Georgia’s Best Shrimp & Grits, Music & More

Shrimp & Grits

Shrimp & Grits | Courtesy of The Jekyll Island Authority

Since its inaugural year in 2006, the Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival has been satisfying appetites and entertaining audiences with a variety of shrimp-and-grits-related merriment. Ranging from captivating guest chef demonstrations and never-ending variations on the classic shrimp and grits dish to live music by popular regional artists and an irresistible craft brew tasting experience, the schedule of activities for the upcoming festival (Sept. 16-18, 2016) promises a memorable long weekend for Southern foodies and other fun-seekers.


Additional features for the 2016 festival include an expanded festival footprint, the addition of a third live music stage, two new lounge experiences, more than 50 beers in the Craft Brew Fest, and for the first time ever, a statewide professional cooking competition to name “Georgia’s Best Shrimp & Grits.” Returning favorites include the Jekyll Island Experience Pavilion, a Southern Living Pavilion, family-friendly entertainment, and more than 100 hand-selected art and craft vendors.

The festival kicks off Friday evening (Sept. 16) with day one of the three-day Craft Brew Fest, along with live music and lifestyle demonstrations. Saturday is chock-full of exciting events, including live music from local and regional artists, wildlife encounters, and engaging family-friendly activities.


Sunday morning, chefs from around the state will compete for the title of “Georgia’s Best Shrimp & Grits” and the honor of cooking for Gov. Nathan Deal. This fierce competition, in which recipe entries must consist of at least five “Georgia Grown” food products, will be judged by Executive Chef and Explore Georgia’s Official Culinary Explorer Jennifer Hill Booker; Southern Living contributor, Rebecca Lang; and CNN/HLN culinary journalist, Henna Bakshi.

So, what can you expect?

The Best of Local Restaurants and Caterers from the Golden Isles will show off their cooking chops with signature shrimp and grits dishes, along with other favorites, throughout the weekend. During Friday’s special Sample Night, festival attendees can get their first taste of each proprietor’s signature dish for only $5 per sample.

Live Entertainment abounds Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the main lawn, riverfront lawn, and at the Skeet House. Regional favorites take the stage throughout the weekend and are free for festival attendees.

Art and Craft Vendors, more than 100 of them, will be spread throughout the Historic District. These hand-selected, regional artists will have homemade goods such as jewelry, home décor items, handcrafted gifts, packaged foods, and other original artworks and products for sale.

Craft Brew Fest, presented by Southern Eagle Distributing, will be located in the historic Morgan Center. For guests age 21 or older, sample more than 50 varieties of beer from an assortment of breweries. Admission of $20 gets you 10 tasting tickets and a souvenir tasting glass. Tickets available online.

Kids Zone play area will offer a variety of activities for children of all ages to enjoy, including face painting, scrap exchange, rock wall climbing and zip-lining. Some activities may have a height requirement.

The Southern Living Biscuits and Jam Concert is an all new concert with Grammy-nominated headliner David Nail, Friday, Sept. 16, at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. General admission tickets are $25 and VIP tickets, which include upfront seating and a meet-and-greet, are $50. For concert tickets and information, visit

For more information about the festival, including live entertainment stage schedules, VIP, lounge, and Craft Brew Fest tickets, head to

ScottJessica_150lJessica Scott is a marketing communications manager for Jekyll Island. As a native Southerner, she enjoys Southern coastal cuisine. Her favorite of these being the classic shrimp and grits dish of the low country. This makes her favorite event on Jekyll Island the annual Shrimp & Grits Festival, in which she gets to taste not only the Golden Isles’ best, but also “Georgia’s Best Shrimp and Grits” throughout the weekend.

Georgia’s Fall Beer Festivals

The Decatur Craft Beer Festival will be Oct. 15, 2016. Photo from Facebook.

The Decatur Craft Beer Festival will be Oct. 15, 2016. Tickets go on sale in September. Photo from Facebook.


Augusta Beerfest (August 20, 2016) – Southeastern American craft beer will be celebrated during one session of festival fun from 3-6 p.m at James Brown Arena. Tickets are $30 in advance and $40 at the door.

German Bierfest (August 20, 2016) – Ja! It’s a beer party! Head to Woodruff Park for the best German beer tasting event Atlanta offers. Be sure to leave room for food: half and full pound pretzels, sauerkraut, schnitzel, brats and more! Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 on the day of the event. Designated driver tickets are available.

Macon Beer Festival (August 20, 2016) – The event, which usually sells out, is a Pints for Prostates event, meaning the money raised benefits the International Prostate Cancer Education and Support Network and the Prostate Conditions Education Council. General admission tickets are $35 per person in advance and $40 at the door.

Dawsonville Music & Beer Festival (August 21-22, 2016) – This festival usually hosts two nights of fun in downtown Dawsonville, a town primarily known for its moonshine roots. Each evening features performances from multiple bands and brews.

Helen2 - Sussman Imaging - Copy

Helen celebrates Oktoberfest for two months each fall!


Savannah Craft Brew Fest (September 3, 2016) – This may be Georgia’s most beer fanatic-friendly festival. The event features unlimited sampling of craft beers from around the world, food, seminars about beer, a mixology garden and a cider garden, a VIP experience, music and a cornhole tournament. General admission tickets are $46.95 each, including processing fees.

Oktoberfest in Helen (September 8 – October 30, 2016) – The Alpine village tucked away in the North Georgia mountains goes big each year for their own version of Oktoberfest. You’ll find beer on tap, polka on the dance floor and plenty of bratwurst. Admission is $8 Monday-Friday, $10 on Saturday, free on Sundays.

Music, Beach, & Brew Fest (September 10, 2016) – Lanier Islands hosts this beer-centric, family-friendly festival where restaurants and vendors will be showcased alongside games of volleyball, activities, arts and crafts, live entertainment, and a section just for the kids. Tickets are $20 per person, and there is a $15 vehicle entry fee at the gate.

Rome Beer Festival (September 24, 2016) – Crowds will gather at Heritage Park to raise funds for the Rome Area Council for the Arts and enjoy tastes of nationally produced and local brew. This event also has a home brew competition. General admission tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

Hop Harvest Festival (September 24, 2016) – Celebrate all things hoppy in Athens at Terrapin Beer Company during its annual Hop Harvest Festival. Guest speakers, live music and the release of the 2016’s So Fresh and So Green Green will make this family-friendly festival fun. The cost of a drink voucher and souvenir glass is $20.

Blues, Brews & BBQ (September 24, 2016) – Hinesville is home to this annual festival celebrating the best in music, beer and food. The 13th annual event will feature live entertainment throughout the day and night.

Jekyll Brewing Co. beers at the 2015 Rome Beer Festival. Photo from Facebook.

Jekyll Brewing Co. beers at the 2015 Rome Beer Festival. Photo from Facebook.


Oktoberfest (October 7-9, 2016) – Savannah’s River Street plays home to all things brew-tiful during the annual riverfront celebration. The event promises “wiener dog racing, bratwurst tasting, oompah dancing” and Friday night fireworks. This event is free to attend.

Great Atlanta Beer Fest (October 8, 2016) – Usually known as the home of the Atlanta Braves, Turner Field hosts the Great Atlanta Beer Fest each autumn. With more than 100 beers on tap, live music and college football games broadcast on screens, this festival offers hours of entertainment. Tickets are $40 advance, $45 after September 29 and $55 on the day of event. The first 500 tickets are just $30.

Oktoberfest Boutique Beer Tasting (October 14, 2015) – Sip and stroll through the shops in downtown Newnan during this unique annual event. Local, regional and national brews will be on tap. Tickets are $20 per person in advance and $25 per person at the event.

Decatur Craft Beer Festival (October 15, 2016) – Think of this as an adults-only afternoon of tasting set in downtown Decatur, featuring 80 craft beers, food for sale, live music and more. Tickets go on sale in September.

Grayson Blues & Brews Craft Beer Festival (October 22, 2016) – Music and a hop-ping good time come together at Grayson’s annual music and beer festival this October in Grayson Community Park. Tickets go on sale in September.

Appalachian Craft Brew, Stew & Que Festival (October 22, 2016) – This first-year festival will be held at Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee and will be a celebration of beer, food, art and music. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

Boos & Brews (October 29, 2016) – The sixth incarnation of this Halloween-themed festival will take place at a still-to-be-determined location. Uniquely, this festival runs at night, until 2 a.m. Tickets start at just $10 per person and usually sell out, so be sure to get yours well in advance.

The Grayson Blues & Brews Craft Beer Festival, Oct. 22, will feature Georgia music and beers.

The Grayson Blues & Brews Craft Beer Festival, Oct. 22, will feature Georgia music and beers.


Hopped Up on Georgia Brews (November 5, 2016) – More than 20 Georgia-based breweries will take part in this third annual event on Savannah’s Riverfront Plaza. Ticket information is TBA.

Acworth Craft Beer Festival (November 12, 2016) – Downtown Acworth gets the full festival treatment when this adults-only festival brings more than 100 beers and live music to town. Tickets are $35 in advance and $45 after November 3, and $50 on the day of the event. The first 500 tickets will be sold at $25 when they go on sale in September.

Before you go to one of Georgia’s beer festivals this autumn, make sure you figure out how you’re leaving the festival. Assign a designated driver, walk or plan to take Uber or a taxi.

eileen-1437426635-thumb-230-230-10-58-1000-783-90Eileen Falkenberg-Hull is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

Eat Your Heart Out During Alpharetta Restaurant Week

Feast on new eats and favorite treats during Alpharetta Restaurant Week, happening Feb. 21-27. If you are looking for savory plates from chef-driven and locally owned restaurants, then this week of dining will keep your taste buds busy. Choose from lunch and dinner options, each featuring three-course prix fixe menus that will please every foodie’s palate.

 A piece of delicious cake from Alpine Bakery and Trattoria

Save room for dessert at Alpine Bakery and Trattoria in Alpharetta.

Alpine Bakery and Trattoria ($15 lunch + $25 dinner menus): Known for its tasty bakery full of seasonal goodies, Alpine Bakery and Trattoria features a menu that is packed with Italian favorites with an Alpine flair. The Alpharetta Restaurant Week menus feature many favorites, including a chance to taste a piece of one of the restaurant’s beloved cakes.

Lunch Options:

  • Appetizer: Cup of Italian Wedding Soup, Cup of Tomato Basil Soup, Alpine House Side Salad or Alpine Caesar Side Salad
  • Entrée: Alpine Burger, Chicken Caesar Wrap, Caprese Panini or Spaghetti with Red Sauce
  • Dessert: 1/2 slice of any cake available by the slice

Dinner Options:

  • Appetizer: Mussels Marinara, Fried Calamari or Italian Rice Balls
  • Entrée Course: Chicken Parmesan, Eggplant Parmesan, Housemade Lasagna or Baked Ziti
  • Dessert Course: Peanut Butter Pie Bar, Key Lime Pie Bar or Rocky Road Bar
Vinny’s on Windward’s Italian Sausage Lasagna, featured on the lunch menu for Alpharetta Restaurant Week.

Vinny’s on Windward’s Italian Sausage Lasagna, featured on the lunch menu for Alpharetta Restaurant Week.

Vinny’s on Windward ($15 lunch + $25 dinner menus): Savor Italian favorites while you sip on wines from around the globe in a chic, yet easy-going atmosphere.

Lunch Options:

  • Appetizer: Tomato Ciabatta Bread Soup, Zuppa Di Pesce or Simple Arugula Salad
  • Entrée: Margherita Pizza, Grilled Chicken Sandwich or Vinny’s Italian Sausage Lasagna
  • Dessert: Biscotti Cookies: Pistachio and golden raisin and chocolate dried cherry cookies with fresh berries

Dinner Options:

  • Appetizer: Zuppa Di Pesce, Simple Arugula Salad or Salt and Pepper Fried Calamari
  • Entrée: Chicken Scallopine, P.E.I. Mussels or Veal Meatball Gnocchi
  • Dessert: Biscotti Cookies or Bistro Vg’s “Killer” Tiramisu
Enjoy a meal at South Main Kitchen in Alpharetta

Enjoy a meal at South Main Kitchen in Alpharetta

South Main Kitchen ($15 lunch + $25 dinner menus): Located in the heart of downtown Alpharetta, South Main Kitchen offers Alpharetta a fresh and unique kitchen-inspired dining experience. With each dish carefully prepared and inspected by Chef Christy Stone before leaving the kitchen, diners can expect a delectable dining experience that is hard to duplicate. Sip premium cocktails while sitting on the patio, where local musicians perform most Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Lunch Options:

  • Appetizer: Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad, Smoked Cauliflower Soup, Pecorino Cheese, Pumpkin Seed or South Main Garden Salad
  • Entrée: Brisket Chili, South Main Club or Brisket Tacos
  • Dessert: Flourless Chocolate Cake, Spiced Pear Hand Pie, Cheesecake or Sticky Sorghum Pudding

Dinner Options:

  • Appetizer: Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad, South Main Garden Salad or Smoked Cauliflower Soup
  • Entrée: Brisket Roast, Springer Mountain Chicken or Salmon
  • Dessert: Flourless Chocolate Cake, Spiced Pear Hand Pie, Cheesecake or Sticky Sorghum Pudding
MADE Kitchen and Cocktails, Alpharetta

MADE Kitchen and Cocktails is decorated with repurposed cotton mill beams, oiled, steel hanging lamps and reclaimed shutters from the Jim Beam distiller.

MADE Kitchen and Cocktails ($25 dinner menu): Taste your way through Spain with uniquely crafted tapas. Sip on a flawless cocktail that blends world ingredients with seasonal and local resources. Try a glass of wine that is sure to please every wine enthusiast.


  • Appetizer: Rocket salad, Wood-grilled artichokes or Spanish chorizo
  • Entrée: Grilled skirt steak with twice fried fingerling potatoes, Braised pork cheeks or Springer Mountain Chicken
  • Dessert: Shattered Chocolate Bar, Six Month Manchego Cheese or Housemade Bread Pudding

Cocktails and guacamole at PURE Taqueria in Alpharetta

Other awesome menus featured for Alpharetta Restaurant Week:

For a full list of restaurants featured during Alpharetta Restaurant Week, along with a listing of all of Alpharetta’s 175+ dining options, visit

CaitlynFlorida native turned Georgian, Caitlyn Blizzard is the Director of Communications at the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau and loves advocating all things fun and unique in Awesome Alpharetta. She enjoys exploring metro Atlanta attractions and restaurants and spending time outside with her miniature schnauzer, Winstyn.

Georgia Chef Kevin Gillespie’s Favorite Holiday Recipes

Georgia born-and-raised chef Kevin Gillespie often draws from his experiences growing up in a Southern family. In fact, his latest restaurant, Revival, in Decatur, Ga., is a fresh take on the traditional, family-style Sunday dinner, with a focus on farm-raised and artisan-prepared ingredients. Below, Gillespie shares two anecdotes from celebrating the holidays in Georgia, along with two of his favorite holiday recipes that will make your dishes the talk of the table.


Brussels Sprouts Gratin

Brussels Sprouts Gratin is an interesting twist on a vegetable that is often under appreciated, especially in my house growing up. My mom always hated Brussels sprouts. They were taboo in our family. I hated them too, until I learned how to cook them.

Brussels Sprouts Gratin. Photo courtesy Kevin Gillespie

Brussels Sprouts Gratin. Photo courtesy Kevin Gillespie

The turning point was at Thanksgiving in 2009. I was determined to convert my mom into a Brussels sprouts fan.

The challenge was that I had to make something that could be baked in a crowded oven. One taste of this gratin and the whole family loved it. Now, it’s a requested dish at almost every family function. My mom and dad even ask me to make it for potlucks they’re going to, and they pass it off as their own.

You can prep ahead of time, so you’re not doing all the work the morning of your holiday gathering. Start by making and pureeing the sauce, slicing the Brussels sprouts, and preparing the topping ahead of time. Refrigerate until you’re ready to make the dish. Then, all you need to do is reheat the sauce, fold in the Brussels sprouts, assemble and bake.

You can get the entire Brussels Sprouts Gratin recipe on my website, along with some other holiday favorites.

Grilled Venison

Another great holiday recipe is grilled venison. If there was one theme from the holiday season growing up, it is this celebrated game meat.

The beginning of the holiday season always coincides with the best of deer season, and my dad usually takes a whole week off to hunt. Suffice to say, the Gillespie household always had venison on the table during the holidays.

My recipe for grilled venison is quite simple and calls for just five ingredients: two pounds of venison, one cup of extra virgin olive oil, two tablespoons chopped rosemary, two tablespoons chopped garlic and two tablespoons of espelette pepper or hot paprika.

Mix and marinate two pounds of venison for 8-24 hours. Boneless filet or backstrap are the preferred cuts. Heat a charcoal grill to medium-high.

Take the meat out of marinade, but don’t wipe it off; just lightly shake it. Then, season the meat with salt and ground black pepper.

Grill for four minutes on each side or to rare/medium rare. Never overcook venison. Let rest for five minutes, and it’s ready to serve.

Kevin Gillespie. Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Photo by Andrew Thomas Lee

Chef Kevin Gillespie is the owner of Gunshow in the Glenwood Park neighborhood of Atlanta and Revival in Decatur. In February 2015, he was named a semi-finalist for the James Beard Award Best Chef: Southeast. He is the author of two cookbooks — “Fire in My Belly” and “Pure Pork Awesomeness” — available online at Kevin Gillespie’s General Store.

Unwrap the Holiday Magic in Alpharetta

‘Tis the season for tree lightings, mistletoe, tacky sweaters and Santa photos. With numerous holiday events, there’s never been a better time to visit Alpharetta. Stop in and tell Santa what’s on your Christmas list after snapping a photo with him at one of the many photo opportunities around the city. Lace up a pair of ice skates and take a twirl at the ice skating rink at The Cooler or at Avalon. After you’ve worked up an appetite, choose from more than 175 dining options. Or, if shopping is more your style, drop into a few of Alpharetta’s 250 retail shops located in five shopping distinct districts for one-of-a-kind finds.

ice skating at Avalon

Go ice skating at Avalon through Jan. 24, 2016

Ice Skating at Avalon: Lace up your skates and glide on ice at Avalon’s Rockefeller-inspired skating rink through January 24.

Ice Skating at The Cooler: Enjoy public ice skating in the indoor rink. Dates, times and prices vary. Click here for updated information.

Visit with Santa this holiday season in Alpharetta

Visit with Santa this holiday season in Alpharetta

Santa Sightings in Alpharetta: Santa Claus is making his list and checking it twice in Alpharetta. He is making his rounds at some of your favorite attractions. To see a complete list and to get times, click here.

Take a holiday cooking class in Alpharetta

Take a holiday cooking class in Alpharetta

Holiday Themed Cooking ClassesGather friends and family and learn how to make special holiday cookies, desserts and traditional meals. You’ll surely be baking like a pro this season!

  • Girls Night out: Cookie Swap at Sur la Table at North Point Mall – December 15
  • European Christmas Vacation at Salud! Cooking School at Whole Foods Market Avalon – December 18
  • Incr-Edible Holiday Cookies at Publix Apron’s Cooking School – December 23

For more information on Alpharetta’s three cooking schools, including the only Publix Apron’s Cooking School in Georgia, click here.

Smokejack BBQ in Alpharetta

Smokejack BBQ in Alpharetta

Shopping and Dining in Alpharetta – Whether you crave traditional or unique dishes, there’s an Alpharetta restaurant for you. Walk the downtown area and visit local favorites such as Smokejack BBQ, South Main Kitchen and MADE Kitchen and Cocktails, or head over to Avalon to have a taste of Chef Michael Perez’s novel interpretations of Italian food at the one and only Colletta. For more of a dainty bite accompanied by your favorite doll, make a reservation for tea at the American Girl Boutique and Bistro in North Point Mall.

shopping in Alpharetta

Find gifts for everyone on your list in Alpharetta

Fashionistas love visiting Alpharetta’s five shopping districts. Stop at a variety of locally owned boutiques like Sis and Moon’s and La Bella Maison in downtown Alpharetta or make a day of it and hit all your favorite stores like Fab’rik, West Elm and American Threads at Avalon. Then, drop in at North Point Mall to visit all your favorite, well-known stores like Von Maur, Macy’s and Michael Kors. Visit Dress Up Boutique along Windward Parkway to browse trendy outfits and accessories. Last but not least, head to the North on Main district for upscale consignment including high-end finds from Designer Consigner.

Alpharetta is an awesome place to experience the holidays. But, don’t take our word for it – come experience it for yourself! Enter to win the Ultimate Shopping and Dining Giveaway in Alpharetta that is packed with shopping and dining certificates worth over $2,000!

Make your plans now and begin unwrapping the holiday magic in Alpharetta. Visit for a complete list of Alpharetta hotels and rates as well as a comprehensive list of things to do.

CaitlynFlorida native turned Georgian, Caitlyn Blizzard is the Director of Communications at the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau and loves advocating all things fun and unique in Awesome Alpharetta. She enjoys exploring metro Atlanta attractions and restaurants and spending time outside with her miniature schnauzer, Winstyn.