Houston may not put on festivals on the scale of Taste of Chicago or even Taste of Buffalo (no, seriously; it's the nation's second largest food festival), but the festivals that we do put on each year offer some fine and fantastic foods. And with fall upon us, several of the best festivals this year are coming right up. Lucky you.
Here are our five favorite festivals for getting our grub on (even if they're not specifically geared toward food). If we missed your favorite, let us know in the comments section below.
5. Turkish Festival, October 16 and 17
This year marks the 20th annual Turkish Festival, held this year in Jones Plaza. Not only is the food offered delicious -- from doner kebab to baklava -- two of our favorite restaurants provide that deliciousness to the masses: Turquoise Grille and Cafe Pita +. Turkish coffee is also available, all the better to get highly caffeinated so you can keep up with the blindingly fast Whirling Dervishes.
4. Festa Italiana, October 15 to 17
What's not to love about a festival that offers a grape-stomping contest and a pasta-eating contest? Indulge your inner Lucy at the 32nd annual Festa Italiana this year (and get in free before 4 p.m. on Friday, October 15, early birds) while enjoying a bounty of freshly made Italian food on the campus of St. Thomas University. Wash all that Faccia de Vecchia and Sfingi down with some Italian wine or beer -- your call, they've got plenty of both.
3. Greek Festival, October 7 to 10
Easily one of Houston's most enduringly popular festivals, the Greek Festival is celebrating its 46th year this weekend. Held fittingly at the beautiful Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral, the festival draws more than 30,000 visitors each year, most of whom are there for the food. And this isn't any old Greek food; these are recipes passed down through generations and prepared by the cathedral's parishioners themselves. Looking to take a break from all the pastitsio and tiropita? We recommend the wonderful and informative cathedral tours that take place nearly ever hour.
2. Texas Renaissance Festival, October 9 to November 28
It's hard to decide what the best part of the Renaissance Festival is each year: the people-watching or the eating and mead-drinking. In an effort to appease a broader base of people that come to the festival in Plantersville each year, the Ren Fest folks have expanded their food offerings over the years from turkey legs and sausages on sticks to things like Greek food and Mexican food. Ah, yes; the acclaimed Mexican Renaissance period... Nevertheless, when you're gnawing on a Scotch egg and throwing back pints of ale while watching grown men ride elephants, it's difficult not to have a great time.
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1. International Festival (iFest), April 30 to May 1 and May 7 to 8
The countries spotlighted by the International Festival change each year, with Africa enjoying its time in the spotlight in 2010. The upcoming 2011 iFest will celebrate the Silk Road, so expect plenty of fantastic Chinese food, but don't expect only that. iFest is known for its wide array of food each year, served around the pool at the City Hall to swarms of people for two weekends straight. Indian food, Ethiopian food, Polish food, Salvadoran food: It's all here and it's all good, so come hungry.