Food festivals date back thousands of years to when villagers would celebrate harvests, mark the autumnal equinox and pay homage to deities like Gaia (the Greek goddess of Earth), Bacchus (the Roman god of agriculture, wine and fertility) and Demeter (the Greek goddess of corn, grain and the harvest). Today, food festivals are different—there's electricity for one —but the celebratory spirit remains. Many include music and strong drink, and aim not only to fill the bellies of attendees but also to provide cultural education. The fact that there are more annual food-related festivals in Boise than we have room to list reaffirms our core belief: there is no better time to be a foodie.
The Huckleberry Festival
When Huckleberry Festival Weekend rolls around in the tiny rural outpost of Donnelly, the whole town shows up decked out in purple—and we don't just mean the people; purple trimmed buildings are commonplace during this homage to all things huckleberry. Affectionately nicknamed "Huck Fest," the event features the Huckleberry Trot (a 5k Fun Run), a Huckleberry Pancake Breakfast, live music, kid's activities, a Huckleberry Hot Rod Car Show and, of course, plenty of homemade huckleberry treats. When looking for dates, times and directions be sure not to confuse Huck Fest with the Huckleberry Jam, a popular music festival that takes place in July—those Donnelly folks sure do love their state fruit.
August, downtown Donnelly, donnellychamber.com/events/huckleberry-festival
Rock 'N Brews and BBQ Festival
If the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Idaho isn't barbeque, you aren't alone. The Gem State is known best for its potatoes, but this food festival reminds Idahoans of the potato's partner in crime—meat! Rock'N Brews and BBQ Festival is Idaho's official, Kansas City Barbeque Society-sanctioned BBQ competition, where nationally ranked aficionados face off to see who can make the best chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. A selection of meaty treats will be on offer alongside barbeque demonstrations by professional chefs and vendors selling everything a grillmaster needs. The lineup of live bands singing rock and blues doesn't hurt, and neither does the beer-tasting of competing local brews. Blues, beef and beer? Count us in.
September, Boise Edwards Spectrum, rocknbrewsandbbq.com
Eagle Food and Wine Festival
What makes the Eagle Food and Wine Festival stand out beyond its fine fare is its charitable bent—the festival, which has had an eleven-year run in the upscale suburb of Eagle, gave over $46,500 to charity in the last five years alone. It promises attendees a selection of food and drink from local restaurants, wineries and breweries set against the beautiful backdrop of Eagle's BanBury Golf Course; past bites have included pasta from classy local Italian joint Bella Aquila and creative takes on traditional offerings from Grit American Cuisine, served alongside Idaho wines sourced from Three Horse Ranch Vineyards, Syringa Winery and many more. Giving back never tasted so good.
September, BanBury Golf Course (Eagle), eaglefoodandwinefestival.com
Although a subsidiary of the much larger Treefort Music Fest, Foodfort is a festival in its own right. The multi-day event features a selection of local dishes dreamed up by some of Boise's best chefs, a Celebrity Chef Dinner and "a forum for food-obsessed trailblazers and tastemakers." In other words, it's a food-lover's Mecca. Subjects for the 2017 talks included "Food Writing in the Digital Age" and "Street Eats: A Chat with Boise's Food Truck Fleet," but topics change yearly to fit the city's culinary mood. What you can always count on is that the bites on offer will be delicious and locally crafted—2017 included tastes from James Beard-nominated chefs Richard Langston and Kris Komori—and that you won't head home hungry.
March, downtown Boise, treefortmusicfest.com/forts/foodfort
Taste & Craft
Taste & Craft (formerly Taste 208) celebrated its sixth year in 2017 by expanding its selection of local food and drink pairings to include high-quality international products. The one-day-only event features more than fifty vendors of all stripes—everything from locally crafted ice-cream to roasted nuts, vodka and kombucha—proffering sips and bites in an upscale atmosphere. Although Taste & Craft offers more beverage than food choices, a full catered meal is included in the ticket price in case the vendor tidbits don't quite fill you up. Tickets can be purchased online or, in a fun twist, found for a discount at local pop-up "tasters" that preview food and drink from the upcoming event.
April, location varies, tastecraftevent.com
Russian Food Festival
A banner for one past Russian food festival offered a hearty invitation: "Everybody Welcome!!!...Come Experience a Taste of Russia!" Yet if you pass through the doors of St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church during the two-day festival, you'll find not just a taste but the full-on Russian experience, complete with art showcase and live Russian music. Supplement the entree portion of your meal (beef stroganoff or shish kabobs) with a selection of side dishes, soups and salads including chebureki (doughy pockets filled with spiced meat or potatoes), borscht and stuffed crepes. Despite all the savory options, it's the desserts—including something called Anastasia's Coffee Shariki, delightfully translated as "vodka balls"—that steal the show.
May, St. Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church, stseraphimboise.org/festival.html
Deli Days has three primary focuses: Jewish music, Jewish culture and, of course, Jewish food. Hot pastrami and corned beef on a choice of rye or sourdough are festival cornerstones, served up alongside kosher hotdogs, a bagel bar and traditional appetizers like sauerkraut, potato knish and garlic sour pickles flown in from Brooklyn. Dessert, billed as including "mandelbrot, rugelach, challah, hamantaschen, and so much more" will put you in a mood so fine you'll want to jump up and dance to the live music. Join Boise's Jewish population (and hundreds of their closest friends) for the celebration at Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, one of the oldest practicing synagogues west of the Mississippi.
June, Congregation Ahavath Beth Israel, cabi-boise.org/deli-days
Greek Food Festival
Located in the Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church, this testament to Greek cuisine celebrated its 36th year in 2017 and features not only fantastic Mediterranean treats but also church tours, Greek music and traditional Greek dancing. The fare on offer includes a selection of savory dishes ranging from favorites like gyros and falafel to lesser known plates like pastitsio (macaroni and cheese with beef and Bechemel sauce) and spanakopita (spinach and feta cheese wrapped in triangles of flaky dough). If you're not already stuffed, treat yourself to dessert, which includes not only baklava but karithopita (walnut cake) and galatobouriko (custard swaddled in phyllo dough).
June, Sts. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church, boisegreekfestival.com
Emmett Cherry Festival
The Emmett Cherry Festival claims to be the longest continually running festival in the region, and 2017 marked its 83rd year. Unlike some others, this festival has yet to exchange the rustic charm of a harvest day celebration for the sophisticated gloss of "food culture"—it's geared toward families rather than foodies, although anyone who can appreciate a perfectly ripe Bing or Mt. Rainer will feel perfectly at home. With such pastoral pursuits as a parade, pie eating contest, pit spitting competition and carnival, the ECF is an Idaho classic attended annually by upward of 50,000 people. Don't forget to take the experience home with you; grab a few pounds of cherries from the stands that pop up on nearly every street corner during festival time.
June. Emmett City Park (Emmet), emmettcherryfestival.com
For the past nine years, Savor Idaho has welcomed 900 guests to step outside into the Idaho Botanical Garden and appreciate food and drink unique to the Gem State. Considering it's hosted by the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission, it's no surprise the event focuses on drinks made from grapes and their perfect accompaniments. Past finger foods included bite-size desserts from local custom cake shop Amaru Confections, a selection of handcrafted cheeses from Sandpoint-based Simply Artisan Reserve Cheeses and breads from downtown Zeppole Baking Company. Last year, 29 wineries and two cideries contributed their best vintages and brews. If you love food, wine and the great outdoors, this one's for you.
June, Idaho Botanical Garden, savoridaho.org