I love food festivals—from the super-fancy to the down-and-dirty, there’s nothing better than gathering around food.
New York City; October 2012
New York City’s premier food fest offers over 120 events, from Brooklyn to Harlem, with talks from heralded chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and Ferran Adrià, as well as food-TV personalities like Duff Goldman and Guy Fieri. Best part? One hundred percent of the proceeds benefit the Food Bank for New York City and Share Our Strength, a nonprofit aimed at eliminating childhood hunger.
Aspen, CO; June 15-17, 2012
Launched in 1982 as a humble wine tasting for locals, this is currently one of the world’s most exclusive and intimate culinary events. The crowd is capped at 5,000, which includes attendees and all chefs, press and pourers. Aspen is small and everything is close together, so you might have a casual run-in with your favorite food personality—Jacques Pépin, say, or Mario Batali.
Miami; February 23-26, 2012
Set in sunny Miami Beach, this is like spring break for food lovers. A third of ticket sales are from out-of-towners wanting to escape the winter blues and hang out with international stars like Nobu Mastsuhisa and Alain Ducasse. I have the pleasure of hosting this year’s closing event, Trucks on the Beach, and I couldn’t be more excited. Fifteen food trucks, plus live music, right on the ocean? Heaven.
Grand Cayman; January 12-15, 2012
Mix a fantastic Caribbean vacation with world-class cuisine at the Cayman Cookout. Hosted at the Ritz-Carlton by chef Eric Ripert, this food event is the epitome of luxury, packed with unique tastings, demonstrations, tours and dinners. It might be the only high-end food event you can enjoy in your bare feet.
Rock Creek Lodge, Clinton, Montana; August 2012
Next year’s annual Testy Festy on beautiful Rock Creek marks the 30-year anniversary of this adults-only homage to the testicle. Seven-thousand festival-goers gather to snack on Rocky Mountain oysters, compete in ball-eating contests and cheer on folks crazy enough to enter the Undie 500—a tricycle race executed in only your skivvies. Sure, it’s bit crass, but hey, it’s fun.
Tiger Lane at the Mid-South Fairgrounds, Memphis; May 17-19, 2012
There are a lot of great barbecue festivals, but this one might be my favorite. Hundreds of teams compete for top honors in categories like whole hog, ribs, hot wings, sauce and more. Mix in live music and the Ms. Piggie competition (imagine: grown men dressed like pigs in tutus, belting out songs at the top of their lungs), and you’ve got a fantastic food-filled weekend.
Grant Park, Chicago; August 3-5, 2012
When you think Lolla, you probably think music, but food should be right up there as well. Celebrity chef and music-head Graham Elliot Bowles is the man behind the food vendors, so expect the caliber of food to surpass any other music festival you’ve experienced. Anticipate lots of local flavor—tube steaks from Franks’N’Dawgs, barbecue from the Smoke Daddy, burgers from Kuma’s Corner and, of course, Graham’s own truffle popcorn and lobster corn dogs. This is the real taste of Chicago, people!
Pocahontas County, West Virginia; September 29, 2012
The West Virginia Roadkill Cook-Off is one of the region’s best. What can I say: The people are amazing and welcoming; the food’s awesome. You get to see a piece of America that’s been bulldozed over in the other 49 states. I think WV is one of the most real places in the whole world, and this event showcases that perfectly.
Rockland, Maine; first week in August
Just the idea of 20,000 pounds of lobster gets me excited. I’m not alone—this festival has enticed seafood lovers for 64 years. In addition to whole lobster served with butter, you can try steamed and fried regional clams, shrimp and mussels. If you’re worried about overdoing it, sign up for the 10K run, 5K walk or lobster crate race—a run across 50 partially submerged lobster crates.
Coca-Cola Field, Buffalo, New York; September 1-2, 2012
To say we’re obsessed with wings around our office is an understatement, so we dubbed the party dedicated to the quintessential bar food “bucket-list worthy.” Inspired by Bill Murray’s character in the film Osmosis Jones, this festival is all about wings—over 37 tons of wings. Expect every sauce, rub and dip you can think of (and plenty of napkins to wipe up the mess).
Stockholm; June 1-6, 2012
Stockholm probably isn’t on your food-fest radar, but maybe it should be. It’s not all about meatballs, lingonberries and gravy. Swedes love fresh and organic cuisine, along with lots of international flavors. Over 400,000 people flock to Kungsträdgarden Park for Smaka Pa Stockholm (or Taste of Stockholm). There’s live music, people-watching and Swedish staples like fried herring with dill-lemon potatoes, as well as Indian and Thai curries. Don’t forget to wash it all down with a Carlsberg beer.
Montmartre, Paris; October 2012
Celebrate world-class wines, fresh ingredients and chefs who consider butter its own food group at Fête des Vendanges de Montmartre. There’s fabulous French wine (including bottles from the 18th arrondissement’s own urban vineyard, Le Clos Montmartre) and food from vendors assembled near the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. It’s set up on Paris’s highest point, Butte de Montmartre, with one of the best views of the city.
Hong Kong; October 27-November 1, 2011
China is set to be the world’s fastest-growing wine market. As the country’s rising middle class adopts Western habits, grape-based wines are suddenly all the rage. The culinary capital of Asia celebrates its newfound love of vino with Wine and Dine Month, kicking things off with a spectacular four-day festival. Vendors from 150 restaurants and 300 wineries, plus musicians and street performers, fill the West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade for Hong Kong’s premiere culinary event.