And just like that, it’s November. Absolutely hard to believe. You step outside and find yourself running back in to grab-at the very least-a windbreaker to help you negotiate a morning outdoors. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The Savannah Film Festival is just about ready to pop for another fantastic year, and the tourists are buzzing all over downtown. It seemingly doesn’t matter if it’s a Saturday or a Tuesday. The streets downtown are bubbling with activity. Yes, of course, I have said all of these things before, but frankly it is what is on the horizon that’s got me the most excited. We are only a two weeks out from the 3rd Savannah Food and Wine Festival and I can tell you that it is, without question, in position to be the best one yet.
I’ve been watching the wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round over the last few months wondering what the end result would be. Anyone who attended Taste of Savannah last year knows we had a crowd issue. There were a number of factors that contributed to all of that, but frankly we need to move forward. Show me a massive, city wide weeklong festival that hasn’t experienced some growing pains in their first couple of tries and I will show you a festival that isn’t trying to be the best it can be. This year is going to be different. How do I know? Well, I certainly can’t offer any guarantees, however, I’ve paid close attention the last 4-5 months. I’ve sat in on organizational meetings, I’ve gone on site visits. I’ve spoken to some of the right people and-for the first time- I’ve witnessed how it’s done in other places. All of those factors are pointing to a very good outing this year.
For starters we are beginning to see more of a local chef buy-in and participation. The Secret Savannah Speakeasy event alone features a collection of Savannah talent that this festival hasn’t seen before. Elizabeth on 37th, The Florence, The Wyld Dock Bar, Circa 1875, 39 Rue de Jean, Noble Fare and Tybee Island Fish Camp all at one amazing culinary event at the Georgia Railroad Museum. I’d like to say all of those guys are local rock stars, but there are two women on that list. Drue Longo at 39 Rue de Jean and of course Kelly Yambor at Elizabeth on 37th. Regardless, I have to say this is the best line up of purely Savannah talent I have personally ever seen. If you’ve seen a better one I’d like to know about it. The theme that night is of course of an underground social club during prohibition. The evening will feature cocktail pairings and food from all of the places I named for only $85. Yes, if you eat out in Savannah then you know it’s a steal. Use promo code VIP1005 and you can get them even less than that.
Beyond that one event, there are others like the James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour at The Mansion on Forsyth Park. This year that event will feature, among others, Tory McPhail, Executive Chef at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. If you aren’t familiar with Commander’s Palace, then you should know that all it did was launch the careers of the late Paul Prudhomme as well as Emeril Lagasse. Yes, it’s a very big deal and we are lucky to have these chefs in our city. This event has sold out two years in a row and I believe it is close to a sell out once again this year. I could go on and on about the greatness lined up for this year’s festival, but you can find it all at savannahfoodandwinefest.com.
For all of the trumpeting I do for this event every year, do you know what excites me the most about our finest week in food? The reaction to what is happening in Savannah outside of Savannah. Back in May I was chatting with some chefs in Atlanta. A handful of them told me they had been approached about participating in our event. Every single one of them expressed disappointment that they weren’t able to this year. Keep in mind that some of these high demand chefs field requests to go on the road all of the time. They just can’t do it all. But they all said they were looking for ways to ‘fit Savannah in’ to their busy schedules. Truthfully, they may have all been blowing smoke, but some of them didn’t know that I am food writer in this city and host of a local television show. The interest out there is very real.
The same goes for sponsors. This year Publix Supermarkets is on board as title sponsor. A huge get for the festival. Wineries are coming back, others are looking for ways to get involved. I had one very large sponsor tell me recently that a food festival in Savannah was overdue. Getting involved was a no brainer. That sponsor by the way is part of festivals from Martha’s Vineyard to Pebble Beach. Pretty nice company to be in. When you hear that kind of excitement from people who maybe visit here once a year at best, how could you not get excited for the growth of a fantastic event in our own backyard? The World’s Largest Low Country Boil might be the most affordable ticket. It promises to be a great time on November 7th. For more information on all of it click here.
We’ve stood out in 90 plus degree temperatures in the middle of July discussing how to make your experience at any number of these events as wonderful as it can be. We’ve discussed every which way to keep prices down in order to make for more broad appeal. Certainly there is no expectation that everyone will be able to afford or be interested in frankly, a $200 a plate dinner. All that is understood. But the Savannah Food and Wine Festival isn’t just about fancy plates and items you can’t pronounce. As in the previous two years, there are always affordable events that appeal to everyone. There are also Groupons floating around out there to make it easier for anyone who wants to participate to do so.
This week the movie buffs are in their starting blocks. The excitement around the Film Festival is what it always is, fantastic. Personally, I’m rubbing my rabbit’s foot hoping for an opportunity to fist bump Meg Ryan. It’s an exciting time to see what is on the motion picture landscape, but is also time to start making plans for dinner in about 3 weeks. If you wait, you might just get shut out. Why do I say that? Because I believe this year’s Savannah Food and Wine Festival is going to be the best one yet. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
See you on TV,