Michael and I had a wonderful weekend at the Austin Food and Wine Festival. This is their third year and they are much improved. This was the best year yet and they keep getting better. Again we stayed at the Hyatt Regency. This is a perfect location, since we can easily walk to and from the festival.
We opted to do the Taste pass rather than the Savor and again, we think this was a better value. Someday the festival may grow so large and crowded that the Savor pass will be worth it, but that hasn't happened yet.
Friday night we drove up to Uchiko and did the tasting menu. This year's tasting was not as good a previous tastings, but there were still lots of wonderful bites.
Saturday we were in line early for the festival. When they play the Star Wars theme and we walk through the gates, I get all fluttery with excitement. The anticipation always slays me. I ran for the Richard Blais tent and we got great seats. I have had a crush on Richard since I first saw him on Top Chef and was thrilled to meet him in person. He was witty and charming and did a wonderful demo. Later, I bought his cookbook and went to meet him at the signing tent. He was very sweet and let me take a picture with him. I was thrilled!
After Richard Blais' demo, we went next door to John Currence's demo called "Canned Heat". He gave us some very helpful recipes and tips for canning and I was called up on stage as a volunteer! I got to hand out some incredible pickled grapes. These were absolutely amazing bites of sweet, sour, heat and I am planning to can a bunch of them today or tomorrow.
After the demo, we headed for the Grand Tasting Tent where I ate lots and lots of bites. Some were great, some not so good. I ate lots of meat and truly I think I've lost my taste for it. Even when I could tell it had good flavor, the greasy mouth feel after was disgusting. I also drank some delicious cocktails and Michael sampled some wine. If the drink is called a cucumber, jalepeno rita, I don't care what kind of liquor is in it, apparently. I thought they were all delicious.
We finished our afternoon at the Patron Tequila tasting, where we sampled six tequilas. I found out that I really love Patron Platinum and Patron Cafe. Who knew? After the tasting, we made our way toward the gates of the festival, stopping to try wines and bites, watching Tim Love play ping pong at the Kim Crawford tent, and grabbing a Patron Popsicle that rocked my world.
We went to the hotel and dropped off our swag and then went on a walk over to the Four Seasons Hotel, where we found our way to their cool, green lawn and found a hammock for two. We laid around and sipped happy hour drinks and talked about life, love and travel and dozed and thoroughly enjoyed each other and the evening. We ended our night with a shower, room service and pay-per-view.
Sunday morning we slept late and raced down to the festival, arriving just as they opened the gates. We started our Sunday morning in Mark Oldham's tasting tent to learn about the "new" malbecs. This was Michael's choice since I can't really drink red wines, but I gamely tasted and spit, and I always enjoy Mark Oldham's demos. When we finished the Malbec tasting, we visited the Cupcake wine trailer to sample their wines. It was empty and we camped there a while, chatting up the bartender and drinking Prosecco. Then we stopped at the Ireland tent to eat scallops and collect a swag bag and then went to the Grand Tasting tent to get some bites to eat and a cocktail.
Fortified, we went to a panel in the Rodney Strong tent, called "Just Beachy", featuring Ming Tsai, Jason Dady and Richard Blais and moderated by Nathan Bernier from KUT. This panel discussed what pantry ingredients they would take if they were on a deserted island, but mostly they riffed off of each other. It was playful and fun.
We went straight from this panel to my favorite demo of the day, Rick Bayless! We got there very early and were able to get good seats. Rick did a demo of how to make his famous mole as well as some brown butter, crabmeat guacamole. He chose me and one other out of the audience to come up and taste his food! I can't believe this happened. Rick Bayless, handed ME a spoon of mole that he had just made and asked me to taste it. It was absolutely the best mole I've ever had and I told him so. Then his sommelier let me taste some good red zinfandel to go with it. This was the best moment of the entire festival for me.
After this demo, we made our way one more time into the Grand Tasting tent and slowly past the carousel of goat heads roasting over the fire next to the fire truck, past the Patron popsicle stand, past the Miracle-gro vegan stand, and past the Kim Crawford ping pong table. I love how the Austin food festival stays just a little bit weird.
And then we went home. And today I feel horrible. HORRIBLE. My body is completely shut down from all the foods that I ate this weekend that I am allergic to. Was it worth it? YES! Just don't ask me today.