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Event review: Gluten-free finds at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival 2014

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The Atlanta Food and Wine Festival is over and in its wake it leaves many satisfied and hung over foodies. The event encompasses three days of tasting tents full of food,wine, beer, and spirits from the region (AL, GA, NC, SC, TN, TX, and more) coupled with demos, lectures, and dinners led by the elite chefs of our region. The purpose of the event is to showcase the cuisine our region has to offer to encourage you to go out and explore.

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I attended the event as a member of the media and it was my first one. Unfortunately, I was out of town on Friday and Saturday, so I was only able to attend on Sunday. This means I missed out on the rotating companies in the tasting tents, so next year I will be sure to go all three days. As someone who is intolerant to gluten, I am accustomed to attending these types of events and leaving disappointed at the limited options. This was not the case because the chefs were on their game. Many of the offerings were either already gluten free, or they could be served without their gluten counterpart (sans bread, cracker, etc.).

The tasting tents are divided into zones, which made them pretty easy to navigate: Barbecue, Craft Beer, Seafood, Chicken, Breakfast, Sweets & Breads, Bourbon, Snacks & Cheeses, Imports & Inspirations, Southern Wine & Spirits, and Southern Grown. Being a Sunday with the threat of rain, I thought the tents were pretty crowded.

I was honestly shocked at how much booze was available at the event (wine, moonshine, gin, bourbon, vodka, beer, etc.). When you enter, you are given a wine glass and a holder that goes around your neck, so they are expecting you to indulge. Many an attendee was stumbling around with wine stains on their shirt and sauce smeared on their faces. I skipped over the craft beers, wine, and the breakfast area and headed straight to the meat. Here are some of my favorites by zone:

  • Barbecue - I could try pretty much all offerings. My favorites were the Frito Pie from Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q and the Meat and Potatoes from Feast BBQ
  • Seafood - although the options were limited and the lines seemed to be the longest, I did enjoy the Carolina pickled white shrimp with hearts of palm salad and walnut oil vinaigrette from Lumiere in North Carolina.
  • Chicken - Springer Mountain Farms chicken with Tadzhik sauce and salad was light and refreshing
  • Sweets & Breads (sans bread) - brought incredible chocolates from French Broad Chocolates, locally made flavorful gelato from Honeysuckle Gelato, and lusciously smooth Duck Fat Caramels from Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co.
  • Bourbon - this Yankee has finally found bourbon I can get behind from Savannah Sweet Tea Lemonade Bourbon. A great sipping bourbon that goes down smooth and it is quite refreshing.
  • Snacks & Cheese - I picked up some popcorn from Max's Wine Dive out of Texas and I can't wait until they open here later this month. They offer gluten-free fried chicken and champagne that looks delicious and is prepared safely.
  • Southern Wine & Spirits - loved to see Tito's Vodka on hand with tasty punch. I also got to try Stella Artois' new Cidre and I got to bring home the glass. Lots of cocktails were on hand too, but it was too much for me.
  • Southern Grown - Brick & Tin out of Alabama served up Stewed Collards with Spicy Lima Bean Relish. It was simple food and it was perfectly seasoned, so I ate every bite. The tomato meringue, mozzarella, balsamic, micro greens, flowers and tomato ash from Woodfire Grill was a beautiful interpretation of a caprese salad and it was interesting to eat.

When I was walking back to my car I noticed I had barbecue sauce on my phone and meat in my wine glass, so I guess my first experience at this annual event was a success. I would definitely go back next year and I encourage all of you gluten-free foodies to do the same!

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