You’ve likely heard of La Tomatina, the tomato celebration (er, battle) in Spain, and Germany’s sausage-and-beer-filled Oktoberfest. Looking for something further off the tourist track? Check out these fantastic food events around the world, from a bacon fest in California to Tokyo’s revered ramen show.
Wildfoods Festival – New Zealand
The west coast of New Zealand’s South Island comes alive each March, as visitors flock to one small town to try hundreds of bizarre delicacies native to the region. The Wildfoods Festival fills the town square of Hokitika with food stalls for a week, and attendees can try everything from alligator and sweetbreads to duck tongue, earthworms, and deep-fried eel.
Not interested in sampling pig snout or fish eye jelly? Come anyway (animal costumes are highly encouraged), and stick to the more appetizing gourmet options, like freshly-made pasta, waffles, and locally roasted coffee—whether you add an unusual milk alternative is up to you.
St. Moritz Gourmet Festival – Switzerland
This annual, week-long festival, held in January, brings the best of the food world under one roof—or at least, into one city. International master chefs gather in snowy St. Moritz, Switzerland, to show off their skills in dozens of events, with a theme that changes every year.
You’ll enjoy incredible opening and closing galas, innovative dishes from up-and-coming stars of the food world, and a “Gourmet Safari” that takes attendees from course to course at different luxe establishments. And of course, expect exquisite wine pairings and entire showcases dedicated to dessert—in 2018, the daily “Chocolate Cult” led by renowned pastry chef Stefan Gerber was a favorite.
Mooncake Festival – Taiwan
Also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, this harvest celebration is widely observed in Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, and throughout much of East and Southeast Asia. Crucial to the festival are small round cakes—“mooncakes”—traditionally filled with pork, red bean, or lotus paste, and eaten as symbols of unity. Mooncakes are typically cut into wedges, served with tea, and shared with friends.
Taiwan is a fantastic place to participate, and with the holiday’s emphasis on family, this is a good one for kids. Fifteen of Taipei’s riverside parks are designated for celebratory barbecues, and families head to nearby Yangmingshan National Park for moon-gazing (and cake eating) away from the city lights.
Maslenitsa Pancake Week – Russia
Russian pancakes, or blinis, are thin, warm pancakes with toppings like sour cream, berries, caviar, and (lots of) butter—and Maslenitsa is an entire week dedicated to eating them. Originally created to celebrate the end of winter, the holiday’s current form now coincides with Lent and feels a lot like Mardi Gras: Expect feasting, drinking, and even organized fist fights (yes, really).
Maslenitsa is honored in a number of Eastern Slavic countries, but Russia is your best bet—head to Moscow for the biggest celebration, or try St. Petersburg or the city of Pskov to say hello to “Czar Blin,” the week’s jelly-filled mascot.
Sacramento Bacon Fest – California, USA
Sacramento may be the capital of California, but each January, it transforms into a headquarters for all things bacon. There’s no question that this town knows how to celebrate. Get ready to “pig out” from your morning coffee to your late night cocktails (yes, you can find bacon-laced versions of both).
Visitors will enjoy culinary events and special menus centered around the venerable pork product in the city’s restaurants, bars, and breweries. Think savory eats like bacon pot pie and hot dogs with BLT relish, dessert items from whiskey-maple-bacon donuts to bacon toffee, and festive beers like the “Suicide Bacon IPA.”
Tokyo Ramen Show – Japan
Ramen is one of Japan’s most popular and revered dishes. Tokyo alone is home to hundreds of individual shops, each with its own unique recipe that balances a savory, umami soup base, chewy noodles, and traditional toppings. The 11-day namesake festival (held late Oct – early Nov) features ramen styles from different regions and cities in Japan—Sapporo, for example, pioneered the use of fermented soybean paste to make a particularly flavorful broth.
It takes place in Komazawa Olympic Park, and 18 ramen chefs at a time sling classic versions of the dish, or serve special recipes created for the occasion. And look out for only-at-the-ramen-show collaborations, too—famous shops like Mouko Tanmen and Nantsuttei have been known to join forces in the past.
ChocolART Festival – Germany
There are many chocolate festivals in the world, but not all are created equal. If you have to choose just one, make it ChoclART in the southwest German town of Tübingen. Chocolatiers from five continents participate each year, sharing their knowledge, sweet treats, and passion for fair trade practices with festival-goers.
Beyond the requisite chocolate tasting, there are make-your-own chocolate classes, chocolate sculptures, and even therapeutic rose-chocolate massages. Watch artists paint intricate designs and scenes onto edible works of art, and have the kiddos do some painting with chocolate of their own. When you’ve had your fill of truffles, bars, and savory bites, stroll and shop your way through Tübingen’s lovely Old Town.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Kotlewski is a writer for kimkim.com, an online travel booking resource that specializes in many international destinations.
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