Featured Stories & Articles from Cape Cod Travel Magazine: A Foodie's Delight
Food festivals are a fun excuse to travel, and the Cape and Islands have a festival for just about every taste and season. Many of them began as local celebrations and later morphed into annual traditions for visitors and residents alike. Each one offers a different flavor to sample, even while they all share a lot of the same ingredients. Stop by one or more and it’s unlikely you will leave hungry.
A few of the food festivals pair food and wine with local culture for an all-inclusive experience. The Nantucket Wine Festival, held each year in May, was started 13 years ago by Denis Toner. He was working as a sommelier at The Chanticleer Restaurant at the time and was seeking a way to spice up the shoulder season economy. The festival is now considered one of the premier wine and food events in the country, with winemakers traveling from all over the world to pour their select wines.
Both renowned and intimate, the festival includes celebrity chefs, wine lunches & dinners at local restaurants, and special tastings in stunning private homes. Wine and food seminars are taught by leaders in the industry, and the Grand Tasting at the landmark Nantucket Yacht Club offers a chance to sample from more than 150 wineries.
“We’re really very interested in the marriage of food and wine, and we celebrate the pleasure of the table,” Toner says. “Our other mantra is we don’t want to be the biggest, but we do want to be the best.”
The Cape Cod Life Food and Wine Festival, also in May, offers a full week of events at its annual showcase of some of the most noteworthy cuisine on the Cape. The festival kicks off with a Grand Opening Tasting at the Rectrix Aerodrome at Barnstable Municipal Airport. Then it is like a moving feast throughout the week, with a delightful sampling of some of the most unique cultural venues on the Cape, including the Cotuit Center for the Arts. In cooperation with the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod and local merchants, each of these “Taste of Culture” events spotlight local food and wine, while also allowing attendees to view the original works of Cape artists, catch a short performance by a local theater group, or relax to the sounds of an area musician.
“We’re trying to explore all of Cape Cod, so if someone’s coming out for the week and they are food and wine aficionados, they can actually experience the entire region,” says Amy Duquette, director of marketing at Cape Cod Life magazine.
A good way to sample the very best of one of Cape Cod’s signature dishes is to go to WCOD’s annual Cape Cod Chowder Festival. Taking place at the Cape Cod Melody Tent every June, the festival puts attendees to work finding the “best” clam chowder on the Cape. Equipped with a spoon and a ballot, festival goers make the rounds, taste-testing chowders from more than a dozen restaurants and judging for the “Best Cape Cod Chowder,” “Best Non-Traditional Chowder,” “Best Presentation” and “Friendliest Staff.” Adding more flavor to the mix are live bands performing throughout the day.
Part cultural event, part local harvest event, the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival is all about the unique seafood and produce on Martha’s Vineyard. Sponsored by the Edgartown Board of Trade every October, this festival includes food experiences ranging from small plate tastings to private dinners prepared by the most renowned chefs on the island, as well as guest chefs from Boston hot spots.
“We focus on highlighting organic, natural and sustainable food, as well as the best of the Martha’s Vineyard fall harvest,” says Festival Director Sarah Leaf-Herrmann. “We offer everything from the farmer’s market, which is free to browse, to dinners in private homes that are $500 a ticket. So we have all the pricepoints in between because we welcome tourists and visitors, as well as local residents.”
Several other festivals also have farmers and their harvest as their centerpiece, including the Harwich Farm Fest, organized by the Harwich Agricultural Commission. During a week of scheduled activities, generally in late August, local farms welcome visitors to stop by for a visit. The Farm Fest includes talks and demonstrations and encompasses both agriculture and aquaculture, so visitors can learn how to catch a lobster, grow organic herbs, or groom a horse. The activities culminate with a farmer’s market at Brooks Park.
“The best part about it all is that it’s free! It doesn’t cost a dime,” says John Sennott, chairman, Harwich Agricultural Commission.
The Cape Land and Sea Harvest (CLASH), scheduled in late September, celebrates agriculture and aquaculture on a regional level. The lovechild of Dianne and Doug Langland, editors and publishers of Edible Cape Cod, CLASH is a four-day event that combines tasty local food and beverages with education about sustainability. The kick-off reception includes a tasting event with local music, and the next few days feature Cape-wide farm tours, tastings and seminars.
More than 20 local restaurants participate in CLASH, featuring the freshest seasonal locally grown foods on special menus – everything from tapas-style tastings to five-course meals. The event culminates with a large farmer’s market and oyster festival on the grounds of the Cape Cod Maritime Museum.
“It is a salute to fishing, farming and all things Cape Cod,” says Festival Director Tracy Anderson, explaining that it’s about building year-round connections between restaurants and farmers. “It’s really amazing, because there is so much grown here on the Cape and I think the CLASH is making people a little more aware of that.”
The Barnstable County Harvest Festival, held at the county fairgrounds in the fall, recently expanded to a two-day event of food, entertainment, games and exhibits. Master gardeners are on hand to test soil and talk about fall gardening needs, and a farmer’s market offers an array of seasonal produce.
“It’s a very family-based event,” says Wendy Brown, general manager of Barnstable County Agricultural Society. “We’re also even expanding our crafts because people like to do their holiday shopping this time of year.”
Shellfish provides the focus for other food festivals. The Bourne Scallop Festival is celebrating its 40th annual weekend of festivities overlooking the Cape Cod Canal. The event was started by a group of fishermen who wanted to have an end-of-season gathering for families and friends. Today, the festival attracts over 50,000 people every September and serves up three tons of sweet succulent scallops each year on their famous scallop platters.
“There is all kinds of food, a juried craft fair, a home show, a midway of games and rides, and non-stop entertainment,” says Marie Oliva, of the Canal Region Chamber of Commerce.
Nine years ago, when a group of Wellfleet shellfishermen decided to hold a small town festival on Main Street to celebrate the town’s famous oysters and deep-rooted shellfishing traditions, they had no idea the Wellfleet Oyster Fest would become a destination event for so many.
The festival, which happens over the weekend following Columbus Day, continues to grow each year and, in addition to the very popular oyster shucking contests, activities include cooking demonstrations, raw bars, New England ale tastings, educational displays, children’s activities and dancing in the streets. At its eighth annual event last October, the festival saluted its hometown oyster shucking hero, William “Chopper” Young, Jr., who had recently been crowned the world oyster shucking champion in Galway, Ireland.
The food festival season on Cape Cod begins and ends with the Taste of Cape Cod Food and Wine Festivals, which feature the work of local chefs, cooking demonstrations and wine seminars. The April festival features local chef-owned ethnic restaurants, and in November, the theme is “A Holiday of Cape Cod Dining,” featuring classic holiday dishes and music provided by a 16-piece big band and strolling musicians. Proceeds from each event are donated to local charities.
“It’s a celebration rather than just a festival, being thankful for what we have on Cape Cod,” says founder John Rega, a television/radio food and restaurant commentator.
In essence, that seems to be the underlying theme of each of the Cape & Islands culinary festivals: celebrating just how bountiful these lands, and these waters, really are!
Nantucket Wine Festival
May 13 – 17, 2009. For more information,
Cape Cod Life Food and Wine Festival
May 31 – June 6, 2009. For more information,
Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival
October 16 – 18, 2009. For more information,
Harwich Farm Fest
Late August, date still to be determined. For more information, visit the Town of Harwich website at www.town.harwich.ma.us.
The Cape Land and Sea Harvest (CLASH)
September 25 – 27, 2009. For more information,
Barnstable County Harvest Festival
October 3 - 4, 2009. For more information,
Bourne Scallop Festival
September 25 – 27, 2009. For more information,
Wellfleet Oyster Fest
October 17-18, 2009.
For more information, visit www.wellfleetoysterfest.org.
Taste of Cape Cod
April 26 and November 22, 2009. For more information,
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