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Photo TR: Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival


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It's been a long time since I posted a TR.... My wife and I had a great time at this year's final weekend of the Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival, so I thought I'd share. Enjoy!

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To all who enter this happy place, welcome!

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We bought the 15-sample dining package, good at 14 food stands around the park. First up: Ireland!

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Many of the stands were decorated with representations of food or actual kitchen items. What better decoration for the Ireland booth than potatoes?

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Speaking of potatoes... here are some bangers with colcannon (mashed potatoes with cabbage), topped wtih Guinness brown sugar gravy. They were pretty good and a nice way to begin the festival. (Though the park opens at 10 a.m., the food stands don't open until 11.)

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In the late afternoon, the park's Ireland section hosted an ice carving demonstration.

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Here are the results!

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Next up was Hawaii, a new addition for this year.

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The stands in more open areas had decorated seating areas.

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Each stand also had informative kiosks (which also served as a convenient place to store napkins and spare plasticware).

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From Hawaii, we got huli huli chicken (sweet pineapple and soy barbecued chicken) with orange-and-purple sweet potato salad. The chicken was good, but I wasn't a fan of the slaw. We paired it with a signature hibiscus lemonade for a small upcharge. The lemonade was pretty good, but I'm not sure I'd get it again.

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In addition to ice carving, the festival also included some cool food art demonstrations.

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Close-up of jellybean dinosaurs!

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The Crepes and Coffee stand was up next. This was the first stand where we encountered a significant wait (20+ minutes with about five people in line ahead of us) due to poor staffing. There was one person cooking, one person taking the money, pouring the drinks and tending to the coolers (three completely separate parts of the booth) and one person just kind of standing around with a clipboard. It seemed pretty ridiculous, especially at stands where the drinks were set up in a completely different section of the area than the cash registers.

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Crepes and Coffee had a winery theme.

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More educational signage.

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We tried a chicken cordon bleu crepe, with an orange marmalade and brie crepe for dessert. The chicken crepe wasn't bad. The marmalade in the dessert crepe was good, but I didn't think it paired particularly well with the brie.

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This was also the first area with wine tasting. I don't drink wine, and my wife and I were both feeling under the weather (in different ways), so we didn't partake. Each stand also had a person nearby dressed in regional clothing to answer questions about the food, wine and country. This was France's.

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Up next was the French Quarter stand.

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This warm muffaletta and Cajun coleslaw were my favorite items at the festival! I've had muffalettas in New Orleans that weren't this good. And the slaw was just out of this world! Well done, Busch Gardens.

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The France stand was nearby.

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I was really looking forward to the steak au poivre. From my high school French class, I thought I remembered "poivre" meaning "pepper," but apparently I really means "lots and lots of salt." Seriously, a spoonful of salt has less salt in it than this thing. It literally made us both gag.

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I didn't know Canada was so well known for apples and pumpkins, but they were all over the Canada food stand, so....

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Inside the Canada stand. I think this area is usually used as part of Trappers Smokehouse. This stand was one of the few where we got bad service. The cashier clearly didn't want to be there, and the server seemed like it was her first day on the job. In fact, there were a few servers throughout the day who seemed new to the concept of food stands, which was pretty incredulous considering we were there on the second-to-last-day of the event.

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That's pumpkin maple mouse on the left, and I thought it was OK; Kelly liked it more than anything else she tried. On the right is cheddar and lager soup with smoked paprika oil. It also was OK; Epcot doesn't have anything to worry about.

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Did you know there are Canadian wines? Well, there are!

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Nearby was the American Southwest stand, where we tried a chocolate lava cake based on nearly every online review I read of the event hailing it as the best thing at the festival. I thought it was pretty good, but not really any better or worse than any chocolate lava cake I've ever had in a regular sit-down restaurant, even with the addition of ancho chiles. Unfortunately, I neglected to take a photo.

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Next, we were in the Caribbean!

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Most of the regional representatives seemed pretty bored throughout the day. Were they new this year? I can't imagine this continuing going forward with as little interest as anyone demonstrated in them.

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The Caribbean stand included seashell art!

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And this snazzy beer tap!

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The gamba fritters (basically shrimp hushpuppies) were sort of the "poster child" of the festival.

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This is what they looked like in person, along with tres leches con mermalada de pina. They were OK; the pickapeppa dip they came with was the best part. The dessert was OK, as well; it tasted like sweet cake with crushed pineapple on top, which is basically what it was, I guess.

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On to Germany!

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I'm not sure what the wooden spoons represented, but the "silver" plastic steins screwed into the building's exterior were a nice touch.

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The currywurst with curry-spiced ketchup and roasted potatoes was good.

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German wine!

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Germany also featured a special artisan's market for the festival, but only some of the vendors sold edibles. At least one of them sold handmade soap.

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On Friday nights during the festival, this stage in the park's Oktoberfest section featured live music. As we were not there on a Friday night, the stage featured nothing.

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In addition to the food stands, there were a couple of standalone alcohol stands, as well. This one featured wines from Argentina.

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Some of the stands were squeezed into areas where they didn't really fit, causing bottlenecks, like this one representing Italy.

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The Italy stand's decor predominately was made of wine corks. The stand featured only desserts, most of which are available at Olive Garden, so we skipped it.

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A little of the bottleneck in front of the Italy wine tasting flag.

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More bottlenecking at the Spain stand.

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Decorations made from plates and utensils!

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Small stands like this were stationed outside some of the food booths, representing regional culinary plants and herbs.

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Spain's regional representative was fortunate to have both a fan and a shady spot to stand. It was hot and humid throughout the day.

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I was disappointed with the food from the Spain stand. That's bacon-wrapped scallops with rice on the left and two chorizo empanadas on the right. Both were just OK, though the scallops were the most expensive item at any of the stands.

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Fun with fondant! That's a cake, if you can believe it.

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The Asia stand didn't have anything our local Chinese restaurant doesn't, so we saved our tastings for other booths.

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The areas around most of the stands were decorated with flags. At Asia, they went a step further and added Chinese lanterns, as well.

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The Greece stand represented another bottleneck, directly across from the entrance to Escape from Pompei. I also wasn't sure I was ever going to get to order here; the people in front of me apparently had never heard of "food" before and proceeded to ask the cashier many, many, many questions, such as what it was, why you would want to put it in your mouth and how you make it small enough to go down your throat-hole. I timed them; they literally asked questions non-stop for nearly 10 minutes.

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Fortunately, the halloumi (grilled Greek cheese with honey and pistachios) was well worth the wait! It was amazing, my second-favorite tasting of the day.

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Our last food stand stop was the new Virginia stand.

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I don't know what makes tulip poplar honey any better or worse than any other honey, but they had it!

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For our last tasting, I selected the bacon and cheddar hushpuppies with honey butter. They were great, and my wife proclaimed it the best butter she's ever had.

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Nearby was another stand-alone alcohol stand, offering scotch tastings.

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Near the end of the day, we had reservations on a Date Night cruise on the Rhine, offered specifically for the festival. During the afternoon, they offered similar "Wine on the Rhine" cruises, though kids were allowed on those. The Date Night cruises included music and were for adults only.

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There's our ride!

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These were the entertainers for the half-hour cruise. It was advertised as a 25-minute experience, but ours actually lasted nearly 40, which was nice. We had good music...

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Good scenery...

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And good wine! The cruise also included a fruit, cheese and chocolate tray. The strawberry was tart for my taste, but everything else was good. I understand that in past years, they also threw in a couple packets of crackers, which, at $55 per couple, would have been nice.

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After the cruise, we got to see the food stands lit up for the evening. Overall, we had a good time, and even the "worst" food we tried was really good!

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Thanks, Busch Gardens! See you again soon!

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