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Happy Equinox – Celebrate the Harvest!

Food & Drink >

Today is the autumnal equinox, which means summer is officially over. Yeah, it’s a bummer but don’t fear, it also means that it’s harvest time: gardens are overflowing, fall beers are flowing and harvest festivals are happening all over the world.

The autumnal harvest celebration has its roots in Britain when farmers would reap and gather their agricultural products to bring to market. There’s a full moon around the autumnal equinox, often called the Harvest Moon, so festivals were usually held sometime near the full moon.

In Germany, Oktoberfest originally started as a celebration of Crown Prince Ludwig I’s marriage to Princess Therese in Munich in 1810. Horse races marked the closing of the first Oktoberfest and the decision was made to repeat the horse races the following year giving rise to the tradition of Oktoberfest. The festival was originally held on October 12 but was eventually prolonged and moved to September to allow for better weather conditions. Today the last day of the festival is the first Sunday in October.

Oktoberfest has become more of a drinking holiday (or alcohol-iday as I like to call it) and special brews are created for the celebration that are generally higher in alcohol and sugar. The original Oktoberfest still takes place in Munich but American Oktoberfests can be found in pretty much every major city across the nation. In fact, there’s one going on right now outside of my office window here in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle!

So, don’t mourn the loss of summer. Get out there and celebrate fall with some delicious food and some great beers. Weather you’re in our home state of Washington, New York, Chicago or even Hawaii, we got a celebration near you this week.

Friday, September 23

2011 Spokane Oktoberfest  – Spokane, Washington This Washington Beer Commission beer tasting event will celebrate Oktoberfest with 24 Washington craft breweries pouring over 50 different types of beer. Many of the beers will be fall seasonal and Oktoberfest inspired beers. Spokane Oktoberfest will also feature the music of the Happy Hans German Band and a variety of German inspired and American food available for purchase. Admission includes a tasting cup and five 5.5oz tastes. Additional tastes are $1.50 each or 4 for $5.00. All entrants to this event must be 21 years of age or older and must present valid ID.

Saturday, September 24

TomatoFare 2011 East at White Heron CellarsQuincy, Washington  TomatoFare celebrates the spirit of the season’s harvest and encourages home gardeners to carry on the honored tradition of seed-saving and growing their family’s own organic heirloom tomatoes. It truly is a unique community festival for food & wine lovers, chefs, family gardeners and farmers. It’s a celebration of life! TomatoFare’s mission is to create an ample supply of locally grown organic Heirloom Tomatoes and make our state the largest grower of heirloom tomatoes in the Pacific Northwest. The Vaughn Jensen Band, one of the premier rhythm and blues bands in the Eastern Washington area, returns for their 3rd year by popular demand. TomatoFare is a harvest party that celebrates the varied flavors of the heirloom tomatoes grown in Washington State.

Meadowbrook OktoberfestSeattle, Washington  Dig out your dirndls, loosen the lederhosen, and polish your polka shoes for the third annual Meadowbrook Oktoberfest. This uber-fun event features live music by the Smilin’ Scandinavians (Seattle’s No. 1 polka band), plus a beer garden, hard and soft cider, and hearty bratwurst meals. Also includes kids’ meals and activities.

Chicago TomatoFest PotluckChicago, Illinois  Celebrate Chicago TomatoFest with Slow Food Chicago and the Chicago Honey Co-op! Show off your heirloom harvest at the Chicago TomatoFest Potluck at the Chicago Honey Co-op!  Chicago TomatoFest benefits the preSERVE garden, a partnership between Slow Food Chicago, the North Lawndale Greening Committee, Chicago Honey Co-op, and NeighborSpace. Arrive at the potluck early and help harvest black eyed peas and crowder peas from the preSERVE garden!  Don’t worry if you can’t come early, tours will be given of the preSERVE garden and the Chicago Honey Co-op, an urban apiary dedicated to beekeeping training and sustainable agricultural practices. Bring your tomatoes, a potluck dish for sharing, and chairs/picnic blankets. Wine from organic grapes donated by Candid Wines and beer & soft drinks donated by Goose Island Brewery.

HOPS! Oktoberfest 2011Chicago, Illinois  Homebrewers Pride of the Southside are proud to once again host their annual Oktoberfest at the VFW hall in Bridgeport. Come enjoy an afternoon of homebrewed and local craft beer, food fresh off the grill and lots of Gemütlichkeit! Homebrewers! If you have something that you would like to share, please bring it.

Seasonal Supper – Early Fall – Green Heron GrowersPanama, New York  Seasonal Suppers is a unique dining experience where patrons can experience a five-course meal featuring products from the host farm and other nearby farms while supporting Field & Fork Network, a local non-profit organization dedicated to building a thriving regional food system in Western New York. This supper will feature the early fall harvest at Green Heron Growers. Enjoy a five-course meal prepared by talented Chefs Brett Odorisio and Ross Warhol of the Anthaneum Hotel in Chautauqua. The dinner will feature wines and beers from Arrowhead Spring Vineyards, Johnson Estate Winery, and Southern Tier Brewery. Guests will also experience Night Lights at the Heron while walking the wooded trails of the farm. Dessert will be served in a cozy chalet deep in the woods. Guests will be dining on a hilltop and are asked to dress appropriately for weather and uneven terrain. Each guest is also asked to bring their own plate to dine on as the meals will be served family style.  Guests will also enjoy live music and a farm tour from Julie & Steve, the proprietors of Green Heron Growers. Green Heron Growers is a certified organic farm located in Panama, NY. All proceeds from this Seasonal Supper will benefit Field & Fork Network. All tickets prices include tax and gratuity and entrance to Night Lights.

Sunday, September 25

Harvest Hoe-DownGainesville, Florida  Attend this knee-slapping hoe-down to benefit Florida Organic Growers, a Gainesville-based non-profit promoting and supporting organic agriculture and healthy and just food systems since 1987. Music, food, art and a silent auction amongst the beautiful woods at Prairie Creek Lodge in the Paynes Prairie.

Monday, September 26

Diamond Harvest TourCharleston, South Carolina Join Charleston Dine Around as your private guide takes you on a luxury dining experience to three of Charleston’s finest Award Winning restaurants. These Restaurants have been graced with noteworthy celebrities from the Food Network and beyond. Start off with a toast and hors d’ouerves at the first location. Second location moves onto the main entrée and wine. Then a decadent dessert with cordial/wine pairing at location number three. Southern food at its best with Charleston history along the way. A restaurant and history tour all in one! Restaurants and their menu are always fresh and subject to change without notice. Tour Includes: small intimate groups (8 people max), 3 restaurants, 3 course tastings, 3 Wine/Appertif pairings, Charleston history lead by a professional tour guide, Pedi Cab ride or Carriage Escort, vegan/vegetarian options, food and wine commentary, and pairings by chefs and sommeliers.

Wednesday, September 28

“Harvest Time” Wine ClassBrooklyn, New York  Join winemaker Alie Shaper as we explore the best time of year…Harvest time! While sipping some local NY state wines, this class will cover everything that goes into a typical NY state harvest. The ticket price includes a full flight of wine!

Thursday, September 29

2011 Harvest Festival – 6th Avenue Farmers Market Tacoma, Washington Celebrate the Harvest and the end of the 6th Ave Farmers Market’s 2011 season. Harvests festivals typically feature feasting, both family and public, with foods that are drawn from crops that come to maturity around the time of the festival. Ample food and freedom from the necessity to work in the fields are two central features of harvest festivals: eating, merriment, contests, music and romance are common features of harvest festivals. At the 6th Ave Farmers Market, celebrate the fall harvest with friends and neighbors, local businesses and local farmers.

3rd Annual Pig and Goat RoastWinston-Salem, North Carolina Join Single Brothers Bar, Krankies Coffee, Eightfold Farm, Shore Farm Organics, Cane Creek Farm, Good Farm Movement and a host of friends new and old as they celebrate the coming of Fall. Imbibe, feast and let the spirit of the coming season reinvigorate you. Let’s party. Menu includes Pit Cooked Pastured Pork and Goat, Corn and Chile Pudding, Beans, Salad, Pumpkin Soup, Homemade Sauces and Bolillos Rolls.

Friday, September 30

Mealani – A Taste of the Hawaiian Range and Agricultural FestivalWaikoloa, Hawaii Get out your Stetson, boots and denim duds for The 16th annual Taste of the Hawaiian Range & Agricultural Festival at the Hilton Waikoloa Village!  The event showcases the isle’s grass-fed industry while bringing together 30 of Hawaii’s top chefs who will dazzle diners with delectable dishes.  Come and “Taste” grass-fed beef from tongue to tail as chefs prepare sirloin tip and ribs plus meats like beef and the infamous “rocky mountain oysters.” Other dishes include wild boar, pork, lamb, goat, mutton and fresh island fruit and veggies.  Meet the people who produce the food and let their stories help you savour the flavours even more!  There are also educational opportunities to learn about various plant/animal types, and growing/raising techniques, with a sustainability emphasis plus being a zero waste event. Local music and entertainment provide a Hawaiian-style “Wild West” ambience for this event, now in its 16th year.

Image courtesy of the Boulder Locavore blog.