Chefs share recipes from the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, in its fifth year, will be May 28-31 in Midtown.

Billed as a “decadent weekend of Southern food and drink,” the event, which was founded in 2010 by Atlantans Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter, features tasting tents with “culinary trails,” and three days of classes, dinners and events hosted by an array of food and beverage experts.

But the heart and soul of the festival is the diversity of Southern chefs who lend support on the advisers council, then come together to cook and talk and mix and mingle all weekend, representing both the traditions and emerging trends in Southern cooking.

In anticipation of AFWF 2015, we asked three chefs who will be on the program this year to share a bit of what they’ll be presenting, along with some recipes.

Cassidee Dabney is the new executive chef of The Barn at Blackberry Farm, an award-winning restaurant on a 9,200-acre estate in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

Though new to the top job, Dabney came to Blackberry Farm in 2010 and worked her way up through the ranks, starting as a sous chef.

“I’m pretty funny, and I’m really into having a lot fun and making playful food,” Dabney says of her style.“And I like to have fun with people’s ideas of Southern food and what we’re doing here on the farm.

“A lot of people, especially if they’re not from the South, think we’re just cooking grits and making dumplings. But I like to take vegetables and other ingredients and turn them into something a little fresher and more modern, while still evoking things that people enjoy.”

This will be Dabney’s first year at AFWF and her first year helming the annual Blackberry Farm Tribute to Southern Growers Dinner, which will feature products from farmers in Tennessee and North Carolina.

“I’m totally excited because this dinner puts a spotlight on the amazing artisans and producers that make everything we do as a restaurant possible,” Dabney says. “Fantastic, simple ingredients make for amazing dishes.”

The first course for the dinner is what Dabney calls a Marinated Garden Green Salad. It celebrates farmer Mike Zavel and produce from his Zavel Family Farms in Tennessee.

“Mike has wonderful kale, and Swiss chard and collard greens,” Dabney says. “They are great raw or marinated and they hold up to being marinated or dressed. With shaved vegetables like fennel and radishes, this is very versatile salad, and by simply adjusting to what’s in season, a home cook can make it all year.”

Originally from rural Pennsylvania, executive chef Scott Crawford gained awards and acclaim, including two James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southeast nominations, for his cooking at Woodlands Resort & Inn in Summerville, S.C., the Georgian Room at The Cloister Hotel in Sea Island, Ga., and the Umstead Hotel and Spa and Herons restaurant in Carey, N.C.

But now, with business partner John Holmes, Crawford is set to open two new concepts of his own in downtown Raleigh, N.C.

Standard Foods in Person Street Plaza will be a combination full-service restaurant, neighborhood grocery and a whole animal butchery. Nash Tavern in the old Raleigh Times building overlooking Nash Square will be a modern American tavern.

“I really wanted to get into something more organic, that felt more like a true expression of me and the food that I wanted to cook,” Crawford says. “It wasn’t luxury, special-occasion food. I got good at that over the years, and I delivered some beautiful experiences. But it just wasn’t in my heart to do that for the rest of my career.”

Crawford is an AFWF veteran who will present a class this year called The Clean Journey. One of the featured dishes, Summer Salad with Pickled Peppers and Fermented Vidalia Onion Vinaigrette, is about quick pickling and fermentation as a way to create flavor.

“I came to the South 25 years ago, and I never looked back,” Crawford says.“I love the South. I love how food relates to culture and vice versa here. I love the way it is progressing but still honors traditions. It’s just a very unique region.”

After being diagnosed with adult-onset type 1 diabetes, Crawford had to begin viewing food from a more personal perspective, learning more about how it affected his own health and well-being.

“It became very personal to me,” Crawford says. “I just took a different approach. That’s evident in the Summer Salad recipe, and it relates to my class because it shows how we can build flavors from some of our favorite traditional Southern methods such as pickling in a clean, modern dish. We’re relying on tried and true Southern technique with vibrant results as opposed to fat and sugar bombs.”

Best known as the chef behind the Atlanta boutique charcuterie Spotted Trotter, Kevin Ouzts opened his first restaurant, the Cockentrice, in the city’s Krog Street Market in early 2015.

The Cockentrice is defined by a celebration of butchery and charcuterie, and Ouzts’ cooking is aimed at pushing the boundaries of preparing and pairing meat, while acknowledging his debts to the past.

At AFWF, Ouzts will be joining wine educator Julie Dalton for class called The Art of Pairing Sweet and Savory, which will delve into dessert pairings with non-dessert wines and how contrasting flavors can be a good thing.

For something a little closer to his style, Ouzts gave us a recipe from the Cockentrice for Grilled Bread Pudding with Quail and Rabbit.

“During the spring and summer months in the South, we know folks get a little burnt out on the same old grilled items,” Ouzts says. “This recipe is a great way to mix up the grill and do something fun and unique. At The Spotted Trotter and the Cockentrice we sell bread every day. And for those breads that don’t get used, we decided to make a delicious savory bread pudding to celebrate the season, with spring onions, as well as the use of the whole animal to distinguish new flavors not commonly seen on the grill.”

Ouzts, an Atlanta native who joined the AFWF advisers council this year, has some thoughts about the role of the festival

“To me, it’s one of the most progressive events in food in the country,” he says. “To be able to share, celebrate, and pontificate the amazing journey of where the South has been, where we are now, and where we hope to be in the future, is something our chefs and culinary team look forward to every year.”


These three Southern-chef recipes celebrate the flavors of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival.

Marinated Garden Green Salad With Fennel, Radish, Turnip, Feta, Garlic Confit and Rosemary, from chef Cassidee Dabney of The Barn at Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee.

This is a very versatile salad that can be adapted to the bounty of your local farmers market. In the summer months, substitute cherry tomatoes for the turnips and thinly sliced raw green beans for the radish

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced on a mandolin

½ cup grape seed oil

1 large bulb of fennel, thinly sliced on a mandolin and fronds reserved

4 radishes, thinly sliced on mandolin

2 turnips, thinly sliced on a mandolin

¼ pound crumbled feta

Garlic confit oil

2 tablespoons good quality red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon soft, spring rosemary, chopped

½ pound assorted hearty local greens, such as kale, Swiss chard, or small collards, cleaned with stems removed

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small, non-reactive sauce pot, steep the shaved garlic and oil at a very low temperature for 15 minutes, cool and reserve.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced fennel, radish, turnips, crumbled feta, garlic confit oil, vinegar and rosemary. Toss until all the ingredients are incorporated, season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper. Allow these ingredients to marinate for 10 minutes. Right before serving, toss the assorted greens into the marinated vegetables. Garnish with the reserved fennel fronds.

Serves: 6

Per serving: 260 calories (percent of calories from fat, 75), 5 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 23 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 17 milligrams cholesterol, 276 milligrams sodium.

Summer Salad With Pickled Peppers, Peaches and Fermented Vidalia Onion Vinaigrette, from chef Scott Crawford of Standard Foods in Raleigh, N.C.

To make this healthy and flavorful summer salad, you will need one week for fermenting the Vidalia onions. For immediate results, fresh Vidalia onion juice can be substituted for the fermented onions.

For the salad:

1 cucumber, sliced

1 Georgia peach, peeled and sliced

1 batch baby sweet pickled peppers (see recipe)

1 summer squash, sliced

1 batch fermented Vidalia onions (see recipe)

6 yellow wax beans, sliced

6 Sun Gold tomatoes cut in half

4 large strawberries cut in half

1 cup arugula leaves, torn into small pieces

10 tarragon leaves, torn into small pieces

6 large opal basil leaves, torn into small pieces

3 large Thai basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Top of one fennel bulb, torn into small pieces

1/4 cup Romano cheese, microplaned

For the pickled peppers:

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon pickling spice

1 sprig thyme

3 baby sweet peppers, sliced

In a small saucepan heat vinegar, salt, sugar, spices and thyme. Remove from heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine sieve over peppers. Place in refrigerator and allow to cool.

For the fermented Vidalia onions:

1 cup Vidalia onions, shredded

2 ounces white wine

5 teaspoons salt

5 teaspoons sugar

Mix all ingredients in a stainless bowl then transfer to a glass jar and cover with a coffee filter and rubber band. Be sure the mixture is covered with liquid. Store at 80-90 degrees for at least one week.

For the vinaigrette:

¼ cup fermented Vidalia onions

¼ cup cane vinegar

½ cup grape seed oil

salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, mix fermented Vidalia onions, cane vinegar and grape seed oil. Gently whisk. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve:

In a large bowl, toss vegetables, fruits, arugula and herbs with vinaigrette. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Present in chilled bowls and top with cheese.

Serves: 4

Per serving, entire recipe: 371 calories (percent of calories from fat, 70), 5 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 30 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 7 milligrams cholesterol, 1,025 milligrams sodium.

Grilled Bread Pudding With Quail and Rabbit, from chef Kevin Ouzts of the Cockentrice in Atlanta, Georgia.

This recipe for savory bread pudding is a great way to do something fun and unique with grilled meats and leftover bread. Spring onions add another layer of flavor.

¾ pound boneless quail breasts, brined overnight in 1 quart buttermilk, ¼ cup salt and ¼ cup sorghum syrup

¾ pound boneless rabbit (or chicken thighs), marinated overnight in ¼ cup olive oil and an assortment of fresh chopped herbs, such as thyme, tarragon, parsley, chives and chopped garlic.

2 ½ cups spring onions, chopped

2 tablespoons duck fat or olive oil

½ cup chicken or rabbit hearts, diced small

½ cup brandy, such as Applejack or Calvados

4 eggs, beaten

2 cups cream

1 tablespoon fresh thyme , minced

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced

1 tablespoon dried savory

1 tablespoon fresh parsley , minced

2 tablespoons fresh chives , minced

1 tablespoon garlic paste

1 cup Boursin cheese

4 cups diced toasted artisanal bread, such as H&F pretzel bread

1 cup washed rind cheese, such as Meadow Creek Grayson or Taleggio

2 tablespoons salt

½ tablespoon crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons butter

To prepare the pudding:

Heat a grill pan to high or grill on a gas or charcoal grill.

Drain the the quail and the rabbit and grill until the meats reach an internal reading of 140-145 degrees. Allow to rest until cool to the touch. Shred and set aside.

In a large sautee pan over medium heat cook the green onions and rabbit or chicken hearts in duck fat or olive oil until soft and caramelized. Deglaze the pan with the brandy and set aside to cool on a baking sheet.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and all herbs and garlic paste. Whisk in the Boursin cheese. Add the cooked onion mixture, and the bread cubes. Let rest, in the refrigerator, for three hours or overnight.

To bake the pudding:

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter a large lasagna pan. Spread the pudding in the pan and bake, covered with foil, for 15 minutes and then remove the foil and continue to cook until golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Move to a cooling rack and then to the refrigerator to chill, covered, for 2 hours or until ready to serve.

To serve:

Heat a grill pan to medium-high.

Remove the pudding from the pan and slice into desired serving portions.

Butter each slice and sear until heated through with a nice char on each side.

Plate with a cold slaw or a salad with radishes and a high acid dressing, such as vinaigrette.

Serves: 8-12

Per serving, based on 12: 465 calories (percent of calories from fat, 74), 18 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 37 grams fat (21 grams saturated), 200 milligrams cholesterol,1,610 milligrams sodium.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. Atlanta. News. Now.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. Atlanta. News. Now.

With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.

Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.