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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
A few things I want to point out about these.
- 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.
- Coffeehouse @ Caroline, I am definitely going to pay you a visit to get more cookies. Just wow.
- 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.
- Lick, please build a location in Lakeline so I can come eat your ice cream all day every day.
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.
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.
I love getting free stuff. There’s no shortage of free tote bags, branded wear, sunglasses, and other goodies at AFWFest.
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.
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.