A slab of pork belly on one plate, a miniature bowl of shrimp and grits in the other, and a wine glass around your neck- food festivals turn you into a balancing act and your stomach into an ever-expanding balloon. But for one weekend, it’s all worth it. Whether you’re going for the fine wine, the multitude of tastes from local chefs, or a culinary lesson, here are four summer food festivals in the Southeast that you don’t want to miss.
New Orleans Wine & Food Experience
New Orleans, Louisiana
The 23rd annual weekend festival highlights the pride of New Orleans with tastings of more than 75 of the city’s best restaurants and chefs, like James Beard nominated Restaurant August and chef Justin Devillier of La Petite Grocery. Wine holds precedence here, and more than 1,000 wines, both domestic and international, will be poured. In addition to strolling through the booths for tasting, make a point to go to the “Vinola” fine wine tasting, a sampling of wines with a price tag of no less than $75. And walk off some of the weekend at “The Royal Street Stroll, presented by Rouses” a festive parade down the 200 to 900 blocks of Royal Street.
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival
Midtown Atlanta, Georgia
Beyond a weekend of excessive eating and drinking, you’ll find almost 100 “learning experiences” that you can attend. Famous chefs and cookbook authors from the South share their insight into technique, pairings and the history behind popular cuisines. Food & Wine magazine sponsors the festival, and the South’s top chefs from Texas to D.C. will fly in to present classes and tastes. Don’t miss special events such as “Rathbun’s Watch List” with Kevin and Kent Rathbun at ADAC, or the fourth annual “Southern Tribute Dinner” with courses by Blackberry Farm. As the closest festival to home, Atlanta restaurants saturate the festival with beloved namesakes. Among them: Kevin Gillespie, Anne Quatrano, Asha Gomez, Ford Fry and Steven Satterfield. Plus, Atlanta Food & Wine Festival was featured in USA Today’s 10Best Reader’s Choice: Best Food Festivals.
Farm to Fork
Durham and Hurdle Mills, North Carolina
Farm to Fork is an educational lesson about sustainability sandwiched between two farm-sourced picnics. The guest of honor for the weekend is James Beard award-winning author Paul Greenberg of American Catch, and his lectures focus on addressing sustainable seafood, as well as the state of the fishing industry. More than 24 chefs from Durham, Chapel Hill, Charlotte and other North Carolina food cities participate in the event. Don’t miss the dinner Saturday evening, where Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood Joint and James Clark of Carolina Crossroads Restaurant pair a mullet and clam bake with Greenberg’s discussion of American Catch.
Asheville Wine & Food Festival
Asheville, North Carolina
In the 7th annual Asheville Wine & Food Festival, farm-to-table, craft breweries and mountain distilleries converge on Asheville for three days of tasting. Chefs and mixologists aim to impress during the “Amuse” and “Essence” challenge, where attendees vote for the best sips and tastes. For those with a sweet tooth, the Friday “Sweet” evening is bound to put you in a sugar coma. Pace yourself during the two hours of indulging on chocolates, gelato, confections, and wash it down with champagne, whiskey and wines. Be sure to stop by the tasting booths for Blackbird Restaurant, Red Stag Grill and Chestnut, known as some of Asheville’s treasured restaurants. And being the mountain town Asheville is, you’ll need to sample at least one moonshine, such as Troy and Sons or Howling Moon.