From small-town weekend festivals to lavish extravaganzas at luxury resorts, every epicurean event has its own unique flavor. Vail has the mountains; the Outer Banks has pub crawls; and Pebble Beach, well, has Pebble Beach. But no matter the differences in ingredients for each place, all of them have one thing in common — a roster of savory-sounding events cooked with just the right amount of local flair. Here are three must-try food festivals happening in early spring:
Taste of the Beach, Outer Banks
These four sweet-tasting days run the gamut from casual cooking classes to tapas crawls and swanky four-course wine dinners. There are wine tastings, brewery tours, cook-offs and dine-arounds with Ortega’z Southwestern Grill, The Avenue Grille and more than 50 other restaurants. This fête also prides itself on its live music component, with local musicians accompanying several of the 70-plus events over the weekend. There’s even the fourth annual St. Paddy’s Day OXB Pub Crawl on March 15 to celebrate the holiday with a party-ready school bus taking you on a four-hour tour of the various bars in the area. The finale is the always-popular Sysco Foods Taste of the Beach Grand Tasting on March 16 where more than 20 area restaurants serve up bites paired with wine and beer. March 13-16
Where To Stay: It might be a 30-minute drive to Nags Head, the site of the Grand Tasting, but you won’t find more elegant accommodations on the Outer Banks than Sanderling Resort in Duck, North Carolina.
This former hunting lodge offers 95 rooms and five large beach houses right on the Atlantic Ocean. Even the spa’s 10 treatment rooms have stellar views of the tranquil Currituck Sound. The Four-Star hotel has three restaurants, an adults-only saltwater pool, and hot tubs and fire pits for late-night lounging.
Taste of Vail
In its 24th year, the Taste of Vail continues to be one of the country’s premier spring food and wine festivals in and around the quaint mountain resort town nestled in the Colorado Rockies. The four-day event features food from more than 30 of Vail’s top restaurants (including Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch’s signature eatery, Spago Beaver Creek), wine tastings from dozens of national vineyards, cooking seminars and cook-offs. More than 5,000 people attend this festival every year, partaking in events such as the bottle-pouring Debut of Rosé, the Colorado Lamb Cook-Off and Après Ski Tasting, and the Mountaintop Picnic held at 10,350 feet above sea level on Vail Mountain. The festival culminates with the grand tasting and auction on April 5 at the Vail Marriott Grand Ballroom. April 2-5
Where To Stay: The uber-luxe Four Seasons Resort Vail is smack in the middle of Vail Village, the address for this foodie fest. In addition to the impeccable service that’s usually associated with a Four Seasons property, this Four-Star hotel provides 121 rooms and private residences with gas-burning fireplaces and furnished balconies with views of the snow-capped Vail Mountain, the bustling village or the gardens. The heated outdoor pool is another nice touch.
Pebble Beach Food & Wine
One of the best epicurean events on the West Coast, this extravaganza brings 8,000 national and international attendees together to the famed California coastline. PBFW pairs 230 acclaimed wineries with more than 100 celebrity chefs (including Forbes Travel Guide Tastemakers Todd English and Donatella Arpaia) for demonstrations, beverage tastings and seminars. Highlights include an Andrew Zimmern cooking demo, a Charlie Trotter tribute and Hunter-Gatherer: New Rules for Exemplary Cuisine, a dinner focusing on the primal act of foraging for food and ingredients in your immediate area — this time specifically around the Monterey Peninsula at Four-Star The Lodge at Pebble Beach. The weekend culminates with the Lexus Grand Tasting, a tent that will display a dazzling array of wines and a stellar line-up of top-shelf toques such as Fabio Viviani serving up tasting plates and posing for selfies. April 10-13
Where To Stay: Spend the weekend at Four-Star The Inn at Spanish Bay, the venue for much of the weekend’s excitement, and be surrounded by Monterey pines and the revered Scottish-style links golf course at Pebble Beach. The panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean and one of the most pristine coastlines in the U.S. don’t hurt the hotel’s cause, either. All 269 guest rooms and suites feature private patios or balconies with views of the landscaped grounds, pine forests, green fairways or ocean. Stroll along the hotel’s boardwalk, venture onto the sandy beaches, play a round of golf or, if you haven’t had your fill of culinary delight at the festival, dine at one of the five beloved restaurants.
Photos Courtesy of Taste of Vail and Sanderling Resort