Recap: Atlanta Food & Wine 2017


A few weeks ago, Atlanta Food & Wine Festival celebrated its seventh year of existence, and I was happily there as a sixth year attendee/vendor. My long time blog readers already know that I’m typically on double duty at most food-related events, both working for Goo Goo and covering as media, and that was the case for AF&WF too.

I can be found spreading the Goo Goo gospel in the tasting tents at Piedmont Park during the 3 day festival, but in the hours the tents aren’t open, I try to fit as many educational sessions into my schedule as I possibly can.

Home base for me during the festival is always the Loews Atlanta Hotel, as they’re the official host of the event and where all Learning Experiences take place, with one entire floor of conference rooms dedicated to culinary classes. For those of you that have been to Music City Food & Wine, this portion of the festival is what makes Atlanta’s quite different from ours. I truly love both events, but for different reasons.


Risky Business Class at Atlanta Food & Wine 2017

The educational aspect of the Atlanta festival is definitely far more intense than the chef demos and panels offered in Nashville. If you are a complete food nerd like me and are interested in actually learning some new skills vs just eating great food and having fun, then you should definitely attend AF&WF.

The hardest part is deciding which classes to take, as there are so many awesome ones to choose from! This year, when perusing the class schedule for Friday, I spotted “Adventurous eaters, this is the seminar for you!” and immediately knew the “Risky Business” seminar was going to be first on my culinary class schedule.

Chefs Richard Knight and Heidi Trull led us through a tasting of items that some might consider weird (or even gross) but can actually be quite tasty: beef heart, tongue, and squirrel. It was fun listening to the chefs’ stories, some of which brought back vivid memories of my culinary journey through China a few years ago, as well as my childhood, when eating pig testicles and squirrel was not unusual at all. (Truth.)


Cheese and Chocolate pairing with French Broad Chocolates and The Bloomy Rind

Sometimes I choose a class because I know the teacher, which was the case with this one. My friend Kathleen Cotter, owner and operator of The Bloomy Rind here in Nashville, teamed up with chocolate maker Jael Rattigan of French Broad Chocolates (whom I also happen to adore) for a cheese and chocolate pairing session.

I don’t know about you, but I’d never thought about pairing cheeses and chocolates. Man, was I blown away. This session was fascinating and fun, and probably the most delicious class I took all weekend.

Down the Southern Street: Food Stories of the South seminar at Atlanta Food & Wine 2017

No matter what region of the South you grew up in, you’re sure to have memories from childhood of foods you enjoyed at mom & pop diners, roadside stands, or perhaps even gas stations. In the “Down the Southern Street: Food Stories of the South”, chefs Joey Ward of Gunshow (Atlanta) , Ryan Rogers of Feast BBQ (Louisville) and John Lasater of Hattie B’s Hot Chicken (Nashville) shared their personal memories and even prepared dishes based on some of their favorites.

“Biscuit Royalty” with Karl Worley and Lisa White

AF&WF dubbed them “the King and Queen of biscuits” and I can’t say that I’d argue that. Karl Worley of Biscuit Love and Lisa White of Marsh House, both here in Nashville, teamed up for a hands-on technique seminar on the Southern classic, biscuits.

I’ve known Karl for years, and love both him and his food. I just met Lisa, who moved to Nashville recently, a few months back at a fundraiser dinner and immediately liked her. Not only is she a complete sweetheart, but she also makes the most insane biscuit I may have ever had in my life.

If the huge, happy crowd at this class was any indication, I think they enjoyed Lisa, Karl, and their respective biscuits as much as I do.


Soft cooked farm egg with braised pork jowl served over stone ground cheese grits with crumbled heritage pork cracklins, ozark muscadine hot pepper jam

In addition to the educational seminars I was able to attend this year, I was also fortunate enough to be invited to the Arkansas Connoisseurs Breakfast on Saturday morning.

Several chefs from all over the state of Arkansas prepared the meal, which was described as having “deep southern roots intertwined with international influences including Mexican and Cajun”. The entire meal was completely delicious, and while I’m typically a savory person, the sweet portion was what won my heart.


Salted Molasses Pudding Cake at the Arkansas Connoisseurs Breakfast

Wow. This Salted Molasses Pudding Cake with bourbon chantilly and spicy candied pecans was to-die-for!


The Goo Goo Girls, Atlanta Food & Wine 2017

Now, for the tasting tents. As always, it was impossible to try it all, but I did my best to cover a good portion of the tables over the course of 3 days. That said, I do lean on my “team” a bit to go out and taste different things and report back. Divide and conquer is the game!

Nashville favorites Belle Meade Bourbon, Hattie B’s Hot Chicken and Goo Goo Clusters at Atlanta Food & Wine 2017

This year’s favorite drink by far was Green Brier Distillery’s Belle Meade Bourbon Slushies. I mean. YES. I’ve already given them my 2 cents that they need to bring this machine to every Nashville food event from here on out.

One of my favorite bites from the tasting tents was once again Hattie B’s, and it was clear that I wasn’t the only person that felt that way. Their lines were insanely long almost the entire weekend, but at one point I got lucky and passed by when there wasn’t a wait so I snagged my own sample.


Gan Shan Station’s Green Papaya salad & black bean chicken at Atlanta Food & Wine 2017

There were two dishes over the weekend that I simply have not been able to get out of my mind. First was the Green Papaya salad & black bean chicken from Gan Shan Station in Asheville, NC. Guess where I’ll be eating on my next visit to Asheville?


Lehja’s chaat at Atlanta Food & Wine 2017

Then there was the Chaat from Chef Sunny Baweja of Lehja restaurant in Richmond, VA. Made up of black chickpeas, tomato, edamame, and roasted corn, tossed in yogurt tamarind mint dressing, then topped with mango, pomegranate and chives, this chaat was so incredible that I’m now considering a trip to Richmond.

Like, seriously.

Chaat from Lehja restaurant at Atlanta Food & Wine 2017

 And on top of this dish being incredible, Chef Sunny was also a total delight to speak with. He mentioned that he knows Maneet, so perhaps she can convince him to come to Nashville for a collaboration with her. Maneet, did you hear that? Pretty please?

Other standouts of the tasting tents included Grand Champion BBQ (GA), as they brought back their incredible brisket + mac & cheese, which was probably my favorite dish at last year’s event. Drink-wise, I loved Banjo Cold Brew Coffee (Atlanta) for a non-alcoholic option, and then when I was ready for some booze and in need of cooling off, I enjoyed a few mules from Thirteenth Colony Distilleries (GA).


Obviously, I once again thoroughly enjoyed Atlanta Food & Wine, and can’t wait to go back again in 2018!