The 11th-annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival will be held September 15-18 in the Old Fourth Ward, Westside, and restaurants around the city. That may feel like ages from now, but starting today, discounted tickets are available—for one week only. This year’s theme is “A Love Letter to the South.” Chefs, pitmasters, sommeliers, brewers, and mixologists from all 13 southern states will converge in our city to conduct demonstrations and share samples of their crafts.
Chef/restaurateur Pat Pascarella of Grana, the White Bull, and Bastone, will participate in the festival for the first time, joining returning chefs Josue Pena (the Iberian Pig) and Ron Hsu and Aarons Phillips (Lazy Betty). Expect fare from Aziza, Pie Bar, and Hattie B’s, among numerous local restaurants.
New this year, is an indoor/outdoor festival kickoff party called Sliced: AF&WF’s Party by the Slice. Held September 15 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Guardian Works on the Westside, it will be an exclusive taste-around event with unlimited bites of pizza, chicken pot pie, quiche, brisket, and bread (among other foods), plus beer, wine, and cocktails. Early bird tickets cost $95, with prices rising to $125 on July 1 (or whenever the discounted tickets run out).
Similarly unique is Cluck’d: A Chicken and Cocktail Soiree, on September 16 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., also at Guardian Works. Fifteen top chefs will batter, roast, fry, grill, bake, and barbecue their way through the famous bird and pair them with signature cocktails. Early bird tickets cost $95, with prices rising to $125 on July 1 (or whenever the discounted tickets run out).
“We’re trying not to go back and do everything we’ve always done—we’re trying to be more innovative,” says Brett Friedman, cofounder and managing partner of Agency21, producer of the festival.
In that vein, AF&WF has discontinued the intimate seminars it used to host at the Loews Atlanta Hotel. Although the Loews will return as basecamp for the festival, no events will be held there.
“We’d be doing a disservice not to evolve,” Friedman says. “[The festival] started 12 years ago. Now, people are more comfortable outside, and we want people to be comfortable.”
Instead, Agency21 has decided to incorporate additional cooking and mixology demonstrations into the Grand Tasting events September 17-18 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Historic Fourth Ward Park. (Doors open at 1 p.m. for VIP ticketholders.) Once again, the tasting tents will focus on barbecue and tailgate, but Friedman stresses that with more than 100 vendors, plenty of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options will be available. Early bird one-day tickets cost $75 ($110 for VIP). Prices will increase to $99 for general admission and $150 for VIP on July 1 (or whenever the discounted tickets run out).
Although the festival features “wine” in its name, the tasting tents feature a near-equal amount of beer and spirits. “Mixology has blown up over the past few years so it would be a disservice to not include mixologists around the South,” Friedman says. “The reality is each person has a certain flavor profile that speaks to them. The variety is not to encourage overconsumption. It’s to have everything so everyone can have an amazing experience”
In addition to food, drinks, and demonstrations, the Grand Tasting has games and lounges. Last year, there was even ax-throwing.
“The whole point is sensory overload,” Friedman says.
Prefer a more intimate setting? Chef-driven brunches and dinners will be announced next month.
Visit atlfoodandwinefestival.com for tickets and more information. All events are limited to ages 21-and-up. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Children of Conservation’s school lunch program, which provides nutrient-rich meals for kids in Africa.