Sunday, April 19, 2009

Texas Hill Country Food and Wine Festival

Wow. I had the most amazing afternoon, Sunday, at the Texas Hill Country Food and Wine Festival (I know, its a serious mouthful). We blogged about the Media event they threw at the Hotel Saint Cecilia so now we're going to discuss a little event called the Sunday Fair. I have to admit, I'm a bad foodie. I've never been to the fair before, in fact, I'd never even heard of it before last month. But in all fairness, I've only been back living in Austin for a year and half.

But, after hearing all the hype from the other food bloggers, I was very very excited to go to this years Sunday fair - 55 wineries, 14 local food vendors, 7 restaurants, 4 farms, 3 distilleries, 2 Chocolatiers, and a partridge in a pair tree. What's there not to like?

I braved the traffic down to the Salt Lick winery with my friend Christine. It was horrific! One side of the road was the Old Settlers Music Festival, the other side of the road was the Texas Hill Country.. (yada yada).. Festival. Who in their right mind schedules two large events across the street from each other?? But we got there in one piece and were amazed at how huge the event was. There were 4 extremely large tents filled with fine food and wine vendors, and lots and lots of mud. Not a stick-to-your-shoes-make-you-dirty kind of mud, but mud none the less. Note the boards you had to walk across to get from tent to tent:

But we dealt with the mud as best we could, and in the end, it didn't effect our day one bit. When we first started walking through all the tents, it was a little overwhelming. Where do we begin?? With the food. Duh (does anyone even say that anymore?). I mean, we are food critics.

We headed to the Whole Foods table where they were dishing out brased duck mole on crackers (covered in the same tasty pickled onions as the Hotel Saint Cecilia party). Yum! Then we went over to the Cafe Jose booth (across the mud no less) for their SPICY jerk pork and rice. It was good, but way too peppy for even my tastes. We then headed to Maudie's in the next booth. Now when I think of Maudie's, I think of average tacos and migas. Their cochinita pibil mini-tacos were actually pretty innovative for Maudie's, but not the best cochinita pibil I've ever tasted. But, they looked pretty on their tray. Two please!

Now that we had some food in our stomaches, we started onto the MULTITUDES of wine. Holy crap! I have never, in my life, seen so many wineries under one roof. 55 to be exact. Where do you start? Confucious says "You must start every journey with a single step." Mariah says "You must start every festival with a single glass of wine." So we sauntered up to the first table and asked for a glass.

One by one, we worked our way through all the wineries. At first we started out going table to table commenting on the ones we liked and didn't like. Well after about 20 wineries, all the wine started blending together. So we snagged a pad of paper from the Da Vinci winery and started taking notes and pictures of the wines we liked (after going back and retrying the first 20).

Now, just so y'all know. I totally took one for the "Dining in Austin" team. There were 55 wineries, and each winery had, on average, 4 wines. And between Christine and I, we tried them ALL for you, just so you wouldn't have to. Well ok, we didn't try them all, but we tried at least one wine at each winery. And if we liked that one enough, we tried the rest of them. After about 30 sips, I started to get pretty drunk. So drunk that I started doing something I've never done before at a wine tasting, I started spitting. Seriously. And a small THCFaWF miracle occured.. by the time we left, I was sober. I know, hell just froze over.

So out of the 500 or so wines that were at the Festival, of which I tried about 100-200, these were by winners. And because I'm not a wine reviewer, and don't even consider myself a wine expert, I've given them all nicknames so you can better understand the feel I got when I had each wine

Da Vinci - Reserva Chiant - $27.72 (Specs) - Balanced tannins, spicy fruits, a plum finish. That hot doctor you meet with an Italian accent that seems great, but you're not really sure if he's Italian or a doctor and he might be after your savings.

Paso Creek - Cabernet Sauvignon - $15.27 (Spec) - Robust and intense, black cherry flavors with a nice floral bouquet. A brawny football player who cries when he watches Steel Magnolia's.
Paso Creek - Zinfandel - $16.99 (Google) - Big, bold, but fruity. This was Christine's favorite and she went back for a full glass as her last of the day. That big Bear at Kiss & Fly.

Mount Veeder - Cabernet Sauvignon - $35 (Google) - Peppery with a currant flavor, very consistent and balanced. The dot com millionaire who wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle.
Pine Ridge - Chenin Blanc/Viognier - $10.52 (Specs) - Pear and citrus, with a touch of grass; sweet. The stable engineer who bought a house at 23 and loves to stay home and work on his yard (sometimes boring, sometimes perfect depending on where you are in your life).

Sofia - Blanc de blanc - $17.18 (Specs) - Fun, peppy, fruity, not yeasty. I didn't particularly like this one, but Christine went nuts for it. That surfer you had a fling with in Cabo. (P.S. they sell this in little cans with straws too, just FYI for tubing season)

Amayna - Pinot Noir - $23.98 (Google) - Mineral aroma, spicy, fruity, musky vanilla overtone. That hot South American architect you met at Pecha Kucha who has a trust fund and family in Spain.

Avinyo - Vi d' Agulla - $12.99 (Specs) - White with a clean, mineral aroma and a floral honeysuckle finish, bleachy overtone (not a bad thing). That guy who still starches his sheets and has a spotless bathroom.
Avinyo - Cava - $13.86 (Specs) - Dry, toasty, grapefruit, balanced, very effervescent. This is a spectacular find for this price. The really extroverted, funny, perfect, smart guy who's too good to be true.

Frank Family - Cabernet Sauvignon - $37.25 (Specs) - Ripe fruits, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, you name it, its there. Balanced tannins. That guy you went on a picnic with in college who fed you fresh fruit and rubbed your feet.

Sandstone Cellars - V - $?? (can't find it) - Really different, dark cherry with a strong smokey tobacco finish. The guy who hangs out at mens clubs, smoking cigars and making dirty jokes.

Cambria Estates - Tepusquet Syrah - $18.99 (Google) - Cherry, blueberry, bold tannins, cinnamon. That quarter back from Friday Night Lights (the movie), an all American football player with a dry sense of humor (wholesome but complex).
Cambria Estates - Bench Break Pinot Noir - $23.99 (Google) - Dark, dry, earthy. That tall, poet who wears tight black sweaters and may or may not cut himself when you're not looking.

Long Boat - Sauvignon Blanc - $?? (NOOO I can't find it) - Tropical passion fruit, green apple, grassy finish, clean. This was my favorite white of the festival. I heart this wine. The sweet, outdoorsy guy who loves kayak in Hawaii (and might be climbing K2 next year).

Louis Martini - Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - $21.44 (Specs) - Cherries, tobacco, balanced, herbaceous overtones. That hot marketing exec from California in a convertible.
Louis Martini - Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon - $11.66 (Specs) - Cherry, blackberry, vanilla. The boy toy marketing intern borrowing the execs convertible.

Helix Pomatia - $21.59 (Google) - Hearty cherry, very sweet, chocolately, but drinkable. The guy who brought you so many presents, it was a little too smothering, but you kind of liked it (until he started stalking you)

Carmel Road - Pinot Noir - $18.47 - Blackberries, strawberries, floral aroma, oak finish. A nice Agricultural Engineer (who's really a farm boy from Oklahoma).

Clayhouse - Cabernet Sauvignon - $14.99 (Google) - Fruity, mellony, soft tannins, with a caramel finish. The community theater actor who dreams of bigger things
Clayhouse - Petite Sirah $20.47 (Specs) - Full, tropical, anise, slightly burnt overtones - The Indiana Jones explorer with a hot scar on his chin.

Vina Calina - Carmenere Reserva - $8.99 (Google) - Spicy, peppery, black fruits, a little leathery. A Mariah best buy. That hot sweaty guy who fixes your car and wears a white wife beater (did we mention the muscles??)

In between all that wine, we made sure to try all the food. I mean, we had to have something in our stomachs to soak up all the wine. The bread at the Edible Austin table tasted gross, but looked really nice.

And the Mesquite Bean jelly by Texas Traditions was amazing!! It was like jellied honey. I am so getting some of this for my next party (put put on top of my next baked brie of course).

And Fino showed up here with a refreshing, but kind of boring gazpacho.

Oh, and did you know that Austin has a rum distillery? Its really really good. Its kind of woodsy, and is very tasty in a mojito. We have the awesomeness that is Titos Vodka, now we have Treaty Oak rum. Yum!

Oo, and my favorite purveyors of crack, I mean Texas chevre, Pure Luck, were there too. I hadn't had their feta before, but it was really nice. As was the soft, creamy mild blue cheese (I know, mild and blue cheese don't go together very often, but they've managed it).
Oh! And Wiseman House Chocolates had a booth. Their mocha chocolates and almond bark were good, but I managed to talk the guy into a dark chocolate truffle that was orgasmic. Order them NOW!
Lavender Farms of Wimberly had a lovely lavender lemonade that was quite refreshing in the heat. Who knew lavender and lemonade go so well together?

And did you know there is an olive farm in Wimberly? I know I didn't. Bella Vista Ranch makes First Texas Olive Oil, a mild, grassy, and very Texas tasting cold pressed olive oil, lime flavored olive oil, and a orange olive oil. All are excellent. They don't sell in any local stores (boo). You can only get them online or at the farm. But hey, it gives you an excuse to go on an olive tour!

TheShayne Sauce people came with their multitudes of pots of jams, jellies, and sauces. The best was the strawberry jalapeno. Yum!The absolute best food at the whole fair were the Cakes by Bridges cake balls. I thought the Holy Cacao cake balls were a tasty treat. Boy was I wrong. These are 40 times better. Fresh ingredients, firmer cake, delicious taste. The lemon and italian creme were my favorites.

And as we sat in the music pavilion, sobering up, we enjoyed our last glass of wine and the fine, fine musical stylings of Dan Dyer. AND we were very, very thankful we didn't end up like this poor guy:
See ya there next year!