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The 6 Food Festivals Worth Traveling to This Summer

Forget about your beach body and book your flights accordingly.

caviar thomas keller Photo: Jeremy Repanich

Food festivals. At most of them, you stand in long line after long line for bite-sized food prepared by brand name chefs with makeshift crews in outdoor kitchens.

And then there are the ones you might actually want to go to.

Summer means some of the food world’s very finest gatherings, including the 37th annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, the unveiling of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 in Singapore, and of course, The Robb Report’s own Culinary Masters, which returns to San Diego in September. At these you’ll find exclusive VIP events, elaborate sit-down dinners, cooking workshops, and even—in the case of Culinary Masters—golf.

If you love food, here are are six places you want to head to this summer.

watermelon aspen

Head to the Rockies to eat delicious food on tiny plates.  Photo: courtesy Marc Fiorito

Food and Wine Classic

June 14-16, Aspen
The venerable mountain gathering is loaded with wine seminars, collaboration dinners and cooking demonstrations, including Jacques and Claudine Pepin on the cuisine of Provence, Andrew Zimmern on dumplings and noodles, and Nickolas Martinez and Andrea Morris (from Danny Meyer’s Intersect by Lexus) on plating.

Other big names: Andrew Carmellini, Ashley Christensen, Barbara Lynch, Ellen Yin, JJ Johnson, John Tesar, Jonathan Waxman, Ludo Lefebvre, Marcus Samuelsson, Nina Compton, Rick Bayless, Stephanie Izard and Will Guidara.

Passes start at $1600 (with a $1360 discounted pass available to Lexus owners); the $4000 “Grow For Good” pass includes two $500 donations to nonprofits Wholesome Wave and the Jacques Pepin Foundation.

World 50 Best Restaurants

Which restaurant will rule them all?  Photo: courtesy World 50 Best Restaurants

The World’s 50 Best

June 22-26, Singapore
The awards ceremony for the coveted (and sometimes controversial) list is invite-only. But before the June 25th announcement, there is a panel discussion and several culinary “Masterclasses,” featuring, among others, Massimo Botura, Daniela Soto-Innes, Eric Ripert, and Virgilio Martínez and Pía León.

There are also three collaboration dinners. On June 23, Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur, Yannick Alleno of Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen and Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn will be cooking with Julien Royer of Singapore’s Odette, in a fundraiser for breast cancer research. That same night also offers a dinner with Jorge Vallejo of Mexico City’s Quintonil, at Cut by Wolfgang Puck. On June 25, Andreas Caminada of Switzerland’s Schloss Schauenstein will join Jason Tan of Corner House to make you lunch.

Windy City Smokeout ribs

Enjoy some tasty ribs.  Photo: courtesy Jeff Marini

Windy City Smokeout

July 12-14, Chicago
With no Big Apple Barbecue this summer, Chicago is the place to be (it is, after all, hog butcher for the world). Meat-minded foodies will find two exclusive options at Windy City Smokeout, which, in its seventh year, has moved to the United Center (the parking lot, that is).

Groups of at least 10 can purchase access to the $150-per-person VIP BBQ Barn, a tent with reserved seating, optional personalized swag bags and “redneck” bottle service. Georgia pitmaster and competitive BBQ legend Myron Mixon will be the tent’s exclusive chef, and when you’re out there experiencing the bigger party (or seeing country music), you can also leave your stuff there.

But the big attraction is a unique $125 collaboration dinner between Tokyo’s Wagyumafia and third-generation Louie Mueller BBQ pitmaster Wayne Mueller. In Central Texas, Louie Mueller has always been the king of beef ribs; at Windy City, Wayne Mueller will get his hands on a Wagyu bone-in short rib for what’s being billed as “the truest expression of Japanese beef prepared in real Texas style.”

Tales of the Cocktail

A cocktail fan’s paradise.  Photo: courtesy Tales of the Cocktail

Tales of the Cocktail

July 16-21, New Orleans
It’s the 17th Tales of the Cocktail New Orleans, though last year was its first as a non-profit, ushering in a new age of awareness, equity, and even moderation. The festival actually started as a walking tour through the city that traced it’s rich history of cocktails from the Sazerac to the Vieux Carre and more. Since then, it’s grown to a nearly weeklong event of tastings and seminars for industry insiders and cocktail nerds alike. Each night is capped by intimate dinners, blowout parties and exclusive tastings for the more refined among us.

Feast Portland gregory gourdet

Come dine in the city where young people go to retire.  Photo: courtesy Feast Portland

Feast Portland

September 12-15, Portland
The Oregon event, which benefits local non-profits Urban Gleaners and Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, knows how to throw a party. Its big outoor bashes include Smoked (all things live fire), Night Market (all things street food) and an opening night throwdown (last year was “‘80s vs. ‘90s”; this year it is “East Coast vs. West Coast”).

But it’s at the multi-course sit-down dinners that Feast really shines. Last year’s hot ticket, Zero Proof, featured entirely non-alcoholic beverage pairings, with food from the likes of Sean Brock, Michael Solomonov, Gregory Gourdet and Gabriel Rucker (all of whom are sober). According to Michael Russell of the Oregonian, it will return this year with a new line-up of chefs. Also in the works (per Karen Brooks at Portland Monthly) is an “African roots” dinner with Gourdet, Edouardo Jordan, Dolester Miles, and Kwame Onwuachi.

The full Feast schedule comes out June 6, with tickets on sale June 7.

keller caviar

Thomas Keller’s caviar and terrine.  Photo: Michael Buckner

Robb Report Culinary Masters

September 21-23, San Diego
Sure, Thomas Keller can cook a lobster thermidor, but how’s his short game? You might find out at the five-star Fairmont Grand Del Mar, where The Robb Report will gather Keller, Daniel Boulud, Jerome Bocuse, William Bradley, Paul Bartolotta, Justin Cogley, Timothy Hollingsworth, Michelle Karr-Ueoka, Gavin Kaysen and Ming Tsai for an extraordinary weekend of fine dining and fun, including a golf tournament (you can get ready with a clinic, put on by 20-time LPGA champion Cristie Kerr). Cogley will also teach a cooking class, and Patron Tequila will be on hand for a mixology session.  

Culinary Masters benefits Ment’or BKB, a non-profit devoted to the development of aspiring culinary professionals. Among other things, Ment’or puts together Team USA for the biennial Bocuse D’Or competition; Bocuse, Boulud, Keller and Kaysen are all on the Ment’or board.

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