Category: Event

Live Nation’s VIP Preview at Lakewood Amphitheatre

by Christopher A. Daniel

Just before dusk on Jun. 8, a euphoric audience at Lakewood Amphitheatre anticipated the classic sounds of veteran pop/rock acts Journey, The Doobie Brothers and Dave Mason. Live Nation Atlanta, on the other hand, opened Lakewood’s gates in advance to some of us VIPs for an intimate preview under its new outdoor venue, Cellar 89.

The gray-painted structure named to commemorate the performance venue’s opening year hosted a light tasting menu consisting of some of its local eateries’ signature dishes. The incredibly hospitable, hour-long reception, allowed each of us to converse with a few other journalists/colleagues as well as Live Nation Atlanta staff. Lakewood’s general manager and marketing director Akeasha Branch was quite welcoming, ensuring that I kept a drink in my hand the entire time (three 24 oz. Dos Equis precisely).

The spread to the right of the wine bar was pretty cool. There was the standard cheese and cracker tray alongside Zora’s Fresh Market’s veggie crudité on both a tray and in really cute miniature martini glasses. The guests raved over the craft dogs courtesy of Craft House Draft House until the tray was wiped clean. Those mini smoked sausage dogs were topped with melted cheese, grilled peppers and onions. I must say they paired well with the Dos Equis nestled nice and chilled by my plate(s).

A flatbread topped with chicken, pesto, feta cheese, grilled peppers, caramelized onions and garnished with fresh arugula leaves instantly became one of my favorite dishes. I went stir crazy with the tongs piling the smoked chicken wings from Doc & Roc Henderson BBQ on a plate (ok, three plates). Again, considering I had a few Dos Equis to wash the chicken down with, something about that sweet & spicy sauce drizzled and smothering over the blackened flats sent that flavor into a whole ‘nother stratosphere. Needless to say, I made quite a few trips to that aluminum pan the entire hour we were under that small pavilion, but I digress.

The winner in the heavy appetizer category was the round salted caramel brownies. Talk about a good mesh of scattered sour crystals with gooey, decadent goodness. I had no shame stacking those moist, round treats and pulling them off one-at- a-time. I made sure to snatch a few before everything was taken away so that we could enjoy the performances.

The cool thing about experiencing legendary bands like The Doobie Brothers and Journey is how their repertoire on-stage closely resembles the original recordings. They clearly don’t make ‘em like they used to. Yes, I was waiting to hear timeless cuts from the Doobies like “Listen to the Music” and “Black Water.” I stretched out comfortably on one of the comfy brown chairs in the VIP lounge, continuing to drink my tall brews.

Once Journey took center stage, I put those two drink tickets to good use. I started with a little boring Tito’s Vodka and Sprite with a twist of lime but quickly migrated to partake in the specialty cocktail option us VIPs had. A sucker for a stiff drink, I experienced Americus, GA’s-based Thirteenth Colony’s Southern Rye Whiskey for the first time.

One of the bartenders on the patio mixed an Americus Mule with ginger beer and lime juice. For the serving to be as small as it was, the bite from the flavor was something serious. Well-balanced in volume, the drink definitely helped to enhance the sing-along flash mob the audience and I had with classics like “Anyway You Want It,” “Open Arms” and “Who’s Crying Now?”

All in all, I’ve been to Lakewood quite a few times over the years for a variety of showsspanning genres, but it was cool to have just a chilled night as a special guest. It felt good to shake Live Nation Atlanta president and iconic concert promoter Peter Conlon’s hand and to switch from indulging in posh, high-brow menus for some comfort food. Not to mention, it’s always fun to revisit something nostalgic while getting a taste of what some of my favorite live venues have to offer.

 

Visit the “Vineyard in the City” through June 2016

by Christopher A. Daniel (@journalistorian)

courtesy in Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
photo by Christopher A. Daniel

A selected group of us foodies, media and influencers were invited out for a glimpse of Atlanta Food and Wine Festival’s (#AFWF16) “Vineyard in the City” the day prior (Jun. 2) to the culinary extravaganza’s official activities. Located directly across the street from the Four Seasons Hotel in Midtown, the four-acre plot is the country’s first ever pop-up vineyard.

The weather couldn’t have been more beautiful…until it started to rain once the event ended. Still, the vineyard’s pastoral landscape is garnished with bushels of sungrown grapes dangling everywhere. In the midst of the grape patches sit a wildfire tupelo, an Athena classic elm tree, a Japanese maple tree and quite a few Silver Date palm trees. On the top of the hill sits a really cool, Keith Haring-inspired mural as part of an “Art in the Vineyard” program.

The groundbreaking vineyard itself has a beautiful, countryside ambiance. As guests made their way down the path leading into the vast green space, everyone sipped on refreshing glasses of chilled Villa Sandi prosecco. The first stop on the tour had thin slices of country ham that cured for the last two years. David Bancroft from Acre Restaurant in Auburn, AL flipped between shaving the rose-colored meat and convincing us to try some ham fat whiskey pickling in a Mason jar.

courtesy of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
Photo by Christopher A. Daniel

Stepping down a small flight of ascending grassy stairs, Chef Todd Richards from downtown Atlanta’s White Oak Kitchen & Cocktails unveiled some samples from his upcoming eatery (Jun. 15 precisely) located inside of Krog Street Market, Richards’ Southern Fried Chicken. He introduced everyone to his scarlet-hued hot fried chicken and its sibling golden brown classic fried chicken.

Considering I was the first one to sample (which I typically unapologetically am), I was totally blown away by the marriage of seasonings that actually take awhile to set it. It’s a nice mesh of ginger, garlic, curry and onion powder among others that explodes on the tongue upon chewing and swallowing. Adding onto the sensation of the Southern staple is Chef Richards’ bourbon hot sauce. Needless to say, I made countless trips to his table until all of the white meat had disappeared because that sauce was winning!

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photo by Christopher A. Daniel

Adjacent to Richards’ table sat Chef Gerry Klaskala’s vegetable casserole. At first sight, it appeared to resemble a broccoli casserole. Chewing and tasting was a different story. I appreciated how the casserole totally resembled potatoes-au-gratin, one of my all-time favorite side dishes. However, I couldn’t stop making trips to Richards’ fried chicken table even though I had two servings of Chef Klaskala’s dishes.

Anyhow, the Vineyard is here in Atlanta throughout the month of June. #AFWF16 will host a series of master classes and signature events there. Every Tuesday and Thursday will host arts programming, but it’s quite a nice atmosphere for enjoying a light lunch outside or tranquil enough to enjoy a romantic, brisk walk with that special someone.

Christopher A. Daniel is an Atlanta-based journalist, cultural critic, historian, ethnomusicologist, and public intellectual. His work is primarily published digitally on The Burton Wire, where he is site’s music and pop culture editor. He’s also a frequent contributor to Albumism.com and soulhead.com. His work and passion for diversity and multiculturalism have been recognized by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and NewsOne.com. Christopher was also awarded a Community Journalism Fellowship for the U.S. Consulate’s Office of Rio de Janeiro, where he traveled to Salvador, Bahia.

Atlanta Food & Wine Festival Preview 2016

by Christopher A. Daniel (@journalistorian)

Dominique Love (left) and Elizabeth Feichter (right) photo courtesy of Robin Lori
Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter
photo courtesy of Robin Lori

In anticipation of Atlanta Food and Wine Festival (#AFWF16) this coming Jun. 2-5, creators Elizabeth Feichter and Dominique Love recently hosted an intimate preview at their lofty headquarters in West Midtown.

The intimate lunch, titled “BBQ & Sound Bites,” gave a few of us foodies and cuisine enthusiasts a glimpse into the four- day, sixth annual epicurean extravaganza that celebrates the tasty, mouth-watering dishes and specialty cocktails from below the Mason-Dixon Line. Our meal was originally set to take place in Piedmont Park’s secluded, immensely green and flat Promenade area, where the festival has migrated to from its original Midtown location sandwiched between 12th and 13th Streets.

We’ve run out of space in Midtown unfortunately,” warns a sanguine Feichter. “We try to stay urban, leaving everything within walking distance. This space allows us to be a little more private. It’s a beautiful space.”

Unfortunately, inclement weather warnings prevented us from experiencing that ambiance. Feichter and Love were still welcoming and buoyant enough to host us all indoors, encouraging us to close our eyes and use our imaginations about dining on the turf. “We wish that this was the park,” Love told us during the presentation. “We were so excited to finally take the event somewhere other than our office.”

photo courtesy of Robin Loro
photo courtesy of Robin Lori

Lunch was quite savory and delectable. We were all seated around a U-shaped table facing both Feichter and Love. The bar area featured a variety of local, bottled craft beers and some refreshing spiked lemonade with moonshine (I lost count after glass number four), fresh basil and blackberries (yum). Fox Bros. BBQ catered an immaculate spread: whipping up some incredible bleu cheese potato salad with bacon, moist roasted turkey sliders on sesame seed buns topped with cheese and arugula (licks fingers) and Frito pies topped with shredded cheddar cheese, red onions and brisket chili.

Feichter and Love, who originally teamed up a decade ago to manage a consulting firm for nonprofit and philanthropic giving, reiterated over two hours how delighted they are about #AFWF16 despite having to revise the event annually. “Each year it is as much a labor as love,” confirms Love. “We’re so excited to share with you the next chapters of this event. We have a big job, to shine an international spotlight on the rich food and beverage traditions of the South.”

Against a back wall adjacent to our tables was a color-coded tile of the festival’s events. Feichter’s and Love’s staff listed and described the variation of tasting experiences, seminars, dinners, brunches, panel discussions, classes and cooking demonstrations taking place. “This is not about Atlanta. This is about the South,” stresses Feichter, “and how do we tell that story in a unique way every single year.”

“We’re a little bit festival but also part conference,” Feichter continues. We’re a lot of things, but we always want to find a way to push the festival forward.” Feichter and Love initially formed #AFWF16 after traveling to the Food and Wine Classic in Aspen and immediately noticing the foodie culture’s excitement and sense of community.

This year, Friday’s events will begin later in the day. Classes will primarily take place between Friday and Saturday, so that there is more focus on Sunday’s brunch. #AFWF16 is also making history, hosting the country’s very first pop-up vineyard. The vineyard will also premiere various arts events from Jun. 1-30, performances every Tuesdays and Thursdays.

photo courtesy of Robin Lori
photo courtesy of Robin Lori

Additionally, subsequent themes to be discussed throughout #AFWF16 include ingredients, poor man’s food, immigrant influences, vegetables, state-to-state traditions (or “road trips”) and tequila v. bourbon. The challenge every year Feichter and Love face is ensuring the talent in attendance can expose everyone to something new.

The ladies even encouraged us to be the “megaphone” for sharing our stories and experiences about the annual affair. “Food of place is important to defining who we are as people and as a group,” stresses Love.

“Doing this is telling the story of what’s going on in the South, and what’s going on is really tasty. It’s really exciting. It’s really innovative. It’s really something special to so many of us, and we want Atlanta to be the host and gateway for this.”

 

Christopher A. Daniel is an Atlanta-based journalist, cultural critic, historian, ethnomusicologist, and public intellectual. His work is primarily published digitally on The Burton Wire, where he is site’s music and pop culture editor. He’s also a frequent contributor to Albumism.com and soulhead.com. His work and passion for diversity and multiculturalism have been recognized by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and NewsOne.com. Christopher was also awarded a Community Journalism Fellowship for the U.S. Consulate’s Office of Rio de Janeiro, where he traveled to Salvador, Bahia.

My First Time at The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

I was credentialed for the 2015 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival for the first time ever! This was huge for me because I’d never even attended as a civilian, and now DineWithDani is part of the press to cover the event. My how things change!

Anyway, it was a very rainy day in midtown. After checking in at the Loew’s Hotel and walking the few blocks to the festival grounds, patrons were scuttled into nearby parking garage until the storm [sorta] passed. Those of us waiting in the covered garage were allowed first entry when we the gates finally reopened– after all we were the first there.

I’ll admit a little bit of unwarranted disappointment when I first entered. I saw an area of booths to my left in the mud (um, no) and then I saw a tent full of liquor and sweets. I couldn’t fathom people paying hundreds of dollars for this, but once i got thru the liquor tent, I found two others behind it with all the good stuff!

*sigh* ahhh. This was what the hype was all about. My first bite of real food was an oyster with pot-liquor shaved ice on top. What? Wait, you froze pot liquor and now you’re gonna shave it on top of an oyster? How did you know this is what my heart desired when I didn’t even know? It was everything!

After that I saw barbeque joint after barbeque joint, from one end of the tent to the other. Places from right here in Atlanta to South Carolina to Texas. It was amazing. And they were all decent too. The stand out for me was One Hot Mama from South Carolina. Yes, please! Next time I’m there– that’ll be a stop on the road.

There were chocolatiers, bakeries, new american cuisine, new southern cuisine, indian, italian, and more, serving combinations I couldn’t even imagine. I was blown away by One Flew South. I’d heard good things and they were happily confirmed with some type of fava bean, chicken cracklin-something that made me dance. I ate at that booth twice!

There were bourbon companies, tequilas, beers, vodkas, wines. And I. Was. Lit. About halfway through. If you’re not into the food, no worries, there is plenty of booze to keep you occupied. But then, why wouldn’t you be into the food? The tasting tents are the best part of the festival right? WRONG!

The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival offers VIP experiences like cooking demonstrations, dinners, book signings, parties, trainings, etc. I heard so many wonderful things about those that I can not wait to attend next year! Hopefully as credentialed media so I can actually interview the amazing chefs who come from all over the country. And maybe even as a presenter! I met a group of ladies, The Cocktail Bandits, who presented this year. I’m already in love with what they offer. So I now know that the standard is pretty high! Much like the ticket prices.

I won’t pretend that this festival is in everyone’s reach. A day pass is more than $100 for the tents alone. The VIP experiences come at a VIP premium. But if you want to make it happen, you won’t be disappointed. For some food festivals you have to pay to enter and then pay for tickets to get the food. At the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival all of the samples/small plates are included in your ticket price. No surprises, no tickets, no long lines to re-up when you run low on tickets. I actually think I prefer this model because I know what it will cost up front to have the full experience.

I’ve made a slideshow of photos provided to me because my camera got wet. Womp womp. But I posted a few iphone videos on the official Dine With Dani facebook page from the festival grounds. I got all made up that morning, but you’ll can see how frizzy my hair got in the rain, how runny my makeup was from the steam and how glossy my eyes were from all the bourbon.

Anyway, when you see tickets go on sale for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival– be sure to grab them. It’s totally worth it. Wear comfortable shoes, check the weather report before leaving the house and if you have a wine glass lanyard– bring it! Trust me, I’m an expert now!

AFWF 2015.

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN… Taste of Atlanta!

Taste of Atlanta

I always get really excited about Taste of Atlanta! When I started this blog, I ate out all the time! But these days, I’m planning a wedding and cook more frequently than ever! This year I look forward to restaurants bringing the crowd favorites and hopefully some new bites too! I’ll probably get the VIP Experience again because wine makes everything better.

For more information about Taste of Atlanta, click HERE. I’ll see you there!

Rio de Janeiro… Salgueiro Samba School

This is the first in a series of posts related to my recent trip to Rio de Janeiro Brazil. It was an amazing experience. And I look forward to sharing it with you all.

On August 16, 2014, I had the opportunity to visit the popular Samba School Salgueiro in Rio de Janeiro with friends. It was so much fun! The music, the dancing, the pageantry, the drinks, the food, the people… All of that together nearly sent me into sensory overload.I hope you all enjoy this extended compilation of clips!

For other images and information about my trip, be sure to like the page on Facebook!

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