2013 Austin Food & Wine Festival – Day 1
More than Food & Wine
by Dawn Garcia | Photographs by Dawn Garcia
I have been to Austin twice in my life. This April was the 2nd time. This time I was greeted by familiar faces, succulent food, savory sweets, open minds, exquisite talent, momentous friends, and a slew of food, wine, life, travel, and culture lovers to which degree I have quite possibly never encountered before. Passion and a thirst for life was present more so than I can remember on this wonderful trip to Austin all in the name of the 2013 Austin Food & Wine Festival. Every day the events unfolded and while the daily struts through tasting rows of wondrous wines and spirits, the chef cook-offs, the demos, and the lure of freshly barbecued meats most often prepared in the center “fire pit”, it was the “After-events” that took this to another level. While the sun eased through the dawn, the heat brawling against the daring storm, this was 3 days – and nights – of pure fun, culinary frolicking, networking of epic proportions, and most importantly finding out yet again that the “Celebrity” factor is really just a bunch of incredibly talented individuals living their dream. Strip away the “fancy” and what you’ll find is a very happy group of people with insatiable appetites, a healthy competitive spirit, unending talent, and a hunger for doing what they love. This is the Austin Food & Wine Festival.
W Hotel Austin | 200 Lavaca St. | Austin, Texas 78701
Today is a light day with some incredible events. With Interviews and one-on-one’s I have to say today was my favorite day … I met Chefs Paul Qui and Andrew Zimmern, and spoke with Comedians Michael Ian Black and Reggie Watts. I also sat down with Andrew Zimmern and his gorgeous wife, Rishia for a brief Interview afterwards for a separate event. The day began early with Press Interviews at the W Hotel Austin. The panel consisted of 15-20 minute intervals with Chefs Lawrence Kocurek, Brian Malarkey, Bryce & Jack Gilmore, David Wingo, Janina O’Leary, Andrew Zimmern, Marcus Samuelsson, Graham Elliot, Michael Ian Black, Reggie Watts, Christina Tosi, Pichet Ong, and Paul Qui & Deana Saukam. I was able to see Michael Ian Black, Reggie Watts, and Paul Qui with Deana Saukam. It was fun and certainly entertaining. The most off-the-cuff moment however was when Reggie Watts busted out an original “Food Republic” beat box. It was, in all of it’s splendor, worthy of the food world all seemingly present in that tiny little room brimming with the scent of cocktails concocted by the talented mixologist Joyce – a visionary that deserves a special title so I’m going with Mix-Master of Austin. Below is the schedule of how the interviews were set up.
11:30 a.m.-11:55 a.m.
12:00 p.m. – 12:25 p.m.
Bryce & Jack Gilmore
12:30 p.m.-12:55 p.m.
1 p.m. – 1:25 p.m.
2 p.m. – 2:25 p.m.
2:30 p.m. – 2:55 p.m.
3 p.m. – 3:25 p.m.
Michael Ian Black
4 p.m. – 4:25 p.m.
5 p.m. – 5:25 p.m.
Filmed for the Food Republic site, the questions were playful and savvy, but it was the moments completely off-script that were my favorite. Like when Paul and Deana talk about their relationship as business partners, a couple, and maintaining the right balance between the two. Basically they are both workaholics with unending capability so it’s a match made in heaven. Michael Ian Black paused to talk about why snacks are worthy of a book. Not gourmet mind you – he means Cheetos and fast food. And he means it. Reggie Watts discusses the fluctuating uncertainty of TV and his love for doing what he does. While I missed the later interviews, I had the great fortune of having to excuse myself to head over to the South Austin Trailer Park & Eatery where I met Andrew and Rishia Zimmern for what was meant to be a 5 minute interview but doubled in time and exceeded in expectation.
Mellow Johnny’s | 400 Nueces St. | Austin, TX 78701
Sips & Sweets at Mellow Johnny’s. The evening fell over us like a happy blanket of Indian Summer all warm and comforting. I met my friends, Lee and Lauren for Happy Hour Downtown near City Hall and we strolled the area making a few stops. And after an hour of engaging our need for libations, our stomachs began to gnaw all too happily encouraging us to give in. This led to our dinner at Perla’s on South Congress AND my first true pedicab experience and – learning how unbelievably clever they are. (Let’s just say they make taxi cab drivers look like saints.) After an incredible dinner at Perla’s where we feasted our mouths on some of the biggest, meatiest mussels any of us had ever had; Mussels doused in this happy bath of garlic, salt, pepper, chiles, and broth, every shell opened was like diving into a bite of ecstasy … especially if you’re a fan of mussels. Perla’s is definitely an Austin must. Following dinner, we geared up for the evening’s festivities taking place at the Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop across town. Initially we thought we could walk it but we hailed a pedicab instead and alas, this is where we learned that what should have been a $7 ride quickly becomes a $15 ride just because you don’t know any better. (The lesson is even harsher when you use it again and somehow get swindled for another $15. When you have 3 exhausted people, your ability to negotiate with “drivers” becomes hastened.)
We arrive at Mellow Johnny’s, give our names at the door, walk in past a crowd filled with Chefs, fans, foodies, vendors, and Austinites. I bump into Paul and Deana and say a quick hello before braving the crowd. The thing I must say about Austin is everyone is nice. You’re hard pressed to find an angry person at these events. So as I peruse the shop, I remember Jodi Elliott has a table and in spite of talking, meeting her and her husband and Chef, Ned Elliot, up until this moment I hadn’t actually tried her desserts and she has won several awards. She and her husband, Ned run the very authentic and wonderful tasty, Foreign & Domestic. Tonight however I finally get to take a bite of her brownies. YUM! After a quick hello, I walk over to the Prosecco bar, get a fresh glass of bubbly, and meet the green eyed Chef himself, Mr. Lawrence Kocurek of the W Austin’s, TRACE Restaurant. Immediately we engage in conversation, he tells me about the event the following night that will be Parisian themed, and then turns my attention to the glorious macaron hanging display. Crystal like threads dangle gallantly from the ceiling with a spectrum of color and flavor of macarons strategically placed on the threads. It’s not only stunning and entirely innovative, it’s edible! Well, at least the macarons. And I am all too willing to partake and then – to the right of the table – situated effortlessly on an easel, an edible painting of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. The frame? Why butter cream frosting of course! What else would it possibly be?! Chef Kocurek and I find each other yet again and have a brief conversation about the varying forms of kryptonite, the beauty of the displays, and upon hearing of his event the following night and the intel that foie gras will be served, I can’t help but find myself eager to attend. But that – THAT’S tomorrow… Day 1 = a huge success.
My wardrobe provided by PinUp Girl Clothing.