Good morning! Happy Monday? How was your weekend? Y’all, I had one of the BEST ones here in Austin. It was totally full of all of my favorite things.
On Friday I went to check out a new Austin restaurant, and it was phenomenal. Easily one of the best restaurants I’ve been to in 2022. I have high hopes that Este wins all sorts of national awards because it is phenomenal. And then on Saturday Nate and I went to Food and Wine Fest, and on Sunday we had a family brunch to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday. It was the perfect weekend.
But back to the Food and Wine Fest..
Last time I went was in 2017. Crazy! I bought tickets for Nate for his birthday. It was just after we had gotten married:
^ Aww! Little throwback pic from 2017.
We went again this year, but only went for a single day because #parenthood. (Two days at a festival + waking up early with a baby and a toddler = complete exhaustion and totally not worth it at this stage of life.)
But we had so much fun there on Saturday! I did have a lot of thoughts about it, though, and I figured I’d share them with you and ask you to share yours with me. So I’ll give a little recap of our time at Austin Food and Wine Festival 2022, and then at the end of the blog post I’ll share some thoughts about it…
At the Festival and ready to have an amazing day! It rained buckets on Friday night, so I was happy the grass had dried out by Saturday. The sun was shining, it was 70 degrees…literally the perfect day in Austin, Texas. Nate and I so rarely get an weekend afternoon in Austin to hang out together, drink wine, and just leisurely enjoy some time with one another, so we were both pretty giddy.
We instantly went for the food! I remember from the last time I went that the food runs out pretty early, so I wanted to try some bites while I could.
Here’s a pic of the lines. There were dozens and dozens of booths, and the lines were nonexistent for the “meh” places and super long for the really good places (Lin Asian Bar’s line was about 40 people long!)
^ For the life of me I can’t remember which restaurant/chef provided these beautiful savory cones with salmon roe, but they were so lovely to look at. And equally enjoyable to eat.
Along the outside edges of the festival were larger booths, and Jadot had this little fenced in areas with wine tastings (they had a Beaujolais, a Pinot Noir, and a Chardonnay) as well as free astrology readings.
What? Yes! I mean, how fun is that?
Truth be told, I haven’t been into astrology for much of my life. But recently I’ve kind of been interested in it (for a few reasons…), and I definitely jumped at the chance to get a 15 minute reading done. I love how deep it is with layers and layers depending on how much you want to know. Honestly, I thought it was all about the sun sign…but now I’m learning that there is a TON of valuable information to be gained from learning about the other planets. I love it.
The sweet astrology reader! I totally took this picture because I was going to share her info with you…and then I lost her card somewhere at the festival. Oops. So if you know who she is, let me know so I can share.
The demo tents are one of my favorite parts of the festival. Chef Kevin Fink (Emmer & Rye, Hestia, Canje) was giving a demo showing how they make the Hestia beef tallow scallops.
I love sitting there, sipping wine, relaxing in the shade, watching a world class chef cook in front of me. The only bummer? They don’t give the audience samples. 😉 I would have loved to have a bite of those scallops!
Just two parents, drinking wine, eating food, and enjoying a Saturday afternoon away from our babies.
They have a lot of other beverages besides wine, by the way! Some of the big sponsors are large liquor companies like Tito’s, Bailey’s, and some big beer brands like Guiness and Stella. There are also a bunch a smaller up-and-coming liquor brands (there was lots of tequila this year!) and some local breweries (Hi Sign was there). I was getting really thirsty so I grabbed on of these hemp-infused sparkling waters. They are soooo good. The rep told me they’ll be at HEB stores very soon!
We ate, we drank, we watched people cook, we enjoyed the sunshine. It was a wonderful time!
Ok, on to a few thoughts about the festival. I’m just thinking about it a lot because just a couple weeks ago I went to one of the greatest food festivals in Austin I’ve EVER been to. It was called Funk n Sour, and Jester King Brewery presented it. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision to go, and I’m so happy I experienced it! There were sooo many BIG name Austin restaurants there, and the were each paired with a BIG name Texas brewery. I was literally in awe the entire time I was at Funk n Sour!
I’ll say this about Austin Food and Wine Festival: you go for the vibes and the good time, not for the food and wine.
Ha! Does that resonate with anyone else who’s been recently?
I mean, LOOK AT THAT? It’s gorgeous! The festival is at Auditorium Shores with sweeping views of the evolving Austin skyline. The sky is big and blue, the DJ is spinning some tunes, the wine is flowing, and everyone is dressed up and looking cute and ready for a good time. It’s a giant party, and you can’t go here and not be in a good mood!
My Honest Thoughts About The Austin Food and Wine Festival
Ok here are a few of the things that I find odd…
1. The wine selection isn’t all that impressive. What they’re lacking in quality they make up for in quantity. There is LOTS of wine. But many of the booths have labels that say “find us at H-E-B!” and I don’t know, if I can find the wine at a grocery store 2 miles down the road I don’t feel super excited about sampling it. There were, of course, a few places where you could go to try the more interesting wines, but you had to really hunt them down, time it right, and (again) stand in a line.
2.The Austin restaurants that are represented are super random. I’m talking about the booths where you can sample food freely. Of course, there are a few absolutely incredible restaurants and chefs there (Lin Asian Bar, Todd Duplechan, Oseyo), but the lines are crazy long and you get a tiny little bite of food. For instance…
…this was the French onion soup sample from 1417, and it was the biggest bite I had the entire time.
^ So I finally went to the HEB truck and got a bbq rib and potato salad, which was a pretty big bite. Ha! I was just so hungry and I had already visited 5 or so restaurants! And a bbq rib from HEB is definitely not the most excited thing I’ve eaten in a while…but I was tired of being hungry. Haha.
So while it’s fun to try the restaurants, all of the good ones require long waits in line, offer tiny little bites, and they run out of food about halfway through the festival.
And the majority of the restaurants? Honestly, they’re just super random. I mean, they’re good places where I enjoy going here in Austin, but I’d never call them one of the “best restaurants in Austin.” I’m talking about fun restaurants like Poke-Poke, Bento Picnic, Koko’s Bavarian, Honey Moon Spirit Lounge…really good restaurants, but definitely not the same thing as something like Uchi, or Odd Duck, or Olamaie, or Abby Jane. The type of places that I saw at Funk n Sour festival a couple weeks ago.
So the entire festival I’m walking around excited to try some great food, and I’m just kind of unimpressed by the options. I don’t know…did anyone else feel the same way?
3.There are LOTS of sponsors. I mean…duh. The festival wants to make money. But Stella Artois had a HUGE booth in the corner. And Kerrygold Butter was one of the “food talent” booths represented, and they were handing out a single slice of cold mediocre French bread with a hard wrapped piece of Kerrygold butter and a chunk of aged white cheddar cheese. Umm…excuse me, I’m not on an airplane here. I do not want to eat airplane food.
4. The lines are crazy long. Again, I’m comparing this to Funk n Sour, because it was the most recent (and best!!) food festival I’ve been to in Austin, but Funk N Sour had basically no lines and I was given really generous pours of beer, large plates of food (and each restaurant had two different options), and got to try some of the very best of the best Austin restaurants.
Austin Food and Wine Fest? If there’s anything worthwhile at the festival, the line is just so dang long. And then you get a bite of food that’s about 75 calories and it just feels a bit frustrating.
Ok, so why should you go to the Food and Wine Festival? It’s a great place to get buzzed. There is a LOT (I mean, a lot a lot a lot) of booze. All types!
It’s also a beautiful space with a really fun vibe. Like I said, you really can’t go and not feel happy! I loved going with Nate, and it would definitely be a fun place to go with a group of 4 or 5 girlfriends, or a double date.
I also think the chef demos are really fun! They get some great chefs for those, and it’s pretty cool to watch them cook just a few yards in front of you. But like I mentioned, you don’t get to sample anything that they make, which is a major bummer after you’re smelling it for 30 minutes. Haha.
If you went to the festival this year, would you please leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it? I’d love to hear.
Ok y’all, I’m not a fan of being a negative Nancy! So I kind of feel like this was a bummer of a blog post to start the week with.. Ha! Apologies. I just had a couple people on instagram ask for me to follow up with my honest thoughts about it, so I wanted to write it all out in a blog post. (Because lord knows I wouldn’t have been able to fit this into an instagram caption…) I promise to share something a little bit more positive tomorrow – I’ll talk to you then!
Have you ever been to the rock your taco portion of the festival? Basically a bunch of the chefs have to create their own taco and there’s a competition, and you can try a lot of them. That has always been my favorite part! I guess I agree that the food bites are pretty small, but I don’t go there to eat a lot. Haha! I mostly want to drink.
Oh my gosh, yes! I went to that in 2017 and ADORED it! Seriously the best part of the fest!
I agree! Very little good food this year & very long lines. I’m sure Funk N Sour has a different model to attract those great chefs/restaurants… but Food & Wine has always been pay to have a booth even for small local restaurants.. which is why you see the ones you see represented.
Yes, which totally makes sense why it’s newer/smaller restaurants there.. Funk N Sour is also on a Tuesday night, so in addition to the different model between the festivals, the bigger restaurants are also able to get away because it’s not a big service night.
I couldnt agree with you more! I counted 4 of the “bites” that were cabbage-based (not the ingredient I dream of for a food festival). But on the other hand, Thompson (Dallas) went full tilt with a full sashimi, oyster and crabmeat bar. Thanks for being honest. The last Hot Luck food fest had much higher quality food samples and chefs than ATXFW.
I haven’t been to hot luck in a few years – I need to try to make it in May 2023!
I’m going a little against the grain here by saying I was completely stuffed on Day 1 after the first hour. I agree a lot of the food samples are tiny, but there were some bigger bites like a lamb chop from Lonesome Dove, and short ribs by Puerto Rico and beef ribs from HEB on Day 2.
I gravitate to trying the various spirits instead of wines, so I can’t comment on that part. My biggest gripe, and this was my fourth year, is that there aren’t a lot of pastries and sweets. Maybe the cost of attending is too high? I’m not sure how the business side of festivals like these work.
PS – the smoked salmon cone you liked was by Blind Salamander Kitchen & Bar. It was one of my favorite bites too!
Ahh! Thank you for reminding me where that was from!
And I love hearing your perspective on this!