Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2011

The Daily Meal attends the inaugural festival in Atlanta. Check in for regular reports

9:00 p.m. Invited to the dinner at chef Kevin Rathbun's house. Other participating chefs included Stephen Pyles, Kent Rathbun, and Jeff Tunks. Beautiful house, gorgeous outdoor kitchen, juicy duck, and delicious plate of boiled barbeque peanuts. But a moist fish tamale by Stephen Pyles might have been the best dish there. What's chef Stephan Pyles' advice on how to make a good tamale? "The key to great tamales other than buying my book is to make them in the Oaxacan-style. And to use more stock than you'd think."

9:15 p.m. Several people headed over to Holeman & Finch to try to snag the burger. Going to grab it for lunch tomorrow so stopping by the Street Carts Pavilion instead.

11:20 p.m.

Some trucks at the pavilion were taken over by other chefs. Eli Kirshetin, Katsuya Fukushima, Adam Sobel, Whitney Otawka, Plinio Sadalio, and Dan Latham were listed on the schedule. Jeremy Fox was said to be around too. The buzzed about item was Kats and Eli's "Karaoke Tots," tater tots with Kewpie mayo and bonito flakes, which were really good. But Whiney Otawka's oxtail posole was delicious too. The party moves to Empire State South.


3:20 a.m.

Punch, charcuterie, outdoor bocce, and chef Hugh Acheson wearing his "Monobrow Preservation Society" T-shirt. Chefs from the pavilion discussed their sous-chefs' travails, "Listen, man, you can leave, but you'll never get a shot at a job as a chef," and discussed the possibility of heading over to The Varsity for chili cheeseburgers.

10:45 a.m.  Chef Ashley Christensen of Poole's in Raleigh, N.C., demonstrated her take on her mother's fried chicken. She touted imperfections, the darker bits for example, places where there is more and less caramelization that really make the dish special. Check out the basics of her recipe, which includes tossing the buttermilk-dipped thighs in a grocery store bag filled with flour and salt. The chefs said she'd be opening a new restaurant soon that would center around her fried chicken and honey.

1:35 p.m. OK, the tasting tents and the Street Cart Pavilion are still going, but the seminars have come to a close. If there's one certain way to close out the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, it's to have the storied Holeman & Finch burger. At noon there was a half-hour wait for a table, people milling about outside, a packed bar, and most diners were eating the burger. Chef Hopkins noted that they usually do about 200 of them for brunch. The open kitchen reveals a veritable burger assembly line — a pass filled with gently-stacked double-patty cheeseburgers. It's a tasty burger — but the condiments are some of its most distinctive attributes. Homemade ketchup and mustard with more aroma and texture than you're used to. 

This young festival shone a great spotilight on some exciting things going on in restaurants in Atlanta and across the South. Several things made it particuarly enjoyable for festivalgoers. It was convenient (most of the events and seminars were within a five block radius), there was great talent (and they were accessible), and there was some great subject matter to go along with the good food and drink, something that gets lost at a festival like South Beach, but that can be found at the next big festival on the horizon, the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. Until then...

Check back for upcoming interviews from the festival.