By Bradley Robertson
Special to the
Amongst a green lawn, large white tents and droplets of rain, Auburn offered its first Food and Wine festival Saturday, June 22, raising $10,000 for The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Lee County.
The inaugural event was hosted by a committee of individuals and businesses, whose mission was “to bring everyone together for the one common goal, that is to better ourselves and all those around us through fun, fellowship and food.”
The event was held at Twenty-One Acres, an outdoor venue space off Wire Road, and included 20 local restaurants, seven breweries/distilleries and more than 130 wine tastings.
My husband and I arrived in the pouring down rain curious of the turn out and hoping they had enough food to feed a farmer’s stomach. We quickly saw that rain did not keep party goers away and the food was plentiful.
We were greeted with prompt service and received our wrist bands and tiny wine glasses. A photo booth was close by and we did not hesitate to take a picture, as we are rarely dressed for such a fun occasion together.
So our evening began. We wandered across the lawn and into a tent filled with people and wine and chefs and hundreds of smiles, folks eating and casually, enjoying a sweet Southern night.
We found it wise to start at the farthest end of the tent parade, to ensure we visited all vendors and didn’t miss any of our favorite foods.
My husband first spotted some barbecue sliders with slaw, he grabbed two and headed to our first wine tasting. We both tend to lean towards Pinot Noir, so that’s where we began, safe and secure.
The gentleman serving were a delight, testing their skills of knowledge with us, sharing the flavors behind the wine as well as its origin. We continued from table to table, some wine keepers being more enthusiastic and story driven than others, keeping my husband and I quite entertained.
The food vendors were well distributed amongst the wine, being sure we partook in a little of both. We were pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a delicious Ceviche from Stinky’s Fish Camp. We both had never been to Stinky’s in Auburn, so we quizzed them on their tasty dish; a chunky style dip, filled with fresh shrimp, crab, tomato, peppers, onion and herbs, paired with tortilla chips. It was my favorite food of the night. I adore fresh seafood and this ceviche was perfect. I found a tasty white wine at the table next door and had officially met my match for the evening.
I was soon lost in conversation with a familiar friend. It’s a treat to show up at community events and mingle with folks you don’t see often. We even met a handful of new people along the way. I’ve always loved this about being Southern, our sense of hospitality and enjoyment of making new friends.
I skimmed the crowd for my lost mate and found him grinning from ear to ear at the John Emerald Distillery table. I weaved my way towards him, he was busy chatting it up with the owner. “Hey honey, I just tasted the best whiskey in the south.” We both laughed, farmer too had met his match.
His head quickly turned to the table next door when he read the words “Rabbit” and “Smoked Pecan.” I looked his way to see a food table set up by The Hound, serving up a dish of Braised Rabbit, Rabbit Sausage and Smoked Pecan Granola. It was melt in your mouth creamy and fine. We were honored to be introduced to the head chef Robbie Nicolaisen. We personally thanked him for his dish and enjoyed the opportunity to get to talk with him.
This was a bonus to the event, getting to meet all the excellent and known chefs in our community, as well as experiencing new restaurants and cooks. There was more than enough food to go around.
Everything we tasted was excellent and we even turned down a small handful of vendors, with no room left in our stomachs.
Our last stop before winding down was The Depot. We were greeted by head Chef Scott Simpson with a nice “land meets sea” dish topped with fresh gulf shrimp. The taste was clean and fantastic. Cool melon and cucumber, gave us a refreshing feeling in the humidity and rain.
Many of our personal favorites were present including Lucy’s, Acre, Zazu and Warehouse Bistro.
I was glad to see a handful of Alabama breweries as well, making a great addition to the wine and representing our local growing beer industry.
We enjoyed music by Graham Harper and the Ben Sutton Band. A dance floor set the stage for attendees who felt the urge to cut loose for the evening.
The festival ended on a fun note, revealing the raffle winners of various prizes and announcing the money raised. In all, a total of more than 500 people were present. It was a full house.
My hope is this event continues to draw attraction in Lee County. The committee did an outstanding job planning an exceptional event and leading our community in service.
“We are extremely excited and thankful for the turnout and support we received,” said Committee Member Josh Nagel. “We will soon start the planning process for next year.”