The 7 Best Things We Ate at the Austin Food & Wine Festival

By Megan Giller  |  April 28, 2014
Credit: Nicolai McCrary

This past weekend some of the best chefs in the country, as well as avid food lovers, gathered in downtown Austin for the third annual Austin Food & Wine Festival. And amid all the cooking, eating, drinking and talking about cooking, eating and drinking, one thing stood out: beautiful presentation. (Plus Contigo’s plans to open a new restaurant called Gardner focused on seasonal vegetables, but more about that soon.) From stunning small bites to colorful tacos, here are a few of our favorite scenes from the festival.

  • Quesadilla Macarons from Diego Galicia

    Galicia’s San Antonio restaurant, Mixtli, puts a progressive spin on interior Mexican cuisine, and their new-school take on a quesadilla is the perfect example. Rather than a griddled tortilla with cheese inside, Galicia made a French-style macaron with squash blossom puree and cotija cheese in between the blue-corn sandwich cookies and jalapeño on top. Placed on a plate of dried red corn, these beauties were the sleeper hit of the Taste of Texas event.

  • Dessert Display from Janina O’Leary

    The James Beard Award-nominated pastry chef of laV outdid herself at the Sips and Sweets afterparty, with an impressive yet fun tower of melt-in-your-mouth macarons in flavors like pistachio, coffee and Earl Grey and lavender, salted caramel eclairs, chocolate delice cups and more. The best part? The chef replaced each treat with a new one almost before you finished the first.

  • Thai Pork Ribs from Josh Watkins

    We liked the addition of the Chef’s Showcase to the Grand Tasting, as it allowed local chefs to really shine. The Carillon’s Josh Watkins came through full force with a salty but yummy Thai pork spare rib, arranged on a glass plate over a bed of live greens.

  • Garden Fritters from Justin Yu

    A while back we began to see centerpieces consisting of vegetables rather than flowers: a big butternut squash on a table here, an arrangement of kale on a table there. The Oxheart chef moved the trend further along at the Taste of Texas event by placing his garden fritters made of greens, carrots and beets with smoked crème fraiche and herb sauce on a bed of raw root vegetables and kale. They looked quite at home there but tasted much better in our mouths.

  • Dessert Display from Erica Wakmunski

    Yes, the Sips and Sweets afterparty was indeed a colorful wonderland, with the Congress pastry chef's mini key lime pie custards, assorted cookies (think peanut butter and snickerdoodle) and salted caramel truffles. The deep green from the key lime pie made the flower arrangements even brighter and the cookies and chocolates taste even sweeter.

  • Pig Roasting at the Fire Pit

    Saturday’s Fire Pit boasted chefs Paul Qui, Jason Dady, Andrew Wiseheart and Jack Gilmore. But the most notable figure at the pit was the whole-roasted pig on top of a fire truck: impressive and delicious. Oh, and we almost forgot: Fireman’s #4 beer also came pouring out of the fire truck.

  • Sea Bass Taco from Tyson Cole

    The Uchi and Uchiko chef didn’t win the Rock Your Taco competition as he has the past two years, but his contending taco certainly stood out as one of the best. Cole poached the sea bass in coconut milk and lemongrass, then served it with yellow tomatoes and a Thai chili and aji Amarillo sauce with cilantro and mint on a crispy kefir-lime-corn tortilla. The flavors came together as brightly as the colors on the plate. However, former Top Chef contestant Richard Blais’ unusual yet familiar-tasting octopus and lamb picadillo taco with fresh herbs and edible flowers on top took home the gold.