Even though temperatures in some parts of the U.S. say something different, spring has officially arrived. In fact, food festivals generally start sprouting up all over the world around this time of the year, showcasing the bounty of the season’s crops and the ingenuity of star chefs. From Vegas’ celebration of cheese and wine to Memphis’ gala around swine, our editors followed their noses to epicurean extravaganzas that should quell your craving for spring flavors.
Taste of Vail, April 3-6
Pack your poles (and a hefty appetite) for the Taste of Vail, a celebrated food festival now in its 23rd year. This foodie favorite kicks off on April 3 with a brand-new event, the Nordic Wine Tour. Attendees will cross-country ski or snowshoe around the Nordic Center at Vail Golf Course, and sample fine wines and cheeses at various stops. Other not-to-be-missed events include the 9th Annual Colorado Lamb Cookoff and Après Ski Tasting, the Mountain Top Picnic, and the ever-popular Grand Tasting.
Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival, April 4-7
Here’s a recipe for you to test out: Combine 100 top-notch chefs and 250 beloved wineries. Mix, and let sit for four days in California sunshine while the flavors blend. Enjoy and repeat. The sixth annual Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival follows this recipe pretty closely, with the addition of unique events such as a celebrity chef and winemaker golf tournament at Pebble Beach Golf Links, a food and champagne pairing presentation by Daniel Boulud, and a chef’s table lunch with Michelle Bernstein and Dean Fearing.
World Gourmet Summit, Singapore, April 16-26
Some of the finest chefs, wine producers and food critics gather in Singapore each year for the World Gourmet Summit with events, tastings and dinners held throughout the island country—including Capella Singapore and The St. Regis Singapore. “Artisans & The Art of Dining” is this year’s theme, and it will be translated in unique ways: Throughout the summit, the Epicurean Delights series will pair local and master chefs from around the world to develop exclusive menus reflective of that idea; and on April 19, fine chocolates and diamonds will complement a chocolate-centric dinner by Capella Singapore’s new executive chef David Senia at the Hearts on Fire Edible Fashion Show.
Austin Food & Wine Festival, April 26-28
The Austin Food & Wine Festival heats up the Lone Star State with a weekend packed with enough cooking demos, culinary celebrities, live music, tasting events and parties than even a Texas-sized appetite can handle. The festival starts with the Taste of Texas Kickoff Event, a boot-scootin’ soiree featuring some of the state’s best chefs and a live concert by Delta Spirit and Whiskey Shivers. Get a fresh perspective on Tex-Mex at Saturday night’s Rock Your Taco competition, as defending champion Tyson Cole takes on chefs such as Marc Murphy of Landmarc NYC, Marcus Samuelsson and James Beard Award winner Andrew Zimmern.
Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appétit, May 9-12
A sure bet in Las Vegas is a rarity—that said, we’re putting all of our chips on Vegas Uncork’d this spring, since the annual festival never fails to deliver a winning combination of luxe parties and to-die-for dishes. Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand host this year’s festivities—several of which are already sold out. Assuming there are still a few spots left for the Vegas Uncork’d Kick-Off Party at Hakkasan Las Vegas, we recommend snagging a ticket. The Bellagio Block Party is another one we’re eyeing: The culinary A-list roster (Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Todd English and Julian Serrano) is reason enough to go. On Saturday night, hop over to the Hand-Crafted Collaboration with chef Rick Moonen and mixologist Tony Abou-Ganim before the night ends.
Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, May 16-18
The city of Memphis fancies itself the “Barbecue Capital of the Free World,” and with more than 100,000 barbecue fans flocking to the Tennessee city, we won’t beg to differ. For three days during Memphis in May, die-hard barbecue teams assemble to smoke the best pork on the planet as they scramble to claim more than $110,000 in cash and prizes—and, more importantly, the bragging rights that come with the winning title. Want to get your hands saucy? This year, the Kingsford Tour of Champions Judging program offers guests the chance to sign up to judge Boston Butt from 16 of the 250 teams competing in the World Championship—just make sure to pre-register.
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience, May 22-25
Fittingly, the New Orleans Wine & Food Experience is planning an extra-special celebration of its “coming of age” as it celebrates 21 years. Expect a veritable smorgasbord of options—wine dinners hosted by more than 30 New Orleans restaurants; Vinola, the signature tasting event; wine sampling and antique shopping at the lively Royal Street Stroll; and two days of grand tastings, with more than 75 restaurants offering their best bites to accompany some 1,000 wines. The seminar series reflects the diversity of NOLA’s culinary community, with topics ranging from local seafood and Israeli street foods to decadent desserts with Amanda Rockman, Chicago Tribune’s 2013 Pastry Chef of the Year.
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, May 30-June 2
Late May and early June is an ideal time to visit Atlanta—though if you needed a little extra motivation to make your way South, we can’t think of a better reason than the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. During this three-day event, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about Southern food and beverage traditions by participating in learning and tasting experiences, then hitting the city’s best restaurants for special dinners and events. Picky eaters will find much to love inside the Tasting Tents, which are curated by chefs and organized around key ingredients and themes, such as seafood, Southern Grown, sweets and craft beer.
Big Apple Barbecue Block Party presented by Southern Living, June 8-9
New York is a long way from the Mason-Dixon line; but thankfully, the Big Apple is home to a healthy dose of Southern flavor. The Big Apple Barbecue Block Party is the prime place to sample some of the city’s finest fall-off-the-bone ribs, chicken and pork. This down-home extravaganza takes over Madison Square Park for two days, with award-winning pit masters hailing from Alabama, Illinois and North Carolina to oversee all of the smoking action. Admission is free, and at $8 per plate, a meal from the pit masters is one of the best deals in the city—though we recommend serious barbecue fans purchase a FastPass to skip the lines and enjoy all the ’cue you can handle.
Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, June 14-16
More than 80 cooking demonstrations, wine seminars, panel discussions and tasting events are packed into the three-day Food & Wine Classic in Aspen—and that’s not even counting sessions at the ever-popular Grand Tasting Pavilion, where more than 300 wine and lifestyle brands converge to show off the latest wines and products. You’ll see your fair share of culinary elite here: We recommend adding the Meatball Master cooking demonstration by James Beard Award-winning and Startle Tastemaker chef Marcus Samuelsson and Sushi-Rolling Party demo by fellow Tastemaker Ming Tsai to your itinerary. And, if you’re a Top Chef fan, don’t miss Tom Colicchio take on Gail Simmons for the Top Chef Leftover Challenge.
Photos Courtesy of Pebble Beach Food and Wine, New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, World Gourmet Summit, Austin Food and Wine and Huge Galdones/Aspen Food and Wine