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Our Favorite Things: 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival Preview

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Can you feel the excitement? Have you started the countdown calendar? I have! It’s almost time (22 days and counting) for my annual food holiday weekend – the 2015 Austin Food & Wine Festival on April 24-26. Woo hoo!

Kim Crawford Prickly Pear Punch and Kim Crawford Citrus Wine Slush from Kelvin Natural Slush Co.

It’s hard for me to pick what I most excited about it. I love the demos by superstar chefs who I’ve only admired on TV. I’m intrigued by Jenn Louis’ tartare 101 with three types of raw dishes and the mystery basket challenges with Graham Elliott and Andrew Zimmern promise to be spectacular as the chefs demonstrate their improvisation skills. But, the double-header paella class with Jamie Bissonnette Ken Oringer of Toro may be the highlight of the demo sessions for me. Paella was one of the first complex dishes I learned to make and I can’t wait to learn masterful tips from these creative East Coast chefs.

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Salt and Time talking about the art of salumi at 2014 festival

Of course the beverage side of the house is stacked with great talent as well. Mark Oldman’s tasting session on pairing wine with spicy foods is a perfect match for our Texas cuisine, and I’m delighted that we have three of our local wine pros (Craig Collins, Devon Broglie and Vilma Mazaite) each leading separate tastings. I can’t wait to see how  David Alan Rescues the Rita as well. If anyway can teach us to make a perfect margarita, The Tipsy Texan can.

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Sparkler session at 2014 festival

The festival is bringing rising stars from across the state in for the sold out Taste of Texas event on Friday night and a few of the chefs are sticking around for demos and the fire pit. Hearing from Matt McCallister of Dallas’ FT33 and Chris Shepherd of Houston’s Underbelly without having to travel out of town is a real treat. And, I can’t even imagine what kind of hi jinx Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner of Pass and Provisions (Houston) will get into at the Fire Pit.

Vegetables cooked in clay from Gardner

First bites from Gardner at 2014 festival

Both the Fire Pit and the Chef Showcase are expanded this year with more chefs and some sneak peeks. I’m looking forward to finally having a bite from Wu Chow, the Swift’s Attic team’s new Asian adventure.

SundayFest_Luke_QuailSundayFest_Luke_Berries

And not to be overlooked, the Grand Tasting tent is going to be busting at the seams with sips and nibbles. The festival has a attracted a whole slew of new vendors as well as old favorites.

High Brew Coffee, cold-brew in a can

High Brew was just one of the new vendors introduced at the 2014 festival

I’m so excited! If you haven’t purchased your tickets yet, now is the time. You do not want to miss this!

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Wowing with Outstanding Restaurant Service

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When I moved to Austin many moons ago, the food wasn’t fancy and restaurant service was typically adequate at best. Over the last couple of decades, our food scene has transformed and we have an almost overwhelming number of great places to eat. How do you choose? For me, the deciding factor is usually the service.

The places that win my heart are the restaurants that value their front of house standards as much as those for the kitchen, making me feel welcome and comfortable without overdoing it. It’s service that lifts a good restaurant to a great restaurant, and it is the achilles heal for many places in Austin.

I was thrilled when Edible Austin let me profile a few exceptional folks who are putting their customers first every day. Cheers to the Forces at the Front of the House!

Do you have a favorite server? Where do they work and how did they wow you?

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Local Food Fun at SXSW

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Dine out at the French Legation and watch a Michelin-starred Chef at work  or support local non-profits while listening to great music. Check out a few of our favorite foodie events you can’t miss this SXSW.

SXSW

Image from French Tech Club.

French Bistro Pop-Up
March 15-20

2015’s French Bistro is going to be even better: Chef Rémi Fournier has invited the Michelin-starred Chef Gérard Bossé to create a pop-up version of his Angers restaurant ‘Une Île’. Gérard is Rémi’s mentor and one of the godfathers of the natural approach to cooking in France.

The Chefs will be cooking in an open kitchen at the French Legation with locally sourced ingredients to share their art and demonstrate every step of the performance that cooking is. These two Chefs are going to offer a unique experience: bringing their most delicious food and talented teams to Austin for 50 lunches and 50 dinners. Book your seat now!

Freebirds Live Music Fundraiser
March 18-21

Freebirds World Burrito returns to the St. Vincent de Paul stage for their sixth annual four day celebration of live music, fresh food and fundraising. Browse local artisan booths and enjoy Freebirds fare while listening to a music lineup featuring local Austin favorites and more. Funds from donations, food and beverage sales at the showcase will go towards a new a mobile store and distribution center that will supply clothing and household necessities to underserved parts of Austin. Check out the lineup here.

Music By the Slice
March 20-21

Come enjoy some great bands, hot pizza, cold drinks, and big time fun for the whole family at Home Slice Pizza! The event is free, open to all ages, and no RSVP is necessary! All proceeds benefit Urban Roots, a youth development organization that uses food and farming to transform the lives of young people and inspire, engage, and nourish the community. Schedule here.

Not headed to SXSW, check out…

Paella Challenge
Sunday, March 15, 11am-4pm

Watch as chefs and high school teams go head-to-head in competition to create the most impressive paella dishes cooked right before your eyes. All of the proceeds to benefit the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus. The ticket price is all-inclusive – meaning it includes entry into the event, sampling of amazing Paella and other tasty bites from the chefs as well as beverages (Beer, Wine, Sangria, Sodas & Water) and the entertainment for the day. Purchase tickets here!

Children’s Picnic and Real Food Fair
Sunday, March 29, Noon-4pm

The annual Edible Austin Children’s Picnic and Real Food Fair focuses on the wellness of future generations by encouraging healthy habits in children! This free event showcases local artisans, games, tastings, cooking demonstrations and live music. Learn about participating vendors and more.

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AFBA 2015 City Guide: Locally Sourcing Restaurants

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AFBACityGuideLogo612altWhen I started making a list of restaurants that sourced from local farms and ranches several years ago, the roll call was pretty short. Now so many restaurants understand the joy of working with fresh local produce and meat that I almost don’t need to make the list anymore. But just for kicks, I did it anyway.

Dai Due Cold Meat Board

Dai Due Cold Meat Board

One of the most exciting culinary developments for me in the last year was to see Chef Jesse Griffiths and his team at Dai Due open their brick-and-mortar restaurant. After eight years of supper clubs and farmers markets, it is amazing to see them in action at their Manor Road restaurant. It is everything I wanted for them and everything I wanted it to be.

And Dai Due is in great company, they were joined over the last two years by stand outs like the divine pizza at Bufalina, the lovely Rosedale neighborhood spot Epicerie and the reimagining of Cafe Josie.

Lunch at The Hightower

Lunch at The Hightower

I was thrilled that Chef Chad Dolezal made a cozy new home at The Hightower and have been wowed by my first two meals at Fixe, a mix of tasty Southern bites, hospitality and whimsy that I find delightful.

Shrimp & Grits from Fixe

Shrimp & Grits from Fixe

One thing is for certain. Locally sourcing restaurants now abound in Austin and you don’t have to sacrifice taste or type of cuisine – you have plenty of delicious bites waiting for you.

Downtown

The Backspace, 507 San Jacinto. Antipasto and Neopolitan style pizza cooked in a brick oven imported from Italy. Average pizza price $12.

Chez Nous, 510 Neches. French bistro that has been an Austin favorite for years and is still one of my favorite spots. Lunch and dinner. 3 course prix fixe menu $28.50, average dinner entree $25. Austin Woman profile

Congress, 200 Congress Ave. New American fine dining with near perfect execution. Dinner only with 3 courses ($75) or chef tasting menu ($125.) Austin Woman profile

Easy Tiger, 709 E. Sixth St. Bakery and beer garden with artisan breads and meats available to go or in the beer garden. Breakfast, lunch and dinner (coffee, not beer at breakfast). Average entree $12.

La Condesa, 400 W. 2nd St. Interior Mexican and Mexican street fare. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Average dinner entree $26.  Austin Woman profile

Lambert’s, 401 West 2nd Street. Fancy barbecue, game and Southern dishes in a historic building across from city hall, average dinner entree $25. The Sunday brunch is a meat-lover’s paradise.

Parkside, 301 E. 6th. New American with an emphasis on oysters and seafood crudo, dinner, average dinner entree $23.  Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Second Bar and Kitchen , 200 Congress Ave. New American.  Lunch, dinner and late night, average dinner entree $22.

SFC Downtown Austin Farmers Market, 4th and Guadalupe at Republic Square. Various vendors with prepared food, fresh produce, meats, cheeses and artisan food products. Great place to discover new hot food vendors who are focused on local food. Saturdays 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Swift’s Attic, 315 Congress Ave. New American small plates with a playful, sometimes irreverent style. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Average dish $15. Austin Woman profile

Trio, at the Four Seasons, 98 San Jacinto. New American. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and one of the best Happy Hour deals in town. Average dinner entree $25.   Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Trace at the W Hotel, 200 Lavaca St.. New American, breakfast, lunch, dinner. Prices vary widely between breakfast, lunch and dinner. Austin Woman profile

6th & Lamar/Clarksville

24 Diner, 600 N. Lamar. American diner. 24 hours. Average dish $11.

Arro, 601 W 6th St. French bistro standards with one of the best curated wine lists in town. Average entree $30.

Cafe Josie, 1200 W 6th. Neighborhood bistro featuring fresh, local ingredients. Lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $22.

Cipollina, 1213 West Lynn. Bistro menu, specializing in pizza. Lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $15. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Clark’s Oyster Bar, 1200 W 6th St. Seafood. Lunch, dinner and brunch. Average dinner entree $25.

Counter Cafe, 626 N. Lamar (also with an East Austin location:1914 E 6th St.) American. Breakfast and lunch. Average entree $10. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Fabi & Rosi, 509 Hearn St. Dishes influenced from Chef Wolfgang Murber’s German heritage, but with a light, modern touch. Dinner and Sunday brunch. Average entree $20. Austin Woman Profile

Fixe, 500 West 5th Street. Chef James Robert serves modern Southern fare including a divine menu section dedicated to grits. Dinner. Entrees average $21.

Jeffrey’s, 1204 W Lynn St. New American fine dining in a cozy neighborhood space – an Austin classic. Dinner. Entrees average $42.

Josephine House, 1601 Waterston Ave. The sister restaurant to Jeffrey’s, Josephine house offers casual dining without sacrificing on any of the quality. Sitting on the front lawn or in to back patio is the perfect way to enjoy a sunny day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lunch entrees average $17, dinner entrees $20, 3 course prix fixe menu $40.

Wink, 1014 N. Lamar. New American. Dinner. Average entree $25 with a separate, less expensive menu in the wine bar.  Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

South Austin

Barley Swine, 2024 S. Lamar Blvd. One of Austin’s leaders in the farm-to-table movement, Chef Bryce Gilmore has won national acclaim for good reason. Enjoy a New American nightly chef’s menu for $75/person.

Elizabeth St. Cafe, 1501 South First St. Bakery and Vietnamese cafe, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average entree $15.

Jack Allen’s Kitchen, 7720 W. Hwy 71 (this place is a jaunt from downtown, but worth the drive). Casual Texas cuisine. Lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch. Average entree $13. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Lenoir, 1807 South First St. One of my favorite places in town, Lenoir serves what they’ve dubbed “hot weather food.” Call it what you want; it’s consistently delicious. Dinner. Prix fixe only with 3 dishes for $40, extra dish for $10. Enjoy a selection of small plates in the wine garden out back. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Odd Duck, 1201 S Lamar Blvd. Originally started in a food trailer, Odd Duck has returned with a gorgeous home on South Lamar. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Small dinner plates average $10. Culturemap Austin profile

Olivia, 2043 S. Lamar. New American. Dinner and Sunday brunch. Average dinner entree $30. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Perla’s, 1400 S. Congress. Seafood. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Average dinner entree $25.

Snack Bar, 1224 S. Congress Ave. Diner and lounge. Daily brunch, lunch, dinner and late night. Average dish price $9. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Sway,1417 S. First St. Thai cuisine elevated to divine heights by Executive Chef Alexis Chong. Lunch and dinner. Average entree $16. Austin Woman profile

Taco Deli, 1500 Spyglass (and other locations around town). Tex Mex – don’t skip the ceviche if you are there on Friday. It’s one of the best bargains in town. Breakfast and lunch. Average taco price is $3.

Thai Fresh, 909 W. Mary. Fresh, tasty Thai. The spicy glass noodle salad is one of my favorites. Lunch and dinner. Average entree $10. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Uchi, 801 S. Lamar. James Beard Award winning contemporary Japanese cuisine and sushi. Dinner. Average small plate $15, average roll price $12. If you are on a budget, go during Social Hour. Austin Woman Profile

Whip-In Parlour Cafe & Market, 1950 S. IH-35. Indian with a shockingly comprehensive collection of outstanding beer and wine. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $11.

Central Austin

ASTI Trattoria, 408-C E. 43rd St. Italian. Lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $20.

Black Star Coop, 7020 Easy Wind Dr. Brewpub with “Texas Pub Fare” featuring beer-friendly sandwiches and entrees. Lunch and dinner. Average item $8.

Blackbird & Henry, 3016 Guadalupe St. New American with a touch of gastropub influence from Chef Mark Schmidt, formerly of Cafe 909 in Marble Falls. Lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Dinner entrees average $20.

Epicerie, 2307 Hancock Dr. Neighborhood cafe and bistro. Lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Austin Woman profile

Foreign+Domestic, 306 E. 53rd St. New American. Dinner. Average entree $19.  Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Kome, 4917 Airport Blvd. Japanese. Lunch and dinner. Average dish $9.

Noble Sandwich Company, 4805 Burnet Rd. (also at 12233 Ranch Road 620 N). Calling this a sandwich shop is beyond an understatement. These are life-changing sandwiches. No, really. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average sandwich price $8. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Olamaie, 1610 San Antonio St. Modern Southern. Dinner. Average entree $27.

Olive & June, 3411 Glenview Ave. Italian under a gorgeous oak. Dinner. Average pasta dish $16, average entree $27. Bargains at happy hour. Austin Woman profile

Texas French Bread, 2900 Rio Grande St. Standard bakery and deli menu by day, transforming in to bistro in the evening. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $19.

Uchiko, 4200 N. Lamar. Japanese farmhouse dishes and sushi. Dinner. Average small plate $15, average roll $13. Splurge with the chef’s menu or watch your budget with Social Hour. Kristi’s Farm to Table profileVino Vino, 4119 Guadalupe. New American with a fabulous wine list. Dinner. Average entree $18.

East Austin

Blue Dahlia Bistro, 1115 E. 11th St. French Bistro. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $11. Kristi’s Farm to Table profile

Bufalina, 1519 E Cesar Chavez St. Pizza worth the wait (and there will be a wait unless you go when they open). Dinner. Average pie $16.

Contigo, 2027 Anchor Ln. New American. One of the best places to be in Austin when it’s gorgeous outside. Dinner and Sunday brunch. Average entree $15. Austin Woman profile

Dai Due, 2406 Manor Rd. Chef Jesse Griffiths has moved his popular farmers market stand and supper club indoors at his new restaurant and butcher shop. It may be the most Austin/Texas of all our restaurants as everything, even the salt is local. Needless to say, it is my happy place. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average breakfast or lunch dish $12; a dinner entree $25; 3 course prix fixe menu $30.  Culturemap Austin profile

Eastside Pies, 1401B Rosewood Ave (as well as other locations). Pizza, lunch and dinner. Large pizza averages $20.

Eden East755 Springdale Rd. Chef Sonya Cote’s outdoor restaurant at Springdale Farm offers a new prix fixe menu every weekend. Dinner, weekends only. Average dinner $70.

Gardner, 1914 E 6th Street Suite C. The Contigo crew shifts their focus at this new venue to a menu inspired by seasonal vegetables. Dinner. Average entrees $27.

The Hightower, 1209 E 7th St. Chef Chad Dolezal is one of my favorite chefs in town and I renamed his pork jowl bowl the “big bowl of yummy.” Lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Average dinner entree, $16.

Hillside Farmacy, 1209 E 11th St. Cafe/Bistro in a renovated pharmacy building. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average dinner entree $15.

Jacoby’s, 3235 E Cesar Chavez St. Ranch to table menu that features meat from the Jacoby’s ranch with a gorgeous outdoor space. Dinner. Average entree $21.

laV, 1501 E 7th St. French fine dining with inspiration straight from Provence. Dinner and Sunday brunch. Average dinner entree $42.  Culturemap Austin preview

Qui, 1600 E 6th St. Chef Paul Qui won Top Chef and a James Beard Award. It only takes a few bites at his eponymous restaurant to understand why. Go all in with the nightly chef’s menu or nibble snacks in the bar or patio. Dinner. Chef’s menu is $65 per person or $55 for vegetarian.

Salt & Time Butcher Shop, 1912 E 7th St, Butcher shop serving daily selection of sandwiches and/or hot food that can be enjoyed at their bar, lunch and early dinner (closes at 7:00 pm), average price $8.

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