It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since Atlanta entrepreneurs Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter first launched the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival as a four-day culinary experience celebrating the South. With an Advisory Council of more than 80 award-winning talent from 13 Southern states and the District of Columbia, the festival, now in its fifth year, has put a spotlight on the city of Atlanta as one of the leading culinary destinations in the country today. After taking a look back at the #AFWF15 founders top 5 moments from the last five years, the founders here at Eat. Drink. Repeat. wanted to share our own top 5 favorite moments as well. While we came up with them separately, there were, not surprisingly, some fun commonalities – fried chicken, chocolate, favorite chefs and tasting tents. So read on for some inspiration, and if you haven’t already, buy tickets, because things are in full swing and there’s an entire festival weekend of food & wine calling your name!
Thoughts fom Sarah-Ann Soffer, who probably has a raw oyster in her hand right now…
1. Star Provisions Fried Chicken Baskets. By far, one of the best and most drool-worthy food samples provided at any of the class sessions to date. An entire basket filled with Anne Quatrano’s famous fried chicken, buttermilk biscuit, dressing and jam, slaw and utensils. That basket may have also been used for some kitschy decorating at home in the years following.
2. Shalom, Y’all. In 1800, there were more Jews in Charleston, SC than in any other American city. Today, less than 1% of the South’s population is Jewish but their influence on Southern foods is noteworthy. Eli Kirshtein (GA) and Alon Shaya (LA) taught us how Southern Jews have embraced, avoided and adapted Southern food traditions. This session was by far one of the most interesting we’ve been to in the last five years, and also one of the most delicious. Chef Alon Shaya created a masterpiece dish for us to try and had this to say: “In the North, it’s easy, but in the South, how do you adapt? How do you make food Southern friendly but keep to your faith?” Six years ago at Domenica, Alon’s restaurant in New Orleans, they decided to do their version of a Passover seder. The first year they did 60 seatings, the second 150 and by the third year they were up to 400. “When a mother from New York calls me to say her son is in his first year at Tulane, and she wants to fly down and have Passover dinner with him at the restaurant, how can I say no? It’s these types of calls that keep me doing it every year.”
3. Tasting Tents.. Always. For anyone who has been to the tasting tents at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, there was a moment that you’ll never forget. When you took your first bite of something from somewhere you’d never been before (like when Asha Gomez’s Cardamom Hill was still just an idea, and her fried chicken stole the show) or perhaps a drink you’d never tried before (Mezcal, who knew?) and you were hooked. And if it was from somewhere outside Atlanta, you also sighed a little that you couldn’t therefore have it every. single. day. (I’m looking at you, French Broad Chocolates).
4. Those two Cheese courses with Tim Gaddis. Tim taught two classes in the third year and they were both delicious and fascinating. One of the classes was a bourbon and cheese pairing. You’ve seen beer and cheese, wine and cheese, but he thought it would be fun to do bourbon and cheese and so he paired up with the guys from The Bourbon Review, Seth and Justin Thompson. The second one was with a former colleague of his, Liz Thorpe who used to be the vice president at Murray’s Cheese Shop in New York City, where the two used to work together. They did an old world/new world cheese comparison class, and talked about some old classic French style and European style cheeses, and brought in their southern, American counterparts, to talk about how those cheeses influenced the new cheeses, and how the two work together. You had both incredible cheeses and drink pairings plus smart and talented presenters.. what more could you ask for?
5. Rathbun’s Watch List event at ADAC. If the brothers Rathbun put you on their list as an up and coming culinary genius, then you know you’ve done something right. This event was the perfect pairing of food and design. Held at ADAC, you experienced delicious bites of food, fabulous cocktails and there was even a golden cow. Everyone’s favorite Stella Artois host was holding down a small VIP area too where I had access to all the Cidre I wanted, so I was a happy patron. Tickets are still available for this year’s event, so check out the link above!
Thoughts from Chris Watkins, who probably has a cupcake in his hand right now…
1. I Need More Fried Chicken. It was the second year of the festival and as I was walking through the Fried Chicken Trail Tasting Tents gorging on flavorful offerings from chefs Asha Gomez and Todd Richards, and I heard a commotion. Some guy was rejoicing and shouting their love for all things fried chicken. I remember watching the guy get dragged away by his friends in his final words screaming, “I love fried chicken! I need more fried chicken!” I completely identified. It was great.
2. Sweet Retreat. Anyone that knows me, knows that I live and breathe sweets in all forms. Cookies, pies, cakes, cupcakes – ooh cupcakes. They just make me do my happy dance. So during the first festival I was enamored by the opening night event of nothing but sweets. They were everywhere like a modern day Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Chocolates from French Broad Chocolates, ice cream sundaes from High Road Craft, I was in sugar heaven.
3. Shots! Shots! Shots! with Tim Love. Another year one favorite was the cooking session with Texas chef Tim Love (White Elephant Saloon, the Love Shack, Lonesome Dove Western Bistro). Not only was he personable and hysterical, but he advised the audience that he ends every cooking demonstration with a shot of tequila. The kicker? You take it blindfolded with him and one audience member has vegetable oil in their shot glass. I volunteer (because who doesn’t love a tequila shot at 11am), get blindfolded and chef Love counts down, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1, drink!” We shoot and discover that no one had the dreaded shot of oil. Well played.
4. The Spiciest Cocktail Ever. I always love putting together videos for the festival. It’s a great way to showcase the awesomeness of what I think is the food event of the year. For year three I shot a video and during one portion of a cocktail event highlighting drinks from Atlanta, New Orleans, Charleston and Houston, I got audience reactions. After trying one horrifically spicy number from a mixologist in Houston, I got video of the festival goers downing the cocktail. The result? Priceless expressions and requests for water.
5. City Transformation. I’m always in utter disbelief as to what co-founders Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter have created. A testament to that is the festival staple Tasting Tents that take guests on a culinary journey through what it means to eat and drink well in the South. The transformation of 11th Street into its own food-driven community is something that I can never get over. Where am I? I’m at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival — the best food event in Atlanta, and it’s a beautiful thing.
Keep sharing with us what your favorite moments have been over the last five years in the comments section below, or even any new moments from this year’s festival. And check back soon for recaps from this year’s event, or follow us on social media to see live updates – @eatdrnkrepeat on Twitter and @eatdrinkrepeat on Instagram.