What it takes for a Mama to go to a Food and Wine Festival…

A week ago today I was hobnobbing with Gail Simmons, so I know you are all eager to hear the verdict. Was the first annual Austin Food and Wine Festival a Feast-ival or a Fest-evil? Before we get to the final verdict, let’s put together some of the pieces. First, I must thank my husband, my second mama (V), and my soul-sister (Brit) for helping to make this weekend a possibility.  It takes a village of eager supporters to go on an adult-centered-weekend of eating and drinking when you have young children.  Between the deluxe hotel suite, the refreshing hotel pool, the pedicab rides, and lots of family love we were able to make everyone happy for the whole weekend.  And like most good things in life, it took a lot of chutzpah to get there.

 

To prepare for Austin Food and Wine, a few days before the festival I did this (hence, why it has taken me so long to post):

 

 I was trying to make a ‘perfect’ sweet potato gratin and the rest is history, including half my thumb. All is well, because the incredible woman who is my ‘otha’ motha (my mom’s best friend, V) was coming for a visit the following day. V is a rockstar and she has two thumbs.  She even helped keep the kids clean after a run-in with grape preserves and she taught me how to make homemade gnocchi in 20 minutes.  Check back soon for her 20 minute homemade gnocchi recipe. Seriously, 20 minutes!

 On Friday, we packed our bags and headed for the road. We had our cowgirl boots, lots of snacks and plenty of water.

 

Once we arrived in Austin, we had dinner at Second Street Bar and Kitchen. I highly recommend this place to any food lovin’ family. The meal was delicious and they have a wonderful 2nd floor patio with fluffy turf-like carpeting and kid-proof railings. Their staff was very family-friendly and accommodating to our group despite the busy pace of the restaurant.  A highlight for me was the tagliatelle pasta dish with crisp shaved fennel, plump seasonal mushrooms surrounded by zesty veal meatballs. Truly a dish that your Italian Grandmother would approve of.

 

On Saturday morning, we had breakfast at Jo’s coffee and set sails for the Austin Food and Wine events.  Jo’s is also extremely family-friendly.  I loved every sip of their robust blends and even enjoyed a dripping sunny-side up egg sandwich with a tender, grilled tomato on homemade sourdough. I plan to come back for their full lunch menu another time.

 

Finally, we reached the event field. I was overwhelmed.  It was hot and dusty with way too many hungry foodies and wineies (pun intended) roaming like grass-fed free roaming bison in the hot sun. I heard a lot of wining (pun intended, again) about the long lines.  I started to doubt the nature of this event.  Just when I was about the take my press pass and go find a more worthwhile and air conditioned place to dine they opened The Grand Tasting.  The wine flowed plentifully and the little samples of food here and there were just enough to keep us satisfied.  There definitely were more liquids than solids but it was still fun to mingle about filling my glass and sample some flavorful morsels. I particularly enjoyed the pulled pork with fresh corn salsa bites. As much as I was there to eat, drink, repeat. I did have some stalking to do as well. My eyes were pealed for food-lovin’ stars to capture with my camera and swoon with my own food fanatic heart.

 

Lucky me.  In the midst of foodie mayhem I spotted this guy, Tim Love. Chef Love is actually is the main reason Food and Wine came to Austin. He is a culinary legend and owns top-rated restaurants in Texas.  He is known for his award-winning urban western cuisine. I thanked him for keeping Texas food standards up to the highest levels and he beamed.

  I was buzzed and buzzing, from my first celebrity catch. The next stop was Marcus Samuelsson’s cooking demo titled, “Birds of A Feather.” Marcus is known for his African home style cooking that sends you right to the Sahara.  In this particular demo he was making a coconut milk-marinated fried chicken, with garlic mashed potatoes and smoked collard greens.  I love his accent and his humble easygoing nature despite his fame.  It was worth the hour-long wait to get a seat in his tent.  Even though I ended up in the nosebleed section, I was happy and inspired by this Chef with Afro-style and an upbeat personality.

Yes, Chef Samuelsson’s cooking demo was wildly full of life with a side of collard greens. He even gave a few plates of his greens and smashed potatoes out to the crowd. I did hesitate as there were about fifty of us eating off of one plate but it was worth it. During his cooking demo he reminded all of us to make our sides taste as delicious as the main protein.  I look forward to zesting up my next side of mashed potatoes with a dash of lime juice and a sprinkle of chicken stock in honor of Chef. I also, look forward to reading his biography coming out this summer.

                                    

 

Yes, I was so eager to meet celebrity chefs. So much in fact, this guy told me he was famous and I believed him…

 

Turns out he’s just from Kansas.

I also chased down Andrew Zimmerman for a picture. He declined saying, “I’m late for a press conference.”  I immediately lost interest in Andrew Zimmerman. Press conference my ass!  Everyone else was more than happy to indulge my celebrity chef craze, I doubt he even had a press conference. Even Gail Simmons, THE Gail Simmons took time for a photo or two with me. I waited in the 100 degree blistering sun for 30 minutes to tell her how much she has inspired me. She was kind enough to pose for our picture and she offered words of encouragement to rising food writer.  Check back soon for my review of her book “Talking With My Mouth Full.

                                          

After a hard-earned day of stalking, drinking, eating and a bit more stalking we decided to have dinner at La Condesa with fellow San Antonio blogger ohmypuddin. Their menu boasts eclectic Mexican items like venison tacos and a beet cake dessert. We shared a series of divine dishes and enjoyed our night out. Beware if you sit outside, a bird may poop on you (true story).  I did, of course, enjoy the beet cake.  The accompanying scoop of homemade coconut ice cream shined pearly-white and created the perfect marriage of sweet and savory.

After our family-style meal we found our way into the VIP taco party. I was perfectly full from dinner so we opted out of the celebrity chef tacos. Although, Tim Love did make his tacos from goats bosom’s, it was Austin local, Chef Tyson Cole who took the taco crown. While the rest of the VIP crowd was stuffing their faces with beef cheeks and booze, I enjoyed  mixin’ it up with the Modern Mixologist himself,Tony Abou-Ganim,.  Tony’s passion for what he does shines like a lighthouse and he inspired me to drink more mixers and to read his upcoming book about vodka. I think I may have stalked him a bit too. Oh well. As you can tell,  I was drunk there was way more boozing and schmoozing than digesting morsels of delight, at this year’s Austin Food and Wine Fest.

So…I would call the event… A FEASTIVAL .  The best eating was to be found out on the town, which speaks to the high standards of eatin’ in Austin.  I did enjoy rubbing elbows with Chefs and Gail. However, a few kinks to work out by the organizers and next year we will be feasting like Renaissance Kings.

If you have an extra $850, I would go big and fancy – the VIP ticket really does get you some VIP treatment.  Like most great events, the first round is mostly a learning experience and given the high expectations of Austin natives I’m sure 2013 will be more balanced and refined. I hope to see you there.

 

Until the next FOOD and WINE, be well and make life as delicious as possible.

 

10 Perfect Patios for Pleasing Palettes

I love spring. The vibrant wildflower landscape, the 75 degree weather (in San Antonio), the cool yet refreshing breeze… and the patio dining. Patios are like coffee shops. I need a comfy spot to really enjoy this rare treat. I want to feel taken away to someplace magical, mystical and delicious. The breeze in my hair, a glass of vino in hand and the food as mouth-watering as possible. In the name of blue bonnet season and San Antonio livin’ here are 10 places you may want to go enjoy during this brief, sunny weather treat. In no particular order…

1. The Monterey.  By far my favorite funky, outdoor dining atmosphere. Amongst hip decor you will find colorful miss-matched chairs and even a couple of comfy couches. They have a great beer and wine list and plenty of unique menu items to choose from. Personally, I love their brunch. Check out the bacon glazed donut. It’s a gooey marriage of sweet and salty with a sprinkle of little miss piggy crunch. As long as you keep an eye on your kids and don’t ask for mac n’ cheese your fam will be welcomed.

 

2. Sustenio.  A new place that stole my heart and ran away with it beating to Latin America. Enjoy this completely un-San Antonio experience with a ceviche tasting menu or go all out and indulge in some creative masterpiece menu items. A great date night spot but kids are welcome too as long as you got ’em reasonably well trained.

3. Cappy’s  The back porch is a shade lovers dream boat. There is a gorgeous old tree that covers most of the tables outside. And the chicken nachos are loaded with real cheese and fresh ingredients. (family welcome)

4. BLISS  A wonderful menu with “on point” flavors. The seasonal menu changes daily.  They even have a firepit to enjoy with a vino in hand. A fellow foodie mama (Mama2aidan) wrote a wonderful review HERE (well-behaved families welcome)

5. Pam’s Patio Kitchen.  The salmon sandwich will knock your sandals into next week. It’s flaky, tender, and drizzled with chipotle aioli. This hint-o-spice aioli is a sauce lover’s obsession. The patio itself is in a strip mall but there is plenty of space. There are also some plants sprinkled about to give a down home feel. (very family welcome)

 

6. Dough. If you haven’t been here yet, go early or go for lunch (lunch specials under 10$). This place is also in a strip mall setting but feels a bit European to me, they even have wool blankets to cozy up if you’re the sensitive-to-cool-breeze-type.  The seasonal burrata is a must order item, housemade and house stuffed buffalo mozzarella filled with a creamy, succulent, seasonal blend of flavors (say that 10 times).  (family welcome)

7. Bourdwalk On Bulverde.  This is not the Jersey Shore-roller coaster type of  boardwalk but rather a kick ass food truck park. If you’re into Pakistani eats, don’t miss the Rickshaw Stop. No really, DO NOT MISS. They have delightful saucity-sauces and tender juicy meats. If you’ve got chitlins, the boardwalk has a playground with swings and if you’ve got some vagabond in you, they occasionally have free beer… that’s right, FREE. You can find a bit more about their sauce HERE. (very, very family welcome)

8. Big Z’s. What do you get when you cross burgers, beer, and a plethora of  balls? No, not a bachelor party! Big Z’s baby. They have 2 locations and both have great quality (151) or (1604).  Whatever you do, don’t leave without getting your burger “dirty.” I love the patio at the 1604 location it’s a bit more rustic. But if you’re closer to 151 the food is on par there as well. (very, very family welcome, huge turf for plenty of ball tossin’)

9. The Cove  This place is for all my crunchy friends. They serve mostly organic food, oftentimes plucked from the in-house garden. There is also plenty of room to let the kids be as free-range as the chickens. (very, very family welcome, even a playground)

10. The PEARL Brewery: CIA bakery (with kids) or Il Sogno (lunch/dinner date).we love the pearl and it’s low-key end of the Riverwalk. There is a bunch of construction these days but don’t let it deter you. Either enjoy a lemonade (note: lemonade is fresh squeezed and even has a hint of vanilla) to go from the CIA followed by a picnic by the river. Or go on a hot date with your love at Il Sogno. The patio is small and, although we recommend getting a reservation, you don’t need one to sit there. (Thank you,SAfoodnazi for the insider patio scoop for Il Sogno).

Whether or not you live in San Antonio, I hope you are inspired to take advantage of a sunny day and eat outside.  Please, let me know your favorite patio-vino drinking spot? Maybe we can meet for a glass of cool breeze and an order of good eats.

Happy Second Day Of Spring!

*ALL above are SMOKE-FREE (a must). All opinions are my own, I was not compensated for the above information.

 

 

 

 

Spring 2012 Edible Adventures

I love food planning. No, not menu planning. That is reserved for people who are far more organized than me. I’m talking about food events that I get to look forward to eat, and eat, and eat at. San Antonio was one of the featured cities of this season’s Top Chef, so we’ve hit the ground running in the culinary scene. That’s right folks, San Antonio is becoming less known for the best taco ever and more of a hub for the best meal you’ve ever had. So, if you’re a local food enthusiast and you want to jump on the food-lovin’ bandwagon or if you’re just hungry, join us and jump into some spring events to tickle your taste buds.

March 11 The beautiful and historic Pearl Brewery, will be featuring talented chef’s from all over the WORLD (I told y’all we’re gettin’ fancy up in here) for an Iron Chef style paella competition. Tickets are 50$ ( includes more Paella than your Spanish grandma ever made, in her lifetime) or 60$ at the door. There is also a 12 and under ticket available so bring the kiddos. Tickets include: adult drinks and a chance to get some ‘liquid courage’ and talk with celebrity chefs. Maybe a cheesy autograph to show your grand kids? Read more about the event and get your tickets HERE (This event is Family-Welcome).

March 24 The Special Projects Social (TSPS) will be having a rockin’ after party. TSPS is San Antonio’s featured pop-up style restaurant. Some of my Foodie Mama friends (SAfoodNazi and Mama2aidan) attended the last event and raved about the food, art and colorful company. Tim Mcdiarmid known as Tim the girl, is a New York City native turned San Antonio transplant. Tim brings her fresh city palette and unique culinary skills with her and is making local food lova’s go coo coo for her tasty pop-up. Unfortunately, dinner tickets sold out but you can still come bust-a-move with us at the after party. Tickets are 40$ and can be bought HERE if you cant make this one check the TSPS site for the next event or join Tim and friends for an amazing trip they have planned for Italy this summer.  I know, she’s super- food- woman, like most of Tim’s events, tickets go quickly so seize the day and jump into an Italian foodie dream week. (None of the above events are Family-Welcome).

March 26 What do you get when you mix good eats and good peeps? That’s right, The SA Chef Coalition Dinner. Well known local Chef Andrew Weissman (owner of Il Sogno and Sandbar) is leading the SA Coalition pack alongside other talented San Antonio Chefs. This culinary powerhouse team is combining forces to make San Antonio hit the mark with incredible edibles on a National Scale. On March 26, there will be a family style dinner open to the public. Join these amazing trail blazers and enjoy good food and fabulous conversations. I put my request in for a seat (wink) and you can too. Tickets are 95$ and to reserve a spot emailSAchefcoalition@gmail.com  SAchefcoalition@gmail.com  for more information on the SA Chef Coalition click HERE (This event is not Family-Welcome).

March 31 One of our beloved Foodie Mama’s Tara ( Mama2aidan) is sadly leaving us for Arizona. Despite our tears we are Foodie Mama’s after all and will be having a farewell dinner at Restaurant Gwendolyn. If you are a Foodie Mama and on twitter click HERE to reserve your seats and if you’re not on twitter and would like to join the Foodie Mama’s as we eat, drink and make food porn, please email me. (Emily@definingdelicious.com). (This event is just for Foodie Mama’s. Sorry fellas)

Check Back soon as I have some Delicious April Adventures in the works!