On Friday, CL's three-person tasting crew at the media preview for the annual Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival must've gone back for the key lime berry parfait mousse two, maybe three, times each. The layered dessert, garnished with a crispy piece of churro, is that good — and it's among the 17 new additions to the gourmet soirée, now in its third year.
The culinary stylings spread out across the Tampa theme park's sampling cabins and tents include dozens of fine wines, local craft beers, and chef-inspired dishes, many of which were available at the press event. Alongside the parfait, CL favorites include the tuna poke wakame salad with black sesame seeds; new lobster tart with spring asparagus and lemon oil; and a white wine blend from the Sterling Vineyards Vinters Collection.
There are also tasty (and thankfully stiff, rather than super sugary) frozen cocktails that come in both sangria and mango margarita flavors, as well as a red-and-white checkered basket of returning duck fat truffle fries, which still aren't vegetarian, no matter how tempting that drizzle of Parmesan truffle aioli on top may be.
But a few of the selections could use a little "umph," especially if Busch Gardens is trying to attract an audience that likely frequents the year-round food fests hosted at Florida's other theme parks; the underseasoned grits showcased in "Louisiana-style" shrimp and grits, for one, aren't a worthy tribute to the Bayou State.
Park ticket holders have access to the Food & Wine Festival, launched this past weekend, on Saturdays and Sundays through April 30. While exploring from tent to cabin under strings of lights and garlands that feature different colored spoons, seek out these other dreamy-sounding tastes: the new portobello mushroom taco and cabernet-filled chocolate truffles, ice cream float made with Cigar City Brewing's Maduro Brown Ale, grilled cheesecake sandwich (yeah, it's a thing), and goat cheese polenta with blistered tomatoes and olives.