If you're near Dover, Ohio on Apr. 30 or May 1, you can enjoy the Dandelion May Fest and Great Dandelion Cookoff. Mixed in among all the run-of-the mill festival events at the Breitenbach Winery there will be dandelion wine tastings, cellar tours, musical entertainment and you can even buy dandelion soap at the Dandelion Arts and Crafts Show. The kids can participate in a dandelion picking contest and make their own dandelion jelly while they are there. The 17th Annual Great Dandelion Cookoff will feature locals creating innovative dandelion dishes while vying for a $500 prize. Sampling will take place after the judging.
How many crawfish can you gobble down quickly? You can enter a Crawfish Eating Contest on Apr.30 and May 1 at the 26th Annual Pensacola Crawfish Festival in Pensacola, Florida and follow it up with some stomping around the dance floor to authentic swamp, pop, cajun and zydeco music. Tht is, after you've watched the famous NASCRAW Races where the crawfish themselves compete.
They're also celebrating the Crawfish in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana this weekend at the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival. You've got 45 minutes to eat your fill of crawfish at this eating contest. Volume is measured in weight of crawfish consumed. Proctors stand watch to assure the crawfish are properly and completely eaten. There are also Cajun dancing lessons and contests, Cajun cooking demonstrations and more crawfish races. When they shout "ils sont partis," the numered crawfish race to reach the finish line of an 8" circular target. Their registered owners shout and loudly cheer the crustaceans along. Crawfish prepared in every way imaginable - boiled, fried, in etouffee, bisque, boudin, pie, jambalaya and even as crawdogs - will be available. There will be a Crawfish Etouffee Cookoff where great taste and showmanship help crown the Cookoff Champion. Samples are available after judging.
Prefer maple syrup to crawfish? Then check out the 44th Annual Vermont Maple Festival in St. Albans, Vermont for all things maple. Watch them crown the Maple King and Queen, see maple cooking demonstrations. try various maple products , buy the latest edition of the Vermont Maple Festival Cookbook, tour sugarhouses and chat with sugarmakers. Attend the Maple Buffet featuring a maple ham menu and fill up on foods with a maple emphasis. There's a Maple Products Contest where locals compete in categories including sugar cakes, maple cream, maple granulated sugar and pure maple fudge. Then there's the Maple Syrup Contest (kind of self-explanatory).
Maybe you're more into fungus? If so, you should wend your way to Richmond, Missouri (The Mushroom Capital of the World) to attend the 29th Annual Mushroom Festival. Here they'll crown Little Miss and Mr. Mushroom (a title to make any Mom proud!), throw in all the normal festival events and lots of food made with mushrooms. Check out the entries in the Largest Morel Contest or get a workout by running in the 5K FuNgus Run.
Back in the North East, the Annual New England Regional Chili Cookoff will take place in Somers, CT on May 1. Sanctioned by the ICS (International Chili Society), this is the biggest chili competition in the area, drawing 3,000-5,000 folks annually. It's the 5th largest event of its kind in the world!! There's an admission of $5 + 2 cans of food for a local food bank. Over the past few years, they have raised $47,000 an collected 4 tons of canned goods for this worthy cause. Chile cooks will compete in three categories (red, green and salsa) for $3,200.00 in prize money and bragging rights. There's also a People's Choice Award where participants pay a small fee and are given three beads to vote with as they sample various competitors' products. The cook with the most beads in the end wins this special category. Additional events at this competition include a Chicken Wing Eating Contest and a Hot Pepper Eating Contest.
The Food Lab's Reading List, Days 14 and 15: What Einstein Told His Cook, Volumes 1 and 2 - If you're on the fence about the usefulness of food science, or about how fun and interesting it can be, Robert Wolke's pair of books is a good first stop.