The big party this weekend will be all over downtown, as the city succumbs to two straight weekends of the International Festival (a.k.a. iFest). We thank the festival gods every single year that one of our favorite local festivals was moved back downtown, where it belongs. Remember that one hellish year when it was held on the molten asphalt of a newly-paved Reliant Stadium parking lot? Yeah.
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Of course, there's more to iFest than just strolling around and trying to stay out of the heat. Yes, there are bands (we've been spotlighting them every day over at Rocks Off, our music blog). But there's also food -- and lots of it. Each year, the emphasis changes depending on what area of the world is being highlighted. This year, it's The Caribbean, which means delicious dishes like moros y cristianos, jerk chicken and all manner of tempting tropical treats. iFest runs April 17 and 18 and April 24 and 25, and is open from noon to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $17 a person, but iFest is offering an amazing VIP package this year that's worth checking out if you're planning on going for more than one day in a row.
Looking for a festival with international flare, but don't want to deal with the crowds downtown? Missing the big Greek Festival that takes place each fall already? Then take a drive out to the beautiful Haak Vineyards in Santa Fe for the annual Greek Festival. Enjoy Greek wines, food and dancing while you relax on Haak's covered patio amidst the grape vines. It takes place on Sunday, April 18 from 2 p.m to 5 p.m. and is completely free.
The Grand Food and Wine Affair will be heating up Sugar Land (and Houston, if you don't want to make the commute) from April 21 through 25. The week-long festivities will feature wine dinners around town, such as Beaulieu Vineyards dinner at Mockingbird Bistro and the Patz & Hall dinner at Valentino. The Grand Tasting itself is $125 and will take place on Friday, April 23 from 7 to 9:30 p.m., featuring talented chefs from all over Texas, including the famed Kent Rathburn from Dallas, as well as all over the country.
And as we mentioned last week, Dining Out For Life is coming up on April 29. Make your reservations now and help fund AIDS research in Houston and the Gulf coast. All of these participating restaurants will be contributing 33 percent of your food bill towards AIDS Foundation Houston.