Endless Eating at Austin Food & Wine Fest
Austin Food & Wine Festival was three weekends ago, so this recap is definitely a little later than I would like, but to be honest, it took about three weeks to recover! I attend a lot of food events these days, and AFWF is the mother lode of all food events here in Austin. I ate and drank more in those three days than I did in the rest of 2014, I swear. There wasn’t a moment I wasn’t stuffing some sort of caloric goodness into my mouth. So much wine, specialty cuisine, celebrity chefs, fanciful tacos, sugary sweet macarons… I could go on, but you get the idea.
I’d rather show than tell, though. Here are some highlights from my three days of gorging:
Georgia Pellegrini‘s “Dough a Deer” taco from the Rock Your Taco competition. Green plantain tortilla with parsnip puree, venison tossed in a Cuban oregano vinaigrette, pickled jicama and carrot, tomatillo salsa, smoked Adobo sauce and pickled mustard seed. SO creative and delicious.
The “Not Enough” (salted caramel ice cream, pecans, and bittersweet chocolate) ice cream sundae cup from Jeni’s. Have you had Jeni’s ice cream? It’s seriously some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. It’s a little pricey, but worth hunting out. You can find it in upscale groceries and specialty markets.
Croque Madame from Chef Lawrence Kocurek of TRACE, made with duck bacon and quail egg. Disclaimer: I work for TRACE, too! But my completely unbiased opinion is that this was one of the best bites I had in the entire Grand Tasting inside the fest.
Grace restaurant in Fort Worth presented beef cheek pastrami and smoked gouda on rye at the Taste of Texas evening event. I’m not always keen on pastrami, but this was incredible. It was like the best, most tender and luxurious, deconstructed reuben sandwich ever.
Tyson Cole of Austin’s Uchi is known to have one of the best entires at Rock Your Taco (he’s a two-time champ), and this was no exception – a Kiiro Meshi puffy taco topped with coconut milk and lemongrass poached sea bass and crunchy corn salad. He didn’t win this year, but it was definitely one of my favorites.
Another big treat during Taste of Texas: fried lamb ribs from Pass & Provisions in Houston. I don’t know if I’ve ever had lamb ribs before. These were fall-apart tender underneath their crispy, spicy-sweet exterior.
Twice cooked crispy pork, dehydrated gulf shrimp, toasted pecans, shallots, coconut and jasmine rice powder, also presented at Taste of Texas, from one of my favorite restaurants in Austin, Sway. This was really chewy, in the best way you can describe something as “chewy.” Thumbs up.
Another super badass Rock Your Taco contender: the Goat Revolution from Chef Bryce Gilmore of Odd Duck and Barley Swine. This was the best tortilla of the night – a GOAT fat tortilla! Yup. Also, goat meat and goat cheese. Triple goat delight.
THIS. THIIIS. Dungeness crab crispy rice salad from Chef Jason Dady at Taste of Texas. The pic doesn’t do it justice at all. This is heaven in a takeout box. I stuffed myself silly at Taste of Texas, and this was the only thing I decided to get seconds of (I also wanted seconds of that Grace pastrami and a couple other dishes, but I was reaching a dangerously high stomach capacity). I want to eat this again right now. I usually don’t even like rice.
Look at this glistening slab of meat. This is beef from Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller BBQ and it was a massive plate to conquer. I’m picky about barbecue – if it’s not good I’m not that into it – and this was fork tender and awesomely savory without any sauce needed. Perfectly paired with my plastic glass of Coppola red wine sitting there.
And for a little something more veg-friendly… Chef Justin Yu of Oxheart in Houston made root vegetable fritters that were just the perfect mouthful. See, there’s more in Texas than just piles and piles of meat.
I could go on… but you get the point. I was lucky enough to score comped passes to all these Food & Wine Fest events through my blogging and my marketing job, but I definitely think it’s worth purchasing a ticket if you love food. Yeah, it’s a pretty penny (passes started at $285 this year) but if you think about the fact that you’d spend maybe $100 to wine and dine at a really good restaurant, it’s not a bad deal.
Between the daytime Grand Tasting and sample booths around the festival grounds (everything from restaurants to grocery stores to wine to champagne) and evening events like Taste of Texas and Rock Your Taco, you have the opportunity to eat your money’s worth… and then some. I’m already ridiculously excited for next year! Hope to see you there.