After a year of pandemic restrictions on big events, dining out and just hanging out with friends, we now declare 2021 as "foodie summer." All our favorite regional food festivals are back to sate our pandemic-repressed appetites for everything from fair-style concessions food to world-class barbecue and much, much more.
Crave! Northwest Food & Drink CelebrationAfter last year's postponement, Crave! is back to fulfill all our cravings for locally crafted bits and bites enjoyed outdoors on a warm summer night. The Spokane Valley food fete, co-created by chef Adam Hegsted, is held on the grassy lawn of CenterPlace Event Center, which is also just yards from the Spokane River and Centennial Trail. This year's event is taking shape in an abbreviated form (compared with previous multiday iterations), with a grand tasting event set for Friday, Aug. 27. Tickets are $65 and all-inclusive; eat as much as you want, and come back again and again for more of your favorite chef-made dishes prepared fresh on site. There's also plenty of opportunities at Crave! to sample your way around the region's many local purveyors of beer, wine, cider and spirits. Details are still coming together for this year's event, with updates to this year's guest chef lineup and tickets released at cravenw.com.
From the Ashes IdahoAshes to ashes... raw meat to tasty barbecued treats. OK, maybe it doesn't have the same ring to it, but wood-fired barbecue is the main attraction of North Idaho's From the Ashes, An American Smoked and Fired Foods Adventure.
Last year's event was yet another COVID-19 postponement, but From the Ashes is back for Father's Day weekend, on Saturday, June 19. Held at Settlers Creek event venue just outside Coeur d'Alene, the barbecue bonanza showcases nationally recognized pitmasters from around the U.S. alongside some of the Northwest's top talent.
For the event's third occasion, pitmasters from past lineups have been invited back to share their favorite smoky proteins — whole hog, chicken, ribs, brisket, tri-tip, ribeye, etc. — along with classic barbecue sides. Those featured pitmasters are Anthony DiBernardo (Swig & Swine in Charleston, South Carolina) Porter Kinney (Porter's Real Barbecue in Kennewick, Washington) and Spokane's own Colin Barker, pitmaster at TT's Old Iron Brewery and BBQ.
To complement the savory, smoky mains coming off Settlers Creek's massive on-site smokers and grills, other local culinary experts lead "Application Stations" to showcase how the rest of us can incorporate barbecue techniques, flavors and ingredients into home-cooked summer meals.
This event has sold out before, so don't wait to get tickets: $50 for adults, $25 for ages 5-13 and $140 for a family-of-four package. A portion of proceeds from the event support the Wishing Star Foundation, and all tickets include a free shuttle to and from the venue from downtown Coeur d'Alene. Details at fromtheashesidaho.com.
Pig Out in the ParkIf you've been hankering and hungering for all the indulgence and variety of Pig Out in the Park, fear not: It's also back for 2021 for its 41st happening after skipping a year. Returning during its usual Labor Day weekend run, Pig Out 2021 is Sept. 1-6 in Spokane's newly shined-up gem, Riverfront Park. It's looking good that by then the outdoor food fest won't be hindered by restrictions, meaning you can shoulder up with strangers while waiting to order deep-fried Oreos, bacon-wrapped hot dogs and whatever else your taste buds desire. More than 50 food booths totaling 200-plus menu items are on the docket, plus beer/wine gardens, live entertainment and more. Details at pigoutinthepark.com.
Yoga + Drinks at Arbor CrestThe views, the moves, the booze — all three combined make for one ultra-relaxing summer morning at Arbor Crest Winery during an outdoor yoga series under its big vineyard tent. This year's offerings expand upon the winery's popular annual "Class & A Glass" Pilates-plus-wine event, which is also set for the evening of Aug. 10.
The new "Yoga & Mimosa" series has classes scheduled for June 27; July 11; and Aug. 1, 15 and 29, all starting at 10 am. Haven't used that yoga mat in a while? You'll be just fine. All sessions are appropriate for any skill level. Make sure to preregister, as tickets ($38/class) aren't available at the gate. Included is bottled water and one beverage. Details at arborcrest.com.
Farmers Market MomentsWhile we thankfully didn't lose out on opportunities to shop from local growers and food producers last season, restrictions at the time discouraged many of the communal activities that make farmers markets special: live music, food vendors, fun side activities, and just the chance to linger and mingle with friends and neighbors. Thankfully those social elements are mostly back on the table for 2021, and it's even OK to take off your mask if you've been vaccinated!
While the area's longest running and largest farmers markets have all returned in full force, one newcomer is now happening in the Garland District. The Garland Summer Market happens Tuesdays from 3-7 pm through Sept. 14, hosted in two parking lots, one at Garland and Post and the other at Post and Providence. More at facebook.com/GarlandSummerMarket.
Get up to Green BluffIn addition to the many farmers markets we're so fortunate to have in the Inland Northwest, locals can go straight to the source and pick fresh summer produce with their own hands at Green Bluff's farms. The Green Bluff Growers Association — established way back in 1902! — makes it easy not to miss your favorite fruit with a handy guide to growing seasons on its website. You can also keep these general timelines in mind: June and July is strawberry season, July is all about cherries, peaches are ready in August, and apple harvest runs from late September into October. Find all the details to make the most of your next Green Bluff visit, including where to grab a bite to eat or a glass of beer or wine to sip, at greenbluffgrowers.com.