If you’re craving some fun, the spring calendar is filled with tasty opportunities. Here is a sampling of some of the area’s best food, wine and beer events, starting with two this weekend.
Woodlands CrawPHish Festival: Started as a way to raise awareness of pulmonary hypertension, this event, featuring live music, kids games and plenty of hot mudbugs, is 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday at Town Green Park, 2099 Lake Robbins, The Woodlands. Tickets are $35. Information: woodlandscrawfish.com.
Schulenburg Sausagefest: Polka bands, an arts and crafts marketplace and a sausage cook-off are the highlights of this free event held on Schulenburg’s Main Street noon-10 p.m. Saturday. Information: schulenburgsausagefest.com.
Sugar Land Wine Food Affair: More than 75 chefs and restaurants will take part in this 12th annual event April 8-12 at Sugar Land Town Square. Among the many festivities are the casual Sip Stroll, a high-energy Bartender Challenger and the Grand Tasting. Tickets start at $50. Find them at sugarlandwineandfood affair.com.
Pearland Crawfish Festival: Blues and zydeco music fill the stages at this mudbug party April 10-12. Festivities include a carnival midway, a craft marketplace and children’s activities. Tickets are $8 and can be found at pearlandcrawfishfestival.com.
International Wine Festival: The wines of Argentina and Chile will be in focus April 11 on the Kemah Boardwalk, 215 Kipp in Kemah. Festivalgoers will be able to sample more than 40 wines, along with appetizers. Tickets are $45 at the door or purchase online at kemahwine.com.
Brenner’s Wine Fest: Sample wines from more than 25 wineries and enjoy small bites by Grotto Ristorante, McCormick Schmick’s and Vic Anthony’s April 11 on the lush grounds of Brenner’s on the Bayou, 1 Birdsall. Advance tickets are $65; $75 at the door. A VIP ticket that includes early entry and premium wines is $125. Purchase tickets at brennersfest.com.
West Houston Food Truck Festival: Thirteen of Houston’s finest mobile kitchens, including Tila’s, Coreanos and Golden Grill, will be feeding festivalgoers at this tasty event April 19 at Temple Sinai, 13875 Brimhurst. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased at westhoustonfoodtruckfestival.com.
Texas Crawfish Music Festival: More than a dozen bands, including headliners Josh Ward and Terrance Simien, will perform at this event April 24-26 and May 1-3 in Old Town Spring. In addition to live music, festivities include a carnival midway, petting zoo, arts-and-crafts vendors and plenty of freshly boiled mudbugs. Tickets are $10. Information: texascrawfishfestival.com.
Katy Sip n Stroll: Villagio Town Center, 22764 Westheimer Parkway, is the site for this tasting event that will features dozens of restaurants, wineries and breweries. Among the restaurants offering small bites will be Red River BBQ, Bistro 829, Da Vinci and Sushi 9. Tickets are $35 and limited to ages 21 and older. Find tickets at sipandstroll.com.
Houston Barbecue Festival: Featuring a who’s who of local pitmasters, this third annual event will be April 26 at NRG Park. The event spotlights more than 20 family-owned barbecue joints, including four featured in Alison Cook’s Top 100 Restaurants. Admission is $50 and includes unlimited sample portions from each barbecue joint. A VIP ticket is $100 and includes early entry, a drink ticket and a T-shirt. All tickets are sold in advance at houbbq.com.
Wild West Brewfest: Nearly 80 breweries will be pouring samples of their best beers at this May 2 event at Katy Mills Mall, 5000 Katy Mills Circle in Katy. Presented by the Katy Rotary Club, the event includes a home brew competition and live music. Advance tickets are $30 and include 12 2-ounce samples. Information: katybrewfest.com.
There are a bunch of California food festivals happening in spring, whether you want to see TV chef demonstrations or hop from food truck to food truck. Here are four festivals worth checking out.
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San Diego: Love the food trucks? The Great American Foodie Fest for the first time comes to Qualcomm Stadium from Friday through Sunday. You can sample more than 50 specialty food items, from White Castle‘s Crave Mobile for burger sliders to the Maine Lobster Lady to Tornado Potato and Frach’s Fried Ice Cream.
Cost: $8 a day or $13 for a weekend pass if purchased in advance ($10 and $15 respectively at the door).
Palm Desert: Before the Coachella music fans come to town in April, the Food Wine Festival Palm Desert takes place Friday through Sunday under a big tent in the city’s center. The fest begins Friday with a James Beard Gourmet Luncheon and continues through Sunday with demos by chefs such as Food Network’s Cat Cora, chef and restaurateur Brian Malarkey, Adam Palffy of Roy’s Restaurant and others. Wine, spirits and food tastings too.
Cost: Single-day VIP Grand Tasting Pass for Sunday is $125 per person; other events are separate charges.
Santa Barbara: Bacara Resort Spa hosts a food fest that honors Julia Child, one of the world’s most famous chefs who retired in nearby Montecito. The second Santa Barbara Food Wine Weekend April 16-19 kicks off with a wine-centric dinner with actor Kurt Russell, a video tribute to Child hosted by author Dorie Greenspan and Child’s former producer and director Geoffrey Drummond, and a host of tastings, celebrity chef lunches and more.
Chico: Check out locally grown almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios at the 2015 California Nut Festival on April 18. Visitors will sample wines and beer as well as watch chefs create dishes like pistachio-crusted sea bass, kale-walnut pesto and gluten-free chocolate torte made with almonds glazed with dark chocolate. Food Network champ Ashurina “Chef Rina” Younan will appear too. Tickets cost $25 in advance or $30 at the event. The festivities take place (and the proceeds go to benefit) the Patrick Ranch Museum, a newly restored mansion and working farm in Durham, according to a statement.
Ramy Zack of the Biscuit Factory submitted a change of use application to Newcastle City Council in January to transform Bermondsey Street – currently a public highway – into a private car park and public arts plaza for up to 36 days a year.
If given the go-ahead, Mr Zack hopes the converted space will be used for cultural events, including arts and crafts markets, food festivals and open-air concerts.
Mr Zack, 55, said: “I am hoping to provide a public space that’s a blank canvas for whoever wants to use it to hold cultural events.
“This is part of my dream to create an artists’ enclave here in Shieldfield and create something that’s not currently available.”
But Mr Zack’s vision has not been warmly received by surrounding businesses.
Several neighbouring firms fear the stopping up of Bermondsey Street could result in the loss of 17 parking spaces used by their staff and customers.
Among those concerned are Kathryn Hodgkinson, 40, and Mark Collett, 42, who recently took over nearby Ernest café-bar after it went into liquidation under its previous owner.
Ms Hodgkinson said: “We’re not opposed to the notion of a cultural plaza – which of course would be a good thing – but the local perception is that the key driver is to consolidate private property.
“The loss of parking spaces could have a devastating impact on a vulnerable business that’s already gone bankrupt once.
“We are also fundamentally opposed to the privatisation of a public street.”
John Dias, managing director of Silver Bullet Marketing, based behind the Biscuit Factory, is among the 41 people to have registered objections with the council.
He said: “Parking in the area is at already at a premium due to student accommodation and this will take away even more.”
In response to concerns, Mr Zack, who bought the Biscuit Factory building in 1984 and converted it into an art gallery in 2002, insisted that the plaza was intended as a public space rather for the Biscuit Factory’s private use and said that plentiful parking would still be available.
Mr Zack said: “I’m actually doing this for altruistic reasons because I want to give something back to the community.
“These people are nimbys and naysayers – if they had any sense they would see what I’m doing is good for the area. Sometimes to create omelettes you have to crack eggs.”
Mr Zack said he wanted the building to become an iconic landmark in Ouseburn.
The affected area covers Boyd Street and Union Street as well as Bermondsey Street.
You may not know it, but some of the country’s best festivals are held in small towns scattered throughout the U.S. Featuring a wide range of unique themes, and ranging in size and scope, these celebrations often include parades, entertainment, food, and plenty of special events. Make an effort to time a vacation with one of these beloved fests, which are held at various points throughout the year. Music festivals, film festivals, flower festivals, food festivals, and more make the list of America’s 15 best small-town events.
By Annie Bruce
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mackinac Island Tourism
Where: Mackinac Island, Michigan
This 10-day festival occurs each year during June to draw visitors to Mackinac Island when the lilacs are in full bloom. Dating back to 1949, the lilac-themed celebration has grown throughout the years, but key traditions, such as crowning a Lilac Queen, have remained the same. During the festival, visitors can also enjoy concerts in the park, the lilac walk and talk, dancing, tours, and the beautiful flowering trees—some more than 150 years old. Horse-drawn floats make up the festival’s finale, the Grand Parade, which has been recognized by the Library of Congress as a “local legacy” event.
Photo Credit: Ingrid Lundahl / Teulluride Film Festiva
Where: Telluride, Colorado
Dating back to 1979, the Telluride Film Festival has always maintained the element of surprise. Unlike most other events around the country, at Telluride, nobody knows what movies are showing, which celebrities are attending, or who is being honored. This state of anticipation helps build excitement for the annual event, where Brokeback Mountain, Juno, and Up in the Air have all been shown in past years. The festival includes film screenings and premieres, QA sessions, Tribute awards, and plenty of special guests, ranging from Reese Witherspoon to Brad Pitt to Jon Stewart. More than 3,000 people attend the event, which is held during Labor Day weekend, each year.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau
Where: St. Charles, Illinois
For more than 25 years, St. Charles has hosted this beloved Scarecrow Fest. Each year, attendees choose from more than 150 entries to crown the winner of the Scarecrow Contest, which breaks down into six categories. Entering its 30th year this October, the weekend-long festival includes two stages of live entertainment, make-your-own scarecrow stations, a carnival, and the Autumn on the Fox Arts Craft Show. Admission, parking, and trolleys are all free during the St. Charles festival, which is located just an hour west of Chicago along the Fox River.
Held on nine blocks of Uptown Lexington’s Main Street, this annual Barbecue Festival drew an estimated 200,000 people in 2014. Since its start in 1984, the festival has celebrated Lexington, the Barbecue Capital of the world, and its famous slow-cooked and smoky pork shoulders, dipped in a vinegar mixture. The fest is made up of more than 400 exhibitors (selling crafts and food) and a number of special activities—in the past, visitors have enjoyed a bicycle stunt show, rock climbing wall, and an antique car show. The festival is typically held during one of the last two weekends of October.
Held along the waterfront in Bangor, Maine, the American Folk Festival draws more than 90,000 visitors each year. The three-day festival incorporates music and dance performances from a variety of different regions, cultures, and heritages. Along with craft demonstrations, a children’s area, food vendors, and a marketplace with hand-made creations, the festival also has workshops, where artists that share a similar instrument or tradition take the stage together to perform and discuss their music. After Bangor hosted a series of National Folk Festivals from 2002 through 2004, the American Folk Festival was created in 2005 to continue that tradition.
Tulip Time festivities first kicked off in 1929 to celebrate the stunning flowers and Michigan’s Dutch heritage and the event has continued off-and-on (due to World War II) over the years. Today, the celebration draws more than 500,000 people from 40 countries to Holland, Michigan, where they can admire four million tulips. The May festival also features three parades, including the Volksparade, with participants donning Dutch costumes, the Kinderparade, the largest parade of children in the state, and the Muziekparade, with bands, floats, and dancers. The weeklong series of events also includes an arts and craft show, quilt show, carnival rides, fireworks, and Dutch food.
Dubbed Florida’s oldest maritime event, the state’s Seafood Festival draws tens of thousands of visitors every year. Held from Friday to Saturday during the first weekend of November, the festival includes highly competitive oyster eating and oyster shucking competitions, a carnival, a 5K run, fireworks, the blessing of the fleet, a parade, musical entertainment (Kellie Pickler and Craig Campbell have performed in past years), and plenty of delicious food. The festival takes place on the Apalachicola River at Battery Park
It’s an epic week of food festivals and events, Columbia.
First, this Thursday, March 26, is the Sweet and Savory Chefs’ Competition to benefit Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter. It features dishes from chefs as varied as Ryan Whittaker of @116 Espresso and Wine Bar, John Lindower of the Culinary Institute at USC and two chefs from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina — plus many more. The fundraiser runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, March 26, at EdVenture Children’s Museum. Tickets are $35 for individuals and $60 for couples in advance, $40 and $70 at the door. Visit palmettoplaceshelter.org to buy tickets.
Then there’s the America Loves Bacon Festival, a traveling affair that hits Columbia on Saturday, March 28. And what do you do at a bacon festival? You listen to music, toss back a few beers … no, let’s be real: You eat bacon. There’ll be food vendors — including a few locals, like big-bacon purveyor Carolina Pride (based in Greenwood) and Irmo’s Cupcake Paradise. There’ll be bacon funnel cake, bacon doughnuts, jerk bacon on a stick, General Tso’s bacon nuggets, bacon cotton candy, root beer bacon and more. There’s also a bacon eating contest. Tickets are $25, which includes five food sampling tickets — though a $70 VIP ticket gets you early admission to the festival for a special VIP Sampling Hour, plus 10 sampling tickets, a T-shirt and more. The festival runs from 1 to 7 p.m. at Carolina Walk; visit americanlovesbacon.com for more information.
The South Carolina Cornbread Festival returns to Eau Claire Saturday, March 28. The family event features a cornbread cook-off, along with assorted bands and other activities. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the corner of Newman and Main Streets; admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids 6 to 12. Visit
sccornbreadfestival.com for more info.
Tartan Day South will also have some Celtic food.
And finally, don’t forget that week-long beer-splosion Soda City Suds Week, which started last Saturday, continues through Saturday, March 28. Food lovers should note Wednesday’s event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Whole Foods Market, which teaches you how to pair cheeses and beer (just $10). You might also be interested in the $28 craft beer and food pairing class at Charleston Cooks! on Thursday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The crowning event is Saturday’s Cream of the Crop Beer Festival hosted by Farm to Table Event Co. at City Roots. Tickets are limited to 400 attendees and are only available in advance — no gate sales — in order to keep things predictable and not too crowded. The attendance cap should address some of the problems that River Rat Brewery ran into with last weekend’s launch party for Soda City Suds Week — which was such a success that it quickly ran out of all beers except River Rat’s, and had to turn away people without advance tickets at the gate until crowd numbers dropped to a manageable level. For these and other Soda City Suds Week events, visit sodacitysudsweek.com.
Sam’s Fine Wine and Spirits hosts a wine tasting this Friday, March 27 from 4 to 7 p.m. at which you can sample the Chateau La Paws line of California wines, which support no-kill shelters around the country. You can also buy some of the wine to take home; 100 percent of the wine sales proceeds will be donated to SQ Rescue, a local animal rescue. But why are you reading about this in a column devoted to food? Because the food at the event will be provided by Buddy’s Saucy Dogs, and we’ve been looking for an excuse to mention them. The brand-new Lexington County hot dog joint also donates money to shelters — and offers a bunch of different hot dogs named after dog breeds. (The $11.95 Junkyard Dog features all 12 available toppings.) No word on exactly what Buddy’s will be serving up at Sam’s, but it’s sure to pair well with some Chateau La Paws wine — because, let’s be real, hot dogs go well with everything. Sam’s is at 5050 Sunset Blvd. If you don’t make it to the wine tasting, check out Buddy’s at 5225 Sunset Blvd. or buddyssaucydogs.com.
2015 Sweet and Savory Chef Competition
March 26 • 211 Gervais St.
Soda City Suds Week
Through March 28 • Various Locations
Cream of the Crop Beer Fest
March 28 • 1005 Airport Blvd.
SC Cornbread Festival
March 28 • Newman Main St.
Let us know what you think: Email email@example.com.
From unlimited Bloody Mary tastings to chili cook-offs, spring food festivals are in full bloom. Here are 10 you shouldn’t miss.
Duck, Duck! Rye?
Sunday, March 22, 1 to 3 p.m.; Jimmy’s No. 43, 43 E. 7th St.
Chefs will compete in a “quack down” hosted by Slow Food NYC, making dishes from duck carnitas with green salsa fresca to duck and waffles with smoked duck confit and crispy cracklings. In addition to the nine duck dishes available to try, local distillers, including Kings County, will offer samples. Tickets cost $30 at the door.
Food Book Fair
April 10-12; Wythe Hotel, 80 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn, foodbookfair.com
The fourth annual Food Book Fair will feature panel discussions, tastings and dinners over three days. Among the highlights, San Francisco’s Bar Tartine will bring their new American fare to Brooklyn. Other events include “Foodieodicals,” featuring reps from 25 indie food magazines showing off their publications; and an oyster happy hour with Island Creek Oysters and Brooklyn Brewery.
Bloody Mary Festival
April 12, 1 to 4 p.m.; Industry City, 233 37th St., Brooklyn, thebloodymaryfest.com
Get unlimited tastes of 12 of Brooklyn’s most creative Bloody Marys from spots like Whiskey Soda Lounge, Char No. 4, and Beast of Bourbon. The $50 tickets include lunch from Delaney BBQ, other food and drink samples and live music from The Afro-Latineers.
Culinary Kids Food Festival
April 14-21; New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Blvd., The Bronx, nybg.org
Bring the whole family to this week-long festival featuring tastings, hands-on activity stations, and daily cooking demonstrations with guest chefs. Kids can learn about honey bees and the inner-workings of a hive, how their five senses affect flavor, and make seed packets to take home. Passes start at $20 for adults, and $12 for children 2 to 12.
Bacon and Beer Classic
April 25, noon to 3 p.m. 7 to 10 p.m.; Citi Field, 123-01 Roosevelt Ave., Queens, baconandbeerclassic.com
This bacchanal of bacon and beer returns to Citi Field. In addition to bacon-centric food and craft brews, there will be games, cooking demonstrations and beer classes. Prices vary from $59 to $129 depending on the package and time spent at the festival.
NYC Chili Cookoff
April 25, noon to 4 p.m.; Historic Richmond Town, 441 Clarke Ave., Staten Island, historicrichmondtown.org
Chili makers battle it out in three categories — traditional, verde and salsa. This annual Staten Island competition is the only one in the New York City area sanctioned by the International Chili Society. Tickets are $5 for children, $10 for adults in advance and $12 for adults at the door.
Hot Sauce Expo
April 25, 10 to 7 p.m. April 26, 10 to 6 p.m.; Brooklyn Expo, 79 Franklin St., Brooklyn, nychotsauceexpo.com
Heat freaks will convene at the third annual New York City Hot Sauce Expo, which brings together 47 producers of artisanal hot sauce. Throughout the weekend, those with strong stomachs will compete in spicy food eating contests, from pizza to tacos. Tickets cost $10 for general admission, $55 for the beer and barbecue package (which includes five craft beer tickets and lunch), and $100 for VIP access, with unlimited sprit and beer samples and special food vendors. To register to compete in the contests, email firstname.lastname@example.org before the festival.
April 26, 7:30 p.m.; 92 Y, 1395 Lexington Ave., 92y.org
Get your chocolate fix at this walk-around tasting hosted by chocolate expert Alexandra Leaf. Highlights include a collaboration between Hakan Martensson of Fika Choklad and Solbeso, a cacao liquor; cheese and chocolate parings from Chocolat Moderne and Murray’s Cheese; and spirit pairings from Gotham Wines and Liquors and Guittard Chocolate Company. Snack on chocolate éclairs, ice cream and more. Tickets start at $30.
Harlem EatUp! Festival
May 14-17; multiple locations in Harlem, harlemeatup.com
Chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson is spearheading this first-ever festival that will offer a variety events. The lineup includes ticketed dinners with out-of-town chefs like Ludo Lefebvre from L.A., Jose Garces from Philadelphia and Sean Brock from Charleston, S.C, as well as tasting tents and culinary demonstrations. Other events are open to all, including outdoor music and art shows.
Egg Rolls, Egg Creams and Empanadas
June 7, 12 to 4 p.m.; Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge St., eldridgestreet.org
This annual block party from the Museum at Eldridge Street, which normally celebrates Chinese and Jewish culture, has expanded to include the food, music and folk art of Puerto Rico. Snack on egg rolls, egg creams and empanadas (all kosher), take a Yiddish, Mandarin or Spanish lesson, and listen to Chinese opera, klezmer, salsa and plena music. Free.
Food Network star Bobby Flay performs an outdoor kitchen demo at the South Beach Wine Food Festival in Miami. (AP Photo)
Attending a star-studded, multi-day culinary bonanza like the South Beach Wine Food Festival is the stuff of foodie fantasies. Here are the essential strategies for tasting, sipping, and partying your way through a delicious event.
You can always spot the ringers at a destination food event like the South Beach Wine Food Festival (known as SBWFF) in Miami. While noshing newbies in fancy footwear are literally sinking in the sand as they queue up to crowded booths, pro festival-goers are lapping the floor in flip-flops and sinking their teeth into the tastiest morsels before sidling up to celeb chefs for requisite selfies.
While there’s no “right” way to experience your first food festival (or your 50th) there are specific strategies you can use to get the biggest bang for your buck (tickets at SBWFF and similar festivals run from $20 for a kids event to $500 for an exclusive dinner). Put these expert tips into action, and you may get even more than you bargained for: a coveted invitation to one of the legendary SBWFF after-parties.
Begin with a mission
Most food festivals span several days and feature several dozen events, from intimate dinners to walk-around tastings to late night parties. “You can’t hit every event you’d be tired, woozy, and overstuffed,” says Robert Irvine, author of Cook like a Chef and host of Restaurant: Impossible. Decide which experiences are most important to you, and then purchase tickets to those specific events.
Don’t dress for a red carpet
You’ve paid handsomely for tickets and you’re in a glamorous location, so it’s tempting to wear your finest duds to the festival. Resist the urge. “Remember that most SoBe events are on the beach, on sand, and exposed to the elements,” says Franklin Becker, executive chef of The Little Beet in New York City. “Check the weather report, and dress for comfort.” If you absolutely can’t bear the idea of skipping out on your high heels, get creative and wear them as an accessory, as this festival-goer did.
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So many dishes, so little time. (iStock)
Be an early bird
Show up at least 15 minutes before your scheduled event begins, recommends Irvine. “Otherwise you could be standing outside in a big crowd, waiting to get inside when the food is already being served.”
Flow against traffic
“When walking into an event, it’s human nature to gravitate to our right and move around the room counterclockwise,” says Mark Gregory, former Food Network executive. “That’s everyone else’s instinct too, which is why there’s often a logjam by the front door.” He recommends escaping the early crowds at any event by walking directly to the far back corner of the space, then moving clockwise to hit as many booths as possible before the crowd catches up.
Check the menu before you wait
No matter how early you arrive, or how strategic you are about your sampling, you’re eventually going to wait and wait to grab some grub. “Before you step into an epic line, read the menu to see what’s being served,” says Ani Meinhold, Partner at The Federal in Miami. “So often people get to the front and realize that they can’t or won’t eat what’s being served.”
On the flip side if you’re really a fan of a particular chef, don’t be deterred by a mob of people queued up to see them. “In that case, be patient and wait,” recommends Meinhold. “It’ll be worth it for the opportunity to be served by someone whose food you’re really excited about.”