad rainy. No crowds and they will still serve food as long as their is no lightening near by. (even if there is they resume once the storm has passed).  The weather is cooler to enjoy more of the sweets. If you are there in the heat be sure to get complimentary water as often as possible. 

Below is a video of most of the park to the theme music from Europe in the Air (which is now defunct, but its memories will live on!) It is a walk through photo montage from entrance and going counter clockwise-going right towards Ireland first around in a circle. Finishing with a trip around the train. All seasons. Enjoy!

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