When you see a whole elk roasting over an open fire flanked by a lamb, a pig and a goat, you know you are at a carnivore-friendly fest. Chefs slice broad slabs of meat as the smell of roasted meat and barbeque swirl on the breeze while people twirl to Gary Knippa's country tunes and watch dance performances by Nostalgia Tango. That’s exactly what you can expect to experience this Sunday, March 4, 2012 at the second annual Cowboys + Gauchos, a Wine & Food Foundation of Texas fundraising event. What better way to celebrate the 176th Texas Independence Day than by channeling your inner cowboy?
- What: Second Annual Cowboys + Gauchos
- When: Sunday, March 4, 2012,12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
- Where: Salt Lick Pavilion, 18300 FM 1826 Driftwood, TX 78619 (not the BBQ restaurant)
- How much: Foundation members: $40, non-members $50, children ages 13-20: $10 per person (non-refundable), children ages 12 and under are free
- When you go: Purchase tickets online before you go. While the Foundation expects a great turn-out by members, you don’t need to be a member to attend. Check your pretense at the door and come for a good time. The attire is cowboy casual and you’ll want a hat to keep that gorgeous sun out of your eyes. Little cowboys are welcome to run wild on the sprawling property and play yard games. And don't forget a package of toothpicks.
This unique event was dreamt up by Foundation board member Howard Kells, former owner of Doña Emilia’s South American Bar & Grill (now closed). He watched renowned Argentine chef Francis Mallmann wow Anthony Bourdain with his grilled meat in No Reservations, Season 4, in Uruguay and was enthralled. The France-trained Mallmann left the fussy world of fine dining behind with a keen interest to return to simplistic gaucho cooking (the word 'gaucho' being the call-name for Argentine cowboys).
As grilling is central to South American cuisine, it also serves as the inspiration for Cowboys + Gauchos. Kells wanted to emulate the massive scale grilling that Mallmann practices. He designed and custom built an immense grilling rack based on the one used on No Reservations by watching a recording of the show over-and-over and painstakingly recreating it. The one-of-a-kind rig is stout enough to roast a whole steer and even has the ability to adjust the cooking height and angles. The meat is grilled over a main fire, which is continually fed with coals drawn from a smaller side fire.
Wine and Food Foundation Executive Director, Marshall Jones, makes it all happen. He is the guy that landed a donation of all of the grilling wood from Butler Wood in South Texas. He is the guy that sources the whole 240 pound elk, pig, boar, goat and lamb. He is the guy who will stay up all night to roast the elk, starting at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night, tending to it until it's ready to eat around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. He's the guy that will ring the cow bell throughout the event to signal when another new meat is ready to serve. That’s a pretty cool assignment for a guy who runs a foundation.
Don’t be confused, this isn’t just a meat orgy or Paleo Diet convention. There will be other delightful dishes serve by Austin-based restaurants. Chef Charles Mayes will celebrate the 15th anniversary of Cafe Josie with a seafood dish at Cowboys + Gauchos. Other dishes include antelope chili and smoked quail from Wild Bubbas Wild Game Grill, cabrito and sweet potato tacos from Mansion at Judges Hill Restaurant & Bar, chocolate BBQ pork ribs from Zocalo Cafe and a selection of sweet and savory empanadas from MMMpanadas. There will be other delectable treats from Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, El Alma Restaurante Bar and Live Oak Barbecue. Delysia Chocolatier will provide a selection of truffles and the whole feast will be finished with s’mores roasted over the fire. There might be some vegetables, but you don’t have to eat them.
While Mallmann's gaucho grilling influence initiated the concept for the event, the similarities between the gaucho and the cowboy, coupled with the Wine and Food Foundation’s bent on promoting local fare led to the prominent inclusion of Texas wines. Eight Texas wineries will be pouring on Sunday with an additional four South American vineyards.
Ed Auler, founder of Fall Creek Vineyards, will be pouring the limited production Fall Creek Vineyards Tempranillo, Salt Lick Vineyard, Texas Hill Country, 2009. This is a stellar wine that is hard to find and shouldn’t be missed. McPherson Cellars will pour its 2009 Sangiovese, 2010 Tre Colore and 2010 Rose of Grenache-Syrah. There will be a wide selection of meat-friendly reds and thirst-quenching whites from Alamosa Wine Cellars, Becker Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, E.&J. Gallo Winery, Gauchezco Vineyard & Winery, Casa Lapostolle, Llano Estacado, Spicewood Vineyards, Terrazas de los Andes and Vineyard Brands.
If beer is your thing, Thirsty Planet will have barrels of Thirsty Goat Amber Ale and Yellow Armadillo. Sweat Leaf Tea will provide tea to keep us hydrated.
Organizers are expecting a crowd of about 350 hungry revelers and hope to raise upwards of $5,000 to support the Foundation’s work. Proceeds from the event will support up-and-coming chefs and sommeliers through scholarships and the underwriting of the TexSom beverage conference.