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For people who love to eat, Taste of Atlanta continues Oct. 11

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Charles Taggert gets help from his girlfriend, Jamelle Esaw, to sample the spinach chips from Tavern at Phipps during Taste of Atlanta on Saturday. The event continues Sunday at Technology Square in Midtown. AJC/Brant Sanderlin

Just back from Taste of Atlanta. It’s dinner time, but if I even look at the kitchen, I’m going to be in pain.

(Want to know why? Here are more photos from Taste of Atlanta. Look, and just imagine how this event smells.)

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Sweet potato panckes and brown sugar syrup. That's good for you. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

Organizers call it “the food lover’s food event,” but really, I think it’s the food event for people who love to eat. I don’t believe I experienced the best the city’s chefs can offer, but rather the best some 80 restaurants can offer in small, quick portions built outside a kitchen and eaten with a plastic fork. That sometimes meant soggy samosas or pre-packed desserts from a cooler. That’s fine for me, who eats plain instant oatmeal and raisins once or twice a day, but maybe not for my foodie friends.

If you just love to eat, those quick portions really add up. It’s infinitely tastier than the usual festival fare, and there aren’t any of those pesky rides, games or “entertainment” to get in the way. There are a few stages and areas with live music, cooking demos and kiddie activities, but they don’t distract from the main objective: shared gluttony.

We see food, we smell food, we wait for food, we chat about food, we eat food, we ask the guy next to us, “Oh, where’d you get that?” It’s not a cheap date, but perhaps more food and less money than you’d spend for dinner at some of these restaurants.  If I’d skipped breakfast, maybe I could’ve gotten through 15 tickets. Maybe.

Share what you thought of the food festival in the comments!

If you’re not sure you want to hit the festival’s final day on Sunday, here’s more to know:

Love the new location.
The festival moved this year from Atlantic Station to Technology Square in Midtown. It’s just a few blocks from the North Avenue and Midtown MARTA stations. Nice, wide sidewalks, free bike parking by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and, it appeared, $10 parking nearby. I’m not sure how the regular businesses and restaurants along the Taste of Atlanta route felt, or the guests I saw staring out from the Georgia Tech Hotel, but as an outsider coming in, it was easy.

Nice variety, would love to see more.
There was food there for every taste –  a sandwich from QuikTrip or ceviche from The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, Waffle House waffles or Cafe Intermezzo cheesecake. I found some new places I’d be willing to try after tasting a few things, and some that really aren’t for me. I was surprised that few of the places I frequent, or even pass by frequently, had a spot. Let me be clear: there is a ton of food. But the more diverse this festival is, the more fun it will be.

For vegetarians, “Taste of Atlanta” really means “Desserts of Atlanta.”
I exaggerate. It was short on veggie protein, but there were enough veggie tacos, butternut squash soups and spinach samosas among the all the BBQ sandwiches, chicken skewers and clam chowders. However, almost every booth offers a dessert, and they quickly add up to a meal. Vegans, your knee-jerk reaction is probably right: this is not worth your money.

Water! Waaaaater!
After all those desserts, I needed to rinse away the sugar coating my mouth. Water (and beer and wine) was for sale at stations throughout the festival, but at that point, I would’ve loved to hand over a ticket or five for a cup of water.

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Banana and Nutella crepe. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

Long lines may be worth the wait, but you can eat well outside the crowd.
Taste of Atlanta was hopping. I was there for the last few hours of today’s festival, but heard it was even busier earlier in the day, when no clouds lingered overhead. So yeah, there were some lines. Crepes and ice cream seemed to draw the biggest crowds — crepes, because they can be made beautifully and easily out in the open, ice cream because it’s awesome, and came in gigantic portions for a few tickets.

I worry about waste.
The area was clean, and people seemed to be using the bottle/can recycling bins and garbage cans. (Yea for cleaning up after ourselves!) But, I received another plastic utensil and foam plate at every booth. Isn’t there’s a better way? Is there some health code that says we can’t use the same fork throughout the day?

A few themes emerge.
I don’t know if this is commentary on Taste of Atlanta or Atlantans’ tastes, but the items I most often saw on menus were red velvet cupcakes and variations on sweet potatoes. Whatever it says about us, I am 100 percent OK with it.

Want to go? Taste of Atlanta continues 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 11. Technology Square, entrance at 5th and West Peachtree. $25 for admission and 15 taste coupons, $65 for VIP admission to festival, Beer & Wine Experience area and 20 taste coupons. Free for people ages 13 and younger, but coupons are still required to taste. Additional tickets $10 for 10, $20 for 20.  www.tasteofatlanta.net.

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9 comments Add your comment

Wendy

October 12th, 2009
10:48 am

Really enjoyed the taste of Atlanta…So much food, I hate I couldn’t taste everything. Excited to learn of new restuarant options!

Californian transplant

October 11th, 2009
12:20 pm

We went at noon and stayed until about 3ish, it began to get crowded by then but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and left with happy bellies. I do agree about the water-ticket thing. Made no sense whatsoever to me but hey. I suppose there is money to be made. I think the Taste served its purpose: to allow its patrons to sample some of Atlanta’s eateries. I didn’t go in expecting anything more than that and felt I got more than my monies worth. I look forward to next year.

Chris

October 11th, 2009
11:57 am

Thanks for the honest review. We are going today. I already had breakfast. Hope the rain stays away and I do plan a later arrival so maybe large food portions since today is the last day! Atlanta loves food so for any chef to make it here is easy if they make things taste good and keep new items coming every season.

Jamie

October 11th, 2009
11:41 am

There were a few vegetarian dishes but not many. It would be great to have more vegetarian selections and have a way to find them easier. I did manage to find enough vegetarian non dessert selections to be happy but I’d love to see Cafe Sunflower or some other vegetarian restaurants participate next year.

Maretta

October 11th, 2009
10:37 am

Re: your statement regarding vegans and health-conscious people, I agree. There’s nothing at “Taste of Atlanta” for us. Thanks for the review.

heather

October 11th, 2009
8:44 am

does anyone know on average how many taste tickets you need to get anything?

[...] Festivals: Taste of Atlanta runs through Oct. 11, Midtown’s Tech Square, Atlanta. Review. [...]

Jamie Gumbrecht

October 10th, 2009
10:35 pm

That’s just adorable. :)

Charles

October 10th, 2009
10:12 pm

Thanks for the picture! It looks great. I love you Jamelle [()]!!!