Delightful, delectable, delicious! It’s back, folks! And bigger, better than ever! Though only in its third year, Busch Gardens Tampa’s annual Food and Wine Festival demonstrates measurable growth in excellence in food, wine, brews, and entertainment. The number of kiosks and food and drink selection has increased, and the variety is outstanding. With a wide variety of sweet and savory foods as well as wine and beers from dry to sweet, you are sure to find multiple somethings to satisfy even the most discerning of pallets.
I highly recommend purchasing the punchable lanyard because it will speed up your time at the register and increase the enjoyment level of your experience. There is a sampler lanyard for every budget. Annual Passholders get the 15-item lanyard for the same price as the 12, and that’s what yours truly did. Every item I had last night was delicious! Used 8 of my punches so I can go back another weekend and sample some more. That’s right! If you do not use all your sample punches in one visit, you can bring your lanyard back another time. Pace yourself. There is so much to eat and drink that you’ll not want to overdo it in order to truly allow the unique flavor of every dish and delicacy to dance upon your taste buds.
Strolling along the main festival road in Gwazi Field, you’ll catch enticing aromas from the numerous kiosks aligning the meandering pathway past topiaries and vendors. If you have a question about anything at Food and Wine, incredibly helpful team members are always close by, and are eagerly awaiting to help direct you or offer suggestions to create a memorable experience that will earn your returned business. The printed festival guide makes locating what you want to eat and drink easy! In addition to food and drink listings, there is other helpful entertainment and park information as well. This is my third year at the festival, and I still pick up the guide because I want to make sure that I don’t miss a single opportunity for enjoyment. Since the concert last night was for a group that I am unfamiliar with and was mostly in Spanish (great for Spanish-speaking guests!), I did not take the time to chillax with the live music; however, I headed over to my favorite show at Busch Gardens and favorite theme park show period: Turn It Up: the Hottest Show on Ice.
So, what Food and Wine items did I select last night? I’m happy to share those with you! The first item on my list, which was recommended to me by a helpful team member, was the wine filled chocolate truffles! You heard me right. Two of life’s greatest enjoyments all rolled up into one amazing treat. If you love chocolate and wine like I do, you will not want to pass this item up. Following the chocolate truffles with wine, I went for the beef brisket on a spiced corn waffle with Amerbock BBQ sauce and paired that with Trapiche Oak Cask Malbec. Couldn’t ask for a better pairing of food and wine. I suppose I could’ve had the chocolate truffled filled with wine for dessert, but I just had to get those as soon as I found out about them.
Returning again this year is the wildly popular bison bacon sliders on a toasted brioche bun! Typically served with sriracha ketchup and a pickle, I don’t care for sriracha nor pickles, so the chefs in the food cabin were happy to modify my slider. I paired the slider with an Alexander Valley Merlot. After I finished my delicious bison slider, I headed over to the Moroccan Palace for Turn It Up! After the show, I made my way back over to the festival grounds to tickle my taste buds some more. For my final meal at the festival (for this visit anyway), I selected the Grilled Cheesecake Sandwich with raspberry drizzle and Short Rib and Brie grilled cheese on house-made brioche. Paired this savory and sweet offering with the William Hill Estate pinot noir. Scrumptious! Every item I selected during my first visit to the festival was a sheer pleasure!
I am looking forward to my next visit–I have 7 more punches on my sampler lanyard, after all. But will likely make a few more visits during the nearly two-month run of #CorksAndCoasters. If you are looking for some tips to enhance your experience, the festival is generally less crowded on Sunday than Saturday; however, the concerts can affect this. With the park hours extended until 9pm during the festival, you will have plenty of time for Busch Gardens’ famous coasters.