After scrapping plans to hold the annual, three-day Southern food festival last spring due to the pandemic, then taking the event virtual in the fall, the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival returns September 9. This year’s festival includes four days of dining events and two days of tasting tents at Historic Fourth Ward Park, but takes place without its popular culinary classes held at the Loews Hotel in Midtown.
It’s going to have some company this fall, too, with a new Southern food festival curated by one of the original founders, Elizabeth Feichter. The more intimate Gather ‘round festival takes place October 14 through October 17 at Midtown culinary-themed hotel Epicurean Atlanta, scheduled to open on West Peachtree Street in September.
While still a partial owner in the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, Feichter, Kelly Campbell, and Rebecca Gann formed consulting business Southern Culinary and Creative in 2020, which runs the newly formed food festival. Feichter is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations or planning of the former and says she’s looking forward to just being a guest at the dinners and tasting tents this year.
“I’m beyond thrilled to see the return of in-person events,” Feichter tells Eater. “Not only will it be a wonderful opportunity to enjoy these events as a guest, but I am also looking forward to celebrating the many event industry professionals involved who help make these experiences come to life. It is fabulous to see so many things we love coming back!”
Agency 21, the firm that now owns and operates the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, made the decision to forgo the classes this year at the Loews to focus on the tasting tents and dinner, lunch, and bunch events around the city. A representative for Agency 21 says this was a strategic move given the uncertainty of the pandemic over the last several months, which made planning a festival that typical draws thousands to Atlanta even more difficult. Classes should return to the festival lineup in 2022.
Instead, people attending this year’s Atlanta Food and Wine Festival will be treated to weekend-long tasting tents on September 11 and September 12 that include chef and bartender demonstrations throughout the day, live music, and the return of the cocktail garden. A recent press release indicates the tents will offer a section of local restaurants selected by customer review site Yelp Atlanta. Yelp is also a backer of the festival this year, along with other corporations like Fedex and Shipt. While yet to be announced, the festival will feature a series of dinners, lunches, and brunches, starting on September 9.
According to the press release, Agency 21 partnered with nonprofit food rescue organization Second Helpings Atlanta to collect and donate surplus food left over from the festival this year and plans to donate a portion of the proceeds to African conservation organization Children of Conservation.
As for Gather ‘round, Feichter sees this festival as a return to the early years of Atlanta Food and Wine, a much more intimate affair, with a smaller pool of around 60 chefs, bartenders, and sommeliers, and capped at 500 people for its biggest event.
The four-day festival sees four large events held at Epicurean Atlanta hotel led by a number of well-known Atlanta and Southern chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, and food producers, spotlighting everything from Southern cocktails paired with music and food, to a punch brunch celebrating Southern punch and Southern comfort foods.
For anyone missing the classes at Atlanta Food and Wine, Gather ‘round plans to offer five “master classes” delving into subjects like natural wine, sustainable seafood, and dishes found at restaurants along Buford Highway. Classes are capped at 60 people, taking place at the hotel’s kitchen theater.
A series of collaborative dinners will also be held at restaurants around Atlanta, such as Georgia Boy in Poncey-Highland, Lyla Lila in Midtown, and the soon-to-open Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q at the Works in Underwood Hills. Seating capacity ranges from intimate dinners for eight held at Georgia Boy to a larger dinner event hosting 100 people.
Gather ‘round partnered with Atlanta-based food industry worker relief non-profit Giving Kitchen for its inaugural year.
When asked about concerns over the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant, both Feichter and a representative for Agency 21 say they are monitoring the virus closely and will follow advice from local health officials and the CDC, shifting safety protocols for each festival accordingly.
And for those wondering about the annual Taste of Atlanta this fall. That festival is on hiatus until 2022.
The Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, September 9 - September 12, tasting tents at Historic Fourth Ward Park, September 11 - September 12. Tickets can be purchased here.
Gather ‘round at Epicurean Atlanta hotel, October 14 - October 17. Tickets can be purchased here.