New Southern tastes exhibited at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Southern food and drink continues to reach creative new heights. How about boiled peanuts with foie gras cornbread from chef Cole Ellis of Delta Meat Market in Cleveland, Mississippi, or Summer Basil Farmhouse Ale from Fullsteam Brewery in Durham, North Carolina?

The fifth annual Atlanta Food & Wine Festival served crowds of food-loving fans plenty of sought-after BBQ, fried chicken, pimento cheese and bourbon cocktails. But, the real delight is in the detail of fresh new ways of enjoying Southern taste traditions with a twist. Matt Bolus, chef at the 404 Kitchen in Nashville shared samples of his sweet and spicy whisky jam with bites of thinly sliced ham. Executive chef Tory McPhail of the historic Commander’s Palace restaurant in New Orleans revealed the secrets of making BBQ lamb, beef and pork belly fancy enough for a white tablecloth experience with an elegant presentation and a root beer extract glaze.

Slices of smoked duck ham from chef Steve McHugh of Cured restaurant in San Antonio, Texas, were topped with housemade raspberry mustard. Fluffy fried pork skin snacks called Pork Clouds from Atlanta-based Bacon’s Heir were presented in bold flavors such as habanero pepper. Andrea Upchurch, pastry chef of Cypress in Charleston, brought Orange Creamsicle Cake with mixed berries, and lemon curd.

New Southern cuisine

The myth that all Southern food is deep fried and sugar coated continues to fade as chefs including Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta praised the vegetable as his culinary inspiration in a cooking demo and Dena Marino of MC Kitchen in Miami shared her personal journey of health and a recipe for fresh mozzarella with charred corn, fresh peas and a maple vinaigrette. “We as chefs take care of everyone else and then go home and eat pizza at midnight or pasta at 1 a.m.,” said Marino who’s started a new regime of working out and lightening up her eating habits. “Now I’ll have yogurt or chicken with greens when I come home. It’s pretty amazing how your tastebuds change.”

More tastebuds were put to the challenge during a class featuring fine chocolates studded with crickets, mealworms and dragonflies created by Austin, Texas, chocolatier Nicole Patel of Delysia. “Insects are high in protein and are a sustainable food source for the future. If you compare eating bugs to the introduction of sushi in the ’80s, it’s all about perception.” Maybe you’d rather begin with Delysia’s fried chicken, honey biscuit and cayenne-flavored chocolate truffle.