As winter thaws and warmer weather approaches, the countdown has begun for two of New England’s most celebrated food and wine festivals of the 2019 season: the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival (May 15-19) and the Newport Oyster Festival (May 17-19).
For its 23rd anniversary, the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival will host more than 60 exciting events, from socialite-studded tastings and lavish dinners to informative wine seminars. Meanwhile, in its fourth year, the Newport Oyster Festival on Bowen’s Wharf kicks off with an intimate Friday night opening party before moving into two full days dedicated to all things oysters, set to spirited live music.
Here, the scoop on two epicurean spring flings you’ll find in the Northeast this year, each located in charming coastal destinations accessible by Tradewind Aviation.
Nantucket Wine & Food Festival
May 15-19, 2019
This wildly popular five-day Nantucket festival marks the official start of season, celebrating the Grey Lady’s return to New England’s social and culinary scenes.
Since its humble beginnings as a small-scale, single-day celebration in 1997, the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival has blossomed into one of New England’s most anticipated annual events. Today, it’s where the best-of-the-best regional chefs unite with more than 150 esteemed wineries — from as far as New Zealand to as close as Long Island — and host grand dinners, wine and food seminars, grand tasting events, luncheon symposia, and more.
Book early for seats in the “Great Wines in Grand Houses” series, featuring venerable chefs working with coveted wineries to deliver one-of-a-kind paired menus in private island homes. For example, on May 18, award-winning chef and restaurateur Michael Scelfo (of Alden & Harlow fame) teams up with third-generation Italian winemaker Federico Ceretto at a local mansion for a four-hour journey through Ceretto’s namesake varietals, with sublime cuisine to match ($700).
The festival hits its peak during the two-hour “Grand Tasting” sessions at the White Elephant Hotel (two on May 18, starting at $185 and one on May 19, $135). These three sessions are the main events: Festival-goers have the opportunity to sample 600+ wines from 150+ global wineries, all while enjoying bites from local restaurants and mingling with fellow oenophiles.
Those looking to pepper established festival favorites with out-of-the-box experiences have plenty of options, too. For example, consider “Sake + Sashimi,” a tasting hosted by sake expert Rachelle Bose and complemented by sashimi pairings from PABU Boston ($125). Or, rise and shine for “Namaste then Rosé,” a morning of vinyasa yoga paired with a cooking demonstration and some heavy pours of the good stuff with winemaker Susana Balbo and celebrity chef Elizabeth Falkner. An intoxicating combo of wellness and wine? We’ll toast to that.
Newport Oyster Festival
May 17-19, 2019
This foodie-fueled festival is an immersion into Rhode Island’s ocean-to-table and locavore movements. For one weekend, the state’s oyster farmers gather at Newport’s Bowen Wharf to showcase their fresh catches to the public and offer insight into the state’s thriving aquaculture industry.
The weekend begins with an intimate opening party (limited to 200 participants, $125) benefiting the Ocean State Aquaculture Association, The Nature Conservancy, and SSV Oliver Hazard Perry (Rhode Island’s official Sailing School Vessel). Under the festival tents, guests feast on unlimited freshly shucked oysters from eight leading farms while sipping Champagne from an open bar. The event also offers the chance to spend time with regional farmers and local business owners, with Chelley Knight & the Daybreaks quartet performing a selection of jazz standards in the background.
From 11am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, the wharf buzzes with festival-goers eating and imbibing to the beats of more live music. Sets from six bands represent different genres, ranging from rock and funk to reggae and jazz. Visitors can sample fruits of the sea from 10 different oyster farms — advance purchase tickets include six fresh RI oysters and a beverage for $27. Attendees can also expect a sugar rush from on-site vendors like Anchor Toffee, La Petite Creperie, and Sprinkles (the island’s resident ice cream and cappuccino supplier) before learning about aquaculture and reef restoration from The Nature Conservancy educators.