posted on May 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm
Somehow, this year’s Atlanta Food and Wine Festival felt grander than last year’s event. Although the format was the same – tons of great sessions to get your food nerd on, three days of revolving tasting tents (brilliant), and events/dinners galore – there was a sense of credibility in the air. The festival had earned its stripes and was a genuine hot ticket despite the rain and Mother’s Day weekend. I felt a great sense of Atlanta pride to see notable writers, such as Josh Ozersky of Ozersky.TV and Raphael Brion of Eater National, say things like “I’ll never miss this one again” and “Atlanta is a great food town and has an equally great food fest.” Do we need such validation? No. But considering how many festivals there are to choose from, it says a lot that they come to Atlanta, a town that hardly gets the amount of national food love it deserves. Dominique Love, Elizabeth Feichter, the 360 Media team, and all of the amazing talent really turned it out.
Things got started on Friday with a little charcuterie tasting and a toast. Then, it was off to The History of the Southern Cocktail session moderated by my good friend, Besha Rodell, who just left our dear city yesterday for her new job as the critic at LA Weekly. I found Dave Wondrich especially charming and interesting in a nerdy way. I had to bounce shortly after because of babysitter issues so I missed the first day of tents. I had my friend Jason Molinari of Cured Meats (he’s a badass local cured meats blogger with a big national following if you didn’t know) report back on his ham experiences the next morning since he is an expert in all things cured. First, he hit the Lard breakfast where chef Art Smith was cutting ham. Then, he was off to The Fellowship of The Country Ham session. Here are some of his pics and what he had to say:
“The morning started off with a friendly Art Smith and the executive chef of his restaurant in ATL slicing country hams, and stuffing the ham into large, chewy biscuits smeared with butter. The hams I tasted were Broadbent and Allan Benton’s. They were served with a tasty cheese, honey and mustards. The biscuit sandwiches were good, but could have been great with biscuits straight out of the oven.
“I then went to the Country ham seminar where Alon Shoya and Linton Hopkins discussed each of the 13 hams, how they were procured, breeds used, cure methods. Allan Benton was “guest” speaker. A number of the hams were from restaurant chefs, not commercially available. They varied from chewy and jerky like with intense meat and salt flavors, to rich, smooth, moist and gamey, to mild, salty and delicate. My favorite was Sean Brock’s from McCrady’s. It was a 27 month ham (if I recall correctly) that was very heavily marbled. It was moist and super tender, turning almost to a buttery pork paste as you chewed.”
That’s a lot of ham.
“The oldest ham was Alon Shoya’s from Domenica restaurant at 36 months. It also was delicious. Drier than Sean’s, but very intensely flavored with blue cheese flavors popping up and a throat tingling spiciness akin to fresh pressed olive oil. There were 2 cooked hams, known as City hams, one of which was very mellow and the other quite tasty. Overall it was really fun to try the variety of hams showing off their terroir and curing and aging differences. Would be very hard to assemble that many country hams all in one place, especially given a number of them were not commercially available hams.”
The hams being carved.
I am so jealous of Jason getting to eat all of that ham. It looked amazing. He did say he was in a ham coma for a good 24 hours after the sessions, which is crazy considering he is a bona fide ham addict. They must have been very generous with the slicing. That afternoon, I met up with some friends at the tasting tents and started doing the rounds. My only complaint would be that I felt there could have been more food, but I am a glutton. The tents switched up offerings each day, which was brilliant. So, every day was a different thing. This day, I had quite a few bites that made me super happy. One being some cured tongue of some sort with swiss cheese foam (?) from Robert Phalen.
The other being the knock-down drag out amazing spread Kevin Outz, of Spotted Trotter, put out.
Outz surveying the crowd.
The man outdid himself. He was mobbed all day until he ran out. Check out the menu:
One of Outz’s many offerings.
It wouldn’t be a festival without something roasting on a spit. Right?
The brothers Fox doing their thing.
Boozy King (or Queen?) of Pops, which debuted at last year’s festival.
Obviously, there was tons of booze at this event and I partook in a few sips here and there when it counted such as this 10 year Pappy Van Winkle poured by Julian Van Winkle.
The Mexican in me really loved the pineapple and habanero margarita offered by Patron at their cool cocktail bar tent.
If you want a booze-tastic recap, do click over to Brad Kaplan at Thirsty South. He’s got a top ten list that rocks. Speaking of booze, the last event I attended was the cocktail throwdown. After the throwdown, cocktails were served outside. As you can see, it was mobbed despite being at the end of that day.
I would have gone on Sunday, but it was raining and it was my first Mother’s day so we went to The Ritz Carlton for their spectacular brunch and I had a foot rub at this new place that just opened in the same shopping center as Tara. For the sake of transparency, I had a media pass, but would have easily paid for my ticket otherwise. Such a great weekend. I wish it didn’t have to end.