Austin Foodie Bits: Week of August 10, 2009

AsparagusInNewsI’m blown away by how much time we Austinites seem to want to spend outside during the dog days of summer. You’d think we’d have some sense and stay inside. But no, the month of August is a fest of festivals. So stock up on sun screen and get a good hat – many fun and varied festivals await you.

Be Spontaneous: This Week’s Events

  • August 11: Greenling Lunch Bomb and Local Box Workshops at Thai Fresh – Four of my favorite things are coming together in one day: Thai Fresh, Greenling, the lunch bomb, and a local box workshop. At lunch, share your lunch with other Austin foodies (this is a dutch date, so bring your wallet) and enjoy fresh Thai cuisine crafted by a local restaurant that makes a concerted effort to support local producers. If you’ve never tried Thai Fresh, what are you waiting for? The food is amazing and so very fresh – it will make your day. That evening, Jam, the Thai Fresh proprieter and chef will walk you through how to make your own Thai food with the goodies found in a Greenling local box. I’ve taken a local box workshop previously and I walked away feeling empowered to use everything in my box. I highly recommend the experience for anyone looking to cook more at home with fresh local produce. The lunch bomb is free and the class is $25 for dinner plus wine (a great bargain). Call 512-440-8449 or email to RSVP for the cooking class.
  • August 11: Wine Making Class at Austin Homebrew – If you missed the wine making class at the Austin Slow Food Slow Session, you have another opportunity to learn all about making your own Vino later in the month. This class covers making wine from a kit, and will be followed by a bottling day on September 8. Just think how much fun it would be to gift your friends and family this Holiday with wine you made yourself. The class cost is $19.99, but if you complete the course you get a gift certificate for $19.99 so really, it’s free! 7-9pm.
  • August 13: Julie & Julia Feast at Alamo South Lamar – The foodie world has been salivating for weeks now in preparation for the release of what just might be the ultimate foodie movie: Julie and Julia. Instead of going to see this movie at any ol’ theater, you can have a culinary and cinematic experience at the Alamo Draft House South Lamar location. The evening’s festivities include a five course meal with five wine pairings, and of course a showing of the movie. The first three feasts sold out quickly, so get your tickets now. $75. 7:00 pm.
  • August 12: Sagra Lavender Festival – Sagra is a wonderful hidden gem near campus that is perfect for drinks after work or an intimate dinner. On August 12 they will be roasting a whole pig and serving it up with seasonal vegetables and polenta. As if the menu doesn’t sound tantalizing enough, what makes this event even more amazing is that it’s free. Can you pass up free pig and polenta in good conscience? I didn’t think so.
  • August 14-16 and 21-23: Texas Hill Country Wineries Harvest Wine Trail – Kick off the new vintage year in Texas wines with a self-guided tour of 24 of the Hill Country’s finest vineyards. Your ticket entitles you to a front-row seat to the harvest and the opportunity to put together a special collection of labels from this year’s wines. You’ll also receive a 15% on custom 3-bottle selections offered at each vineyard. Tastings are not included in the ticket price.
  • August 15: Austin Ice Cream Festival – There’s no denying that it’s hot, hot, hot here in Austin this summer. What better way to cool down and have some fun with the family than an ice cream festival? For a mere $5 (free for kiddos 12 and under) you can watch an ice cream making contest and even try your hand at a popsicle stick sculpture contest or out-scream the pack in a screaming contest. There will be live entertainment and ample activities to keep everyone happy in the heat. 10am – 7pm. Waterloo Park.
  • August 15: Whole Foods Healthy Endless Summer Event – While fall technically begins in a few weeks, here in Austin we’ll be feeling summer for much longer than that. If you’re looking for a new twist on summer cooking, join the folks at Whole Foods to sample some healthy options and get some new ideas. 12-3pm. Lamar store. Free.
  • August 15-16: Faraday’s Foodie-Palooza – One of North West Austin’s best kept secrets is Faraday’s Kitchen Store, a wonderful place out on RR 620 between Steiner Ranch and Lakeway. The folks at Faraday’s are as nice as can be, their selection is fantastic, and their prices on part with other high-quality kitchen stores like Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table. This coming weekend Faraday’s is hosting an Island Adventure event complete with tastings, cooking classes, demonstrations, and a salsa contest. Head on out to the store for some foodie fun and to see who wins the salsa contest.

Plan Ahead: Events in the Next 3 Weeks

  • August 17: Top Ten Costal Tapas Cooking Class – Terry Conlan from the Lake Austin Spa is a master at making healthy food taste amazing. He’s also a great teacher and his cooking classes are a treat for the taste buds as well as the mind. In this class at the Central Market Cooking School Terry will show you how to make 10 tasty tapas that you’ll never guess are really good for you. There are few better ways to spend a Monday night. $70. Reservations required online.
  • August 21: Va Piano Wine Dinner at TRIO – Mark Sayr, TRIO’s Sommelier extraordinaire, will be introducing his private label wine, created in partnership with Va Piano’s winemaker Justin Wiley, at this special wine dinner. Be one of the first to taste Mark’s new wine paired with Chef Todd’s incredible food, and learn more about all of the wines from Mark and Justin. I’ll be there and I’d love you to join me. $95, 6:30pm. Call 685-8300 to make reservations.
  • August 22: Whole Foods Back to School Bash – As the kids get ready to go back to school, the subject of school lunches comes back to the forefront for many parents. It’s quite the conundrum: how to create healthy lunches that keep during the day that kids will actually eat. Take a break from shopping during the tax-free weekend to get ideas for how to re-think your school lunch options. Bring the kids along too. The more they are involved in the process, the better the chance that they will not only eat what’s in their lunch, but make healthy choices throughout the school year. All day. Free.
  • August 22 and 29: Fall Creek Vineyards 20th Annual Grape Stomp & Harvest Festival – Ed and Susan Auler, the proprietors of Fall Creek Vineyards, are just good people, and it shows in everything they do. If you’ve never been to Fall Creek and want to visit, or you’re a big fan just longing for a reason to go back, the harvest festival is the perfect time to make your way out to Tow, Texas. You’ll enjoy winery tours, great food from local chefs, live music, and the chance to stomp your own grapes! Ticket prices vary by event, so be sure to visit the event information page to find the event that is right for you.
  • August 25: The Art of Wine and Food Pairing
    – The Texas Wine and Food Foundation is offering a course in conjunction with III Forks and sommeliers Devon Broglie and Craig Collins with the express goal of demystifying the task of pairing food and wine. If you’ve often wondered how to be sure you pick just the right wine for the menu you’ve worked so hard to prepare, or even how to prepare a menu to go with your favorite wine, this class looks to be a great way to get the knowledge you need. The menu for the class sports crab, duck, steak, and boar, so you know the food will be great. At $45 for the food, wine, and education, this is a great deal. RSVP required online.
  • August 30: Austin Hot Sauce Festival – There’s just something about hot sauce that screams “Texas”. I’m sure there are other states that can say the same, but I but they can’t say it as loud as we can. What better way to celebrate one of our most important cultural elements than to get together with about fifteen thousand other Texans (plus assorted guests and visitors) and taste some of the spicy stuff. Individuals, restaurants, and commercial producers will all battle for the title of best sauce. There will be live entertainment and lots of activities, so plan to join the fun. If you’re so inclined, you can even enter the contest yourself (see the website for more details). This event benefits the Capitol Area Foodbank of Texas and admission is free with a donation of three non-perishable items. 11am-5:30pm. Waterloo Park.

Eat Well, Do Good

  • September 14 – 15: AIDS Services of Austin Dining for Life – In mid-September, restaurants around Austin will be donating portions of their proceeds to AIDS Services of Austin. The fund raising goal this year is $30,000, and all you have to do to help is go out to eat at one of the participating restaurants. Yep, it’s that easy. Enjoy a great dinner at one of Austin’s best restaurants and you’ll be supporting a very important local charity. You can also donate directly to the program, or even volunteer to be a Dinner Captain and get as many of your friends as possible to join you for a meal. I know, what a terribly difficult thing to do.

Recent Good Eats

  • Mulberry rocks! Although it’s been on my radar for a long while now, I hadn’t quite made it to Mulberry, and I’m really sorry it took me this long to get there. After our cupcake throwdown craziness last week, a group of us invaded the Mulberry patio to balance our pallets and our blood sugar. One of our group knows the chef, Austin native Zach Northcutt, so we were lucky enough to meet the chef and talk to him about his food. Zach’s food is interesting and unexpected, yet accessible, and he’s as down-to-earth as you’ll find in a chef. We tried the truffle tartar, figs with blue cheese wrapped in candied bacon, the meatballs, a collection of cheeses and meats, , and the meatballs and everything was spectacular. The service was great and the staff knowledgeable about the food and the wine. All I can say is, it make have taken me months to get there, but it won’t take more than a week or so before I’m back for more. [Note: I know this information was in my post last week, but I like Mulberry so much I’ve left it in for another week just to be sure everyone reads it.]
  • Lamb sliders at Fion. Sometimes living in the ‘burbs is a bit of a foodie challenge, and this is doubly-true in Austin when some of the best and most interesting food is in downtown or immediately south or east thereof. Our saving grace out in Steiner Ranch is the Fion Wine Pub – a lovely spot that has an extensive collection of beer on tap and a large menu of wine flights. The fact that it’s walking distance for most of us is helpful at times. About a year ago they opened a restaurant and their lamb sliders are some of the best I’ve ever had. The lamb is flavorful and the mint pesto is just the right condiment. Next time you’re up north, take a detour into Steiner and stop a while at Fion to have a drink and try their most excellent grub.