Down South

November has taken me down South to the Gulf Shore and Georgia where I attended 2 festivals. Land of the shrimp, fried green tomatoes and grits.  First to the ‘Real LA’ as the locals say – Lower Alabama with beautiful white powdery beaches and glorious sunshine for the Hangout Oyster Fest. After hosting a Goose Island beer dinner at Union restaurant in Mobile, the real home of the Mardi Grass, the festival started with a craft beer and music event at the Hangout beach restaurant and bar.  A great event mixing up live music from various bands with a wide range of American craft beers, allowing me to dish up the beer and food magic show combining Sriracha hot sauce, lemon-lime and blue dressing with 4 Goose Island beers. The Oyster Fest the next day completed the weekend with various competitions around the pearly goodness from the sea served up by local and celebrity chefs.

M & GuitarBesides doing a presentation around craft beers on stage I got to announce one of the local bands and to top my rock ‘n roll experience I gave away a signed electric guitar for a local charity, supported by all the performing bands and the Goose Island brewery.

Then over to Georgia to attend the Savannah Food and Wine Festival with a wide range of activities in and around the beautiful historical city on the banks of the mighty river. Starting with a tap takeover with Goose Island beers early in the week; the festival itself started with a Celebrity Chef Tour organized by the James Beard Foundation offering great food and wine pairings at the Mansion House Hotel at Forsyth Park.

Next day the festivities crossed to the other side of the river at the Westin Hotel with a Grand Tasting and a BBQ fest with the Grand Cochon bringing together the best grill and pit masters with Beer, Bourbon and BBQ; what’s not to love. Despite the cold breeze it was a warm evening set the tone for the rest of the festival.

M & ladiesNext morning even before the crack of dawn it was back to the Mansion House hotel to do some breakfast TV to promote the festival and the Best of Belgium beers where I had the pleasure and honor to meet culinary TV legend Nathalie Dupree who had more than 300 TV shows and wrote many books about Southern cooking.

After a quick breakfast and a couple more hours of sleep it was over to the Convention Center to prepare for my first demo with my dear friend and Food Network Star Linkie Marais, to showcase beer and grilled food pairings on the sunny banks of the river with the skyline of Savannah as our back drop before taking the ferry to the River Street event. The great turn out felt like the locals coming together to share the best of food and drinks as a precursor to the holidays in the coming months. The icy cold wind couldn’t dampen the warm and friendly spirit of the people from the South which carried on late into the night resulting I’m sure in one or more difficult wake ups for my culinary colleagues.

The festival culminated in the Taste of Savannah spread out over two of the beautiful squares surrounded by historical buildings reflecting the rich history of this great city. In between commuting between the VIP lounge and our popular beer garden I brought the beer and food magic to town with a packed fun session for beer, cheese and chocolate.

Through both festivals I discovered the Southern hospitality, great food and friendly welcoming people with a new state and a new city I can add to my travel résumé.  Great experiences which I definitely would like to repeat but I’ll be making sure that I have some more free time on future visits to explore and enjoy