Winter fest heats things up in Montreal

The musical performances and light shows get top billing, but the tasting tables draw big crowds as top chefs compete for cash. The musical performances and light shows get top billing, but the tasting tables draw big crowds as top chefs compete for cash. (Frederique Menard Aubin/Montreal High Lights Festival)
January 2, 2011

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FEB. 17-27


Montreal High Lights Festival: Just as temperatures reach their nadir and most of North America is fed up with cold and snow, Montreal knows the best way to laugh at winter is to party and eat. Concerts and light spectacles get top festival billing, but 56 leading women chefs from around the world (including Boston’s Barbara Lynch) come to town to cook festive dinners, and top Montreal chefs compete for cash by creating four-course meals based on Quebec cheeses. (Ticket buyers get to eat the results.) Complexe Desjardins (150 rue Ste-Catherine ouest) and other locations, prices vary. 855-864-3737 or 514-288-9955,

FEB. 4-13


64th Holtville Carrot Festival: The humble carrot may be one of the most under-appreciated of vegetables. But the fewer than 6,000 folks of Holtville, the self-proclaimed “Carrot Capital of the World,’’ try to give the ubiquitous orange root its due with this 10-day festival. We’re guessing that Holtvillians all have good eyesight, as both adults and children participate in carrot cookery contests. This annual event builds to a crescendo on the last weekend with a 5K race, parade, antique tractor and car show, live entertainment, and carnival. Various locations; admission free, food for sale. 760-356-2923,

FEB. 12-13, 19-20


Red Wine & Chocolate: You didn’t think we’d let February go by without some chocolate, did you? And what goes better with chocolate than red wine? The 15 wineries of this district in the northern Cascades halfway between Seattle and Spokane run wine and chocolate tastings over two weekends. The goodies range from handmade truffles to s’mores, and several wineries host full-fledged wine dinners. The emphasis is on the valley’s red wines (mostly cabernet, merlot, syrah, and tempranillo), though some wineries will uncork a few whites. Various locations, fees vary. 800-424-3526 or 509-682-3503,

FEB. 18-19


WBCA Jalapeño Festival: We’ve always associated the father of our country with cherry trees, not hot peppers. But in Laredo, the two-day Jalapeño Festival is one of the most popular events in the city’s month-plus Washington’s Birthday Celebration. Arrive early for a chance to test your fortitude in La Costeña Jalapeño Eating Contest, the festival’s hottest event. The winner secures significant bragging rights. The current record-holder, by the way, devoured 266 of the “tiny green giants’’ in 15 minutes. El Metro Park & Ride (Thomas and Hillside), adults $10 per day in advance, $15 at the gate, ages 12 and under free. 956-722-0589,



BB&T Charleston Wine & Food Festival: It’s already spring in South Carolina by the first week of March when this celebration of Low Country cuisine takes place. Guests can wander outdoors through the Culinary Village and Grand Tasting tents, where a daily ticket provides unlimited access to 90 wine, spirit, and food tasting stations. Among several cooking competitions are match-ups between former “Top Chef’’ TV contestants, including “Don’t Mess with Texas’’ Tiffany Derry. Wrap-up for the festival is a multi-pit master barbecue of whole hogs, briskets, chickens, and all the fixings to nonstop blues music. Various locations, prices vary; Culinary Village and Grand Tasting tents $55-$75. 843-727-9998,


Events are sometimes canceled, rescheduled, or sold out; check online. Patricia Harris and David Lyon can be reached at Read their food and travel blog at