Monday, May 14, 2012

10 Things I Learned at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Hello hungry Southerners!  Did you attend the 2nd annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival this weekend? Dominique Love, Elizabeth Feitcher and team have outdone themselves!

Thanks to the lovely ladies at 360 Media who arranged my media credentials, I spent my entire weekend enjoying the oh-so-fab festival. If you're used to the standard bunch of chefs serving samples in a tent kind of event, this event will feel familiar but it's so much more than just another tent event!

Friday night we hit the Kyma dinner at which the restaurant's Chef Pano Keratassos, NC's Frank Kaltsounis, and Lousiania sommelier Liz Dowty served up Greek eats. I always love the chance to meet other food-lovers at dinners like this. In this case, we lucked into meeting a couple who had a surprising number of things in common with us.

Saturday we headed to Whiskey Park, tucked away in the W Midtown, for the whiskey party where mixologists from restaurants such as Empire State South, Leon's, Escorpion, and The Lawrence served up their own quirky takes on whiskey cocktails:

 Sunday, I left my darling hubby behind to clean out our entire kitchen (kitchen renovations started today!) while I attended the morning educational sessions and hit the tasting tents. I think I got the better end of that deal (isn't he a gem?!)

So now that the tents have been taken down and the tattooed chefs are once again toiling in their restaurants, what were my takeaways?

10 things (plus a bonus!) that I learned at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival:

1. Shad roe is a fancy way of saying fish ovaries, or technically the egg sac of a type of herring. It is apparently a sort of springtime delicacy and people in the twittersphere seem to get excited when it appears on Kyma's menu. It almost resembles steak with a reddish color, but it's surprisingly squishy. Suffice it to say, shad roe (below left) is just not for me, though the grilled octopus (below right) was sublime. 

2. Asheville's dining scene must be red hot. I spotted three separate Asheville tables set up in the tents - The Admiral, Table Restaurant and French Broad Chocolates. French Broad's maple and smoked salt chocolate and Table's fried pig tails were enough to merit a road trip!

French Broad Chocolates
3. Making cheese is compelling enough to lure a guy like Tim Young away from his suburban life.
 Read more about his experience here. His raw milk Harmony Encore, is done in the style of a French Reblochon. What's a Reblochon, you ask? Way back when, French farmers would pretend their cow was milked-out so they could pay lower taxes.  Once monseiur tax collector left, the farmer would go back and finish milking the cow, yielding an extra creamy finish. Hence, an Encore...


4. The Rathbun brothers are seriously funny guys. Someone needs to give these guys a show, stat. For their demo, they made breakfast. Not just any breakfast, but an epic salt and fat bomb that probably would be the most delicious breakfast you ever had. Blue corn grits with charred corn, bacon cut thick enough to qualify more as a pork steak and covered in a sweet chipotle glaze, sweet potato drop biscuits, and a scrambled egg.

5. The ultimate margarita only needs three ingredients - tequila, cointreau and fresh lime juice. Citrus salt and a foamy spray of watermelon water on top is bonus.

Gina Chersevani of DC's Rasika mixing up the ultimate margarita
6. Leon's Full Service bartender Miles Macquarrie is just really darn cute, in an old-timey, could-have-worked-in-a-prohibition-bar kind of way. He just exudes cocktail cool, right? He demo'd how to shake and stir just right. One of his cocktails included celery juice and absinthe. Not two things I'd expect to like, but I was very pleasantly surprised. 

Leon's Miles Macquarrie
7. You had me at fried chicken. These tasting tents aren't just a random assortment of restaurants. Their organized into thematic pathways, such as whole pig and fried chicken. This set up helped me check out my must-tries first before I filled up. See below for the tacos and tamales area. 

Tacos and Tamales tasting tent
Pura Vida's shrimp tamales
8. Good cocktails can actually come out of a pre-made mix. I usually turn my nose up at pre-made mixes, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Scales bloody mary I tried. Spicey and not overly V8 like, just how I prefer.


9. This may be sacrilege, but the best fried chicken I tried was not from particularly far south. It hailed from DC's Birch and Barley, a truly awesome place with a ginormous beer selection. The breading-to-succulent meat ratio was perfect, and the accompanying glazed brioche was heavenly.

Birch and Barley's Fried Chicken and Brioche
10. Wine tastes better when it is a) free and b) served to you by an actual Italian. Ricossa's Piemontese Moscato D'Asti had both going for it and was pleasantly peachy to boot.

And a bonus 11th thing I learned...

11. Cool typography makes everything better. Cultivate Wine's signage caught my eye, but it was the fact that they give away $100,000 per quarter to worthy non-profits that you can vote on here.



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