Munching Our Way Through Winterfest

After wandering (and ice skating) through this year’s Winterfest, A&L Editors Lauren Siegel ’27 and Sarah Weiner ’24 review and rank this year’s updated culinary offerings.

Munching Our Way Through Winterfest
From hot chocolate to steaming bao, Winterfest offered a variety of seasonal delicacies for the Amherst community. Photo courtesy of Claire Beougher ’26.

Winterfest took place this past Sunday, Feb. 18. Sponsored by the Office of the President, the festival included ice skating, an inflatable slide, the iconic mammoth, ice sculpture carving, games, live music, and of course — most importantly — food. Unlike Fall Fest, the menu for Winterfest wasn’t as straightforward as turning all of our favorite foods pumpkin flavored. Dining Services, along with a few local businesses, curated a food selection that kept our hands and bellies toasty. Lines of students, staff, and faculty extended through Coolidge Cage waiting for poutine, bao, donuts, waffles, corn dogs, tartlets, hot cocoa, and more. From two of your Arts & Living editors, here are the Winterfest foods ranked.

6. Waffle

The Winterfest waffles were circular — a tell-tale sign that they were not catered by Dining Services, but rather Wickedly Wild Waffles (Westfield, MA). While the powdered sugar, chocolate drizzle, caramel, and strawberry tarragon atop each waffle were delicious, the waffles themselves were quite dense. Neither crispy nor fluffy, you could probably make something more enjoyable in the waffle-maker in Val.

Wickedly Wild Waffle's Winter Waffles. Photo courtesy of Claire Beougher ’26.

5. Sweet Treats

The Black Forest shooter, though aesthetically cute, was not a favorite. (Admittedly, Sarah’s bias comes through aggressively here as a hater of cherry flavored things.) The cake and chocolate peppermint tartlets did pale in comparison to its station roomie, the beloved donut wall.

While this decadent chocolate donut and chocolate peppermint tartlet shared a stall at Winterfest, they were not created equal. Photo courtesy of Claire Beougher ’26.

4. Hot Drinks

A hot chocolate station is to be expected at Winterfest, but the cocoa didn’t surprise much. While the gingerbread chai was exciting — warm and a little spicy — the tea was overwhelmingly sweet. And unfortunately, the apple cider was served cold, though it was sweet, spiced, and rich — everything a good cider should be. Shoutout to Dining Services for providing a vegan option for every beverage.

3. Poutine

It is hard to dislike french fries and cheese covered in salty gravy, but Winterfest was a sobering reminder that this dish is best served hot and fresh — something hard to pull off at a two hour festival. A highlight of this station was its topping bar, which included scallions, bacon pieces, crunchy fried onions, crispy chickpeas, popcorn chicken, and garlic aioli. Although we liked the idea, perhaps Dining Services is better off replacing this dish for next year.

The poutine station offered many delicious toppings for its cheese and gravy covered french fries. Photo courtesy of Claire Beougher ’26.
Poutine covered in green onions and garlic herb aioli. Photo courtesy of Claire Beougher ’26.

2. Donut Wall

A fan favorite, the Dining Services’ donut wall is never a let down. With a variety of donuts, icings, and toppings to build your own donut, the wall had something for everyone — except, unfortunately, vegan diners. Highlights include the painfully sweet maple icing, which paired perfectly with the cakey donuts to create a delicious treat well worth the station’s long wait.

1. Bao

The bao, provided by Dining Services, were the tastiest and most flavorful option at this year’s Winterfest. Filled with pork and cabbage, Char Siu chicken, or mushroom and spinach, and accompanied by a bite of cucumber salad and a variety of sauces, the experience was delightfully customizable. Bonus points for catering to many dietary restrictions and being an easily hand held food. (The station’s ridiculously long lines of Winterfest goers also serve as testament to their popularity.)

Dining Services' tasty bao were the favorite of our Arts & Living editors. Photo courtesy of Claire Beougher ’26.

At the end of the night, we left the Cage full of delicious food and tired from ice skating and competing at skee ball. Cheers to Dining Services for cooking and serving these exciting treats on top of their usual three meals a day. We already can’t wait for next year’s festivities.