The annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival (AF&WF), which took place at the end of May, has something for everyone. The massive festival drew together close to 10,000 attendees and more than 250 food and beverage experts for four days of eating, drinking, mingling and learning in picturesque Midtown Atlanta. Depending on which festival events a person attends, he/she might have a completely different experience than other festival attendees. Here’s a basic breakdown of the types of experiences you can have at the AF&WF:
- Tasting Tents – While definitely fun, the phrase “feeding frenzy” comes to mind when I think of the tasting tents. Much like letting a bunch of kids loose in a candy store, letting thousands of foodies loose on unlimited food and drink can cause a bit of chaos. Nonetheless, the tents are the heart and soul of the festival, so I wouldn’t miss them. Barbecue over here, bourbon over there, brownies at the next table, it was hard to decide where to go next amongst this year’s four main tents (along with a few other sponsor areas). The great news is that there was never really a line for anything – you might just have to use some creative maneuvers to get through the crowd and up to the table of your choice. Luckily everyone was very jovial and polite even though their elbow might unintentionally be in your face and their drink precariously balanced over your head. (I think my experience may have been a bit worse than the norm because it was pouring rain for much of the time I was there, so naturally everyone was crowding under the tents versus eating/drinking some of their finds outside in the open air.) Not everything I tasted in the tents was great, but there were definitely some stand-outs, which I wrote about here. At the end of the day, having access to unlimited amounts of food and drink is my ultimate dream, so even if I didn’t like everything, the experience alone was worth it.
- Classes – If you want to rub elbows with your favorite chef in an intimate setting, and maybe even learn a thing or two while you’re at it, the AF&WF classes are for you. Covering a wide range of topics from cooking (of course) to wine, liquor and beer tasting, cocktail making, food history and cultures, healthy eating, and much more, the classes offer a completely different experience than the tasting tents. For more details, check out this previous post in which I totally geek out about meeting Chef Kevin Gillespie in his class, “Pork Awesomeness.”
- Evening Events – Think chic cocktail party with unlimited food and drinks, likely in a swanky, scenic location. The evening events are definitely the most sophisticated element of the AF&WF, and provide yet another chance to get up close and personal with the chefs and other food and beverage experts who make the South such a cool place to eat, drink and be merry. If you participate in no other part of the festival, I would recommend checking out one of the evening events. I attended one that showcased the food and drink of South Carolina, and had a truly sublime evening. A full recap of the event can be found here.
(These various experiences are covered by different ticket types and pricing structures, so be sure to check out the festival web site for all the details when you’re ready to plan your visit next year.)
The Top 10 List
With all of these gatherings going on, it’s hard to pinpoint the top highlights of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival as a whole. Someone else might have a completely different list, but here are my Top 10 things to love about the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival:
1. Getting to chill with some of the top chefs in the South, which for us foodies, is equivalent to partying with the Kardashians.
2. Feeling like a VIP at the evening events. At the South Carolina event I attended, the hosts were so friendly, welcoming and eager to please that I felt really important and special, which is nice and unusual for a festival attracting roughly 10,000 guests.
3. Getting to taste things I would not typically order at a restaurant. For me, this was mostly alcohol. I’m not normally a big drinker, but I surprisingly enjoyed the many bourbon, whiskey, tequila, moonshine and vodka beverages I tried at the festival.
4. Foodie camaraderie. While at the festival, I was lucky enough to meet and interact with many other local foodies, including revered Atlanta Magazine food critic, Christiane Lauterbach – another celebrity to me!
5. Getting to eat gluttonous foods such as Kevin Gillespie’s “Bacon Explosion” as well as fried ham and cheese balls from South Carolina’s Grits and Groceries without the guilt. Hey, I was at the festival, I had to try it!
6. Same goes for the sweets – cake, brownies, pie, chocolates, doughnuts, ice cream, cobbler, the list goes on. (Yes, I ate all of that – in the same day.)
7. Getting ideas for new restaurants to try both in Atlanta and across the South. After tasting the peach sliders from Decatur, Georgia’s Revolution Doughnuts, I knew I needed to make the trek over there. And I definitely need to take a road trip to eat and drink my way through South Carolina!
8. One word: swag! I love free stuff of any kind, and there was no shortage of it at the AF&WF. From free wine glasses, to cups and coozies, sunglasses and more, my arms were overflowing when I left. There were also festival t-shirts and various cookbooks for sale, so I had to get some of those as well!
9. Book signings. In addition to attending the special events and teaching classes, some of the chefs at the festival also signed copies of their latest cookbooks. A new cookbook and one-on-one interaction with the chef – score!!!
10. The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival is a truly inclusive event that satisfies everyone from hard-core foodies to casual binge eaters/drinkers. Falling somewhere in the middle, I can’t wait for next year!!!
Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, Food Festival, South Carolina, Southern food