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Four words: Texas straight bourbon whiskey

By Virginia B. Wood, Fri., April 1, 2011

It's no secret the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival has struggled financially for several years now. Competition from other statewide wine and food events coupled with lean economic times made underwriting sponsorships harder to come by, while major components of the fest lost money due to bad weather and low paid attendance. Festival Executive Committee President Cathy Coch­ran-Lewis, Executive Director Erika White, and their volunteer board held festival fundraisers over the last year, doing their best to streamline this year's event and present a more engaging program. However, during the final days before the festival, a persistent rumor surfaced that the festival had been offered a financial settlement to cease operation after this season and be replaced by an annual spring food and wine event put on by Austin's nationally known C3 Presents. No one on the festival's volunteer board was willing to talk about the rumor on the record, though Coch­ran-Lewis did acknowledge that she's heard it, too. At press time, no one from C3 had replied to phone calls or e-mails regarding the rumor of its involvement. My suggestion would be to make the most of this year's festival, because it could very well be the last one in this format. And keep an eye out for a big announcement from C3 sometime soon.

Today's Texas distilling industry is in much the same place as the wine industry was 26 years ago when the festival was founded here in Austin. New companies are coming online every year, such as the new Spirit of Texas Dis­til­lery in Pflugerville (www.spiritoftx.com) that's producing rum for Pecan Street Rum. Garrison Brothers
Distillery
(www.garrisonbros.com) recently released a small batch of its 94 proof Texas straight bourbon whiskey to selected stores in the Hill Country, San Antonio, and Austin. If this most recent batch is already sold out, you are invited to tour the distillery off Highway 290 West in Hye and enjoy a sample during your visit. And speaking of distilled spirits, kudos to La Condesa's Nate Wales, a member of the U.S. bartending team that took first place in the recent Cocktail World Cup punch challenge with its "42Below the Mason-Dixie Line" punch.

The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas is seeking applications for its fourth annual Pastry Scholarship Competition. The winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship, and two runners-up get $1,000 each. To be eligible, students must be enrolled in an accredited culinary program at the time of the competition. See complete details and application forms at www.winefoodfoundation.org. Applications must be received by 5pm Friday, April 8, to be considered.

Round Rock Farms 2 Market opens Wed­nes­day, April 6, from 4 to 7pm in the Dell Diamond parking lot off Highway 79. A new website is coming soon at www.roundrockfarmersmarket.org. Also, the new 6701 Burnet Road Market, formerly known as the Travis County Farmers' Market, reopens April 7 with market days on Thurs­days from 4 to 8pm and Saturdays from 9am to 2pm. Learn about upcoming events at www.6701burnetroadmarket.com.

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