Big Reds and Bubbles. A phrase that could conjure up any number of images in your mind from bottles of that cloyingly sweet bright red soda drink to bubble gum, bubble tea or the bubble scene when Charlie floats to the ceiling in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
But if you’ve been around town for a while and you’re involved in the food and wine scene, you know that Big Reds and Bubbles is one of the year’s top food and wine events hosted by the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas.
In its ninth year, the event kicks off at the Driskill Hotel at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday for a full evening of tasting some of the world’s finest champagnes and “big reds,”—or red wines you really don’t want to miss if you're given a chance to taste them by the glass.
Some of the participating wineries include Rotari, Diageo Chateau & Estate, Viu Manent, Gerard Bertrand, WJ Deutsch, Stag's Leap, Etude, d'Arenberg, Laetitia, Bonny Doon, Don Melchor, Yalumba and Roederer.
Beyond the allure of fine wine, the event is also famous for spotlighting some of Austin’s top restaurants who will be on hand to offer some of their most delectable wine-friendly bites. Participating restaurants this year include Barley Swine, The Carillion, Eddie V's, Kenichi, Truluck's, Foreign & Domestic, The Driskill Grill, Finn & Porter, Jack Allen's Kitchen, Wink Restaurant, BC Tavern, Garrido's and Max's Wine Dive.
Local coffee and dessert purveyors including Cuvee Coffee, Austin Cake Ball, L's Cupcakes, Delysia Chocolatier, Sweet & Sour Showers and the 1886 Bakery & Cafe will also be in tow to round out the evening. (More in ticket information here.)
And while the event will no doubt hold its own in the sip and savor category, this year, there will be a little added entertainment from one of the newest chefs to hit the Austin scene. The host and MC for the evening will be chef Brad Sorenson. Formerly a chef and restaurateur in both Florida and Ohio, Sorenson is a young and talented chef who recently planted roots in Austin following a rigorous chef-testant experience on Season 6 of The Next Food Network Star and Chopped.
“My brother and I literally drew Austin out of a hat from a short list of cities we wanted to move to in the country,” says Sorenson. "I was ready for a fresh start in a thriving culinary city and my brother was up for coming with me. Austin couldn’t have been a better place to pick. Everyone here is so nice and the food scene is unbelievable.”
Though his experience on the reality food shows had its upsides, Sorenson confesses it turned out to be more than he bargained for.
“I love cooking and I guess I have a personality that people pay attention to, which was good for TV, but waking up with a camera in your face every morning was challenging,” says Sorenson who says he much prefers the behind-the-scenes work of a chef. “I had to ask to go to the bathroom and sleep in a bunk bed for three months. I’m 6’4,” no one my size should have to sleep in a bunk bed. After a while, you just feel isolated from everything you know and love, and then you have someone like Bobby Flay telling you your food sucks.”
In his brief few months in the Capital City, Sorenson has taken on gigs teaching cooking classes at Central Market and at a few culinary academies in anticipation for his new restaurant to open in the hip bar-restaurant-trailer quadrant of downtown on Rainey Street.
Slated to open in April 2012, Sorenson’s Bar Nova will be designed by Joel Mozersky and feature bar and bistro type foods such as pizzas, burgers and small plates, all locally sourced and made from scratch. The locale will also have a scratch bar featuring progressive cocktails using house-made ingredients.
“The Rainey Street area is such a cool part of town right now. We want to create a place there that people will make people want to relax,” says Sorenson. “We’re not looking to make a white-tablecloth, formal dining restaurant, but the food you eat will make you feel like you’re in one.”
In the meantime, Sorenson has spent much of his time getting to know the Austin food scene, meeting local purveyors, farmers and chefs.
“Everyone here has been so welcoming. You can really tell Austin has a community of food people that work together,” says Sorenson. “But as Austin continues to get national attention, it’s important that it doesn’t get comfortable with the status quo. Probably the best meal of my life was at David Bull’s Congress, and Uchiko is by far my favorite restaurant in the entire world. These place make it really exciting to get on the scene with my own place. I think this town is only going to get better.”
As the bubbles are chilled and big reds decanted for Thursday night’s extravaganza, Sorenson looks forward to being a part of the foundation’s big event. While he’ll be the host and MC, his goal is to bring as much focus to the wines and the participating chefs as possible while guests mingle throughout the evening.
And though Sorenson may not be a well known Austin chef just yet, his passion for great food and warm personality will no doubt have him fitting right in before Bar Nova even opens its doors.