The 5th Annual Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival held July 21, 2013 at White Provisions was an overwhelming success. For the first time since the inaugural event tickets sold out in advance of festival day and with good reason. It is one of the most inventive and fun food festivals the city of Atlanta has to offer and seems to only get better with age. The event, which supports Georgia Organics in its role as advocate for Georgia’s local farmers, featured nearly 40 local farms along with as many local chefs and 14 mixologists all competing for the coveted crown while pleasing the swelling crowds of attendees.
Due to all the rain Atlanta has been receiving this season, the event was expecting the worst but got the best. Although it was high in humidity and hot in the sun, the rain held off just until the event ended. Due to the inordinate amount of rain we have seen this season, tomato plants themselves were at high risk as excessive rain can keep tomato plants from absorbing the proper nutrients in addition to causing “soil splash” which ultimately could breed a variety of fungal diseases which could ruin whole crops. Thankfully many farms were able to save their crops and the festival featured juicy tomatoes with wonderful flavor.
All of the top chefs in the city were present along with top barmen and women and all did an impressive job coming up with unique dishes featuring the tomato. Walking around the complex at times was a little daunting because of the crowds but festival goers were courteous and kept moving along after trying some amazing dishes. Although I did not get to try several dishes from chefs by the likes of Tyler Williams (Woodfire Grill), Scott Serpas (Serpas) and Carvel Grant Gould (Canoe) due to them running out of food early in the day, I still had plenty of great food to eat. Standouts for me were Chris Hall’s (Local 3) “Caprese” ice cream, Asha Gomez’s (Cardamom Hill) tomato rice, Nick Rutherford + Molly Gunn’s (The Porter) Oyster Bloody Mary and Kevin Gillespie’s (Gunshow) inventive take on the In-and-out Burger double-double animal style.
The competition for cocktails was equally impressive with some standouts for me being Stuart White’s (Miller Union) Heirloom Riviera featuring tequila, tomato water, lime + agave; Miles Macquarrie (Leon’s Full Service) Firebird and Paul Calvert, Tucker Sandlin + Maxine Chaney’s (Paper Plane) A Dull Boy.
After sampling a broad array of dishes and cocktails the festival attendees were able to vote for their fan favorite dish. In this case the winner was Chris Hall’s beautiful rendition of Caprese ice cream. In addition to the fans choosing their favorite, the chefs also were judged by a panel of four which included Daniel Gritzer, associate food editor at Food & Wine, John Mariani, columnist for Esquire and Bloomberg News, Dave Mezz, deputy editor of Garden & Gun magazine and Matt & Ted Lee, the eponymous Charleston chefs with a combined five James Beard and IACP Awards. The judges’ choice for best dish went to Asha Gomez’s tomato rice. The people’s choice award for best cocktail went to Eduardo Guzman’s (JCT + The Optimist) Farmer’s Revenge, gin infused with raspberries, Domaine de Canton, Dill, Heirloom tomatoes, lemon, black pepper + basil seeds and the judge’s award went to the aforementioned Stuart White of Miller Union.
In addition to amazing cocktails and food the festival featured the usual suspects “The Spazmatics” and “Five Bone Rack,” Atlanta’s own chef’s band to help celebrate the day dedicated to the tomato. In the end, the event was a huge success and I am already looking forward to attending next year.