Four Days of Crazy Fun in the Mountains

No one should have this much fun, but after all, isn't fun the best thing to have? If you are looking for just that mark your calendar for the second weekend in November for the 2018 Highlands Food and Wine Festival (HFW); some say it is the best in the southeast. It is an experience that conquers four days of music, food, and adult beverages all perfectly arranged at a relaxed pace in which it's required to listen, sip, and savor. This past weekend's 11th annual HFW, located in the charming mountain town of Highlands, NC sitting at an elevation of 4118', was a deep well of weekend fun and a journey of the senses.

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Here's how the 2017 Highlands Food & Wine Festival unfolded...

DAY 1 kicked off with a Thursday night tented event called the Grand Tasting which was a mix and mingle cocktail party offering an array of onsite culinary tastes from local celebrated chefs and wines from around the world. Ears were engaged the entire night with two bluegrass bands, Silly Ridge RoundUp and Love Cannon, creating a palpable energy at the start of the Festival.

Day 2 Friday midday drew a crowd of 700 to a wooded, outdoor bohemian-countrified food truck party, called Truckin'. Imagine the scene with relaxed oversized colorful pillows, lounges, farm blankets, seagrass and wood furniture, and an occasional hay bale here or there. Aside from savoring food from famed James Beard-nominated chef, Elliot Moss of Buxton Hall in Asheville, it was a foodie's dream to walk along the "food-truck trail" and taste various cuisines from thai, gourmet tacos, southern style chicken biscuits, wood-fired grilled pizzas, fresh donuts and much more. Tito's, Oskar Blues and various vintners were on hand to help wash every morsel down. The toe-tappin' audience enthusiastically absorbed the soul-rockin' beats of the Futurebirds and Dawes.

 A lounging audience at Truckin' on Friday

A lounging audience at Truckin' on Friday

Day 2-1/2... But wait, the day was not done yet. Revelers dispersed as Truckin' ended and headed off to multi-course wine dinners at various restaurants around town. Between Friday and Saturday nights, there were nine wine dinners one could attend.

Day 3 came early, but Saturday's 11:00am Main Event was not to be missed. The sun-blessed, blustery day was celebrated on the asphalt lawn of Main Street, closed off to ticket holders. Foodies sampled oysters, seafood paella, turtle soup, and hearty venison stew with truffle sour cream by Chef Johannes Klapdohr of Library Kitchen. Also special was the personalized charcuterie tasting from acclaimed Spotted Trotter of Atlanta, and cheese, oh yes glorious cheese! from the farms of Sweet Grass Creamery, Lady Goat Dairy and Sequatchie Cove Creamery. In between bites and sips, the lively crowd danced, sang (especially to the homage paid to Tom Petty), clapped, hooted and hipped each other to the Dead 27's and the swamp-rock sounds of the A-mazing JJ Grey and MOFRO. When one had enough wine, beer, or Tito's, Virgil Kaine was on site to further tease the palate with lowcountry whiskeys. A final touch to calm and soothe the sweet tooth, Chocolate Heaven was passing out samples of their heavenly cakes.

Day 3-1/2 The party continued that night with A Generous Pour, a fundraising event for the Highlands Food Pantry, with food, wine and the sounds of the revered Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Day 4... Unfortunately, the weekend was coming to a close on Sunday, but not without hitting a high note. The icing on the profiterole-cake-of-a-weekend was the highly anticipated Gospel Brunch featuring the soothing, but lively sounds of Joyful and Liz Vice. Not only were the brunch-goers' appetites fluffed and stuffed by the talented James Beard award-winning chef Steven Satterfield of Miller Union in Atlanta, but also Canyon Kitchen's chef Adam Hayes, Bayona's Susan Spicer and Callie's Hot Little Biscuits. The event came to a victorious end with the merciful crowd out of their seats clapping, dancing and parading behind the band around the room. Can you say Hallelujah?

If a weekend was to be had in full technicolor, this was the weekend. Participants came from all over the southeast and a few from the midwest lookin' for fun, and the word on the street is they found it. Hats off to the Highlands Chamber of Commerce, the many sponsors, Eleven Events, Ashley Brown StrategyTick Tock Concierge and a host of volunteers for a job well done. 

Don't miss next year, that is, if you can get tickets!

Written by Kristin Bowen of

Photo Credits: Let People See @letpeoplesee, Alec Cantley @aleccantleyrealestate

and Kristin and Fred Bowen @alwaysadept