The Austin FOOD & WINE Festival took over Auditorium Shores for two days, showcasing all kinds of famous chefs and local vendors. Originally I wasn’t going to attend (due to seemingly exorbitant ticket prices), I was able to win some passes thanks to Twin Liquors! With two entries, but Evelyn out of town, I scrambled to find some friends who had no plans this weekend. Luckily two were free to divide and conquer. Onward to the festival!
On Saturday Travis came by at 9:30am and we headed down to the excitement. First up was a demo from master chef Jonathan Waxman to talk about a chef’s favorite junk food. After long nights of restaurant service, sometimes chefs just want something greasy and delicious. He showed us how to make some stuffed fried jalapeños, sloppy joes, and s’mores. It all looked fantastic, though I will say Ev and I must be pretty innovative, because we were making our “urban s’mores” long before any famous chef told us it was cool. Unfortunately none of the food was given out to the packed tent of attendees.
Travis and I headed out to the row of food trucks (comprised of MMMpanadas, The Peached Tortilla, East Side King, and Coolhaus) to get some food. We had an hour to kill before the Grand Tasting tent opened up to the “Weekender” pass-holders. We ended up at East Side King, which was featuring three menu items from the Liberty Bar location menu, of which I got the Thai Chicken Kara’age and Fried Brussels Sprout Salad. Delicious and satisfying, especially after my 18 mile run earlier in the day. Expect a review soon. After eating we saw a group of friends, Jeff, Natalie, Hilary, and Nick, who just got out of the open bar line. We chatted a bit, and then without anything else to do, we got in line for the Grand Tasting (which still had thirty minutes until opening).
The Grand Tasting tent, 10,o00 square feet spread across three tents, seemed to be the main reason to go to the festival, at least to me. There were dozens of food vendors, and nearly twice as many alcohol samplers. We walked through, trying to get the most out of our
$250 free tickets. We had quite a few wine samples, including the fancy Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa. My favorite of the adult beverage purveyors was Breckenridge Distillery, who was handing out a tall Manhattan along with some chocolate truffles and some kind of liquid chocolate called Break Up Potion. All I know is that all of it was delicious.
For food, the best of the day was the beef cheek ravioli from Finn & Porter (out of focus above). Salty and savory and rich and amazing. Other notables included the meatball from Mandola’s Italian Market and . I can’t decide if the Frito Pie from Ranch 616 was actually good, or just gimmicky with chili and cheese filled into a bag of Fritos.
None of this would have been as much fun, though, without friends to share it with. Jeff and Hilary were definitely having a great time. Notice the empty wine glass.
After the Grand Tasting we got some Standing Room Only spots for master chef Tony Montuano’s Italian Pasta demo. Post-tasting, it was a little tricky to focus. We took away some tips, like using 00 flour and to cook the pasta in water briefly, and then cook it the rest of the way in the sauce. Top Chef finalist Sarah Grueneberg found herself on stage too, giving her own tips and sassing her mentor Chef Montuano whenever she could. It was entertaining, but nothing mindblowing. I appreciated the pasta-making tips that I was able to remember.
With 45 minutes between sessions Travis and I found a few chairs to rest, maybe catch a quick nap, and plan for the upcoming demo. Unable to resist, I swung by Coolhaus and got myself the best ice cream sammie they make: (gluten free) coconut almond cookie with sea salt caramel ice cream. It was divine!
And not to miss a great photo opportunity, I ran over to snap a photo of Chef Marcus Samuelsson grabbing a sammie from Coolhaus. I even took a picture of him with the Coolhaus crew. Such a nice guy, always willing to stop and appreciate his fans.
Next up was going to be a demo by wine genius Ray Isle to tell us about lesser-known Italian Wines. We got there late so there weren’t anymore seats to actually taste. Not very engaging, we split up. Travis went to learn about Tequila and Salt, and I went to listen to Mark Oldman talk about Sparkling Substitutes — alternatives to Champagne. I don’t really care for Champagne or its alternatives, but Oldman was very entertaining and engaging. Fun Oldman fact: get your server sufficiently drunk and the corkage fee goes away. Noted!
To close out the day there was another Grand Tasting, repeating everything we tried earlier in the day. This time we were more focused on hitting our favorites from the first time around. A few refills here and an extra ravioli there to close out the afternoon. Overall Day 1 was a big success! We got to see some famous chefs and sommeliers talk about their passions and tasted a lot of great food. Stay tuned for a recap of Day 2!