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Craft Food and Wine Festival taking ‘artisanal’ to the next level

Let me start by saying – AGAIN for the cheap seats – that black folks are not a monolith. We are not a collection of stereotypes. We are not always eating chicken wings and soul food.

While I do enjoy those things, I also enjoy other things too. We really have enough chicken, fish and BBQ joints and festivals. Do we really need any more chicken wings and ribs? Do we???

Cristina McCarter is a self-professed foodie, who puts into practice what she preaches. (Photo: Demarcus Bowser Photography)

That doesn’t make me bourgie or siditty (arguably), or anyone else for that matter. It just makes you well-rounded. When my friend called to say, you gotta talk to this sista for the paper, I said “I’m on it right now!” That said, shout out for Cristina McCarter for being that person that veers from the expected.

Cristina is bringing something different to the table that appeals to a broad swath of Memphians. It is a rarity, though slowly becoming less so, that something curated and helmed by a black person will draw folks of every imaginable stripe.

The Craft Food and Wine Festival happens on Sunday, June 23 at The Columns. Since just shy of 1,000 people are anticipated to gather, there are two different sessions, one at 4 p.m. and another at 6:30 p.m.

The event features artisanal fare from local vendors. I knowwww, sometimes the word “artisanal” immediately inspires eye rolling. It does for me too at times because it can be a little far left. Like panko crusted duck pate with roasted prickled pear. Hunh? Nope. EYE ROLL.

But really, artisanal simply means that something is hand-crafted, made in a traditional way and not mass produced with machines. That’s all. And, the festival is perhaps a step up from your run-of-the-mill wine and cheese deal. Each guest gets a souvenir wine glass as well as a souvenir charcuterie board to try everything on hand.

However, it’s not just cured meats, cheese and wine. There’s a full bar, non-alcoholic options and an assortment of goodies from Chef Brian Michael Patrick from Rizzo’s, Chef Aaron Winters from Sur La Table, My Cup of Tea (reppin the Mound!), Grove Grill, Frost Bake Shop, Papa Bear Skins, Pops Kernel and Sweet Magnolia Gelato. The list features 42 vendors!

My friends know that I love a cause just as much as I love food. The Craft Food and Wine Festival is an event that marries the two. In actuality, it combines three stellar attributes that round the top of my list – food and wine, love of Memphis and supporting a good cause.

All proceeds benefit the Church Health Center, which has been an invaluable resource to those of us who are insurance-challenged. This included me at some point too! I’m all for it because they really do walk the walk when it comes to supporting people in the entrepreneurial/independent/small business space. Which is also synergistic because restaurant workers fall into this space more often than not.

This year is year two, with the first incarnation being last year’s Butcher Board festival. However, per Cristina, “I wanted to expand and make it open to more restaurants. Then connect local makers involved with restaurants.”

Some of the last year’s participating vendors and businesses have already put some partnerships in motion!

A self-professed foodie, though not a chef, Cristina puts into practice what she preaches. Kroger and the big boxes are pretty much unavoidable but she is intentional about keeping local vendors and artisans in the heavy rotation within her own household. “If we are going to eat local, we should also shop local,” she says. She hopes that one day, we can be less and less dependent on the larger chains.

The Columns will be the venue for the Craft Food and Wine Festival on Sunday (June 23). (Courtesy photo)

Cristina also has two other food-centric entities, the Walking Plate blog and City Tasting Tours. She has been food blogging for the past 7 years and hosting the City Tasting Tours for the past 3 years. She shuffles the deck between 15 restaurants. On the tour, you visit 3 to 4 restaurants, where you sample dishes and get a little bit of Memphis history as a bonus. You have a choice between the Southern Food Tasting Tour, Arts District Tour and the Brunch So Hard Tour (mimosas at each stop – oh yeah!). There are many locals who are repeat visitors so it ain’t just for tourists!

Cristina, who is a Memphian born and bred, does not understand why people swear there’s nothing to do. She says, “I almost feel insulted because I am literally (one of the people) giving you things to do!”

We both agreed that folks just have to get out of their box and do it!

“There is so much culture here!” she exclaims.

Agree. This girl for sure likes to brunch HAWRD and will be doing so with Cristina and my homegirls in the very near future.

In the meantime, you can catch me at the Craft Food and Wine Festival this Sunday!

For tickets and more information visit, www.craftfoodandwinefestival.com. And be sure to follow Cristina on Instagram! @citytastingtours and @walkingplate

Bon appetit y’all!

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