Austin Food & Wine Fest 2021 Highlights

The Austin Food & Wine Festival came roaring back this year, with COVID-19 precautions in place, celebrating delicious bites and tasty sips in what had to be one of the most beautiful weekends of the year. With cool temps, blue skies and plenty of wine just inside the gates, attendees waited patiently in line to show proof of vaccination or their negative COVID test.

I always kick off my fest with bubbly. Loved getting to know Cheurlin.

There was what seemed like an endless supply of wine, beer, cider and spirits to sample along with food from fine dining establishments as well as more casual restaurants. I tasted multiple small bites from both new restaurants and long-term spots, and was happily satisfied with the amount of food available.

Lance Kirkpatrick, pitmaster at Stiles Switch BBQ provided a delicious two bite taco at the fire pit.

The festival continued the tradition of small sessions along the exterior of the festival. With the larger tents filling up quickly, it was nice to participate in a more intimate Q&A session. I always soak up more about wine, terroir, how to better pair food and vino, and choosing great bottles from these unpretentious gatherings, probably because I’m more relaxed.

Talkin’ bout vino.

HEB, a sponsor of the festival, always has quality food and drink on hand, but this year their booth took it to a higher level. With a ridiculous number of food offerings on their grill, HEB served wine, frozen cranberry margaritas topped with bubbly, and rolled everything out with a smile and impeccable people skills. I will admit to indulging in their NY Strip and pit roasted delicata squash with savory and tart muhammara and dukka, as well as the post oak grilled tri-tip with a cilantro, lime and pepper marinade. Delicious!

Thank you, HEB!

Angry Orchard Hard Cider set up an exclusive playhouse for enjoying their cider, complete with a top deck looking out over Lady Bird Lake and downtown Austin, and a swing in their “front yard.” Their cider was a happy surprise, not nearly as sweet as most ciders on the market these days, very refreshing. Cider is normally not my first choice, but Angry Orchard has shown me the error of my ways.

The only thing missing in this yard is a cornhole game.

This year’s Rock Your Taco event did not disappoint. Always a fierce competition, the tacos from each contestant were unique and decadent. The days’ celebratory atmosphere carried over into the night, with music, laughter and more than enough food. Republic Square was the perfect venue, with twinkly lights giving it an almost romantic feel. Do you take this taco, to be your favorite taco, for ever and ever? I do!

LeAnn Mueller of la Barbecue preparing her tacos de cerda.

After a year off due to the pandemic, this year’s festival truly felt joyful. For many people, it was the first time venturing out into a large group in over a year. For many vendors, it was a chance to whet the appetites of the masses, and encourage a return to in-person dining. It was freeing, gathering together in the celebration of food and drink, and it was exactly what Austin needed. I’m very much looking forward to next year’s festival!

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Tasty Tidbits: Austin Food & Wine Festival

Austin Food & Wine Festival kicks off on Friday, November 5, when select festies will spend an evening Grillin’ & Chillin’ with Chef Tim Love (Lonesome Dove). Chef Love’s popular hands on grilling class is exclusively for All-In ticket holders only, and serves up plenty of cooking techniques and advice along with libations and laughter. The festival has made some changes this year, including 86’ing the Taste of Texas showcase that was traditionally held on the first evening, and moving Grillin’ & Chillin’ to the evening slot.

We’re certain Chef Love will be in high spirits, as he has announced plans to open Koko’s a German biergarten, with partners Charles Attal (C3 Presents), Jesse Herman (La Condesa, Sway), and Konstantin Prinze Von Bayern, the latter of which has legitimate street cred with Germanic food and libations, as his family notably started what has become the modern Oktoberfest in Germany. Koko’s will be located in East Austin, in the former Brewer’s Table location, and will serve house-brewed beers along with other drafts, sausages, roasted chicken and pork, and Belgian fries, of course.

“She persevered.”

Among other tweaks to the festival this year is the new Dinner Series, which replaces the one night only Feast Under the Stars. Tickets are available for your choice of a 3-course dinner with wine pairings and welcome cocktail at the opulent and romantic Lutie’s; a 4-course meal with wine pairings, welcome cocktail and a tasty hors d’oeuvre at the newly opened and highly anticipated Caribbean restaurant Canje; and/or for wine, appetizers and the holy grail of grazing boards from Salt & Time Wine Shop, Austin’s preeminent producer and purveyor of charcuterie.

After forgetting sunblock one year, I had sympathy for this pig.

This year’s festival is a veritable who’s who of the crème de la crème of chefs with demos from the skilled Jam Sanitchat (Thai Fresh), Olympian-turned-chef Dawn Burrell whose Houston-based restaurant Late August opens later this year, Rodney Scott (Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ), Helene Henderson (Malibu Farm), and a slew of other multi-talented folks, as well as an exciting lineup for the Chef’s Showcase. Combine the demos and chef showcases with action from the Fire Pits (this publication predicts long lines for anything LeAnn Mueller decides to serve), mix in Saturday night’s Rock Your Taco competition (All-In tix only), and serve it up with sips of wine, beer and spirits and the Austin Food & Wine festival will leave you satisfied and content.

The festival will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Masks are required in areas where social distancing is difficult to maintain, and when not eating or drinking. Purses and bags 4.5″ x 5.5″ or smaller will be allowed, but anything larger must be clear, no larger than 12″ x 12″ x 6″ and single-pocket only (such as a tote or drawstring bag). Please indulge responsibly, and use a designated driver or other transportation for a safe ride home. The hashtag for sharing your selfies and snaps is #AFWfest.

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Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep!

Image credit: High Brew Coffee

Austin-based High Brew Coffee has a timely email offer for those on their mailing list right now, with the admonishment “Whatever you do…don’t go to sleep.” Horror and caffeine fans enjoy 20% off of orders with the code Freddysentme through November 1, 2021. It’s well known that Elm Street residents favor Nitro Sweet Cream Cold Brew, but all the cool guys and ghouls buy sampler packs. “Whatta rush!”

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