Springtime in Charlotte brings festivals with a delicious focus

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Photo courtesy of Piedmont Culinary Guild

Spring—it’s a season that never lacks for things to do. Aside from warmer climes, blooming Bradford pear trees and the opportunity to dine al fresco, March and April in the Queen City also bring daylong events and weekend festivals in celebration of food. What’s not to love? Call your friends and make plans now to save these dates.

March 21: Outstanding in the Field

Yesterday was the first day of Spring, and that means the website is now open at Outstanding in the Field—which means it’s time to purchase tickets for this annual dinner at Renfrow Farm in Matthews. The dinner actually takes place in October, but you’ll want to secure your spot now. This annual On the Farm dining extravaganza, a part of the national Outstanding in the Field tour and celebration, offers a radical alternative to a conventional dining experience. These dinners promote chefs and farmers across the nation and help diners to more completely understand local sources of food and drink.

Photo by Heidi Billotto

This year at the Charlotte-area event, chef Greg Collier will be cooking for the 100-some guests seated at the family-style table, set up under the tall elegant stand of pecan trees at Renfrow farm. Guests each bring their own plate, which helps to make the table setting as fun as the dinner.

Photo by Heidi Billotto

It’s a picturesque evening of dining al fresco at a long table with food and farm-centric friends, new and old. It’s an experience not to be missed. If you wait till fall to think about attending, the tickets will all be gone. Hop online and make your reservations now.

March 25, 6:30-9 p.m.: Sugar Shock

Project 658, 3646 Central Ave.

Sugar Shock celebrates everything sweet in benefit of the Project 658 culinary program and community feeding project. Guests will enjoy savory hors d’oeuvres followed by six courses of desserts, each accompanied with a cocktail pairing.

For all the detes on Sugar Shock, plus more wine, food and cheese events that should be on your April calendar, don’t miss this recent Carolina food festival roundup.

April 6, 8:30 a.m.: Global Walking Tour

Compare Foods, 3600 N. Sharon Amity Road,

Photo courtesy of Global Walking Tour

This is an international tasting tour for adventurous foodies. Explore 10 local markets, restaurants and bakeries along Central Avenue and North Sharon Amity Road to learn about world cuisine and the diversity of our local culture. Hear inspiring stories from shop owners, sample traditional recipes from Asia, Latin America and the Middle East; and shop for spices, ingredients and cooking tools. The tour group meets at Compare Foods. Please park in the area at the far end of the store.

April 7, noon-4 p.m.: Sensoria Food & Wine

Imagine four solid hours of food and wine sampling—who wouldn’t want to take part? Piedmont Culinary Guild has partnered with Central Piedmont Community College for this year’s Sensoria Arts and Literature Celebration to add to this delicious day.

Photo courtesy of Piedmont Culinary Guild

Fifteen of Charlotte’s well-known chefs will pair with 15 North Carolina vineyards to provide 15 delicious ways to eat and drink local. Should your taste buds want to travel outside the state, there will be a separate area where participants may sample a host of international wines, as well. In addition to all the tasting, there is the opportunity to take part in several classes throughout the afternoon—all designed to help elevate and expand your knowledge of wine.

April 13, 6:30-9:30 p.m.: Underground Kitchen

Venue TBA after ticket purchase

That’s right, the details on the venue and featured chef or chefs are kept underground until you purchase your tickets. You’ve got to love the mystery of it all. This Charlotte stop on the Underground Kitchen tour is one of a number of secretive, pop-up dinners held across the country. Sixty people will arrive at an unexpected and artistically stimulating location for an evening of cuisine, wine and conversation among fellow foodies.

Don’t wait to get your seat at the table. The price includes a welcoming cocktail, six gourmet courses, professional wine pairings, taxes and gratuity.

April 13, 7-10 p.m.: Sweet Escapes

Mint Museum,  2730 Randolph Road

Sweet Escapes is a unique culinary extravaganza that features delicious sweets, savory bites, live music and an incredible silent auction.

Photo courtesy of Sweet Escapes

Delight in the exquisite chocolate confections and savory treats from chefs of the Piedmont Culinary Guild, Johnson & Wales University and Southminster Senior Living while you enjoy a host of beverages and dancing to A Sign of the Times.

Photo courtesy of Sweet Escapes

Ticket prices are $100 per person. Eighty percent of ticket sales go to benefit Community Link, with a mission to offer personal finance training so that clients can achieve financial stability and move toward a goal of obtaining and sustaining safe and affordable housing.

April 27, noon-6 p.m.: International Sandwich Festival

Aldersgate Retirement Community, 3800 Shamrock Drive

Who doesn’t love a great sandwich? At the fourth annual International Sandwich Festival, the standard two slices of bread with something in the middle crosses cultures to celebrate banh mi from Vietnam, arepas from Venezuela, classic grilled cheese, tacos, bratwurst and more. The list of what this festival offers is a foot long—which, incidentally, is another kind of sandwich.

Photo by Heidi Billotto

Bring lawn chairs or blankets and plan to spend the day celebrating (and eating) sammies from around the world, as well as a rich blend of entertainment, curated in part by UNC Charlotte. In addition to sandwiches, guests can enjoy soft drinks and cold beer, Caribbean Piraguas Shaved Ice and Cheerwine samples.

April 27, 10 a.m.: Queen’s Cup Steeplechase

Experience the “thrill of the ‘chase” and find out why this annual event may be Charlotte’s best tailgating event of the year. It’s a great big lawn party where horses are invited, and it’s tons of fun. Don your dressy tailgate attire and create a big showy hat to wear as you take it all in with style.

Photo by Jamey Price, courtesy of The Queen’s Cup Steeplechase

You can bring your picnic or have it catered, and enjoy the spread on a blanket or rent tables and chairs. Folks go all out for this one, and that makes it all the more fun. Information on how to tailgate at the Steeplechase is on the race website.

Photo by Jamey Price, courtesy of The Queen’s Cup Steeplechase

There are lots of options with something for everyone here, from elegant umbrella tables near the finish line and tailgating in the infield, or family-friendly tailgate spaces near the Jack Russell Terriers, there’s a spot for everyone and every budget. And, of course, there are the horses and the thrill of the races—what a wonderful way to celebrate the start of spring.

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