Monday, March 16, 2015

Busch Gardens Tampa Project 2016 : Construction Update #1

In September of 2014, Busch Gardens Tampa filed permits with the City Of Tampa requesting permission to build its latest attraction, now being called "Project 2016". The new attraction is scheduled to be built in the Egypt area of the park near the former "Tut's Tomb" attraction. While specific details regarding the attraction have not been released yet, we've uncovered some speculations on what could be coming to the park. For more information, check out our article below.

On our latest visit to the park, we were able to uncover the latest speculations regarding Project 2016. As we approached the rumored project site, we discovered several Surveying Bench Marks (orange markers) placed in locations along the Serengeti Railway train tracks. According to the public blueprints uploaded to the Southwest Florida Water Management Districts site, the blueprints note the re-routing of the existing train tracks for further construction. As of March 16, the park publicly tweeted the following message regarding the temporary closure of the Serengeti Express.

While not officially confirmed by the park, one of our very reputable sources believes the train closure will span until May 20th. Please note this is purely speculation. 

Moving closer to the rumored project site, we came across construction barriers & mesh netting in the furthest corner of Edge Of Africa, closest to the railroad crossing into the Egypt area of the park, and the rumored project site. Many yards of mesh netting could be seen strung through the Edge Of Africa leading into the bird habitat & surrounding wading pool areas. If you look closely, it seems as though this walkway leads to some sort of boxed in area on the inside of the habitat.
All remains calm at the rumored attraction site, but the surrounding areas are definitely bustling with activity in preparations for Project 2016. Be sure to use #Project2016BGT when tweeting about Busch Gardens Tampa's newest attraction!
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Monday, March 9, 2015

Bloggers Guide To The 2015 Busch Gardens Tampa Food & Wine Festival!

The Inaugural Busch Gardens Tampa Food & Wine Festival Makes A Spectacular Debut Amongst Park Guests!
The inaugural Busch Gardens Tampa Food & Wine Festival is now underway! With 9 culinary booths, numerous beverage tasting tents, specialty live entertainment, horticulture masterpieces, and skilled artisans, there's something for everyone at the Food & Wine Festival. We were able to attend the opening day of the Busch Gardens Tampa Food & Wine Festival. Be sure to check out our following trip report in the area below!

Entering The Park

Once passing through the park entrance, it was quite obvious that the Food & Wine Festival was underway. Sophisticated decorations and informational items were placed around the park entrance giving guests time to familiarize themselves with the festival area. Similar to Busch Gardens Williamsburg's Food & Wine Festival, festival guide books were available to guests. The guide books featured information on culinary & beverage locations, headlining concerts, specialty entertainment, and overall event information. In addition, a wine glass musician was on-site entertaining guests before the park officially opened. He even played the national anthem!
Culinary Selections
With 9 specialty food booths, there's something for every taste at the Busch Gardens Tampa Food & Wine Festival. On this particular visit, we ended up sampling two dishes from every festival culinary location. While we wont be implementing a "scale" or "rating" system to share our thoughts, please keep in mind that our opinions are not sponsored or promoted by the park.
Gourmet Lodge - Our first stop on our culinary adventure was the Gourmet Lodge. We ended choosing the Venison Chili ($5.50) and the Smoked Beef Brisket ($6.75). Both were very delicious! The Chili was very flavorful and had a subtle spiciness. Paired with the sour cream and fresh vegetables, it was a great combination. The Smoked Beef Brisket was also very good. The quality of the meat wasn't up to par, but the absolutely delicious gouda potato au gratin made the dish truly shine. Overall, I would recommend a stop to the Gourmet Lodge if you're visiting this event.
Gourmet Lodge Menu
Deconstructed Duck Confit ($6.25)
with Crispy Fried Wontons, Orange Salsa & Microgreens
Smoked Beef Brisket ($6.75)
with Cheddar & Smoked Gouda Potato Au Gratin
 Venison Chili ($5.50)
with Roasted Corn, Black Beans & Lime Sour Cream

Field House Eatery - Next up on our culinary adventure was the Field House Eatery. We ended up sampling the Pan Seared Diver Scallops ($6.50), the Roasted Pork Belly ($5.75) and the Mango Éclair ($3.25). The Scallops were cooked to perfection. Buttery, but with a great sear on the outside. The freshness of the watermelon salsa and the crispiness of the fried tortilla made this dish one of the best we'd tried all day. The Roasted Pork Belly was also very good. The pork was in need of some salt, but the tomato onion jam compensated for the lack of flavor. The fried leeks on top were also very nice. As for the Mango Éclair, what more can I say? Absolutely delicious! The Field House Eatery is a great place to stop by on your culinary adventure. Be sure to ask for Chef Rich (@BGTChefRich On Twitter) and say "Hi"!

Field House Eatery Menu

Pan Seared Diver Scallops ($6.50)
atop a Crispy Tortilla with a Watermelon Salsa
Roasted Pork Belly ($5.75)
topped with a Tomato Onion Jam & Fried Leeks
Shrimp, Kale & Locally-Grown Strawberries ($6.00)
tossed in a Ginger Dressing
Mango Éclair ($3.25)
drizzled with a White Chocolate Sauce   
Blazin' Bistro - Next up was the Blazin' Bistro. We ended up selecting the Jerk Chicken Slider ($5.75) and the Fire-Braised Pork Chop ($6.00). Both were extremely flavorful! The Jerk Chicken Slider was quite spicy, but the sweetness of the pineapple salsa made a perfect pairing. The chicken was cooked very nicely, but was still thoroughly juicy. The Fire-Braised Pork Chop was also very good. The pork was a bit dry near the edges, but more tender moving in towards the bone. The mango-chili lime glaze gave the pork chop a sweet but spicy kick that both of us enjoyed. The fried plantain chips were a nice addition too. Overall, we were both impressed by the Caribbean flare of the Blazin' Bistro.

Blazin' Bistro Menu

Jerk Chicken & Pineapple Salsa ($5.75)
on Mini Brioche Roll
Fire-Braised Pork Chop ($6.00)
brushed with a Mango-Chili Lime Glaze served with Plantain Chips
Diced Buffalo Mozzarella, Heirloom Tomatoes & Micro Greens ($4.75)
tossed in an Aged Balsamic Glaze
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream ($4.75)
topped with Maple Fudge Syrup & Bacon Toffee 

Savory Tavern - Next up was the Savory Tavern. We ended up going lite at this culinary location and chose the Passion Fruit Flan ($3.25). The Passion Fruit Flan was presented very nicely, laying in a pool of very delicious strawberry-kiwi sauce. The flan had a great texture and flavor that both of us enjoyed. While we did hear complaints that it was too sweet for some, we both thoroughly enjoyed it! Overall, we were both impressed by the Savory Tavern and look forward to returning to try the remaining dishes.

Savory Tavern Menu

Coconut Shrimp Cigars ($5.50)
with a Mandarin Orange Salad, served with a Horseradish-Orange Marmalade
Braised Lamb ($6.75)
with Roasted Corn & Merlot Jus Lie
Passion Fruit Flan ($3.25)
with a Kiwi-Strawberry Salsa  
Comfort Kitchen - Next up was the Comfort Kitchen. We ended up getting the Bacon Mac & Cheese ($5.00) and the Strawberry Shortcake ($3.75). Both were presented very nicely, especially the Strawberry Shortcake. The Mac & Cheese was very flavorful, and the bacon inside was warm and crispy. The Strawberry Shortcake was also very good. We thought the desert resembled sponge cake rather than shortcake, but it was still a delicious dish. The strawberries were very fresh and had a very natural flavor. Overall, the general consensus was positive at the Comfort Kitchen!

Comfort Kitchen Menu

Bacon Mac & Cheese ($5.00)
Aged Serrano Ham & Homestead Melons ($5.50)
with Baby Greens drizzled with a Fig-Infused Port Wine Glaze
Habanero Shrimp Salad ($6.00)
Strawberry Shortcake ($3.75)   

 Coast To Coast Cookery - Next up was the Coast To Coast Cookery. We ended up sampling the Hangar Steak & Potato Leek Hash ($6.50), the Bacon Wrapped Prawns ($6.25) and the Flourless Chocolate Torte ($3.25). All of the dishes were absolutely phenomenal, especially the Flourless Chocolate Torte! The Hangar Steak was cooked perfectly, and the Potato Leek Hash was seasoned to perfection. The Bacon Wrapped Prawns were out of this world! The pairing of the Kumquat Glaze & Jicama Cilantro slaw made this my absolute favorite dish of the day. As for the torte, it was hands down one of the best deserts we've ever tried. I highly recommend you visit the Coast To Coast Cookery when visiting the Food & Wine Festival. It's truly an amazing culinary experience!
Coast To Coast Cookery Menu
Green Peppercorn Seared Hangar Steak ($6.50)
with Potato Leek Hash
Bacon Wrapped Prawns in a Kumquat Glaze ($6.25)
with a Jicama Cilantro Slaw
Micro Greens, Goat Cheese & Roasted Golden Beets ($5.25)
tossed in a Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette
Flourless Chocolate Torte ($3.25)

Light Fare Canteen - Our next stop was the Light Fare Canteen. We decided to sample the Scallop Ceviche ($5.75) and the Heirloom Tomato & Goat Cheese Salad ($5.75). Unfortunately, we were both very disappointed by this booth. We found our Scallop "Ceviche" only to be Scallops swimming in lemon juice. The presentation of our salad was very askew, with one slice of tomato, minimal goat cheese, and a big chunk of fennel. While there were only good intentions by the chefs working this particular booth, we feel as though we wont be returning to the Light Fare Canteen.
Light Fare Canteen Menu
Scallop Ceviche ($5.75)
Cheese Plate ($7.00)
Heirloom Tomato & Goat Cheese Salad ($5.75)
Southern Station - The final stop on our culinary adventure was the Southern Station. We decided to sample the Pan-Fried Cod ($6.50) and the Beef Short Rid & Brioche Toast ($6.50). Both dishes were by far the most flavorful of the day. The Pan-Fried Cod was seasoned to perfection and was nicely cooked. The roasted tomatoes were a great pairing with the fish. The Beef Short Rib was also phenomenal. The short rib was pull-apart tender, and the Habanera BBQ sauce gave it a sweet yet spicy heat. The brioche toast was toasted perfectly and acted as a base for the remaining flavors. Overall, we definitely recommend you check out the Southern Station!
Southern Station Menu
 Pan-Fried Cod
served with Parsnip Puree, Fennel Pollen & Roasted Tomato
Beef Short Rib
braised with a Strawberry Wine Habanera BBQ Sauce served with Brioche Toast
Pan-Seared Shrimp & Grits
with Roasted Red Pepper Grits, Grilled Corn
Chef's Plantation - While we did not include this location in our culinary adventure, check out the menu options & pricing information below.
Chef's Plantation Menu 

Pan-Seared Salmon Cake ($5.50)
with a Caper-Lemon Aioli served atop Wasabi Microgreens
Goat Cheese Fingerling Potato Tart ($5.25)
brushed with Pistachio Oil
Griddled Cheese Cake Sandwich ($4.00)
with Raspberry Coulis
Exclusive Food & Wine Festival Entertainment
The Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival brings eclectic yet highly immersive entertainment to this special event. From musicians, acrobats, street performers and so many more variety acts, there's a variety of entertainment options available at this event.
  • Wine Glass Musician - Located at the front of the park, a wine glass musician plays familiar tunes throughout the day. Stop by and hear this very talented musician share his work with you!

  • Camille & Kennerly : The Harp Twins - Located at the entrance to the former Gwazi rollercoaster, identical twins Camille & Kennerly perform well known tunes on their electric harps! Their performances are at 11:30, 12:30, 2:30, 3:30, and 4:30.
  • Rose Mallare : The Flying Cello - Many of you may already know Rose as "Ella", the Pantopia Cellist. Rose has combined her extensive knowledge in music & acrobatics to perform "The Flying Cello". Rose will perform her act at 5:00, 5:45, 6:30, 7:30, and 8:30

  • The Grape Stomp - Located in the Gwazi Plaza, The Grape Stomp provides guests with a comical take on the history of wine and how it's made. The Grape Stomp's performances are at 1:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:30, 7:00, and 8:00.
  • Mix It Up - Located on the Marrakesh Theater stage, "Mix It Up" replaces "Motor City Groove" during Food & Wine Festival weekends. "Mix It Up" features a live group of drummers, brass players, and dancers. Showtimes vary each festival weekend, so be sure to check the back of your park map for showtimes!
  • Food & Wine Festival Characters - The Food & Wine Festival characters can be found throughout the festival area interacting with guests. While they take turns making appearances, guests can interact with "Mr. Spice", 'Chef Beau", "Franz Von Heidenberger", "The Living Fountain", as well as several Food & Wine Festival hosts & hostesses.
  • Food & Wine Festival Concert Series : Opening Acts - Scheduled to perform at 1:45 & 4:00 each day of the Food & Wine Festival, opening acts will take the stage at Gwazi Park. For a complete list of opening acts and headlining artists, please visit the parks' site. Please note opening acts & headlining concerts subject to change. If inclement weather persists, concerts may be postponed, or ultimately cancelled.

Food & Wine Festival Horticulture Masterpieces
Over 8 larger than life topiaries can be found at the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival. Ranging from small to large, the topiaries represent the artful skill of horticulture, and the extremely talented horticulture team of Busch Gardens that upkeep these living works of art on a daily basis. While other "hidden" topiaries lie around the park on a yearly basis, check out some of the topiaries specifically built for the Food & Wine Festival!
  • Spirit Of Spring - Located in the Bird Gardens area of the park next to the Xcursions gift shop, the Spirit Of Spring topiary resembles a beautiful woman with outstretched arms. (PhotoKey Location) 
  • Topiarazzi - Located next to the Zagora Café, the Topiarazzi topiary welcomes you to the inaugural Busch Gardens Tampa Food & Wine Festival!(PhotoKey Location)
  • Naga' Zira' The Green Boa Constrictor - Located in the Gwazi Plaza, Naga' Zira' The Green Boa Constrictor leads guests to the Conservation Cabin, where animal care specialists await to explain the roles of serpents within our lives. (PhotoKey Location)

  • Elmo, Big Bird & Oscar The Grouch - Located near the Bird Gardens refreshment stand, your favorite Sesame Street characters have now taken shape in topiary form! (PhotoKey Location)

  • Florida Octopus - Located in the Garden Gate Café lagoon, the Florida Octopus will amaze park guests by giving the illusion that it's floating on water! (PhotoKey Location)

  • Mugambi The Lion - Located at the park entrance near the main tram stop, Mugambi The Lion will welcome guests to the inaugural Busch Gardens Tampa Food & Wine Festival!
  • Commerson's Dolphins - Located outside of the Garden Gate Café, the Commerson's Dolphins provide guests with an up-close look at one of the Festival's smaller topiaries.
  • Sea Turtles - Also located outside of the Garden Gate Café, the Sea Turtle topiary will amaze guests regardless of its tiny figure!

Artisans & Exclusive Festival Merchandise
Several artisans have flocked to Busch Gardens Tampa to share their work with the guests of the Food & Wine Festival. Ranging from all-natural candles to hand rolled cigars, the vendors of the Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival bring a cosmopolitan flare to this brand new event.
  • The Tipsy Candle Company - Based in Tampa, Florida, The Tipsy Candle company creates handcrafted, all-natural candles using recycled wine bottles. Their products are all natural, meaning no paraffins or artificial scents are used in the making of their products. You can find the Tipsy Candle Company inside of the Xcursions Gift Shop during the Food & Wine Festival. Tipsy Candle Company representatives will be available during Food & Wine Festival weekends, while their products will be available full-time throughout the following weeks. For more information on the Tipsy Candle Company, stay tuned for an upcoming "Artisans Spotlight" post, where we'll go into further detail regarding this very unique company.
  • Enrique Galvez (Don Kike) - Hand-rolling cigars from a very young age, Enrique Galvez gained expertise in the art of cigar rolling from his native country of Cuba. After returning from his studies in Europe, Enrique moved to the Tampa area and now rolls cigars for some of Ybor City's finest cigar shops. Be sure to check out Enrique's work in the Xcursions gift shop during the Food & Wine Festival.

  • Joe's Landscaping Company - Owned and operated by Joe Parr, Joe's Landscaping Company has done some incredible work throughout its time in the landscaping industry, including the installation of the plants & shrubbery on most of Busch Gardens' newest topiaries! Be sure to check out Joe's Landscaping Company outside of the Xcursions gift shop when visiting the Food & Wine Festival.  

  • Mira Luck -  Specializing in on-site jewelry personalization & engraving, Mira Luck uses only the finest quality S16 surgical stainless steel to engrave your items. All of Mira's products are hypoallergenic. Be sure to visit Mira outside of the Gwazi gift shop on your next visit to the Food & Wine Festival.

  • Sarah Wood - Based in Tampa, Florida, Sarah Wood's passion for hand-crafting candles brought her to the Food & Wine Festival in a very unique way. All of Sarah's candles resemble desserts & drinks, despite the edible factor! You may also remember Sarah as a featured vendor during Busch Gardens' Christmas Town event. You can find Sarah and her amazing candles inside the Gwazi Park walkway.
  • Hollace McPhillips - Creating beautiful works of art using clay and other natural ingredients, Hollace McPhillips brings a new form of simple elegance to the Food & Wine Festival. Be sure to check out Hollace's booth in the Gwazi Plaza walkway.
  • Randy Cohen - Being in the food service industry for over 30 years, Randy Cohen grew to love the artistic crafting of specialty woods into cutting boards & pepper mills. Randy now crafts his own specialty wood products, which you can check out at the Food & Wine Festival. Be sure to check out Randy's booth, located in the Gwazi Park walkway.
  • Exclusive Festival Merchandise - Several gift shops & stations around the park are currently selling festival exclusive merchandise featuring aprons, kitchen towels, oven mitts, wine glasses, and much more! Check out some pictures of this very interesting merchandise.
We hope you enjoyed coming along on our culinary adventure! Stay tuned for more posts in the weeks ahead regarding the Busch Gardens Tampa Food & Wine Festival. We thoroughly enjoyed the festival, and look forward to sharing our upcoming culinary adventures with all of you!

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