The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival returns for its 7th year this June, showcasing the best of the South’s restaurants, food, drinks, spirits and beyond.
From Thursday, June 1st through Sunday, June 4th, unique food and beverage traditions from Texas to D.C. will be served up in more than 80 Learning Experiences, plus dinners, events and the can’t miss all-you-can-indulge Tasting Tents.
Coming together for the four day fete in Midtown Atlanta are award-winning chefs, mixologists, barbecue pit-masters, sommeliers, mixologists and local growers.
The best strategy is to come prepared with how you want to travel through the South. Is it through food? There are Learning Experiences about barbecue sauce, soul food vegetables and oysters. Is it through drinks? There is Bourbon, southern craft beers and Virginia’s award-winning wine. Or are you looking for a global experience, going beyond Atlanta to other southern regions around the globe? There’s Chilean, South African and Australian wine seminars, and even one on sake.
One thing is for sure – no matter the event, you’ll experience the best in wine and food. Be sure to share it via social media, with hashtags #AFWF17 and #KnowTheSouth.
If you don’t yet have tickets, here are the details:
Individual Tasting Tent Pass – $100 per Tasting Tent ticket
Day Pass – $175 per day
Weekend Pass – $435 for full weekend
Connoisseur Experience –$600 – $1,800 per ticket
Dinners & Evening Events – $25 – $225 per person, per dinner/event
The Tasting Tents are open Friday, 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm; Saturday, 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm; and Sunday, 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm.
Extra advice: wear comfy shoes so you can enjoy the festival to its fullest extent. The main action happens at the Loews Hotel at 1065 Peachtree Street NE, and the Tasting Tents are located a short walk away, at Piedmont Park’s Greensward Promenade (there is a shuttle from the Loews and golf carts from the 12th street entrance to Piedmont Park). Taking public transportation or Uber is recommended, or have a designated driver. Guests must be 21 years of age or older.
Cognac meets Kentucky in the latest release from Martell, the oldest and one of the best known Cognac houses. Introducing Martell Blue Swift, a VSOP Cognac finished in Kentucky bourbon casks.
Martell Blue Swift was unveiled at an exclusive launch party in downtown Atlanta earlier this month. After guests sipped on Martell VSOP cocktails, brand ambassador Karim Lateef pushed back a wall revealing a room dedicated to Martell Blue Swift. The celebration then kicked into high gear with a DJ, live artist painting and tastings of Blue Swift on its own and in cocktails.
Blue Swift is a spirit that represents the partnership between France and America. Martell was the first to ship its Cognac to the United States more than 230 years ago. The name is a tribute to Martell’s swift emblem, a bird that can fly for extremely long distances, including across the Atlantic Ocean.
Blue Swift is an Eau de Vie de Vin. It starts with a base of high quality Cognac, the VSOP, and then spends additional time aging in Kentucky Bourbon casks. The VSOP has flavors of candied fruit and plum, while the bourbon casks impart notes of vanilla and smoky oak. Round and smooth, Martell Blue Swift can be enjoyed on its own or in cocktails. My favorite way to sip it is mixed with ginger ale.
The summer of rosé has come to an end but the fall brings new ways to drink pink beyond wine.
Here’s what we’ll be sipping: Pink Limoncello.
It’s the first ever pink take on the Italian lemon liqueur. Pink Limoncello is made by LiDestri Spirits, based in Rochester, New York.
If you’ve never had limoncello before, it tastes like intensely concentrated lemonade but better, because booze. Beyond Pink Limoncello’s taste – the ideal mix of sweet citrus and a touch of tartness – the bottle is so pretty you’ll want to display it.
Sure, you can sip Pink Limoncello chilled or on the rocks but there are so many more ways to enjoy it. It’s delicious in cocktails, and adds a nice pop of color to celebrations. Pink Limoncello is perfect for bridal and baby showers.
Here are some recipes from LiDestri to get you started:
Fizzy Pink Slipper
1 part LiDestri Pink Limoncello
3 parts Prosecco or Champagne
Serve in a champagne flute and garnish with fresh berries.
Pink Party Sangria
1 Bottle of White Wine
1 Liter of Club Soda
3 Cups Pink Lemonade
1 ½ Cups LiDestri Pink Limoncello
1 Cup Fresh Raspberries, sliced
1 Lemon, sliced
1 Tbsp. Powdered Sugar
Garnish with a Strawberry
Mix together in a large pitcher.
Sixpence Blueberry and Rye
1 oz LiDestri Pink Limoncello
4 basil leaves
1½ oz Redemption Rye Whiskey
½ oz fresh lemon juice
2 oz blackberry soda
blackberries for garnish
It even makes a great salad dressing! Whisk together 2 oz. of LiDestri Pink Limoncello with 1/2 oz. apple cider vinegar, avocado oil and salt.
The art of mixology will be on display next February at a new fundraiser for the High Museum of Art.
Introducing Highball, the museum’s first craft cocktail competition. On February 18, 2017, twelve of Atlanta’s top mixologists will shake, stir and serve an original cocktail, with guests getting to sample each and vote on their favorite. There will also be light bites from Sterling Spoon catering and music from DJ Teknology.
At the event there will be a “People’s Choice” winner, decided by the guests, and a “Critic’s Choice” decided by a local expert based on appearance, taste, complexity, balance and originality. In addition to bragging rights, the winning mixologist will receive a cash prize.
Single tickets to Highball are $100 for museum members and $125 for not-yet members. Benefactor packages start at $500. All proceeds will benefit the High Museum of Art. The event is 21 and up.
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
Highball is an aperitif to the museum’s main fundraiser (and one of my favorite events), the 25th annual High Museum Wine Auction, to be held March 22 to 25, 2017.
The tough decisions start just moments after you arrive at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. Do you want a traditional margarita, a tamarind margarita, spicy margarita, lychee margarita or mango margarita?
The decision is made easier by knowing you’ll be able to sample all of them and more during your stay at the luxury all-inclusive resort on Mexico’s Caribbean Coast. Emphasis on the luxury – from checking in to dining out, enjoying the white sand beach, three pools or world renowned spa, not a single detail has been overlooked.
You’ll feel pampered, spoiled and blissfully relaxed. I know, as I had the opportunity to spend four days there and I’m ready to go back.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya is located near Playa del Carmen on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It’s about a 45 minute drive south from Cancun International Airport, an easy flight from just about anywhere in the United States.
The giant white-walled gated entrance offers a hint at what’s beyond. Pass through and you’re enveloped in the jungle, a drive that helps with the transition from work to pleasure.
The first section, or ‘ambiance’ of the all-suites resort you’ll come to is Zen. Designed to blend in with the surroundings, this ambiance is all about peace and relaxation. Palapas-covered raised walkways take you from the lobby to your suite, your escort a member of the staff assigned to assist you with anything you need during your stay. Each suite has a large spa tub and private terrace looking out at a lagoon and mangrove jungle.
The attention to detail is readily apparent. Sparkling wine can be arranged to be on ice in anticipation of your arrival. A bottle of Grand Velas Tequila sits above the fully stocked mini bar (raid it as many times as you like, it’s part of the luxury all-inclusive experience). There’s a Nespresso machine and high-end teas. L’Occitane bath and body products. An umbrella if there’s rain. And bug spray just in case (though as of this posting there has been only 1 case of Zika reported in the Cancun area).
I stayed in the Zen ambiance the first night of my stay. Waking up the next morning and enjoying coffee and breakfast on the patio was pure heaven. (In-suite dining is available 24 hours a day and included in the all-inclusive experience.)
Each of the three ambiances has a pool, gym, bars and restaurants. There are readily available shuttles to take you around so you can experience it all.
The family-friendly Ambassador ambiance is ideally located steps from the white sand beach and the resort’s largest pool. Nearby the Kid’s Club and Teen Club have been decked out with the latest in gaming and entertainment, guaranteeing they’ll have fun while you get to relax.
If you’re looking to reconnect with that special someone in the ultimate setting, you’ll want to stay in the Grand Class section. Exclusively for adults and teens 16 years of age and older, the Grand Class offers views, luxury and beyond, and you can enjoy it while sitting in the soaking tub on your balcony. Also worth noting, the giant spa bathtub that can probably fit six adults, no exaggeration.
I thought nothing could top breakfast on the terrace at my Zen suite until I was sipping bubbly in the soaking tub on my balcony looking out at the Caribbean Sea.
The all-inclusive portion of your stay at Grand Velas Riviera Maya feels like the most decadent indulgence. It’s the adult version of being a kid in a candy shop; eat and drink whatever you want, and you’ll want to taste it all.
First, the drinks. You’ll find premium liquors and high quality wines from around the world available throughout the resort, all included. Want an introduction to tequila or mezcal? Host an impromptu tasting yourself! Your bartender will give you a pour from all the bottles you’d like. Decide you want to switch from a mango margarita to a lychee one while lounging at the infinity pool? There are plenty of poolside servers, or my recommendation, float over to the swim-up bar.
Next, the food. You won’t find fine dining like this at any other all-inclusive resort. Choose among the restaurants offering Mexican, French, Italian or Asian cuisine. You’ll find dishes prepared to the highest standards, and flavors to match any top restaurant. In fact, Cocina De Autor, Grand Velas Riviera Maya’s signature restaurant, has been awarded the American Automobile Association’s Five Diamond award – it’s the only restaurant in an all-inclusive to receive this honor.
The fun continues late into the night at any of Grand Velas’ bars. Listen to live music at the Piano Bar, or belt out your favorite tune at the Karaoke Bar. Of course if you just want to sit on your balcony and listen to waves lap at the beach, that’s fine too.
A stay at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya is not complete without a visit to the spa. Appropriately located in the Zen ambiance, the region’s largest luxury spa incorporates elements of the natural environment in its two-level, 89,000 plus square-foot space.
Your treatment begins with a Water Journey. Alternating hot and cold treatments culminate in a warm water pool with bubbles, jets and waterfalls designed to help you sink deep into relaxation.
I enjoyed a Therapeutic Velas Maya massage during my stay. The deep tissue massage is uniquely tailored to each guest, with various techniques to help relieve stress and tension. The massage, coupled with the Water Journey, was easily one of the top spa experiences I have ever had. I was the most relaxed I had been in ages.
Spa treatments vary in price and are not included in the all-inclusive rate.
You could easily spend your entire vacation on the Riviera Maya at the Grand Velas resort. But there is plenty to see and do nearby. You can explore the shops and restaurants of downtown Playa del Carmen. Tulum and its famous ruins are located about 45 miles away, and a bit farther is Chichen Itza. Xcaret, an eco-archaeological park is about 20 minutes away. Check out a video of the Butterfly Pavilion below.
If you’re looking for an excuse to visit in October, the Best of Mexico Riviera Maya will be held from October 5th to 9th. Five internationally-known Mexican chefs will team up for a 10-course tasting menu that will be offered over the four nights. It is included in the all-inclusive pricing.
The $250 million Grand Velas Riviera Maya offers 539 suites ranging in size from 1,184 to 3,767 square feet. Nightly rates start at $393 per person per night based on double occupancy.
As if you needed an excuse to enjoy one of Tin Lizzy’s delicious margaritas, the restaurants are adding a little extra sunshine to their signature drink.
Tin Lizzy’s Cantina has partnered with Sunshine On A Ranney Day, a 501(c)(3) a non-profit based in Atlanta that creates dream room and home make-overs for children with long-term illnesses. All ten locations of Tin Lizzy’s are giving 10% of proceeds from their signature “Sunshine Margarita” to the charity.
The Sunshine Margarita is a blend of El Jimador Blanco Tequila, Agavero Orange Liqueur and sour mix. It is available for $6.95 per glass and $26.95 per pitcher through December 2015.
Twin Smokers offers a casual setting that focuses on the food. You place your order at the counter. Tables offer street views or views of the twin smokers – named Elizabeth and Matthew after the owner’s children. While you’re waiting you can check out the “Wood Library,” the restaurant’s collection of Texas mesquite, hickory, white oak and post oak used in the smokers.
Daily the chicken, pork and sausages are smoked over hickory and white oak in Elizabeth, and the beef is smoked over Texas mesquite and post oak in Matthew. Using traditional smoking techniques with some modern technology (the smokers have electric thermostats to control the temperature), everything comes out just right.
The southern influenced gastropub is the place to go for a post work drink or dinner with friends. You’ll find a chef-driven menu with locally sourced ingredients in a laid back yet sophisticated setting.
Bourbon fans – and those hoping to discover what makes bourbon so good – will love the cocktail menu. Try the East of Hudson, The Southern Gentleman’s take on a Manhattan, or that week’s Barrel Aged Cocktail. If you want your whiskey without all the fuss, there’s a list of more than 80 kinds of bourbon, rye and Scotch. There’s also a selection of draft and bottled beer, and wine by the glass and bottle.
It’s a good sign when a newly opened restaurant is packed on a Wednesday night. It’s an even better sign when it features a menu that makes you want to order every single dish – and better still when those dishes exceed expectations.
The décor, like the menu, is influenced by Spain with Moroccan and Indian flavors thrown into the mix. It’s that cool spot you would want to happen upon in Granada after an afternoon of sightseeing at the Alhambra.
It’s a see-and-be-seen kind of place, with a layout that makes it at once intimate and good for people watching. The outdoor patio is sure to be packed all weekend, as is the bar area that features a life-size metal bull.