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Atlanta Gets a Food & Wine Festival. Finally.

I’ve been living in this growing Southern metropolis for five years now and have thrown myself into the food mob almost hard core. One of my observations and common complaints among other “foodies” is that Atlanta is lacking a strong and diverse gastronomic scene. Yes, I’ve eaten  at an immeasurable amount of really, really good restaurants and have spent time with some amazing and really talented chefs, but it’s just not there the way it can be.


Super star chefs like Kevin Rathbun of Rathbun’s steak (Iron Chef contestant), recent Top Chef All-Stars Richard Blais of Flip Burger and a handful of other names keep Atlanta on the radar. Yes, I come from DC  where the world is literally at hands reach when it comes to food (though the NY Times has bashed us for not being a NY — well, of course not– it’s not the social and fashion epi-center of the States) and I love every bit of the international selections on every corner of the quadrant city;  and spend a lot of time globe-trotting which allows me to eat, taste, experience and enjoy more than one could stand.

But, Atlanta is the biggest city in the Southeast and should have more to show for.

If I had some real money, hell, I’d start up where my parents left off  and run around in their wildly popular food truck (strategically placed right outside the INS), serving up refined Cuban and Latin food. But that’s wishful thinking — for now.

In a controversial letter to “Atlanta Chefs,” John Kessler, a writer for the AJC, challenged them to step their game up because this May, in a matter of just 3 weeks, the world is going to be looking at this city and judging its skills and ability to produce worthy edible experiences during the 1st annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. I agreed with his discontentment in part, but have to disagree in larger part. You have to consider where you are and who your client is before you can go around judging and charging anyone to do this or that.

I for one can’t get clients to try tripe or beef tongue, two amazing proteins I make extremely well and would love to share. But, I’ve learned that this market just isn’t completely ready for all that jazz.

All that being said, Atlanta seems as though it’s ready to whet its palate with down right authentic southern food.

The highly anticipated and well-buzzed about festival set to kick off on May 19th, promises to be replete with seminars and a plethora of tastings and demo’s from celebrated chefs in the Southeastern region — though Maryland is left out. Don’t ask. I have no idea. I couldn’t get the founders to give me a solid answer.

Oh, same with any Latin cuisine demo or session. After all, Florida is considered the South and there more than enough Latinos in the state to justify having at least two themed programs.

Generally, the concept is to highlight Southern fare, both traditional, new and fusion. Beyond the prototypical mac-n-cheese, collard greens, pork, banana pudding and fried chicken, it’s representing a line up of far more refined dishes. No matter the style of food, peeps I’ve talked with agree Atlanta is ready to shine and show off all the culinary glory it has so far. Surely, there is no shortage of talent, so it’s about time.

The session tracks seem to be pretty thorough covering distinct themes from the most basic (coffee sipping) to more complex and more pricey, like the truffle hour, priced at $125 and limited to only 50 people. That’s a must for moi, so check! Other appealing sessions offer global conversation like French inspirations and tales from “A Southern Boy [that] Goes to France” hour to a French technique applied to Southern-style cooking demo.

Naturally, an equal Surprisingly, a lesser amount of Atlanta chefs,  restaurants and specialty and spirits purveyors will be featured. Of the must see will be Tim “the Cheeseman” from Star Provisions. This super duper nice dude will be talking up southern cheese like a true monger. I’ve had about 15 cheeses from his corner, mostly at his suggestion (see here ) so his selections and chit chat for the festival undoubtedly will be amazing and ultra cheesy.

Ford Fry of JCT Kitchen will have fried chicken, Kevin Rathbun and his brother will be grilling while a slew of food trucks (this is when I really kick myself for not putting my ducks in a row and started one earlier) will be sharing local treats.

And, if YEAH! Burger serves their pickled mushrooms and beets, eaters will be some giddy folks. Had it. Good stuff.

On the regional side, notable chefs Michelle Bernstein, (James Beard winner),  Todd English, Warren Lee (whose Cake Love joint in DC is a fond memory for me as I remember talks of it opening long before it did) and Ashley Christensen from North Carolina (another amazing chef whose food I’ve had and is honestly beautiful, hence her James Beard award) will all be presenting and cooking up their staples and true Southern fare cuisine.

If I’m in town, I’ll be there, hobnobbing with the chefs and fancy folks talking about specialty items,  eating southern food and mingling. Yes, I’ll be wearing stilettos and probably donning a hat. But I’ll also engage in the master cleanse diet a week before so I can make room for all the food I know I’ll devour!

Hopefully this size event will help step up Atlanta’s food game. I mean really, if Caribbean islands which are less populated and much poorer can host successful festivals, surely hotlanta should be able to knock it out the box!

Go here for discounted day tickets. And here for a partial schedule of events.

Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.

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49 thoughts on “Atlanta Gets a Food & Wine Festival. Finally.

  1. It sounds it’s going to be a great event! I wish I could make it. I’ve been invited to a wine festival in Mallorca, Spain… and won’t be able to make it either :(. Bummer. Hope you enjoy this as much as you seem to have enjoyed writing about it. Nice piece.

  2. This is exciting, If you think Atlanta needs to “up” it for food, try living in Nashville. Not a food town, no matter what people say. When we want to celebrate, we usually drive to Atlanta, I’m hoping we can make it down there for at least one day of this.

  3. OMG – this sounds like such a great event and I will be in town too! Looks like I will have to check out the line-up of events and get myself to at least one or two or three….

  4. fantastico ojala pudiera ir se que lo disfrutaria mucho pero tengo que revisar mi agenda a lo mejor y voy .pero por el momento tu disfrua

  5. This is awesome! Too bad I’ll be in NYC. I want to go… Thank you for the info. You are great!

  6. You had me at “diverse gastronomic scene” for which the phoneticism, ‘b, bl, blo, bbbllooogg’ had all new meaning.

    See, I think the problem is perspective.

    I would contend that “Florida is [not] considered the South” anymore than the bottom of the barrel of wine is considered imbibable. Florida cannot possibly be anything more than the land of crackers and prune juice, which of course, I suppose could be fermented in the sun, just as its inhabitants are. But that brings us back to our original thought…perspective. Who wants to drink prune wine? Ya get a little giddy just as your gastronomichole gets a little gets a little disastronomical and it all goes south; curiously amusing, but never irregular.

    And so that brings us back to your old regular, Mylanta. You’ve been there long enough to call it your home while never milking the imaginesia out of southern cuisinia.

  7. It’s about time! The funniest comment here is from the person above who said Florida ‘cannot possibly be anything more than the land of crackers and prune juice’. HAAAAAAAAAAAAA! That person is a riot.

  8. We’ll be sampling truffles in the Tasting Tents, Bren! Come visit us and eat chocolate! xo Jael

  9. That’s awesome! They held one here in Dallas this year, but I missed it ;( Oh well there’s always next year!

  10. David: what?!?! Mallorca, Spain and you’re just talking about it!? Uhm, hello. Plane ticket, pls!

    Angela: Well at least N’ville has a phenomenal music scene, though Atlanta’s is pretty hot, too. At least is on the map more and more. Will let you know how the festival goes.

    Eliana: You will be here so let’s make sure to make it happen.

    Chanel: Make sure too use one of the coupons. I think it’s a 44% savings.

    Carmen: ay, ven, ven! Te va encantar. Y va ‘ver muchisimo chocolate!

    Simone: Don’t feel bad. NYC is a far better place to be! Just sayin’ 😉

    E. Juego: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Florida is the south no matter how you look at it. The festival is supposed to celebrating “traditional” and “new” … does FL not fall into the latter?

    DuoDishes: yeah really. Goodness gracious. We have just about everything else there. I mean, really.

    Jael: YES! I had no idea otherwise I would haven’t mentioned you in the post. I will most definitely be dropping by your booth! Gotta have more cake??

    Sylvia: oh wow. Argentina. I think I have a love affair with your country. The tango, the wine, the men. Ahhh. Feel free to come back and check out my recap of the festival.

    Rox: Ooh, a Dallas one must be fun… full of spicy and tex-mex?? beans? What else?

  11. Yes this is going to be a great event….way over due for ATL…and coming from great eats city “Chi town”…we were sadden to see no such events. Will be in California that week-end, but have volunteered time to assist early in the week before the event. Dominque and Elizabeth have a great event in store and have put forth much work….I hope it starts the beginning of a true Southern Tradition for years to come and put GA on the map or should I say, the South, including FLA!

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