The third annual Austin Food and Wine Festival came to a close yesterday. Kicking off on Friday night with a "Taste of Texas" event showcasing restaurants from around the state, it was an educational but sometimes wild weekend of epic eating and drinking. Between chef demos, dishes from restaurants and companies around the country were available for tasting, and various chefs kept the fire pits smoking all weekend.
During the day, you could get cooking tips from celebrity chefs and then see 'em in action later that night. While preparing enchiladas verdes on Saturday, Rick Bayless declared that removing each leaf of cilantro from the stem is "a sure sign of a misspent life." Instead, he recommended simply chopping the stems and all for a garnish. That evening he served spicy cochinita pibil tacos at the Rock Your Taco celebrity chef competition.
Chef John Currence of City Grocery in Oxford, Mississippi also had an stand-out taco entry. Although he's best known for Southern food, he did a "red neck" taco with red adobo-braised lamb necks, procured from a farm in his home state. Currence might have served my favorite taco of the evening, but Richard Blais ultimately won the judges over with an octopus and lamb picadillo.
Rock Your Taco and Taste of Texas were followed by lavish parties like Sips and Sweets inside Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, and the circus themed Cirque du TRACE party at the restaurant in the W Hotel. According to Currence, these large food festivals are popular because "people everywhere are just more interested in food. It's now legitimate entertainment."
About the author: Meredith Bethune lives in Austin by way of New York and New Orleans but grew up in Rhode Island. She has worked lots of odd jobs along the way including cheesemonger, farmers' market coordinator, and youth gardening instructor. As a writer, her work has appeared in Gastronomica, BUST, The Local Palate, Fodor's, Modern Farmer, Edible Austin, Austin Monthly, and others. She has also been known to smoke a pastrami or stuff a sausage from time to time. For more updates, follow her on Twitter (@MeredithBethune) or check out her website.