Will Travel For Food
Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest
Ed. Note: Luckily for me as an editor, the writers who contribute to the Chronicle Cuisines section are a diverse and well-traveled group of interesting people with discriminating palates. We've decided to capitalize on their globetrotting and culinary adventures with a small feature called "Will Travel for Food." This semi-regular column will offer first-person accounts of exotic foods, great vacation spots, and food events, wonderful restaurants or interesting culinary tours from Chronicle food writers. I'm inaugurating the series with the scoop on the recent Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest; be prepared for a tasty trip. -- Virginia B. Wood
Though I spend as much time as I can in the Hill Country west of Austin and visit Fredericksburg several times a year, I had never attended the Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest until this year. Now that I've experienced the very friendly and well-organized festival, it will be on my list of "don't miss" events every year. The festivities began with a well-attended Celebration of Texas Food & Wine held on the patio in front of chef Steve Howard's popular Navajo Grill (209 E. Main, 830/990-8289). Business is so good at the Navajo that Howard is expanding into an adjacent building, adding another dining room and a coffee bar.
The festival officially opened to the public at noon on Saturday, at the very affordable ticket price of $20, in the beautifully landscaped downtown Marketplatz. This attractive and functional public park serves as the staging area for many civic events and is a well-equipped place to throw a party. Covered pavillions on each end of the park housed a catered luncheon for paying patrons and the pouring area where 22 Texas wineries set up booths to show off their finest vintages. Live music from oompah bands, Johnny Nicholas and the All-Star Band, and the Gulf Coast Playboys provided a pleasant soundtrack for the all-afternoon affair. In the center of the park, large tents were filled with Texas food and craft vendors showing samples of their wares, and food booths operated by local businesses and community organizations. One tent offered regular wine seminars while another showcased cooking demonstrations by area chefs.
The wine seminars were organized by Todd Smajstrla and Len White of the Lincoln Street Wine Bar (111 S. Lincoln, 830/997-8463), a thriving Fredericksburg business that offers 350 wines by the glass, imported foods, and wine-related antiques. The best wine I tasted all day, a Cap Rock Reserve Cabernet, was the subject of one of their presentations. Both Smajstrla and White demonstrated particular enthusiasm about the trend among growers in the Hill Country appellation to experiment with Italian, Spanish, and southern Rhone varietals that could be well-suited to the area climate
I've been trying to come to some conclusion about why the Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest has such an inclusive, unpretentious feel about it. Perhaps the atmosphere has something to do with the proximity to the area where the grapes are actually grown. Winemaking is first and foremost an agricultural pursuit, and there are few things more humbling in life than making a living in agriculture. Regardless of the reason, the folks in Fredericksburg go all out to make visitors feel welcome, and the thoroughly enjoyable party truly celebrates the real Texas Hill Country. For more information about Fredericksburg businesses, go to our Hill Country guide at auschron.com/guides/hillcountry/.
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