Omnivore - 5 things to look for at this year’s Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

How we plan to make the most of this year’s event


There is a flutter, a scurry, and a hustle going on in A-town Food Land. Back for a fifth year, the the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival will make its return to the Loew’s Atlanta hotel next weekend. From May 28 to 31, Southern chefs, beverage experts, and industry trailblazers will descend upon Midtown to offer learning, tasting, and dining experiences that celebrate the culinary traditions of the region.

As is the festival’s custom, this year’s programming is robust. With nearly 100 seminars and lectures — or learning experiences, as they’re called — on the schedule, we thought it would be helpful to call out a few things worth checking out this year:

Ponce City Market primer

The Thursday night celebration, dubbed the Pig Out, will incorporate two venues this year: first JCT Kitchen and then on to Ponce City Market’s Pig Out: Market Style. Part festival kick-off party, part Ponce City Market preview, this event will offer a glimpse of what’s to come at the highly anticipated mixed-use development. Hosted by hometown heroes Anne Quatrano and Linton Hopkins, the event will be filled with music and food inspired by the market’s future tenants (such as Quatrano’s upcoming Dub’s Fish Camp and Hopkins’ H&F Burger).

Tiny food party, y’all!
Good things come in small packages and the AFWF tasting tents offer a primo (informal) scavenger hunt of single-serving size vittles crafted by award winning chefs. Grouped within themed “Tasting Trails,” the massive tents will house more than 100 exhibitions serving things on spoons, in cups, on tiny plates, and skewered on sticks. Asheville’s French Broad Chocolate Lounge, for example, will be equipped with cases of chocolate truffles, while pit masters from favorite haunts will be smoking along the Barbecue Trail. Last year Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q tickled the wandering crowd with individual bags of the restaurant’s signature Frito pie.

Socially acceptable day drinking, duh.
Those tasting tents are not only filled with some of the best bites the south has to offer, but also spirits, beers, and wines. So carry the freebie glass or wear one of those ridiculous neck-holders and test out what you learn in drinking session. Advanced Sommelier Eric Crane, in his fantastically witty way of teaching, will show why we in the USA make the best barrels for wine and spirits in “American Oak in All Its Glory.” And make sure to fill your glass with the official Atlanta Food & Wine Festival beer, a collaboration between Cigar City brewer Wayne Wambles and brewmaster of Max Lager’s, John Roberts. The beer, a session sour, will be featured in two sessions: “The Art of Collaboration” and “Southern Sours,” both moderated by Bob Townsend of The AJC.

The talent.

This year’s lineup presenters and chefs is loaded with James Beard Award winners and nominees. For example, the session entitled The Road to Self-Discovery (Sat., May 30, 10 a.m.) features James Beard Best Chef South (2009) and “Top Chef Masters” alum John Currence (City Grocery Restaurant Group, Oxford, Miss.) Or hit up Masa (Sat., May 30, 1 p.m.) and get your copy of New York Times best-selling cookbook Heritage signed by chef/author Sean Brock (McCrady’s Restaurant/Husk/Minero, Charleston, S.C.). P.S. Brock’s second outpost of Mexican street food eatery Minero is slated to open in our very own Ponce City Market later this year. Cocktails more your thing? Get the lowdown on spirit pairing from Greg Best (Atlanta, Ga.) and Bryan Caswell (Reef Restaurant/Little Bigs/El Real Tex Mex, Houston, TX.) during Tag You’re It: An Unorthodox Approach to Pairings (Fri., May 29, noon-1 p.m.). No AFWF experience is complete without pig. Catch Kevin Gillespie’s (Gunshow, Atlanta, Ga.) Pork Awesomeness cooking demo (Sun., May 31, 12:30-1:30 p.m.).

Chicken, fried chicken, and more fried chicken
Southern food is more than fried chicken, but let’s face it, fried chicken is damn good. There’s a very rad chicken thing happening Friday night: the Big Bad Pop Up dinner at Midtown’s spot Bantam and Biddy. Join chefs John Currence (MS), Shaun Doty (GA), Vishwesh Bhatt (MS), Kelly English (TN), and Duane Nutter (GA) for a night of chef-inspired street food and cocktails with proceeds benefitting the Giving Kitchen and the Piedmont School. Plus, this year’s fried chicken tasting trail will be chock full of different takes of the mouth-watering crispy goodness. Look for bites from Restaurant Eugene/Holeman and Finch Public House owner/chef Linton Hopkins’ upcoming chicken joint, Hop’s Chicken.

For tickets to dinners, tasting tents, or day passes, and a full class schedule, click here. There is even a handy tool for planning your eating and drinking adventure.