A Look Ahead at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2012

Festival co-founder Dominique Love talks about the upcoming food festivities in Atlanta

A Look Ahead at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2012

How many visitors are you expecting this year?
We’re anticipating up to 7,500 guests. Tickets went on sale Feb. 14 and we’ve been blown away by the response. One event sold out in four hours. We have early-bird pricing through March 31.


Last year you noted Miller Union, Empire State South, Abattoir, and the Brick Store as restaurants that first-time visitors to Atlanta had to visit. Can you give us three others?  
You know these questions kill us! There are so many great spots in Atlanta and our surrounding area that it is tough to give just a few. But, we’ll tell you that our office has been enjoying a few places recently: Todd Richards at The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, No. 246 in Decatur (Ford Fry and Drew Belline’s new place), Robert Phalen’s One Eared Stag in Inman Park, Antico Pizza in Midtown, and Cardamom Hill in Berkeley Park. We’re also really into Paul Calvert and his cocktails at Pura Vida


Mary Mac's, Varsity, The Colonnade — what other classic Atlanta spots are checklist destinations?  

Waffle House, Busy Bee, Carver’s Country Kitchen, Thumbs Up Diner, and Buford Highway. Sweet Auburn Market is a cool place to go, too.      


What new talent will be participating this year that you're excited about?
Last year we had 136 chefs, sommeliers, mixologists, and industry experts involved. This year, we’re at 220 and counting! We’ve expanded the culinary trails in our tasting tents, which will allow us to feature more than 100 chefs in the tents and the lineup changes daily. We’ve been working closely with our advisory council to identify a broader range of talent — chefs who are on the radar but not yet as known as some of our region’s more established chefs. We’ve got Tandy Wilson from Tennessee, Aaron Deal from Virginia, and Alon Shaya from Louisiana, to name a few. We also have six master sommeliers, including TEXSOM founders Drew Hendricks and James Tidwell from Mississippi. And, of course, we have some amazing mixologists joining us this year, including Gina Chersevani from D.C., and Bobby Heugel from Texas.


What new events are you featuring?
We have a very special Blackberry Farm dinner at a gorgeous Buckhead estate and the brothers Rathbun have an event called "The Watch List" in the works. They’ll be showcasing rising Southern culinary stars. We’re also excited about our pop-up restaurant and this year’s PIG OUT event at JCT Kitchen. John Besh gave us the great idea of turning this event into a true Southern backyard bash. We’ll have Chris Lilly from Big Bob Gibson's Bar-B-Q cooking his award-winning barbecue, and all of our talent will be there as hosts. We’ll have two bands and some other surprises. 


Which new Southern restaurant should more people know about? 
The Catbird Seat in Nashville, Tenn. — they’ve got delicious food and take an innovative approach to Southern hospitality with their layout. We’re also all eager to try Aaron Deal’s soon-to-open restaurant in Roanoke, Va. Our team had the chance to eat his food at a recent event and we were blown away. He is a smart, engaging chef and is going to shake up the dining scene in Roanoke.  They’re lucky to have him.

Arthur Bovino is the senior editor for The Daily Meal. Click here to follow Arthur on Twitter.