Weekend Recap: Sunshine and Spectacular Sips at Austin Food & Wine Festival

Atmosphere

Austin Food & Wine has certainly outdone themselves. Amid the ongoing pandemic, the outdoor festival provides a refreshing way to connect with the foodie community and enjoy the fantastic fall weather of Austin.

The atmosphere is vivacious without being overwhelming, as the space is large enough to comfortably accommodate the crowd as well as a variety of seating both in the sun and shade. Additionally, several brands have pop-up or trailer-style booths, such as Angry Orchard’s multi-story patio setup and The House of Suntory’s clean and modern double decker. Best of all, the festival features a frankly incredible selection of drink brands and a mouthwatering array of treats from indisputably talented chefs. All food and drink samples are high quality. Overall, the Austin Food & Wine Festival is a well-executed, brilliant success, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year!

Programming

The Festival complements its casual as-you-please tent setup with scheduled programming with limited seating. Here, lucky festival-goers enjoy cooking demonstrations, book signings, meet-the-maker sessions, and tastings. Among them, Apcor’s Eco-Friendly Wine and Amaro Montenegro Speed Dating stand out. The best is Guinness is Good for Food: 4 Essentials of Pairing Food & Beverage, hosted by Guinness brand ambassador David Schroeder.

Schroeder knows and loves his material, and presents just enough academia to contextualize, but not confuse, the audience. The panel emphasizes the importance of matching intensity by pairing well-cured coppa and hop-filled Guinness Extra Stout; the loveliness introduced by balancing tastes through the marriage of salty Swiss cheese and sweeter Guinness Draught; the simplicity of mirroring flavors with chocolate and Guinness Foreign Extra Stout, which are roasted the same way; and the joy of celebrating occasions with Guinness Nitro Cold Brew Coffee.

The Fire Pit

While several chefs and restaurants set up shop at the festival, the Fire Pit spotlights succulent cuts of barbeque grilled throughout the festival. Marco Oglesby from The Switch wins my heart by a mile. I’m picky about textures, especially soft ones, but Oglesby’s smoked ham and cheese sammy achieved the impossible – a bite where every ingredient melts in the mouth, but doesn’t turn mushy or blend the flavors until they’re indistinct.

Eight Row Flint’s Ryan Pera, however, understood the assignment best. On a warm day filled with alcohol, filling the belly and quenching thirst are both necessary. All the tasty food samples fulfill the first requirement, but Pera’s addition of unbelievably juicy persimmon to his roast pork taco also fulfills the second.

Boozy Bests

While every drink available is top notch, some make deeper impressions than others. For me, that drink is Chinola’s Passion Fruit Liqueur. At first sip, the unique tartness and sass of the passion fruit flavor reminded me of my Dominican heritage. As it turns out, Chinola is from the Dominican Republic! The fact that I can immediately taste the distinctness of the island through the liqueur is a testament to the authenticity and strength of the brand.

Deep Eddy Vodka’s three samples also impress. I actually asked for a full cup of their Frozen Hot Chocolate, which the barista seemed slightly concerned about. The Ramble On is a surefire fruity cocktail for those who can’t stand the taste of artificial fruit syrup, and the Green Dream brings the attitude in a smug, low key way.

The riesling and rosso from Llano are two which will feel right at home at a party. They’re light enough in flavor to keep at your side all day, and zingy to give you that celebratory energy you can’t do without.