Festivals & Events

Sonoma County Restaurant Week will be held 18-24 March featuring a wide variety of restaurants and culinary options that feature local ingredients. Participating restaurants will offer three-course prix- fixe dinners for $19, $29 or $39, featuring dishes from Sonoma County's world-class chefs and local ingredients. www.sonomacountyrestaurantweek.org

From the end of January to the middle of March in many gardens throughout the UK fragile looking small flowers with white bell-shaped petals bring pleasure and delight to gardeners - Snowdrops. As a number of Foody Travellers are keen gardeners we makes no apology for forgetting food for a while and celebrating this welcome harbinger of Spring. Here is a selection of Snowdrop Festivals.

Hodsock Priory, Blyth, Nottinghamshire

Visit Hodsock Snowdrops in 2013 and enjoy 12 acres of snowdrop covered woodland and explore acres of formal gardens. This year Hodsock has created a Snowdrop Village sited in front of the 19th Century country house with direct access into the snowdrop woodland and gardens.

The under-canvas Snowdrop Village will be home to a Tea Room, gift shop and plant sale, the venue for free tours and talk. At Snowdrops this year visitors will find Food and Country Fair, Beer and Banger Festival and Snowdrop Wedding Fair. A Charity Weekend starts the season, with lots of local charities offering fun things to do as well as supporting worthwhile causes. www.hodsockpriory.com

Waterperry Gardens, Nr Wheatley, Oxfordshire

Celebrate spring over the weekends of 16, 17 and 23, 24 February at Waterperry when more than 30 different snowdrop varieties carpet the ornamental gardens and newly opened Riverside walk. There are free guided tours (garden entrance fee applies) at 11am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm each day of the special snowdrop weekends. www.waterperrygardens.co.uk

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Ampfield, Romsey, Hampshire

The world-famous Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is preparing for an influx of snowdrop enthusiasts, so called galanthophiles (named after the flower's scientific name Galanthus), when it stages its Snowdrop Drama 25 January – 10 February.

The exhibition is scheduled to include around 40 different cultivars and species of snowdrops including several rare varieties such as the very unusual and attractive variety G. 'Blewbury Tart', with its twisted double flowers.

The collection will be displayed in a Victorian-style snowdrop theatre, appropriately situated in Jermyn's House (the Victorian manor house nestling in the heart of the 180-acre Gardens).  With each plant potted and displayed individually, visitors will be able to enjoy the flowers close-up to appreciate the subtle and not so subtle differences of each variety. The indoor exhibition will be complimented by drifts of snowdrops found around the grounds. Entry to the event is free with usual entry fee to the Gardens. www.hilliergardens.org.uk

Chelsea Physic Garden, London

Visit London's oldest botanic garden for a snowdrop extravaganza 2 – 10 February. Discover dozens of fascinating types on the Snowdrop Trail and on display in the Snowdrop Theatre. A wide selection of snowdrops and other winter-flowering plants, from specialist nurseries, will also be on sale. www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk

Benington Lordship Gardens, Benington Lordship, Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Run in conjunction with the RHS the Benington Lordship Gardens offers a spectacular display of snowdrops around the remains of the Norman Castle and surrounding moat. The garden also has a collection of rare and unusual snowdrops. Single and double snowdrops plus a limited number of named varieties will be on sale Friday, Saturday and Sunday only starting 8 February. Open daily 2 - 24 February. www.beningtonlordship.co.uk

Snowdrop Valley, Exmoor

A carpet of white snowdrops heralds the beginning of spring in a sheltered corner of Exmoor 2 – 24 February. The Avill Valley in Somerset is home to a beautiful spectacle when thousands of the tiny white flowers push through the cold earth.

Visitors who would like to view this spectacle should catch a park and ride bus which departs regularly from the Exmoor village of Wheddon Cross. (The roads in this part of Exmoor are very narrow). For more energetic sightseers, there is a specially marked scenic walking route and walkers should allow at least 1 ½ hours and wear waterproof footwear for the round trip.
This year, the West Somerset Railway ( www.west-somerset-railway.co.uk ) will be operating a combined steam train and coach connection to see the flowers. Leave from Bishops Lydeard Station to Dunster by steam train and take a coach for a moorland journey to Snowdrop Valley.

Once there either take the optional bus tour or walk through the Valley.

Refreshments are available in the village at Snowdrop Café in Moorland Hall, which will be manned by local volunteers and charities, there is also an Inn and tearooms in the village. www.wheddoncross.org.uk and www.Visit-Exmoor.co.uk

Scotland

The much-loved Scottish Snowdrop Festival runs from 2 February to 17 March. Visitors can enjoy this delicate bloom in some 50 locations across the country, some of which are open exclusively for the event. Properties taking part range from majestic castles and classic country estates to woodland walks, walled gardens and urban retreats. www.visitscotland.com

The Geffrye, Museum of the Home: A special evening combining historic food and interiors takes place 7 February. Step back in time and experience how previous generations dined set against the atmospheric backdrop of the Geffrye Museum. The evening will comprise a chance to explore the Geffrye's displays of middle-class living rooms from 1600 to the present day, followed by a five-course meal in the restaurant devised by Matt Phelps from Funthyme, which will feature a key recipe from each century. An introduction to each course will be provided by Kate Colquhoun, food historian and author. www.geffrye-museum.org.uk

Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room: In conjunction with the exhibition of the Irish artist Gerard Byrne, the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room presents an Irish themed feasting evening on 1 February, including dishes of Dublin Bay oysters, Irish stew and soda bread. www.whitechapelgallery.org

Scallops for breakfast, lunch and dinner are on the menu for the eagerly anticipated annual scallop fest in Rye 2 - 10 February.

The irresistible scallop is incorporated into all aspects of Rye culinary life during the nine day event.  Special scallop-themed menus are on offer everywhere. Nowhere is immune, with scallop fever spreading out to the surrounding areas of Winchelsea and Camber Sands. Details of scallop shucking demonstrations, cookery courses at Webbe's Cookery school and the popular 'What a Load of Scallops' race at The Ship Inn and other scallop related events can be found at www.ryebayscallops.co.uk

The BITE 2013 Festival in The Cotswolds takes place 27 January - 2 February, a week- long celebration of great food, superb drinks and culinary excellence featuring - amongst others - Gregg Wallace, Prue Leith, Shaun Hill, Simon Hulstone, Alastair Sawday, Damian Allsop, Will Holland, and The Fabulous Baker Brothers. www.thebite.co

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Badrutt's Palace, St Moritz, one of Switzerland's 'grande dame' hotels, is once again participating in the annual Gourmet Festival that takes place in St Moritz showcasing some of the finest chefs across Europe. www.badruttspalace.com

This year the festival runs from 30 January – 1 February and will be the 20th anniversary of the event. During the five day festival, guests will have the chance to experience exciting events such as the 'Funky Kitchen Party' where diners come in contact with all the festival Master Chefs, moving from station to station, sampling the gastronomic delights accompanied by live music and champagne and wine.  Also on offer the 'Gourmet Safari', provides a five course dinner taking each course at a different festival hotel throughout the evening, whilst the last night the 'Great Valser Gourmet Finale' acts as the culmination of the festival and the ultimate closing party. www.stmoritz-gourmetfestival.ch

The Sagra del Pesce or 'fish festival' in the Italian fishing village of Camogli, with the largest fish frying pan in the world at five metres wide with a seven metre handle, takes place on 13 March. Fishermen abandon their day jobs for the festival and cook their fresh catch for visitors and locals. The fish is handed out for free so visitors must be sure to get a good spot! The festival began in 1952 when 20 fishermen wanted to attract the attention of tourists by donating fried fish during the feast of St. Fortunato, the patron saint of fishermen.  www.prolococamogli.it

The Chocco and Wine Festival will head to Brtonigla for the first time in 2013. The event brings together international and regional chocolatiers who celebrate traditional Istrian products like truffles, wines, olive oils, and cheese combined with the queen of guilty pleasures – chocolate! The Festival takes place 16 February. www.croatia.hr

Chef Michel Richard will be part of the inaugural Food University at Caesars Palace faculty, taking place 11 – 13 December. He joins the growing list of the culinary experts taking part in this event which is designed to transform fun-loving foodys from spectators into competition-ready chefs.

Unlike any other food festival or culinary event, Food University offers food lovers a chance to meet with top chefs, sommeliers, mixologists, cheese experts, fine food purveyors and even farmers. They will not only eat and drink they will don chefs' whites to expand their knowledge on the finer points of creating exceptional cuisine from celebrity chef "professors." The first Food University session will accommodate up to 80 culinary scholars.

In addition to the three-day schedule there will be private, VIP "field seminars." These off-site seminars will include an opening-week, behind-the-scenes tour of Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, as well as the Southern Wine and Spirits Hospitality Mixology program with Mixologist Francesco LaFranconi. www.FoodUniversityLasVegas.com

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is holding a Victorian Festival of Christmas 30 November – 2 December. (2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens in Portsmouth.) Visitors will be transported into a Dickensian-style era of real snowy white streets with seasonal carols, the ever raucous Fagin's Tavern, and unique Christmas gift market.

Hampshire Fare traders will be returning for food lovers to sample the delights of quality, local produce including jams and chutneys, honey, biltong, fudge and freshly baked bread, cakes and pastries. It's also a chance to stock up on treats for festive feasts. Also, new for this year - delightful Christmas drink demonstrations and tasters of mulled wine, mulled cider, ales, hot toddies and more! Tickets and full details www.christmasfestival.co.uk

The third Abergavenny Food Festival Christmas Food and Drink Fair takes place on Sunday 9 December (10.00am - 5.00pm). Choose from an abundance of top-notch produce showcased across three main venues (Market Hall, Upper Brewery Yard and St Mary's Priory Centre, plus Cross Street).

With over 90 hand-picked exhibitors, the focus is firmly on Christmas food (no tinsel side-shows). Entry is via a stroller ticket - just £3.50 for adults, but entirely free for children if accompanied by an adult. Buy online at www.abergavennyfoodfestival.com or through the Borough Theatre (01873 850805).

The stroller ticket doesn't just buy access to the markets. There's also a rolling programme of free seasonal chef demonstrations in the Market Hall on the Robert Price Kitchen Stage featuring local talent alongside some festival regulars. These bite-size sessions (half-an-hour) giving visitors the chance to draw inspiration from culinary class acts.

There's also a complementary programme of special individually ticketed Tutored Tastings priced between £6.00 and £7.50. Join Tom Harrow aka 'WineChap' and top affineur Eric Charriaux who'll be pairing white wines with cheese in the Homes of Elegance fabulous showrooms in Mill Street. Plus the Angel Hotel will be hosting four special tasting and tutoring events.

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Mughal India: Art, Culture and Empire, exhibition takes place at the British Library until April 2013. The 'Great Mogul' seated on a jewel-encrusted throne is one of the most enduring images of India. But apart from this almost mythical ruler, the Mughal dynasty produced a great number of rulers of outstanding ability in statecraft and culture, whether in empire-building or as patrons of art and architecture. This exhibition will be the first to document the entire historical period, from the 16th to the 19th century, through more than 200 exquisite manuscripts and the finest paintings drawn almost exclusively from the British Library's extensive heritage collection. www.bl.uk/mughalindia

The Chocolate Festival returns to Southbank Centre 14-16 December. Exhibitors will include Rococo, Valrhona, Original Beans, William Curley, Damian Allsop, Paul Wayne Gregory, Sir Hans Sloane, Paul A Young, L'Artisan Du Chocolat.

Visitors will not only have the opportunity to eat and shop (indulging in treats such as chocolate chilli, chocolate beer, chocolate macarons, fudge and chocolate cakes) but can chat to some of the UK's top chocolatiers and learn about different aspects of chocolate, including health benefits, uses and how to taste like a professional. A series of free tutored tastings, talks and demonstrations will be available in the Chocolate Cookery Theatre. www.festivalchocolate.co.uk

From 1 to 20 December the coastal town of Sorrento will host the ninth Giornate Gastronomiche Sorrentine, a festival of food and culture bringing together locally sourced food and wines. Special dinners will be organized in selected restaurants, some Michelin starred, by international chefs who will compete for the Villa Massa Prize. www.premiovillamassa.com

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An evening of mists and mellow fruitfulness takes place at the Harvest Festival Late. For the first time, the RHS London Harvest Festival Show, held in the Lindley Hall, Greycoat St, Westminster, is extending its opening hours on Tuesday 9 October until 9pm.

The acclaimed London Vegetable Orchestra will be wowing visitors, as they demonstrate the versatility of their vegetable instruments. At 5pm watch them expertly create their veg instruments before the performance of folk music from the amazing Robin Grey band.

Carve your own pumpkin, hear about the adventures of forager Yun Hider and experience wondrous giant veggies. With veggie cocktails from the Midnight Apothecary, cider from RHS Wisley Garden and tasty treats, the Harvest Festival Late promises to be a night to remember.

RHS members gain FREE entry to all shows when they present their RHS Membership Card.
Non-members tickets £5. Full information and tickets at www.rhs.org.uk/Shows-Events

Arundel Food Festival 20 – 28 October

Activities include cheese making workshops, wild food foraging, food tastings, a gourmet vintage bus tour, wine and beer tastings and demonstrations of food smoking plus many other activities. A number of local restaurants and cafes are also participating. www.arundelfoodfestival.org.uk

Boscastle Food Festival 6 - 7 October

Now in its seventh year, the Boscastle Food Festival will include chefs Nathan Outlaw; Andy Appleton from Fifteen Cornwall and Paul Harwood, head chef at Rick Stein's St Petroc's Bistro in Padstow presenting food demonstrations, whilst over 60 exhibitors will be showcasing the South West's finest food and crafts. www.boscastlefestival.co.uk

Falmouth Oyster Festival 11 - 14 October

Meanwhile, Monty Halls (The Fisherman's Apprentice) will be amongst those taking part in the Falmouth Oyster Festival which celebrates the start of the oyster dredging season, as well as the diversity and quality of Cornish Seafood. The festival celebrates all things oyster including an oyster shucking competition along with cookery demonstrations, wine and local ale along with many other attractions. www.falmouthoysterfestival.co.uk

Cornish Traditional Cottages has properties available for holiday rental near to both events. www.corncott.com

Trafalgar Square, London

Malaysia Night, a free event showcasing the vibrant culture and traditions of Malaysia, will relocate the authentic sights, sounds and flavours of this unique nation to Trafalgar Square on Friday 5 October between 12.00 and 22.00 – stage entertainment from 17.00.

Alongside gastronomic delights cooked-up by 20 of London's leading Malaysian restaurants, there will also be displays of traditional arts, crafts and fashion. Live entertainment will be provided by Malaysian musicians and dancers throughout the evening, while a bustling food market will enable visitors to tryout authentic Malaysian ingredients for themselves to create tasty and nutritious Malaysian-inspired family meals at home.

For more information about Malaysian restaurants, recipes, special dining promotions and more, visit www.malaysiakitchen.co.uk

Florida, USA

Fort Myers Wine Trail

Fort Myers Wine Trail 13 October (Fort Myers Wine Trail and Beyond) takes visitors on a guided tasting tour of the city's wines in its hotels, restaurants and galleries, showcasing Fort Myers' wide variety of quality wine from all over the world. To complement the tastings there will also be food sampling, chef demos and live music. Tickets cost £22 per person and the tours lasts for three hours from 7-10 pm. www.winetrailandbeyond.com

Taste of the Town

Fort Myers celebrates its culinary wealth on 4 November with an all-day festival dedicated to local delicacies. Over 40 restaurants throughout Fort Myers participate in the festival every year, each cooking up their most interesting and popular dishes, including coconut shrimp, jumbo crab cakes, Mariachi chicken and Tiki rolls. Entry is £3 and children under 12 enter for free. Details can be found at: www.jlfm.org

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