Austin Food & Wine Festival Preview

Second annual fest moves to Butler Park

Based on feedback after the last year's debut, organizers of this year's Austin Food & Wine Festival have made some important adjustments that should increase festival enjoyment potential.

When a group of local hospitality and event professionals joined forces with Food & Wine magazine to purchase and re-brand the former Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival in 2011, there was some speculation about how well a new event with a focus on national celebrity chef talent and a higher price tag would be received in Austin. While the inaugural Austin Food & Wine Festival in April of 2012 did have its rocky patches, it was a respectable first effort.

Butler Park (courtesy Austin Food & Wine Festival)

This year, organizers wisely relocated the daytime festivities to the kinder, greener Butler Park and expanded the size of the tented seating areas. They’ve announced that more substantial food samples will be available in the Grand Tasting tent as well as in the new Chef’s Showcase and Fire Pit areas. They've included some popular food trucks again but with a handy ATM nearby, and even arranged a visit from the chicVeuve Clicquot mobile Airstream champagne lounge.

This should all be welcome news to folks purchasing Taste ($250) or Savor ($850) badges. Also new this year is the option for Taste badge-holders to purchase individual tickets to the Taste of Texas on Friday night ($150) and/or Rock Your Taco ($200) on Saturday night. Tickets are still available.

This year’s program offers somewhat more of a Texas focus with the added benefit of both the Chef’s Showcase, where eight chefs from Austin and San Antonio will demonstrate signature dishes with food samples available for guests and the Fire Pit, where Texas chefs will demonstrate their mastery of cooking over live fire, answer guests questions, and share food samples. Local speakers will also be presenting some of the Tasting Room Sessions on topics of interest such as social media involvement in the food scene, urban farming, and the production of apple cider in this area.

Further program enhancements include the return of Food Republic’s all day interview lounge with both visiting chefs and Moontower Comedy Festival comedians at in the Trace Living Room on Friday afternoon and an Eat & Greet appearance by chef Andrew Zimmern at the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery. There are also new late night parties after both the Friday and Saturday night events, Sips & Sweets at Mellow Johnny’s on Friday night and the French-inspired Sel et Gras at Trace on Saturday. Here’s a quick rundown on this weekend’s action, in and around the festival.

Friday, April 26

Food Republic Interview Lounge in the Trace Living Room (200 Lavaca):11am-5:30pm

Over the course of the afternoon, the editors of will interview local and visiting culinary pros such as Andrew Zimmern, Marcus Samuelsson, Graham Elliot, Christina Tosi, and Paul Qui as well as comedians in town for the Moontower Comedy Festival, such as Michael Ian Black. (Hearing Andrew Zimmern speak in such an intimate setting was one of my favorite aspects of last year’s fest) New Trace chef Lawrence Kocurek and pastry chef Janina O’Leary will get into the act providing the occasional tasty tidbit to audience members from the Trace kitchen and libationist Joyce Garrison will share craft cocktails. The lounge is open to the public, space permitting.

The Munchie Awards Eat and Greet with Andrew Zimmern at the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery (1311 S. First): 4-6pm

Chef Andrew Zimmern hosts the Muchies People’s Choice Food Awards and will spend some time Friday afternoon congratulating 2012 Best Taco winner Torchy’s Tacos and encouraging Austinites to vote for local 2013 nominees (Best BBQ) Franklin’s Barbecue and the Salt Lick Barbecue, and (Best Taco), La Condesa from their smartphones during the event. He will also sign copies of his new book Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, & Wonderful Foods – An Intrepid Eater’s Digest (Seiwell & Friends, $14.99). The event is open to the public, but it is necessary to RSVP in order to attend

Andrew Zimmern's new book (courtesy Seiwell & Friends)

Taste of Texas Kick-Off Party in Republic Square Park (4th & Guadalupe):7-10pm

Serving the crowd at the Taste of Texas event in 2012 (courtesy Austin Food & Wine Festival)

Twenty of the most creative chefs in Texas will serve up seasonal signature dishes that define their cuisine. Craft beer, wine, and custom cocktails will be flowing and the music will be provided by Delta Spirit and the Whiskey Shivers.

Sips & Sweets at Mellow Johnny’s (400 Nueces): 9pm-midnight

Lucky badge-holders will have access to this after-party, where they can enjoy delectable sweet bites from award-winning pastry chefs Jodi Elliott of Foreign & Domestic, Erika Waksmunski from Congress, and Janina O’Leary from Trace complemented by Stump Town coffee and cocktails from Bar Congress.

Saturday, April 27

Austin Food & Wine Festival at Butler Park (1000 Barton Springs Road): 10am-5pm

Badge-holders enter the park on Riverside Drive for a full day of panel discussions, cooking demonstrations, food and wine tastings, grilling demos with chef Tim Love, live fire cooking demos hosted by chefs Tim Byres and Jason Dady, plus visits to the Grand Tasting Tent. Additionally, the food truck line up includes Cool Haus, Mmmpanadas, Peached Tortilla, Gardeners Feast, and the brand new Say LaV, making its local debut at the festival. Some trucks take credit cards and some do not but we're told there will be an ATM handy this year.

Mastering live fire cookery at the Fire Pit

Rock Your Taco in Republic Square Park (4th & Guadalupe):7-9pm Hometown favorite Tyson Cole defends his 2012 taco title against all comers, local and national chefs such as Susan Feniger, alike. Wash down all the competing tacos with craft beer, wine, and cocktails to the retro-soul of Allen Stone.

Chef Tyson Cole won the Rock Your Taco event in 2012 (courtesy Austin Food & Wine Festival)
California chef Susan Feniger is one of the chefs who will try to take the taco title (courtesy Austin Food & Wine Festival)

Luke on the Riverwalk Dinner at Whole Foods Market (525 N. Lamar): 7-9pm After his appearance at the Taste of Texas event Friday night, chef John Russ of San Antonio’s Luke on the Riverwalk presents a taste of New Orleans by way of Texas to benefit the John Besh Foundation. Luke on the Riverwalk is New Orleans’ chef/restaurateur John Besh’s first foray into the Texas market and this dinner will introduce his cuisine to Texans while raising money for culinary scholarships for at-risk youth and micro-loans for farmers and artisan food producers. Beer will be from Ranger Creek, St. Arnold, and Alamo breweries with live music from the Urban Achievers Brass Band. Purchase $45 tickets here.

Chef John Russ of Luke on the Riverwalk in San Antonio (courtesy John Besh Restaurants)

Sel et Gras at Trace at the W (200 Lavaca): 9pm-midnight After the taco competition, guests at Trace will be transported to a chic Parisian bistro with a DJ spinning classic French pop tunes, a luxurious repast of classic French savory and sweet bites, French wines, and French-inspired cocktails. Tickets are $60 for badge-holders and $75 for the general public, which includes food, drinks, and gratuity throughout the party.

Sunday, April 28

Austin Food & Wine Festival at Butler Park (1000 Barton Spring Road): 11am-3pm

After all that partying on Saturday night, things get started a little bit later on Sunday on the festival grounds. Dallas chef Tim Love will be directing the grilling demo again today while the father and son chef team of Jack and Bryce Gilmore will be joined by Rene Ortiz manning the fire pit area. Tasting Room Sessions of particular interest will feature discussions of Cider Trending Now with the folks from Austin’s new Argus Cidery at noon and an exploration of Austin’s Craft Cocktail Scene with the Tipsy Texan himself, David Alan, at 2pm.

Tipsy Texan David Alan

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