If you haven’t been paying attention the last, I don’t know, 5 plus years then you should know that Southern Cuisine has been pretty hot. No, I don’t mean hot in a Nashville Hot Chicken kind of way, I mean hot as in some of the finest culinary talent in America are choosing to do their thing here in the South. This would be a perfect spot to drop a cliche and tell you that the South is ‘having a moment’, but the movement has lasted much longer than a moment. More importantly, there are no signs that it is going to fade away.
Should I get into a list of reasons why this is happening? Not really the most important thing here, but I will say that I believe culinary diversity is at the top of the list. Is there a region in America where you can enjoy the kind of variety we find here in the South? From Louisiana to the mountains of North Carolina, to the Georgia coast, the offerings and the influences for them are endless. A lot of people will give credit to our ‘Food on Television’ culture. Of course that deserves a nod here, but the most important thing that has come of that is the fact that consumers are choosing to educate themselves about what they eat. And it’s happening in record numbers. That has given rise to the popularity of food festivals across the South and really across America. The largest in the South happens in Atlanta every June. This year’s Atlanta Food and Wine Festival could be their best offering yet.
During the first week and weekend in June, Southern chefs will convene on the unofficial Capital of the South to celebrate Southern cuisine. The way they are doing it this year, is in itself, an evolution in how food lovers consume your average food festival. Some events are choosing to dial down the over-indulgence that can be associated with (insert name of city) Food and Wine Fest. Instead, the focus is turning to education and an understanding of the process behind the dishes you love. The structure of the festivities in Atlanta reflect just that. “It’s part conference and part party.” says Dominique Love, Co-Founder of the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. “We want more people to be able to enjoy everything.”
“Six years, 620 classes, 19 tasting tents sessions and 142 dinners and events later, we’ve done quite a bit of educating and storytelling. Each year, our programming delves a little deeper into the who, what and why behind Southern food and drink.”
There are roughly 60 different classes over a three day period in and around the Loews Atlanta Hotel in the city’s Midtown area. They range from grilling classes to techniques and, of course, tastings. All of them featuring chefs from across the South, including Husk’s Sean Brock, who is set to open a new location here in Savannah later in 2017.
One of the more fascinating features at this event, to me personally, is a meal you don’t typically see celebrated at food festivals. Breakfast. “Our Festival Advisory Council is made up of 91 award-winning chefs and one of the topics they were most excited about was breakfast.” Love says. Every morning of the festival, festival goers are invited to stop by a Connoisseur Lounge for breakfast provided by an award winning chef. Personally, I’m not a big breakfast eater, but how do you ignore the most important meal of the day when it is provided by some of the best culinary talent in America? You don’t. How serious are they about the educational aspect? One Master class is called “82 turns 35” where a Sommelier will open, pour and discuss several wines from 1982 in an intimate setting. Tickets for that one aren’t cheap, but that gives you an idea that this week is as much about the experience as it is the consumption.
Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to blow off steam in Atlanta. After a full day of nibbles and chats and classes and seminars, Friday and Saturday nights, the scene will shift to Atlanta’s Piedmont Park for 3 hours of “Tasting Tents” with Atlanta’s skyline as a backdrop. “In the big picture, we believe the weekend separates itself because it is about tasting and drinking but also educational.” says Love. “We’re providing opportunities for Southern food and drink entrepreneurs to develop new knowledge and broaden their consumer base.”
I’ll meet you at breakfast.
To see a full schedule of events at the 2017 Atlanta Food and Wine Festival CLICK HERE
See you on TV,