by Christopher A. Daniel (@journalistorian)
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.”
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.
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.