Last weekend was the Austin Food & Wine Festival. We ate, we drank, we lived it up in Austin, Texas. That being said, we've got a lot to say. So settle in, the next few posts are long. Don't give up, though. It's worth a read.
Daniel's Post: Day 1
Austin was amazing, but that doesn’t really do it justice. Our time at the Food & Wine Festival was intense. It was hot. It was loud. It was fast-paced. It was star-studded. It was manic. And it was quite possibly the best weekend of my life.
Day one started with a bang. The first thing I did was get in line for Chef Tim Love’s grilling demo (if you don’t know that name, Google it). For the next hour, Erin and I traded out places in line, returning every few minutes with delicious delicacies to share which included BBQ beef tongue by the iconic Paul Qui, perfect, melt-in your mouth champagne and strawberry macaroons, juicy, seared, diver scallops with cheese mousse, and Patron margaritas.
The grilling demo was phenomenal, and set a record for world’s largest live grilling demo, clocking in at over 300 participants. Under Chef Love’s direction, we prepared a simple but delicious grilled bass, lamb, and blackened carrots. But this is where things got a little dicey. This is when I lost the end of my finger.
As I was, “demonstrating,” to Erin how to chiffonade basil, one careless slip took a slice out of my middle finger. But I was determined to stay through the demo, I mean, I had lamb on the grill for Christ’s sake! I wrapped my finger in a towel and told Erin, “It’s fine. I’m fine.” But I was not. And she knew it. She insisted I leave, telling me if she saw my blood, she would pass out. So I left. I got patched up, and returned to the demo in time to taste the finished lamb which Erin had been diligently babysitting for me. By the way, I kept that knife. Bloody and all.
But this story ends well, I promise. The next day, I returned to the grilling demo where, afterwards, I got the chance to meet Chef Love. I showed him my finger, which he said he recognized (from a photo he liked on my instagram). I told him in six years of cooking, this was the first time I'd cut myself, but at least I could say I cut myself at his demo. We had a laugh, took a photo, and a shot of tequila.
The star of the day, though, was a trauma nurse I met in line named Heather. After the demo, Heather took a look at my finger and told me NOT to go to the ER, saying there wasn’t enough of my finger to stitch together, and to stay at the festival. With this advice, I stayed the day, and I’m so glad I did.
We spent the rest of the day sampling around the festival and asking vendors pointed questions about their food. I was looking for the answer to the question, “What’s special about your food?” The answer I found was very intriguing. But more on that later.
We ended our day by visiting a local brewery, Hops and Grain. This hole-in-the-wall place was, perhaps, the coolest bar I’ve been to. The unassuming space was filled with wooden picnic tables and board games. It formed a perfect little community of strangers sharing stories and indulging in the wonderfully crafted beers. The bartenders were fun, bearded, and rowdy, and were constantly breaking into song which included the likes of Fat Bottomed Girls and Bohemian Rhapsody. If you’re ever in Austin, you can’t leave without visiting Hops and Grain.
The first day of the festival was one of the best days I’ve had in a very long time, filleted finger and all. I tasted amazing food, and talked to talented chefs who truly knew their craft. I met new people and made new friends. Not a single stranger greeted me with anything less but a genuine smile and a warm welcome to the city. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction from the great city of Austin.