Friday, May 22 marked the beginning of the 2015 Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food & Wine Festival. Now in its third year, the festival will run weekends (Friday-Sunday) until June 28. Although admission to the festival is free with park admission, tastings are individually priced and range from $3-$7. Experiences (Wine/Scotch tastings and Wine on the Rhine) are an additional cost as well. I had the pleasure of attending the media event for the festival, which included a preview of two the their newest additions: scotch tasting (Scotland) and a sampling of Asia’s menu.
Scotch Tasting (Tweedside Gifts)
The scotch tasting featured three different varieties (all 12 year), including, Highland Park, The Macallan and Glenmorangie Lasanta. I do not drink alcohol, so I asked my fellow attendees their opinions. Everyone had a different response as to their favorite and how each one tasted. I came to the conclusion that much like beauty, scotch tastings are in the taste bud of the taster. As I am not well versed in alcoholic drinks, I would recommend that if you are interested in trying the tastings, go for it. It was very well done, and would be enjoyable to those who are interested in trying scotch for the first time or if you are long-time fan. Our server and host Paul shared information on the history of scotch and explained why droplets of water were added before the tasting to help release the tightly wound amino acids, resulting in more flavor and aromas. (It can be done with or without water).
The Asian kiosk tasting featured: Báhn Mi, lettuce wrap, Mushi-Gyoza, Ginger-Lemongrass custard and Thai tea. We were greeted by Busch Gardens Williamsburg Executive Chef, Justin Watson, who explained how the menu evolved from last year’s public testing at Pass Member appreciation day. The Bahn Mi initially featured a noodle salad, but later became a cole slaw with all vegetables and no rice noodles. He also shared how the public’s feedback shaped the rest of this year’s menu with additions, removals and tweaks done to improve the overall offerings of the festival.
Báhn Mi – A Vietnamese-style sandwich with shredded pork seasoned with a soy-based Asian-style barbecue sauce served on a fresh baguette made in the bakery. Served with nuoc maw (fish sauce) cole slaw with lime juice, shitake mushrooms and cucumbers.
This was delicious! The meat was seasoned perfectly and was tender. I didn’t eat the bread (gluten) but I enjoyed the slaw. I was surprised to learn this dish had fish sauce as I couldn’t detect it. It was very good.
Lettuce Wrap ( one of few vegan options) featured vegetables and tofu wrapped in butter lettuce with toasted almonds and sweet chili dipping sauce.
This one was so cool and refreshing! So great for a warm day at the park. The tofu was the best I have ever tasted. Chef Justin gave a hint to the great flavor of this particular dish – the ginger, garlic and scallions.
Mushi-Gyoza Japanese-style steamed chicken dumplings with citrus ponzu sauce.
I loved all of the dishes but I think the dumplings were my favorite! The sauce was delicious and a perfect complement. They were not overcooked, they were tender and just right and full of flavor. Another great summer dish.
According to Chef Justin, this dessert was originally baked creme brulee style but now has more of mousse texture. I wanted to love this, but the flavor was kind of bland. It needed a little more punch. I really did like the texture and consistency. It would be the perfect cool treat if it were more flavorful. You receive a nice portion size as well.
Thai Tea – The iced Thai tea was yummy! It had the perfect hint of sweetness. It was a very refreshing and cool drink for a hot day.
Caribbean & Spain
This weekend, we had the chance to also try the Gamba Fritters (Caribbean fried shrimp dumpling with Pickapeppa dip) and Venera con Jamón (Scallop, wrapped in cured ham with saffron rice & romesco sauce).
The fritters reminded me of a well-season hushpuppy stuffed with shrimp. It was golden brown and crispy on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside. Very good!
The scallops were tender and full of flavor. Delicious!
Wine on the Rhine
As a special treat for the Thrill Chasers, we were able to enjoy the Wine on the Rhine cruise. The cruise features a selection of wine or beer along with a platter of cheese, crackers, fruit and a gourmet chocolate. We were also treated to live music during the 25-30 minute cruise. It was a relaxing and fun way to end an exciting day at the park. The cruise is perfect for date night or for a family wind down.
Chef Justin believes the crowd favorite this year will be the Bananas Foster Cheesecake in the new French Quarter kiosk. It features a vanilla & pecan-crusted cheesecake with orange-rum caramel sauce & a sliced banana. It sounds amazing! It is definitely on our “to-do” list! Check out a picture of the delectable delight on Busch Garden VA’s Instagram.
The food at Busch Gardens is always done right. I have yet to be disappointed when it comes to eating at the park. This year is no different when it comes to the Food & Wine Festival. Grab a friend or two and get a taste of what the park has to offer!
For more information on the Food & Wine Festival, including operating schedule, menu and experiences, visit www.buschgardens.com/foodandwine.
The Food & Wine Festival is free with park admission. If you are a season pass holder, bring a friend for free to experience the Food & Wine Festival. Only one free single day ticket available per pass member. Pass member must accompany guest (s). Log in to www.bgwpass.com to redeem.
Now is also the perfect time to buy the 2-park pass for only $100. Receive unlimited admission to both parks now until September 7, 2015. Parking is not included. For all ticket options, click here.
To see pictures of our experience at the Food & Wine Festival, visit our Instagram.