Food and Wine and Feelin' Fine
We recently spent the weekend at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and experienced their fifth annual Food and Wine Festival. And let me tell you- it did NOT disappoint! The creative booths that Busch Gardens set up for this festival mixed in with their award-winning landscaping so beautifully. We were definitely impressed! This is one of the greatest parks in the country in our opinion, but let’s be honest, anyone who knows us knows we’re a little biased when it comes to Disney World (see our About Us), and in our recent opinion there was no food festival that could ever beat Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. And while that still may be true, Busch Gardens definitely gave them a run for their money!
Speaking of money, this festival will not set you back quite as
far as Epcot’s festival. To be fair, there are only 16 booths, compared to Disney’s 30-something (at this point), but the prices per item are also on average a bit less expensive than
an Epcot booth. The park also offers these convenient sampler passes to help you try everything and get the most bang for your buck. They have two options: A $45 pass that will get you 10 food/beverage samplings, and a $60 pass that will get you 15 food/beverage samplings. We, of course,
opted for the 15 item pass, (and even considered getting two, which we realized later we did NOT need) and got to try something from every single booth!
We chose to make our way around the booths “in order” according to the handy Food and Wine Festival Event Guide, which you can pick up at any booth in the park. The booklet, unfortunately, does not offer any kind of stamps or stickers to mark which booths you’ve been to, but, it does have check boxes next to each item, so you can remember which things you’ve tried.
Our First stop was Virginia which just so happened to be Brittany’s favorite booth.
We tried the She-Crab soup and every single beer that they offered
(it was a flight, so that’s not as bad…right?). The soup was amazing! Honestly, you could serve it in a sit-down restaurant and charge $12+ for it and no one would complain. It was a crab-bisque with sherry, topped with a blue crab salad. My mouth and eyes are watering reminiscing about this amazing dish that I may have to wait an unknown amount of time to try again. All of the beers were great too, and they offered a Porter so Brittany was content.
Next was American Southwest which we will be the harshest critics on, considering this is where we live! We tried the margarita and the spicy pork taco. Both were okay considering they weren’t made in the delightful land of tex-mex, but when comparing to offerings in our home-area and even the other booths, they definitely didn’t stack up. A huge pro was the size
of the margarita and the cute glass it came in. Parker enjoyed the taco but he’s easier to please so we’re hesitant to let that increase it’s rating much. Overall this booth wasn’t our favorite,
but for anyone who has not been blessed with trying Southside San Antonio’s Mexican food, I think they’ll be okay with it.
Our third stop was Ireland and we thoroughly enjoyed this booth. We tried the Bangers with Colcannon and loved it! Brittany also got a Guinness, which may seem somewhat pointless when attending a festival designed to try new things, but the employee at the kiosk assured us it would be the best Guinness we’d ever had (it always is.) The bangers (aka Irish sausage) were topped with a Guinness brown sugar gravy, YUM, and served with a side of mashed potatoes and cabbage. Parker loved this dish so much he wanted to get a second one, but he had to be reminded we were on booth 3 of 16, and these samplings were NOT small.
After Ireland we hit up Hawaii, Crepes and Coffee, and French Quarter, all three of which we were really looking forward to. Brittany loved the Blue Hawaiian drink and Parker loved the Hull Hull Chicken in Hawaii. The Hull Hull Chicken was a sweet pineapple and soy BBQ chicken (literally all words Parker loves) served with a side of orange and purple sweet potato salad.
Crepes and Coffee was surprisingly enjoyable. Although we didn’t try any of the coffee, since it was just Starbucks, we did try the Choco-noisette et Banana Crepe. We may not have been able to pronounce it, but we definitely inhaled it.
It was basically a Nutella and Banana crepe,
but they made it fancy and gooey and delicious!
French Quarter offered some authentic classics such as Chicken and Andouille Gumbo,
a Muffaletta, and Beignets. Sadly, we only tried the Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager here
due to a dietary restriction, aka we both HATE olives and they wouldn’t make us a
muffaletta without them. Bleh.
Canada was probably Parker’s favorite booth of the entire festival. They had mac and cheese, so it was an obvious win. We tried the Cheddar and Lager Chowder and the Mac and Cheese with Peameal Bacon. The Mac and Cheese was awesome, but the chowder was not our favorite, which was disappointing considering the cheese soup in Epcot’s Canada booth is always a top 5 item for us! We also ordered a Bold Rock Pear Cider, though, which made Parker happy since he is the Cider King!
After Canada we made a quick stop to ride Alpengeist on the way to the Caribbean, which proved to be not such a good idea considering all of the food/alcohol we had consumed at this point. But, we pushed on and decided to eat through the pain. The Caribbean offered some delicious Gamba Fritters, aka fried shrimp dumplings, with a pickapeppa dipping sauce.
We ate those on the way to India where we got
to watch one of the Chef Demos that the festival offered.
It was really neat to see a guest chef prepare
a dish right in front of us and explain in depth
what they were doing and how they were doing
it. We happened to catch Chef K making a
Spciy Potato Curry, which is one of the items they offer at the India booth, so we not only got
to watch the demonstration, but also sample an
item and check it off our list!
After India we ran to Germany, (yes we actually ran, we lost track of time and were only about 30 minutes from park closing at this point), which ended up being a bit of a disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, the items sounded amazing, but I guess since it was so close to park closing, they were out of a few things. They were actually out of all of the food besides the curry-wurst, which we decided was too similar to what we had just eaten, so we settled on a German beer and moved on.
Around the corner from Germany was a booth called Island Freeze. It was similar to a Fat Tuesday-type of place with a wall of frozen cocktails. It was awesome!
We got a souvenir food and wine cup, which comes with the drink purchase, and we tried the Shark Bite! If you’re not a fan of Shark Bites though, there are 7 other frozen concoctions to choose from which included a Rum Rummer, Piña Colada, Strawberry Daiquiri, and more.
We wish we could have tried more here but we were really starting to feel the pressure of getting through all
of the remaining booths at this point!
The last four stops were kind of a blur, partially because we ran through them, partially because of the alcohol. We stopped at Italy, Spain, Asia, and Mediterranean. We tried something at all four, but there was a lot of walking and eating and less sitting and enjoying. The Italy booth only offered desserts, which in the moment worked since we were so full, but looking back is kind of disappointing considering how many amazing Italian dishes they could have prepared. Still, we tried the cannoli trio, which featured three uniquely sweet and satisfying treats, so all is forgiven.
Next was Spain where we grabbed the Venera con Jamon! Brittany loved this dish. It was a seared scallop wrapped in cured ham served with saffron rice, so good! Parker was not a fan, but it just meant less to share and more time for him to enjoy a night ride on Apollo’s Chariot (despite being 10 mins from park closing and Brittany having a panic attack about not finishing). In Asia we relied on the recommendation of the employee, which was an awesome decision. We had the “Mushi-Gyoza” which is just an intimidating way of saying chicken dumplings, haha.
And the very last stop- Mediterranean.
We literally walked up to the register at 8:59 PM and ordered our last item.
Sure, the staff may have hated us for ordering 1 minute before closing, but did we care?
NO! Because alcohol! Actually, the staff was really nice and joked around with us,
so it was okay. We had the lamb burger and rejoiced in our accomplishment as we walked
out of the park!
Overall, the festival was a total win and it was probably one of our favorite moments in any theme park ever. It’s just such a cool environment, and you can tell the park really spent a lot of time and effort in working on the aesthetics of their booths, developing great flavor combinations for their food samplings, and offering a wide variety of tasty and unique drinks.
Busch Gardens food and wine festival runs through July 2nd, 2017 if you can catch it this year. But, if not, don’t worry, we have a good feeling this festival will be around for quite some time :)
Parker and Brittany Ruhmel- Lovers of all things food and theme park related!