Austin Food & Wine Festival 2017 Recap!
Think about the last time you've been somewhere where everything felt magical and right, where you felt your heart expand and liftoff so high and didn't care to pull it back, where at this moment in time, you felt you belonged.
Okay, that last one is a little debatable because I truly believe that you can belong anywhere as long as you can love and welcome yourself, but that is what Austin Food and Wine Festival was like for me.
I'm sure many of you know this feeling too, right? Where you felt like you were surrounded by people who shared your passion and you were surrounded by elements of your passion everywhere you went, like this is where you were meant to be, a little bit like coming home. That's the kind of feeling and comfort that food gives me.
So then why was this the first year I attended? That, I don't know either! I've been eyeing this festival since 2012 when I first learned of its existence, and just never had the guts to buy it. Damn you, necessities for survival! I was on the brink of buying it last year, but stalled too long until it sold out....and then got cancelled. :(
Truthfully, this should have been an annual ritual for me- I can even go off on the deep-end and say that I should be doing this all year, worldwide! If you're a lover of food, the culinary industry, or someone who has a buried passion for food, then you need to come to this festival. You will not only have fun and be full and buzzed, but you will rediscover that huge piece of you that loves something so deeply and fully that you feel such an undeniable pull from it. It will revive you.
Anyway, I had a BLAST at Austin Food and Wine Festival, if you couldn't tell. From going in with zero expectations, to being overwhelmed, to regaining peace and fully experiencing each bite, ATX F&W was a roller coaster that I'd wait in line for again and again.
On Day 1 of the festival, I got to familiarize myself with the grounds and roam around. Along with eating all of the foods, I got to sneak into a single seat at the front of the Meet the Makers tent, showcasing Paso Robles Wines with Chris Eberle of Eberle Winery and Austin Hope of Austin Hope Wines and Hope Family Wines.
Unknowingly, I was super prepared for this tasting. I had rushed over to the tent with samples from G'Raj Mahal in-hand, then learned that one of the wines we were tasting went excellent with curries! This little coincidence turned out to be one of my favorite moments of the festival. I ate a bite of my chicken curry and then turned to my Viognier from Eberle Winery to pair. I'm not a huge wine person- I haven't developed the palate for it yet, but I am slowly getting there, and most definitely open to it. This.....helped. The Viognier had the tiniest hint of smokiness to it, which paired so well with the warm spices of the curry. Upon pairing together, the wine cleanly capped off the flavor of the curry. No long linger, just clean capping off. Oh gosh, this was so wonderful. There have been less than a handful of times in my life where I've experienced the beauty and the art of good food and wine pairings. This was definitely one of them.
As I exited the tent, pretty buzzed now, I got to take in the beautiful Austin skyline and the joyful music coming from the band tent. What a perfect day.
But without further ado, here are some of my favorite bites from Saturday:
Juliet Ristorante - Pesce Crudo with salmon, fried capers, salted almond and lemon
Honestly, you really can't go wrong with Salmon crudo, but the fried capers added a familiar Italian zing, and the crunchy salted almonds added a nice nuttiness and textural element.
Botika Pearl - Caja Pork and Chaufa Rice
Described as Slow-cooked pork over Peruvian-style fried rice, I knew I had to try this fusion. The cilantro and thai basil on top added a wonderful brightness that I really enjoyed, the small pickled peppers were a nice kick, and that slow-roasted pork was so buttery. All together, this dish was a flavor explosion that was a slightly altered, and reconstructed version of several Asian dishes you may have had in the past. Very very intriguing on the tongue!
Vox Table - Little Cubano with Pork lechon, prosciutto, house pickles, cheddar espuma, mustard aioli, and Yorkshire pudding.
Oh boy....this one, I cannot talk enough about...and unfortunately, I didn't snap my own picture, and it being one of my first bites of the festival, the adrenaline didn't allow me to enjoy this as much as I should have. Oh well, I'll take what I can get. This little niblet was incredible! A little bit of soft and buttery pork, on top of a lovely eggy Yorkshire pudding, with a little bit of cheddar foam and mustard aioli, topped with fresh prosciutto and house pickles. This was why I came. The pork was of course melt-in-your-mouth, although I am not a huge fan of slow-cooked pork. The cheddar foam was fun..not as impactful as the rest of the elements, though, maybe my adrenaline didn't allow me to dive that deep. The mustard aioli was delicious, creamy, added a nice kick with the tang of the mustard and even more indulgence into this already indulgent dish (hey...NOT COMPLAINING!!!!). The prosciutto was definitely the 'cherry-on-top' with it's saltiness and nuttiness. The pickles were forgotten in this bite amongst all the other star ingredients, but that little crunch and tang gave the bite the needed flavor and textural contrast it needed. I mean....who the hell would have thought to put all these amazing ingredients on their own onto a buttery and flaky Yorkshire pudding? I'M THERE. Best bite of the whole festival, hands down. You got me, Vox Table. I went back to look for you the whole rest of the day, willing to stand in that crazy line again for a more in-depth analysis, but like a fairy godmother, you disappeared...you were gone and I couldn't find you again, no matter how long I looked. Sigh...the tragedy of Day 1.
By the time Sunday came around, I already had a game plan for the day: Roam around and experience all the bites before heading over to the Liberty House tiny house for a private tasting with the Paso Robles winemaker from Saturday's tent, Austin Hope!
The chefs and restaurants were different on Sunday, meaning if you missed something awesome on Saturday, you missed it. But with missed opportunities come a plethora of more opportunities!
Here are some of my favorite bites from Sunday:
Olamaie - Brisket Biscuit with Hibiscus Tea pickled onions
Finally got my Olamaie biscuit!!!!!! Last time I ventured to Olamaie, they were out :( Although these biscuits were smaller in size, leading to inevitable slight toughness on the inside border below the crust, you could still taste the intention, the butteriness, and the crunch on the outside. The brisket was delicious- glazed in a sweet sauce with layers of fat nicely incorporated, reminiscent of Asian pork belly. Upon conversation with one of the chefs, I also discovered that the pickled onions that make an appearance are bathed in Hibiscus tea, a nod to the classic Southern-style of pickling onions in sweet tea.
Justine's Brasserie - Blini with roasted tomato creme fraiche, dashi poached shrimp with coriander, parsley
YUM. Beautifully dashi-poached shrimp that came out plumper than the freshest fruit you've ever met, on top of a crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside blini (basically a thin Russian pancake), topped with coriander, parsley, and a tangy and creamy roasted tomato creme fraiche.