America's Best Food Festivals

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Muskie Derby and Ploye Festival: Fort Kent, Maine

At the top of Maine, where Route 1 begins, ployes are the staff of life. Thin buckwheat pancakes cooked briefly on a griddle, ployes are served alongside pot roast (to sop gravy) or as a breakfast food, pancake-style. In Fort Kent at the annual Muskie Derby and Ploye Festival, anglers can earn cash prizes from the contest's $35,000 purse, while hungry fairgoers enjoy ployes by the dozen. (Nobody eats muskies; they are caught as sport fish and most are released.) Hot dogs come wrapped in ployes instead of buns, and ployeboys are made by frying the soft pancakes until barely crisp, then brushing them with butter and sprinkling them with cinnamon and powdered sugar. (August 10–12, 2012)

National Lentil Festival: Pullman, Washington

Did you know that ancient Egyptians considered lentils an aphrodisiac, as well as brain-food for children? Or that eating lentils can lower your cholesterol? Thrill-seeking omnivores may not put this humble legume high on their list of exciting edibles, but in the Palouse region of Idaho and eastern Washington, where a quarter of all native U.S. lentils are grown, these homely rounds rule. At the National Lentil Festival, in Pullman, Washington, you can eat all the lentil chili you want for free, washed down with local microbrews. The featured attraction at the festival's Saturday morning breakfast is, unsurprisingly, "scrumptious pancakes full of lentils." All vendors at the festival's Lentil Lane Food Court must offer at least one lentil item. (August 17–18, 2012)

Ohio Sauerkraut Festival: Waynesville, Ohio

tWith so many of its citizens' roots in Central Europe, Ohio is a state with high regard for sauerkraut. Every autumn, the tangy pickled cabbage is honored at the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival, where attendees can enjoy kraut pizza, kraut donuts, kraut nachos, brownies with kraut, and sauerkraut balls. The balls are a favorite regional hors d'oeuvre—bite-size spheres of kraut combined with ground pork and ham, deep-fried until golden brown. Also on the menu are traditional plates of Bratwurst—with a side of kraut, of course. (October 13–14, 2012)

World Cheese Dip Championship: Little Rock, Arkansas

Cheese dip is dug into everywhere, but nobody likes it more than Arkansans. The state's restaurant reviewers seek out the best dips the way Texas reporters hunt barbecue. According to the historical account put out by the World Cheese Dip Championship, now in its third year, cheese dip actually was invented in the Natural State in 1935 at a restaurant called Mexico Chiquito (which is still open, by the way). The annual competition in Little Rock features amateur and professional divisions and gives all attendees the opportunity to taste and determine the People's Champion, be it hot, cold, ferociously spicy, or comfort-food mild. Last year's winner in the pro division, the Little Rock restaurant Dogtown Coffee and Cookery, brought its dip to our 2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival, where it wowed even the most worldly epicures. (October 20, 2012)

Jane and Michael Stern are the authors of Roadfood, now in its the eighth edition, and, a source for reviews, recipes, and tasting tours of good eats nationwide. Longtime contributors to Gourmet magazine, they recently wrote for Gourmet Live about America's Tastiest Testicle Dishes and two worth-a-detour restaurants that owe it all to Mom.

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