Between the Clouds; Tasting the Texas Stars
Entry 4 – The Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival Adventure
An evening under the stars was more like an evening in fear of rain, but we were tucked along the alcoves or under a tent on the terrace of Austin’s Long Center for the Performing Arts. The event enchanted and delighted. Luckily it also spared us direct contact with the wet and wild weather, while we savored signature dishes of some of Texas’s best known chefs and restaurants, and tasted showcase wines of guest and Texas wineries. This event has long been considered the ‘prime cut’ of wine and food events in Austin and, as I believe, perhaps Texas, too.
The Stars Across Texas event was a frantic evening of tasting with many excellent offerings, too numerous to mention here. In this blog, I promise to stay focused and present only my personal top ten offerings:
1 – Hotel Driskill Grill (www.driskillhotel.com/austin-restaurants.php) – A poached quail egg and mascarpone cheese over tartare of beef. Presentation is almost everything. Man alive, this was a tasty visual extravaganza – Served in a clear cup-within-a-cup with the bottom cup containing dry-ice in lavender-ginger soda. Undoubtedly, the most eye and palate popping offering of the night. So, cool that I went back for seconds and thirds just to bask in its presence.
2 – Tablas Creek Vineyards (www.tablascreek.com) – Cote de Tablas Blanc (38% Viognier, 25% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne and 17% Grenache Blanc) and Espirit de Beaucastel Blanc (65% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc, 5% Picpoul Blanc) both balance, medium-bodied Rhone style white wines; Espirit de Beaucastel Rouge (45% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache, 22% Syrah, 5% Counoise – A good model for Texas winemakers to follow.
3 – Fino Restaurant and Bar (www.astiaustin.com/fino) – Serrano Ham, quince paste and Manchego cheese served over Fino Sherry; Salty, sweet, savory and nutty – All of the major food groups, need I say more.
4 – Jaspers Restaurant (www.jaspers-restaurant.com) – Duck and portabella mushroom tart with black truffle cream in a puff pastry. Earthy, meaty and a the buttery mouth feel of French pastry.
5 – Dallas Fish Market (www.dallasfishmarket.com) – Raw Escobar (A fish also known as Waloo in Hawaii) served sashimi-style with lemon sauce and capers. Crisp and fresh flavors over creamy, dense white fish.
6 – Kakawa Coco Bean (www.cocoapuro.com) – Pure whole bean chocolates. Simply, to die for.
7 – Trio Restaurant – Four Seasons Hotel Austin (www.fourseasons.com/austin/dining.html) – Tuna tartare served with wasabi guacamole and toasted sesame seed vinaigrette toping. Where is the Sauvignon Blanc when you need it most?
8 – Two California Wines – Rosenblum Cellars Monte Rosso Zinfandel (www.rosenblumcellars.com) and Silverado (www.silveradovineyards.com) Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark, lush, teeth-staining wines. Trying to find more coco bean chocolates, right now.
9 – Texas Culinary Academy (www.texascookingacademy.com) – Mango Tart served with Coconut Kafir lime sorbet. Looking for dessert? You can’t beat this. Almost worth going back to school to learn how to make it.
10 – Teo Espresso (www.caffeteo.com) – Poteet Texas Strawberry Gelato (definitely Bella Vita). Made me beg for more. Great finish with a cup of Community Coffee (www.communitycoffee.com). One for the road.
I know that I promised ten, but I need space for just one more…….Pretty Please!
11. Arcodoro (Houston/Dallas – Braise baby “buco” (of something???) served au jus with Sardinian couscous. Messy, finger licking food, and exceptional. Glad I did not leave this one off the list.
Honorable mentions – All participating Texas wineries that demonstrated to the event attendees that their wines can complement the best cuisine, bar none, and can be poured without hesitation in the presence of some of the best in the biz: Tablas Creek, Rosenblum, Silverado and other major brands. These Texas wineries included:
Stone House Vineyard, McPherson Cellars (with fun new brand – Hook, Line and Sinker), Llano Estacado, Messina Hof, Becker Vineyards, Fall Creek Vineyards (and Savvy Vodka). Links to Texas winery websites are available from the Texas Department of Agriculture at:
The great aspect of an event like this is that it inspires such grand memories of aromas and flavors frenetically mixed with an array of audible and tactile sensations; assuredly much more than a mere yum, yum, yum.
My wife tells me, “Russ, you seem to recall where you’ve been by what you have eaten.” She’s right on the mark. On my ride back through the low white clouds laid like a fluffy cotton comforter over the Big Hill, I found myself recalling good memories and pondering them over and over again. No doubt about it….I was definitely in Austin, not to be forgotten.