Austin Food & Wine: A Foodie’s Paradise

Lisa – Now, let me think. The food was…

Homer – Mmm… – not undelicious.

Lisa [paraphrasing Homer for a food article] – The food is delicious.

Homer – [Gasps] THAT’S BRILLIANT!

Austin Food & Wine Fest just happened this past weekend, and it blew me away. It was like I had died and gone to food and drink heaven. When I got word that I received a media pass to go to the event, I was beyond stoked. Having never been before, I really didn’t know what to expect. Like any food festival, AFWFest wasn’t without it’s faults, but the massive amount of good things I experienced completely overshadowed any imperfections. It was near flawless. 

The Venue

The festival was held at Auditorium Shores, right across from the Long Center. With the Austin skyline as the backdrop, I couldn’t have dreamed of a better place to put this event.

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Don’t you just love looking at Austin?

The weather was beautiful. It was a high of 81F, sunny, clear skies, slight breeze. The sun did get a little bright, but nothing that a hat and sunglasses couldn’t cure. And if that wasn’t enough, the festival did a great job of keeping me cool.

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Giant Tents
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Tons of water and Topo Chico stores everywhere. Also great for staying hydrated after all that wine, beer, and liquor!
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Fans with cool mist
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Great gospel music to breathe some air into your soul
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These awesome camper restrooms. No need to use hot, icky porta-potties! Although those are available too in case you want to go that route
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Giant umbrellas
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Did I mention plentiful Topo Chico already?
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This tree. Actually, sorry AFWFest, can’t give you too much credit for this one

Just from the accessibility to water and Topo Chico alone, I really got the sense that AFWFest thought of everything. When you go to ACL, there’s maybe 2-3 water refill stations in the entirety of Zilker. There were at least 4-5 of these Topo Chico and water stations scattered throughout an area that is much smaller than Zilker. Plus, the staff at the festival kept these stations restocked at all times. When you’re drinking alcohol and walking around all day, there is no underrating the importance of staying hydrated. So good on you, Austin Food & Wine, for taking care of us.

The Food

I loved almost all of the food that I tried at the festival. There was a wide assortment of restaurants and vendors, so a huge spectrum of different foods were represented. From BBQ to seafood, Asian to Italian cuisine, it was hard to find any gaps.

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This taco from Chef Billy Durney was my absolute favorite. The meat was cooked perfectly, the presentation was stellar, and the sauce was the icing on the cake… err taco.
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Everyone asked me where I got this Louie Mueller lamb chop. And for good reason. It was melt in your mouth, fall off the bone goodness
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Sushi rice topped with an abundance of tamago, Nori, and other goodies, courtesy of Fukumoto
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This pork was so well seasoned and tender
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Give me sausage and carbs any day. Especially rice that is cooked well
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Soft boiled quail eggs!
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This was stuffed with crab meat, and I devoured it in 2 seconds
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Pulled pork frito pie. No complaints
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Chef David Bull’s smoked pig head w/ sun choke chow chow, hominy, and lime crema. The second best dish at the festival
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Chef Rodney Scott’s St. Louis pork ribs.
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Believe me – carrying all four of these + my Topo Chico was a challenge
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People were grabbing these fast, so I didn’t even get a chance to ask what this was. But it’s from Live Feed BBQ
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East Side King’s beet salad w/ ginger
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HEB actually blew me away with these chicken crostinis. I was surprised to see them make such great food
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Bet you can’t look at this without drooling.. well, unless you’re vegetarian/vegan/etc.
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And now for my vegan and pineapple loving friends!
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Just like HEB, I was suprised at how good Barilla’s pasta was. I’m going to start using campanelle pasta in my own cooking now. The bite you get with it is unmatched.
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 The fire pit crew hard at work!
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Massive pans. A necessity when you’re feeding everyone there.
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These meatballs were to die for. Great job Chef Dady! He’s opening ‘Chispas’ in Austin soon!
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Wu Chow’s pecan shrimp
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Whole tamales! What what??
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Shrimp w/ potato salad from Salty Sow

The highlight for me was definitely the fire pit area. This is where chefs pumped out the lamb chops, pork ribs, and tostadas from above. However, therein also lies one of my complaints about the festival. Part of this area felt extremely disorganized on my first day. People were kind of just crowded around the Live Feed BBQ space, and it was hard to know where you were actually supposed to wait for food, and if food was even coming out. There was a point when people in front of me just left the line, not understanding if they were even waiting for anything in the first place. I just get the sense that this area could have been organized differently. Maybe add a sign or two, or have someone there explaining what was going on. However, after enduring the confusion on day one, my day two experience vastly improved since I knew exactly what to expect from that area. I was first in line, and after about a 5-minute wait, I was rewarded with the delicious grilled chicken tostada.

Speaking of lines, my only other complaint is with the line for the wine tasting demo. I stood in it for about 15 minutes, only to find out after everyone was seated that I hadn’t made the cutoff. I would love to see someone doing a line count, like they do when you’re waiting outside of Franklin’s, and estimating where the cutoff is ahead of time. That was 15 precious minutes I could have spent going to a different stall or demo area.

Now that that’s out of the way, most of the food really shined. There were a few misses, but those were very rare. There was also a few instances where vendors ran out of food on my first day, but credit to them, I got there a little late on Saturday. I was extremely bummed I couldn’t try Old Thousand, since Deb on 101X praises them a lot. Huge kudos once again to pit master Mueller, the guys at Live Feed BBQ, and Chef David Bull for making my favorite foods at the festival. Their dishes made my experience 20x better.

The Dessert

I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Horchata ice cream from Lick. My first dessert spot had to go to my favorite ice cream place in Austin
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Cookies from Coffehouse @ Caroline. So soft, and a great mix of ingredients
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Cookies filled with cream, provided by Chameleon Cold Brew
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Scones from HEB. So delicate, with just enough sweetness
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Mahatma Rice came through with this coconut rice pudding
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So. Much. Good. Chocolate.

A few things I want to point out about these.

  1. Thank you Mahatma for giving me an entire bag of rice. I have never seen anyone hand out their entire product at a festival like this before. And I’ve loved their basmati since the first day I discovered it a few years ago.
  2. Coffeehouse @ Caroline, I am definitely going to pay you a visit to get more cookies. Just wow.
  3. HEB, I need to stay away from your bakery section in general. I would get diabetes in a heartbeat. Great job with your section. It was beautiful and well organized. 

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    HEB’s tent
  4. Lick, please build a location in Lakeline so I can come eat your ice cream all day every day.

The Drink

If you love wine, liquor, or beer you should set aside the $250 to buy a weekend ticket for next year IMMEDIATELY. There is so much offered here, it’s almost insane.

A common misconception I’ve found is that people think this festival is exclusively about wine. They couldn’t be more wrong.

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Everyone gets this cup to put their drinks in
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Boom. Tequila. Not wine
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Three Olives vodka. Also not wine
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Chameleon Cold Brew. So nice to have around when you start getting that food coma 2 hours in
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Gotta rehydrate in between!
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Guiness had tap + bottled beers, and they were very generous with how much they poured
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Fine, I’ll actually show you some wine
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And now immediately back to beer. Plot twist. These are actually succulents inside Eastciders cans
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NOT a fan of the spicy one, but all the other flavors of Dulce Vida tequila were delicious!
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Yessss. Whiskey for me, please
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Desert Door Texas Sotol
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Wine tasting
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Can’t leave out gin
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Cocktails from Monkey Shoulder
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Glen Fiddich had a really cool set up.. which I’m not going to show you
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I’m obviously kidding
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9 Banded woot woot
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Cuvee Cold Brew. Still a fan of Chameleon though, sorry guys!
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Wouldn’t mind renting this for my next party
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These guys were literally in the sun the whole day
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Topo Chico with a “twist of lime”
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Thanks for the aguas frescas, Toyota! Piña was my favorite

 

 

 

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More coffee
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Bloody Mary from BBQ Wife. Definitely a highlight for me! Tito’s also had a make your own Bloody Mary bar, but they ran out when I got there
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Speaking of Tito’s…
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Can you tell yet that I don’t drink wine much?
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Phew, some wine
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More wine!
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All the vendors were so friendly
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I just wanted to talk to every single person who poured me a drink
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Actually, I think I did

 

I’m a little biased because I’m not a big wine drinker, so wine is definitely underrepresented in my pictures. But believe you me, there is definitely a LOT of wine here. So don’t fret, wine drinkers, fans of Rosé all day, etc etc. You will have plenty of choices.

 

 

 

 

The Swag

I love getting free stuff. There’s no shortage of free tote bags, branded wear, sunglasses, and other goodies at AFWFest.

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Toyota came through in the clutch with their awesomely designed totes
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These flower crown dealies were flying off the shelves like hotcakes! (Sorry, I don’t know the actual term for the ‘dealies’, haha.
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This was the killing I made on my 2nd day. Ignore the hat, I bought that on Saturday at a different festival

Final Impressions

For $250 a weekend ticket, you really get your money’s worth. I left feeling full and happy every both days, and with tons of free stuff. Yes, the caveat to this is that I didn’t have to pay for my media pass. However, I assure you that after experiencing it, I would be more than happy to throw the money down the next couple of years to go back.

Some tips for you newcomers at future festivals:

  • Don’t stand in the line with the most people. These lines will eventually die down, and more often than not, people stand in them just because people are already standing in them, thus making the line grow more and more for no reason.
  • Go early. The lines are shorter, all the vendors still have food, and you end up getting a better experience overall. It’s also way easier to find parking at the Long Center early on – $8/day if there’s a spot open.
  • Find a food tray immediately. It’s hard to fumble your wine and food at the same time while you’re going from vendor to vendor. I was envious of anyone with a mini food tray because they just had to carry one apparatus, instead of fumbling with their drink in one hand, and food in the other.
  • Watch your step. Some people just empty their wine onto the ground. Not sure if this is an accepted practice, or just a few knuckleheads. Either way, just watch where you’re going.
  • Wear sunblock.
  • Bring a hat.
  • Bring friends.
  • Talk to the vendors. Don’t just grab and go. You can really learn a lot from them.
  • Go to every vendor. You never know when you might find a hidden gem. Or a random free gift.

 

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Everyone had a great time. The DJ was awesome

Thank you so much, Austin Food & Wine, and Sarah and Suzannah with Balz & Company, for giving me this fantastic opportunity. I hope that I can go back in future years to experience this all over again.

Don’t forget to make your way to @ATXFoodiesBlog on Instagram for more hunger inducing food pictures.

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