More than 4,000 people turned out to sample the Lowcountry's best dishes Saturday at the 15th annual Taste of Savannah, which was the "pinnacle wrap-up" to the city's third annual Savannah Food and Wine festival.
Foodies lined the grounds of the Georgia State Railroad Museum on Louisville Road to sample entrees, desserts and spirits from hundreds of vendors.
Mike Lindsey, a first-time attendee, said he and his wife moved to Savannah earlier this year because of the city's prominent food culture.
"We were drawn to Savannah because of its culture and history," Lindsey said. "The food, the culture, the weather; it's great here."
Lindsey worked Saturday as a festival volunteer and said he plans to make it a recurring tradition.
The Taste of Savannah started in 2000, as an effort to spotlight the city's celebrity chefs and culinary talents, said Jan Gourley, co-founder of the Savannah Food and Wine Festival. The event grew from a one-day tasting to a weeklong celebration because event organizers wanted to offer more to attendees, Gourley said. The Food and Wine Festival kicked off last week with the World's Largest Lowcountry Boil and will conclude with a Jazz & Bubbles brunch today at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa.
"Our food culture is always growing," Gourley said. "We wanted to spotlight the talent we have here in Savannah, and that's what this festival does."
The festival, which is presented by the Tourism Leadership Council, has grown to attract more than just local foodies, Gourley said.
"We were at Ellis and Johnson Squares in the previous year, but we quickly outgrew those places," she said. "We chose the museum because we wanted a place that has that unique Savannah feel of history but could accommodate our number of guests. We needed a place that people would come and say 'wow'. About 60 percent of our attendees come from out of town."
Among those visiting guests was master beer sommelier Marc Stroobandt, who traveled all the way from Belgium to share his culinary secrets. Stroobandt spent the day highlighting the flavors and spices that enhance the taste of the world's most popular beers.
"It's such a great way to meet others and learn," Stroobandt said.
Attendees watched cooking demonstrations from chefs such as Hugh Acheson while others learned the best spirits and food pairings. Patrons traded in wooden chips for entrees and wine samples that they sipped from custom-designed Taste of Savannah wine glasses.
Erin Miller, a physical therapist from Savannah, said she was overwhelmed with the amount of vendors but said she plans to visit next year.
"It's my first time here," she said. "There was so much - I didn't know where to start but it's been fun."