UPDATE: Austin Food + Wine Festival has been canceled. More information is available here.
Local foodies are drooling over the return of the fifth annual Austin Food + Wine Festival, taking place April 22 through 24 in downtown Austin. This year's one-of-a-kind event will feature some of biggest names and flavors throughout the country, as well as plenty of homegrown Texan talent. Here's our bite-sized guide to some of the best of the fest.
The festival kicks off in style with Thursday night's lavish Feast Under the Stars, where guests are treated to a five-course meal as they break bread with some of the best in the business. Five chefs, including James Beard Award-winner Tyson Cole of Uchi/Uchiko fame and Atlanta-based Ford Fry, will collaborate on the shores of Lady Bird Lake for the meal. Each chef will prepare one course, accompanied by select wine and cocktail pairings.
Friday evening's Taste of Texas at Republic Square Park touts a who's who bill of talent, including Danny Trace of Brennan's and Austin's own Tatsu Aikawa of Ramen Tatsu-ya. Guests will sample dishes found throughout the state from the chefs who perfected them. The Taste of Texas is open to VIP (All-In) ticket holders.
The main course
An endless exhibition of mouthwatering bites and sips awaits guests throughout the weekend at the Grand Taste Pavilion, which is open to both Weekender and All-In ticket holders. Also available are the smoky samples from pro grillers at the Fire Pit, including selections from Bryce Gilmore (Odd Duck/Barley Swine) and San Antonio's Jason Dady.
Celebrity chef Tim Love is in for one busy weekend. Besides preparing Feast Under the Stars, the veteran grillmaster and festival co-founder will also host two interactive grilling demos on Saturday and Sunday. Hands-on Grilling With Tim Love puts festivalgoers to work with their very own ingredients and a full grill. The Lonesome Dove chef is known for his rowdy personality, so be prepared for anything (and by anything, we mean tequila). Entry to Hands-on Grilling is included in the All-In ticket. That said, this is one of the most popular events of the weekend, so your pass may not guarantee entry. Pro tip: RSVP and arrive early! Come backyard barbecue season, you'll be glad you did.
Save some room for Saturday evening's highly anticipated Rock Your Taco event, where the country's top culinary talent will compete to concoct the ultimate taco. Judges Andrew Zimmern, Graham Elliot, and Christina Grdovic will crown the official taco champion, but there are few more qualified to assess a taco's merits than a hungry crowd of Austinites. Guests will enjoy wine and cocktail pairings as they feast on an array of imaginative taco tastes. The appetizing after party also features entertainment by The Suffers, a 10-piece Gulf Coast soul band that will have you dancing off some of the weekend's carb intake. Rock Your Taco is another perk of the All-In ticket and is not to be missed under any circumstances.
New to the festival this year is the Gospel Brunch, where festivalgoers can nurse their inevitable Sunday hangover with the sweet sounds of Robert Randolph and Austin's own Greater Calvary Gospel Choir, as well as a full Tito's Vodka Bloody Mary bar.
Whether you have the refined palate of a world-class chef or you just enjoy stuffing your face with gourmet food, Austin Food + Wine Festival has a flavor for everyone. One thing is for certain: Rain or shine, we're sure to dine.
Austin Food + Wine Festival takes place April 22 through 24 at Auditorium Shores and Republic Square Park. If you've got the dough, tickets for the event can be purchased here.