Three California Fall Food Fests to Relish

by  Molly Fergus | Aug 31, 2010
Epicurean Santa Barbara
Epicurean Santa Barbara / Photo courtesy of the festival

With authentic Mexican food to the south, Napa and Sonoma’s storied wines to the north, and some 1.4 million dairy cows in-between, California rarely lacks for epicurean delights. Even so, this fall is looking particularly ripe for feasting on the left coast: September 1 kicks off California’s annual wine month, and a bounty of food festivals are dishing up everything from mushroom and wine pairings to chef-led culinary seminars throughout the season. Whether you prefer to try your hand at local farming or simply eat with abandon, we’ve rounded up three picks to keep you grazing until just before Thanksgiving.

Savor the Central Coast: September 30 – October 3, Santa Margarita
Sunset magazine's Savor the Central Coast festival, in Santa Margarita and throughout San Luis Obispo County, brings together more than 30 chefs whipping up meals from locally sourced food, as well as vintages representing more than 200 wineries along California’s central coast. The event's hub is the Santa Margarita Ranch, where fest-goers can sample eats from the region’s best food carts, sit in on lectures and demonstrations from Sunset editors and local chefs, and even learn how to set up a chicken coop in their own backyard. Tickets start at $85. October 1 – 31, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara’s second annual, month-long culinary celebration takes over the community with more than 100 events, including restaurant specials, winemaker dinners, and even food-inspired art exhibits. Highlights include some of the themed food fests – like the California Avocado Festival, October 1 – 3, and the Santa Barbara Chowder Fest, October 24 – and the “Julia Child’s Santa Barbara” program, a four-day Road Scholar seminar exploring the iconic chef’s California stomping grounds. Ticket prices vary by event.

Mendocino County Wine & Mushroom Fest: November 5 – 14, Mendocino County
Even if you’d rather not try any of Mendocino County’s 500 native, edible mushrooms (including the candy cap variety, a rare, maple syrup-flavored type that only grows along the northern California coast) this 10-day festival offers plenty of distractions. Take a guided mushroom walk led by the Botanical Gardens (weekly, November 1– January 31) to learn to spot the differences between fungi; board the Wine and Mushroom Excursion Train Nov. 13 to sample local mushroom and vintage pairings; or take a “Home of Seabiscuit” walking tour Nov. 5 at the Ridgewood Ranch. Ticket prices vary by event.

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