For high-rolling, peripatetic gourmands who've already ticked off the checklists of the world's destination restaurants, the expanding calendar of culinary festivals offers another ideal way to stimulate the curious palette. For starters, there's a virtual guarantee that headline chefs like Nobu Matsuhisa or David Bouley will be cooking dinner themselves rather than leaving the work to gifted minions. Master classes can show you how to produce espumas with studied nonchalance and learn the newest culinary techniques as they emerge from the fervid imagination of Ferran Adrià or Heston Blumenthal. What's more, says René Redzepi, trailblazing chef at Noma, Copenhagen's first two-star Michelin restaurant, the festivals put him and his colleagues in a gregarious mood, offering "potent inspiration and a time to get together and share ideas with fellow chefs and customers." Here are five of the best fests for anyone looking to eat their way around the world.
The annual Identità Golose (Jan. 27-30, 2008) in Milan, inaugurated by Italian food writer Paolo Marchi four years ago, has become the pre-eminent event for avant-garde chefs: Heston Blumenthal of the Fat Duck in Bray, England; Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz in Spain's Basque country and the ubiquitous Ferran Adrià of El Bulli in Spain have already confirmed. Carlo Cracco of Cracco-Peck is one of several daring Milanese chefs showcased at the fair, which will also offer workshops on bread, pizza and Italian patisserie. Top local restaurants offer special degustazione menus of both ultramodern and traditional Milanese dishes. www.identitagolose.it
In its seventh year, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Miami (Feb. 21-24) guarantees glamour and warm winter sunshine. Headline chefs for 2008 include Anthony Bourdain, whose revelatory tales of the kitchen have made him a star, and Alice Waters, the founder of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. One tribute evening honors Alsatian chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, another celebrates great women chefs such as Suzanne Goin of Luques in Los Angeles, and the grand finale is a Tuscan evening hosted by Jamie Oliver and Mario Batali. www.sobewineandfoodfest.com
Michelin stars will crowd the firmament over Singapore the week after Milan for the Food Wine and Arts Experience at the landmark Raffles Hotel (Jan. 30-Feb. 3). Among those on hand will be Thomas Keller from the French Laundry in Napa Valley, California; Alain Passard from L'Arpège in Paris; Santi Santamaria from Can Fabes in Catalonia and Nicolas Le Bec from Lyon. Wineries from world-renowned regions including Chateau Haut-Brion from Bordeaux and Frescobaldi from Tuscany will host tastings, and German painter Hella Nohl will discuss red wine's place in her palette. www.rhwfae.com
Putting modern Greek cuisine on the gastro map is one of the newer events at the Sani Gourmet Festival (May 17-24), an ambitious yet laid-back mix of workshops, tastings and dinners at a chic marina resort near Thessaloniki. Christoforos Peskias, whose Athens restaurant 48 has one Michelin star, promises to outdo his debut last year, when he deconstructed the Greek salad with tomato sorbet, peppers and feta in jelly, cucumber in foam, onion in thin chips and olive puree. A fine line-up of Mediterranean chefs will complement the Hellenic focus. www.saniresort.gr
Taste of London in Regent's Park (June 19-22) is the perfect way for gastroscenti to sample the U.K.'s restaurant revolution. Where else can gourmet boulevardiers try Le Gavroche, Scotts, Tom Aikens and Shane Osburn of Pied à Terre all on the same day? More than 40 of London's world-class restaurants cook up miniature versions of their signature dishes and serve them from their stalls; strollers can browse the best of British artisan food producers and enjoy the chefs' theater, where some of the U.K.'s most famous cooks explain their craft. www.tasteoflondon.co.uk