By Georgina Cruz
August 1, 2011
Each fall Florida seems to spread a giant tablecloth over the length and breadth of the peninsula to be ready to serve up a bounty of food festivals. Here's some of what's on tap, listed chronologically:
-- Sept. 1-30 -- Foodies may wish to savor the Orlando Magical Dining Month during which 60 area dining establishments offer three-course prix fixe dinner menus for $30 and, in addition to tasting the good life, they will be doing some good: $1 from every meal purchased will go to Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. For information and a list of participating restaurants, visit www.orlandomagicaldining.com.
-- Sept. 30-Nov. 13 -- The 16th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival starts on Sept. 30 and continues through Nov. 13 at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista. The festival serves up more than 25 international marketplaces featuring tapas-sized culinary creations ($3-$8 each) paired with beers, wines and other beverages. New this year is a Hawaii marketplace offering such specialties as Kalua pork sliders and tuna poke with seaweed salad, lotus root chips, Seven Tiki Mai Tai and Pipeline beer. Also new is a Caribbean Islands marketplace serving ropa vieja (a shredded beef dish) with rice, jerk-spiced chicken with mango salsa, frozen Dragon Berry Colada and frozen Rock Coconut Mojito. Yet other novelties include a Portugal marketplace where a wine bar will feature best sips to pair with calamari salad with olives and smoked paprika. Also among other events on the festival's agenda are celebrity chef appearances including Jeff Henderson and Cat Cora; HGTV home entertaining seminars each Friday, Saturday and Sunday; daily wine seminars, bottle signings, author events and culinary demonstrations; live daily cultural entertainment and Eat to the Beat! concerts three times nightly at the park's America Gardens Theatre. Concerts, cultural entertainment, Authentic Taste seminars and Authors Without Borders programs are included in regular park admission ($85 for adults, $79 for children). Special programming such as the Party for the Senses grand tasting events, special wine and culinary programs require reservations and separate event admission (tickets for specialty events go on sale on Aug. 16). Call 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378) for reservations. For additional information, visit www.disneyworld.com/foodandwine.
-- Oct. 1 -- The Central Florida Peanut Festival in Williston celebrates the popular crop with everything peanuts for the whole family on the first Saturday in October every year -- a tradition for more than 20 years. Highlights of the fest include a Dessert Contest, the Little Peanut Royal Family Contest (Little King, Little Queen and Baby Peanut), entertainment, craft fair (with crafts oriented to the nut), a petting zoo and, yes, lots and lots of peanuts. Rides and food are available. Admission is free. Festival site is Williston's Heritage Park, located at the intersection of Highway 27 and North Main Street in Williston. For information, log on to www.willistonfl.org.
-- Oct. 7-8 -- Beverage seminars and a culinary festival with live music and tastings from this Orlando hotel's award-winning restaurants and lounges are on tap each evening during the 2nd Annual Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic. Tickets to the event are available as part of a hotel package or individually. Accommodations packages start at $255 and event-only Causeway tickets are $65. Seminar tickets are $35. Food and wine samplings also can be purchased a la carte on the day of the event. Seating for the seminars is limited and reservations are suggested. For details, visit www.SwanDolphinFoodandWineClassic.com or call 800-227-1500.
-- October 21-23 -- More than 40,000 hungry mullet fans are expected to gobble up 10 tons of fish during the annual Boggy Bayou Mullet Fest in Niceville. A 30-year-plus Southern festival favorite, the family-friendly event features headliner entertainment -- Trace Adkins is slated to perform on Saturday night -- arts and crafts and a vast array of food concessions. Ticket prices at the gate are $10 on Friday, Saturday before 5 p.m. and Sunday; and $15 on Saturday after 5 p.m. Admission includes entertainment. The fest is at the Mullet Festival Grounds, State Road 85 North and College Boulevard. Visit www.mulletfestival.com.
-- Nov. 4-6 -- Downtown Jensen Beach sets the scene for the Pineapple Festival celebrating that juicy tropical delight during one of Florida's Treasure Coast's largest street festivals. Entertainment, including the Outlaws and Uncle Kracker, is presented on a Main Stage and food and beverages as well as rides and games cost extra. Daily admission is $15 at the gate (includes concerts); children 12 and under are admitted free of charge. Advance admission is $10. Visit http://www.pineapplefestival.info.
-- Nov. 11 -- The 6th Annual Celebrate Brevard 2011 Food and Wine Tasting festival at the Melbourne Auditorium will feature more than 50 of Brevard's best restaurants showcasing culinary specialties from multiple continents. The event also offers a wine tasting and beer will be available too as well as vendor displays. Tickets are $25 each and include entertainment and food tastings. Event hours are from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. The Melbourne Auditorium is at 625 East Hibiscus Boulevard. For details, visit www.greaterpalmbaychamber.com.
-- Nov. 11-12 -- The 2nd Annual Boca Raton Wine & Food Festival showcases the culinary artistry of 70 South Florida restaurants as well as wines from around the world along East Camino Real. Festival components include live cooking demonstrations, celebrity chefs, cultural music, wine tasting classes, outdoor art gallery and more. Ticket prices are TBA and a portion of ticket sales benefits non-profits community partners. Visit www.bocaratonwineandfoodfestival.com.
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