This month’s sojourns beckoned me down to the Peach State for the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. During a fusion of traditional southern cuisine and fresh modern gastronomy, I had the privilege to visit several seminars prior to the grand Tasting Tent. My palate enjoyed veggies from stalwarts like Ashley Christensen who debuted a Mexican wood-grilled corn salsa, and I sampled pimiento-stuffed okra during a session of “Southern Farmers Spill It.” But I was surprised — and admittedly giddy — by the plethora of mighty meats in the spotlight.
We certainly can’t claim that vegetables are a new trend — or a trend at all for that matter. The farm-to-fork movement has stolen America’s culinary limelight for some time, and part of that trajectory has created space for veggies. Chef Teddy Digg’s sweet corn gelato, Our State’s series on summer tomatoes and even this spring’s frenzy for ramps all cherish the earth’s harvest. So Atlanta’s spotlight on charcuterie began to cultivate a well-deserved appreciation for beef farmers, butchers and the like.
After a breakfast of headcheese, a brunch of pulled pork and an afternoon tea of seared tuna BBQ, I fell prey to the meat sweats. (Alright, it very well might have been the volcanic Atlanta temperatures, but it sounds more dramatic this way.) We explored farm fresh fish and “comeback sauce” with Mississippi’s Cole Ellis of Delta Meat Market. Chris Chamberlain unveiled the exacting skills required from charcuterie butchers, like David Bancroft of Alabama’s Acre. Where the general public sees bacon, these artisans see a culinary voyage — days, months, years of slicing, salting, smoking, salivating and serving!
Keep eating your veggies, folks, but clear your plate for hand-cut and cured proteins, from pork pate to tuna tartare. It’s time to meet the meats!
Check out our other edible adventure at the Charleston Wine and Food Festival!