Every week of the year—in big cities and tiny communities around the country—there are an incredible number of food festivals ripe for the picking. You probably heard your fill about bacon festivals—but there are others that focus solely on Chile peppers, garlic, mushrooms, cheese and even whoopie pies—and still more that celebrate all foods. Don’t let the choices (or the in-the-know crowds) rattle you! We’ve compiled one dozen tips to transform you from festival newbie to seasoned foodie:
- Be a picky eater
Most food festivals offer dozens of events over several days. You can’t hit them all, so do your research in advance to choose the ones that really strike your fancy. The culinary team at Kiawah Island Golf Resort also advises, “Buy these tickets early. A lot of events sell out and you don’t want to miss the one everyone will be talking about.”
- Dress for success
And by success, we mean comfort! Take into consideration weather conditions (for an outdoor festival) or stuffy buildings (for an indoor event). Also, wear shoes that won’t kill your feet after a day of walking and not-too-tight waistbands for your gradually expanding belly. Bonus tip: Prints in dark colors hide dropped food stains better!
- Practice palate fearlessness
It would be so easy to go with tried-and-true foods, but this is your chance to sample something daring. Who knows? You might just find your new favorite!
- Arrive fashionably early
Getting to a scheduled event 15 minutes in advance is a very good practice—and an even better way to avoid getting stuck queuing up while everyone else is already noshing away.
- Don’t go with the flow
If you see everyone flocking to a single vendor and rotating in one direction, start at the opposite corner and work backward. They’ll get the tiresome wait and you’ll claim the tasty prize.
- Divide and conquer
Even better, split up to gather the goodies and share in the spoils. Alessia Aron, Co-Founder of Jersey Girls Food Tours explains, “Eating tapas-style is our favorite thing to do. So we create an informal list, then each wait in line for our favorites to share with the group.”
- Drink up
We’re talking about water here. Especially if you’re already drinking wine, beer or spirits. You don’t want to get dehydrated and ruin your festival experience.
- Pace yourself
A food festival is a marathon, not a sprint. The culinary team at Kiawah Island Golf Resort recommends, “Don’t go all-out on opening night. Enjoy the whole event.”
- Snap pix
Of course, you’ll want to post #foodporn on Instagram. But you’ll also want photographic evidence to remember the name of that dish, beverage or restaurant you fell in love with. Bonus tip: Make sure your phone is fully charged before you hit the scene!
That’s “bring your own cutlery.” And while you might feel like a dork carrying a fork, imagine how smart you’ll look when a vendor runs out of those dinky plastic utensils and you’re the only one who can dig in to the goodness.
- Taste, don’t gorge
Even if you fall in love with a food, don’t overindulge. You’ll feel too full to enjoy all the other deliciousness to come.
- Chat up the chef
Executive Chef Robert Fratticcioli of the Hilton Wilmington/Christiana says, “Ask questions. Chefs love to talk about their dishes and the inspiration behind them.” You could walk away with knowledge that will stir your inner culinarian.