Tue January 21, 2014 9:56 am By Layne Lynch

This year’s weekend festival, which takes place April 25 to 27, will feature dozens of tantalizing culinary events, a slew of interactive cooking demos, professional panel discussions and a bounty of opportunities to feast and booze. 

Here’s a snippet of what you’ll find at the 2014 Austin Food & Wine Festival: 

Feast Under the Stars

This brand new addition takes place on Thursday, April 24, prior to the commencement of the gluttonous festival. A lineup of Texas chefs will put together a family-style, al fresco feast for exclusive ticket-holders at Austin’s Butler Park. Featured chefs include familiar faces Austin's Tyson Cole and Fort Worth's Tim Love, as well as Kent Rathbun of Abacus in Dallas, Chris Shepherd of Underbelly in Houston, and Jodi Elliott of Foreign & Domestic and the soon-to-open Bribery bakery, both in Austin. Tickets for Feast Under the Stars are $185 and must be purchased separately from both the Taste and Savor admission tickets.

Even more Texas – not just Austin – chefs

This year’s Taste of Texas features acclaimed chefs from all corners of the Lone Star State. Here’s the full list of chefs who are preparing bites for the Taste of Texas event: Tatsu Aikawa of Austin's Ramen Tatsu-Ya; Justin Yu of Oxheart, in Houston; Alexis Chong of Sway, in Austin; Jason Dady of Tre Trattoria, in San Antonio; Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher of Lenoir, in Austin; Omar Flores of Driftwood, in Dallas; Terrence Gallivan and Seth Siegel-Gardner of The Pass & Provisions, in Houston; Diego Galicia of Mixtli, in San Antonio; James Holmes of Lucy’s Fried Chicken and Olivia in Austin; Matt McCallister of FT33, in Dallas; Wayne Mueller of Louie Mueller Barbecue; Andre Natera of Marquee Grill & Toko V, in Dallas; Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s Restaurant & Backstreet Café, in Houston; Jesse Perez of Arcade Kitchen, in San Antonio; Blaine Staniford of Grace, in Fort Worth; and Philip Speer of Uchi and Uchiko, in Austin and Houston. 

Tyson Cole making more kickass tacos

Yup, Rock Your Taco is back again. This year’s competition features two-time taco winner Tyson Cole pitted against national contenders: Rick Bayless; Richard Blais; Monica Pope; Tim Love; John Currence; Bryce Gilmore; Chris Shepherd; Jeni Britton Bauer; and a handful of others. Food & Wine publisher Christina Grdovic, celebrity chef Graham Elliot, and Bizarre Foods personality Andrew Zimmern will judge the fan-favorite event.

Wine-makers, Brewers, and Mixologists

In addition to its dining and drinking events, the AF&W festival has pieced together an impressive lineup of beverage professionals, such as master sommeliers Devon Broglie and Craig Collins; sommelier Jill Gubesch of Frontera Grill; Food & Wine magazine’s executive wine editor Ray Isle, and a number of other distinguished beverage figures.

And, yes, pricey tickets

Admission to the festival has never been cheap and will remain thus. For $850, a Savor pass grants attendees priority admission to all demos, panels, seminars, a VIP lounge, Grand Tasting events, and entrance to the Taste of Texas and Rock Your Taco events. Those who purchase the Taste pass ($250) are granted several of the same perks as Savor attendees (sans the VIP lounge and Grand Tastings), but must purchase tickets to the Taste of Texas ($150) and the Rock Your Taco ($150) events separately.

The full lineup and schedule for the Austin Food & Wine Festival will be released on Tuesday, February 25. Until then, Texas Monthly will be featuring interviews from a few of the participating chefs. For more information, visit the Austin Food & Wine Festival website.

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Thu January 16, 2014 5:14 pm By Chris O'Connell

Thirty-five years ago outlaw country musician Terry Allen declared himself as big a Texan as anyone, evidenced by his trunk “full of Pearl and Lone Star.” Unfortunately, at the time his album Amarillo Highway was released, he wasn’t able to mention a Texas whiskey among his favorite local libations because until recently, Texans looked to Kentucky and Tennessee for their bourbon (though certainly not their barbecue). And, as they say, we’ve come a long way. The first bottle of legally produced Texas bourbon sold in 2010, and this year the state has a winner in the whiskey business: the tenth edition of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible recently named Garrison Brothers’s Cowboy Bourbon as its American Micro Whisky of the Year. 

Based in Hye, the Garrison Brothers distillery is the first of its kind in the state, and its limited-edition concoction is listed among the few other American whiskies in its category in the Whisky Bible.

Culled from the ten best bourbon barrels among only 900 bottled barrels to date, this cask-strength bourbon (136 proof!) stretched out to a mere 600 bottles. Those lucky enough to find it had to shell out as much as $169 per 375ml bottle. Yep, even the bottles are micro. 

If this makes you thirsty for a taste of the elusive liquid brown gold, you’ll have to wait until next year, however, as the 2013 release is sold out. 

Dan Garrison, proprietor of the brand, made a dig at early naysayers in a blog post shortly after the announcement was made, writing:

“This blog is dedicated to all the ‘professional investors’ who, in the early 2000s, told me I’d never be able to make my own bourbon in Texas and should just buy it from a large producer like everyone else does. You sons-of-bitches will never know the pride I feel right now.”

If Garrison wants to pour out some Cowboy Bourbon for the haters, he’ll have to wait until 2015.

(Flickr | Seth Anderson)

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Fri January 3, 2014 8:52 am By Jessica Dupuy

Texas fans of ABC’s The Taste, a cooking competition show, may have recognized a certain well-known Texas winemaker in the season’s first episode. Don Pullum of Mason, a small town west of Fredericksburg, wowed celebrity judges Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Marcus Samuelsson, and Ludo Lefebvre with his savvy culinary skills in the on-set kitchen. 

The show gives home cooks and aspiring chefs a chance to impress the four judges with one bite of a dish that is served in a blind tasting. For the first episode, the judges tasted bites from a number of potential contestants in an effort to select a team of four competitors for each judge to mentor throughout the remainder of the show. Each week, new bites are created by the contestants under the tutelage of their team judge in an attempt to keep their spot on the show. 

Having enjoyed a memorable meal from Pullum’s capable hands last spring when the jovial winemaker “threw together” a Spanish seafood stew at Pontotoc Vineyard, I can personally vouch for his artful kitchen skills. Though not everyone may know of his culinary charms, many have savored a bottle or two of his wines over the years. Pullum most notably makes the wine for Mason’s own Sandstone Cellars, but has also served as winemaker/consultant to many Texas wineries including Torre di Pietra Vineyards, Fly Gap Winery, and Pontotoc Vineyards. Later this year, Pullum will open his own winery, Akashic Vineyards, in Pontotoc, Texas near Mason.

The charming character made his television debut last night, strolling onstage with a glass of wine, which prompted the judges to ask his occupation. French judge, Chef Ludo Lefebvre of Los Angeles hot spot Tres Mecs incredulously asked, “You're a Texas winemaker? They have wine in Texas?” giving Pullum a chance not only to prove to the judges the promise of Texas wine, butto educate the nation’s viewers too. 

Pullum made it through the first round, preparing a Texas-sized fried oyster in a Thai gastrique with a spicy jalapeño salsa. His dish won over Chef Lefebvre and New York’s Marcus Samuelsson of the Red Rooster, who both proceeded to fight over Pullum in an effort to get him to choose either of their teams. Pullum’s humility spread across his blushing face as he kindly accepted Samuelsson’s offer, having witnessed the stylish Ethiopian-Swedish chef’s teaching skills at live demonstration from the 2013 Austin Food and Wine Festival. Time will tell if the cheerful winemaker will stay on to the end to receive the $100,000 grand prize, but we’ll be sure to raise a glass of Texas wine to the competitor in the coming weeks.

(Photo Courtesy Matt McGinnis of WhatAreYouDrinking.net)

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Mon December 9, 2013 5:24 pm By Layne Lynch

A few weeks ago, former La Condesa and Sway chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki announced the formation of a new restaurant group alongside Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon owners Margaret Vera and Tracy Overath. The four culinary minds are working diligently together to unveil a series of new projects in 2014, including Laundrette (an upscale café-grocery), the Angry Bear (classic Chinese takeout), and additional Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon locations. And that’s just the beginning.

Recently, Ortiz gave Texas Monthly a glimpse into what to expect from his newest-and-most-exciting collaboration to date and discussed his reasoning behind leaving Sway and La Condesa.

On Laundrette: It’s not simple or extremely complex cuisine. The food will be family-style, almost like bringing home to you. Think things like leg of lamb, biscuits, hamburgers, pork with gravy – basically classic foods you crave every day.  

On the Angry Bear: It’s a very playful, lighthearted project. The Angry Bear is actually a character of mine. He does lots of things: he loves to eat, he loves to dance, and I think of him in the 1980s surrounded by neon lights and glitter. The art of the food will be classic technique combined with great ingredients. I think people will be pleasantly surprised by what they find on the menu.  

On his pastry chef, Laura Sawicki: Laura is my best friend. She enlightens me and I enlighten her. The best decision I ever made was working with Laura. We’ve taught each other so much and we always push each other forward. She’s a rock star and I can’t wait to see what we create together. She’s currently working on some new ice creams and pastries. This is definitely her best work yet.

On leaving La Condesa and Sway: It was time, and this is a better suited partnership for the next step. I want to be able to able to support and build wealth for my family, and this was something I had thought about for a long time.

On opening projects similar to Sway and La Condesa: I’m not going to try to recreate those two restaurants. Those were my gifts to the city, and I’m so proud of what came out of it.

On opening more projects: Oh man. There are a lot of ideas in motion, and it’s nice to be in control of that. We’re really excited to introduce a number of different projects to the city. Stay tuned!

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Thu November 14, 2013 11:45 am By Patricia Sharpe

One thing I will say about the owners of Austin’s Gateway Guesthouse: they definitely know how to cook. I attended a Florentine dinner there back in September and it was very impressive. Which is why I would trust them to show me a thing or two about making a holiday dinner.

The owners are Blaise Bahara and Bess Giannakakis. In the first part of the “Fearless Feast” series, on November 27, Giannakakis will teach a hands-on class showing how to make a turkey with a Tex-Mex rub, cornbread and sausage dressing, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie with a homemade crust, and more.

On December 23 and 24, she will do a standing rib beef roast with horseradish cream gravy, side dishes, a salad of arugula and roasted beets, homemade bread buns, bourbon pecan tart with whipped cream, and more. The classes take place at Gateway Guesthouse; the cost of each class is $195, which includes instruction and two finished meals to take home. Additional meals may be made and purchased for $20 each.

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