While you wouldn’t know it from our balmy October temperatures, fall is purportedly already here. In addition to our myriad music and film festivals, the October and November calendars feature perhaps the best run of food and drink events of the entire year.
One prevailing theme this season is meat. Whether grilled, smoked, or prepared with a nose-to-tail ethos, Texans continue to showcase beef and pork dishes at their best. For those diners in search of meaty fall festivals, here are five options ranging from casual sausage and beer events to upscale chef showcases at ritzy venues.
Key players: Salt & Time, Contigo, épicerie, Hot Joy (San Antonio), Thai Kun
Price: $100 general admission, $200 VIP
The lowdown: Returning after a successful debut in 2014, Cochon 555’s national tour stops at The Driskill this Sunday. The meat-heavy event focuses on the concept of cooking whole meats using heritage breed pigs from local family farms. Five local chefs including Gardner’s Andrew Wiseheart and Thai Kun’s Thai Changthong are each given a 180-pound pig the week of the event, and are then tasked with making six different dishes utilizing the entire animal. Outside of competition, a separate group of chefs including Italic’s Andrew Curren and Barlata's Daniel Olivella will serve dishes riffing on global barbecue traditions. The beverages lean whiskey heavy, with selections from Eagle Rare, Buffalo Trace, and Breckenridge, along with Spanish wines from the Rioja region. The event has enlisted DJ Lord of hip-hop legend Public Enemy to provide the night’s soundtrack, and also has a pop-up pie shop, an oyster booth, and a cheese station. Tickets are available here.
Sunday, October 18 at 5 pm
Key players: Louie Mueller Barbecue, Meat Mitch (Kansas City), Freedmen’s, Mann’s BBQ
The lowdown: Melbourne, Australia barbecue enthusiast Jess Pryles brings her Carnivore’s Ball back to Austin with top-notch barbecue and a twist: The pitmasters will cook with all-natural Australian Cape Grim beef imported just for the event. Held at Brodie Homestead, the event will host bourbon from Texas distillery Garrison Brothers, beer from Houston’s Saint Arnold Brewing, and live music from Austin-based country duo Mayeux and Broussard. Note that tickets are currently sold out for this event, but watch the event page for possible last-minute releases.
Thursday, October 22 at 6 pm
Key players: Franklin Barbecue, Pecan Lodge, La Barbecue, Snow’s BBQ, Louie Mueller Barbecue
Price: $80 adult, $10 children
The lowdown: A true unicorn among food festivals, Texas Monthly’s barbecue fest has it all. For starters, the location on the Long Center’s expansive front courtyard is a beautiful one, with downtown skyline views and plenty of lawn space to perch on. There’s also killer music from Texas icons. This year’s featured artist is San Antonio Grammy winner Flaco Jimenez, a Tejano and conjunto veteran of over 60 years. The key component, though, is the once-a-year chance to sample 40 percent of the Texas Monthly top 50 barbecue list at once. This festival isn’t for the grazer — portions are hearty, and antacids are mandatory. Our advice is to pick five places you haven’t tried and prioritize them, as you’ll simply never have the room to hit all 20 booths. Get your tickets now for this meat lovers' paradise.
Sunday, November 1 at 1 pm
Price: $8-$10, children’s admission free
The lowdown: A Texas tradition, Wurstfest in New Braunfels celebrates our region’s German heritage, and of course our fondness for bratwurst. The vibe here is Old Texas and is quite family friendly with shopping, 40 bands, a variety of food, and a selection of carnival rides. For the adults, there’s a craft beer garden with 30-plus selections from Germany, Texas, and elsewhere. Also keep an eye out for “Masskrugstemmen,” a beer-stein holding endurance test with fun prizes. Note that two-for-one admission is available from November 8 through 11. Most of the food and drinks are served up by a variety of Central Texas service and nonprofit organizations, so order snacks early and often to contribute to their causes.
Friday, November 6 through Sunday, November 15
Wine & Swine
Key players: Franklin Barbecue, Olamaie, Launderette, Lenoir, Foreign & Domestic
The lowdown: In the beautiful hills of Southwest Austin, the Star Hill Ranch will again host non-profit Austin Food & Wine Alliance’s Wine & Swine. The title explains it all: The chefs here are cooking outdoors using pits, grills, and open flames. While there is a lot of pork, pastry chefs and the occasional vegetable dish bring some contrast to the offerings. Some new fall openings (Wu Chow, Juniper) are on the roster, as are all-star guests from San Antonio like Feast and Cookhouse. Alt-country singer-songwriter Brennan Leigh will provide music for the occasion, and a large selection of global wines will be offered. Event proceeds benefit grants for Central Texas farms, nonprofits, and food-based small business startups.
Sunday, November 8 at 1 pm