Photo: tlboyd05, Flickr
There's still plenty of time before turkey and stuffing is upon us. These are the days of food fests, from mac-and-cheese (above) to pork cracklins, of the venerable chili cook-off in Terlingua, Texas, and the over-the-top gingerbread house DIY face-off in North Carolina. Here are seven festivals you won't want to miss.
Denver International Wine Festival, Denver, Colo., Nov. 3-7: Colorado is much more than beer. Its about pinot and Burgundy as well. Denver Wine Week, the Mile High City's annual event, now in its sixth year, offers up more than 400 wines. The festival kicks off with an Iron Chef-style bout in which local chefs will go toque to toque pairing food and wine. The Grand Tasting of International Wines and Food on Friday will showcase wines from more than 100 wineries selected by the editors of Wine Country International magazine. The festival isn't exclusive to oenophiles, though. Craft beer and artisan spirits are also on the tasting menu.
Original Terlingua International Chili Championship Cook-Off, Terlingua, Tex., Nov. 4-6: In addition to one whopper of a 44th annual chili cook-off, there will also be contests for the best ribs, black-eyed peas, margarita, as well as the ugliest hat. In a party as big as Texas, you can also dance to live music, and cruise the arts and craft show.
Romanian Food Festival, Colleyville, Tex, Nov. 5-7: If you just happen to be in Texas for the Terlingua Chili Cook-off, head to the Dallas-Forth Worth area for what may be the delicious opposite of chili -- Romanian food. The fifth annual celebration is organized by the parishioners of St. Mary's Romanian Orthodox Church, and will feature traditional fare like ciorba (hearty soups), sarmale (cabbage rolls), and mamaliga (a cheesy polenta dish), as well as folk dancing, a show by Romanian singer George Rotaru and boxing. Let's hope the boxers leave the cabbage rolls alone before the match. As they say in Romania, "Pofta Buna!" Bon Appetit!
Port Barre Cracklin Festival, Nov. 11-14, Port Barre, La.: Surely, we're not the only ones excited about an entire festival dedicated to fried pig skin? Aside from a cooking competition that is skin deep and divided into professional and amateur categories, there will be Zydeco music, a pageant, a parade and carny rides. Begun in 1985, this homage to fatback has raised funds for the local Lions Club and has attracted thousands annually, for cracklins galore, and for the showcase of other local foods, and arts and crafts.
National Gingerbread House Competition, Asheville, N.C., Nov. 15: If you can't purchase the $15,000 gingerbread house available through Neiman Marcus' Christmas Book holiday catalog, this one-day event in the mountains of North Carolina just might be your thing. Contestants from across the nation will converge at Grove Park Inn for the chance at some of the more than $12,000 in cash and prizes. From Nov. 17-Jan. 2, 2011, the gingerbread houses will be on display. But be forewarned -- this is a feast only for the eyes. No bites of the houses allowed.
Pecan Fest, Chetopa, Kan., Nov. 20: Like myriad food festivals nationwide, this fete in honor of the pecan will have a cooking competition, pageants, games, a 5K run, arts and crafts, a car show, and the you-can't-beat-this six-dollar all-you-can-eat smorgasbord luncheon. Pecans will be consumed throughout the day, natch.
The Great Macaroni & Cheese Bake-Off, Traverse City, Mich., Nov. 27: All hail the queen of comfort foods. At Chateau Chantal, seven wineries on the Old Mission Peninsula, the host included, will pair their offerings, among them rieslings and chardonnays, with mac & cheese. No blue boxes allowed.