The Austin Food & Wine Festival presented by C3 really through me for a loop. With 8 years of the New York City Wine & Food Festival under my belt, and running around from 3 events a night all over the city, I thought this one wouldn’t be able to top it. This is the best festival I’ve been to because of two things: space and no lines. It’s unbelievable how much more fun this is with less options at night (there is only one event Friday night and one Saturday night), so you don’t have to book it all over and you can just enjoy your time in one place. On Friday, I went to Lone Star Nights at Fair Market which is a huge grassy yard with an indoor warehouse on the grounds. The colorful tents and lights outside made for a quaint Texas evening with drinks from Tequila 512, Hendrick’s Gin, and Austerity Wines. Chefs from all over Austin and nearby San Antonio presented several dishes from an amazing poké by San Antonio chef Luis Colon to pasta from Emmer & Rye, Migas Tacos from Paul Qui’s Kuneho, Thai Kun’s Thai Roast Chicken Salad to a refreshing asparagus salad with salami and cheese by Nonna in Dallas.
My favorite dish was by far legendary Wayne Mueller’s lamb lollipops from Taylor, Texas’ Louie Mueller BBQ. I still haven’t made the drive there, but my dad has done his Texas BBQ cross state research and this is his favorite. The lamb pop should have a different name because they were way better than the wedding party appetizer name they were given. At each bite, the juice meat basically collapsed into your mouth barely having to pull it off the bone. Honestly, I didn’t have this much faith in lamb to do this. I only thought a pork rib could slide off so easily. My other favorite was Ford Fry from Houston’s State of Grace Spanish Octopus, Thai Green Curry and Caramelized Fish Sauce on some kind of mix between a taco and roti. I’ve never had actual tender octopus at an event like this that is supposed to feed hundreds. It’s impressive that it turned out well and that they used such great quality ingredients.
The first full day of the festival then began on Saturday at Auditorium Shores which is a huge field/park situation, if you will, right off Lady Bird Lake and conveniently located right across the street from my apartment, so I had been watching them set up all week outside my balcony. Saturday, April 29 has been the hottest day in Austin since I moved here and standing outside in an open grassy area with BBQ smokers, pieces of wood flying sporadically, and over 50 wineries and vineyards sampling their juice was a lot to handle at first. However, as soon as I got a bite of the tender and brisket like lamb neck brushed in a Mediterranean green herb sauce similar to chimichurri from Chef Blaine Staniford from Grace restaurant in Forth Worth, I was saved and just getting started. If you’ve been following my instagram lately, you know I am obsessed with this herb sauce. Local Chefs Andrew Wisehart from Contigo and Bryce Gilmore also had fire pit stations with turkeys and pig roasts. I loved the Lonesome Dove grilled oysters with manchego cheese and jalapeño while Chef Tim Love did an actual hands on grilling demo so ticket holders could try their own skills on grills with step by step tips from the chef. Who knew you could get pro advice at these things in real time, right?
I watched father and son Jimmy Bannos & Jimmy Bannos Jr. from Chicago’s The Purple Pig, one of my all time favorite restaurants in the Windy City demo how to make a Greek spinach pie out of phyllo dough, and Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar create her famous naked layer cakes using passion fruit curd and icing. She was a hoot to watch and really got the crowd roaring- she even gave a way four cakes. This is something to note because while you get to watch your favorite chefs cook and chat with the crowd for about 45 min, you do not get to try their food.
Other local restaurants that participated and had sampling booths included: Kuneho and a roti dish,, Juliet and a smoked salmon bite, Lick’s blueberry ice cream, Easy Tiger raisin rolls, Botika’s Peruvian rice and roasted pork, The Peached Tortilla peanut noodles, Stiles Switch BBQ, Sway, Delysia Chocolatier and their new Texas themed line (below), etc. What I like most about this festival is how easy breezy it is and how much fun it is to attend these big events outside without monster crowds. It’s nice to see several local restaurants putting out food with some nearby cities driving in as it’s a good indicator of what they are serving and might just help you decide where to eat next! You can also learn so much from the chef demos, wine maker series discussions, and have the opportunity to get your cookbooks signed by some of the chefs.