Escape F1 madness with a Hill Country getaway to the Texas Fall Fest & Wine Auction

The Horseshoe Bay Resort MarriottThis weekend the exotic Formula 1 racing cars will roar into Austin for the first time ever. Out of the crush of traffic and blare of the lights, another elegant event is happening in Central Texas. The 8th Annual Texas Fall Fest & Wine Auction brings together 18 wineries and 14 chefs from the Hill Country on Nov. 16 – 17 at the Horseshoe Bay Yacht Club.

Texas wine pioneer and co-owner of Fall Creek Vineyards, Susan Auler, helped start the Fall Fest as a way to focus attention exclusively on Hill Country food and wine.

“The beverage director of the Horseshoe Bay Resort Marriott asked me to create a festival to raise the profile of Texas wine,” Auler explains. “I was chosen because of my work to start and run the larger Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival in Austin (the precursor to the Austin Food & Wine Festival). We wanted a more intimate event that didn’t compete with the larger festival, and was easier for the winemakers to attend.”

Susan and Ed AulerNot only did the event help shine a spotlight on Texas wine, but it also played a role in putting the industry on the map. Literally. Auler says, “At the time we started the festival, we were working on gaining an official American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation for the Texas Hill Country wineries. One of criteria to establish an AVA was to have a region known as having a wine culture. Holding an event right in the heart of the Hill Country and focused the importance of Texas wine and food by bringing together some of the best wines, foods, chefs and restaurants in the Hill country did just that.”

Fall Fest has a decidedly different format and feel than its sister festival held in tents in a park in Austin. Spread over two days, Fall Fest has three main events taking place at the Horseshoe Bay and in the city of Marble Falls.

The casual Sunset Stroll Farm to Market Wine Fair will be held on Friday, Nov. 16, featuring wine and food tastings in a marketplace of Hill Country wineries and Central Texas restaurants. Nibbles from restaurants like Cabernet Grill, Café Josie, Jack Allen’s Kitchen, Navajo Grill, Quality Seafood Market, River City Grille and Siena Restaurant Toscana will be served with wine from local vineyards such as 4.0 Cellars, Cap-Rock Winery, Inwood Estates Vineyards, and many more. For the second year, specialty food and merchandise from 17 artisans will be available for purchase.

Chef Josh WatkinsFall Fest resumes on Saturday afternoon with the Formula 1: Texas Wine & Food Trail on Historic Main Street in Marble Falls with appetizers paired with a selection of Texas wines poured by a dozen winemakers. This event started as a nod to the trailer food craze with food served at five various shops in a three block stretch of Main Street. This year the stroll has been turned into a mobile F1 watch party, with the race being shown in the participating shops.

For those of us that want to sit down and enjoy an elegant meal, the event has a Wine Dinner and Auction with four-courses prepared by Chef Josh Watkins of the Carillon and Chef Gilbert Moore of the Horseshoe Bay Marriott on Saturday night. Between main course and dessert there will be a short and sweet live auction with several wine-themed lots.

“I’m excited for the dinner. We have a wonderful menu planned, and the auction is always fun. We hold the auction to raise money for CASA of the Highland Lakes area, which supports child foster care, and Texas wine and grape research,” says Auler.

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Tickets for the Texas Fall Fest are available for the full weekend for $110 or sold separately for each event. Sunset Stroll Farm to Market Wine Fair tickets are $40; Formula 1: Texas Wine & Food Trail down Old Main Street is $25; Reception, Dinner and Live Wine Auction and the Saturday afternoon trail package is $75.

This article was previously published on CultureMap.

Local chefs go whole hog at Wine & Swine, benefiting Austin Food & Wine Alliance

Jason Dady, Bin 555How many ways can you think of to prepare a whole pig?

On Sunday, Nov. 4, more than a dozen prominent central Texas chefs will test their haute hog skills at the second annual Wine & Swine charity event held by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance. The day of food and fun runs from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the pastoral setting of Pioneer Farms in northeast Austin.

Alliance President Cathy Cochran-Lewis is expecting a sell-out crowd of about 500 guests to attend.

“The first event was incredibly social and the kind of party everyone wants to be invited to. We’re excited to bring it back,” says Cochran-Lewis. “We’ll be set up in the historic town square of Pioneer Farms with hay rides, live music, a cocktail lounge, amazing wines and local craft beer. The highlight will be the dishes prepared by adventurous chefs who love to roast whole animals.”

James Beard Award nominee Jason Dady originated the event concept to pit talented chefs in a competition for the best roasted pig. Local chefs have eagerly volunteered to participate to see what they can do with a whole pig when given creative license to apply their unique style and prepare the pigs any way they choose, pulling out all the stops as they go.

Because roasting a whole hog takes time, many of the chefs will camp out for the night on the farm tending fires either in or above the ground. Chef Josh Watkins, from The Carillon, is bringing his creativity to this year’s event.

“Last year we dug a hole, lit a gigantic fire in it to roast our pig. We marinated our pig in a Cuban marinade, wrapped it in banana leafs, then in a burlap sack, buried it and cooked it,” says Watkins. “This year we’re not digging a hole — I’ll tell you that. We’re using a stainless steel roasting box, known as the Chinese microwave, which roasts the pig with indirect heat with coals burning outside of the box. I’m fairly competitive, so I’m going to be creative and serve pork in six to eight different ways.”

Chef Watkins won the Greenling Fan Favorite at the Alliance’s Live Fire event earlier this year and he knows he’ll have stiff competition at Wine & Swine. “The ultimate goal is to repeat. Instead of just roasting a pig, I’m going to have to make it more elegant, more intriguing. Sometimes in outdoor settings people go to rustic. Rustic has its place in a family style meal, but this is a chef’s station set up. Elegance is in order.”

The Texas Pork Producers Association will award a $1,000 prize to the Greenling Fan Favorite chef at Wine & Swine. Guests are able to vote for their favorite pork sensation using Twitter and text messages at the event.

Swine searing Central Texas chefs competing include father and son duo Jack Gilmore of Jack Allen’s Kitchen and Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine and Odd Duck working together. They will be competing against Alma Alcocer-Thomas, El Alma; John Bates, Noble Pig; John Bullington, Alamo Drafthouse; Jason Dady, Bin 555 in San Antonio; Ben Hightower, Trace; James Holmes, Olivia; Eric Lucas, Whole Foods Market; Charles Mayes, Café Josie; David Norman, Easy Tiger; Zack Northcutt, Swift’s Attic; Rebecca Rather, The Pink Pig; and Andrew Wiseheart, Contigo.

Proceeds from Wine & Swine will support the Austin Food & Wine Alliance efforts to foster innovation in the Central Texas food and beverage community through its grant program. The Alliance hopes to provide$20,000 in grants this year for chefs, farmers, artisan producers and culinary nonprofits.

Nothing could sound more rustic than a pig roast on a cool November day around open fires on a 90-acre farm, but the event also promises to be an exquisite culinary experience. Tickets are available for online purchase for $75 and will be sold at the door for $95.

This article was previously published on CultureMap.

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