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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!