- Beth McKibben For the AJC
“Part conference, part party, one delicious Southern experience.” That’s how co-founder Dominique Love describes the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival (#AFWF17).
The four-day culinary extravaganza returns for its seventh year in Midtown June 1-4 to showcase the South’s rich and diverse food and drink culture. Love and her co-founder Elizabeth Feichter along with an advisory council of 91 chefs, bartenders and sommeliers have created this weekend-long Southern food fest for you to roll up your sleeves, dig in and get to #knowthesouth.
This year’s Atlanta Food & Wine Festival will play host to more than 200 Southern chefs and spirits professionals who will participate in 80 classes and tasting sessions, curated dinners and the trail of tasting tents dotting the Greensward area of Piedmont Park. Attendees can choose to tailor their festival experience by purchasing day or weekend passes, which encompass both the learning sessions and tents, or simply purchasing access to the daily tasting tents.
It all kicks off Thursday night (June 1) with a festival preview at the Stave Room at American Spirit Works. “Our Thursday night opening event Destination Delicious was a huge hit last year. We’ve expanded it this year to include more than 35 chefs and beverage pros,” Love says of the evening’s festivities. Expect food and cocktails from restaurants and bars hailing from 13 Southern states plus D.C.
This year’s learning sessions will spotlight unique Southern ingredients like crab fat, alligator and swamp cabbage and delve into the histories of peach brandy and Appalachian stack cake. Tasting sessions will include deep dives into cheese, Israeli wines and South Carolina’s barbecue sidekick, hash.
A focus on Southern breakfast foods and road trip delights like gas station fried chicken and the back counter burger as well as roadside snacks like boiled peanuts and tamales will be interwoven into the festival’s classes, tents and dinners.
Sunday brunch returns again on the festival’s final day — this time with a creative spin. Designer Diner will be held at ADAC (Atlanta Decorative Arts Center) in Peachtree Hills. Love says the event aims to “celebrate brunch from the mom ‘n pop cafe to the fine dining restaurant” while displaying “the South’s design aesthetic” at each food and drink station.
But the highlight of the festival weekend will be the Piedmont Park tasting tents, where guests will indulge in plenty of bites and booze from around the South. Pop-up thunderstorms and midday heat have become as much a part of the festival as the bourbon. To provide guests with a more comfortable experience this year, Friday and Saturday’s tasting tents have been moved to the evening. The tents open to the public at 7:30 p.m. Friday (June 2) and at 6 p.m. Saturday (June 3). Sunday (June 4) tents will remain an afternoon affair, opening at 1:30 p.m.
New to the festival this year? Be sure to pack your ID, phone charger, a portable battery, sunscreen and deodorant. Love suggests first-time day pass holders remember to pace themselves accordingly and to drink plenty of water, “It’s a big day with classes and tasting tents. And, for first-time tasting tent attendees, get ready for an all-you-can-indulge-in experience. Once you’re inside the tents, you have access to all the food and drink stations.” Rides with Uber and Lyft are highly encouraged.
After 600 classes, 126 dinners and 19 tasting tents, the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival has become the South’s premier culinary weekend with Atlanta at its core. In its seventh year, Love says the festival has “only begun to scratch the surface” of the South’s vast culinary heritage and continues to evolve along with Southern food narrative. Each year, the festival tells new tales of a region rich in food traditions from a diverse population of people from all over the world who call the South home.
This year will be no exception.
For tickets and festival schedule, visit atlfoodandwinefestival.com.