Sunday, April 29, 2012

Austin Food & Wine Festival

If you have been thinking, whats up with all this food and wine festiving on the hole blog lately, it means you are perceptive.  And hopefully you are also intrigued enough to help spread the word about the future of Fort Worth's own festival - but more on that later. 

First, the Austin Food & Wine Festival.  As part of an elite crew of intense, research-oriented journalists from the Metroplex, I was invited to the Austin Food & Wine Festival.  This was the first Food & Wine festival for the City of Austin and so they wanted to get the word out.  They know the power of this blog, apparently.  To start off, I'm going to be very careful here to not imply, suggest or compare Fort Worth to Austin.  They are two completely different cities and have two different styles that need to be individually maintained.  In fact, I don't want Fort Worth to be Austin, but I do want to increase our local restaurant scene and that matches up with what is going down on the Colorado River.  With that in mind....

Austin Food & WineThe festival was hosted by Food & Wine Magazine (along with a number of other sponsors) and included cooking demonstrations from famous chefs that Top Chef fans will recognize, as well as Grand Tastings that showcased wine from across the world and food from all over the state.  And, if you were super special (read: not me) you were a VIP and attended some special evening events involving live music and smaller crowds that probably got detailed interviews with our very own Chef Tim Love.  I have made up an interview below since I never got to him and I feel like these answers are close to what he would have said.

FWHITW:  Chef Love, what do you think about the Austin Food & Wine Festival? 
Chef Love:  This is fantastic, and what a great place to host the best in the culinary world - right on the banks of the Colorado River.  Plus, I'm glad to see such prestigious people here like Marcus Samuelsson, Andrew Zimmern, and you, FWHITW blogger.  Want a shot of Tuaca?   
FWHITW:  Well thank you Chef, you're too nice.  Can I also have free food at Woodshed? 
Chef Love:  You've been paying?  My bad, from now on, just let them know who you are and all meals will be on the house.   
FWHITW:  Again, you're too nice.  Yes, I'll take another shot of Tuaca.  Do you do this in every interview? 
Chef Love:  If by interview you mean fifteen minute interval, then yes. 
Along with made-up, self-serving interviews with me, the Chef also provided a massive grilling demonstration, complete with grills for many attendees to work along on.  His presence was pretty well felt throughout the entire festival as he joked with chefs during their demonstrations and captured people's attention during his two big lessons at the grill.  Maybe some of that enthusiasm will translate to the Fort Worth Festival.

They were just asked to cheer if they think Chef Love should keep his promise to FWHITW.  That bottle in this guy's hand had nothing to do with his enthusiastic support for free food.

Throughout the day many chefs provided cooking demonstrations that were really more about seeing chef-lebrities and hearing them answer questions.  Some of the chefs came out and put together pre-prepped ingredients and pulled a dish out of an oven.  Others, like Marcus Samuelsson dazzled a drunken afternoon crowd with a triple-fried chicken, served with smoked collard greens.  Along with cooking demonstrations, there were also wine/spirit discussions and according to my new friends on the festival staff, drinks flowed easily to the visitors.

Marcus Sameulsson, Chef/Owner of Aquavit in New York and Top Chef Masters Winner was a fan favorite and will probably be at the Fort Worth Food & Wine Festival considering how close he is to Chef Love.
I was cropped from the left side but see what I mean - good buds.

At midday and then again in the evening there were Grand Tastings which showcased wineries from around the world, distillers, restaurants, and some FWHITW's favorite people.  As you can see below, I got to sit behind the owner/founder/creator/queen of Dude, Sweet Chocolate during a cooking demonstration.  She was also giving out free samples during the grand tasting.  Tito's Vodka was there, a few local Texas wineries and food from all over the state.  The tasting provided an opportunity to try different foods and beverages but also learn more about the products from the producers, sellers, owners.  This seemed to be a popular event as people wandered around, trying the food and drinks and mingling with others.

That's Katherine, Chef/Owner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate.  And that's not sweat on her back, but she'd be excused if it was - it was probably warm being so close to all those people in a tent.

Along with the Grand Tasting was a Weekender's Lounge which provided free drinks (alcoholic and non) along with shaded seating throughout the festival.  They were joined by a few food trucks selling some interesting concoctions like bahn mi sliders, and other things I didn't try.  Sentences like that keep from getting recognition in the FW Weekly Best Of contest.

The turnout for the first Austin Food & Wine Festival was great and seats were at a premium for most demonstrations.  The chefs, though not easily reached, seemed to enjoy cooking and signing books.  It seemed like the crews putting everything on were constantly trying to find ways to make the festival better.  Hopefully next year they'll include a live music component to the daytime events and add a little more shaded seating. 

Now, on to Fort Worth.  Trinity Park is the place to do this and we have plenty of chefs/producers/etc to put something like this together.  What was amazing was the Fort Worth love we saw down at the festival.  Much of it came at the expense of our Neiman's clad neighbors to the east.  But many people were familiar with our local restaurant scene (and the Cowboy Hat clad Chef from Lonesome Dove).  Here's the Fort Worth Food & Wine Festival website and Facebook page

Thanks to the Austin Food & Wine Festival for including Fort Worth Hole In The Wall.  Now its time for Fort Worth to get moving.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for leaving this Austin Food and Wine Festival Review. Thinking of going to the 2013 event.

FortWorthHoleInTheWall said...

It was a fantastic event. Hopefully next year they'll have some of the kinks worked out for an even better event. If you plan to go, get your hotel room early so you can stay near the event.