We picked up lots of newsy tidbits at last weekend's Austin Food & Wine Festival

The Austin Food & Wine Festival
The Austin Food & Wine Festival (by John Anderson)

My overall experience of the Austin Food & Wine Festival was so much better this year than last that I hesitate to complain much at all. But based on my conversations with Taste passholders, I still heard from plenty of people who were unhappy about the fact that their pass entitled them to stand in line for hours at a time and not get into the presentations that attracted them to buy tickets in the first place. Perhaps fest organizers could take a tip from a successful local business that knows a little something about managing lines: The Franklin Barbecue folks do a head count of the line and let people beyond a certain point know they are out of luck for that day.

Spending Friday Downtown at the Food Republic Interview Lounge at the W and the Taste of Texas kickoff event in Republic Square Park yielded lots of newsy tidbits to share. New Trace chef de cuisine Larry Kocurek is glad to be back in Austin, and his charcuterie skills are a regular feature on the new menus there. He and pastry chef Janina O'Leary really wowed the audience during the sessions in the lounge, as did libationist Joyce Garrison with her innovative cocktails... Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson said he was so impressed with Austin chef Jesse Griffiths when the two prepared a dinner together at Springdale Farm during South by Southwest that he wants to invite Griffiths to come and cook with him in New York. Maybe they can work that out when Griffiths is in the Big Apple for the James Beard Foundation Cookbook Awards... Torchy's Tacos founder Michael Rypka told us that die-hard Andrew Zimmern fans braved the rain Friday afternoon to drop by the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery to meet the very down-to-earth and approachable TV personality... The manager at Serve Gourmet (241 W. Third) reports that local artisan food items outsell well-known national brands among their tourist clientele... The pastries at the tiny Delish Bakery (209 W. Third) are every bit as delicious as they looked in a recent Unique Sweets segment on the Cooking Channel... Top Chef vet Brian Malarkey is excited about bringing his Searsucker restaurant to the Warehouse District this summer... Our own Top Chef Paul Qui says the most difficult thing about pushing back the opening of Qui (1600 E. Sixth) until June is redesigning the menu from one season to the next, as the availability of local ingredients changes. Qui's line was one of the longest and slowest moving at the Friday night event because he graciously posed for pictures with everyone who asked... Chef James Holmes hopes to have the second location of Lucy's Fried Chicken (5408 Burnet Rd.) open by the end of August. The larger kitchen (in the old Austin Diner space) means he can expand the Lucy's menu to include some new items, maybe even fried oysters. The diner space became available to Holmes when the ELM Restaurant Group opted to put their new French bistro, Arro, in the former Haddingtons (601 W. Sixth) space... Ben Edgerton and Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo (2027 Anchor Ln.) are throwing themselves a big second birthday bash on May 4 with live music, games, and contests and want all their fans to come.

For a photo gallery from the 2013 Austin Food & Wine Festival, see

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Food Republic, Taste of Texas, Larry Kocurek, Janina O'Leary, Marcus Samuelsson, Jesse Griffiths, Michael Rypka, Andrew Zimmern, Serve Gourmet, Delish Bakery, Brian Malarkey, Searsucker, Paul Qui, Qui, James Holmes, Lucy's Fried Chicken, Contigo, Arro

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