Sponsored By the ACityDiscount Staff

It’s official: the 2015 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival has come and gone. This was the fifth installment of Atlanta’s preier food and beverage Festival, and with their 2015 event, AF&WF founders, Elizabeth Feichter and Dominique Love, have reminded Atlanta why their Festival is number one. This year’s Festival was the biggest to date, and with an innumerable collection of wonderful Southern plates and drinks, it was most certainly the best.

Opening Night Events: Pigging Out / A Night of Alabama BBQ

IMG_9461This year’s celebration of Southern cuisine a nd culture saw appearances from a number of familiar faces, as well as plenty of new ones. This year, focus shifted from the concept of Southern food on the whole to the inherently regional nature of Southern cuisine. The Festival’s opening night celebrations embodied this idea of regionalism, but did so in vastly different ways.

While the 5th edition of the opening party, ‘PIG OUT: Market Style’, offered attendees a glimpse at the breadth of different regional styles the South has to offer, another event, ‘A Night of Alabama BBQ’, offered attendees a deeper look into Alabama’s rich culinary history through the lens of barbecue. Both offered patrons an array of food and beverage options, and were the perfect prelude for the Festival to come.

Classes: Learning More about What We Love

One of the unique charms of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is the learning environment that has been cultivated by Love and Feichter; the pinnacle of which are the classes and learning sessions. This year’s class selection was a near overwhelming collection of food and beverage sessions that were presented by some of the top minds in the South. Chefs, mixologists, sommeliers and critics shared great insights into various realms of Southern food and drink.

Chefs, like James Beard Award-nominee Steven Satterfield and acclaimed BBQ champion Chris Lilly, taught Festival attendees how to minimize waste when dealing with vegetables and leftover BBQ, respectively. Justin Amick, an acclaimed Atlanta sommelier, and Greg Best, a James Beard Award-nominee and mixologist, shared tips in the beverage classes. Nicole Patel of Texas-based Delysia chocolatiers led a class featuring chocolates with insects in them. These classes and panels gave those in attendance a very hands-on experience, each featuring samples of delicious food and drink.

The 14th floor of the Loews Atlanta Hotel was abuzz throughout the duration of the weekend’s classes. Between classes, many of the presenters were doing book signings and bumping elbows with festival-goers. This provided face time with panelists and chefs alike, and gave those in attendance a chance to pick the brains of speakers they might not have been able to sit in with.

Tasting Tents: So Many Tastes, Such Little Time

This year’s Tasting Tents took on a much more regional flavor. While there were still tasting trails dedicated to bourbon, BBQ, chicken and other mainstays from previous Festivals, there were some state-specific trails sponsored by the state tourism bureaus of Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina. Playing into this year’s distinctive regional focus, these state specific trails allowed exhibitors to play with the features that make their states stand out. Items such as Alabama’s white BBQ sauce and South Carolina’s coastal seafood were abundant in these areas.

The Tasting Tents were absolutely filled this year. With well over 100 exhibitors, as well as stand-alone food and beverage stands, the best way to sample and imbibe your way through the gamut was with a 3-day pass. With some of the exhibitors alternating menu items and some of the area’s finest restaurants alternating days in the VIP area, there was the possibility to miss out on the weekend’s most scrumptious bites, wines or cocktails.

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Pani Puri

Some of the trails’ most delectable items included:

  • Oysters with pot likker ( aka collard liquor) shaved ice and sea salt from Louisville’s Feast BBQ
  • Vodka lemonade with pink peppercorns and basil from Atlanta’s Old Fourth Distillery
  • ‘Pani Puri’, a wonderful amuse-bouche built to order featuring a puri puff filled with a potato / chick pea mash, then topped with tamarind water, mint, and green mango powder from Decatur, GA’s Chai Pani.

While Sunday’s brief showers delayed the opening of the tents on the final day of the Festival, patrons were not deterred, and with good reason. A number of the best bites of the Festival were served up exclusively on Sunday by Atlanta’s Seven Lamps, Oxford’s (MS) Big Bad Breakfast, and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s One Flew South.

Leftovers: Weekend Takeaways

Overall, the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival was a smashing success; a fantastic reminder of the traditions and heritage of Southern food and beverage.

In a continued tradition of looking forward, the Festival also showcased the future of Southern cuisine. The rich agricultural traditions of the South give birth to quality, rustic cuisine, and as a breadth of global influences begin to make their way below the Mason-Dixon, how we define “Southern” is beginning to change.

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is the embodiment of both respecting the heritage, while embracing the new and innovative. We know we aren’t alone when we say that we can’t wait for next year!

ACityDiscount would like to congratulate Atlanta’s Guy Wallace Bottoms, Jr. on winning our Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Blender Giveaway! Thanks to everyone that entered, and congratulations to Guy on winning his new Blendtec Chef 775 Commercial Blender!