La Dolce Vita Food and Wine Festival

La Dolce Vita Laguna Gloria

It’s common knowledge that Austin’s culinary scene has been blowin’ up. We have Top Chef Texas winner Paul Qui and his Asian fusion empire, Austin Food & Wine Festival, and the flagship Whole Foods. Not to mention the wonderful restaurants constantly cropping up, and all the famous barbecue.

And of course… LA DOLCE VITA. I’ve always wanted to attend La Dolce Vita since I moved to Austin and first heard about this glorious event. The magnificent Laguna Gloria, an absolutely beautiful outdoor venue, is swarmed by over 50 of the hottest Texas restaurants and wineries, and attendees are tasked with the stressful chore of tasting everything. And by “stressful” I clearly mean “AMAZING.”

Whoever said the best things in life are for free has obviously never attended a high-end culinary event, because tickets to La Dolce Vita will set you back $150 (or $200 for a VIP ticket including access to an exclusive cocktail lounge) but it’s worth it if you want to sample the cooking of some of the region’s best chefs. If you, unlike me, don’t like throwing large sums of money at indulgent dining opportunities, you’ll be happy to know that the ticket price also goes to support the arts—all proceeds go to The Contemporary‘s educational programs.

By the end of the event, I was Thanksgiving-level full. (And we all know I can EAT on Thanksgiving.) Seriously, I just kept stuffing myself until it was over. I felt like I was walking through one of those big, elegant Top Chef elimination events where all the cheftestants are vying for best dish and shoving beautiful plates of food at the judges. Just call me Padma!

Read on for some photo highlights of my oh-so-delicious evening:

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300 Half-Eaten Sandwiches

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So the food world is all atwitter about 300 Sandwiches. If you’ve been living under a rock, or don’t check your food blog links 5 times a day, here’s the gist: New York Post reporter Stephanie Smith was befuddled by her boyfriend’s obsession with sandwiches, especially after she made him a particularly tasty one and he replied “Honey, you’re 300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring.” Calling his bluff, Smith started a blog chronicling her quest to make 300 perfect sandwiches, and she is damn well expecting a ring once the list is finished. Feminist bloggers were unsurprisingly appalled. Personally, my reaction was the same as pretty much any other guy’s, saying to my girlfriend, H: “honey, we should do this!!!” To which I received an epic eyeroll along with a response I perhaps should have seen coming: “If you like sandwiches so much why don’t you make me 300 sandwiches?”

She had a point. I do like to cook, and I am constantly perplexed at the gf’s inability to understand my intense love for the magnificence of meals between bread. “I’ll do it!” I said. I’ll make her all 300 sandwiches, and by the end she will have to understand why I love these beauties so much. It will bring the gf and I closer together and help us land, if not a wedding date, at least a blog-to-book deal.

I set to work.

Re-creation #1: 300 Sandwiches’ gorgeous mozzarella and homemade pesto BLT:

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Photo: 300Sandwiches.com

I’m usually a mess in the kitchen, but this time I followed Smith’s instructions to a T — frying up crispy bacon and layering it on a baguette with pesto, arugula, tomato and fresh mozz. I resisted my urge to get creative and made just one game-time decision: frying the baguette in leftover bacon grease instead of toasting it. I mean, come on. Obviously.

I have to admit I set out wanting to make fun of Smith, but gotta give credit where credit is due: this sandwich is not only pretty, it’s delicious. Definitely one of the best I’ve had in a while.

BLT

My BLT re-creation

 

Um, maybe too delicious though. By the time H made it in to the kitchen, the BLT’s photogenic appearance had evaporated, along with 60% of the sandwich.

BLT after

Oops! No worries. Still 299 attempts left to solidify this love between myself, my girl and my lunch.

Re-creation #2: Spring Cleaning Goat Cheese and Basil Grilled Cheese:

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The Regrettable Edible

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You know what the relationship is between inspiration and perspiration? Inspiration allows you to think outside the box, which sometimes leads to magical creations. Perspiration is what happens when life bends you over the Counter of Good Intentions and pile drives your inspiration into deep regret. Case in point; I got a call from a special ‘friend’ who is a single mom with two great kids who are Cub Scouts. My friend has a demanding, full-time job and was hosting her sons’ Cub Scout meeting after work, and she asked me if I could help her out by preparing some lime Jell-o desserts for the troop before she got home. I knew that I would be compensated for this in a way that I can’t describe, so I quickly agreed and went over to her place to make the treats.

While I was looking for some pots I found her liquor stash and unopened bottles of tequila and margarita mix. Suddenly – inspiration!

What if I substituted half the Jell-o water with tequila and margarita mix? If this worked that would be a cool little treat for my friend and myself once the Cub Scout meeting was over and it was time for my compensation. I prepared the Jell-o and added my margarita substitute; then I put the sauce pan into the fridge to chill. Once it set up I’d cut a bunch of small square margarita shots for me and my favorite Den Mother to enjoy later that evening. I still had plenty of time to run out and get some more Jell-o to make for the Scouts before the meeting so I jumped into my ride and took the freeway shortcut to the store.

Uh…did I mention that I live in L.A.? Yeah, well…on the way back I was a quarter-mile from the exit when something happened to the tractor-trailer up ahead and before I knew it the rig was lying on its side across the freeway! The driver got out okay but all four lanes on my side came to a grinding halt. I was gridlocked with no way out when I made a shocking discovery; in my haste to rush out and get the additional Jell-o I had left my cell phone in the kitchen! Up to this point I wasn’t worried that I hadn’t memorized her number because I knew it was in my phone. Perspiration!

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Timpano for Dummies

              Timpano-for-Dummies

EP-IC– extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope.

THAT’S what I wanted to make this last weekend; an epic dinner. But it had been a grueling week and I was pretty sore after re-launching my workout program, so I was in search of a

SHORT-CUT — a method or means of doing something more directly and quickly, though not as thoroughly.

I’ve made epic meals in the past, usually for a holiday, and it’s always a two day event consisting of creating everything from scratch and working  morning ‘til night just to prepare all of the elements that go into the dish. But that wasn’t going to happen this weekend because I was

SPENT — used up; consumed, depleted of energy, force, or strength; exhausted.

To make matters worse I chose to make the Godzilla of epic meals, the legendary
Italian food-orgy-in-a-bowl; the TIMPANO! And I had already invited the gang over a week ago, who after learning what I was planning to make for dinner proceeded to refer to me as a

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There’s a Lot at Steak

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Guys, this column is for your eyes only so all you broads out there who stumbled onto this thinking that they might pick up a cool recipe or cooking tip can just stop reading now. This is intended for the Bros and not the Hos, so gals Google Jimmy Choo and we’ll see ya later…

They gone?….Alright then. Dudes, we’ve gotta unite. Time is definitely running out and ours is the last generation before the unthinkable so I’m talkin’ all in and balls out on this one! I’ll get right to the point:

We’ve gotta get the girls to stop eating our meat.

You heard me. Some of you guys love to shove it in their mouth anytime they ask for it but I’m telling ya, you’ve gotta start thinking about the rest of us here. This planet ain’t getting’ any bigger and with the way that the world population keeps growing, things aren’t looking good for us Male Meat Meisters. You’ve gotta face the hard facts and accept that Mother Earth has topped out on cattle production, i.e., those four legged steak factories. The world’s bovine fart chart is way in the red and it seems that methane and the ozone get along about as well as Donald Trump and Rosie O’Donnell, and we ain’t getting’ anymore cows but we’re gaining a bunch‘a new meat eaters everyday.

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Picture This…

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There’s been a lot of talk in the news lately about weiners. I mean wieners. Y’know – a red hot, nitrate stick, tube steak, frankfurter… a weiner, or wiener. It’s spelled both ways and means the same thing – hot dog!

Everybody likes ‘em, especially New York City. They’ve got the biggest one. Not officially of course, because I live in L.A. and I can tell you we’ve got some big ones right here. But New York has involuntarily been linked to the biggest and best Weiner ever. So all this wiener talk made me think about the last time that I had my hands on my own frank, and that made me go out and get all the fixings for a solo night of man-sized dog wrangling, which I really wasn’t going to share but…oh, well.

And just as I got started I got a text from this chick I know and she asked what I was doing. I told her what I had in mind but she didn’t believe me.

“Send a picture of it” she texted.

It sounded a little weird but I thought, “What the hell?”

“WOW” she texted back. “Is that all yours?”

I told her yeah, it was mine but it was a little deceiving because I’ve got really small hands and I asked her if she wanted to come by and try it for herself and believe it or not, 20 minutes later she was all over it.

Anyway, this isn’t anything special (I mean it’s no footlong), but it seemed to push her buttons, so I thought I’d share it with you. Just, uh…promise you won’t tell anybody that it’s mine.

Katt’s Cheesy Wiener

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It’s ‘National Something’ Day!!!

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Nuts! I missed it again! Just like last year I woke up too hung over to remember that it was National Tequila Day. And each time this glorious day is celebrated I think back to that little neighborhood bar that I stumbled into 5 years ago. It was loud, it was packed, and it was National Tequila Day 2008 where I was taught the proper techniques for taking and giving Body Shots, a how-to course on slurping Tequila from the naval of female strangers, and the realization that just because you own a credit card that isn’t justification to scream “A shot for everybody!” multiple times in a crowed bar. It did make me a lot of friends though, none of which it turned out had bail money. But that’s a different story….

The origin of exactly why National Tequila Day is celebrated on July 24th is as fuzzy as my vision on the morning of the 25th. We celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day on March 17th because supposedly that was the day he died. And although I deeply admire the way in which the Irish celebrate the dead, I can remember many a day after a Saint Patrick’s celebration that I too wished I were dead.

But the 24th of July is set aside and solely dedicated to the celebration and appreciation of Tequila! Yaaay!!!!!

(Well… maybe not solely. It’s also National Amelia Earhart Day as well as National Drive-Thru Day which just goes to show how many national observances we have on any given day.)

So raise your shot glasses my fellow Americans and celebrate this smooth, clear, south-of-the-border nectar by licking some salt, tossing one back and sucking on a lime! Or if you prefer the amber brands you can do it like the Germans and lick some cinnamon, toss one back and suck on an orange slice. Either way, get a designated driver and stop at a drive-thru on your way home. Then do us all a favor and like Amelia, disappear into the night. You’re going to need your rest….

National Cheesecake Day is just around the corner!!!

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