Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2018
Every year during the summer one of my favorite events is at Busch Gardens Williamsburg- the Food and Wine Festival. And while I don’t participate in the wine portion I am always happy to help out with the food part! This year Joel and I headed up the park on the first day to try everything for you. The Festival is on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through July 1st.
If you want to head to the park yourself don’t forget to use your Busch Gardens Williamsburg Coupons!
They set up these beautiful kiosks through the park so you shouldn’t miss any of the countries. You can also grab one of the guides (they are EVERYWHERE) and it will show you the locations on a park map.
I do want to point out one discovery we made. The park has a Food and Beverage Sampler- you pay a flat fee and get 10 dishes and/or beverages. To try all the new food this year (there is a lot of new food this year), we used three sampler pass. Because I’m media, we were given two sampler passes, and then I purchased another one. IF YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DRINK ALCOHOL, DO NOT BUY IT. We lost money on it. It’s $53 with tax and not one dish we got was over $5. I am hoping at some point they will do a pass that doesn’t include the drinks but for the future. If not, we will just buy our dishes in the future.
The New Dishes
Dolmades– Rice and herb stuffed grape leaves with Tzatziki sauce.
Laura’s notes: This dish was WONDERFUL. My biggest complaint about the festival last year was that it is very hot outside and all the new food was hot. It was miserable. The grape leaves are nice and cool and they give you enough Tzatziki sauce for five leaves so you can be generous when you dip. I highly recommend!
Joel’s notes: Fresh, cool, flavorful. I’ve not had stuffed grape leaves much in the past, but was very pleasantly surprised by this dish. Perfect on warm days, as it’s kept very chilled. I’m a big fan of tzatziki sauce, and they are indeed very generous with it; however, even without the sauce, the stuffed grape leaves stand very well on their own.
Lettuce Wrap (this isn’t new)– Vegetables and tofu wrapped in tender butter lettuce with toasted almonds and sweet chili dipping sauce.
Laura’s notes: This used to be in the “Asian” booth so they used the same recipe for Japan this year. This is okay but nothing overwhelming. Reading the description, however, I see I was supposed to get a dipping sauce and I didn’t. That might have changed things.
Mushi-Gyoza (this isn’t new)- Japanese-style steamed chicken dumplings with citrus ponzu sauce. Every year I tell you to get these dumplings. LISTEN TO ME. The ponzu sauce is magic.
California Roll- Sushi roll filled with crab surimi, avocado and cucumber served with pickled ginger and wasabi.
Joel’s Notes: My love for sushi nears inappropriate levels, with the staff of my favorite all-you-can-eat sushi place having my sushi and beer order almost memorized. Seriously, I should own stock in that place. All this to say: I sort of know my sushi. The California roll now being offered in the new Japan kiosk is very approachable, even if you aren’t a sushi-holic like me. It’s nicely chilled, and the ingredients tasted very fresh. Crab surimi is actually imitation crab made out of cooked fish, so there’s nothing raw in this roll. The rice is sweeter than most sushi rice I’ve had. I’m fairly certain there’s been some additional sugar added, perhaps a little too much. This might also be just a matter of taste though. The only other complaint I had, which you should be able to see in the photo of the food, is that the pieces didn’t really keep their shape. Obviously, that doesn’t affect the taste; however, the presentation is very important with sushi. Overall, I recommend this dish, even if you haven’t taken your first steps into the wonderful world of sushi. Fun note: Busch Gardens actually brought in a sushi chef to prepare all the rolls for this kiosk. You should be able to find the chef working at one of the live demo booths from time to time. The pieces he makes there are actual pieces that will be served at the kiosk.
Soba Noodle Bowl- Dashi brother with pickled vegetables, green onions, edamame, egg and shitake mushrooms.
Laura’s Notes: This was SO GOOD. And it was also a very generous portion. The broth had a great taste. If you just remove the egg this becomes vegan.
Joel’s Notes: Yum. Having lived in Japan for a few years and enjoying many a bowl of delicious soba while there, this dish didn’t quite bring back nostalgic memories of those bowls long past, but it stands deliciously on its own. The depth of flavor this dish provides is impressive. Every ingredient works well together and offers a little different experience depending on what you end up with on your spoon. The noodles are nicely cooked, which is an impressive feat considering how much of them they have to cook and then serve over a period of time. I definitely recommend this dish.
Joel’s Notes: Bubble tea is something I’ve always wanted to try and this did not disappoint. Cold, smooth, and sweet, this drink is very refreshing. I enjoyed that the taste of the tea was still able to work through the sweetness of the drink. The bubbles, which are tapioca balls filled with a sweet fruit flavor (I was told by someone at the park that it may have been pomegranate), add some fun and an additional kick of sweetness when you pop them in your mouth. Because of the ice, it was difficult to get to all these delicious bubbles. Later, I ended up dumping them into a soda, which added a nice treat to the finish of that drink as well.
Beef Bulgogi- Grilled Korean-style marinated beef skewer
Joel’s Notes: I was introduced to bulgogi years ago by a Korean woman who went to my church. She would give me bags of it to keep in my freezer. She was lovely, and so was her bulgogi. The bulgogi at Busch Gardens definitely hits the spot. Smokey and sweet, it’s a very enjoyable dish. Serving it on a skewer allows for easy eating, where often bulgogi is served with bones still attached to the meat. I think this is a dish that everyone can easily enjoy. It’s worth stepping off the beaten path into Festa Italia to enjoy this carnivorous treat.
Kimchi Samplers- Cabbage, cucumber and daikon radish varieties. This kiosk is hidden in Festa Italy so if you want to try the food be sure to look it up on the map! It’s near the spinning cup ride.
Laura’s Notes: This was completely gross to me. I ate one bite of each and moved on.
Joel’s Notes: Kimchi has never been something I’ve really enjoyed. I think the last time I had it was on a flight from Japan to the United States in the early 2000’s. This dish definitely reminded me of that in-flight meal. There are a lot of sharp flavors here, mainly garlic and vinegar, that sort of overpower the main ingredients of the kimchi. I think kimchi is a bit of an acquired taste. It’s a very traditional Korean dish, so it totally makes sense to have at the South Korea kiosk. Unless you’re a kimchi fan or just dying to try it, I wouldn’t recommend buying.
Korean BBQ Pork Ribs- Spicy chili BBQ glazed ribs served over Gochujang slaw
Joel’s Notes: If you like ribs, you’ll like this. I didn’t really pick up on the spice of the chili. The ribs are somewhat lightly sauced, which is how I prefer them (I actually don’t use sauce when I cook ribs), so maybe that’s why the spice didn’t really shine through. The meat is very tender. They have a nice char and smokiness from the grill.
Barley Tea- It was bland and didn’t really have a taste. Both of us took one sip and moved on.
Cuban Sandwich– Roasted pork with ham, dill pickle and yellow mustard pressed into cuban bread. Comes with plantain chips.
Joel’s Notes: I’ve had Cuban sandwiches that should not be called Cubans. This sandwich; however, did not disappoint. You get a generous portion of meat, the mustard isn’t overpowering, and the bread is thin and crispy. The plantain chips are delicious. I definitely recommend.
Ropa Vieja– Shredded beef in criollo sauce served over black beans and rice
Joel’s Notes: This dish was a miss for me. It reminded me of a something that was regularly served for dinner when I was a kid and I didn’t like. I’m fairly certain that the sauce used for those childhood dinners came out of a jar. I could hardly eat it then; and after one bite of this dish, I pushed it to the side. That said, it’s possible others may enjoy it. The rice and beans were fairly standard fare. Perhaps better seasoned with pieces of beef or pork, it could have stood as its own dish and been very enjoyable.
Tostones– Fried green plantains served in mojo mayo.
Laura’s Notes: THAT MAYO. Get these just for the mayo. I dipped most of the plantain chips from the Cuban Sandwich in this mayo. MAGIC.
Joel’s Notes: Ditto to what Laura said about the mayo. I highly recommend dipping both the plantain chips and the tostones in it. The mayo is cool, refreshing, but also has this little bit of heat that sneaks up on you a bit. The tostones themselves were nice and crispy on the outside and deliciously soft on the inside.
Flan– This was good but it was just flan.
Churrasco– Grilled beef with chimichurri sauce.
Joel’s Notes: All the yesses. There’s just something about good grilled meat that makes me smile. This dish did that for me. The meat was cooked to a beautiful medium-rare. The chimichurri sauce added a fresh pop of flavor. Highly recommend.
Abacaxi– Grilled pineapple with coconut caramel sauce
Laura’s Notes: This was okay. The pineapple was on the same grill as the meat so I got some of the meat flavoring on it. I thought the toasted coconut was kind of weird and changed the texture. I would have been good with just the caramel sauce. With the other desserts in the place, I would probably skip this.
Joel’s Notes: I think the grilled pineapple was great, but the toasted coconut in the caramel sauce was a bit too much. The textures and flavors sort of fight against each other rather than complement each other. I agree with Laura in that there are definitely better choices for desserts throughout the park (see the molton lava cake below).
Linguiça– Brazilian sausage served with grilled portabellas and peppers
Joel’s Notes: This was pretty good. The sausage is mild. The skin of the sausage has a nice bite to it. The grilled peppers were a little overdone. Worth getting if you really like sausage or are trying everything from this kiosk. However, if you’re trying to decide whether to get the linguiça or the churrasco, get the churrasco.
Brazilian Lemonade– LOVED LOVED LOVED THIS. This was the only thing we got TWICE. We each grabbed one on the way out of the park.
Lamb Kofta- Spiced ground lamb on a stick with cilantro lime yogurt sauce
Joel’s Notes: Meh. It’s lamb on a stick. This was a miss. They were hoping to duplicate the success of the lamb burger (which I do recommend), but without having anything else to compliment the lamb, the meat just presents itself as somewhat dry and very overseasoned. If you like lamb, I’d recommend sticking to the lamb burger.
Hawaiian Mac and Cheese– Ham and pineapple mac & cheese with macadamia nut crust.
Laura’s Notes: This was kept in the menu so that people can grab it for their kids. You can’t taste the pineapple or the ham. It’s basically just a good mac and cheese
Some Old Favorites
Joel caught this picture of me eating the Pineapple Upside-down Cake in the Caribbean booth. I have dreams about this dish all year long. It’s my favorite dish at the entire Food and Wine Festival. I wouldn’t even share it with him.
I can’t imagine being able to eat the whole thing but this Chocolate Lava Cake in the Southwest Kiosk is ridiculously good. At the bottom of the cake, you get a little ancho-spiced kick!
I love watching Joel eat this Ghost Pepper Guacamole at the American Southwest kiosk. His eyes get really big and then they water. It’s VERY spicy and there is a reason on the sign there is a little red pepper.
For some reason, we always end with this Irish Cheese Sampling in Ireland. The three different kinds of cheese, apple-raisin chutney, and cream crackers are amazing and put a nice, salty end to the day.