Was the Austin Food and Wine Festival Worth It?

The $850 weekend delivered on the food, wine and great chefs, but it came with a side of long lines and harsh dust. 
Tue May 1, 2012 10:17 pm
Nick Simonite

For months, a great deal of hype and anticipation surrounded this weekend’s Austin Food & Wine Festival, and yet even before the festival commenced, extensive criticism began plaguing it. Many critics from around Texas and Austin bemoaned the rather pricey tickets: $850 is a pretty penny to have to pay for a VIP ticket, even if you are tasting the cuisine from figures like Masaharu Morimoto, Marcus Samuelsson, and Austin’s own Paul Qui while sipping on glasses upon glasses of bold reds and subtle whites. And, sure, you could pay $250 for a Weekender Pass, but would that $600 difference drastically change the experience? (Spoiler alert: it did.)

Many Texans were attached to the less-high-brow, less-Austin-friendly Texas Hill Country Food & Wine Festival. And no Texan likes when East-Coast outsiders come into their state and tell them how to run things, so to have a name like Food & Wine behind the whole event really sent some locals over the edge.

In the end, the festival’s star-studded chef lineup, gourmet tastings, and provoking panels provided good to great satisfaction and entertainment for the commencement year. And, the food and wine–oh God, the food and wine–was amazing. Each of the chefs brought forth their signature performances, personalities, and tastings; massive props to them for their delivery and charisma.

Yet in truth, there is improvement needed before next year.

No better kickoff could have been planned than Tim Love’s large grilling demo. With two hundred fired-up grills, juicy skirt steaks, thick New York strips, and crisp broccolini, the chef communicated his extensive grilling knowledge with a welcome helping of crude and risqué humor. The chef was like a culinary tour guide leading clueless, curious diners through flaming coals.

Morimoto’s demo was laced in his notable charm, culinary smarts, and calm nature. Although there was significant timing overlap in the demos, if you were able to inch your way into the cooking

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