Reporter's Notebook

Urban Foraging and Oysters: Lessons from the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

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"Oysters & Beer" and "Urban Foraging."

Those were the two sessions we were lucky enough to attend at this year’s Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, held in the city’s Midtown district last weekend. In addition, of course, to a whirlwind two hours in the events tasting tents—and eating nearly our weight in pork-based products.

What was great about the festival was how laid back it was, even for the resident experts and chiefs. These Southern chefs don’t have anything to prove—they know they’re good. But they sure are happy to show folks that there’s a whole lot more to Southern cooking than fried chicken, grits and collard greens (although those things are great, too.)

Here are my seven takeaways from my brief, but wonderful time at the Southern-pride-laden event:

  • There are super-smart people with Ph.D.s who can explain how oysters breed, what makes them tasty, and tell you when its best to eat Gulf Coast or East Coast oysters. Hint: The seasons are opposite. (Thanks for the tips, Bill Walton. Now I’m hungry.)
  • Bourbon is delicious, even when served in a mint julep before Noon.
  • Well-made chicken biscuits are not overrated. Not even a little bit. Neither is pork belly.
  • It’s perfectly OK to refer to oysters as “cupcakes” or “brawlers,” depending on how hard they are to shuck. Good to know, Chef Bryan Caswell.
  • Goose Island’s 312 beer is just as delicious in Chicago as it is served in a glass on a hot summer day in Atlanta. This shocks me. And I love it.
  • According to Chef Kyle Kelley of Washington D.C., it’s possible to find herbs for garnishing just about anywhere—even an urban park. The chef found fresh, lemony wood sorrel and  chickweed right in the middle of the highly manicured Piedmont Park.  Pro tips: Know what poison ivy looks like, and stay away. Don’t eat the urban mushrooms.
  • In the South on a Sunday, it’s fine to drink a mint julep before 12:30 p.m. Heck, it’s encouraged. 

Why are you reading still reading this? Go make one. Now.

 

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Reporter's Notebook is NRN's newsroom blog, where our editors give their points of view on news happening in the restaurant business.

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