Does your stomach rumble when you're making travel plans?
If so, there's a time to cross a destination off your list: when a major food event is in town.
These festivals and events bring together a destination's best chefs for cooking demonstrations, tastings, parties, seminars and soirees. Visitors will rub elbows with locals and local food enthusiasts, all while tasting the best a city has to offer.
Coffee or cocktails, barbeque or bourbon, the following decadent festivals spanning the rest of 2014 are the perfect excuse to plan a trip.
When other parts of the country are freezing, Miami is at its sunny finest. Late February is the perfect time to jet off to South Beach, filling your days with dips in the ocean and your evenings with events and tastings at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. The four-day festival is packed with dozens of events for every palate. Highlights include a fried chicken seminar, an exclusive ocean liner dinner hosted by Anthony Bourdain (with Daniel Boulud, Andrew Carmellini, Eric Ripert and more in the kitchen), a macaron seminar with Francois Payard, a ceviche and pisco event and more.
Melbourne is another warm weather escape, with a 17-day festival focusing this year on the vital role of water. Fare sourced from Victoria's rivers and oceans will be showcased at more than 200 events including street parties, one-off special dinners and behind-the-scenes tours. Comb through the listings for events that match your personal interests; highlights include a wine weekend in early March and a regional culinary weekend getaway in mid-March. A floating bar on the Yarra River and indulgent five-course lunches are just the beginning of this festival's temptations.
Travel can be a great excuse to geek out on a particular topic. If you already grind your own beans and have studied the science of espresso (or if you're completely green,but coffee curious) the London Coffee Festival in the Old Truman Brewery is a perfect reason to plan a trip. Discerning visitors will have the chance to mingle with more than 250 artisan coffee and food purveyors through tastings, interactive workshops and demonstrations from world-class baristas. Topics from coffee cocktails to how to roast properly will be addressed in workshops, talks and debates.
New York is a great cocktail city at any time of year, but the scene amps up in May for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. A mix of seminars, punch parties, decadent tastings and pairings all have one goal: to encourage the imbibing of better cocktails. While many festivals have a home base, the cocktail classic lives in the places where tipples are sipped: in the city's best bars, restaurants, hotels and even art museums, galleries, theaters and libraries. More than 100 individually ticketed events are planned for 2014, including the opening night gala at the New York Public Library.
June: Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival
June 6-7 in National Harbor, Maryland, and June 14 in Richmond, Virginia
This traveling festival moves across the country, hauling more than 40 bourbons, more than 60 beers and a lot of barbecue straight to the hungry crowds. In June, the finger-licking festival comes to National Harbor, Maryland, and Richmond, Virginia for sunny weekends full of tastings, seminars and live music. Expect bourbon, beer and BBQ experts on-site to answer all of your questions. Admission grants a sampling glass, offering unlimited tastings of all the bourbon and beer your belly can hold.
Think you love spicy food? Test your limits at the one-day Hot Chicken Festival in Nashville, celebrating the local specialty. Hot chicken is a type of fried chicken created in Nashville that, in addition to being marinated in buttermilk and breaded, is brushed with a spicy cayenne pepper paste. The result is a seriously spicy thigh (or breast or wing) that is best washed down with a glass or two of cold beer. The festival also includes an amateur cooking competition and lots of live local music.
August: Copenhagen Cooking Festival
August 22 to 31 in Copenhagen
See the sights of Denmark's capital city through the Copenhagen Cooking Festival, a 10-day festival that often uses iconic cultural institutions as event venues. Top chefs in Copenhagen join forces with chefs from around the globe in programs to educate, provoke thought and help visitors discover the best of Nordic cooking and beyond. Each year's festival has a common theme uniting events: In 2013, the idea of the social aspect of cooking and eating was explored through dinners, pop-up restaurants, markets, street kitchens and more. This year's theme is not set yet. (A winter Copenhagen Cooking festival is scheduled in February; the summer festival features expanded events.)
Some of the best flavors in Ireland are the simplest ones, a fact demonstrated every September at the Galway Oyster Festival. Fresh oysters from along the west coast of Ireland are shucked and served alongside pints of Guinness during this four-day festival. The classic pairing of stout and raw oysters is at its prime in this seaside environment, where seafood enthusiasts gather for the craic (fun) as much as for the seafood trails, oyster-shucking competition and cooking demonstrations.
October: EuroChocolate Chocolate Festival
October 17 to 26 in Perugia, Italy
The stony, quaint streets of Perugia are ideal for a wandering stroll -- from one chocolate shop to the next. During the annual chocolate festival in this Italian town, there are many opportunities to learn about, taste and drink chocolate from Italian company Perugina and other chocolatiers. Visitors can sign up for a chocolate factory tour, check out huge sculptures made of chocolate (and watch the artists at work) and learn about the chocolate making process in a local laboratory. Tastes will move beyond milk chocolate and dark chocolate and include varieties such as hazelnut, mint, coconut, orange and more.
November: Anegada Lobster Fest
Late November in Anegada, British Virgin Islands
The waters of the British Virgin Islands are home to countless seafood delights, but the most coveted is the spiny lobster. The small island of Anegada is holding its second annual lobster fest in 2014, a celebration of the spiny lobster in all of its decadent preparations. Local and international chefs serve up the lobster in every possible permutation: grilled, jerked, ceviched, on pizza and more. Other seafood and Caribbean fare round out the tastings on this small island.
It's hard to justify an exclusively food-focused getaway in December, but Christmas markets across Europe combine unique craft shopping with tempting local fare. Some markets are known more for jewelry or handmade toys and ornaments, while others have earned a special reputation for their food. In Stuttgart, the over-300-year-old Christmas market is set among the city's picturesque gabled houses where visitors indulge in gingerbread, waffles, roasted almonds and fruitcake. There are savory foods here too, but the sweets are reason alone to book a trip.