The 2017 edition of the Austin Food + Wine Festival is in the books, and we could not have asked for a more beautiful weekend to spend outside wining and dining with some of Austin's best chefs, plus visiting celebrities.
The festival kicked off with Lone Star Nights at Fair Market, an event showcasing international bites inspired by global night markets. San Antonio’s Diego Galicia and Rico Torres of Mixtli wowed with a citrus-cured scallop served atop compressed watermelon and jicama; Kevin Fink from Emmer & Rye served a delicate cascarelli with house-made ricotta in a subtle herb brodo; and Julian Barsotti from Dallas’ Nonna created an oh-so-simple bite of marinated asparagus and fava beans with crunchy radish, finocchieta salami, and tiny cubes of caciocavallo di bufala cheese.
We started off Saturday at Auditorium Shores attending wine seminars from Mark Oldman, who talked about breaking the rules of wine drinking (forget the Champagne flute, put ice in red wine), and a rosé panel with Food & Wine's wine editor Ray Isle and sommeliers Vilma Mazaite and Devon Broglie.
At the Chefs Showcase we found Jeff Balfour from Southerleigh in San Antonio, who served our favorite bite of the day: a delicate crab salad lightly dressed with Dijon and fennel over an incredible cheese shortbread. At the fire pit, Bryce Gilmore’s smoked turkeys and Andrew Wiseheart’s goat were huge hits. And one cannot go to a food festival in Austin and not eat Ranch 616’s Frito pie in a bag.
The most surprising bite came from Sandeep Gyawali’s Miche Bread, a recipient of an Austin Food + Wine Alliance grant who is working with a local mill to produce mesquite flour. He made a crusty loaf with a wonderful texture and smeared it with naturally sweet mesquite-infused butter. Oh, and the blueberry ice cream from Lick was just over the top.
At the Rock Your Taco event we loved Hugh Acheson’s creation of charred octopus topped with harissa, feta cheese, and olive salsa; the simple cumin picadillo with queso blanco, avocado, and cucumber-poblano pico from Jason Dady; and the sugar smoked sea trout with pickled ramps and yuzu kosho from Tyson Cole, the winner of the competition. Celebrity chef Ming Tsai made a delicious dish of Asian-style minced duck served over pita chips and topped with pineapple salsa. Not quite a taco, but outstanding nonetheless.
We started Sunday with a fideua, which chef Shawn Cirkiel cooked over the fire pit, followed by the most amazing little biscuit with strawberry jam, freshly whipped cream, and pistachios from Stella San Jac. Two drinks captured our attention: a refreshing concoction made with Jardesca, a California aperitif, and a Collins made with Seersucker gin, a new spirit from the folks at Cinco vodka in San Antonio.
The most amazing bite came from chef Amir Hajimaleki of Oasthouse and District Kitchen + Cocktails, who made mini versions of his umami burger. The savory patty comes in a Hawaiian bistro bun, topped with pickled bok choy, sliced cucumber, and Delice de Bourgogne cheese. Both restaurants will be serving these amazing burgers from Memorial Day to Independence Day.
We enjoyed visiting with winemaker Austin Hope in his custom-made tiny home and sampling the latest release of the Love & Hope rosé, a collaboration with chef Tim Love, and it was fun to see chef Yuri Krasilovsky cooking pasta in the gigantic pentolino that Barilla brought. As usual, the festival finished with Love, Hope, and Jason Dady pouring tequila and wine for the large crowd gathered on the dance floor around DJ Mel. It seems the festival keeps getting better every year, and we can't wait to see what's in store for 2018.