On April 16th, Zachary, Luke, Tony, and I visited Kings Dominion to check out the Spring Bloom Festival. As in the past, the park has adorned International Street with whimsical, garden-inspired decorations. Last year KD added an International Food Faire to the flowers and concert series, and as has become our custom, we decided to sample everything.
Spring Bloom German Booth
Spring Bloom Swiss Booth
Spring Bloom Irish Booth
Spring Bloom Italian Booth
Before I get to the food, itself, I want to commend the park on some great changes they made to this year’s event:
- They have scaled down the number of booths and moved them all under the Eiffel Tower. All four can be seen in the gallery above. In addition to providing shade, it gives the Food Faire a sense of cohesion, and it feels more like a single event than last year, when the kiosks were spread around the fountains. The booths appeared last weekend to draw more people, as well, possibly, because it was more obviously an attraction and less easy to miss.
- The park has also centralized the food and beverage purchasing, and moved to a ticket-based system, which allows them to take credit cards. One of the least convenient aspects of the event last year was the fact that the individual booths could only take cash. This year we were able to review all of the menus, and then purchase tickets at a central booth (pictured below). This system also reduces lines at the food kiosks, as they are now only serving food. The new combination ticket is a great idea, too. We hope it encourages people to try dishes from more of the booths. One additional change we would like the park to consider, however, is creating a Meal Deal option.
Spring Bloom Food Faire Ticket Sign
Spring Bloom Information Booth
- This year, if you buy one of the combination packages, you will also receive a cute Spring Bloom Festival Passport, which has places for food and beverage stamps from each booth. You can also pick one up at any of the kiosks, when you order food. We couldn’t resist and got one of our booklets stamped at each station.
- According to the Chef Paul, this year he was able to assign mostly permanent staff to each booth, allowing them to become experts in their dishes and perfect their presentation. Most of the people we ordered from already seemed familiar with their food and did an excellent job of creating pretty plates.
In addition to the improved logistics, the International Food faire also boasts better tasting dishes this year. Among the four booths there were very few items that we all disliked, and several we unanimously loved.
Two of our overall favorite dishes are available at the German booth.
Black Forest Ham & Havarti Cheese
This sandwich was my favorite item at the event. The combination of the cucumber, apple butter, and apple slaw added a sweet and tangy crunch to the traditional ham and cheese with mustard. The result was light and fresh with a perfect balance of tastes and textures.
German Potato Salad
This side item was Zachary’s favorite dish; he says it is the best potato salad he has ever eaten. Once again Chef Paul found the perfect balance of flavors: the “sauce” had just enough tang, and the eggs did not overwhelm the potatoes. The crunchy kettle chips provided an interesting counterpoint to the creamy salad.
Apple Sticky Bun Bread Pudding
We all enjoyed this dessert, but thought it probably needed slightly more apple and pilsner caramel sauce.
- Hardywood Pils
- 2012 Weingut Louis Guntrum Reisling
Neither of the beverages stood out, but depending on your tastes, either is probably a safe option. The wine tasted like most Rieslings, and the beer seemed like an average pilsner. I would personally have preferred a slightly less sweet wine, and a little more malty flavor in my beer.
This booth offered traditional favorites with a unique twist, which seems to be Chef Paul’s specialty.
Charcuterie & Cheese
Who doesn’t like a charcuterie plate? The components all worked well together. The meats and cheeses were mild, but the crostini brought a fantastic crunch and injection of flavor. The orange marmalade also paired extremely well with the cheese.
Swiss Mac & Cheese
Obviously, this is another easy crowd pleaser. We were surprised, however, by Chef Paul’s version. The diced bacon did not make the dish too salty, and the shredded cheese on top added texture and flavor. Even the macaroni was well cooked. It all came together to be Tony’s favorite dish at the event.
Sadly, this dessert, which has so much potential, was a bit of a letdown. While we did enjoy the glazed strawberries and chocolate, the waffle itself was tough and needed more vanilla.
- Slingshot KOLSCH
- Jam Jar 2015
I, personally, enjoyed the beer more than the wine at this kiosk, although neither was fantastic. I don’t really like sweet wines, so this South African Moscato was simply not to my taste. The Kolsch, however, was in my opinion better than the German pilsner, as it had nice “hoppiness” and more malt.
The Irish booth offers some well-executed comfort food.
Luke’s favorite dish was creamy and flavorful. The sausage had great herbs and the gravy enhanced the potatoes perfectly. We all would recommend trying this classic.
Loaded “Irish Nachos”
While I appreciate the concept, most of us thought the execution fell short of our expectations. Maybe it is because I adore potato skins, but I really thought the dish needed some kind of meat, probably bacon. Since I understand the need for vegetarian options, I probably would have overlooked that exclusion, if the cheese tasted better. Unfortunately, it seemed fake and “plastic,” for lack of a better word. We did enjoy the cool sour cream and fresh chips.
Irish Coffee & Chocolate
Everyone enjoyed this mixture of cake, cookies, and cream. Perhaps it could have had more coffee flavoring, but it was wonderfully chocolatey and creamy.
We all liked these local beverages. The red blend was smooth and fruity without being too sweet; and the porter had a rich, chocolatey taste.
The Italian booth boasts the event’s most adventurous cuisine.
Spring Pesto Orzo Salad
We have always loved Chef Paul’s pesto, and this version was no exception. The orzo and pesto were predictably great, and the crostini added an appealing sesame and garlic crunch to the mix. While we liked the Bocconcini, they didn’t seem to add either flavor or texture.
Prosciutto Melon Wedge
I will admit that I was worried about this offering. Very often, when I am served fruit wrapped in meat, the result is a rancid flavor and a slimy consistency. I was very pleasantly surprised by Chef Paul’s sweet and salty dish. The melon was ripe and the prosciutto wasn’t too strong, resulting in a perfect spring pairing.
Although I would have preferred stronger flavors in this dessert, it was everyone’s favorite at the event. The custard was creamy, and it was light and not cloyingly sweet.
- Honeydew Hard Cider
- Prodigo Sauvignon Blanc 2014
While we disagreed about the Sauvignon Blanc, we all though the cider was the best beverage at the event. It is worth noting that we all love hard cider, but the hint of melon made an excellent drink even better. The wine was a great choice for a spring festival, and Zachary in particular enjoyed it; but some of us thought this white was sour, rather than fresh and fruity.
Overall we loved the International Food Faire. The dishes were great; the new layout was charming; and the ticketing system was convenient. Chef Paul once again proved that he is the master of taking foods people are familiar with and serving them in new and interesting ways. Everything was fresh and the presentation was lovely. The 2016 Spring Bloom Festival was a great way to start the 2016 season at Kings Dominion.