5 Haute Food Festivals Not To Miss This Year

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NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: Herb Karlitz and Neil Patrick Harris attend A Sunday Afternoon In Harlem Presented By Aetna during the Harlem EatUp! Festival on May 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Harlem EatUp!)
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 17: Herb Karlitz and Neil Patrick Harris attend A Sunday Afternoon In Harlem Presented By Aetna during the Harlem EatUp! Festival on May 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Harlem EatUp!)

Are you a “celebrity chef” groupie? Check out the New York Wine & Food Festival in October. It’s “presented” by Food Network and has countless events with celebrity chefs so attendees can see them up close, attend their cooking demos, and ask them questions.

Harlem EatUp! on May 19-22 is a festival that was named “Best New Festival of 2015.” It is co-produced by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, who invites his celeb chef friends to party in his neighborhood of Harlem. The hippest cutting edge chefs from across the country are paired with accomplished chefs from iconic restaurant’s in Harlem including: Sylvia’s, Melba’s, Marcus’ Red Rooster and Streetbird and even the famous Rao’s. It is the only festival that counts former President Bill Clinton as its Ambassador, and a posse of Marcus’ celebrity friends just come to hang out. Off the charts “cool” factor and very consumer-friendly.

If you don’t care about celebrity chefs and just want great food in a cool destination, check out the Charleston Wine & Food Festival in March. Local superstar chefs including Sean Brock will serve delicious foods emphasizing local ingredients, alongside wineries and spirits, including Preston Van Winkle, who will pour his impossible-to-get Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon.

Austin, Texas is also on culinary fire (no pun intended) and has its annual festival in April. From feasting under the stars to dining around a fire pit, this festival celebrates Texas tradition with a unique set of events. Superstar chefs including Tim Love, Dean Fearing and Hugh Acheson will heat up your experience.

If you’re feeling a bit country, experience the Nashville Food + Wine Festival in September. This festival celebrates great music with down home cooking from chefs including Jonathan Waxman, Aaron Sanchez and Carla Hall. If the 40+ culinary demos with these renowned chefs aren’t enough, the festival offers beer, wine, and spirit tasting sessions with top-shelf brands like Hendricks’s Gin, Rodney Strong Vineyards and Tito’s Vodka.

The Granddaddy of festivals happens every June over Father’s Day Weekend in Aspen. Food & Wine Magazine brings together chefs, who have shaped the industry, from Daniel Boulud and Jacques Peppin, to Bobby Flay and Mario Batali.

Before you buy a ticket to any of these festivals, go online and see what past attendees have to say about their experience:

  1. Were the events well organized?
  2. Did they run smoothly?
  3. Was the food and wine well presented, and tasted good?
  4.  Were there enough plates and glasses to go around?
  5. Was there enough food and wine for all attendees?
  6. Were there long lines and overcrowding?
  7. Was the price of the ticket good value?
  8. Were you able to get up close and talk to your favorite chefs?

You should leave a festival well fed and well hydrated. The experience should surpass your expectations, providing you with a plateful of memories and stories you can recount about a particular dish; a chef demo you can’t wait to replicate at home; or a conversation you had with one of your idols. Otherwise, save your money and just go visit all of those bucket list destination restaurants you’ve read so much about!

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