’Tis the season for getting outdoors to eat and drink in the fall sunshine, from freshly fried apple cider doughnuts to rich pumpkin ales. In fact, you could find a food-focused festival on any given weekend somewhere in the region.
That’s the perk of living in a metro area that stretches from the Chesapeake Bay to the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, the weekend of Sept. 22-24 promises to be particularly busy, so start planning now so that you can make the most of every bite, sip and slurp.
Friday, Sept. 22:
Oktoberfest at Wunder Garten (1st and L streets, N.E; wundergartendc.com): Start the weekend off right by heading to this outdoor beer garden for the traditional tapping of the first keg of beer, which heralds the beginning of this three-day event. The tapping will be at 5 p.m., accompanied by the joyful shouts of “O’zapft is!” — “It’s tapped!” — followed by live music (get ready to polka) and a variety of Bavarian-style beers, including Spaten, Hofbräuhaus and Weihenstephaner, along with a selection of locally brewed seasonal beers. Food will be provided by Café Berlin, the Capitol Hill bistro dishing up tasty authentic German fare, from bratwurst and sauerkraut to bretzels und obatzter and gurkensalat.
Saturday, Sept. 23:
Oyster Wars (The Salt Line, 79 Potomac Ave., S.E.; thesaltline.com): Following the Civil War, the Chesapeake Bay was the setting until 1959 for sometimes violent skirmishes between watermen from Maryland and Virginia, but you can enjoy the fruits of the Chesapeake without bloodshed at the Salt Line’s more celebratory Oyster Wars. Several oyster farms, including Maryland’s Harris Creek Oyster Company and Tangier Island Oyster Company in Virginia, will offer their freshest bivalves, along with beer from Stillwater Artisanal in Baltimore and Richmond’s the Veil Brewing Company. The $45 ticket includes all-you-can-eat oysters and chef’s tastings, and a portion of ticket sales will support the Oyster Recovery Partnership and the Anacostia Riverkeeper.
Snallygaster 2017 (1st and M streets, S.E.; snallygasterdc.com): Calling itself the area’s “beastliest beer festival,” Snallygaster is the annual fundraiser for Arcadia, a nonprofit program that includes a demonstration farm in Alexandria, two mobile farmer’s markets serving underserved local communities, and a program that trains veterans as farmers. Featuring no fewer than 350 craft beers and ciders handpicked by Greg Engert, beer director of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Engert asks brewers to provide off-the-beaten-path options for the festival, so you’ll find brews that aren’t available anywhere else. Some of this year’s offerings include Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery’s “Eat It Too,” a barrel-aged quadrupel with apples and cinnamon; a black raspberry sour red ale from Captain Lawrence Brewing Company; and Dogfish Head’s Carobock, a weizenbock made with carob pods and vanilla beans.
Sunday, Sept. 24:
Taste of Georgetown (K Street, N.W. between Wisconsin Ave. and Thomas Jefferson St.; tasteofgeorgetown.com): Now in its 24th year, the Taste of Georgetown, benefiting the Georgetown Ministry Center, showcases more than 30 restaurants nestled inside the city’s oldest enclave. You can drink beer and wine while checking out the booths; some of the 60 signature dishes to keep an eye out for include avocado burrata bruschetta from ENO Wine Bar; cream potato & kale tacos with pepper jack, green sauce and pickled onion from Chaia; spiced pear hand pies from Dog Tag Bakery; and truffled mac ’n cheese from the Yard at the Ritz-Carlton. To add a little bit of an Ivy League frat party atmosphere, sign up for one of the eating competitions, such as eating as many powdered sugar doughnuts, courtesy of District Doughnut, or mini macarons from Olivia Macaron, as you can in two minutes, sans hands.
D.C. State Fair (Waterfront Station, 375 and 425 M St., S.W.; dcstatefair.org): Heck, D.C. may not actually be a state, but that doesn’t keep us from having our very own state fair, complete with an apple pie competition, homegrown oddly shaped vegetables on display and a pet parade. If you want to participate in one of the food competitions, registration is open until Sept. 20; some of the truly D.C.-centric categories include those for homemade mumbo sauce and pupusas, or you might want to try your hand at Best Pickled Pepper, Best Non-Fruit Pie, or Best Bud — and, yes, THC potency will be tested on that one. If you’re not a home cook or grower, then consider entering the watermelon seed-spitting contest. It really doesn’t get more down-home than that.
Kristen Hartke is a D.C.-based food and beverage writer; follow her food adventures on Instagram, @kristenhartke.