Chef Hugh Acheson at the 2011 Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

It’s that time again!! Yes I used exclamation points!! If you’ve followed along on twitter and facebook, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. I can’t believe that it’s been almost two years since the launch announcement and a year since the inaugural edition of the festival took place in Midtown last year. The question last year before the event was whether the ambitious plan would pay off?  After over a year of planning and full schedule of activities and perfect weather, the answer was yes.

Madeira seminar

The event kicks off this Thursday with events all over the city, with the lion’s share taking place at the Loews Atlanta Hotel, with tasting tents nearby. Although Atlanta is the host to the festival, the event is truly regional in scope and features talent from throughout the South. Tickets to events range from $75 for events, $100 for the tasting events (expanded to three hours this year) to $500 for a three-day pass up to the exclusive $2,000 for the luxe connoisseur experience.

I attended last year on a press pass and will do so again this year. Last year I lucked into connoisseur level access through a friend and if you’ve got the means to do so, it could be worth it. In between the seminars you’ll have a relaxing place to rest between sessions, meet many of the chefs in town for the festival, and my favorite – signature cocktails from the city’s best mixologists. There are also seminars and special events reserved for those with connoisseur access.

Midtown Patch has a great rundown with the basics and the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival site itself has been updated recently with details of all of the seminars and restaurants who will be staffing the tasting tents. If there’s a Southern chef you’ve read about in the pages of Garden & Gun, Southern Living, Bon Appetit or Saveur – there’s a good chance they’ll be appearing at the festival this weekend. It’s a good idea to check out the tasting tent schedule as some exhibitors will change over the days of the event.

Dinners held around the city are hot tickets and some have sold out – this year provides a unique opportunity to preview two highly anticipated restaurants The Spence and The Optimist before they open their doors to the public.

If you’d like to see more photographs from last year’s festival – please check my previous posts here and here. Hope to see you this weekend!

P.S. It was a pure coincidence, but I realized that both chefs from our area that are up for a James Beard award tonight ( Oscars of the food world) are featured in photos in this post. Good luck Hugh and Linton!