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.