The Austin Food & Wine Festival kicks off tonight with its casually elegant Feast Under the Stars, at Auditorium Shores (the luxuriously green parkland on the left in the above photo). This separately ticketed dining experience is a five-course meal of locally sourced ingredients prepared by award winning Austin chefs. Jackson Family Wines’ Master Sommelier Michael Jackson has carefully curated a wine pairing to compliment each course. The #AFWFest has generously offered a Weekender Pass to me, to enjoy the festival, but I purchased my own spot at this once-in-a-lifetime dinner. I’m very much looking forward to enjoying this al fresco dining celebration of the culinary arts.
Saturday, the festival opens its gates and immediately pours on the charm, with Toyota’s global street fair, Stella Artois’ Airstream trailer, and High West Distillery’s copper bar, deck and Yippee Ki-Yay photo booth. Don Julio’s gorgeous blue truck makes the perfect Instagram backdrop, as does Rodney Strongs Vineyards’ pool party vibe and decor. I’ll be heading to the Tasting Sessions tent early on, to “discover the world of Bordeaux wines.”
I’m very curious about the whiskey and art exhibition sponsored by Nine Banded Whiskey. Nine Banded Whiskey, blended and bottled in Dripping Springs, has brought in muralist Fabian Rey whose works can be spotted around town and beyond the U.S. The creative additions key vendors bring to the festival are what gives it a unique flavor, and add so much more fun to an already fantastic event. Fest goers know to expect delicious bites from the Fire Pit (expanded this year), Chef’s Showcase and the many vendors as you sip and stroll.
I highly recommend setting up a schedule of what you’d like to do, see and taste, but leave it loose, as cooking demos and tasting sessions fill fast. Remember to hydrate (looking at you, Topo Chico tent), and use the spit buckets to dump liquids that just aren’t your thing. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t forget your (non-aerosol) sunscreen, and comfy shoes. Pro tip, if you want fest swag, buy it upon entry on Saturday because the coolest tee shirts always sell out fast. If you’re used to carrying a purse, make sure you heed the bag guidelines because size does matter at the fest. No bag? Skip on over to the No Bag Express Lane entry at the festival entrance. If this is your first #AFWFest, be sure to explore the Guide on the festival website, as it has all the info you’re sure to need, in one place.