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When the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival debuted in 2010, the focus fell squarely on the deliciously expected: barbecue and bourbon. “There was lots of pork and bourbon in year one,” says Dominique Love, CEO and co-founder.
This year, the festival’s third incarnation—held May 30 through June 2 in Midtown Atlanta—displays a whole new kind of flavor, focusing on the South’s Latin roots, locally grown vegetables and women in the industry. And though delectable food is inarguably the star, education plays a sizable role.
“It’s kind of a cross between a festival and a conference,” explains Love, who was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, spent summers on her family’s farm in Mississippi and has lived in Atlanta for 18 years. “We really focus a lot on learning. So at the core of everything we do here is this desire to take our consumers deeper into the South.”
The event is the only one of its kind in the country devoted entirely to Southern cuisine and drink, focusing on the region stretching from Texas to Washington, D.C. Tasting tents take visitors on food-geared journeys via various “trails,” including seafood, barbecue and farm-grown fare, which showcase chefs and mixologists. A hundred cooking and technique classes (as well as cocktail demonstrations) give practical instruction, and festive evening dinners bring things together.
Three key themes—old traditions (classic Southern dishes), new traditions (emerging trends) and “other Southern” (dishes and inspirations from destinations like southern Europe) —anchor the fest. But one motif is sure to rise above as it does every year: pride. “Southerners are born loving their region,” says Love. “It’s in our DNA.” May 30–June 2; 404-474-7330; atlfoodandwinefestival.com.