For 6 remarkably tasty days in June, food and travel lovers from across the US unite at the Kennebunkport Food and Wine Festival, an annual event that has – hands down – become the hottest ticket in coastal Maine. Now in its 10th year, the festival draws Maine’s top chefs, as well as wine and beer makers to this charming waterfront town.
Rub elbows with an eclectic group of guests at nightly cocktail hours and after-parties, featuring live music and tasty artisan beverages made from local distilleries such as New England Distilling, but save your energy for the festival’s main events.
Book tickets in advance to attend Art of Dining dinners, intimate meals prepared by acclaimed chefs held in the region’s most exquisite private homes; the Pop the Kennebunks gala — an unforgettable themed evening of food, drinks and dance; a Grand Tapas Party featuring oodles of small plates from local chefs, and the Brews+Tunes outdoor concert, where you’ll unwind with pints of ice-cold beer, food truck fare and live music.
WHAT NOT TO MISS
Art of Dining and Grand Cru Dinners: Scooping up coveted tickets to one of these dinners is a coup. Guests are treated to intimate meals prepared by some of Maine’s most highly regarded chefs in a very unique setting: a stunning private home. Residents, like Ronni and Michael Hass, volunteer their home for the sponsored dinner, which in the case of the Hass’s, was prepared by Chef David Turin of David’s Opus Ten and David’s KPT. Dishes included a brown butter-poached lobster served with English pea risotto cake, pickled fennel and a pea tendril salad, and a quail egg and parsley pasta ravioli with ramps, bacon, porcini and morel mushroom sage. All courses were expertly paired with wines courtesy of Nappi Distributors. The best part? Proceeds from the dinners benefit Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation, dedicated to bringing food to children in need.
Pop the Kennebunks: Without a doubt, the most in-demand ticket in a week filled with hot tickets, Pop the Kennebunks is the festival’s premiere see-and-be-seen, let-your-hair-down event. Held alongside Kennebunkport’s sparkling waterfront under an extravagantly decorated tent (this year’s theme was a Moroccan market complete with Persian rugs), the event is produced by Bettina Doulton, owner of Maine-based Cellardoor Winery. Guests at the party are treated to exotic food stations, an open bar and live entertainment that this year included dancers and Austin, TX-based band, Matchmaker. Dancing may not be mandatory, but oh my goodness, it is HIGHLY suggested.
Grand Tapas and Brews+Tunes: These daytime events set summer’s tone in Kennebunkport, offering a laidback glimpse into the good life. The Grand Tapas event features small plates from more than 25 regional chefs, including a melt-in-your-mouth maple-glazed pork belly with spiced rhubarb and onion jam from Chef Gary Caron of Stripers Waterside Restaurant. A short walk from the tapas party, at the town’s Captain Lord Mansion, Brews+Tunes rocked and rolled attendees with live music from Spencer Albee and the League of Bandsmen. The funky soul music paired perfectly with Samuel Adam’s beer and local food truck vendors.
IF YOU GO
Where to Sleep: Any property aligned with the Kennebunkport Resort Collection of inns and hotels is guaranteed to leave you in well-appointed luxury. Still, one of the brand’s most extraordinary accommodations is found at Hidden Pond, a resort modeled after summer camp in Maine — if summer camp included your own private luxury cabin complete with fireplace and breakfast delivered daily to your doorstep in a basket — along with a steaming hot thermos of coffee and a copy of the New York Times. In addition to cabins and bungalows, you’ll find a private farm which guests can access, free bicycles, nearby beaches, the gourmet restaurant Earth, 2 pools, nightly bonfires (with roasted marshmallows, of course!) and the magical Tree Spa, which is, in fact, tucked into the treetops.
How to Get Around: Visitors planning to enjoy the nightly cocktail parties and dinner wine pairings needn’t worry about driving home from the festival’s events. Locally-owned HydiDrive car service can be booked to and from events in advance (if you’ve happened to be docked nearby with your boat, the service also offers the HydiWave water taxi), and some hotels offer shuttle service, as well.
– BY VALERIE CONNERS