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Food Festival Kick-off

Feast Under the Stars dinner sets the tone for an auspicious Austin Food & Wine Festival

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Austin skyline provided the backdrop for Feast Under the Stars. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
austin food and wine festival
Kent Rathbun's rack of lamb with leek-studded hashbrowns Photo by Jessica Dupuy
Tim Love, austin food and wine festival
Tim Love shaving fresh black truffle on gemelli pasta. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
austin food and wine festival
Madai crudo from Uchi Photo by Jessica Dupuy
austin food and wine festival
Feast Under the Stars Menu Photo by Jessica Dupuy
austin food and wine festival
Chris Shepherd shows of his "simple pot roast." Photo by Jessica Dupuy
austin food and wine festival
Jodi Elliott's mason jar buttermilk pie with rhubarb, caramel and lemon-basil cream. Photo by Jessica Dupuy
austin food and wine festival
austin food and wine festival
Tim Love, austin food and wine festival
austin food and wine festival
austin food and wine festival
austin food and wine festival
austin food and wine festival

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.