Have Food, Will Travel: From Austin to NYC, Here Are Fall Food and Wine Festivals Worth the Trek

Have Food, Will Travel: From Austin to NYC, Here Are Fall Food and Wine Festivals Worth the Trek

Pour one out at the Sonoma County Wine Auction (photo by Michael Woolsey)

THINKING ABOUT GETTING away from this stifling heat? “Nope,” said no one ever! Grab the calendar and start planning for one of these national foodie events, and pack in travel fun and socializing at the same time. We’ve thrown in a few local foodie fests in case you can’t get away.


Lake Charles

LOUISIANA FOOD + WINE FESTIVAL. SEPT. 14-17. The inaugural Louisiana Food + Wine Festival, hosted by Visit Lake Charles, will celebrate the best of Louisiana and the South, from its culinary superstars and beverage experts to southwest Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole heritage and culture, seafood, artisans, and live musicians. Chef participants include Houston’s own 2023 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Texas, Benchawan Jabthong Painter of Street to Kitchen in Houston. Painter is part of the festival’s Grand Tasting line-up at Bord du Lac Park; she will also have a Street to Kitchen booth at Saturday’s festival and appear on the Rouses Markets Cooking Demo Stage. Houston pitmaster Greg Gatlin will participate in the Fire on the Lake Event, and celeb chef and restaurateur Tiffany Derry, executive chef/owner of Roots Southern Table and Roots Chicken Shak in Dallas, will participate in the Master Classes. Texas chefs will be joined by an impressive lineup of celebrity chefs and talent including: John Currence of City Grocery Restaurant Group in Oxford, Miss.; Meg Bickford of New Orleans institution Commander's Palace; Ryan Hacker of Brennan’s New Orleans; Mollie Battenhouse, Master of Wine, Jackson Family Wines and more.

Sonoma County

La Crema Estate (photo by Bob McClenahan)

SONOMA COUNTY WINE AUCTION. SEPT. 14-16. California wine country is always a cool escape, and attending a charitable and meticulously orchestrated weekend makes you feel renewed. There’s no pre-planning necessary, just reserve your ticket and arrive to sip and savor the best of Sonoma County in gorgeous environs. Since the auction’s inception by the Sonoma County Vintners, more than $40 million has been raised, making a direct impact on education and literacy, health and human services, the environment and the arts. Kick off the weekend at Vintner’s Dinners staged at various wineries, and on Saturday night, hit the Best.Party.Ever. to mix and mingle with celebrity chefs, winemakers and philanthropists while swirling and noshing. The weekend culminates at the gorgeous La Crema at Sara Lee’s Vineyard for a spread on the magnificent lawn featuring wine country’s finest wine and fare, and the huge live auction tent, which is a high action party like no other.

Houston

CHEFS FOR FARMERS. SEPT. 30-OCT. 1. If you can’t escape H-Town, hold out for this two-day event at Autry Park, which brings together local chefs, farmers and food artisans. In its second year, Dallas-born Chefs for Farmers will feature unlimited food, wine, craft cocktails, beer and more and will donate a portion of ticket sales to charity partners Houston Food Bank and Urban Harvest. Expect big-name chefs this year, including Evelyn Garcia and Henry Lu of Jun; Travis McShane of Ostia; Jared Zifchak of Navy Blue; Alex Au-Yeung of Phat Eatery; Hugo Ortega of Backstreet Cafe, Hugo's and more; Kent Domas of Eau Tour; Leonard Botello IV of Truth BBQ, and several others. Early-bird tickets for general admission, plus VIP tickets for earlier admission, are available here. Bring your appetite and pray for cooler weather!

New York

Chefs Geoffrey Zakarian & Rachel Ray

FOOD NETWORK New York City WINE AND FOOD FESTIVAL. OCT. 12-15. Presented by Capital One, this is probably the biggest foodie event of the year. With more than 400 chefs, mixologists and wine and spirits producers, this year’s lineup promises to be the most robust yet, all to support its charitable partner, God’s Love We Deliver. Expect culinary luminaries such as Food Network chef Alex Guarnaschelli, Geoffrey Zakarian, Katie Lee, Rachel Ray, Marcus Samuelsson, Tyler Florence, Daniel Boulud, and Andrew Zimmern. Events include a Baking Championship; Disco & Drinks late-night party; Intimate Dinners with high-end wines at more than 30 restaurants, and the Grand Tasting on Hudson River Park’s Pier 76. Participating wineries include heavy hitters like Col Solare, Chateau D’Esclans and too many to mention. Cheers!

Houston

Chris Shepherd and Ashley Christensen at Southern Smoke (photo by Ken Goodman)

SOUTHERN SMOKE FESTIVAL. OCT. 13-14. Houston’s biggest, most star-studded food festival returns with two new locations in the heart of Downtown. The Southern Smoke Festival presented by the nonprofit Southern Smoke Foundation continues its devotion to food, wine and raising money for hospitality workers. As always, the event is rich with James Beard Award winners, top Texas chefs, and some of America’s most talented pitmasters. Events this year include the Respect the Rosé wine dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel Houston, and The Throwdown at Discovery Green. Saturday’s Throwdown features more than 40 chefs preparing dishes made with live fire along with wine, cocktails, beer, and live music. Headliners include Aaron Franklin, Chris Bianco and Ashley Christensen. New this year are pitmasters Leonard Botello IV and Matt Horn, and dozens of local chefs including Aaron Bludorn, Chris Williams, Bun B of Trill Burgers, and Benchawan Painter. Tickets are priced at $175 for general admission, and $500 for VIP with all the perks.

Austin

AUSTIN FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL. NOV. 3-5. The biggest little food and wine fest in Texas is back at Auditorium Shores, this year with the weekend Chef Showcase. Expect nonstop foodie fetes, seminars, wine and spirits tastings, chef demos, and fresh fare to sample from Texas chefs and national guest chefs. Seek out the Fire Pit with bites hot off the flames and the chance to interact with pitmasters and chefs cooking over live fire. There’s plenty of garage parking at Auditorium Shores, but a rideshare might be better. Check the website regularly for updates on talent and ticket details. For lodging, consider the nearby Four Seasons Hotel Austin overlooking Lady Bird Lake.

Seaside, Florida

SEEING RED WINE FESTIVAL. NOV. 9-12. This boutique wine and food festival for connoisseurs and novices alike is the perfect excuse to visit 30A in Florida, and even though it’s November, the weather is superb. Relish four days of beachy freshness including alfresco tastings with live music and local cuisines, plus a themed brunch, vintners’ dinner and more. Experience the long weekend or customize your experience by purchasing curated packages or individual tickets and reservations. For lodging, consider sponsor partner The Court close to the events, or explore favorites Rosemary Beach with chic architecture and restaurants, or luxurious Alys Beach.

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