City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival returns this weekend

atlfoodfest.0522Last year’s inaugural Atlanta Food & Wine Festival was many things. A gracious plenty of cooking demonstrations, panel discussions and wine seminars. A chance to gather for dinners prepared by groups of the South’s most lauded chefs in the city’s top dining rooms. The lure of sun-shaded tasting tents filled with folks walking through a Dixie dreamscape of barbecued pork, fried chicken, craft beer and bourbon. So much bourbon.

More than anything, the festival served as kind of a coming-out party for today’s Southern food culture and for Atlanta as its capital city. With a program designed by an advisory council of chefs from across the South, it distinguished itself from the country’s other large food festivals with its intense focus on culinary interaction and instruction.

The festival returns this weekend, starting with dinners around town Thursday night and then proceeding through three days jam-packed with events, food and liquor. (It’s not too late to buy tickets for some or all of the festival.) But it won’t be a full reprise. Festival co-founders Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter have learned from their (few) mistakes and (many) successes of the first year and have adjusted the programming.

“We have the same philosophy from last year, ” Love said, “with our focus on learning experiences, tasting experiences and events. But there have been some refinements.”

Most notably, they have greatly reduced the sheer number of choices guests must make. That gracious plenty seemed at times more like a galumphing surfeit. With 124 programmed events starting first thing Friday morning, attendees found themselves contemplating dozens of possibilities — some packed, some with only a handful of takers. Plenty of volunteers were on hand to guide, but there were no event descriptions. This year, there will be 88 programmed events. Guests may attend at most three each day, and they’re encouraged to read through the descriptions online and reserve places ahead of time.

The organizers have also scrapped the fun-but-not-all-that food truck park, where a half-dozen trucks couldn’t compete with the much more robust — and much more crowded — tasting tents. Love and Feichter hope to alleviate those crowds by keeping the tents open for three hours each session instead of two, giving the many day-trippers ample opportunity to come and go.

But they will keep the curated “tasting trails” throughout the tents, which give consumers a chance to, say, try eight different takes on fried chicken side by side. Love, who has just returned from Pebble Beach Food & Wine (one of many festivals she visited over the course of the year) thinks this feature really distinguishes AFWF.

“This trip really underlined our feeling that we’re on to something, ” she said. “We’re doing something bigger. We’re teaching, we’re showcasing our culture and traditions.” They also serve a lot to eat in these tents — not always the case at other festivals where the wine tastings and cheeseboards outstrip the chef-prepared food.

“At other festivals, ” Love said, “I’ve heard people walk away from the tent saying, ‘I’m still hungry.’ That won’t happen here. That can’t happen here.” As much as last year’s festival tried to represent the variety of Southern gastronomy, the programming did seem to circle back quite frequently to a couple of favorite items.

“Last year the topics seemed to be bourbon, bourbon, bourbon; pork, pork, pork, ” laughed Love. “It’s true.” The advisory council of chefs devised the programming, and that’s what most excited them at the time. This year, a lot more programming will explore sustainable seafood, sustainable sourcing, Southern history, Southern family traditions and cocktails. At one point, the conference center at the Loew’s Hotel promises to turn into a warren of competing cocktail bars, with experts to pour, discuss and pour some more.

Like last year, all these people will spill out into the streets of Midtown, and for four sybaritic days, Midtown will be alive with that special excitement that comes from great food and drink. Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Thursday – May 13. Loews Hotel Atlanta. 1065 Peachtree Street N.W. www.atlfoodand

  • Tasting tent pass: The tents at 10th Street and Peachtree Walk will open for three hours in the afternoon each day, Friday-Sunday. Though the particulars vary from day to day, you will taste your way through several of the themed “trails, ” among them seafood, whole pig, craft beer and Southern snacks. There will be plenty to eat and drink. Cost: $100
  • Day pass: This pass allows ticket holders to choose three “Learning Experiences” (such as cooking demonstrations, panel discussions and cocktail seminar) in addition to the day’s tasting tent. A gift bag and a year’s subscription to Food + Wine or Travel + Leisure serve as lagniappe. Cost: $180 (Saturday day passes are sold out.)
  • Three-day pass: This whole-shebang pass allows ticket holders to choose nine “Learning Experiences” (such as cooking demonstrations, panel discussions and cocktail seminar) in addition to the tasting tents on all three days, and an invitation to “Pig Out: Southern Style, ” a bash at JCT Kitchen & Bar. Again, you’ll get the gift bag and a year’s subscription to Food + Wine or Travel + Leisure. Cost: $500
  • Connoisseur-level one-day and three-day passes: These passes grant access to special classes, breakfast, chef dinners and a connoisseur’s lounge. Cost: $700 for one day, $2,000 for all days.

15 comments Add your comment


May 7th, 2012
11:02 am

Paragraphs — They’re a good thing.


May 7th, 2012
12:27 pm

Very overpriced. No thanks.

John Kessler

May 7th, 2012
1:00 pm

Wow…wonder what happened to the formatting…..hold on…

[...] link: Atlanta Food & Wine Festival returns this weekend | Food and More … Share and [...]

[...] Food and Wine Festival certainly aren’t lacking in options for how to spend their time. As John Kessler reported yesterday, the festival organizers have trimmed the number of programmed events by nearly 30%, down to 88 [...]

Looks Great!

May 9th, 2012
9:43 am

Just picked up 2 passes to the tasting tents on Saturday. Really looking forward to this event. Thanks for heads up…

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Snooty McSnooter Pants

May 9th, 2012
1:20 pm

Sorry, it’s a all a bit too precious, pricey & put-on for my tastes. Other festivals such as this (Pebble, Aspen, Montreal, Maine, Ixtapa, so many in CA, Nantucket, etc.) have the benefit of a beautiful locale as backdrop. This has the concrete canyons of midtown. At least consider Rabun or Serenbe or Highlands or Sea Island. Nothing personal; I’d rather go to out to dinner while the want-to-be-seen crowd fills this place and save festival-going for a festival-worthy destination.


May 9th, 2012
1:36 pm

Just like every other festival it will not last long in this tasteless wasteland of a city.


May 10th, 2012
7:28 am

$2000 for the VIP??? …. FYI, it is still just food in a pop up tent !


May 10th, 2012
8:24 am

I’ve got my tasting tent tickets for Friday afternoon and for dining on Friday evening. I’m really excited about it. I think it’s a great thing for midtown and the city of Atlanta!

Southwest ATL

May 10th, 2012
9:53 am

While it is expensive, the event was fun last year. I am surprised that for the “Food and Wine Festival”, the wine part seems to always get last billing. Should it be the “Food and Bourbon & Beer Festival”?

stanley macneill

May 10th, 2012
10:55 am

too much money for me i’ll stick to taste of atlanta thanks


May 10th, 2012
8:22 pm

This cost more than the Taste of Chicago. Why is it more expensive? I am willing to bet the food is good but will it compare to other food festivals out there? Would love to bring the entire family to this event but I cannot justify the price when that money could be well spent in other ways. On the other hand I respect the thought and energy that went into creating this event especially in a city where the politicians usually stop cultural events in their tracks. Sorry to vent people…just an opinion and I respect what each and everyone has posted here today.


May 10th, 2012
8:39 pm

$$$ How much? Give me an effing break. $$$