Thursday, June 6, 2013

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Recap

Phew...this week has gone by fast! It's amazing how quickly time goes when your day is a series of 1.5 hour increments...feed baby, change baby, play with baby, scramble to do something while baby naps, start over.

Last week, my oh so nice mama babysat so the Mr. and I could have an actual adults-only afternoon at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. This event truly is top notch with tons of learning opportunities and plenty of delicious things to eat and drink. It's pricey enough that it's not really for the casual foodie, so the crowd is pretty serious when it comes to fine dining, cooking and drinking.

We kicked off our day in a session led by Atlanta's own Justin Amick, general manager and sommelier at The Spence and son of the well known restaurateur Robert Amick of Concentrics. Amick is known for his affinity for lesser known varietals and wine regions, and that was the focus of this tasting seminar. Nothing like sipping wine at noon! I'll do a separate post about some of the wines from the class, but suffice it to say, this was an awesome session. There were several tasting seminars on offer at noon, but I'm glad I chose this one. Amick was one of the better teachers I've ever had in a wine course. He provided a huge amount of information in an approachable but not dumbed down way and introduced us to wines I'd never heard of despite spending way too much of my time drinking!

Other wine seminars that day included Australian wines and wines for daytime drinking, but worried that I'd be drunk as a skunk before I had lunch, I headed for a skills lab about marshmallows, doughnuts and macarons. The Mr. boasts a much higher tolerance, so he opted for a bourbon seminar focused on Four Roses bourbons. Both sessions were informative and came with plenty o' sampling.

Doughnuts from Atlanta's Sublime Doughnuts

Sublime's Kamal Grant demonstrating how to make a twist
In the marshmallow, et al seminar, we rotated from demo to demo watching chefs from around the southeast including chefs from New Orleans' August and Atlanta's Sublime Doughnuts, demonstrate one of the eponymous dishes. I can't say that I'm any more likely to be able to make one of these items than I was before, but I wrote down some tips that would be useful if I were bold enough to try. Above you can see Grant from Sublime creating a twist. He did this so fast that there is no way I could ever replicate it, but it certainly looked cool.

The team from August poses at their macaron station
Mostly I was just happy to get to taste the delectable results of their much better than my skills baking. I could have eaten the chocolate macarons and chocolate peanut butter doughnuts all day! Plus I got the scoop from Sublime's Kamal Grant that they're going to be opening a funnel cake stand in Piedmont Park. Good lord, gourmet funnel cakes sound good! Surely a walk around the park is enough to work one of those off, right?

Macarons from the team at John Besh's August

The Four Roses seminar was edifying and just as boozy as you'd expect. Interesting fact #1: The whiskeys from Bourbon County, Kentucky became particularly popular in New Orleans and because the barrels were marked "Bourbon County" they were referred to as Bourbon Whiskey. Don't say I never teach you anything.

Interesting fact #2: Although Four Roses is made in America, it wasn't sold in the US from the 50's until the
early 2000s, but it remained popular during that time in Japan and Germany, but lucky for you, it's available here again. And interesting fact #3: There are only a handful of distilleries in Kentucky; many of the newer "craft" Bourbons that have been popping up are distilled under contract.

Barbecue tent 
Next we headed to the tasting tents, which were divided into thematic pathways. We kicked things off with barbecue, and. I was impressed by how many truly top notch offerings there were. There were Asian inspired tacos from One Hot Mama's in Hilton Head and ridiculously good cue from Squeal in New Orleans (a city I don't associate with barbecue). I must admit that the Georgia offering from Fox Brothers, a restaurant I quite like, might have actually been my least favorite, and even that was pretty darn good. I had to pace myself to avoid filling up too quickly.

On to chicken, we were wowed by the extra spicy fried chicken wings from Gus's of Tennessee and giddy that we got ginormous portions of wonderfully crispy chicken from Roswell's Table and Main. There was plenty of booze on offer to wash all these vittles down ranging from Georgia made peach brandy to wine poured by sponsor Delta and participating distributors to imported Dutch Ginever. Add in live music and you had yourself quite a party.

Stuffed like fois gras we still found room for sweets. A gourmet strawberry mint julep chocolate from Asheville here, locally made honesuckle gelato there.

Chocolates from Asheville's French Broad

One of the best parts of this festival is the access it gives you to fascinating chefs and food purveyors of all stripes. People at this event all truly love food and wine, so everyone is friendly and willing to answer questions from the hoi polloi We had a nice little chat with King + Duke Executive Chef Joe Schafer (the hottest chef in Atlanta according to voters on Eater) and discussed his soon to arrive baby and regaled him with our love of his new restaurant. We also saw Top Chef alum Eli Kirshtein for the first time in ages and got some rather cagey scoop on his upcoming restaurant (no details on what they'll serve but they've got a NY PR team calling the publicity shots). Kirshtein did at least reveal he expects it to open in the fourth quarter. 

King + Duke Executive Chef Schafer

By the end of our time there, I was passing up probably delicious samples because I was so incredibly full. We were home by around 4, and to show how much we ate, we split an apple for dinner (a whole one would have been too much!) Another successful year for an event that truly shines a spotlight on the best of Southern cuisine!



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