Springtime is already a feast for the senses, with plants coming back to life after a long winter lying dormant, their greenery blooming and their scents wafting on the breeze. We hear birds chirping in our neighborhoods again, and the wind loses its cold, hard edge.
And in Whitefish, the chamber of commerce hopes to provide an array of tastes during the second annual Feast Whitefish on May 12-20, the new spring iteration of what used to be the yearly Festival of Flavors.
Last year, the chamber decided to change up the annual food celebration, taking it from the end of the summer to the spring. Kevin Gartland, executive director at the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce, said the change allows restaurants to perform at their best while not under the summer-rush pressure.
“It’s a good time of year for our restaurants,” Gartland said. “We got quite a bit of visitation from outside of the Flathead last year, which is really the long-term goal.”
Feast Whitefish is like its predecessor festivals in that it celebrates the local food scene, but with a few added, popular events. Last year, the week of food kicked off with the Distiller’s Fest, an opening night of cocktails and appetizers at Grouse Mountain Lodge.
The fest will increase from 7 to 10 distillers showing off their spirits this year, including local favorites Spotted Bear Spirits, Glacier Distilling Company, and Whistling Andy Distillery, as well as appetizers from local eateries.
Though last year was the pilot run for the spirited fest, Gartland said it went exceedingly well.
“The Distiller’s Fest sold completely out last year,” he said.
The Distiller’s Fest takes place May 12. Following that, from May 15-19, locally owned and operated restaurants in Whitefish will participate in Restaurant Week. This means the restaurants will offer patrons incentives to visit their shops, including special, price-fixed dinner menus each night.
It’s a way to get to know the Whitefish food scene without having to spend too much money, Gartland said, and the restaurants do their best to impress.
“Restaurant Week is open to anyone who wants to participate,” he said.
And new to the Feast this year will be the May 19 Great Bonsai Burger Battle, running at Bonsai Brewing Company. Gartland said festival organizers were looking for a way to involve all the types of restaurants and eateries in Whitefish, and having a good, old-fashioned outdoor burger battle seemed to be the way to do it.
As of last week, six participants, including Piggyback BBQ, Craggy Range Bar and Grill, and the Yeti Den at the Whitefish VFW, had already signed up for the beef over ground beef.
It’s designed to be an outdoor grilling party, Gartland said, with live music and beer from Bonsai available. But if the spring’s rainy trend continues, the show will still go on, just under a large tent.
And wrapping up Feast Whitefish on May 20 is the Grand Gala at Café Kandahar and the Kandahar Lodge. This six-course gourmet dinner is the brainchild of several top local chefs and a guest chef coming in from Washington, and each course will be paired with award-winning wines from the West Coast.
The chefs include Andy Blanton of Café Kandahar; Cece Andersson of Tupelo Grille; Dan Crumbaker of Whitefish Lake Restaurant; Jason Geer of Latitude 48; and Jeremy Leonard Hansen, a Washington-based chef with several restaurants under his belt.
Gartland also noted that the sit-down dinner has table service facilitated by local celebrities, himself included. Tickets are $125, and the dinner has limited seating, he noted.
Though only in its second year, Feast Whitefish is building into a regional foodie event, Gartland said, which is the goal, because it will bring in more tourism during the spring shoulder season.
“It’s going to be really fun,” he said.