As one who’s been doing Taste of Atlanta since 2012, I can say with absolute certainty that the event literally gets better (and bigger) every year.
A taste of the layout
If you’ve never been to a food festival, craft show, outside, etc., then let me paint a picture. Taste of Atlanta takes place on the intersection of 5th and Spring Streets in Tech Square in Midtown Atlanta. The streets are lined with tents representing some of the city’s best restaurants. Each restaurant has anywhere from one to three bites that you can “purchase” with tasting tickets.
The more you know…
Amidst all of this, there are stages like The Kitchen Workshop, The Chef’s Table, Big Green Egg, Family Food Zone, and the VIP tent (more on that later) where chefs and culinary celebrities do cooking demos and classes. As an unabashedly star-struck person who loves food shows, I’m always curious to see what fabulous person they bring in to host The Kitchen Workshop. In 2014, it was Top Chef winner Kristen Kish; in the class, we made an awesome ratatouille (I think … I was pretty over the moon just seeing her in person … I’m lucky I didn’t chop off a finger).
This year’s celebrity host was the latest The Next Food Network Star winner Tregaye Fraser, which was awesome because I was definitely on Team Tregaye last season not only because she was hilarious, but also because her food always sounded amazing. In real life, Tregaye is as charming, sweet, and funny as she is on TV (side note: her new Food Network show will be a talk show called “The Kitchen Sink!” because there’s nothing Tregaye won’t cover or teach her audience on the show). Saturday, she taught the audience how to make lobster grilled cheese. It was so on fleek.
In case you didn’t know, “on fleek” was Tregaye’s trademark phrase on Food Network Star. As a consummately unhip mother, when I first heard her say “on fleek”, I thought she was talking about a street where there were a bunch of amazing restaurants. I remember sitting there on my couch with my baked potato (when you’re a parent, your personal standards tend to fall) and my glass of rosé wine (what? A girl’s gotta live) like, “Husband, Google Fleek Street! I want to go to there!” Then I realized two things: one is that “on fleek” is a way of saying something is cool, and two, I’m not “on fleek”. Anyway, I digress. Getting to meet Tregaye was on fleek. Even my baby cried when she met Chef Tregaye (my baby’s like me … she has zero chill).
It’s a family affair
Oh, I hadn’t mentioned I had my baby with me? Well, why not? Despite the crowds, Taste of Atlanta is definitely a great family-fun to-do. I’ve brought my family with me since 2012 when I found out (exactly one week after buying VIP tickets) that I was (surprise!) expecting my first baby. (As an aside, nothing is sadder than walking around the VIP tent with your completely empty complimentary VIP wine glass, which I guess technically makes it the most expensive wine glass I own).
This year, my in-laws joined us (husband, two kids, me), and my brother-in-law flew in from Brooklyn to join us. So, after the tasting on the main street, my husband, brother-in-law, and I hit the VIP tent (and this time I wasn’t pregnant!). But more on that later. Let’s talk about the food.
Food as far as the eye can see
Since the VIP tent is a stroller-free (read, no kids) zone, we ate our way around Tech Square first. Like I said before, this year had the biggest spread of restaurants. BBQ, Mediterranean, American, Asian … Waffle House … there’s nothing that’s not covered.
There are also a lot of sweet eats. My three-year-old’s favorite foods were Ray’s NY Pizza’s cheese pizza and Revolution Gelato’s double-scoop (chocolate and vanilla). She insisted on seconds. My husband and I shared their mango and cappuccino flavors.
Anyway, I won’t turn you pea-green with envy by describing every bite in loving detail, but I will say that Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q’s made-from-scratch macaroni and cheese topped with pulled pork (or chicken) was a big hit with my family.
Hobnob’s pork and veal meatloaf with basil mashed potatoes and tomato & red pepper relish warmed me through-and-through in the (welcome) windy, chilly fall weather.
Finally, my first bite from True Food Kitchen, the autumn ingredient salad, which featured brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and carrots, was a complex and delicious contrast to the rich cuisine being served by other restaurants.
VIP Grand Tasting Experience FTW
Eventually, the tickets were spent, the kids were asleep, and it was time for my husband, brother-in-law, and me to hit the VIP tent. Wine and beer were presented by Hop City Craft Beer & Wine. George Dickel, Leaf Vodka, Choya, and others provided samples of spirits and mixed cocktails. The VIP experience included representation by other restaurants. Since we were late coming to proverbial party, we didn’t get to try everything available at Saturday’s Grand Tasting, but we did sample:
- Lady Bird Grove and Mess Hall’s smoked quail with creamy grits, crispy sage, and mushroom butter
- Oak Steakhouse’s CAB strip with blue cheese truffle and caramelized onion crostinis (and yes, blue cheese truffle is as to-die-for as it sounds)
- STK Atlanta’s glazed beef short rib with horseradish cream
- Cape Dutch’s braised rabbit leg with a Belgian ale grain-mustard sauce, roasted shallots, carrots, and spinach-whipped potatoes
We wandered around the tent trying various bubblies, malbecs, cabs, rosés, sauvignon blancs (my favorite), beers, spirits, and others. The sun was shining; the wine flowed freely; everyone was cool … I almost asked an exquisitely dressed older gentleman where he got his sweater (and his wife, her suede booties). It was an awesome way to end the day. It was on fleek.
Stay tasty, Atlanta
As we left, I felt like Cinderella and walked the length of Spring Street to Ted Turner Boulevard and back to responsible adulthood. The party was over, but I had a blast … and a commemorative glass object (in this case, my VIP Grand Tasting wine glass) to remember the magic by (and to occasionally recreate the magic at home). Needless to say, I can’t wait until next year.