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Review: 2021 Memphis Food & Wine Festival

After taking a year off, the Memphis Food & Wine Festival made its return in 2021 with grandeur.

Did you really attend a wine festival if you don't document the first cheers?

As with each year, the Memphis Food & Wine Festival did not disappoint. With over 100 wines to sample from 38 different vintners, and 37 chefs from all across the country, the possibilities felt endless.

Food vendors were a wide range of chefs representing their kitchens from all over Memphis, the rest of the South and even Las Vegas. Choices ranged from classic Southern barbecue with an upscale twist to East Coast delicacies or even a sweet, gooey treat to finish out the night.

Detailed below are just a few of the many options presented to festival guests. I'll be honest in saying that I was enjoying myself so much that my note-taking fell off rather quickly. Take my word for it, this festival is an absolute must for any person who loves great wine and even better food.

About the Event

The Radians Amphitheater at the Memphis Botanic Gardens transformed into a hub for

Lobster roll from Oscar Pena of Moondance Grill in Germantown, TN

phenomenal food and wine from chefs and vintners both near and far. This annual autumnal food and wine event was made for curious foodies all over the country. Culinary offerings included finger-food tastings such as this pretzel bun lobster roll from Oscar Pena of Moondance Grill in Germantown, Tennessee. Chef Pena was one of 23 local chefs to attend the festival.

This was a great place to start for a lighter snack to ease into the event. Cool, light and refreshing with a cilantro garnish, this little beauty was delicious.

We chose to pair the lobster roll with a tasting of Chardonnay from Californian winery Far Niente. This chardonnay is one that Far Niente has been crafting for the last 40 years, presenting a perfect product for Food & Wine Festival attendees.

Barbecue rib with a sweet potato puree and a tasting of zinfandel

Next was a Zinfandel from Frank Family Vineyards in Calistoga, California. I'll be honest in saying that I don't usually enjoy red wines, but this one was delicious. It paired wonderfully with our next food tasting: barbecue rib with a sweet potato puree. This dish was from José Gutierrez of River Oak restaurant in Memphis. Chef Gutierrez was friendly and clearly excited to have guests taste his highly sought-after dish. The line for his booth was quite long for good reason. The meat was ridiculously tender with just enough barbecue sauce to add an extra bit of savory, tangy and saltiness to the bowl. This was definitely one of our favorite tastings of the night, one possibly worth a drive to Memphis just for this dish.

We continued to wander around the festival and soak in the ambiance of the beautiful lighting and live musical entertainment from blues musician Terry "Big T" Williams, a local of Clarksdale, Mississippi. The mix of open-pit barbecue, soulful blues, twinkling string lights and laughter truly made this evening magical.

This is where my note and picture-taking started to fall off... After enjoying ourselves for a bit, we were ready for a glass refresh. Near the entrance of the event were two more booths that were clearly very popular. And where people are waiting in line, there must be tasty offerings. We hopped in line at Brendan Frankel's tent. Chef Frankel represented Rosewood Hotels of Dallas, Texas, and served another favorite bite of the night: savory French toast, brisket, barbecue sauce and black truffle shavings. Admittedly, I was too eager to dive in to think of taking a photo. However, believe me when I say that it was extraordinary.

We hopped to the booth next to Chef Frankel that was hosted by Zonin Family of Wines. These wines were all made and imported directly from Italy, making them a unique stop at the festival. We chose the pinot grigio simply because we were ready for a cool, delicious glass that we could also enjoy with our next stop: dessert.

Pumpkin and pecan cheesecake bar from Frost Bake Shop

Our final stop was Bill Kloos of Frost Bake Shop in Memphis. Also located near the event entrance, Chef Kloos presented guests with a fantastic, fall flavored treat: a pumpkin and pecan cheesecake bar. This treat was gooey, sweet and also a bit crunchy from the nuts. I couldn't believe we had found the perfect last bite to finish off our night.

The only challenging part of the festival? Pacing yourself! With so many options, we had to come up with a game plan. We walked around the perimeter of the amphitheater and browsed the offerings. We noted which sounded most interesting for our individual tastes and noted our selections in descending order of interest. Even then, it was hard not to rank each one out of the more than 100 offerings.

Though planning for next year has not been announced, follow MFWF on Facebook for updates, as well as sign up for their newsletter so you can be in the know for 2022.

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