Over Memorial Day weekend my friend Renee and ParkFans Forum members Tony, Username, Zachary, and I (Nicole) went to Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the 2016 Food & Wine Festival. As has become our custom, we tried all of the food items and a limited sampling of the drinks. This year we have decided to split our report into two parts: (1) an overview of the booths and (2) a review of the festival as a whole. The former will include our favorite dishes from each kiosk, while the latter, which we will publish next week, will highlight other recommended entrees and our selections for best dessert. We once again elected to rate the sweets against each other, rather than comparing them to the savory options at each kiosk, and as a result, each has its own “Best in Booth.”  We did not select a favorite entree or dessert, when there was only one available; first place was not given by default. A few notes on the math. All of the ratings below are out of a possible five points. So, the Panna Cotta received our only perfect 5/5. Additionally, since there were only five of us in the tasting party, a single person could dramatically alter the composite number. As a result, the dish voted “Best in Booth” did not necessarily receive the highest grade. For example, although the Asian Lettuce Wrap scored higher than the Mushi-Gyoza (because the wrap received one outlying, high score), four of us voted for the dumpling. With all of that in mind, here is a summary of our experiences at each booth, listed in alphabetical order:
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I will begin with the event’s Latin-inspired cuisine. Both the Chicken Adobo with Mole Sauce and the Chocolate Lava Cake improved this year. Most of us found the Fish Tacos and the Sonoran Spice Pork unmemorable, however. We agreed that the Mole Chicken was the best entree at this kiosk.

Chicken Adobo with Sauce Mole

Southwestern-marinated chicken with rich brown chili chocolate sauce

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
American Southwest $6 3.8
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Chicken Adobo with Sauce Mole

Chocolate Lava Cake

Fudge brownie cake with molten Ancho-spiced chile chocolate filling

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
American Southwest $4 4

Fish Taco

Chile-spiced tilapia with red cabbage slaw, pico de gallo, and cilantro lime sauce

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
American Southwest $4 3.2

Sonoran Spice Pork

Spice-rubbed pork tenderloin with jicama-chayote slaw and sweet pepper salsa

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
American Southwest $5 3

The Ginger-Lemongrass Custard stood out as the best dish at this booth. Despite lacking any discernible ginger flavors, the lemongrass taste was lovely and the texture was perfectly creamy. Although we expected to encounter a variety of exotic spices at this Southeast Asian-inspired kiosk, we found all three of the entrees bland and frankly disappointing. Regrettably, the Thai Tea neither looked nor tasted like the iced tea I regularly order in my local Thai-run restaurants. We ultimately determined that the Mushi-Gyoza was the best savory option at this booth.

Bánh Mì

Vietnamese-style sandwich of marinated pork and pickled vegetables on crispy bread with lime and nuoc mam slaw

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Asia $5 1.5

Ginger-Lemongrass Custard

Creamy custard infused with fresh ginger and lemongrass

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Asia $3 4.8
Recommended By
Renee
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Ginger-Lemongrass Custard

Lettuce Wrap

Vegetables and tofu wrapped in tender butter lettuce with toasted almonds and sweet chili dipping sauce

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Asia $4 2.4

Mushi-Gyoza

Japanese-style steamed chicken dumplings with citrus ponzu sauce

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Asia $5 2
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Mushi-Gyoza

The most improved dish at this kiosk, the Mac & Cheese with Peameal Bacon, took the honor of Best in Booth, because we could taste the bacon and enjoyed the combined creamy and crunchy textures. The other two savory options were both visually unappealing and lacking in flavor. The Pumpkin Caramel Mousse, a perennial favorite, was a fairly well-balanced and eggy custard. We also loved the crisp and refreshing Bold Rock Pear Cider.

Cheddar and Lager Chowder

Sharp cheddar and Canadian lager chowder with smoked paprika oil

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Canada $3 2.6

Mac & Cheese with Peameal Bacon

Creamy mac and cheese with cornmeal-crusted Canadian bacon

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Canada $4 3.2
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Mac & Cheese with Peameal Bacon

Pumpkin Caramel Mousse

Spiced pumpkin mousse with caramel, topped with maple syrup

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Canada $3 4.6

Venison Sausage & Corn Porridge

Wood-fired venison sausage and creamy polenta with apple cider and caramelized onions

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Canada $5 3

Always one of our favorite stations, the Caribbean booth, did not disappoint. We selected the Shrimp & Heart of Palm Salad for Best in Booth because we believe it to be the perfect dish for the summer with its unusual vegetables and sweet and refreshing dressing. That said, we still love the perfectly fried Gamba Fritters as well. In fact, we prefer them to Virginia’s Best in Booth winner, the Bacon & Cheddar Hushpuppies. We enjoyed both the Caribbean Sunset and the Bushwacker; the former was a fruity frozen concoction, and the latter tasted just like Mozart Chocolate Liqueur. Finally, do not miss the creamy and cool Tres Leche con Mermelada de Piña, which was lightly fruity without being overly sweet.

Gamba Fritters

Caribbean fried shrimp dumpling with pickapeppa dip

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Caribbean $5 4.6
Recommended By
Tony
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Gamba Fritters

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jerk-marinated chicken drumsticks with guava barbecue and grilled pineapple salsa

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Caribbean $6 3.2

Shrimp & Heart of Palm Salad

Poached shrimp, palm hearts, and black beans with citrus cilantro vinaigrette

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Caribbean $5 4.6
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Shrimp & Heart of Palm Salad

Tres Leche con Mermelada de Piña

Sweet cream cake with pineapple-citrus marmalade

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Caribbean $4 4.6
Recommended By
Zachary
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Tres Leche con Mermelada de Piña

This booth is rarely worth the wait. None of the components in the crepes were balanced. There was virtually no Swiss cheese in the Poulet Cordon Bleu Crepe; the marmalade overwhelmed the brie in the Brie et Marmelade d’Orange Crepe; the Cherries Jubilee Crepe needed more creme fraiche and brandy; and the banana dominated the Choco-noisette et Banane Crepe.  We did decide that the brie and marmalade pairing was the best, however.

Brie et Marmelade d’Orange Crêpe

Brie cheese & orange marmalade crêpe with whipped cream

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Crêpes & Coffee $4.99 3.2
Best in Booth(Dessert)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Brie et Marmelade d’Orange Crêpe

Cherries Jubilee Crêpe

Brandied cherries with sweet vanilla crème fraiche

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Crêpes & Coffee $4.99 2.8

Choco-noisette et Banane Crêpe

Crêpe stuffed with hazelnut-chocolate spread and bananas

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Crêpes & Coffee $4.99 3

Poulet Cordon Bleu Crêpe

Braised chicken and ham crêpe with Swiss cheese and dijonnaise sauce

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Crêpes & Coffee $5.99 2.8

We enjoyed everything at the French booth, scoring each dish between 4/5 and 5/5. Although we selected the Coq au Vin as the best entree, we would recommend trying the entire menu, including the peppery steak, the cool and crunchy Ratatouille Parfait, the tart tart, and the sweet and refreshing Sparkling Raspberry cocktail.

Coq au Vin

Red wine-braised chicken stew with rosemary roasted potatoes

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
France $5 4.4
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Coq au Vin

Ratatouille Parfait

Colorful roasted vegetables artfully layered in a cup served chilled with a parmesan garlic twist

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
France $4 4.4
Recommended By
Nicole
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Ratatouille Parfait

Steak au Poivre

Peppercorn-crusted beef sirloin with brandy cream sauce

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
France $6 4

Tartelette au Citron

Lemon tartlet with fresh raspberries

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
France $3 4.6
Recommended By
Nicole
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Tartelette au Citron

When I think of New Orleans, I think of spicy gumbos, fruity cocktails, and sweet desserts. While both the Beignets (our favorite) and the Bananas Foster Cheesecake were fairly good; the entrees lacked flavor and had unpleasant textures. The Chicken & Andouille Gumbo was mushy and bland, and the Muffaletta tasted only of olives. Ultimately, the gumbo proved to be better than the sandwich. We were disappointed in the beer flight, as well. The four brews looked interesting, but they only had three, one of which tasted like Budweiser and the other two of which tasted like soap.

Bananas Foster Cheesecake

Vanilla and pecan-crusted cheesecake with orange-rum caramel sauce and sliced banana

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
French Quarter $4 3.8

Beignets

Fried doughnut squares topped with powdered sugar and drizzled with caramel

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
French Quarter $5 4
Best in Booth(Dessert)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Beignets

Chicken & Andouille Gumbo

Creole-spiced stew with shredded chicken and spicy sausage over rice

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
French Quarter $5 3
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Chicken & Andouille Gumbo

Muffaletta

Sliced mortadella, salami, ham, and provolone with olive spread on sesame bread with Cajun coleslaw

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
French Quarter $5 1.8

Both the Schnitzelwich and the Currywurst noticeably improved this year, with the former taking Best in Booth. The Schinkennudel, however, remained a gluey, flavorless, beige blob of starch. The new dessert was moist, but didn’t exactly taste like German Chocolate Cake.

Currywurst

Knockwurst with curry-spiced tomato ketchup and roasted potatoes

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Germany $4 3

German Chocolate Cake

Rich chocolate cake layered with sweet coconut icing

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Germany $3 3.2

Schinkennudel

German-style noodle baked with cured ham and cheese

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Germany $3 2.2

Schnitzelwich

Pork schnitzel slider with sliced lemon and caper sauce

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Germany $5 3.8
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Schnitzelwich

Oh Greece, what happened to you? This booth was always one of our favorites with its interesting flavors and perfectly prepared dishes. Last weekend, however, we encountered unmotivated staff and disappointing food. Our favorite entree, the Greek Dip Trio, while tasty, was missing the hummus. The Halloumi was salty and rubbery. We initially mistook the Souvlaki Tzatziki for a salad, because the sparse and poorly-seasoned kabob components were mysteriously buried in lettuce leaves and completely lacking any sauce. We were not able to try the Ouzo, because the cashier was too young to sell it to me. Happily, we can recommend the sweet and flakey baklava: the honey and filo dough were both excellent.

Baklava

Sweet pastry with nuts & honey between thin crispy filo pastry layers

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Greece $3 3.8

Greek Dip Trio

Roasted garlic hummus, pasta elias (kalamata olive puree), and tirokafteri (Greek feta dip) served with pita chips

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Greece $4 3
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Greek Dip Trio

Halloumi

Griddled Greek cheese with clover honey and crushed pistachios

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Greece $4 2.2

Salata

Traditional Greek salad with lemon oregano vinaigrette and a crispy pita chip

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Greece $3 2.4

Souvlaki Tzatziki

Marinated roasted pork and sweet peppers with cucumber, dill, and yogurt sauce

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Greece $5 1.2

This new booth boasts some of the most flavorful and controversial dishes at the event. We tried both SPAM and raw tuna and violently disagreed about how to score both. The chicken dish took top honors, with delicious ingredients that work well together; and the sweet and salty chips and dip were surprisingly subtle. Both the Blue Hawaiian and the Hibiscus Lemonade were too sweet for our tastes, but they did remind me of drinks I had in Waikiki. Our Haupia Tart was served with a slice of pineapple, which does not appear in the official description. The soggy fruit ruined the Almond Joy-like dessert.

Haupia Tart

Sweet coconut mousse with Kona coffee ganache in a crispy tart shell

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Hawaii $3 3.2

Huli Huli Chicken

Sweet pineapple and soy BBQ chicken served with orange and purple sweet potato salad

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Hawaii $5 4.4
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Huli Huli Chicken

Root Vegetable Chips with Maui Onion Dip

Fried sweet potatoes, taro root, and beet chips with caramelized sweet onion dip

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Hawaii $3 3.6

SPAM Slider

Fried spam with sriracha mayonnaise and grilled pineapple served with pineapple-coconut coleslaw

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Hawaii $5 2.8
Recommended By
Zachary
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 SPAM Slider

Tuna Poke

Soy and sesame sushi tuna in a wonton flower with wasabi aioli, served with wakame seaweed salad

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Hawaii $6 2.6
Recommended By
Username
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Tuna Poke

Historically a fairly forgettable booth, Ireland stood out this year with three excellent dishes. The Bangers with Colcannon was our favorite of the two savory options. The tasty sausage paired well with the slightly sweet sauce, and the mash had a great texture. The Sage Derby once again was a favorite among the cheeses, all of which we enjoyed, especially when paired with the chutney. The dry and thick crackers were the only disappointment; we would have preferred water crackers. The Guinness Mousse, one of our highest-scoring desserts, was cleverly presented and tasted rich and chocolatey.

Bangers with Colcannon

Irish sausage with mashed potatoes, cabbage, and Guinness brown sugar gravy

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Ireland $5 4.4
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Bangers with Colcannon

Guinness Mousse

Dark chocolate and Guinness mousse with whiskey-infused whipped cream

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Ireland $3 4.6
Recommended By
Tony
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Guinness Mousse

Irish Cheese Sampling

Sage Derby, Blarney Castle, and Dubliner cheese served with apple-raisin chutney and cream crackers

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Ireland $4 3.8

We were surprised when we discovered that everything at the Italian booth is available at the dessert counter at Marco Polo’s Marketplace, which we reviewed earlier this season. That said, the Panna Cotta was fantastic, scoring a perfect five out of five and being selected as the Best in Booth. The Limoncello tasted exactly like the lemon liqueur I had from Italy.

Mini Cannoli Trio

Traditional, chocolate-hazelnut, and strawberry cheescake mini cannolis with chocolate-dipped shells

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Italy $5 3.2

Panna Cotta

Vanilla cream pudding, served with strawberry sauce

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Italy $3 5
Best in Booth(Dessert)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Panna Cotta

Tiramisu

Italian parfait with sweetened mascarpone cheese, layered with espresso-soaked ladyfingers

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Italy $3 3.2

The Spanish booth offered two of our favorite dishes: the Gazpacho con Ceviche and the Chorizo Empanada. The cold vegetable soup was selected as Best in Booth, because of its fresh, bright flavors. The meat filling in the empanadas was spicy, and the sauce paired with the pastry perfectly. We were disappointed in the Venera con Jamon, however: The scallop was flavorless, despite the strong fish smell, and the rice was mushy and bland. The Red Sangria was nice, but the White tasted a bit bitter.

Chorizo Empanada

Spicy pork sausage pastry pocket with cilantro lime cream

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Spain $4 4.4

Gazpacho con Ceviche

Chilled tomato cucumber soup with citrus-marinated shrimp and scallop salad

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Spain $5 4.4
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Gazpacho con Ceviche

Tapas

Paprika-roasted Marcona almonds, marinated olive medley, and Manchego cheese with membrillo (quince paste)

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Spain $5 3

Venera con Jamón

Scallop wrapped in cured ham with saffron rice and romesco sauce

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Spain $7 2

Virginia, one of the two new booths, was our first stop at the event. We rated the Bacon & Cheddar Hushpuppies highest, but thought the Virginia Dips that were paired with pork rinds were the most interesting items at the kiosk. We found both the Smithfield Ham Tasting and the She-Crab Soup to be inoffensive. The biscuit was doughy and only one of three ham samples was interesting. The soup was creamy, but tasted too strongly of sherry. We would not recommend the wine flight. I tried two different pieces of the very good dessert and discovered I preferred the batch with less bacon.

Bacon & Cheddar Hushpuppies

Cornmeal fritters served with Virginia honey butter

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Virginia $4 4
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Bacon & Cheddar Hushpuppies

Pecan, Bacon, and Chocolate Bars

Sweet pecan caramel bars topped with smoked bacon and chocolate drizzle

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Virginia $3 4
Recommended By
Username
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Pecan, Bacon, and Chocolate Bars

Pork Rinds with Virginia Dips

Deviled ham pate, pimento cheese spread, smoked bacon, and onion jam

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Virginia 4 3.8
Recommended By
Renee
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2016 Pork Rinds with Virginia Dips

She-Crab Soup

Crab bisque finished with sherry, Old Bay crostini, and Chesapeake blue crab salad

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Virginia $5 3.4

Smithfield Ham Tasting

Red Eye Country Ham, Hickory Smoked Pitt Ham, and Applewood Carved Ham served with honey biscuit, apple butter, raspberry jam, and whole grain mustard

Booth Price Rating (Out of 5)
Virginia $4 3.2

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