Sunday at the Austin Wine and Food Festival started early in the morning with a new crew of chefs taking over the fire pits. The team from Luke in San Antonio constructed an elaborate “quail” tree, roasted a whole hog and even made a lovely strawberry sauce on the fire.
The Gilmores, with dad Jack (Jack Allen’s Kitchen) and son Bryce (Barley Swine & Odd Duck) both manning the pits, switched from pigs to goats, with Bryce cooking cabrito on the fire truck spit and Jack roasting the heads on the “meat carousel” with the chickens.
Chef Ned Elliott of Foreign and Domestic was roasting pig heads on his fire and making tacos from the tender meat.
No surprise that pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s (Franklin Barbecue) brisket and ribs inspired a patient crowd waiting patiently for a bite of the tasty ‘cue. In between carvings, the chef handed out beers.
Some of the hardest working folks at the festival were the crew from Salt & Time with a chef showcase on Saturday and a discussion on Sunday at the Austin Food and Wine Alliance tent, complete with tasty bites of their charcuterie.
Sunday’s Grand Tasting featured a number of great finds. Stephanie McClenny of Confituras launched her lovely Hill Country Wine Jellies featuring Texas red and white wines.
I was delighted to discover two new-to-me restaurants based in my Allandale neighborhood. The Mighty Bird is a fast casual restaurant that specializes in rotisserie chicken and chicken-centric tacos, wraps and salads. Their Hatch green chile chicken salad and chicken chorizo samples were delicious and I’ve stopped the Anderson location twice since the festival.
And, I am anxiously awaiting the opening of Fork & Vine in the space formerly occupied by Casa Chapala at Anderson & Shoal Creek. The New American restaurant will have a lengthy wine list and, based on the samples at the festival, some impressive food. With this restaurant being less than a block from my house, you can imagine how excited I am. (Open, open, open!)
I ended the festival with nibbles from one of my favorite chefs in town, Chef Shawn Cirkiel of the Parkside Projects (Parkside, Olive & June, the Backspace, Chavez). The soup and charcuterie were balanced and lovely – just what I’ve come to expect from Chef Cirkiel. He then shared a story of the work they’ve been doing in his restaurant group to take care of their team, extending insurance to every (not just full-time) employee and how that had recently helped one of their dishwashers.
As I headed for the gates, I was reminded that all the fun of the festival is about promoting an industry that not only supports the chefs and stars, but everyone who who works with them. It makes a difference where you eat, because the money you spend supports real people, with real lives from the purveyors supplying the restaurant to the dishwashers and servers to the star chef who just signed your arm. Choose wisely!