^ But then it wouldn't be a mobius loop like with TC. Actually, now that I think about, the park employees probably wouldn't bother check several thousand IDs a day so I could just sneak by. Also, speaking of beer themed coasters, did you know there's a blue fire clue that launches you out of a keg?
Still confused about why vekomas headquarters hasn't been burnt down by an angry mob of enthusiasts
Last weekend I had the chance to stop in to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay to check out the first annual Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival along with checking out the latest construction progress on the 2016 expansion project in the Egypt section of the park. Regarding the Food and Wine Festival, I felt that the event is on the right track but wasn't a solid win straight out of the gate. None of the food was particularly bad (with one exception) but nothing was extraordinary. I'm curious to see how next year's event steps it up if it returns, but it was nice to see the park continue to dabble in unique, new events either way.
The entrance of the park features some new decor advertising the event...
A full run-down of the event's menu.
Several new topiaries have been added to the park specifically for the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival.
The old Gwazi plaza and Gwazi Park make up the space where the Food & Wine Festival is hosted.
Nothing to see here.
Another topiary near Gwazi...
Lots of different pop-up shops built for the event.
Gwazi's former entrance serves as a venue for a pianist to perform during the event.
Time for the food!
The Braised Lamb with Roasted Corn & Merlot Jus Lie was solid.
The Coconut Shrimp Cigars & Mandarin Orange Salad was quite good!
Heading into Gwazi Park...
Time to dine in the shadow of the dormant beast...
It is hard not to stand here and expect a train to come flying by.
At the Southern Station, we tried the Shrimp & Grits... The Roasted Red Pepper Grits really made the dish for me.
The Pan-Fried Cod had a nice char to it and the Parsnip Puree was easily the best part of the dish overall.
The Beef Short Rib & Brioche Toast had a nice sauce and the meat had a "melt in your mouth" tenderness to it.
Live entertainment has been added throughout the park specifically for the Food & Wine Festival. This "living fountain" was fun to watch, especially because her fingers actually sprayed water as if she were a part of the real fountain.
So sad... Or maybe not, depending on how you felt about the ride.
The Gourmet Lodge was where we tried the Beef Brisket served with Cheddar & Smoked Gouda Potato Au Gratin. Honestly, this felt like the same (solid) brisket you can get throughout the year at the Zambia Steakhouse. The potatoes were nice though.
The Deconstructed Duck Confit with Fried Wontons, Orange Salsa & Microgreens was one of the better dishes of the event.
Next up was the Comfort Kitchen where we tried the Habanero Shrimp Salad and the Bacon Mac & Cheese. The shrimp had a light kick despite being soaked in a habanero sauce, but the salad beneath it had a fantastic lemon thyme vinaigrette.
The Bacon Mac & Cheese was fine... It was the standard mac with cheese sauce on top along with some sliced strips of bacon. Nothing overly special but it tasted fine enough to finish.
The Chef's Plantation was my favorite booth of the event with all three dishes winning in my book. The Goat Cheese Fingerling Potato Tart had a quiche-esque consistency but the cheese really brought the potatoes in a neat way. I would get this one again.
The Pan-Seared Salmon Cake with Caper-Lemon Aioli served atop Wasabi Microgreens was my personal favorite item of the entire event.
The Griddled Cheese Cake Sandwich was really nice, provided you get past the notion that this isn't a cheesecake dish. Really, it is two pieces of pound cake with a thin layer of cream cheese between slices, pan-griddled and served on a plate with raspberry coulis. The dessert was tasty (albeit heavy) but not the cheesecake sandwich I was expecting.
Both of the typical Howl-O-Scream pavilions in Gwazi Park are used for the Food & Wine Festival for shaded seating and additional dining space.
It is just... There.
The only "bad" dish of the event was the Pan Seared Diver Scallops atop a Crispy Tortilla with a Watermelon Salsa. These scallops were small and oddly bitter... Typically when scallops are the main focus of a dish, they are larger and more flavorful. This was not the case at all.
The Roasted Pork Belly topped with a Tomato Onion Jam & Fried Leeks on the other hand was a big win for us. Well cooked and flavorful!
The Mango Eclair was flavorful and refreshing.
The Midori Margarita was the only drink we bought at the festival, but it was well worth it! I'll hardly ever turn down a drink with Midori at this point.
Two towering giants in view.
Time to make our way back out to catch up on the rest of the park...
This was one AWESOME topiary!
Her face is a little strange.
I honestly didn't know that Beer-based bread mix was a thing.
Over in Egypt, the 2016 expansion project is well underway.
The old walkthrough Tut's Tomb has long-since closed.
Busch Gardens knows how to poke fun at the uber-fans.
On the backside of the Crown Colony House visible construction is evident.
It appears that at least one trench will be built for this new attraction or area.
Early signs of footers are already on-site.
The Serengeti Safari Train is currently closed while the 2016 attraction is being build. The track that passed behind the Crown Colony House and Egypt has been entirely removed for this new project.
I never get tired of seeing this!
TPR Turtle Fancy fulfilled!
Fans of the Madagascar: Operation Vacation! show should note that the park's main gift shop is selling all show-related merchandise at 25% off... Could this be a hint that the show will be retired soon?
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
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