Mid-season last year Chef Paul joined Kings Dominion and immediately started changing the park’s approach to food. He created an open-air bistro, hosted tastings on the Eiffel Tower, and treated guests to highly-themed Haunt dinners.
Apparently fans of Kings Dominion were not the only ones to notice the dramatic shift in the park’s culinary offerings. Each year the Coca-Cola company recognizes the Overall Best Theme Park Food across the Cedar Fair chain. Although Knotts Berry Farm with its year-round operations and large, dedicated culinary operations traditionally wins, last season Kings Dominion, with Chef Paul at the helm, was awarded the first runner up for the first time ever. Based on what he showed us this week at the park, we believe that the same drive and skill that led to that prize in 2014 will make 2015 a really exciting year for Kings Dominion’s Culinary Department.
Luke, Zachary, and I (Nicole) spoke at length with Chef Paul about his plans for this coming season. In addition to the Spring Bloom Festival, which starts this coming weekend, he has a lot of exciting things planned for KD’s Foodies.
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When Soak City opens Memorial Day weekend, guests can expect to see several changes to the restaurants. He plans to bring barbecue, specialty fries, yogurt parfaits, Oreo mousse cups, and Virginia beers to Surfer Joe’s. The newly renamed Fonda’s Fiesta (in honor of a recently passed associate) will serve a variety of Mexican street foods, including fish tacos. Sharky’s is being renovated and will become grab & go market with options like fish and chips and personal pizzas. Additionally, a new Coca-Cola Marketplace like the one in Planet Snoopy is being built where Shoot the Curl used to be.
As anyone who visited the park opening weekend knows, Chef Paul has already added some interesting new items to the menus at the regular park restaurants. For example, he has created a new barbecue chicken sandwich on a brioche bun and “Sidewinder Fries” for the Wayside Grill. At the Chicken Shack guests will be able to try two different chicken naan pizzas: pesto and barbecue. The best news may be that Bistro 75 is back, although it will be serving a limited menu during the Spring Bloom Festival, because the limited staff and space would be hard-pressed to accommodate both.
He also shared a few of his longer-term plans. As has been discussed previously, he is developing a special menu for the VIP cabanas at Soak City. In addition, Kings Dominion is planning a Barbecue, Brew, & Bluegrass event in August. We anticipate more local beers and a variety of barbecue flavors and styles. Chef Paul also mentioned that he plans to reuse the food “houses,” which are being built for the Spring Bloom Festival at the August event.
The main reason we met with Chef Paul this week was to discuss the food and wine component of the Spring Bloom Festival which he first told us about roughly a month ago, here. More importantly though, he allowed us to preview a few of the dishes and drinks which will be served at the event. Although some ingredients were not due to arrive at the park until later in the week, Chef Paul was able to share some excellent examples of what we should expect to see at the event when it debuts this weekend. Everything we sampled was delicious, and much of what he plans to serve will be locally-sourced.
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The bruschetta was light and flavorful, and can be found at the Italian House. Both Luke and I listed it as our favorite dish of the day. It will be served alongside a spring pea pesto orzo. The version we tasted was missing the buffalo mozzarella and crumbled goat cheese.
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Although I am not a sausage expert, the bratwurst he served us had the best flavor of any I’ve personally tried. During the event the brat will be served on a pretzel roll and served with a German lentil spring vegetable and micro green salad.
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The Bacon Mac & Cheese from the Switzerland House was very creamy and some of the best we have tried at a theme park. Chef Paul had not received his shipment of gruyère cheese, when we tasted this dish.
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Limoncello Mousse was Zachary’s favorite and I loved it as well. It was fresh and citrusy; the perfect ending to a meal at the Italian House. Our desserts were served with fresh lemon, rather than a fully edible candied lemon peel.
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Chef Paul also served us a variety of beers and wines. They each had very distinctive flavors, and more interestingly to me, several were from local breweries and wineries.
Chef Paul also showed us where the food “houses” will be placed on International Street. An approximate map is included below.
Make sure you all stay tuned for our full review of Kings Dominion’s 2015 Spring Bloom Food Festival, in addition to anything and everything else Chef Paul throws at us in 2015!