2013 Austin Food & Wine Festival
Huge improvements over last year, but still a few wrinkles
By Wes Marshall, 9:00AM, Mon. Apr. 29, 2013
The 2013 Austin Food & Wine Festival has come and gone. Everyone we spoke with agreed things went much better than 2012. Butler Park was certainly a more intimate setting, so getting from one event to another was uncomplicated. Plus, there was enough grass to keep the dust from choking the crowd, or getting in all the wine glasses.
The festival organizers devoted plenty of firepower to the world of adult beverages on this year's program. Three of the best wine dudes around each did three seminars. Ray Isle, the Executive Wine Editor of Food & Wine is always a big draw, with his combination of a deep well of knowledge and a humble personality.
There were still a few problems, such as parking anywhere near the park. Forget about that because the Palmer Event Center was hosting an all-day event. Finally, a State Trooper told me about a secret parking place where an office building was allowing festival guests free access to their lot. And no, I won’t tell you where it is, though next year, I’d recommend parking at one of the big hotels and taking a pedi-cab to Butler Park. Exhibitors inside the Grand Tasting area groused that they weren’t getting any traffic, though lines for food stretched a long way. But the biggest problem was that festival managers were allowing people to stand in line for some of the seminars, even when it was obvious that the number of people in line far exceeded the capacity of the venue. The only way to make sure you got into a seminar was to skip the preceding one and spend an hour waiting in line for the next one. I would suggest they either sell fewer tickets or make sure popular speakers like Mark Oldman and Ray Isle get bigger venues.
One thing that seemed to make lots of Taste pass guests happy was that the Grand Tasting area was open for four straight hours both days. And you needed that much time to sample all the wine, liquor, beer, and food. Here’s a few of our favorite experiences in the Grand Tasting.