Tribeza’s Favorite Picks for Austin Food + Wine Festival 2021

 7 sweet and savory events we can’t wait to enjoy at the annual celebration

By Holly Cowart
Austin Food + Wine Festival
Food + Wine Festival scenes from 2019 photographed by Sydney Gawlik.

Austin’s festival season is still in full swing! Now in its 10th year, the multi-faceted Austin Food + Wine Festival is returning to Auditorium Shores and Republic Square Park November 5th through the 7th. 

The festival first took place in April 2012 in support of the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. The culinary art-focused nonprofit has long been an asset to Central Texas’ food and beverage scene, raising life-changing funds for local businesses and giving thousands of students access to educational resources.

Rock Your Taco photo by Katrina Barber

During the mouthwatering celebration, some of Central Texas’ best chefs will join nationally acclaimed restaurateurs for a weekend of bold flavors and intimate sessions where attendees can interact with true masters of their craft. Although the All-In passes are sold out, which includes entry to Friday’s hands-on Grillin’ and Chillin’ cooking presentation, Weekender options are still available through resale purchase, allowing guests to sample from more than 50 of the nation’s finest chefs and mixologists. There’s also three individual dining experiences apart from the fest featuring curated menus at local establishments known for wait lists and media buzz. 

If you’re ready to embark on a tempting culinary adventure (or just looking for new and outstanding restaurants to put on your radar), we’re right there with you. And while there’s an abundance of phenomenal talent heading to Auditorium Shores, here are some of the top attractions and appetizing bites we can’t wait to try at this year’s festival. 

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Saturday

Photo by Katrina Barber

Fermín Núñez

12:45 – 1:15 p.m.

Fermín Núñez has made a name for himself as a leader of our local and national food scene. The masa maestro is the Executive Chef of Suerte, one of Austin’s most in-demand restaurants, and a recent recipient of Food & Wine’s 2021 Best New Chefs award (the destination itself was named a Best New Restaurant in 2019). Catch his live demo on Saturday and watch the traditional techniques that have put his East Austin Mexican restaurant on the map.

 

Cheurlin Champagne with Isiah Thomas

12:30 – 1:00 p.m.

In 2018, an unlikely partnership formed from a common passion for high-quality, attainable Champagne between NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas and Thomas Cheurlin of Cheurlin Champagne. The basketball icon and entrepreneur was integral in introducing Cheurlin’s product to the United States, praising the bubbly for its environmentally-friendly production, low sugar and affordable price point. Gain insights into the partnership and enjoy a celebratory sip with the legend himself.

 

Rock Your Taco

7:00 – 9:30 p.m.

Get ready for a 12-chef showdown unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. Tacos are the name of the game on Saturday night, where All-In ticket holders get to be the judges deciding Food + Wine’s best taco. Some noteworthy participants include: Dawn Burrell of Late August; Shion Aikawa of Ramen Tatsu-Ya (and company); Jam Sanitchat of Thai Fresh, Tyson Cole of Uchi; and LeAnn Mueller of la Barbecue. The winner will get some serious bragging rights in the city known for its unabashed taco obsession, but it’s the guests that truly come out on top — sampling some of the most imaginative and satisfying tortilla creations Austin has to offer.  

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Sunday

Photo by Charles Reagan Hackleman

Fire Pit with Sonya Coté, Tom Micklethwait & Ren Garica, Marco Oglesby

11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The fest’s Fire Pit events are always a stand out, featuring open flames and skillful pitmasters as they share their expertise directly with attendees. Sonya Coté has been a symbol of constant innovation, creating seasonally-inspired, farm-fresh plates at her groundbreaking restaurants Eden East and Storehouse Market & Eatery, which opened in Bastrop in late December. A local chef that has reached national platforms, she’ll be joined by an equally prestigious list of barbecue specialists on Sunday including Ren Garcia and Tom Micklethwait of fan-favorite (and Texas Monthly approved) Micklethwait Craft Meats and Marco Oglesby, who leads the beautifully designed Dripping Springs joint, The Switch. Each of these well-respected veterans of the pit have a wealth of grill knowledge between them and will be available for first-hand advice and inspiration.

 

Yoshi Okai

12:45 – 1:15 p.m.

If you’ve had a chance to dine at tucked-away restaurant Otoko on South Congress, you already know what makes Yoshi Okai something special. With his distinct style and inventive dishes, the connoisseur of Japanese cuisine will be exhibiting his skills in the demo tent. The former 2017 Food & Wine Best New Chef is no stranger to live preparations, offering multi-course omakase dining through his restaurant and his rare but stunning bluefin tuna breakdowns. Otoko’s high-end experiences are often booked months in advance, making this the perfect time to taste the chef’s polished plates. 

 

Bryan Ford

1:15 – 2:24 p.m.

Bryan Ford is a master baker and sourdough aficionado whose enthusiasm for his craft has elevated how people think about bread. He’s been busy, too, having recently launched a best-selling cookbook called New World Sourdough in 2020. He also currently stars in The Artisan’s Kitchen on the Magnolia Network and regularly shares recipes through his blog and Instagram. Inspired by his mother’s home-cooking, the Honduran-American chef was born in the Bronx, grew up in New Orleans and now lives in Miami, drawing upon his versatile background to make artisan breads with transformative flavors. Don’t miss his Sunday exhibition and book signing! 

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Dinner Collabs

Okay, maybe we’re cheating a little by highlighting all three options here, but each of these thoughtfully prepared tastings bring something unique to the table. Even if you don’t have passes to the full-time festival, you can still discover some remarkable new destinations in town. Here’s what you need to know: 

Lutie’s 

Photo by Mackenzie Smith Kelley

Since opening in April, Lutie’s is already known for its exceptional design, eye-catching dishes and a lengthy waitlist. Located at the picturesque Commodore Perry Estate, executive chefs Bradley Nicholson and Susana Querejazu are welcoming diners for a regional 3-course meal with wine pairings on November 4th. Tables for parties of four are still available.

 

Canje 

Photo courtesy of Canje

It’s impossible to talk about Austin restaurants without mentioning two chefs and business partners currently driving the industry: Tavel Bristol-Joseph and Kevin Fink. Not only are the culinary luminaries behind six different eateries across Austin, but each of their restaurants is divine in their own right — and the same can be said for Canje. The newest addition stands out from its sister restaurants because of its deep connection to Bristol-Joseph’s Guayanese roots, paying homage to the regional ingredients and hometown dishes he grew up with. The award-winning Austin duo will undoubtedly bring a personal flair to their curated four-course menu on November 5th, joined by top pastry chef and fellow Best New Chef recipient Paola Velez. Tables for parties of 2 through ten are available throughout the evening, with cozy bar seating options as well.

 

Salt & Time Wine Shop

Erika Widmann photo by Brittney Smith

A more affordable, spirit-focused collaboration can be found at Salt & Time Wine Shop, where Beverage Director Erika Wildmann will delve into the details of luscious wines while Chef Madeline Brandstetter makes perfectly paired appetizers along with charcuterie and cheese boards. Unfortunately, this elegant evening on November 5th has sold out of seats, but we recommend keeping the low intervention wine shop on your list of stops for the future.


Read More From the Art Issue | November 2021


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