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Food & Wine Festival 2019: The Comprehensive Review
By Nicole Posted in Reviews on May 30, 2019 One Comment 1 min read
Early June BGW Update Previous Food & Wine Festival 2019: Impressions & Highlights Next

A week has passed since we published part one of our annual Food & Wine Festival Review, and in that time BGWFans has visited the park a second time and reconfirmed our observation that the events biggest weakness is its lack of consistency.

Wow.  That sounds unnecessarily negative.  Let me start again.

BGWFans has now visited Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Food & Wine Festival two weekends in a row.  In our ongoing quest to help our readers navigate the many booths, we have scored every dish and non-alcoholic specialty drink on a scale of one to ten. We have also provided overall booth descriptions for people who would prefer to visit just a few kiosks.

Unfortunately, we also discovered that our worst fears were realized: some items selected as Best in Show during the tasting were literally inedible on week two.  So, we must issue a blanket warning for all of our scores: they are based entirely on our experiences opening weekend. Given the lack of consistency that we encounter every year, do not be surprised if your experience differs from ours.

Regardless, we hope this comprehensive review is a helpful guide to what is a very fun and generally delicious festival.

Jump to a specific booth?

Brazil

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Brazil Trapper's Village 6.17/10

The Churrasco, which was selected as Best in Booth, was tender steak paired with a herby chimichurri sauce. The Linguica was more controversial. While some of the team enjoyed the smoky flavors, others disliked the texture and found the entire dish to be oily. The group reach consensus, however, about the Abacaxi, which was universally despised. The primary flavor seemed to be smoke with a strong smokey aftertaste.

Abacaxi

Grilled Pineapple with coconut caramel sauce

Booth Price Rating
Brazil $4.25 2.67/10

Churrasco

Grilled beef with chimichurri sauce

Booth Price Rating
Brazil $6.25 8.17/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Churrasco

Linguiça

Grilled Brazilian sausage with grilled portabellas & peppers

Booth Price Rating
Brazil $5.50 6.5/10

Cuba

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Cuba Aquitaine 5.42/10

We were disappointed to discover fewer options at the Cuban booth.  Why did they remove the Flan? The Ropa Vieja, a nice comfort food, won Best in Booth. It wasn’t as meaty as one would expect, but it seemed to have a nice variety of vegetables and the right flavors. The Cuban Sandwich, however, was less popular. Most notably, we couldn’t taste the ham or pork.

Cuban Sandwich

Roasted Pork with ham, dill pickle & yellow mustard pressed in Cuban bread

Booth Price Rating
Cuba $5.75 4/10

Ropa Vieja

Shredded beef in criollo sauce served over beans & rice

Booth Price Rating
Cuba $6.00 6.83/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Ropa Vieja

Desserts

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Desserts San Marco 6.28/10

We weren’t entirely sure why this booth was separate from the main Italian kiosk. Regardless, it served our favorite sweet item at the event: the Tiramisu. This delicious Italian dessert was creamy and layered with classic flavors. I was saddened, however, by the continued decline of the once beloved Panna Cotta. It tasted distinctly of artificial vanilla, and the light strawberry sauce of yore was replaced with overwhelming goo. The Cannolis were virtually indistinguishable from one another, tasting mostly like cinnamon and a stroopwafel.

Mini Cannoli Trio

Traditional, strawberry cheesecake & chocolate-hazelnut mini cannoli’s with chocolate-drizzled shells

Booth Price Rating
Desserts $6.00 3.83/10

Panna Cotta

Vanilla cream pudding served with strawberries

Booth Price Rating
Desserts $3.50 6.17/10

Tiramisu

Italian parfait with sweetened mascarpone cheese & layered with espresso-soaked lady fingers

Booth Price Rating
Desserts $3.50 8.83/10
Best in Booth(Sweet)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Tiramisu

French Quarter

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
French Quarter Aquitaine 6.33/10

The Beignets were the most popular dish at the New Orleans booth. They were flakey and light with a enjoyable honey glaze. Our cheesecake suffered, because it was served with the wrong sauce. We did, however, appreciate the freshly-cut bananas. Neither of the savory options stood out as particularly good or bad. The Etouffee was mushy, but boasted a lot of shrimp. The Muffaletta was generally inoffensive, but also lacking in flavor.

Bananas Foster Cheesecake

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

Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $5.00 7.67/10

Beignets

Fried doughnut squares topped with powdered sugar & drizzled with caramel

Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $5.00 7.83/10
Best in Booth(Sweet)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Beignets

Muffaletta

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

Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $5.25 4.17/10

Shrimp Étouffeé

Creole-spiced shrimp stew over Cajun rice

Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $6.00 5.67/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Shrimp Étouffeé

Hawaii

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Hawaii Jack Hanna Trail 5.47/10

The Islands did not wow us this year. The Best in Booth winner, the Huli Huli Chicken, was deemed “inoffensive” by one taster. The accompanying potato salad was tangy and pretty, but generic. The tuna was overwhelmed by the aioli, but the seaweed salad was the best we have ever been served at the park. The Mac & Cheese boasted both pineapple and ham flavors, but suffered from an unpleasantly gluey consistency. We were startled by how similar the mousse tasted to Watergate Salad, and generally preferred last year’s Haupia. Historically a favorite, the Hibiscus Lemonade was too sweet and fruity this year, lacking the lovely floral flavors we enjoyed in the past.

Hawaiian Mac & Cheese

Ham & pineapple mac & cheese with macadamia nut crust

Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $3.50 4.33/10

Huli Huli Chicken

Sweet pineapple & soy BBQ chicken with orange & purple sweet potato salad

Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $5.50 5.67/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Huli Huli Chicken
New for 2019

Pineapple Coconut Mousse

Sweet pineapple & toasted coconut mousse

Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $3.50 6.17/10

Tuna Poke

Soy & sesame sushi tuna in a wonton flower with wasabi aioli & wakame seaweed salad

Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $6.25 5.5/10

Ireland

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Ireland Killarney 5.89/10

“Bland” was the word of the day at the Irish booth. While that might match stereotypes of British cooking, it was not what we were looking for at a food festival. The Bangers won Best in Booth by default, but lacked herb, onion, and Guinness flavors. The cheese tray was pleasant, but uninspired. The Sage Derby was again the most interesting option on the plate. The dessert was a good dark chocolate mousse, but lacked any whiskey or stout.

Bangers with Colcannon

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

Booth Price Rating
Ireland $5.50 6.5/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Bangers with Colcannon

Guinness Mousse

Dark chocolate & Guinness® mousse with whiskey-infused whipped cream

Booth Price Rating
Ireland $4.50 5.5/10

Irish Cheese Sampling

Sage Derby, Bandon Vale Farmhouse cheese & Dubliner cheese with apple-raisin chutney & crackers

Booth Price Rating
Ireland $4.25 5.67/10

Italy

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Italy San Marco 5.94/10

We were glad to see savory options return to Europe’s boot. We preferred the fresh Caprese Salad, which we thought was a great summer dish, especially with its yummy balsamic. (Where did all of the F&WF balsamic go?) The risotto wasn’t terrible, but it was gooey and beige and tasted primarily of parmesan cheese. The Italian Soda was light, sweet, and refreshing. There was, perhaps, not enough raspberry.

New for 2019

Caprese

Fresh Mozzarella, Vine Ripe Tomatoes & Basil with Balsamic glaze and basil pesto

Booth Price Rating
Italy $5.00 6.83/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Caprese
New for 2019

Creamy Mushroom Risotto

Finished with truffle oil, basil pesto & shaved, prosciutto ham

Booth Price Rating
Italy $5.25 6.83/10

Jamaica

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Jamaica Rhinefeld 7.63/10

Everyone must visit the rebranded Caribbean kiosk. It won Best Booth because everything was excellent. When we tried the fritters and slider the second weekend they were still fantastic. The former were perfectly fried and paired with a tangy sauce with a touch of heat. The latter had layers of flavors and a marinade that tasted like jerk instead of previous years’ barbeque sauce. The cake and limeade received more mixed reviews, but still scored well.

Gamba Fritters

Fried shrimp dumpling with Pickapeppa dip

Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $5.50 9.17/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Gamba Fritters
New for 2019

Jerk Chicken Slider

Pulled Jerk Chicken on a sweet bun with mango salsa & Cilantro Lime Slaw

Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $5.25 8.5/10

Pineapple Rum Upside-Down Cake

with sweet pineapple rum sauce

Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $4.25 6/10

Japan

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Japan San Marco 6.71/10

This booth had a lot to offer. We loved the Mushi-Gyoza, which was well cooked and paired with a great sauce. We found the Lettuce Wrap to be fresh and crunchy and full of light and refreshing flavors. We rated the bubble tea Best in Show. It should be noted, however, that the second weekend it tasted like dish soap and looked completely different. We would not recommend either the sushi or the dessert, however. The California Roll was bland and boring and the Matcha Ice Cream, which was popular last year, tasted overwhelmingly of soy.

California Roll

Sushi roll of crab, avocado & cucumber with pickled ginger & wasabi

Booth Price Rating
Japan $4.50 4.83/10

Lettuce Wrap

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

Booth Price Rating
Japan $4.25 8.33/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Lettuce Wrap

Matcha Ice Cream

Green tea ice cream with sweet soy glaze & sesame cookie

Booth Price Rating
Japan $4.00 4.4/10

Mushi-Gyoza

Japanese-style steamed chicken dumplings with citrus ponzu sauce

Booth Price Rating
Japan $5.25 7.67/10

Mediterranean

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Mediterranean San Marco 7.23/10

Thank you, BGW! You brought the Mediterranean/Greek booth back to its previous greatness. Not only was it awarded Most Improved Booth, but on our second round some of the dishes were even better that the first weekend. The Dolmades were fresh and light, a perfect summer dish. The Spanakopita were flakey and savory with a bright lemony sauce. Weirdly, the lamb sliders, which tied for Best in Show, were not as good the second weekend. The Loukoumades, while not bad, per se, seemed uninspired. By far the least interesting option at this generally delightful booth was the Cafe au Lait. If you want an iced latte, we recommend Starbucks.

Dolmades

Rice & herb stuffed grape leaves with Tzatziki sauce

Booth Price Rating
Mediterranean $4.25 7.83/10

Lamb Burger Slider

Seasoned ground lamb on pita bread with feta cheese spread, cucumber, tomato & olive

Booth Price Rating
Mediterranean $6.25 9.17/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Lamb Burger Slider
New for 2019

Loukoumades

Sweet honey doughnut puffs with cinnamon

Booth Price Rating
Mediterranean $5.00 6.5/10

Spanakopita

Spinach & feta in crispy filo dough with spicy, lemon sauce

Booth Price Rating
Mediterranean $4.75 9/10

Mexico

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Mexico Heatherdowns 5.5/10

The Fried Shrimp Taco stole the show at this new-ish booth. Its sauce perfectly balanced sweetness and heat, and was excellent on this crunchy taco. It was equally as good the second week. Sadly, the Carne Asada was not nearly as well received. The Empanadas, refugees from the defunct Spanish booth, had a great sauce but were otherwise bland and tasted of freezer burn. We were especially disappointed by the Horchata, which was a team favorite last year. It seemed watered down and lacked the spiciness we so enjoyed in 2018.

New for 2019

Carne Asada Taco

Citrus & soy marinated beef with queso fresca, cilantro & guacamole on a warm corn tortilla

Booth Price Rating
Mexico $5.00 5.67/10
New for 2019

Chorizo Empanada

Spicy pork sausage pastry-pocket with cilantro-lime cream

Booth Price Rating
Mexico $5.00 3.5/10
New for 2019

Fried Shrimp Taco

Deep fried shrimp tossed in sweet chili sauce with pico de gallo & cilantro-lime slaw

Booth Price Rating
Mexico $5.00 8.83/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Fried Shrimp Taco

Philippines

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Philippines Oktoberfest 3.21/10

This new addition was easily the biggest disappointment at the festival. The two of us who grew up with Filipino cuisine were especially unhappy with the offerings. The Adobo was somehow simultaneously dry and oily, and tasted exclusively of soy sauce. The Siopao, selected Least Offensive in Booth, was doughy and needed more filling. The Mamon was like a stale ladyfinger and had none of the advertised cheese. As a lover of Filipino desserts, all I could say over and over was, “where are the custards and sweet rice?” The “juice” seemed to be infused water with melon. It was refreshing and trendy, but arguably not worth the $4.25 price tag.

New for 2019

Chicken Adobo

Chicken braised in a soy & vinegar marinade with sinangag garlic rice

Booth Price Rating
Philippines $5.25 2.33/10
New for 2019

Mamon

Butter sponge cake topped with shredded cheese & raspberry sauce

Booth Price Rating
Philippines $4.25 2/10
New for 2019

Siopao

Steamed Pork Bun with sweet soy glaze

Booth Price Rating
Philippines $5.25 5/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Siopao

South Korea

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
South Korea Festa Italia 4.58/10

This southeast Asian booth is another must-miss at the F&WF. The best we could say about the inoffensive Beef Bulgogi was that is wasn’t as dry as the Adobo. The ribs were more controversial. Some liked the mild flavors in the meat, while others found it uninteresting. Similarly, the slaw’s strong flavors sparked heated debate.

Beef Bulgogi

Grilled, Korean-style, marinated beef over rice

Booth Price Rating
South Korea $6.25 5.33/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 Beef Bulgogi

Korean BBQ Pork Ribs

Spicy chili BBQ glazed ribs served over gochujang slaw

Booth Price Rating
South Korea $6.25 3.83/10

Virginia

Booth Location Avg. Dish Score
Virginia Heatherdowns 6.38/10

The highlights at the Commonwealth’s own booth were the She-Crab Soup and Strawberry Lemonade. The creamy soup with big chunks of crab and just enough sherry was topped off with a crisp crouton, earning it the award for Best in Booth. The refreshing drink also scored well thanks to its tartness and abundance of strawberries. The hushpuppies, however, were overcooked and tasted more like a burned potato skin than a fluffy fritter. If you are looking for yummy fried cornbread, we strongly recommend you head over to the Jamaica booth. The dessert bars were buttery, but seemed to lack any chocolate or bacon flavors.

Bacon & Cheddar Hushpuppies

Cornmeal fritters served with honey butter

Booth Price Rating
Virginia $4.00 4.67/10

Pecan, Bacon & Chocolate Bars

Sweet pecan caramel bars topped with candied bacon & chocolate drizzle

Booth Price Rating
Virginia $3.75 5.5/10

She-Crab Soup

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

Booth Price Rating
Virginia $6.00 7.33/10
Best in Booth(Savory)
Busch Gardens Williamsburg Food and Wine Festival 2019 She-Crab Soup

So, there you have it. We hope the two articles are useful as you explore the tastiest event at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

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