The Best Food Festivals, Movies And Events For Spring 2016

Mark your calendar for the season's 13 best food-focused events

It's going to be a delicious season. Check out the rest of our Spring Preview here.

If winter is for weekend-long braises and cooking projects, spring is about grabbing a sandwich on the way to the airport: You're not going to have many free weekends this spring with a lineup like this. Mark your iCal, book a plane ticket to Austin and make a recurring date with your couch with these 13 ways to have fun while getting fed.

City of Gold: Released March 11

To watch this documentary is to completely enter the world of L.A. critic Jonathan Gold, but don't let notions of snobby food critics keep you away from the theater. Gold isn't the type to stick to white-tablecloth spots, opting instead to actively seek out hidden gems in strip malls and elevate diverse ethnic spots to propel to the top of everyone's must-try list. If his Pulitzer Prize doesn't convince you how delightful it is to be at the table with him, then hear it from celeb chef cameos like Roy Choi, David Chang and Ludo Lefebvre.

Insatiable: the Homaro Cantu Story: Released March 13

Chicago chef Homaro Cantu catapulted to fame and spiked the nation's interest in molecular gastronomy when he opened Moto 12 years ago. His untimely and tragic death last April was a shock to all, but director Brett A. Schwartz showed that he does right by Cantu's legacy when he premiered the film at SXSW. The focus is instead on Cantu's inspirational journey from homelessness and disrupted early life to one of the nation's most influential chefs, and his plight to improve people's health. The film is sure to make you emotional, but what you lose in tears, you'll make up for in newfound hope.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine: March 31 to April 3

The ninth annual celebration returns, making a strong petition for "West coast, best coast." With 250 wineries, 100 known chefs (including Bruce Kalman, the Jon & Vinny's team and Emma Bengtsson) and only four days to take it all in, you'll have some tough decisions to make. We suggest Christopher Kostow's sneak-peek dinner event for his upcoming St. Helena restaurant and a tasting of Champagne Bollinger—James Bond's bubbly of choice—to sample its top cuvée.

Photo: Gina Sinotte

Coachella: April 15 to 17 and April 22 to 24

Dust off your crop-top collection and head to the Valley for Indio, California's yearly festival of music, art, camping and, most importantly, quality food. Outstanding in the Field is back with exclusive chef dinners in the festival's rose garden. Each night across the two weekends there will be three superstar chefs, from vegan whisperer Tal Ronnen to meat master Kris Morningstar. The festival has yet to announce the casual food options, but considering last year had Eggslut, Coolhaus and Kogi BBQ, we have high (and hungry) hopes.

Southern Ground Music & Food Festival: April 16 and 17

The Zac Brown Band is known for their hit country songs, but the lead singer is also the proprietor of Z. Alexander Brown winery and is known for hosting preshow eat and greets. Southern Ground combines all that, and this Charleston, South Carolina, festival, which used to be held in the fall, is where you can experience it firsthand. With quality Southern food from local vendors and nonstop country music, you can knock back wings from Charleston staple Kickin' Chicken while jamming to Chicken Fried.

Austin Food + Wine Festival: April 22 to 24

This five-year-old event shines the spotlight on the chefs like Nicholas Yanes and Texas-born Tim Love, who make Bat City a consistently exciting culinary scene to explore. Get grilling advice from the pros, watch a sure-to-be heated taco showdown and mingle with fellow festivalgoers. The perpetually hungry should hit the Grand Taste Pavilion, a 25,000-plus-square-foot space brimming with artisanal snacks, beverages and chef demos.

Photo: Courtesy of Austin Food + Wine Festival

Queens Night Market: Saturdays, Beginning April 23

The Asian-inspired market trend continues to expand in New York, but there's only so much space in this concrete grid of a city. The solution: Take over Flushing Meadows Corona Park, a site large enough to be a two-time World's Fair host. Back for a second year, this weekly event highlights more than 100 independent food vendors, artists and diverse cultural entertainment.

James Beard Awards: May 2

It's nearly that time of year again, when the food world's finest trade chef's whites for black ties in the hopes of receiving James Beard-plated bling and the acclaim it brings. Carla Hall will host the ceremony this year, which remains in Chicago after last year's inaugural non-New York-based event. The long list of semifinalists has been narrowed down and the stakes are raised.

Feed the Beast: Premieres in May

What do you get when Hell's Kitchen meets The Sopranos? This 10-episode series starring David Schwimmer (aka Ross Geller) as a restaurateur who's trying to seize one last chance to open the restaurant that will save his career. Jim Sturgess costars as Geller's chef partner in crime, who's also busy taking care of mob ties. There's no exact premiere date yet, but AMC says the hour-long episodes will kick off in May.

Memphis in May: May 12 to 14

There's plenty going on at this international festival, but you'll find us at the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest watching as the world's best 'cue go head to head for the judges' approval. In addition to heaps of smoked meat from local vendors, Ms. Piggie Idol, a tutu- and barbecue song-filled event "you have to see to believe," will keep you entertained. And don't forget your running shoes: There's a 0.2-kilometer road race to help work off that pork butt.

The International Biscuit Festival: May 14

Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like, and, yes, it's a beautiful thing. The Knoxville, Tennessee, celebration of all things buttery and flaky is back for an eighth year. There will be plenty of treats to enjoy as you stroll down Biscuit Boulevard (note: not an actual street name), as well as a biscuit songwriting competition, a baking contest and a biscuit pageant. It shares the weekend with the Southern Food Writing Conference, should you want to double up on good Southern fun.

Photo: Megan Lange

Sweetlife Festival: May 14

You know Sweetgreen for the happiness its salads bring to your lunch hour, but it's giving new meaning to "lettuce turnip the beet" for this Columbia, Maryland, event. The founders believe that good music and healthy food go hand in hand, which is why you'll find goods from ingredient-conscious chefs. This year features the likes of Erik Bruner-Yang from Toki Underground, Luke's Lobster's Luke Holden and ThinkFoodGroup brain José Andrés with background music from The 1975 and Halsey.

Chef's Table Season Two: Premieres May 27

TV dinners are a lot more appealing when it means a night in with the latest from filmmaker David Gelb's drool-worthy Netflix series, which gives exclusive behind-the-scenes access to top chefs' lives. The second season will see familiar heavy hitters like Enrique Olvera, Grant Achatz and Dominique Crenn, plus open American viewers' eyes to lesser-known chefs like Slovenia's Ana Ros. If you binge on the six new episodes too quickly, don't worry: A third all-France mini season will launch in the fall, and the fourth will land in 2017.