For food lovers, choosing which restaurant to hit in a new city can be a difficult task. You can sidestep the issue by planning a trip around a food and wine festival.
Such culinary events take place all year long nationwide. This spring, Maui, Aspen and Austin could be on the tasting menu. Here are some great options.
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
When: March 18-22.
One of America’s most distinctive cities, New Orleans is also a culinary capital. Here you can feast on Creole and Cajun creations, taste influences from Spain, France and the Caribbean while experiencing a depth of culture. Over five days in March, the city turns up the hospitality and party atmosphere for a series of events such as the Grand Tastings, where a few dozen wineries pour and restaurants such as Antoine’s, Domenica, Brennan’s, Shaya, Gris-Gris, Meauxbar and Commander’s Palace dole out bites. Festival experiences include the Vinola wine event, peeping into French Quarter wine cellars and celebrating legendary restaurant Broussard’s 100th anniversary. You can purchase some individual event tickets; packages for the full experience range from $340 to $995 (nowfe.com).
UNwineD Culinary Festival
When: March 20-21.
Beyond the usual eats and drinks, this festival in Panama City Beach, Fla., adds music (Death Cab for Cutie and Joywave) and the backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico. Two days of deliciousness take place in Aaron Bessant Park, kicking off Friday night with a concert and party featuring recent “Top Chef” winner Kelsey Barnard Clark. Tickets are $175 each and include a private VIP bar and air-conditioned restrooms. Day 2 features the Grand Afternoon Tasting of treats from Northwest Florida chefs, drinks and a concert. The tasting and concert cost $75 (visitpanamacitybeach.com/unwined).
Taste of Vail
When: April 1-4.
What could be cooler than enjoying a gourmet feast at 10,350 feet? Head to the mountain resort of Vail, Colo., for a long weekend of skiing, snowboarding and stuffing your face during the Taste of Vail. Broken up into a number of events, your weekend starts with the Debut of Rosé, with 100 just-released bottles of rosé wine to sample. After that, hit the aprés ski soiree, the Taste of Vail Lamb Cook-Off and other events. You can take it all in for $449 or experience individual events between ski runs and dips in the hot tub (tasteofvail.com).
Austin Food & Wine Festival
When: April 24-26.
Austin’s food and drink scene has blossomed in the past decade. A heavy influence of barbecue and Mexican fare is obvious, along with some of the best sushi you’ve ever had. Austin Food & Wine presents an ideal way to check it all out. Head south to mingle with chefs such as Austin farm-to-table champion Bryce Gilmore, TV food personality Andrew Zimmern, progressive Mexican maestros Rico Torres and Diego Galicia from Mixtli, and barbecue master Tim Love. Sustainability will be the focus of a special family-style meal under the stars. The all-in ticket costs $625 and a weekender pass is $250 (austinfoodandwinefestival.com).
Nantucket Wine & Food Festival
When: May 13-17.
Do you ever need an excuse to head to Nantucket, the idyllic island enclave 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod? No, but here’s a great one: Enjoy five days of eating oysters, drinking rosé, sampling cocktails, attending seminars and so much more. There also will be a Yappy Hour to honor our dog friends for $25, a Pop Open the Bubbles seminar for $150, a Harbor Gala for $275 and more (nantucketwinefestival.com).
Four Seasons Maui Wine & Food Classic
When: May 21-25.
Warm waters, swaying palm trees, gorgeous sunsets: To that Maui scene, add a luxury food and wine excursion. This could be your most delicious Memorial Day weekend ever. Start with a feast under the stars and continue with an adventure of your own creation. Choose from dinners with acclaimed chefs such as Josiah Citrin, Wolfgang Puck and Michael Mina and sit in on master classes, including Champagne and caviar featuring Billecart-Salmon Champagne and Calvisius Caviar; and the World’s Rarest Coffees. When not eating and drinking and learning, you can swim, surf, sleep and simply enjoy Maui. Packages cost $2,995 each, not including hotel accommodations (fourseasons.com/maui/dining/wine-and-food-classic).
Aspen Food & Wine Classic
When: June 19-21.
Ring in the first day of summer at the grande dame of American food fests: the Aspen Food & Wine Classic. Set in the ritzy mountain town, this is a gathering of the crème de la crème of the culinary world. While 2020 talent has not yet been revealed, in the past Gail Simmons, Jonathan Waxman, Ming Tsai, Jacques Pepin, Carla Hall and Martha Stewart were there. You get chef presentations, wine tastings and seminars, panel discussions, hands-on exhibits, parties and, of course, the after-parties. And the occasional celeb spotting (apparently Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom gallivanted around in 2019). As with most things in Aspen, this will cost you. Passes for the three-day affair start at $1,700 (classic.foodandwine.com).