Updated: Oct 23, 2018
Harvest on the Hooch Taste Fest
This is an exciting time of the year because it’s Fall festival season! In Georgia outdoor fall festivals begin in late August and may run through early November, depending on the weather. A new favorite for me, and a family tradition for others, is the annual Harvest on the Hooch held at the Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC). This outdoor food, craft, wine and beer event has something for everyone. “We started this event as a fun way to raise funds for the Chattahoochee Nature Center’s Unity Garden, says Chris Nelson, Executive Director of the Center.” It supplies more than five tons of fresh produce annually to the North Fulton Community Charities food pantry, an organization that helps needy families with consistent access to healthy food as well as emergency financial assistance, job readiness and life skills.
A Great Way to Spend a Sunday Afternoon
On a lazy Sunday afternoon there exists an endless supply of food and drink samples mingled with a mix of neighborly comfort creating a sense of nostalgia of a simpler time. At the 2018 Annual Harvest on the Hooch, there are approximately 22 local farm-to-table vendors and eight Georgia breweries offering samples of their food and libations. Arranged on either side of the Unity Garden, there are hearty portions of a variety of dishes like sweet potato puree lightly covered with black lava salt and sweet potato chips, lima green beans and grilled corn salad with herb inspired shrimp, cilantro cauliflower and creamy chicken pot pie! All this under a cool blue fall sky hovering above as bluegrass music plays lightly in the backdrop. There are children lovingly playing with alpacas, a South African animal that looks sorta like a llama, and cute little baby chicks. What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
The CNC's quarter-acre Unity Garden was established in April 2010 and was created with three goals in mind: production, donation and education. Most of the produce from the garden is donated to the food pantry at North Fulton Community Charities. Elementary school groups, scout troops and a number of other groups who visit the garden throughout the year learning how fresh food is grown. The Garden is a year-round project that provides healthy seasonal food to those in need having produced more than 68,000 pounds of food since its inception. A walk through the garden provides an up-close view of plump round pumpkins, lush green broccoli shooting up towards the sun, varied variety of sweet tomatoes, and onions! There is even an herb garden that boast hardy beds of cilantro and lavender. Beautiful heads of Bibb lettuce and carrots border the garden pathways.
There was so much to see, I couldn’t make my way around to all the vendor booths. Check out a few that I did manage to spend some time with.
Talk of the Town Catering & Special Events, the first booth I visited offered mini stuffed sweet potatoes with a choice of three different toppings. I enjoyed one that was topped with blue cheese, kale and balsamic vinegar. It was a great blend of flavors that left my mouth watering for another one. The other topping choices were apple honey/goat cheese and bacon/cranberry/feta/arugula. While these combinations are not the best for my digestive system they certainly went over well with other event goers who lined up in eager anticipation to get a taste.
Century House Tavern offered a warm creamy sweet potato puree. It reminded me of a rich homemade ice cream dessert. According to the chef, the silky pureed blend only consists of roasted sweet potato butter. I thought to myself, he either has a magic blender or there must be some maple syrup, milk and other stuff in there too! It was so good! He topped it off with a blend of parsley, black lava salt and fresh baked sweet potato chips.
I must admit that the creamy bit sized chicken pot pie and cilantro-lime roasted cauliflower from the Red Sky Tapas Bar was my favorite taste of the day. All I can say is “delish!” OMG! The chicken-pot pie instantly had me imagining myself on a cold winter’s day sunken in a big comfy chair. wearing my favorite old plush bath robe, enjoying a full helping of this warm gooey plate of yumminess. The dish is made with “shredded chicken, corn, black beans, jalapenos, roasted red peppers, cream cheese sauce with a kick and served on a puff pastry,” says Red Sky.
Samples of their comfort food with a twist went quickly. The Red Sky restaurant is conveniently located in Sandy Springs, GA. More to come on these folks in the very near future!
Salata offered veggie wraps, southwestern chicken wraps, oatmeal cookies, as well as organic teas and lemonade. I walked away full and satisfied. The organic lemonade hit the spot on a warm afternoon. Particularly since I had just finished sipping on my first ever shot of pomegranate and lemon juice infused moonshine from Belle Isle Signature Cocktails! Yes, that’s right – moonshine! I never thought I’d drink moonshine, particularly outside the company of my husband who usually keeps me from going too far off the deep end with my curiosity for cocktails; however, when one is at a southern festival on a lovely Sunday afternoon among friends sipping on something sweet and citrusy, why not?
I absolutely do not drink beer. My lovely friend Donna who hung out with me at this event is not much of a beer drinker, but she agreed to try Creature Comfort Brewing Company. Their display of color options captured both our attention. “I am not a big beer drinker, but I have heard great things about this local craft beer,” says Donna who sampled a beer called “Automatic.” She went on to rave about how wonderful it was. “I tasted hints of grapefruit, which I love. The beer was light and did not have a bitter aftertaste. I was pleasantly surprised.”
Donna and I were both pleasantly engaged at the Latimer Luck Acres – Artisan Goat Milk Soap booth. The fresh array of aromas smelled absolutely divine flowing with the air of the afternoon wind. Wonderfully wrapped soaps made from goat’s milk adorned the vendor tables and displays. We smelled some of their basic soaps and their castile soap. The lavender, cold water and apple sage scents were Donna’s favorite. I of course, enjoyed the dark chocolate. Latimer Luck also boasts about the coffee scented soap, which is their most popular brand. “People not only like the scent of the coffee grounds infused in this soap, they also like to keep it in the kitchen because it’s good for washing away the smell of garlic and onions on your hands after chopping,” says the soap maker. Well, obviously the coffee brand was sold out, so we didn’t get the chance to smell it. We hope to meet up again soon with the Latimer’s – scented soap will be a great gift idea for Christmas.
It was nice to meet some of the folks behind the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown program. A couple of their representatives were at the festival sharing educational information about farming and conservation. I was pleased to learn that their coveted “Georgia Grown” seal of approval is something they encourage gardeners to apply for. This stamp offers a sense of hometown pride and comfort in knowing that your produce is has a qualified seal of approval for freshness.
In short, the Harvest on the Hooch is a great event for children and adults of all ages. In addition to visiting the food and drink vendors, you could get your face painted, milk a goat, go on a scavenger hunt, and interact with alpacas and a sleepy owl. If you haven’t attended this festival in the past, I encourage you to do so in the future. The proceeds benefit the Unity Garden and you’ll walk away feeling happy and fulfilled.