Sweet tea

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

1. Taste of Atlanta; October 10–11
Southern Comfort

Georgia is a culinary promised land of grits, sweet tea, fried okra, and unlimited pie, and capital city Atlanta is a melting pot of these old-school Peach State delights and innovative new flavors. Taste of Atlanta (October 10–11) showcases specialties from more than 70 of the city's restaurants—from Sweet Auburn Bakery's sweet potato cheesecake to Parish Restaurant and Market's tasso and yam salad with herbed buttermilk. You can also drop in on expert wine seminars and cooking demos—this year, the list includes former Top Chef contestant Carla Hall. (Tickets, $25; TasteofAtlanta.com.)

Can't make it? Get the lowdown on all things culinary from The Blissful Glutton, the city's favored food blog (BlissfulGlutton.com).

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

2. The Wine & Mushroom Festival; November 6–15
Are We Having Fungi Yet?

Northern California's Mendocino County is an internationally renowned wine terroir—and when the autumn rains hit, the region comes alive with wild mushrooms. The Wine & Mushroom Festival (November 6–15) welcomes that happy annual invasion with mushroom-themed menus in area restaurants, a serene kayak tour of wild fungi along the Noyo River ($60), and wine tastings held on a vintage steam locomotive that winds through the towering redwoods ($60). Or take a seminar to help you spot each mushroom variety ($10), including the maple-flavored Candy Cap, which grows only along the California coast (GoMendo.com).

Can’t make it? Mendocino Mushroom Co. will gladly send their porcinis, matsutakes, or chanterelles your way (707-964-1646 for details and prices); add a bottle of La Crema’s 2007 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir for the full experience ($30; LaCrema.com).

Ready to take off? Here's what to pack in
Lobster dinner

Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation

3. Pensacola Seafood Festival; September 25–27
The Shellfish Shindig 

At last year's Pensacola Seafood Festival (September 25–27), the Cajun "pistol" (a gooey New Orleans–style fritter stuffed with crawfish and cheese) was the big draw. The peculiar pastry returns this year, alongside oysters, crab, coconut shrimp, and fried alligator (yes, you read that correctly). You can also watch cooking demos with local chefs and the beloved Splash Dogs: a team of trained pups whose aquatic long-jump competitions are always a crowd favorite. (Free, FiestaofFiveFlags.org/SeafoodFestival.)

Can't make it? Joe Patti's Seafood Company of Pensacola can overnight everything from hush puppy mix to fresh swordfish fillet (JoePattis.com).
Warrens Cranberry Festival

Photo: Courtesy of Warren Cranberry Festival

4. Warrens Cranberry Festival; September 25-27
Merry Berries 

The tiny village of Warrens, Wisconsin, is home to just 360 people—except for three days every fall, when the population swells to include more than 100,000 visitors to the Warrens Cranberry Festival (September 25–27). You can watch the harvest at the cranberry marshes, shop three miles' worth of arts-and-crafts booths, and partake of all things cran-tastic: cranberry cream puffs, pancakes with cranberry syrup, deep-fried cranberry fritters, and cranberries jubilee—served over ice cream, the fruit is stewed with brandy in an open-air pan that measures four and a half feet across. (Free, CranFest.com.)

Can't make it? Have Warrens's finest ruby-reds shipped directly to you (FreshCranberries.com).

Photo: Casa 1921 Tequila

5. San Diego Spirits of Mexico Festival; September 12
Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, Oh My!

At the San Diego Spirits of Mexico Festival (September 12), you can rub elbows with master distillers while tippling a few of the finest agave-based liquors bottled south of the border, including hundreds of tequilas and mezcals—plus the lesser-known sotol, a spirit derived from the Desert Spoon plant. The celebrations include a parade of Andalusian horses, a silent auction including rare tequilas, and local dishes created by San Diego chefs—many inspired by (and infused with) Mexican spirits. (Tickets $40, PolishedPalate.com/events.)

Can't make it? Take your kitchen down Mexico way with the recipes found in chef Joanne Weir's cookbook Tequila ($17; Ten Speed).
Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Photo: Vermont Butter & Cheese Festival/Adeline Druart

6. Vermont Cheesemakers Festival; August 23
Blessed are the Cheesemakers

In Vermont, fromage is serious business—the state has the largest number of artisanal cheese producers per capita in the United States. You can sample their wares at the expansive Vermont Cheesemakers Festival (August 23): Held just east of the Adirondacks in the town of Shelburne, the event showcases the many small food producers in Vermont and offers tastes of some 140 cheeses from 35 creameries—Dancing Cow Farm's Bourrée and Silvery Moon's Sawet Wild among them—for very little Cheddar: Tickets are just $20 (VTCheesefest.com).

Can't make it? Curd connoisseurs can sign up for the Vermont Cheese of the Month Club (beginning at $55; VTCheeseClub.com).


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