The Austin Food & Wine Alliance's annual Wine and Swine event has bounced around from venue to venue over the past few years, but here's hoping they've found a permanent home at Star Hill Ranch. After Saturday's downpours, Sunday dawned bright and blustery and the celebration of all things pork was another rousing success.
The aroma of roasting pork wafted on the stiff breeze as guests made their way from booth to booth, wine glasses in hand. Here's some of what we heard.
• Star Hill Ranch owner Adam Woolley says he's welcomed all manner of events to his facility, everything from movie shoots (it starred in Disney's remake of The Alamo) to weddings to corporate retreats. Indeed, the ranch facility is customizable for just about any kind of function. The charming cluster of lovingly restored buildings evokes the ambiance of a Texas country town that offers not only a wedding chapel but cottages for brides, grooms, and their attendants. Larger buildings can accommodate seated dinners, buffets, cocktail parties, or seminars. Manicured lawns with scenic views of the surrounding Hill Country invite outdoor seating, and while the main street is dirt and gravel, all the buildings are attractively landscaped and connected with paved sidewalks and handicapped accessible ramps. Even though the ranch gauge measured more than six inches of rain on Saturday, the large parking lot and village were fairly well drained and ready to meet the public by Sunday noon. Woolley was beaming with satisfaction as Wine and Swine kicked off, saying “This is exactly the kind of event I imagined when I planned this place – with food, and music, and wine; everybody having a good time. What could be better? Just what I've always wanted.”
• When the votes were tabulated, the Texas Pork Producers awarded a check for $1,000 to John Bates and Brandon Martinez of Noble Sandwich Co. for their flavorful smoked pork taco in absolutely etherial pork lard tortillas, dressed with tangy fermented jalapeno salsa. The crowd chose Napa Valley's Silver Oak Winery as the “best wine with swine.”
• Olamaie chefs Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas had just returned from serving 700 people at an Eater National event in New York City earlier in the week, so they elected to make Sunday easier on themselves by offering an RTG (ready to go, according to Fojtasek) item: bite-sized versions of their exemplary biscuits, filled with pimento cheese and pieces of fried bologna. How about that for Southern cuisine?
• Rebecca Masson of Fluff Bake Bar in Houston says her brick-and-mortar shop in the Bayou City's Midtown neighborhood should be open soon.
• Laura Sawicki and Rene Ortiz of Fresa's Chicken al Carbon and the eagerly anticipated Launderette are thankful to Christian Bowers for the opportunity to use the ovens in the Bola Pizza kitchen to bake off Thanksgiving pies and turkeys to meet their holiday orders this week.
• The rodeo-style mechanical hog ride, Harley, sat in the center of a bouncy-castle-like set up for safer landings. We didn't see anyone actually try their luck with a ride, but the woman in charge said people usually need a few drinks before they give it a whirl. We probably just left too early.
• When Royers Round Top Cafe hosted a book signing for Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen's Kitchen recently, the two restaurateurs hatched a plan to host a fried chicken throw down between Austin and Houston restaurants in Round Top in the spring of 2015. Nothing definite yet, but it sounds like a party worthy of a Sunday drive to antique country. Both USA Today and People magazine have requested samples from Royers, so some national publicity could be breaking soon.
• Meanwhile, pieman Bud Royer is recovering nicely from his October heart attack, losing weight and making lifestyle changes in anticipation of upcoming surgery. After years of staging events for others in need, the Royer family patriarch could use some help with medical bills, so family and friends will host a benefit on Sunday, Jan. 25 at Henkel Hall in Round Top. The menu will include the cafe's fried chicken and barbecue from John Mueller Meat Co. More details to come as they develop.
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