Events Planner: Food and drink festivals

Eat, drink and be merry from Malta to Cape Town
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The Independent Travel

MALTA

MALTA

Mediterranean Food Festival, 11-14 March

The Mediterranean is well known for its healthy living and good food. This month, the way of life is celebrated at the Mediterranean Food Festival at the Eden Arena in St Julian's.

The focus will be on Maltese food, such as timpana (pasta covered with pastry) and qubbajt (nougat). Visitors can also tuck into tapas, tajines, mezze and a variety of other dishes from Spain, Tunisia, Cyprus, Italy, France and Egypt.

Entertainment is provided by Maltese dancers and musicians, and Turkish belly dancers.

A 19th-century wedding banquet will also be staged, at which guests will be provided with a feast of five meats such as rabbit and quail, along with pies, pastries, Maltese biscuits, dates and figs.

Entry to the festival costs ML1 (£1.60); the wedding banquet (for which booking is recommended) costs ML7.50 (£11.75).

For more information call 00 356 2123 7747, 020-8877 6990 in the UK, or go to www.mediterraneanfoodfestival.com

NEW ZEALAND

Hokitika Wildfoods Festival, 13 March

The Hokitika Wildfoods Festival is not for the faint of heart. It began in 1990 when a local woman decided to promote her homemade rose-petal brew and gorse-flower wine. Today it is a festival of weird and wonderful gastronomic delights such as bull's penis sausage, sheep's eyes, venison tongue and pesto ice cream.

Every year, chefs compete for the coveted Wildfoods Festival "Chef of the Year" title.

If all this leaves you feeling a little queasy, then perhaps the performances of jazz, folk, country, Latin, Celtic and African music along with jugglers, mime artists and fire shows will be more to your tastes.

Entry costs NZ$20 (£7.30). For more information or to book tickets call 00 64 3755 6166 or visit www.westland.govt.nz

USA

Vidalia Onion Festival, 5-9 May

Each May, the town of Vidalia in Georgia celebrates the state vegetable, the Vidalia sweet onion, with a family festival.

In the build-up to the festival, a "Little Miss Vidalia Onion" contest takes place for little onion-lovers aged between three and 12. The victor is crowned on 17 April and takes part in the "Little Miss Vidalia Onion Pageant" on 30 April.

On 5 May there will be an onion chefs' cook-off, a carnival, and tours of the local pecan orchard plantation. Expect to see the usual festival attractions, such as fireworks, parades, music and dance, an air show and even a rodeo.

There will also be a no doubt riveting talk given on the history of the Vidalia onion at the blue marquee, and an onion-eating contest for entrants with hardened taste buds.

For ticket prices and further information call 001 912 538 8687 or visit www.vidaliaonionfestival.com

SOUTH AFRICA

Cape Gourmet Festival, 20-23 May

Cape Town's Cape Gourmet Festival and Good Food and Wine Show invites visitors of all ages and abilities to get stuck in, with a little people cooking zone and hands-on workshops under the expert tutelage of celebrity chefs.

South Africa's main wine-producing region is nearby, and there will be a tutored wine and food-pairing session for grape lovers.

To round off the event there will be a five-course gourmet dinner in aid of the Red Cross Children's Hospital on 22 May.

The Good Food and Wine Show takes place in the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Admission is R50 (£4). Other festival events will be taking place throughout Cape Town from 7 May onwards.

For more information call 00 27 21 797 4500, or visit www.gourmetsa.com

USA

World Catfish Festival, 3 April

The 29th World Catfish Festival takes place on 3 April in the self-styled catfish capital: Belzoni, in the southern state of Mississippi.

Catfish were introduced to the region only in the 1960s, yet they have grown to become a major contributor to the local economy, warranting a festival each year in their honour that takes over the entire downtown area of Belzoni.

Events include a catfish-eating contest (competitors must try to devour three pounds of catfish fillets in 10 minutes), a catfish fry and a Miss Catfish 2004 contest, plus catfish cooking demonstrations and dance, music and theatre performances.

Expect to see large numbers of giant, brightly-painted fibreglass catfish around town.

No Mississippi festival would be complete without country music; accordingly, visitors to Belzoni will be treated to a country music showdown throughout the afternoon.

Admission to the festival costs $2 (£1.20); the catfish fry is an additional $7 (£4).

For further information call 001 800 408 4838 or visit www.catfishcapitalonline.com.

AUSTRALIA

Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, 19 March-4 April

Eat, drink and be merry at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. This extravaganza has 120 events ranging from a Victorian farmers' market to a spice bazaar and a coffee festival.

One thousand visitors are invited to sit down to the world's longest lunch on 26 March. This is described as "an al fresco Renaissance-style three-course lunch along a 350m-long table with accompanying entertainment from dancers and performers".

If you prefer something a little lighter, then the Royal Botanic Gardens is hosting a breakfast on 4 April, where visitors can stroll around the beautiful gardens, stopping off at various food stalls for something to eat.

An Australian festival would not be complete without a collection of wines; there will be roughly 200 varieties available to taste, with accompanying workshops, on 20 and 21 March.

The festival will feature a variety of guest speakers, including chefs, wine makers and food writer Sophie Grigson.

For a full programme of events call 00 61 3 9823 6100 or go to www.melbfoodwinefest.com.au

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