Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival 2018: What’s New?

Cuba

It’s time for Busch Gardens annual Food & Wine Festival, and foodie fans (and thrill seekers) are rejoicing. This is, bar none, one of my favorite park events. After Halloween, of course.

The 2018 edition of the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival is going on now through July 1 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Themed food kiosks, 16 in all, with selections from around the world make a fun and tasty way to enjoy the park. Food and beverage samples are at an additional cost, but the event is included with park admission.

New kiosks this year include: Cuba, Japan, Brazil and South Korea. Previously, there was one all-encompassing Asia kiosk. The park decided to “localize” Asian cuisine by doing separate kiosks for Japan and South Korea, which I think works wonderfully well. Some of the selections from previous years are still available.

Chef demonstrations, wine tastings, and live concerts round out the Food & Wine Festival, now in its sixth year.

Busch Gardens Concerts

  • Scotty McCreery – Saturday, June 9, 2018
  • Hunter Hayes – Saturday, June 16, 2018
  • Andy Grammer – Saturday, June 30, 2018

Concerts take place at the park’s Royal Palace Theatre, in France, and are included with park admission.

Cuba Kiosk at Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival 2018

Cuba

I love Cuban food, so I was particularly pleased to see this addition to the line-up. Menu items include:

  • Cuban sandwich – Roasted pork Cuban sandwich
  • Ropa Vieja – Shredded beef in criollo sauce over black beans and rice
  • Tostones – Fried plantains green plantains served with mojo mayo
  • Flan
  • Cocktail – Cuba Libre
  • Specialty drink – Batido de Trigo (described as a puffed wheat shake)

Roasted Pork Cuban Sandwich – Cuba

The Cuban sandwich has roasted pork, ham, dill pickles and yellow mustard pressed in homemade Cuban bread. I’m pretty sure this is my new favorite. The mix was perfect, and it’s just the right size portion. I also liked the accompanying plantain chips. Chef Justin mentioned that this is the “Tampa Bay” version of a Cuban sandwich. So if you’ve actually been to Cuba, it might not be what you’ve had before, but it is darn tasty in my humble opinion.

Bonus: I know some people don’t like pickles (one of these picky persons is in my party, so I’ve had to deal with this). Obviously, you could just pick the pickles off of it, right? Well, at some of the places we’ve been, the pickles are all chopped up and mixed into the sandwich. Or, they can’t be left off (the only reason I can figure is it’s pre-made). Anyway, my take-away on this is to say “Great job, Busch Gardens, on using pickle slices instead of chopping them all up.” My people would be happy with this. The Cuba kiosk is located in France near the Griffon.

Brazil Kiosk at Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival 2018

Brazil

Brazil takes the place of Canada from previous years. Yes, I know, everybody is upset about that delicious mac and cheese from Canada. But, no worries, the Hawaii kiosk now has a pineapple and ham mac and cheese. I was unfortunately too full to try it, but it’s next on my list.

Menu items at Brazil include:

  • Churrasco – Grilled beef with chimichurri sauce
  • Abacaxi – Grilled pineapple with coconut caramel sauce
  • Linguica – Brazilian sausage served with grilled portabellas and peppers
  • Cocktail – Caipirinha
  • Wine – Dona Paula Los Cardos Chardonnay, Trapiche Broquel Malbec
  • Specialty drink – Brazilian lemonade (non-alcoholic)

Abacaxi – Brazil kiosk

The abacaxi, a grilled pineapple with coconut caramel sauce, is amazing. It’s really sweet and dessert-like. It does have coconut sprinkles on it, so if you have a texture thing, you might want to scrape them off. Otherwise, it’s perfect.

Japan Kiosk at Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival 2018

Japan Kiosk

Japan is located where the all-encompassing Asia kiosk was last year. Menu items include:

  • Lettuce Wrap – Vegetables and tofu wrapped in tender butter lettuce with toasted almonds and sweet chili dipping sauce
  • Mushi-Gyoza – Japanese-style steamed chicken dumplings with citrus ponzu sauce
  • California roll – Sushi roll filled with crab surimi, avocado and cucumber served with pickled ginger and wasabi
  • Soba Noodle Bowl – Dashi broth with pickled vegetables, green onions, edamame, egg and shiitake mushrooms
  • Matcha Ice Cream – Green tea ice cream with sweet soy glaze served with a sesame cookie
  • Wine – Takara Plum Wine, Takara Sake
  • Specialty (non-alcoholic) – Bubble Tea, Kombucha by Coca-Cola

South Korea Kiosk at Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival 2018

South Korea Kiosk

South Korea heads into new Food & Wine Festival territory with its location in Festa Italia. After passing over the bridge, head to the right to try out this new region.

South Korea menu items include:

  • Beef Bulgogi – Grilled Korean-style marinated beef skewer
  • Kimchi Sampler – Cabbage, cucumber and daikon radish varieties
  • Korean BBQ prk ribs – Spicy chili BBQ glazed ribs served over Gochujang slaw
  • Cocktail – Korean Soju
  • Specialty (non-alcoholic) – Barley tea

I didn’t get a chance to try the new selections at South Korea or Japan. I was seriously stuffed by the time I got around to that end of the park. I definitely want to try the soba noodle bowl and the matcha ice cream from Japan, as well as the kimchi and the Korean BBQ pork ribs the next time I’m there.

Busch Gardens 2018 Food & Wine Festival Kiosks

  • American Southwest
  • Brauhaus (Germany)
  • Brazil
  • Caribbean
  • Crepes and Coffee
  • Cuba
  • French Quarter
  • Hawaii
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Mediterranean
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Virginia

Check out last year’s Food & Wine Festival for a peek at some of the other kiosks.

Here are a couple of the reasons I might have been too full by the time I got to Japan …

Pizzelle Cookies – Italy

This is a pizzelle cookie from the Italy kiosk. Pizzelles are fresh-pressed Italian cookies filled with sweet mascarpone cheese. They use a tiny waffle maker-like thing to make these sweet cookies, which was cool to watch. They are definitely sweet and creamy.

Mini Cannoli Trio – Italy

You can’t leave the cannolis when in Italy. This is a trio of traditional, strawberry cheesecake and chocolate-hazelnut mini cannolis with chocolate-dipped shells. Luckily, these come in a handy container so you can take them with you.

Shrimp Etouffee and Beignets – French Quarter

The shrimp etouffee is new this year at the French Quarter kiosk. I believe it replaced jambalaya. I love most anything with shrimp, and this is quite good. It is a bit spicy, so make sure you have a drink handy. I recommend the hurricane. The beignets are always a hit with me.

Here are a few shots of some of my favorite decorations …

Hawaii Kiosk

Happy Tikis

Food & Beverage Sampler

Food & Beverage Sampler Lanyard and Menu

The best way to enjoy Busch Gardens’ Food & Wine Festival 2018, in my opinion, is with a Food & Beverage Sampler pass. It includes 10 entrees, desserts and wine or beer (with some exclusions). Frozen drinks, shots and cocktails aren’t included. This allows you to wear a lanyard around your neck, and the cashier can just scan it. No constant digging around in bags, backpacks and wallets.

Food & Beverage Sampler lanyards can be purchased at any Food & Wine Festival kiosk. Of course, you can also go “al a carte” and purchase what you wish with cash or credit cards.

 

Photo: Busch Gardens

 Disclosure: I received complimentary admission to the park as part of the Food & Wine Media Day event. All opinions are strictly my own.

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