There are few better ways to gain an insight into a local culture than by attending a festival that highlights that region’s culinary culture. And whatever style of cuisine excites your taste buds, chances are there’s a festival somewhere in the world to indulge you – here are five of our favourites.
In March every year for the past 30 years, the population of the small South Island town of Hokitika has swelled with visitors who come to enjoy the fun, festivities and most importantly, food, offered at the Wildfoods Festival. This is the place to go if you have an adventurous palate – previous years’ offerings have included such daring delicacies as possum pie, pig snout on a stick, gorse flower wine and the enchanting- (and somewhat misleadingly-) named mountain oysters. Even if you’re not willing to go out on a limb from a culinary perspective, there’s plenty of entertainment to ensure your enjoyment – cooking displays, live music performances and an impressive fireworks display. One of the highlights to emerge in recent years is the “Feral Fashion” competition: a showcase of “bush couture” that incorporates shells, fur, flora and anything else that can be pressed into service to create something truly wild and wearable.
When you were a child, did you ever fantasise about a world made entirely of chocolate? If the answer is “yum, yes!”, the Salon du Chocolate is probably going to be your kind of festival. Held every year over five days in a vast exhibition centre in Paris’ fifteenth arrondissement, the festival places some of the biggest names in chocolate and pastry in front of 110,000 chocoholics from all over the world. This is a celebration of chocolate in all its wonderful forms, and includes live demonstrations and performances, a chocolate fashion show, chocolate sculptures, a supplier showcase and plenty of opportunities to indulge.
The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival (also known as the Tuen Ng festival) takes place every year on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar (usually some time in June). Aside from the excitement and colour of the dragon-boat racing itself, one of the key highlights of the festival is the excuse to feast on zongzi rice dumplings. The day is a national holiday, and everywhere you go you’ll find a myriad of dumpling offers, featuring glutinous rice and a variety of fillings including pork, beef, salted duck eggs and chestnuts, wrapped in steamed bamboo leaves.
As the birthplace of pizza, any visit to Naples is likely to include vast quantities of this divine Neapolitan speciality. But every September since 1995, the city takes pride in taking its culinary delight to the next level with Pizzafest, billed as the “world’s greatest celebration of pizza”. Head to the waterfront Pizza Village, where fifty of the most renowned pizzerias gather to showcase their skills, producing an estimated 100,000 pizzas of various sizes, shapes and flavours in just ten days. Watch pizza-making demonstrations and soak up the carnival atmosphere, with live music performances, exhibitions and contests – and best of all, it’s all free!
Americans are passionate about barbecue, and many would argue that the best barbecue is found in The South. All over the country you’ll find festivals dedicated to the art and science of producing the perfect barbecue, and one of the biggest and best takes place each October in Lexington, North Carolina, the self-proclaimed “Barbecue Capital of the World”. Ten blocks of the city’s Main Street are closed to traffic in honour of the big event, which last year attracted more than 200,000 people to feast on mouth-watering pork shoulder, roasted slowly over hickory wood and basted with a signature “dip” that gives it its unique flavour. It’s a family-friendly festival that offers much more besides a pork-fest: rides and games for the kids, an antique car show and even an enormous, pig-themed sand sculpture.
If your love of travel is matched by your love of food, talk to your personal travel manager about attending a festival that indulges both.