Last weekend, chefs, restaurateurs and foodies from across the south took over my city for the second annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival (AFWF). Unlike a regular food festival, at AFWF indulgence took on an entirely new meaning. In the morning participants were schooled at the beautiful Loews Hotel by some of the brightest stars on the culinary scene in Connoisseur’s Classes on everything from how to whip up a batch of grits, biscuits and cornbread from scratch to how to pair bourbon like a proper southerner. By day we sampled endlessly in the Tasting Tents, which featured delectables and spirits from across the region, and by night, we were wined and dined at exclusive dinner parties at local restaurants, hotels and private estates across the city.
I was everywhere paying close attention and taking careful notes between sips and mouthfuls so that the Parlouristas would know how to mingle with the best delectables around. Since the drinks flowed so freely all weekend, I decided to make at least one of them a meal so here is my unconventional, five-course rundown:
- Opening Cheers: In the class ‘Hello Wine, Meet Liquor,’ I learned that a well-crafted apéritif opens the palette and stimulates the appetite.
New Orleans-based mixologist, Nick Detrich, suggests the Inverted Martini, which at his bar Cure consists of two parts dry vermouth, one part gin, and a dash of orange bitters, with a lemon peel garnish. *Insiders tip: Vermouth is actually a fortified wine and none worth its price should ever be served from a speed pour spout. Unless you like spoiled wine, vacuum sealed and refrigerated is the way to go.
- Start it up: In Atlanta, Spanish restaurant Pura Vida reigns supreme with their first rate tapas.
With influences derived from the Caribbean, South America and Spain, their flavorful innovations never disappoint. Their signature Diablo sauces and Adobo spice mixes created by Chef Hector ‘The Habanero Whisperer’ Santiago, are available for purchase and take-home.
- Main event: If in North Carolina, be sure to stop by Barrington’s Restaurant.
Any place that can make shrimp and hot water cornbread pair together as superbly as they did is worth further investigation. ZAGAT co-signs with my sentiment, giving this neighborhood bistro a 29 out of 30 rating. Reservations are recommended as this quaint spot is only open for dinner Monday-Saturday.
- The sweet spot: When it comes to dessert, the ladies of Sugaree’s Bakery held down the top spot.
Based in New Albany, Mississippi, their selection of homemade strawberry, red velvet and caramel cakes were cloud soft and moist like the sweets were fresh from the oven (no small feat for a previously frozen dessert). Fortunately, orders made online will ship directly to your door in select states, otherwise you can visit their retail location in historic New Albany.
- Palette refresh: In Atlanta, we are “riding around and getting it” in a major way.
Honeysuckle, a southern-inspired gelato food truck, will be dropping off pints of their sorbets and gelato into local retail stores real soon. In the meantime, track their whereabouts online and visit the truck to dip into one or two of their 100 flavors which refresh the palette nicely. The lemon basil with blackberry was a pretty big deal in my cup.
Next year, I’m sure I’ll be back for seconds and donning leggings with an array of flattering tops to accommodate the inevitable food baby I’ll acquire. Join me?