Somms Under Fire Wine & Food Pairing Competition

One of my favorite annual events is Keeper Collection’s Somms Under Fire wine and food pairing competition, in which acclaimed sommeliers first create a craft cocktail using Citadell Gin de France, then move on to the main event. The fun is in full swing as the audience tastes the wines that the somms have available as choices to pair with a multi-course meal. Every time I’ve attended this competition, the table discussion is lively, with everyone opining as to which wine should be chosen. Not only is it entertaining, it’s educational, as I’ve picked up key information that helps me choose wine to pair with the foods I cook at home.

#SommsUF goes through rounds for each course, awarding the best pairing each time, and ultimately crowns an overall sommelier winner. Top prize? An ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime internship in Burgundy, France with travel money, and a oh-so-very cool champagne saber. Because saber. Who doesn’t dig using a sharp calvary sword to open a bottle of bubbly? There’s also the Fan Favorite winner, with a sweet wine education trip to Washington state, and an internship at the 2018 TexSom conference.

Buy your tickets now, because it always sells out! VIP ticket holders enjoy early check-in, a wine education and tasting program in addition to the cocktail challenge and main competition. Tables are also available, to ensure your party is seated together.  This year you may, in advance, request a vegetarian dish in lieu of the competition dish — do so in the notes field of the ticket form.

Categories: Wine | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Dirty Rice is my comfort food

It’s not the prettiest side dish, but the taste will knock your socks off!

I am a native Texan, born into a multi-ethnic family in San Antonio and come by my love for cooking Tex Mex foods naturally. My first thoughts for dinner almost always involve something from my childhood: tacos, chalupas, enchiladas, flour tortillas. When I was 8 years old, my father’s job with the FAA moved us to Louisiana, where I promptly embraced Cajun and Creole foods in addition to my beloved beans, barbacoa and carne guisada. One of my comfort foods is Dirty Rice, that ubiquitous side dish found on every good Southern cook’s table. I use Emeril Lagasse’s recipe, as it is the closest to authentic as I’ve found. Yes, chicken livers feel yucky when you work with them, but they are essential to the dish, so put your squeamishness to the side and dive on in to what will surely become a requested food in your home. The livers impart an essential flavor to the rice, and gives it the “dirty” look that inspired its name. Dirty Rice is an excellent side dish for any type of grilled chicken or meat, and I often make Maque Choux to pair with it.

Dirty Rice

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound chicken livers, chopped fine
  • 1/2 pound pork sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
  • 1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Emerilís Original Essence
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups cooked rice, chilled
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

In a large, heavy sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken livers and sausage and cook, stirring, until the meat is browned, about 6 minutes. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, the onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic, Essence, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the stock and bay leaves scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir thoroughly. Cook until the rice is heated through, about 5 minutes.   Remove from the heat and remove the bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Categories: Comfort Food, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Austin Food & Wine Festival Hot News & Getaway Giveaway

We have hot news of changes underway for April’s Austin Food + Wine Festival, including retiring Lone Star Nights in favor of the hugely popular Tim Love hands-on grilling demo. Dubbed Grillin’ & Chillin’, it’s the ultimate interactive grilling experience for All In ticket holders. In past fests, this event was held on the festival grounds under the beautiful but brutal Texas sun. Moving the event to the cool Spring evening will amp up the always lively atmosphere. Ticket holders will grill dinner under Chef Tim’s expert tutelage, humorous anecdotes, music and a definite party vibe.

The festival is known for its Fire Pits, where chefs grill or smoke delectable cuts of meats, poultry, seafood and veggies.  This year finds the Fire Pits expanded to include more chefs, more food and more tips on how to harness the power of live fire to create delicious meals.  The Chef Showcase, held in the Grand Taste tents, has grown as well, with featured chefs sampling their signature dishes.

Last year’s festival was impressive for the amount of food and beverage sampling (it’s not just wine anymore!), and this year is promising to be the best yet.  Today marks the start of the Getaway Giveaway, with the Austin Food + Wine Festival awarding one lucky winner 2 round-trip flights to Austin, accommodations at the lushly swank Fairmont Hotel, two All In tickets to the festival, rideshare credits for transportation to and from the event, and an official festival merchandise package.  A winner will be chosen at random on January 17th, at 5pm, so enter now!

Tickets to the Austin Food + Wine Festival go on sale January 18th. The All In ticket gains you entrance to both Saturday and Sunday festival grounds, plus Friday night’s Grillin’ & Chillin’, and Saturday evening’s Rock Your Taco challenge. Weekender ticket holders have entry to both days of the festival, but not the night events. Invariably the question of “Is it worth it?” comes up, and we always answer with a resounding “Yes!” This is the only event where you can spend the equivalent of dinner (for two) at 2 local fine dining establishments yet sample bites and nibbles from a lengthy list of the best chefs not only in Austin or Texas, but nationwide. And then there’s wine, oh so many different types of wine. Last year saw growth in the offerings of beer and spirits as well.

And then there is the elegant, intimate, and oh-so-exclusive Feast Under the Stars. The traditional kick off to the festival is a 5-course meal prepared by festival chefs under the starry night sky at Auditorium Shores. Feast Under the Stars entry can be purchased separately, or as an add on to either ticket options. It always sells out early, so buy them as soon as ticket sales open.

See you at the fest!

Categories: Austin, Festival, Food Event, Giveaway, Local, Wine | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment