Quail and Grits from US Food

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:

Braised Short Rib from Jasper's

Quail and Grits from US Food

Shrimp and Blue Cheese Grits from Moonshine

La Dolce Vita

Steiner Ranch Sliders

Searsucker Whiskey Pork Butt

Emily Teachout La Dolce Vita

Annnnd here are my top two winners of the night. (La Dolce Vita gives you little stickers to award to the best food and wine selections of the evening – you can see them around my wine glass in the photo above.)

Llano Winery La Dolce Vita

Wine winner (WINEner?): Llano Estacado Viviano Rosso. SO GOOD. Velvety, complex, rich, and almost dangerously smooth. I could drink this wine forever… and I plan to, once I find some in stores (or maybe I’ll just buy some online, who knows). Some people turn up their noses at Texas wine, but once you’ve tried this one, I guarantee you’ll change your tune. Dare I say… exquisite.

Meggs La Dolce Vita

My favorite food of the evening was a surprise to even me, as it wasn’t even from a well-known Austin restaurant—it was from a little café in Temple called Megg’s! I’d never heard of them before but now I certainly can’t keep them out of my mind. The ultra sweet peeps at Megg’s offered not one, not two, but THREE tasters: (1) deviled farm eggs with bacon marmalade, crispy shallots, and chives, (2) Texas field pea hummus with marinated red pepper, goat feta, and meyer lemon olive oil served on the most amazing grilled bread, and (3) the best caramel corn I’ve ever had. Oh Megg’s!

If you’re as obsessed with food and/or wine as I am, I promise that a La Dolce Vita ticket pays for itself. The event only lasts three hours, but that’s really all you need if you’re doing it right; I can’t imagine continuing to eat past the point that I did. I already can’t wait for next year. For any of you who have been contemplating paying a visit to Austin, come during the week of this event! The weather is perfect and so is the food.

For more Austin food tips (not to mention healthy recipes, cocktails, food travel, and restaurant reviews), check out ES Emily’s individual blog, A Time to Kale, or tweet her @emilyteachout.

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