Foodies, Unite! 2016's Kennebunkport Food and Wine Festival
Every June, Kennebunkport, Maine -- home to the Bush family's famed retreat -- transforms into a hub for James Beard Award-winning chefs, and some of the best and freshest food in New England. For 6 delicious days, foodies and travel lovers converge at the Kennebunkport Food and Wine Festival, the hottest tasting ticket in coastal Maine.
The festival began more than a decade ago and has grown from a locally popular event to one highly regarded by the nation's top chefs, food aficionados and wine and beer makers. The bonus? It all takes place in one of Maine's most charming waterfront towns.
Festival attendees mix and mingle with guests from across the globe at evening happy hours and after-parties, where it's not uncommon to boogie down to live bands while sipping artisan cocktails made with booze from local distilleries.
But really, save your appetite (and liver!) for the festival's main events.
Art of Dining and Grand Cru Dinners
Each year, the festival brings a series of nightly Art of Dining events to life. These meals allow ticket holders to visit some of the region's most extraordinary private homes, where a meal is prepared by a local, acclaimed chef. The dinners are a voyeur's dream; residents volunteer their homes for the events, and guests can ogle their beautiful residences while enjoying a delectable dinner. Perhaps the best part, is that proceeds from the events benefit Full Plates Full Potential, which raises funding to provide underserved children with school meals.
Don't miss the annual Wood Fired Grand Cru Dinner; hosted by Chef Justin Walker of Earth restaurant, the family-style meal is prepared by a group of locally renowned chefs and inspired by wood elements.
Brews+Tunes and the Grand Tasting Party
Two daytime festival events set the stage for summer in Kennebunkport. First, hit up the Brews+Tunes outdoor concert, where bands play, ice-cold beer flows and food truck fare fills your belly. If you're still ready to rock, head over to the Grand Tasting Party, a small plates bonanza that features tastings from more than 2 dozen local chefs.
If You Go
Where to Stay: There's no shortage of elegant accommodations in Kennebunkport, but visitors will find the town's premier accommodations run by the Kennebunkport Resort Collection. These inns and hotels offer luxe accommodations throughout town. For an unusual -- and exceptional -- experience, book your stay at Hidden Pond. Inspired by summer camps, the resort takes the wooded camp vibe and cranks it up to create laid-back, deluxe accommodations in private cabins. In the mornings, guests can kick back in front of their fireplace, and dig into breakfast delivered daily to their doorstep in a picnic basket, complete with a thermos of hot coffee, and a copy of the New York Times.
The resort property also includes the restaurant Earth, as well as access to a private farm where the restaurant sources many of its ingredients. Guests are free to roam the gardens, or borrow bicycles and pedal to nearby beaches. As evening falls (if you're not immersed in a festival cocktail party), relax by the nightly bonfires with roasted marshmallows. Still need pampering? Visit the Tree Spa, which is actually tucked into the property's treetops.
Getting Around: Travelers who enjoy a tipple or two at the festival's dinners and parties needn't worry about driving. HydiDrive car service can be booked in advance to get you to and from events.
More Regional Food Festivals
Can't get enough of the New England summer food and drink festival scene? We don't blame you. Check out some other favorites:
New England Brewfest; Lincoln, NH
Waterville Valley Chowderfest; Waterville Valley, NH
Nantucket Wine Festival; Nantucket, MA
Feast of Wampanoag Culture; Provincetown, MA
Worcester Food Truck and Craft Beer Festival; Worcester, MA
Clam Jam; Arundel, ME