2013 Austin FOOD & WINE Festival Visitor’s Guide

The 2nd annual Austin Food and Wine Festival is a mere days away, meaning its time to pull out the comfortable pants because we’ve got a lot of eating to do. With 50+ chefs, 40 demos and countless glasses of wine, how does one manage to plan a schedule with so many mouthwatering options? More importantly, where does one go once the fest wraps for the day? Fret no more, because I’ve got you covered.

Listed below are several ideas for how to keep the good times rolling from festival approved events and favorite local eats to make your visit to Austin as delicious as possible.

I am also excited to announce that I’ve teamed up with festival organizers to provided daily recaps and play by plays of the best moments throughout the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival. Stay tuned for my daily posts here!

Welcome to Austin!

Welcome to Austin!

Travel to Paris for Sel et Gras

Following Saturday evening’s Rock Your Taco event, cap off the night with in dessert heaven during the Sel et Gras event taking place at TRACE at the W Austin. The Parisian-themed event will reunite TRACE’s Executive Pastry Chef Janina O’Leary with her mentor, renowned Pastry Chef Pichet Ong. As an answer to every sugarplum daydream, the duo will whip up an abundance of French desserts such as macaroons, tarts and éclairs. In addition to sweet treats, guests will sip on cocktail pairings created by libationist Joyce Garrison set to a soundtrack of French pop music. All-inclusive tickets for the event are $60 for AF&WF badge holders and $75 for nonbadge holders. Call 512.542.3660 for reservations or visit the Sel et Gras event page here.

Sel et Gras will be held at TRACE @ The W Austin, located at West 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701.

French Dessert Heaven

French Dessert Heaven

Go for the Texas Tried & True

Now in its 60th year, Matt’s El Rancho is famous for serving some of the finest Tex-Mex in the city. Be sure to start with a bowl of Bob Armstrong Dip, a queso dish laced with guacamole and taco meat, before moving on to platters of sizzling fajitas, enchiladas, and stuffed chili relleno. For something a bit lighter, try the grilled frog legs or red fish cooked in a garlicky, nutty mojo de ajo sauce, an off the menu secret.

With its wallet friendly prices and expansive square footage, Matt’s El Rancho is a popular group dinner spot most weekend nights, meaning there can be a bit of a wait at times. Thankfully, the bar will happily pour a few margaritas to help pass the time.

Visit Matt’s El Rancho at 2613 South Lamar, Austin, TX 78704.

For those looking to keep the good times going, the South Austin hacienda is only a hop, skip and a jump to the Broken Spoke. In its prime, the famed Texas dance hall attracted country legends such Bob Willis, George Strait and Willie Nelson. Now days, the dance floor is as crowded as ever with folks of all ages two stepping along to live Texas country music. Novices need not worry; the Broken Spoke has dance lessons every night from 8-9pm to help get those two left feet two stepping to the beat in no time at all.

Dance your way to the Broken Spoke, located at 3201 South Lamar, Austin, TX 78704.

Visit the South Lamar Foodie Trifecta

While Austin has a plethora of terrific dining options, there is only one shopping center, located on South Lamar, that offers three foodie favorites right in a row. Park once and let your taste buds lead the way…

Barley Swine

Helmed by 2011 Food & Wine Best New Chef Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine is considered one of Austin’s best restaurants for good reason. Barley Swine’s ever-changing menu of Southern-inspired small plates are, more often than not, inventive, exciting and flat out delicious. Gilmore’s knack for layering flavors and balancing textures equates into dishes that are both well executed and unexpected. The much lauded and teeny tiny Barley Swine is unquestionably one of the hottest seats in town.

Chances are there will be a wait, but with Henri’s Cheese located next door, folks thankfully don’t have to look far to find the perfect spot to pass the time. Gourmet lunch spot by day and wine and beer lounge by night, Henri’s Cheese and Wine was an instant favorite after opening in 2012. The always bustling space is laidback, warm and comfortable making it a perfect spot to enjoy wine with friends.

Between Henri’s and Barley Swine, saving room for a sweet treat is no easy feat. However, if you can muster the strength, be sure to stop by Lick Ice Cream before leaving the shopping center. By creating its creative flavors from high quality ingredients, Lick Ice Cream creates each unique artisanal ice cream from the highest quality of ingredients. This translates to scoops of frozen goodness that are out of this world delicious.

Visit Barley SwineHenri’s Cheese and Wine and Lick Ice Cream at 2302 South Lamar, Austin, Texas 78704.

Go Underground

Should you be on the hunt to unwind somewhere a bit less crowded, I recommend making reservations at one of Austin’s best-kept secrets, Red Room Lounge.  Marked by nothing more than a black awning reading ‘Personal Wine’, it’s easy to question the decision to visit this mysterious and inconspicuous little wine bar. However, once you’ve walked through the password-protected doorway and slipped behind the curtains, any sense of trepidation over Red Room Lounge will immediately dissipate. The dimly lit room is filled with comfortable leather furniture and a long wood tasting table. The deep red walls are lined with racks of wine mostly priced between $30-$50 and ready to be opened. Helmed by renowned sommelier Bill Esley, Red Room Lounge is a wine lover’s dream. And despite the pomp and circumstance of gaining entry, Red Room Lounge feels more like drinking wine in a friend’s living room than an exclusive bar. While Red Room Lounge’s menu is restricted to wine and nonalcoholic beverages, guests are permitted to bring in food meant for pairings if they so choose.

Red Room Lounge is located at 306 East 3rd Street, Austin, TX 78701. Reservations can be made by calling 512.644.1737.

Wanting to sip on something a bit stronger? Try out the equally as exclusive Midnight Cowboy Modeling. Located in the former home of the notorious Midnight Cowboy Oriental ‘Massage Parlor’, the reservation-only, Prohibition-era inspired bar its mystique lives on through its new tenants, a reservation-only, Prohibition-era inspired bar specializes in delivering a different (and legal) kind of happy ending. Enthusiast will hardly be disappointed with Midnight Cowboy’s mixologist driven cocktail program, served in a plush, cellphone free atmosphere. Known to serve some of the best and most potent cocktails in town, Midnight Cowboy is also still as private and mysterious as its predecessor, but thankfully now operates on the right side of the law. For reservations, go here.

Midnight Cowboy Modeling is located at 313 E 6th Street, Austin, TX 78701. Reservations can be made online or by calling 512.843.2715.

Celebrate Fifty Years of Art

Fifty Fest

Fifty Fest

Celebrate the Blanton Museum’s 50th Birthday during this Saturday’s Fifty Fest, a free 12-hour party running from noon-midnight on Saturday, April 27. During the birthday bash, enjoy live music, art-making activities and exhibition tours. In addition, there will be trailer eats and live music courtesy of T Bird and the Breaks, Brownout and Minor Mishap Marching Band. Located on the University of Texas at Austin and a few blocks north of the Texas Capitol, the Blanton Museum is home to one of the largest collections in Central Texas, including a permanent collection comprised of more than 17,000 works of art. More information about the Blanton’s Fifty Fest can be found here.

Fifty Fest will be held at the Blanton Museum of Art,
located at 200 East MLK Blvd., Austin, TX 78701.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Four Seasons

Four Seasons

Nestled just north of Butler Park, home of the Austin Food & Wine Festival, is one of Austin’s most popular landmarks, Lady Bird Lake. With its convenient location, well-maintained grounds and excellent views of downtown Austin, it’s not hard to see the attraction. Whether kayaking, biking or jogging, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the hike and bike trail surrounding the lake, but for those looking for a little less aggressive approach to enjoying the great outdoors, I recommend moseying over the Four Seasons Hotel instead.

Located on shores of Lady Bird Lake, the Four Seasons lawn is perfect for sipping on a glass of something wonderful while taking in the best Austin has to offer. In addition to its prime location, the Four Seasons’ in house restaurant Trio boasts one of the best wine programs in town, thanks to Sommelier Mark Sayre. Under Sayre’s guidance, Trio has amassed an ambitious collection of wines from every corner of the globe, including many from small, independent vineyards. Sayre also operates with the philosophy wines sold by the glass should be a top priority instead of an afterthought. This attitude is something regulars at Trio’s fantastic happy hour, held daily from 5-7pm, are especially grateful as glasses of wine are all half priced. And while the Four Seasons isn’t unique to Austin, the upstairs bar offers one of the best selections cocktails made from local spirits, including Waterloo Gin by Austin-based Treaty Oak Distilling, a personal favorite not found many places in town.

Visit the Four Seasons Hotel and Trio Restaurant at 98 San Jacinto, Austin, TX 78701. Trio happy hour runs from 5-7pm nightly with specials including half off glasses of wine.

Take a Walk Down South Congress Avenue

South Congress Avenue, a street famous for keeping it weird in the Capitol city, offers a number of distinctly local attractions to fit every budget. For those looking to unwind in style, sip a ‘champassion’ poolside at the mini oasis that is the San Jose Hotel or indulge in some oysters and bubbly on Perla’s uber-relaxing patio. Or take a more casual approach by visiting a trailer eatery or grabbing a New York style pie at Homeslice Pizza in between perusing the local shops. To finish off the night in the Live Music Capitol, stop by one of the city’s most famous venues, the Continental Club, to catch one of the spot’s nightly concerts.

Perla's

Perla’s

Perla’s Austin is located at 1400 South Congress, Austin, TX 78701.

Homeslice Pizza is located at 1415 South Congress, Austin, TX 78701.

Continental Club is located at 1315 South Congress, Austin, TX 78701.

San Jose Hotel is located at 1316 South Congress, Austin, TX 78701

Enjoy a Movie Night

Inspired by Saturday afternoon’s ‘Cinema Vino’ demo by Mark Oldman? You’re in luck because Austin has not one, but two, combination movie theatre-eateries conveniently located downtown.

The first is the downtown location of Austin-tatious movie theatre chain Alamo Drafthouse. Along with new releases, the combination movie theatre/restaurant always delivers a unique, out of the box experience through its signature events and themed screenings of film classics. For example, this weekend Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz, will host The Totally 80s Sing-Along featuring a playlist of top tracks from Cyndi, MJ, Tiffany and many more as well as a roasting of everyone’s favorite glittery vampire story Twilight complete with two comedians breaking down every cheese-filled frame. Menu options, ordered seat side, include traditional American classics such as burgers and pizzas as well as a full list of beer, wine and craft cocktails.

Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz is located at 320 East 6th Street, Austin, TX 78701.

Located in the heart of downtown’s 2nd Street District, Violet Crown Cinema is the well-heeled version of the two theatres, offering a sleek lounge worth visiting with or without a movie ticket. Violet Crown devotes all four of its screens to showing independent, arthouse films, many of which are not shown elsewhere in the city.

Like Drafthouse, Violet Crown offers a full bar and a smaller, yet diverse menu of sharing plates and movie snacks, all of which are available for purchase in the lobby before heading to the theatre. Pro-tip: be sure to reserve a lazy boy located on the first row!

Violet Crown Cinema is located at 434 West 2nd Street, Austin, TX 78701.

Warm Up Your Wine Palate

Warm up your palate for two days of tastings by venturing to East End Wines on Friday afternoon. Since opening in 2010, East End Wines quickly garnered a reputation as one of the best wine retailers in Austin. Owned by Matt Miller and Sam Hovland, East End Wines houses a remarkable inventory of unique, hard to find wines at even more impressive price points. Each Friday the shop shares its wealth of knowledge by hosting wine tastings highlighting different regions and styles. As an added bonus, the Three Little Pigs food trailer onsite is the perfect spot to pick up a few snacks to enjoy with your wine.

Visit East End Wines at 1209 Rosewood Avenue Austin, TX 78702.

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