Inaugural Mississippi Food and Wine festival a new destination on the culinary map

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Photo by Frank Farmer/Fondren Renaissance

More than 100 beers from dozens of breweries are on tap for this year’s Mississippi Craft Beer Festival.

The Mississippi Food and Wine festival debuts June 13-15 in Jackson, upping the state’s game in culinary currency, focusing a spotlight on its considerable restaurant talent and maximizing the potential of all things local and delicious.

Several events span a long weekend, whetting appetites with private chef dinners, the
Mississippi Craft Beer Festival and a Grand Tasting finale.

“One of Jackson’s greatest assets is its food tourism industry,” says Jim Wilkirson, special events coordinator with Fondren Renaissance Foundation. BankPlus is the presenting sponsor of Mississippi Food and Wine, in conjunction with the foundation  and Visit Jackson.

The new festival is the brainchild of Wilkirson and Fondren Renaissance Foundation board member Jennifer Emerson, who with husband, chef Derek Emerson, owns or partners in Walker’s Drive-In, Local 463, CAET Seafood/Oysterette and Parlor Market. The thought was, if Jackson didn’t launch such an event, the Gulf Coast or Oxford might beat the capital city to the punch.

The popularity of events such as the Santé South Wine Festival show an audience eager to partake. A food-oriented event that also emphasizes craft cocktails and wine is their aim. “We really wanted to do something that was all-consuming,” Emerson says.

Photo by Frank Farmer/Fondren Renaissance

A Lazy Magnolia brewer talks about latest offerings to a Mississippi Craft Beer Festival attendee.

The inaugural Mississippi Food and Wine uses the successful Mississippi Craft Beer Festival, now in its fifth year and scheduled for June 14 on Duling Avenue in Fondren, as its anchor. The beer fest — “a total success out of the gate,” Wilkirson says —annually draws more than 1,000 people to Fondren to sip samples from more than 100 craft beers from more than 30 different breweries. Because beer distributors Capital City Beverages and Southern Beverage continue to add new products and breweries, “It’s been a really fun, ever-changing market for them, and that has been real positive with the public. … That’s what kept it such a success.”

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The new festival’s food component caters to tastes both fancy and less so, with private dinners for an indulgent deep dive, and a supreme sampler layout for gastronomic grazing.

Four private chef dinners (two on June 13 are sold out, tickets remain for two on June 14) are limited to 90 people each. Each features a lead local chef with a team of invited peers and a wine broker for multiple courses and wine pairings.

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