Richmond's Fall Line Fest wants to give attendees more than rivers of Heineken and fried concessions. Culinary trends are influencing palates to favor well-crafted refreshments, and organizers are eager to show off local talent.
A Fall Line Fest wristband covers admission to Saturday's Brunch Fest at the Broadberry. Eight chefs will prepare signature dishes, buffet-style. Cocktails will be topped off with the small-batch Tito's Vodka of Austin, Texas, a festival sponsor.
"We're a dining destination because chefs are creating art," says Jesse Medaries, head of the volunteer food committee. "It's just like people coming to see these bands."
The committee looked at Austin's South by Southwest festival for inspiration. There you can find a gourmet ice-cream sandwich, attend a panel titled "Indie Food Is the New Indie Rock" and catch a Real Estate show in the span of two hours.
Brian Nelson, head brewer at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, says attendees may be more attuned to local goods. "I think music fans are looking past 'brought to you by' campaigns," he says. To commemorate the second annual festival, Hardywood concocted its Amped Up Ale with Charlottesville's music-centric brewery, Starr Hill.
"We went for something approachable and seasonal, a light farmhouse ale with local ginger," Nelson says.
Pairing drinks with imaginative food is a specialty of gastropubs, a restaurant genre heavily represented at Brunch Fest. Chefs from Toast, Social 52, the Blue Goat, and the Mint Room at Haxall Point say they'll try to recreate a cozy experience, even though that presents challenges.
Mac McCrowel, executive chef at Social 52, says he wishes he could make dishes to order, instead of a large batch beforehand. That's where art and cooking meet, he says: "Ideally, I would serve five or six people at a time, allowing them to watch the show."
"I'm expecting high-energy dining," says Will Wofter, assistant kitchen manager at Toast. "You know, churning out a dish 500 times while keeping it memorable."
He plans to prepare a spiced grapefruit marmalade and french toast stuffed with bacon-honey mascarpone.
If Fall Line Fest can pull off its ambitious schedule of intimate flavors, it'll go down as a weekend in which small plates and buzz-worthy drinks rival the big bands.