Angel Postell, executive director of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, left today on what she's calling her Southern Food Road Trip. She and a small group of friends and co-workers will be hitting the Atlanta Food + Wine Festival before heading across the South, meeting up with an assorted collection of chefs, friends, and foodies, their final destination: Memphis in May. In lieu of going along and documenting this trip myself, I asked Angel if she'd send us dispatches from the road. This first one gives some background on the trip:
Before we start this little adventure, here's some background on how it all came about. Chef John Currence of City Grocery (Oxford, Miss.) is the one to blame or thank (we'll make that call when this is all over). Currence, a featured chef of past festivals, provided an amazing auction item for our Farm Feast fundraiser — a trip to Oxford to taste and tour his restaurants and then a trip to Memphis to hang with the infamous Fatback Collective cooking team. For those not familiar with Fatback, it's a group that formed over bourbon and barbecue. Members include Currence, Sean Brock, John T. Edge, Donald Link, Rodney Scott, and Drew Robinson to name a few. I was not about to pass up a chance to hang with that posse, so I bid high and often and won the auction item.
Some of my teammates at the festival already planned to attend the second annual Atlanta Food + Wine Festival, which takes place this weekend, a week before the Oxford/Memphis trip. It made sense to turn the whole thing into a Southern food road trip. We were inspired by Sean Brock who did something similar earlier this year.
The "team" I refer to (and who will be providing commentary during the trip as well) is Randi Weinstein, the festival's director of events, and Sara Donahue, the events and program manager. We have traveled a lot together and seem to have a good balance. We also invited one of our favorite friends and supporters, Lisa Buzzelli (hospitality instructor at the Culinary Institute of Charleston).
The original plan involved renting an RV, but that wasn't feasible once we looked into it, so we'll be driving a regular old car. After leaving Atlanta, we will be trekking across the Southeast and visiting some of our favorite chefs along the way.
Our schedule is jam-packed and we plan to get the most out of every single place we visit. The jaunt will start off in Nashville for a visit to City House and Chef Tandy Wilson. The next day we will tour Chef Tyler Brown's farm and head to Capitol Grille for dinner. I'm sure we'll find time in Nashville to take in some music.
After Nashville, we'll head to Birmingham. This is where we'll get to see Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings, two chefs who have been some of our biggest supporters. While there, we'll hit up Chez Fon Fon, Highlands, and Hot and Hot Fish Club to taste some of the things I have only read about, including Hastings' famous tomato salad. We will also get to go on a foraging trip with Hastings and his farmer Chris Bennett.
The following day, we head to Oxford, Miss, home of the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA). We plan to visit our SFA friends and hit Currence's places, which includes Snack Bar, City Grocery and Big Bad Breakfast. After that, it's off to our final destination: Memphis.
We'll be there just in time for Memphis in May. I have wanted to go for years and can only imagine how cool and crazy it is. The whole thing is about pigs, pits, music, rigs, and apparently a lot of refreshing beverages. The Fatback Collective will be competing in the barbecue cooking competition.
We also plan to eat out while in Memphis, after a visit to Graceland, of course. My new all-time favorite chef Kelly English will host us at Restaurant Iris, and Currence said a trip is not complete without a stop at Gus Fried Chicken. Sounds like a plan.
We'll be documenting this trip all week, sending daily recaps and photos to Stephanie Barna to post here on the Eat blog. Each of us will provide our insights and favorite moments. We also have a twitter hash tag for for the whole thing, #southernfoodroadtrip2012. Be sure to follow and here's to an amazing food adventure.