Travel, eat, repeat.
A freshly-shucked oyster, a twirl of noodles, a swirl and sip of a distinctive local wine—good food is always worth celebrating and can be the raison d’être for planning travel in and of itself.
With plenty of opportunities to sample delectable bites from local and international culinary stars—and ample access to local growers and producers, too—food festivals offer globe-trotting gastronomes an immersive taste of a destination’s culinary ethos. So let’s dig in, shall we?
WHERE: South Australia
Home to some of Australia’s most prominent wine-growing regions, wide swaths of the Outback and such biodiverse destinations as Kangaroo Island and the Limestone Coast, it would feasibly take months (or even years) to explore the reaches of South Australia‘s gastronomy and viticulture—not to mention its many scenic regions.
Thankfully, Tasting Australia condenses many of the state’s food and wine highlights into a robust 10-day program of more than 140 events—farm tours, wine, beer, and spirits tastings and masterclasses, leisurely chef-driven lunches and dinners included. Festival highlights include the Glasshouse Kitchen in the capital city of Adelaide, where lauded Australian chefs and international culinary stars team up for some memorable meals, and Tasting Australia Airlines, which transports visitors to some of the state’s more remote culinary destinations on all-inclusive full-day tours.
Venice Food & Wine Festival
WHERE: Venice, Italy
At its inaugural event in May, the Venice Food & Wine Festival lined up American and Italian culinary luminaries with more than a few Michelin stars (and James Beard awards) for its four-day showcase at the JW Marriott Venice Resort & Spa, which is located on its own private island in Venice, the Isola delle Rose. On the agenda: chef-led demos, cooking academies, wine tastings, cocktail workshops and a few fabulous dinners, of course. As a bonus, the opening party and concert finale are complimentary to all guests staying at the resort over the weekend.
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WHERE: Las Vegas, Nevada
The roster of celebrity chefs who head for Las Vegas every May for Vegas Uncork’d—Sin City’s extravagant, four-day epicurean feast and drink fest—is impressive, to say the least. Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Giada De Laurentiis, Masaharu Morimoto and Nobu Matsuhisa are all Vegas Uncork’d regulars and each edition brings a host of new and notable events and culinary all-star talent, too.
The festival’s busy agenda features dine-around showcases, master series with star chefs, brunches, poolside parties and more, but the weekend’s signature event is The Grand Tasting at Caesars Palace, which can accommodate upwards of 2,500 revelers. More than 50 chef-helmed stations—and twice as many wine and cocktail stops—ensures that no attendee will depart this annual desert bacchanal either hungry or thirsty.
WHERE: Zurich, Switzerland
A relative newcomer to the food festival scene, Food Zurich continues to grow and morph with each iteration and its latest May-June edition, which ran for a total of 11 days, was no exception. In just a few years, the festival has grown to more than 150 cooking workshops, events and tasting sessions connecting food producers and chefs from Zurich and beyond with local food enthusiasts.
Bespoke dinners and tastings are held at restaurants throughout the city as well as at more unusual settings, too—think museums, castles, and other countryside locations. The Street Food Festival, one of Food Zurich’s most popular events, has around 70 vendors offering global fare and plenty of Swiss classics—no doubt you’ll be able to get your pretzel and bratwurst fix, and then some.
Food & Wine Classic in Aspen
WHERE: Colorado, USA
For nearly four decades, chefs, media, and devoted epicureans have convened at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen for a celebratory weekend in June honoring the magazine’s Best New Chefs and Restaurants of the Year. Held at various locations throughout the mountain town of Aspen, Colorado, the festival in total features more than 80 cooking demos, culinary talks and wine seminars. Highlights of the weekend include the Best New Chefs dinner on the top of Aspen Mountain and a leisurely afternoon spent wandering through the Grand Tasting Pavilion, which features a couple hundred food products and wineries to peruse and sample, plus tastings by this year’s class of Best New Chefs.
The Great Food Festival
Held at Resorts World Sentosa in September, The Great Food Festival is a gastronomic wonderland that reflects Singapore’s wildly multicultural culinary scene and passion for good food on every level, starting with its street food—Singapore has two street food vendors, known here as hawkers, that have been awarded a Michelin star.
While the four-day event does offer a few high-profile, chef-driven series—notably, the Feast of Kings and the Connoisseur Collection—the festival’s largest draw is the general admission (or even free) areas, where hundreds of individual tastes can be purchased from culinary talents and vendors for the equivalent of roughly $4-$8 USD. Tastes range from offerings by award-winning chefs to heritage-inspired foods from Southeast Asia and beyond to desserts and sweets.
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New York City Wine & Food Festival
WHERE: New York, New York
Fans of culinary television, take note: Star talent from the Food Network, the Cooking Channel, and other daytime food shows are out in force at the NYC Wine & Food Festival, which sets up at numerous locations throughout New York City for four days every October. A packed schedule of events—there were more than 80 events on the lineup last year—include signature tasting events, such as Rachael Ray’s Burger Bash, as well as late-night fetes, family-friendly events, and intimate chef’s dinners. NYCWFF’s sister event, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, takes place annually in February in Miami.
Hawaii Food and Wine Festival
Founded by James Beard award-winning chef-restaurateurs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong, native sons of Hawaii and longtime champions of Hawaiian regional cuisine, the Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival returns each October with an island-hopping lineup of events including wine-paired chef’s dinners, cooking demos and walk-around tasting showcases on Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island.
The Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival has an exceptionally strong connection to its provenance: Given Yamaguchi and Wong’s commitment to the Hawaiian regional cuisine movement, all participating chefs are asked to showcase locally-grown, raised or harvested ingredients in their dishes, whether or not they hail from the islands. Additionally, proceeds from the non-profit event are given to local educational, agricultural and culinary community partners.
International Alba White Truffle Fair
WHERE: Piedmont, Italy
Over eight weekends in October and November, more than half a million visitors make the pilgrimage to Italy’s northwestern Piedmont region for the International Alba White Truffle Fair. The draw, of course, is Tuber Magnatum Pico—the white truffle that predominantly grows here and is considered a culinary delicacy par excellence.
Whether or not you’re intending to spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on the truffles for sale at the White Truffle World Market, they’re still quite a sight to see and the event has plenty else to tantalize your senses, from cooking demos to truffle-and-wine pairings and other sensory workshops in the fair’s Taste and Aromas Lounge. Additionally, marketplaces selling all sorts of Italian-made deliciousness set up in the streets and squares of Alba, and local restaurants throughout the region feature the fresh truffles in many decadent iterations while they’re in season.
Salon du Chocolate
WHERE: Paris, France
For five days in late October and early November, the Salon du Chocolat transforms the Porte de Versailles in Paris’ 15th arrondissement into a massive exposition dedicated to all things chocolate. Around 60 countries from five continents set up shop at the expo, which also includes daily gastronomic, cultural and family-friendly programming, events and activities. Chefs and pastry chefs from around the world take to the stage for live demos and to discussions, as well as share recipes and tricks of the trade, while lectures and more in-depth workshops will appeal to chocolate lovers and connoisseurs looking to deepen their knowledge on subjects such as the “bean to bar” trend of single-origin cocoa beans that’s been making waves in recent years among artisanal producers.
WHERE: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Every January, Chef Eric Ripert of New York City’s lauded Le Bernardin restaurant decamps for the Cayman Cookout on Grand Cayman with a few of his closest chef friends in tow— Daniel Boulud, José Andrés, and Emeril Lagasse among them. Events over the course of the five-day festival include Caribbean sailing excursions, cooking demos by the chefs, wine and mixology sessions and a few signature beachfront tasting events where shoes are optional and even Ripert and company can be spotted barefoot in the sand, enjoying the weather and the laid-back island vibes.
One tip: While not officially a part of the Cayman Cookout, the Chef’s Counter at Avecita at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa is a must for gastronomes visiting the Caymans. With just 10 seats and one nightly seating, dinner here offers an intimate glimpse of how the artistry of a dish comes together on the plate.
Dubai Food Festival
WHERE: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Running for three weeks between late February and early March annually, the Dubai Food Festival is a chance to eat and drink as if you were living the expat life in this dazzling Middle Eastern city. Some of Dubai‘s buzziest restaurants offer set-price restaurant week menus for dinner reservations, while the Beach Canteen, the festival’s main venue, features a stage for live music and events plus dozens of food stalls, food trucks, even vintage Airstream campers selling everything from poke bowls and fried chicken and waffles to Turkish kababs and traditional Middle Eastern mezze.
The Taste of Dubai—two days of chef demos, entertainment and plenty of tastes to be had at live cooking stations—wraps up the festivities each year. For something totally different (and thoroughly delicious), Frying Pan Adventures specializes in off-the-beaten-path walking food tours through local neighborhoods in Old Dubai.