Last weekend, I strapped on my cowgirl boots and flew down to Austin, Texas to cover the Austin Food & Wine Festival. I ate and drank my way through the city, having the opportunity to eat and greet with some fabulous chefs, both local and from other cities like Dallas, LA and NYC. Not surprisingly, I found pieces of Brooklyn throughout my foodie journey, as well as discovered Austin flavor. Here are my Top 10 Faves from the Fest.
1. Eating these tacos
On a mission to eat at Maria’s Taco Xpress (a Food Network fave), I hopped in a cab to visit the kitschy (but in a good way) taco spot before the fest got underway. I got the shrimp and the fish– both were great, but I preferred the shrimp. My dining partners liked “Al Pastor” a pork-filled option.
2. Hangin’ with Andrew Zimmern
I got the opportunity to “Eat and Greet” with Andrew Zimmern– we chatted all about his fave Austin restaurants (like Foreign & Domestic and Franklin Barbecue), foodie trends (he likes restaurants that are the expert of one thing like noodles or tempura, but is over the “raw food” trend), and even his own family’s eating habits. They eat dinner for breakfast every day! He also has a super cool book out right now called Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild & Wonderful Foods.
3. Finding Mast Brothers Chocolate
My favorite chocolatiers were down in Austin too! Mast Brothers from Brooklyn was offering samples of their treats at the Sips & Sweets after party event, and I couldn’t help but taste and chat up the guys.
4. Drinking Latin Libations at 10am.
I could have chosen BBQ. I could have chosen comfort food. Instead, I chose a cocktail demo at 10am, Latin Libations with Tony Abou-Ganim, the Modern Mixologist. He whipped up four cocktails– two of which we got to drink, including this coconut-ty concoction. It wasn’t a bad way to start the day.
5. Meeting Marcus Samuelsson
I read his memoir “Yes Chef” and love basically everything he’s done in NYC, so I was excited to get to meet Marcus Samuelsson at the Rock Your Taco Showdown. He made a goat taco for the competition, maybe strange but also delicious.
6. The Wine
Sure, there’s a tendency for the food to be the star, but the wine was just as wonderful. In the Grand Tasting tent, I sipped on the finest from Capture Wines, Echelon Vineyards, Freemark Abbey, and many more.
7. Grilled Oysters
I love all seafood– especially oysters. So I was pumped to see oysters straight off the grill from chef Tim Byres of Smoke Restaurant in Dallas, Texas. Easily one of the best things I ate at the fest.
8. Having a Foodie Partner in Crime
Jackie from One Girls Dish was my foodie partner in crime throughout the fest, joining me in tasting Texas, devouring tacos, sipping on margaritas, and even running back to our hotel in the pouring rain, with just a tablecloth to cover our heads.
9. Susan Feniger’s Crispy Potato Rajas Tacos
Potato tacos? What? They were my absolute favorite taco of the Rock Your Taco Showdown. Susan Feniger served them up to perfection. Although they were messy, they were so good that I went back for seconds, and struggled to hold back standing in line for a third.
10. Discovering a Brooklyn Band in Austin
Of course the music selection included a band that’s based in Brooklyn. Delta Spirit rocked the fest on Friday night during the “Taste of Texas” event, along with folky Whiskey Shivers. Check ‘em out.