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Murphy Arts District is getting ready to host the fifth annual Southern Food & Wine Festival May 9-11. Not familiar with this celebration of all things food and wine? Well, you should be! We talked with MAD’s executive chef, Austin Johnson, and sommelier, Eric Railsback, about the event. Read on for what to expect at the Southern Food & Wine Dinner (a sold-out event for 175 ticket holders on Friday, May 10), Grand Tasting (Saturday, May 11—get tickets here), and throughout the rest of the weekend in Murphy Arts District.
At Home in Arkansas: Austin, tell us about some of the dishes that will be served Friday at the Southern Food & Wine Dinner.
Austin: Friday will be about a collaboration between old colleagues and great friends. We have four world-class chefs—Mike Reilly, Aaron Abramson, Adam Purcell, and Michael Rellergert—each preparing a dish for this dinner, and each will bring an idea and inspiration behind their dish. We have worked it out so each course will complement the one coming before it. A lot of the chefs will be shipping in ingredients from the city they are coming from, whether that’s London or New York, so each course will have its own unique feel of time and place.
AHIA: You’ve worked at restaurants all over the world, including in Paris and Copenhagen, before becoming executive chef at Griffin Restaurant. What does “Southern cuisine” look like to you?
Austin: Well, I’m still discovering that. I’m looking forward to going through a full four seasons in this state, especially these next few months. It’s an exciting time to cook, no matter where in the world you are.
Eric: We will be pouring wines from all over the world. We have producers from Corsica, Napa Valley, Santa Barbara, and the Finger Lakes in attendance, and each course of the dinner will be paired with one of their wines. I am especially excited to have Sandrine Leccia from Domaine Yves Leccia in town from Corsica. Corsica is one of the hottest regions right now, and the wines are extremely hard to get. The fact that we can bring this kind of talent into El Dorado really makes this year special, and it says a lot about the direction the festival is heading.
AHIA: What about the wines available at the Grand Tasting on Saturday?
Eric: The beverage selection at the Grand Tasting will be very diverse with a little something for everyone. We will be pouring lots of local favorites, like Lost Forty Beer, as well as many wines from Moon’s distribution portfolio. In addition to local distributors, wine makers from Camino Cellars in Napa, Empire Estate Winery in the Finger Lakes, and Presqu’ile Winery in Santa Barbara will be there walking guests through the wines. I think the Napa wines from Camino will be fan favorites—wine maker Tadeo Borchardt is making some of the best wines in the Valley, and they are extremely hard to find. An allocation of nine cases of each of his wines made it to Arkansas this year, so fans need to jump on these early.