Three Great Fall Food And Wine Festivals To Plan On Now

As summer heat bears down on much of America, thoughts might turn to fall, which brings food and wine festivals. Visiting some of them might require just a quick drive to experience. Others, much farther away, are good choices but require some advance planning. Here is a quick list with three of the more interesting fall festivals and events coming up this year.

Hawaii Food and Wine Festival– Oahu, Hawaii
Held in early September, the second annual Hawaii Food and Wine Festival features more than 50 internationally-renowned master chefs, culinary personalities, and wine and spirit producers. A Pacific Rim focus brings experts from the United States, Singapore, Japan, Korea, Philippines and Australia with showcase wine tastings, cooking demonstrations and exclusive dining opportunities with dishes using local produce, seafood, beef and poultry.

Held September 6-9, 2012, tickets on sale now also include a 12-month subscription to Food and Wine Magazine.

Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival
Lake Tahoe, California
Eight days long, this year’s event kicks off on Labor Day weekend and continues all week with a grape stomp, classes, tastings, music, art, wine and a grand finale featuring a Culinary Competition and Grand Tasting at Northstar California Resort. Unique to this event is the opportunity to visit a farmers market with a renowned chef to learn about fall seasonal produce, meat, fish, cheese and flowers.

Happening September 1-9, 2012, tickets are on sale now.Taste of Madison– Madison, Wisconsin
More than 80 local restaurants offer a sample of their finest fare at more food-oriented Taste of Madison. The annual event benefits United Cerebral Palsy and has helped them raise nearly $400,000 in the past decade alone. Three stages have live music throughout the two-day event featuring Country, Rock and R&B.

Just two days, Taste of Madison happens September 1-2, 2012. No admission.

[Flickr photo by Aunt Owwee]

4 free street fairs to check out this weekend in New York

As the day turns to night earlier and earlier, we only have a little longer to take advantage of the beautiful fall weather. For those in the New York City area this weekend, enjoy fun in the outdoors by attending some of these street fairs.

Saturday, November 5, 2011:

American Diabetes Association’s World’s Largest Block Party

Explore over 400 exhibitors of art, crafts, collectibles, antiques, fashion, and more, from 10AM-6PM. This free event runs down Madison Avenue from 42nd-57th street, and will also feature free entertainment and over 50 cultural and corporate displays giving information and free samples.

West 4th Street Festival

From 11AM-6PM, stroll down West 4th in between Sixth Avenue and University Place to experience a great outdoor festival in Greenwich Village. Enjoy free music and entertainment while you browse stalls selling arts and crafts, food, housewares, and unique gifts.

Sunday, November 6, 2011:

Bleeker Street Festival

This free street fair will take place from 11AM-4PM along Bleeker Street in between Lafayette Street and Laguardia Place. Explore Soho by perusing the many market stalls and sampling delicious food from local vendors.

Sixth Avenue Autumn Fair

Sixth Avenue will be full of festivity from 10AM-4PM. The free fair will take place in between 34th and 42nd Streets and will feature plenty of great food and vendors as well as fall-inspired music and entertainment.

First snow: Eight winter activities for budget friendly fun

With the first snow comes thoughts of winter’s smorgasbord of budget friendly travel options. Fall festivals and foliage tours are long gone. What was missed has been moved to next year’s got to go agenda.

The first snow is a reminder that winter, like other seasons, has a timetable that waits for no one. To make the most of winter, create a checklist of what you’d like to do. Plan for those winter outings before it’s too late. Don’t be left behind wondering where the winter went.

Here are 8 winter activities to put on your list of things to do before the spring thaw comes and crocus appear.

1. Go tubing: For anyone who wants the thrill of speeding down a snow packed hill, but is not fond of the idea of falling (count me in on this one) tubing is an excellent option. If you have the physical skills to sit on the ground and get back up again with or without help, you can tube. The beauty of tubing is that people of various athletic abilities and ages can enjoy the same experience at the same time.

Many ski resorts have added tubing hills to their repertoire. From the Poconos in Pennsylvania to Copper Mountain Ski Resort in Colorado, the cost for tubing is quite a bit less than the cost of a ski lift pass. Plus, there’s no equipment to rent and you can enjoy the warmth of the ski resort’s lodge like any skier who forked out more money than you did.

2. Take a winter hike: Although hiking might seem more suited for warmer weather, winter hiking offers another look at outdoor beauty. Plus, there’s a level of solitude for reflection, part of what winter months invite. Sections of the Appalachian Trail are one possibility. For options that offer the opportunity to find out more about nature and natural history of an area, check your state’s park system. Many have an organized winter hike like Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio does. This park’s winter hike is January 16.

3. Go cross-country skiing or snow shoeing: Where there is snow, you can cross-country ski or snowshoe. City and town parks, logging roads or trails that have been specifically for either sport are waiting for you. The Enchanted Forest in northern New Mexico is one such place. To see if either sport is a good fit, head to a trail on Winter Trails Day. This winter, January 9th is the day to bundle up and strap on skis or snowshoes. Rentals are available.

4. Build a snowman in an unusual place: Where there’s snow perfect for packing, you can build a snowman. By building a snowman in a place that’s more public than your yard, you add to other people’s winter fun. A favorite memory of mine is watching people build a snowman on the Great Wall of China.

For people who live where it never snows, don’t pass up a chance to indulge in a snippet of childhood if you happen to have traveled to a place where it does–London, England, for example.

5. Sip hot chocolate, mulled wine or another hot beverage made extra warm by alcohol by a fire crackling in a stone fireplace. This is where you enjoy a winter wonderland by looking out a window. Where does one find such an experience? Ski lodges and hotel lounges and lobbies are perfect places for indulging in an afternoon or evening of relaxation in a comfy chair. Going solo? Bring a book. You don’t have to be an overnight guest to enjoy such pleasure.

6. Visit an historic village to learn about winter life in the olden days. At an historic village, costumed interpreters demonstrate how life was lived in yesteryear. Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts is one of the more extensive historic villages. The sticker price is not exactly budget friendly. For the cheapest option, head to the Slate Run Living Historical Farm in Ohio. It’s free. I repeat. Free.

7. Bird watch at a local park, a nature center, a refuge or another area known for bird watching. Check out Critter Watch, for best winter birding spots in Colorado. In Ohio, the newest bird watching place is the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, one mile from the heart of downtown Columbus. It’s located on an important migration stop next to the Scioto River.

8. Ice-skate at a city’s outdoor rink or a frozen pond. Many cities open skating rinks in their downtown’s to attract people. One of the most famous is the skating rink at Rockefeller Center. There are other less touristy skating options in New York City, however.

If you’re planning to head to any other city, see if there is an outdoor skating rink there. Skating on a city’s downtown rink is an active way to enjoy the city’s architecture while becoming part of the city’s scene. Skate rentals are available.

Some city parks and zoos like Buhr Park in Ann Arbor, Michigan and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Columbus Ohio, also offer ice-skating with skate rentals available.

400 Pound Plus Pumpkins and a Carving Knife

Gus Smithhisler carves pumpkins like nobody’s business. I saw him at work this past Saturday at Jack Hanna’s Fall Fest at the Columbus Zoo where Gus was turning the most enormous pumpkins into animal art. Being ever so on my toes, I grabbed his card and contact information.

Gus has emailed me back to let me know of his upcoming engagements. If you get a chance to see him at work, don’t miss it. Since fall is officially here, consider this a fall festival kick off. Gus is appearing at a few festivals in addition to his Las Vegas gig. By the way, if you go to his Web site, you’ll see his handy work. He started out a few years ago at the Indiana State Fair and his business keeps growing.

If you do see Gus, he may give you some pumpkin seeds so you can grow your own monsters at home. The photo is from last year’s zoo event. Gus’s daughter helps him from time to time.

Okra Man, Okryland, Okra by the Bushel and The Okra Strut

I love okra. Okra fried, okra in gumbo, and the way it was served when I was in The Gambia, cooked in a tomato-based sauce with fish or chicken, seasoned with cayenne pepper and ladled over rice. In Irmo, South Carolina, folks are so in love with okra they have a festival that pays it tribute. At The Okra Strut the huge inflatable Okra Man is a mascot of sorts. This is the festival where people of all ages see how much okra they can chow down in an okra eating contest in between carnival rides at the Okryland section. The Okra Strut Parade is the state’s largest festival parade.

This is no small carnival either. 50,000 people are expected to show up at this two -day event, September 28-29. Perhaps they are hoping to take a prize home from the Great Okra Giveaway, although the days are also filled with performing groups and appearances by beauty queens.

South Carolina is also the state with the World Grits Festival. There seems to be a fondness for food that either you love or you hate. If you are an okra lover, here are some recipes in case you want to branch out from the usual breaded in cornmeal and fried.