On June 23rd, the inaugural Craft Food and Wine Festival will bring 40 local artisanal food and beverage makers together under one roof for a tasting experience you won’t want to miss.
Organizer Cristina McCarter says you can think of the Craft Food and Wine Festival as the evolution of last year’s highly successful Butcher Board Festival, for which she was a co-organizer. You’ll still get all of the specialty meats and cheeses, but she’s adding on a variety of other locally made treats to enjoy.
“Now that it’s “craft food” there’s a lot of great food we can open it up to. It can be the picklers, as well as butchers and pasta makers,” said Cristina. “There are 40 vendors, 34 of whom are the actual people who handmake the products you’re tasting. If you are getting the honey, you’re getting it from the beekeeper, Gus, who is out there at the farm every day doing the beekeeping. The people who make the cheese at the dairy farm will be there. The people who take care of the pigs and the cows will be there. It will be straight up farm-to-board.”
The Craft Food and Wine Festival will take place at The Columns in two Tasting Sessions —–one at 4:00 pm and one at 6:30 pm—so that guests can move around comfortably. Cristina hopes that breaking the tasting into smaller two-hour sessions will give people the space to interact with vendors and learn about what they’re sampling. There will also be an onsite shop so guests can buy and take home what they’ve tried.
“Meeting the maker is the best way to see the connection,” said Cristina. “You actually get to see the person who made this magnificent prosciutto and pepper jelly. In our day of social media and digital everything we never get to shake the hand of the maker. We order it on Amazon and there’s no story behind that. There’s just something about human interaction that I find exciting.”
Cristina has been a champion of the local food scene for several years, and actively works to showcase the depth and breadth of the food culture here through her business City Tasting Tours. She says her appreciation of all the facets of local cuisine was something that had to grow over time through exposure.
“As a foodie, you kind of grow and evolve yourself. Seven years ago I was just eating whatever. I was going to all the pizza joints and all the hamburger places. That changed into making sure everywhere I went was locally owned, and then even after that, it grew into, ‘Are they using any local ingredients?’ ‘Are they going to any of the local farms?’
She wants to use Craft Food and Wine Festival to expose more people to the incredible community of people who are crafting high-quality food in Memphis.
If that’s not enough reason to feel good about the ticket purchase, you should also know that Craft Food and Wine Festival is making a commitment to have as small an environmental footprint as possible because events produce a lot of waste.
“We’ve partnered with Compost Fairy. We’re hoping to do a zero-waste event and want to make sure that everything is either compostable or recyclable. Only the vendors will have trash bins, but even the vendors know not to bring any plastic. There won’t be any plastic containers or plastic cups or anything like that.”
Proceeds from the Craft Food and Wine Festival will go to benefit Church Health, a faith-based nonprofit that provides healthcare and health services for people who have little or no access to healthcare.
“They work with the working uninsured and that’s a lot of restaurant industry. That’s a lot of small business owners like me. Some of the people that are actually a part of the festival are using the Memphis Plan at Church Health, so they were excited to participate just for that reason alone.”