6 Can’t-Miss Summertime Food Festivals

Thursday, June 23, 2011


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Food festivals are everywhere these days…and why not? We all love to nosh and nibble, especially in the summertime. But where should you spend your hard-earned dollars? We’ve chosen the 6 top-notch events that are musts for your calendar.

Zoobilee: Feast with the Beasts, June 25

Have you ever been at the zoo and thought to yourself, “Jeesh, this place would be great without all these kids and with cocktails?” Of course you have! Well you're in luck, because unique food fest returns to Roger Williams Park Zoo for a festive, fur-filled night of food and drink. You’ll get to sample treats from 41 local restaurants, wine shops and businesses while walking around the zoo and helping to support one of Providences' great places. The list of participants is formidable, with all of the Newport Restaurant Groups restaurants taking part along with Dave's Marketplace and many more of the best places on the Rhode Island culinary scene. Break out the animal prints and support a good cause! $125. 941-3910 ext. 453.

McGrath’s Public Clambake, July 1

As Rhode Islanders, we’ve all eaten our share of clam cakes; we have our preference for chowder (clear, tomato or cream?). But how often do you take part in an authentic, cooked-in-a-pit clambake? If your answer is “Not often enough,” here’s your chance. McGrath Clambakes of Newport puts on the real thing at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, all to benefit the Fort Adams Trust. There’ll be chowder (clear, of course!) clams,

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mussels, lobster, corn, salads, barbecue chicken, watermelon, and more. Bring the kids, bring the grandparents, and bring an appetite for this one-of-a-kind true Rhode Island celebration. 7 p.m. Tickets $30-$70. 841-0707

Farm Fresh Rhode Island Local Food Fest, August 2

If you want to know what event gets all the top chefs in town buzzing, this is the one. Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s programs link local farmers with chefs through various programs, and the restaurants that practice farm-to-table cooking throughout Rhode Island find it easier to do thanks to Farm Fresh. This event brings together farmers, fisherman and food artisans who team up with the state’s best chefs—Nemo Bolin, Jonathan Cartwright, Matt Jennings, Beau Vestal, Derek Wagner, Jake Rojas and Jonathan Cambra, among others—to create dishes that are fresh and fabulous. Local beer and wines round things out, and the fact that it’s held on the lawn at Castle Hill in Newport is a beautiful benefit. 4 p.m. Tickets $55-$125. 312-4250.

Charlestown Chamber of Commerce Annual Seafood Festival, August 5-7

A large tour company just picked the twenty seven year old Charlestown Seafood Festival as one of the top 100 events in North America. And with good reason. The festival is a true celebration of Rhode Island food and culture—three days of "shore dining" at its best at Ninigret Park. Lobsters are boiled, stuffed and grilled, chowder and clam cakes flow freely and local oyster and clams are shucked. For the kids, there are special events such as amusement rides, juggling classes and kite flying. For the grown-ups there are local and national cover bands playing each night. Saturday night features a cool fireworks display that rivals anything on the 4th of July. Be sure to have your picture taken with one of the 10 pound lobsters, you know, for posterity's sake! $8 admission, plus cost of food. 364-3878.

84th Annual Grecian Festival, August 19-21

That’s right…84th! Sponsored by the Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church, Pawtucket's very own Greek festival has been keeping tradition alive for this proud community for 84 years. Every August the streets of Pawtucket around this gorgeous church are filled with the sights and sounds and tastes of Greece—and the 10,000 people who come out to enjoy it all. Scores of men spend hundreds of hours preparing beef and lamb and chicken for Souvlaki, the women's group prepares traditional wedding cookies and fried sweet honey puffs that redefine "dough boy.” While there’s not a celebrity chef in the house, trust that the food is authentic, unique, fresh and delicious! Add in traditional dance and drink and you have a great day (or night) for the whole family to enjoy a different—or your own— culture. 725-3127 Admission free; prices for foods vary.

Newport Mansions Wine and Food Festival, September 23-25

This is the grand-daddy of Rhode Island food and wine festivals—the one that comes closest to Aspen and South Beach and all those celebrity-studded events that you see on the Food Network. Newport has a similar lineup of chef demonstrations, wine seminars, and a grand tasting under a tent on the lawn at Marble House, which will feature restaurants sampling food and a hundred-plus vineyards. There is an opening gala at Rosecliff on Friday and a Sunday jazz brunch, the latter at which TV chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich will preside. The vibe here is very Newport—lots of madras on the men and Jock Rogers sandals on the women, which only adds to the fun. Proceeds benefit the Preservation Society of Newport County. Event times vary. Tickets $110-$495. 847-1000.


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