Cannon + Belle Texas Winemaker Dinner Series

In the first collaboration of Cannon + Belle‘s Texas winemaker series, the restaurant teams up with Duchman Winery for a six course pairing menu.  The dinner kicks off a celebratory series of Texas wines with Cannon + Belle’s regional cuisine. The event is tomorrow night, and few tickets remain, so I suggest calling (512) 493-4900 to secure your seat at the table. At only $65 per person (plus tax and gratuity), you’ll sample wines that retail between $16 – $30 a bottle paired with sumptuous, rich offerings including seared snapper with truffled spring pea puree, Texas mushrooms, and pickled radishes, and the mouthwatering citrus spiked, 72-hour short rib with gremolata, goat cheese risotto, rainbow swiss chard and a hint of hibiscus. Duchman winemaker Dave Reilly will guide diners through the courses, and offer a lively discourse on flavor pairings.


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Austin Food & Wine Fest – Must Do’s!


Disclosure: I’m attending this year’s Austin Food & Wine festival as a member of media.

I’m one of those people who like to plan out their festival experience. Much like I do with ACL on the years I attend, ahead of time I’ll look at the Austin Food & Wine Festival lineup, and figure out which things I consider a “Don’t Miss” and prioritize from there. If I had an All-In ticket, I’d build my schedule around my assigned time for Tim Love’s Hands-On Grilling, which is singularly the most popular event at the festival, and available only to All-In ticket holders. Here’s my 2017 #AFWFest schedule based on the Weekender ticket:

Saturday, April 29th
11am – Stop for bubbly to kick off event, and head immediately to the Toyota Center Plate stage where Brian Pounds is playing. Customize a grilling spatula or make a dry rub.  Get my bearings on the layout, including the ever-important (air conditioned) mobile restroom trailers. If possible, dash over to Krug Wine Tasting at 11:30.
Noon – Fire Pit stop to see what’s grilling from Bryce Gilmore (Barley Swine; Odd Duck), Blaine Staniford (Grace; Little Red Wasp in Ft. Worth), and Andrew Wiseheart (Contigo Austin). Make first foray for food either in Grand Taste or around the park. Must stop by Barilla Pasta to see their giant pasta tossing pot. Find Château D’Esclans and celebrate 10 years of Rosé all Day with Whispering Angel. Because Rosé. Drink water.
12:45pm – Attend Craig Collins‘ seminar on the Rhône varieties of Paso Robles AVA. I don’t know much about these, and Craig is one of my favorite somms. He started the #lambruscorevolution in Austin. Drink water.
1:15pm – Make my way through the Grand Taste pavilion, including Chef’s Showcase. Eat, drink, be merry.
2:30pm – Best Butcher in Texas finals! After, make my way to the 90+ Club (wines rated at the highest end of spectrum), Cooper & Thief (wine aged in bourbon barrels, hell yes!), and Glenfiddich Experimental Dome. Drink water.
Between things, after things, before fest closes for day – Reapply sunscreen. Visit Tito’s Stillhouse Lounge. Make sure to buy that cool Austin food map tee shirt before it sells out. Say hi to High Brew, Delysia Chocolatier, and Infinite Monkey Theorem in Grand Taste pavilion.

Sunday, April 30th
11am – More bubbly! Why not? Ease into the day at “Sunday Gravy and Mimosas” demo.
11:30am – Stop by Hendricks Gin: A Most Curious & Peculiar Cocktail Academy, or if no seats, make a beeline for their The World’s Most Utterly Inefficient Cocktail Bar.
Noon – Beat a path to the Toyota Center Plate stage to catch Amanda Freitag, in case her later demo is full. Check in on Fire Pit action and eat deliciousness from Shawn Cirkiel (Parkside; The Backspace; Olive & June, Bullfight; jugo), Sonya Coté (Eden East), and Michael Fojtasek (Olamaie). Have a minute? Drop by the Pioneer Wine Company Lounge.
1pm – Plan on either Amanda Freitag’s “The Chef Next Door” seminar or the Santa Margherita “Mangia, Mangia, Ya’ll” demo.  If both full, a trip to the Summer Sipper Lounge & Patio and/or Summer Saloon. Stop by KitchenAid and drool over appliances. Drink water. Reapply sunscreen.
1:45pm – Aaron Sanchez, baby! Gotta get a peek at one of my favorite cheflebrities and his tats, even if his “Johnny Sanchez Classics” demo is SRO. There’s also the “Rhode Island Red, Seafood, Sauce and Red Wine” demo. Alternate plan: hit the Grand Taste again, if I haven’t tried all the yummy bites, or sampled enough bevies.  “So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you.” I’m sure to feel like I’ve had a trip through the wine and food version of Willy Wonka‘s factory after this day.
2:15pm –  Cheese and charcuterie, please! “Legends of Europe” features Prosciutto di Parma, Grana Padano, Montasio and Prosciutto di San Daniele. I can’t remember if I’ve tasted Montasio and Prosciutto di San Daniele. I may not remember tasting it at this event, either. *Note to self: arrange a sober ride home in advance of weekend, for both fest days. Drink water. Leave happy.
Festie tip of the day: Utilize the spit buckets. If you don’t like what you’re tasting, don’t drink it. There’s so much to savor, and some flavors may not be ones you enjoy.

How do you plan on doing the #AFWfest?

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Grilled Cheese Sandwich in the Toaster??

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Can you make a grilled cheese sandwich in the toaster? Yes, yes, you can! My son and I were watching Food Network’s The Kitchen on a recent weekend, and it was their “Cheese, Please!” episode. I’m a huge cheese lover, although my son has parameters for fromage: on pizza, in grilled cheese sandwich form, and as queso. We were both spellbound when one of the products in the “Try or Deny” bit of the show was toaster bags to make grilled cheese sandwiches. It looked so easy on t.v. that we just had to try them. I logged onto Amazon, and found a “lightning deal” on ekSel Toaster Bags, three for $5.99. Sold!

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Last night my son and I eagerly set out to make grilled cheese in our toaster. It’s easy enough to make it on the stove top, but I was hoping that these bags would allow my second grade kiddo to make his own, with minimal supervision.

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We elected to lightly butter the outside of the bread, and use only one slice of American cheese. I’m sure you could use mayonnaise instead, if you subscribe to the belief that mayo makes a better grilled sandwich crust. The delicate part of the process is inserting the buttered sandwich into the bag. You are going to have buttery fingers, for sure.

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I wasn’t certain our extremely basic toaster would have wide enough slots for a full sandwich, but I managed to slide it in, with a bit of a push. It wasn’t too tight, but it was snug. A bit of the top was sticking out of the toaster, but it didn’t make any difference in the long run.

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Yes, my toaster has seen some use. Don’t judge me. I’m sure yours is just as dirty.

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The little “tabs” at the top of the envelope make it easier to remove the hot, toasted sandwich. Here’s a peek at the finished, but still too hot to slide out, grilled cheese.

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Plated, and sliced. Looks good, smells great!

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The judge was tough. He wanted a crisply toasted exterior, soft and melty interior.

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In the end, we deemed the grilled cheese toaster bags a complete success.

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My son will still need a reminder that the sandwich will be very hot when he takes it out of the toaster, but who hasn’t lightly burned a finger snagging toast before? I’m deeming any toasted fingertips part of the learning experience of cooking for oneself.

The bags are easy to clean. I washed ours by hand, turning them inside out to get to the little bit of melted cheese in the bottom of the bag. I’m already thinking about grilled cheese with thinly sliced smoked turkey, and experimenting with different bread. The directions are vague, only saying to toast the sandwich at your toaster’s midway point. Thicker sandwiches, and heavier breads may need some trial and error on toasting time, and dial settings.


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