The starts shone bright over Butler Park on Thursday during a special Feast Under the Stars dinner hosted by the Austin Food & Wine Festival. The latest addition to the lineup of all things sip- and savor-worthy was a welcomed affair for the diners who gathered for the Texas sized celebration. As the summery sun set to reveal a fresh spring evening, roughly 150 diners prepared for a five-course meal beneath a canopy of white-string lights and the gleaming Austin skyline as its backdrop.
The event, which sold out of its $185 tickets in a matter of days, was the culmination of what AFW Festival partners — Chef Tim Love, Chef Tyson Cole, restaurateur Jesse Herman and C3 co-founder Charlie Jones — envisioned as one of the many special experiences guests could take advantage of during the multi-day festival.
“It’s amazing to look out on these tables and think of what the Austin food scene was becoming just a few years ago,” said Chef Tyson Cole
Among the chefs serving the richly indulgent meal were Tyson Cole of Uchi and Uchiko; Tim Love of Fort Worth’s Love Shack, The Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, TLC Catering, White Elephant Saloon, Queenie's Steakhouse & Woodshed Smokehouse; Houston’s Chris Shepherd of Underbelly; Dallas’ Kent Rathbun of Abacus and Jasper’s; and Austin’s Jodi Elliott of the soon-to-open Bribery Pastry & Cocktail Bar.
“This is something we’ve wanted to do from the very beginning,” said Love during his opening remarks. “A nice, intimate, family-style dinner in true Texas fashion. We wanted this to be a special occasion that you could enjoy with great Texas chefs.”
Following his warm welcome, a flurry of plates descended upon the 50-seat tables stretched out over the Butler Park lawn. The first course came from celebrated James Beard Award winner Cole and included a refreshing serving of ice-cold madai (Japanese sea bream) sashimi adorned with pickled summer cucumbers dusted with Szechuan pepper.
The first course was followed by large bowls brimming with a fresh gemelli pasta with guaniciale, spring greens and freshly-shaved black truffle from Love. Arriving next was a third course of jumbo mustard-crusted lamb chops with crisp leak-studded hash browns and a blueberry reduction from Rathbun.
Chef Shepherd called his fourth course a “simple” bone-in pot roast with red-corn porridge and roasted vegetables. But the presentation of the dish proved much more impressive as servers delivered large plates of Brontosaurus-sized cuts of slow-cooked meat smoked in a custom smoker from Texas Angus beef purveyors 44 Farms.
Pastry chef Elliott capped off the decadent evening with a few sweet treats including a mason jar filled with a sweet and savory buttermilk pie with rhubarb, caramel and lemon-basil cream as well as a a thoughtful pre-wrapped key lime coffee cake as a parting gift.
“It’s amazing to look out on these tables and think of what the Austin food scene was becoming just a few years ago,” said Cole. “I’m so proud to be a part of what it has become in such a short time.”
While the Austin Food & Wine Festival officially kicks off Friday night in Republic Square Park with the Taste of Texas bash, Thursday’s elegant pre-festival dinner proves that this fest is taking root in the Capital City in all the right ways.