Saturday, June 2, 2018

2018 Atlanta Food and Wine Festival

Attended the 2018 Atlanta Food and Wine Festival yesterday evening - this was the single day "Tasting Tent" event at Piedmont Park's Greensward/Promenade (1065 Peachtree St
Atlanta, GA 30307) 
- this is an area right outside the parking deck shared by Piedmont park and the Atlanta Botanical Garden - quite convenient. Full disclosure, I received the tickets (usually $100 per person) for free, but after visiting the event I would have no problems in thinking that it wasn't worth the price of admission - there's much more here than you can take in during the 3 hours you're provided.

For 2018, there was quite a bit of rain leading to the event and a continuing light drizzle as we lined up - the event was supposed to start at 7:30 and continue to 10:30 but was delayed, both the opening time and the extended closing time. Trust me though, there's no way you can get through everything. The rain was both a good thing and bad thing - good because I'm sure the turnout was lighter than usual so you didn't feel like you were bumping sweaty elbows and abandoning long lines but bad in that the grounds became a mess - I had thought about wearing rubber boots and should have - mud got into my Keens.  I tried to prepare a bit by looking at maps, a list of chefs, etc provided by an excellent Eater Atlanta article - but we decided to basically wing it once we arrived. Apparently in previous years the booze and food were separated, but this year they were intermingled which I think made things much better.

I tried a total of 37 vendors and skipped over much including the wine, focusing on the bourbons, beer and food. You're give a plastic stemless wine glass for tasting - initially, the very light pours made me think "Wow, how stingy" but as I progressed I realized what a good idea this was. My wife became quite full before we hit the Lower Oval Tents (there's a cascade of two tent groupings, and upper and lower separated by stairs). Before I run out of space, my favorite things in no particular order:

  1. Beef Brisket by 4 Rivers Smokehouse (GA) - melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
  2. Pork Rib from Grand Champion BBQ (GA)
  3. Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - best I tried
  4. Caroline's Cakes - assortment of bites
  5. Hattie B's Hot Chicken (TN) Hot Chicken Bite
  6. Tequila Fortaleza - blanco was so smooth
  7. Restaurant 356 (GA) Lobster Roll - one of the best bites I had
  8. Chef Shay Lavi's delicious lamb-filled pita (at Creature Comforts booth).

The state of Mississippi had a fantastic group represented - loved the entire setup and way they coordinated. Complete list from my notes:

* Woodford Reserve - Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey - Spice mix @WoodfordReserve
* Heaven Hill Brands - Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey @heavenhill
* Wicked Moon Foods (GA) - Wicked Pimina Cheese #WickedPiminaCheese
* Caroline's Cakes - these were delicious and garnered my wood token (best of vote)
* Southbound Brewing Belgian Witbier @SouthboundBrews
* Hope Springs Distillery Absinthe #HopeSpringsDistillery
* Todd Richards Soul: A Chef's Culinary Evolution in 150 Recipes (GA) @ChefToddRichards
* Rivulet Artisan Pecan Liquer (KY) - delicious pecan @RivuletLiqueur
* Myrtle's Chicken + Beer (TN) - Chick and Peas @MyrtlesChickenandBeer
* Ralph Taylor - City Grocery Restaurant Group (MS) Shrimp bites @CityGrocery
* Meridith Pittman - CAET Winebar - Pickled Melon Salad @MerePittman
* Taylor Bowen-Ricketts - Fan and Johnny's (MS) @TravelGreenwood
* Cole Ellis - Delta Meat Market (MS) Delta Style Tamales @DeltaMeatMarket @VisitMS
* Ty Thames Restaurant Tyler (MS) @RestaurantTyler
* Tony Chachere's (LA) Bloody Mary Mix and Red Beans @tonychacheres
* Fudgy Flourless Chocolate Pecan Cookies
* John Rivers - 4 Rivers Smokehouse (GA) - amazing melt-in-your-mouth beef brisket @4Riverssmokehouse
* Grand Champion BBQ (GA) @gcbbq - awesome pork rib
* Ian Winslade Mission + Market (GA) @missionandmkt - refreshing goat cheese and fruit puree
* Gentry Bourbon Whiskey - veterans benefit
* Foothills Brewing (NC) Jade IPA and People's Porter @FoothillsBeer
* Good People Brewing (AL) IPA and Coffee Stout @gpbrewing - loved the Coffee Stout
* Revelator Coffee (AL) Ice Cream Floats @revelatorcoffee - very refreshing
* John Lasater - Hattie B's Hot Chicken (TN) Hot Chicken Bite @HattieB's - these were delicious - the spicy (medium) and pickle were the bomb!
* Frankly by the Spotted Trotter @trotterretail
* Second Self Triforce IPA @secondselfbeer
* Tequila Fortaleza @drinkfortaleza - loved the blanco
* El Buho Mezcal - @elbuhomezcal - very distinctive flavor and aroma
* Springer Mountain Farms Chicken - Knox Mason, Chef Matt Gallaher -Pate @KnoxMason
* Hendrick's Gin - wacky steampunk drinkerizer @HendricksGin
* Glenfiddich Whisky @GlenfiddichSMW
* Red Eye Rye (TN) Old Fashioned and neat @drinkredeyerye
* Restaurant 356 (GA) Lobster Roll - one of the best bites I had @restaurant356
* Trim Tab Brewing (AL) IPA and Paradise Now @trimtabbrewing
* Urban Mason Atlanta National Golf Club - Shrimp and Grits
* Ghost Coast Distilling - Savannah's first operational distillery since prohibition - sampling Vodka 261 @GhostCoastDist
* Creature Comforts - Chef Shay Lavi discussed plans for his new beltline restaurant while munching on delicious lamb-filled pita

Overall, I had a fantastic time. I've attended similar events in the past but none this extensive (in fact I usually don't bother with these types of events because of the long lines and Georgia heat, but this night was awesome due to the rain). I managed to get through the upper Oval Tents but hardly hit the Lower - and by then many of the purveyors had begun to run out of samples - probably a good thing as I was buzzed enough that things were starting to mix together and my note taking is really light. The highlight of the evening was a short discussion with Chef Shay Lavi - we discussed his plans to open a new restaurant along the beltline - that will be one to keep your eye on. Thanks to all the contributors to a fantastic event.

(shorter version posted on Yelp)

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