Austin Foodie Bits: Week of August 24, 2009

AsparagusInNewsIt’s back to school time and I’m finding myself a bit wistful for the summer and for a few years ago when my confident fifth grader was just a curious kindergartener. Maybe I’m just sensitive to all things related to back-to-school because I’m a parent of a school-age child, but I do feel as I move about town that there’s a different feel. Our focus is changing, we are a little less content to laze through a weekend as we might have been in summer, and we are looking for the first hints of fall and the holidays. I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll see Christmas decorations in the stores long before it even starts to feel like fall, but so it is in Central Texas. Happily, we have a nice collection of food and wine-related activities to help us take time to enjoy great friends along with tasty morsels and scintillating beverages. So even as the bustle of the fall begins to find its way into your world, don’t forget to stop and smell the food every once and a while.

Be Spontaneous: This Week’s Events

  • 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. [SOLD OUT but they are taking names for a waiting list.]
  • August 26 and September 9: Grapevine University Northern Italy and Bordeaux – Grapevine Market is one of Austin’s best kept secrets. They regularly hold “Grapevine University” sessions that help students get to know a particularly wine region a little better. The next two classes focus on two of the more complex regions – Northern Italy and Bordeaux – and are a great resource for anyone looking to increase their regional wine knowledge. At $15 each, these are steal. 7 pm – 8 pm. Register online.
  • August 28: Date Night Spain Cooking Class – Looking for a new way to spend a date night that isn’t the same ol’ dinner and a show? How about taking a couples cooking class at Whole Foods. You’ll still get dinner, but the show will be your teamwork as you prepare a tasty meal inspired by Spain. Fry up some olives, stuff some dates, rub a steak, and whip up some pudding. When you’re done, who knows what kind of romantic mood you’ll have sparked. $145 per couple. 6:30 – 9:00 pm.
  • August 29: Sugar Mama’s 1st Birthday Celebration – Sugar Mama’s is my absolute favorite cupcake spot in town and I discovered at a recent foodie event that the owner Olivia and I are kindred spirits which makes me love her cupcakes even more. I’m very excited that she’ll be celebrating her first anniversary with all sorts of free food, drinks and fun activities for kids of every age. Stop by to wish this Austin gem a happy birthday and sample the various goodies. 3 pm – 7 pm.
  • August 29: Revealing Your True Iron Chef Cooking Class – Okay, this just sounds like all kinds of fun and I’d be there in a heartbeat if I didn’t have tickets to Wicked already. In this class you’ll work with a team of your classmates to plan and cook a menu based on a secret ingredient. You’ll have the help of a Whole Foods culinary center instructor and your work will be judged at the end of the night. The class ends with a much-deserved glass of wine and a tasting of all the food made by both teams. Come on, channel your inner Iron Chef – you know you want to. $65. 6 pm – 9 pm.
  • August 29: Champange and Cupcakes – Yet another fun event where you can enjoy sweets and booze. The folks at Cru are teaming up with Delish cupcakes to give you a new taste experience. The price is right for this tasting too: $15. 2 pm -4 pm. RSVP to or 512/ 472-WINE (9463).
  • 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.

Plan Ahead: Events in the Next 3 Weeks

  • September 2: FINO Chef’s Table Paella – The FINO chef’s table series continues with a focus on paella. You’ll taste a collection of paella recipes found around Spain and to get a good understanding of the different executions of the dish. $55. Call 474-2905 for reservations and more information.
  • September 3: Carillion Late Summer Dinner – Josh Watkins, the amazing and fun chef behind the University of Texas Hotel and Event Center’s restaurants is serving up what promises to be a tasty evening. The menu includes vanilla parsnip soup, seared scallops and braised short ribs, and a cardamom crème brûlée. You’ll not only taste the Watkins’ exceptional food, but you can ask him all of your foodie questions and become a better cook in your own kitchen along the way. $70. 6:30 – 9:00 pm.
  • September 7: Dessert University Cooking Class – Roland Mesnier was the pastry chef at the White House for 25 years and during this Central Market cooking class you’ll get a chance to learn from him. I’ve taken a class with him previously and highly recommend him, not only because he has some great stories to tell, but because he’s an excellent instructor who knows how to make his White House-caliber recipes work for home cook. His class is a real treat. $70. 6:30 pm – 9:00 pm.
  • September 12: Dripping with Taste Wine and Food Festival – Take a short jaunt out to Dripping Springs to taste wines from a collection of Texas vineyards including Becker, Bell Mountain, Driftwood, and Fall Creek along with nibbles from some of Texas’ best food purveyors. With the Texas harvest season in full swing, this is the perfect time to celebrate the goodness of our local wine industry. Advance tickets are $25 which includes entrance to the fair, tastes of four wines, food demonstrations, and more. You can also buy additional wine tastes for $1 each but be sure to bring your designated driver along as well. 12 pm – 7 pm.
  • September 19: Tea Brunch and Afternoon Tea – A formal tea is truly a treat and is a great way for friends to take some time to slow down and reconnect, so grab a friend or two for the Tea Embassy Tea Brunch or Afternoon Tea catered by Austin Catering. $35. Seatings at 10:30 am and 3:30 pm. Call (512) 330-9991 for reservations.

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.
  • September 18 – 19: Austin Chocolate Festival – The event name says it all: chocolate + festival = great fun to be had by all. And, to make things better, this event benefits the Susan G. Komen For the Cure. Enjoy chocolate tastings, an amazing opening night event with cocktails by David Allen of Tipsy Texan and beer by Saint Arnold Brewing Company, roller girls, and more. Ticket prices vary per event, so visit the Web site, look around, and buy a ticket. Chocolate and good deeds are both good for the soul!
  • September 28 – October 2: GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up – Texas restaurants bring to the dining table a vast array of culinary styles and flavor profiles. You can stay within the bounds of the state, and very often your county, and have myriad dining experiences that celebrate the talents and harvests of our great state. This fall, Texas will celebrate those restaurants that are committed to serving great local ingredients and pouring Texas wines during the Restaurant Round-Up. When you dine at a participating restaurants around the state you’ll not only have an opportunity to taste the best of Texas, but in many cases you’ll be supporting local food banks like Austin’s own Capital Area Food Bank. And, as if dining on great food from our great state to support critical charities isn’t enough, the event includes a whole passel of giveaways you can register to win by completing a very short survey that will help the GO TEXAN staff better serve the interests of our state’s diners an restaurants.

Recent Good Eats

  • TRIO and Va Piano Wines. This past Friday I was honored to attend a wine dinner at TRIO showcasing sommelier Mark Sayer’s upcoming private label wine created in collaboration with Justin Wiley from Va Piano Vineyards of Walla Walla, Washington. The food was of course amazing, but what really struck me about the evening is how Mark’s wine truly represented a passion and friendship he clearly shares with Justin. Like any great friendship, the wine is deep and complex, but at the same time easy and comfortable. If I could lay hands on cases of it I would – it’s simply that good. We were also lucky enough to taste a collection of Va Piano wines and all I can say is I’m a converted fan and plan to spend more time exploring Washington wines because they have a character and terroir about them that I truly appreciate. It’s at times like these that I wish I was an experienced wine blogger so I could do the wines I tasted justice. All I can say is they were amazing and the men behind them are truly good people that I will enjoy supporting with each sip.