November marks the final victory lap of Austin’s massive 2014 food calendar. As the events wind down and holiday party season gets going, several longstanding nonprofits will bring back popular food and drink events that raise money for notable causes. Each is different in theme and tone, but all offer the rare treat to enjoy a great night out and contribute significantly to a worthwhile local charity.
From improving the Texas food system to offering grants and healthcare to small business owners, each of the splashy events below will be worth your while (and will do some good in the process).
Big Reds and Bubbles — November 6
Location: The Driskill Hotel
Benefits: Austin Food For Life, Sustainable Food Center and Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Viticultural Fruit Lab
Details: Wine lovers preparing to buy fancy bottles for their holiday table get to sample all of the latest vintages and offerings in one evening. The selection has ranged in past years from Dominus to Penfolds Grange to Concha Y Toro’s Don Melchor — these are the trophy wines of steakhouses and expense accounts, open for sampling at your leisure. The reds aren’t the only attraction, though. A selection of bubbles is also available, from bargain holiday cremants and cavas to opulent Champagnes from well-known producers. Some favorite names to watch for include Pol Roger, Gary Farrell and Numanthia. Chefs like Sonya Cote of Eden East, Shawn Cirkiel of Parkside Projects, Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen and Mark Schmidt of Blackbird and Henry will provide fall and winter dishes with big flavors to complement the array of wines.
SFC Autumn Harvest — November 16
In 2009, the culinary and management teams at Violet Crown Management saw both a problem and an opportunity. They were new to Austin and wanted to meet and collaborate with other chefs, but the hectic schedules and demands of top kitchens made it difficult to socialize. Thus the “Harvest” series of dinners were born. At each, the La Condesa and Sway teams invite a current list of “who’s who” from Austin and the larger Texas food scene to collaborate on a seasonal menu prepared in exchange for a contribution to the Sustainable Food Center. This year’s event moves the action to the upbeat locale of Sway, meaning that diners will see more of the kitchen action than they have in past iterations. This fall’s talent includes Alexis Chong (Sway), Andrew Wiseheart (Contigo, Gardner), Jesse Griffiths and Abby Love (Dai Due), Jorge Hernández (Qui), Kevin Garrett (Bufalina), Rick Lopez (La Condesa) and guest chef Steve McHugh of San Antonio’s much-lauded Cured. Drink pairings are also included. For tickets, head to sfcchefseries.splashthat.com
. All proceeds from the event benefit SFC.
Wine & Swine — November 23
Location: Star Hill Ranch
Benefits: Austin Food and Wine Alliance’s Annual Grant Program
Just before Thanksgiving, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance
brings the popular Wine & Swine party to Bee Cave. The party matches top regional chefs with a bevy of solid wines and live music, and this year’s event has attracted great talent once again. Chefs include Dallas legend John Tesar (Knife), barbecue rib king Ronnie Killen, Jason Stude (Congress), Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki (Launderette), Mat Clouser (Swift’s Attic), Janina O'Leary (LaV) and hot newcomers Grae Nonas and Michael Fojtasek of Olamaie. The chefs will each prepare pork-themed plates to match with a selection of more than 70 wines to taste. Producers showcased will include California notables such as Cakebread, Silver Oak, J and Hess Collection. Because this is Austin, there will (of course) also be live music from the Marshall Ford Swing Band. For tickets, visit the event’s page
at the Austin Food and Wine Alliance site. Proceeds go to the organization's grant program, which awards funds to farmers, small businesses and educators in the Texas food system . Past winners include Salt & Time, Argus Cidery, Confituras and Tecolote Farms.