Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Food and Wine Festival
The second annual Food & Wine Festival is currently taking place at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and I had a chance to check it out.
The Food & Wine Festival is happening until June 29th on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Samples start at $3 and can go up to $12 for a cheese plate. But nothing seems unreasonably priced, especially for an amusement park.
There were a few different things going on during the festival: Food & Drink tastings, chef demonstrations, and wine flight tastings (which are every day and continue past the festival).
This post will be about the food there. As a disclosure, I was given some of my food items for free so that I could taste more bites than I would have normally. I still paid for a bunch of them and paid for all my own drinks, as well as my admission, but I just wanted to make that part clear up front.
The first thing I noticed was that this was a little more than a food and wine festival. It was a food and drink festival. There was a variety of beer and liquors in addition to the wine that all tied back to the country in some way or was a local brew/wine.
All country names are linked to their full menus.
My first stop was Ireland where I had the Bangers with Colcannon and a Magners.
Bangers with Colcannon
Irish sausage with potato cabbage casserole & Guinness® brown sugar gravy
I’m part Irish and I’ve had a lot of colcannon. I was pleasantly surprised that they got it right. I wouldn’t say it was the best colcannon that I ever had, but if I had a craving, this would do just fine.
I also noticed the plating by the person at the station was done very carefully. This was a trend that would continue the rest of the day.
And the Magners was delicious, delicious Magners. If you haven’t had Magners before, it’s a very crisp non-sickeningly sweet cider. I can’t drink beer (it’s a critical mass issue with beer, so the Guinness gravy was fine), so I always enjoy drinking this as my beer substitute.
We tried the Swedish meatballs and a glass of Ingleside Chardonnay–a Virginia Wine.
Swedish meatballs braised in cream sauce with Lingonberry jam
My husband declared the Swedish meatballs “better than Ikea!” which was meant as a huge compliment. (Though, I don’t know how the chef would take being compared to Ikea 😉 )
I really liked the Lingonberry jam and scooped up the leftovers even when I was sans meatballs.
The wine was tasty, crisp, unoaked, with a little bit of Caribbean fruit flavors (in a dry, not sweet way). I may actually pick up a bottle of this.
I wish I took more photos of the booths because they were cute. Here’s the one for Greece.
Greece was right by the Escape from Pompeii ride, so be careful! I dramatically threw myself in front of my husband to intercept a wave of water coming at us. (I’m no hero. He had jeans on and I had a quick-dry dress on).
Marinated roasted pork & sweet pepper skewer with cucumber, dill & yogurt sauce
Again, I was impressed by the presentation at these booths.
Any jostling present in this photo was my fault from trying to walk and squeeze the water out of my hair at the same time, not from the original plating.
This was a great dish but I was thrown because I was expecting the yogurt sauce to be more tzatziki-like. It was still tasty, but it didn’t have the creaminess that I’m used to.
I didn’t have a drink because I figured I was soaked enough right now. Well, also because I’ve had Elios wine (the selection available) a lot. And Ouzo and I had a bad breakup years ago and we still don’t talk.
But Elios is a Greek wine that is less sweet than you’d expect from a typical Greek wine.
The next stop was one of our most delicious ones–Spain. Spain fit right into this small bites model because we felt like we were having tapas (and ordered two dishes this time!) We had the empanada and the scallop with Pancho Sangria.
Spicy pork sausage pastry pocket with cilantro lime cream
Venera con Jamón
Scallop, wrapped in cured ham with saffron rice & romesco sauce
The empanadas tasted just like you’d expect them to but I wanted to take this cilantro lime cream home in a bucket and put it on everything. As long as you like the taste of cilantro, it has the right mix of creamy and citrusy. I would put this on empanadas, on salads. Heck, I’d put it on microwavable chicken. It could made anything taste great.
I’m surprised I was able to successfully get a picture of this before it was devoured. My husband’s reaction was “scallops–in a theme park?!” We were half expecting it to be a chewy scallop given its size and the fact that it was being cooked up in an amusement park kiosk, but the scallop was tender and well plated. I’m not a fan of romesco sauce in general but it tasted like I’m used to it tasting.
I’ve had bad experiences with Sangria in a bottle but this one was pretty good! It doesn’t beat making it fresh, but was a worthy substitute.
Italy was the biggest food disappointment for us. Whereas the other kiosks cooked their food to mostly order (or at least plated it to order) and you could watch them make it, Italy’s food was prepackaged. We were going to get the cheese plate and it looked unappetizing.
The small bites looked pretty good so we ordered that instead.
Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, tomato basil bruschetta, goat cheese-stuffed dried plums
But the person filling our order picked up the pre-packaged dish sideways, and this is what we ended up with:
The entire dish had a refrigerator taste to it, if you know what I mean. It was also chilled too much to taste right and it felt like we finished most of it so we could say we ate it.
The Enza Prosecco was fantastic though.
I liked that it was served in a flute and it was quite refreshing and not overly sweet.
Germany’s portions seemed the most generous out of the countries. We got the pork schnitzel and the noodles.
German-style noodle bake with cured ham & cheese
Pork schnitzel slider with sliced lemon & caper sauce
When I saw the word slider (and the price, which I think was ~$5?), I expected this dish to be much smaller.
I also expected it to be drier, but it was quite moist. The caper sauce was lovely (I don’t think I’ve had it with that before) and make sure you squirt the lemon all over this dish. All the flavors worked together.
I could fall asleep in this dish. It was such a great comfort dish and I wish I knew how to make it. There’s a cheesy sauce on the outside.
Once you cut into it….
Ham and cheese is baked inside.
It’s a very German mac & cheese.
We had this with a chilled Affentaler Pinot Noir Spátburgunder Rosé, which was darker in color than I expected it to be.
It was refreshing, just like the Sangria, but less sweet.
According to a sign in “Canada,” most of the macaroni and cheese in the world is eaten in Canada. If this is how it is served, I don’t blame them:
Macaroni & Cheese with Peameal Bacon
Creamy mac & cheese with cornmeal-crusted Canadian bacon
I’ve never had anything like the cornmeal-crusted Canadian bacon before. But this was really delicious and again, comforting. Having this and the German noodles in a row was a bad idea because I was ready to curl up and go to sleep. But this was such a unique tasting dish that I really recommend checking it out.
We had trouble finding France’s station in France among the other stands there. But once we found it, we weren’t disappointed. We ordered the steak.
Steak au Poivre
Peppercorn-crusted beef sirloin with brandy cream sauce
The portion size was on the smaller side compared to other countries, which isn’t surprising since it was inexpensive and steak.
They served the steak very peppery, which is how my husband likes it. The sauce paired really nicely with it, especially with the flavor of the brandy and the pepper on the steak. This dish was finished pretty quickly.
After our twelve hour marathon of food, we looked for some dessert.
There was a coffee and crepes station in addition to France’s savory food station.
The line for this was pretty long but that’s because the crepes and coffee were all made completely to order.
I’m a sucker for Nutella (and may have put a huge dent into the supply at the Seattle Delta club), so I knew what crepe I wanted right away.
Chocolat de Noisette et de Banane Crêpe
Crêpe stuffed with hazelnut-chocolate spread & bananas
My husband doesn’t like dessert so he said this one was all mine. And then proceeded to eat half of it.
The crepes were thin and delicate but still held together while we were eating them. And I should write this just before I go get lunch because my mouth is really starting to water at this point.
At this point, we were totally food-ed out.
But I wanted to try the Scottish egg, so we stopped back the next day.
We headed back into the park and over to Scotland for a Scottish egg and a Crabbie’s Beer.
Breaded, sausage-wrapped hard-boiled egg with sweet & spicy mustard sauce
I was expecting something a lot more greasy than this and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t. It tastes baked, so if you prefer greasy, you may be disappointed. The sauce went really well with it, though didn’t seem very Scottish to me. Then again, I’m part Irish so <insert Scottish food being bland joke here>.
I was really excited to have Crabbie’s Ginger Beer. The last time I had it was at the Golden Bee at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. The bartender suggested it as a beer substitute–and yes, it is alcoholic.
If you like ginger beer, definitely check out this version with ABV.
All in all, my impression was that it’s absolutely worth going. I’m a huge fan of Epcot and had lowered expectations for Busch Gardens, but they really stepped it up.
In fact, I’m tempted to stop by one more time before the festival is over. More on the festival and wine tastings soon.