Apr 162009
 

Austin’s Calling: It’s Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival Time Again

Entry 1 – The Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival Adventure

People that were born, gone to school, or have just past through the Texas Hill Country just seem to find a way to get back here. Well, this year’s migration of the foodie faithful to the 24th Hill Country Wine and Food Festival (www.texaswineandfood.org) held in Austin and surrounding parts is a good excuse to return.  For me, in Houston the warm sun and springtime breezes signaled the time for my departure. Ribbons of wildflower colors lined the road westward like a ‘yellow brick road’ (but this one blue, red and yellow) leading me off to see the wizards of food and wine at this year’s festival.

The opening reception was held last night at the Hotel Saint Cecilia (www.hotelstcecilia.com), a secluded sanctuary in Austin’s South Congress district. It was named for the patron saint of Church music and musicians. A vintage Citroën on the hotel’s front lawn made me cogitate for a moment whether Cecilia (or, more likely the hotel’s owner) may have also had a soft spot for oddly streamlined French cars.

The reception was a chance to eat, meet and greet; so, first things first. I went on the prowl for unusual and savory epicurean delights to consume. I wasn’t left wanting. In a matter of minutes, I spied an apparently anomalous combo – a wedge of watermelon served with marinated red onions and a dollop of goat cheese. It filled the bill as unusual, but it was also an excellent combination of flavors and tactile sensations – crunchy watermelon, strings of tangy onions that uncoiled down my chin, and creamy chèvre. Then, like magic the savory appeared in the form of a wonderfully spicy, slaw-topped sausage slice and a spicy deep fried leg of what appeared to be a very small bird. 

As I continued to forage, the meeting and greeting part of the evening began in earnest. I was greeted by long time acquaintance, Rebecca Robinson, Executive Director of the Food and Wine Foundation of Texas (www.winefoodfoundation.org). My discussion with Rebecca led me to meet Debbie Sheffield, Board President for the Hill Country Wine and Food Festival. There, I got all three accomplished as a true professional – eating, greeting and meeting – and I was not even at the reception but 15 minutes.

With that out of the way, I made a noble effort at quaffing. Somebody once asked me what quaffing meant and I said, “It was like drinking but you tended to spill more”. Last night was no exception, facilitated by interesting ‘Petri dish’-styled wine glasses with low sides and a flat bottom. Just about any bodily motion caused resonant frequency wave action resulting in a tsunami of wine waves crashing up and over the sides of my glass. Texas wines were well represented and my quaff of choice. They included: Becker Vineyards Provencal – Dry Rosé (www.beckervineyards.com), Messina Hof Chardonnay (sans oak), and Messina Hof Merlot (www.messinahof.com).

I spoke with Kerry Rupp, Founder of Holiday Golightly (www.holidaygolightly.com) that specializes in group travel planning for girlfriend getaways. She was originally from the Pacific Northwest, but business travel brought her periodically to Austin. Well, as you may have guessed it. Kerry’s in the third category of people that I mentioned above that find a way to get back to the Texas Hill Country. She recently moved to Austin.

Having had a fine festival start, I said my goodbyes and moseyed down the road toward a Texas sunset with pinked clouds that hung over a tapestry of blue. It was dark when I arrived at our Hill Country cottage that is nearby my Thursday luncheon event at Becker Vineyards (www.beckervineyards.com) in Stonewall Texas.

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