February Food Festivals

By: Jose Ralat Maldonado
garlic ice cream

Even if one is stuck in the Great White North, February is still a fiery month for food festivals.

Tropical Wine Festival, Des Moines, Iowa, Feb. 3: Iowa is more than a crucial battleground in presidential politics, it’s a fertile land for oenophiles with a sense of humor when it comes to clothing — we’re as surprised as you are — during the first weekend in February. The Tropical Wine Festival, for which attendees are encouraged to don their favorite tropical attire, unites local wineries and lovers of their vintages for a few hours of chin-chins and nibbles from area food purveyors, including The Cheese Shop of Des Moines and Dos Rios Cantina and Tequila Lounge. Go all the way with Hawaiian leis and tiny bubbles when musical group Tropical Steel fires things up.

AleFest Columbus, Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 5: Warm up in the Buckeye State with this one-day brew fete. Beer aficionados will geek out at the opportunity to sample some of the more than 250 stellar creations — including cask — at this seventh-annual affair. Admission ($40) earns the festival-goer a tasting glass to be filled with 20 samples and a guide to scheduled events, including a silent auction and a raffle for beer collectibles. Belly up to the booth.

Delray Beach Garlic Festival, Delray Beach, Fla., Feb. 10–12: It’s not exactly the great Gilroy celebration, but this south Florida celebration is just as deliciously stinky. As a matter of fact, the organizers like to refer to their reeking good time, as “The Best Stinkin’ Party in Town.” The highlight is the Garlic Chefs Festival, for which local chefs duke it out with three gourmet dishes (a composed salad, appetizer and entrée with pre-selected ingredients) and, adding Iron Chef elements, a mystery ingredient in one hour. Garlic University gives children the opportunity to learn about the wondrous bulb. They'll even have the chance to bring home garlic they’ve potted. Hungry visitors will be able to munch on garlic curry chicken kabobs, garlic ice cream, or for the purist, whole roasted garlic. Industrial-strength breath mints are suggested.

Eelpout Festival, Walker, Minn., Feb. 17–19: With live music from a band called Shirts and Skins and a bikini ice fishing team fashion show, this Land of 1,000 Lakes winter celebration is arguably the hottest one this month. And it’s about a fish. Aside from the abundance of beer used to keep warm, 10,000 ice anglers will gather to compete for the biggest catch. Costumed revelers will go for a dip in Lake Leech during the polar plunge and participate in other shenanigans on and off the lake.

Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival, Indio, Calif., Feb. 17–26: Since 1947, the date palm harvest in the Coachella Valley has teamed up punch with a good old fashioned country fair for a 10-day blowout. Classic food fair events like a pageant (Queen Scheherazade Scholarship Pageant) share real estate with musical headliners LeAnn Rimes, Hot Chelle Rae and Uncle Kracker. Monster trucks, a demolition derby and camel and ostrich races will be among the spectacles packing the Grandstand Arena. Throughout the affair, attendees will munch on the honored goodies, go for spins on midway rides and throw down for the year’s biggest date.

South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Miami, Fla., Feb. 23-26: Finish off the multi-course banquet that is February with the month’s biggest food bash, Food Network’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival. The cable cooking network will showcase its marquee names, including Guy Fieri, Alex Guarnaschelli, Ann Burrell and Bobby Flay, during demonstrations, haute soirees and meet-and-greets. Among the highlights during this sunny shindig are Burger Bash with Rachael Ray, seminars on meatballs and glassware, as well as a BBQ and Blues event hosted by Michael Symon. Slap on the sunscreen and hit the beach for foodie heaven.

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