Feeling bubbly at Big Reds & Bubbles

Last night was the 10th Annual  Big Reds & Bubbles hosted by The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas. If you want the full story about the event, here is my preview of the bash. Beautiful Wife and I eased our way through the bubbly crowd to sip on a lovely array of sparkling and red wines, nibbling on excellent food from several local chefs and talking with dozens of friends. As always, it was a well organized event packed with beautiful people and overflowing with incredible wine.

My favorite nibble was from Barley Swine. I have no idea what it was, but it was fantastic.

My favorite wines were the Ruinart Champagne and the Adelsheim Pinot Noir.

My favorite surprise was seeing Jack Gilmore with short hair.

My favorite shadow was Marshall Jones’ attempt at a Movember mustache which was slightly more prominent than Drew Peterson’s.

My favorite moment was when Amber Demure photo bombed me by biting the ass of a hottie. Or when we stole a bottle of rose at the end of the night and passed it around to be drained in 5 minutes (sorry Marshall).

My favorite conversations are too many to recount. It was great to talk with so many wonderful people.

Thank good someone brought a big bag of breakfast tacos to the office this morning.

Here are some photos of the festivities.

What are you drinking? 

Celebrating two years of What Are You Drinking?

I love any excuse to throw a party and the second anniversary of this blog was a good enough one to gather a group of friends at the Red Room Lounge. Dear friends, winemakers, distillers, wine shop owners, beverage PR people, sommeliers and wine drinkers shared a few laughs and many bottles of wine to celebrate the friendships fostered over a drink. Many of the people in the room I have met only because of this blog. Its fitting, because that’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about this blog – making new friends.

In the past two years I have written 153 articles about wine, beer, spirits and cocktails. The blog has changed a bit over time, and I keep trying to improve it based on your suggestions. The blog has led to other writing opportunities as a contributor to CultureMap, The Digital Texan, 12Most and now Austin Man magazine. Each article is another chance to talk to fascinating people in the beverage industry and another opportunity to taste something new. I love that.

Thanks to everyone that shares their time to tell their stories. Thanks to the PR people who help make the connections. And most importantly, thanks to you for staying with me, reading my stories, commenting and making suggestions. Cheers!

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There will be meat! Cowboys + Gouchos carnivore fest coming March 4, 2012

Gaucho grilling at Cowboys + Gauchos

When you see a whole elk roasting over an open fire flanked by a lamb, a pig and a goat, you know you are at a carnivore-friendly fest. Chefs slice broad slabs of meat as the smell of roasted meat and barbeque swirl on the breeze while people twirl to Gary Knippa’s country tunes and watch dance performances by Nostalgia Tango. That’s exactly what you can expect to experience this Sunday, March 4, 2012 at the second annual Cowboys + Gauchos, a Wine & Food Foundation of Texas fundraising event. What better way to celebrate the 176th Texas Independence Day than by channeling your inner cowboy?

    • What: Second Annual Cowboys + Gauchos
    • When: Sunday, March 4, 2012,12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
    • Where: Salt Lick Pavilion, 18300 FM 1826  Driftwood, TX 78619 (not the BBQ restaurant)
    • How much: Foundation members: $40, non-members $50, children ages 13-20: $10 per person (non-refundable), children ages 12 and under are free
    • When you go: Purchase tickets online before you go. While the Foundation expects a great turn-out by members, you don’t need to be a member to attend. Check your pretense at the door and come for a good time. The attire is cowboy casual and you’ll want a hat to keep that gorgeous sun out of your eyes. Little cowboys are welcome to run wild on the sprawling property and play yard games. And don’t forget a package of toothpicks.

This unique event was dreamt up by Foundation board member Howard Kells, former owner of Doña Emilia’s South American Bar & Grill (now closed). He watched renowned Argentine chef Francis Mallmann wow Anthony Bourdain with his grilled meat in No Reservations, Season 4, in Uruguay and was enthralled. The France-trained Mallmann left the fussy world of fine dining behind with a keen interest to return to simplistic gaucho cooking (the word ‘gaucho’ being the call-name for Argentine cowboys).

As grilling is central to South American cuisine, it also serves as the inspiration for Cowboys + Gauchos. Kells wanted to emulate the massive scale grilling that Mallmann practices. He designed and custom built an immense grilling rack based on the one used on No Reservations by watching a recording of the show over-and-over and painstakingly recreating it. The one-of-a-kind rig is stout enough to roast a whole steer and even has the ability to adjust the cooking height and angles. The meat is grilled over a main fire, which is continually fed with coals drawn from a smaller side fire.

Wine and Food Foundation Executive Director, Marshall Jones, makes it all happen. He is the guy that landed a donation of all of the grilling wood from Butler Wood in South Texas. He is the guy that sources the whole 240 pound elk, pig, boar, goat and lamb. He is the guy who will stay up all night to roast the elk, starting at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday night, tending to it until it’s ready to eat around 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. He’s the guy that will ring the cow bell throughout the event to signal when another new meat is ready to serve. That’s a pretty cool assignment for a guy who runs a foundation.

Don’t be confused, this isn’t just a meat orgy or Paleo Diet convention. There will be other delightful dishes serve by Austin-based restaurants. Chef Charles Mayes will celebrate the 15th anniversary of Cafe Josie with a seafood dish at Cowboys + Gauchos. Other dishes include antelope chili and smoked quail from Wild Bubbas Wild Game Grill, cabrito and sweet potato tacos from Mansion at Judges Hill Restaurant & Bar, chocolate BBQ pork ribs from Zocalo Cafe and a selection of sweet and savory empanadas from MMMpanadas. There will be other delectable treats from Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, El Alma Restaurante Bar and Live Oak Barbecue. Delysia Chocolatier will provide a selection of truffles and the whole feast will be finished with s’mores roasted over the fire. There might be some vegetables, but you don’t have to eat them.

While Mallmann’s gaucho grilling influence initiated the concept for the event, the similarities between the gaucho and the cowboy, coupled with the Wine and Food Foundation’s bent on promoting local fare led to the prominent inclusion of Texas wines. Eight Texas wineries will be pouring on Sunday with an additional four South American vineyards.

Ed Auler, founder of Fall Creek Vineyards, will be pouring the limited production Fall Creek Vineyards Tempranillo, Salt Lick Vineyard, Texas Hill Country, 2009. This is a stellar wine that is hard to find and shouldn’t be missed. McPherson Cellars will pour its 2009 Sangiovese, 2010 Tre Colore and 2010 Rose of Grenache-Syrah. There will be a wide selection of meat-friendly reds and thirst-quenching whites from Alamosa Wine Cellars, Becker Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, E.&J. Gallo Winery, Gauchezco Vineyard & Winery, Casa Lapostolle, Llano Estacado, Spicewood Vineyards, Terrazas de los Andes and Vineyard Brands.

If beer is your thing, Thirsty Planet will have barrels of Thirsty Goat Amber Ale and Yellow Armadillo. Sweat Leaf Tea will provide tea to keep us hydrated.

Organizers are expecting a crowd of about 350 hungry revelers and hope to raise upwards of $5,000 to support the Foundation’s work. Proceeds from the event will support up-and-coming chefs and sommeliers through scholarships and the underwriting of the TexSom beverage conference.

I’ll be there with a big, grease-smeared grin on my face. This article also appears on CultureMap.

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The holidays are upon us: A fantastic kickoff with Big Reds & Bubbles

You know what makes a kick-ass party? A soirée where you are greeted by a gorgeous lady dressed in an elaborate champagne-laden dress. A bash attended by lots happy people in festive clothing.  A bacchanalian festival with an absurdly huge selection of prestigious wines and delectable treats from 19 of Austin’s hottest chefs. That’s exactly the kind of party 350 people went to last night at the sold-out Big Reds & Bubbles held at the Driskill.

Big Reds & Bubbles is not only a party; it’s also a fundraiser for the Wine & Food Foundation of Texas, with dollars coming from ticket and silent auction. Sound like a perfect way to raise money. Get a bunch of wine aficionados and foodies lubricated with the good stuff and tempt them with the opportunity to “win” really nice wines like 1955 Bordeaux, 2000 vintage Dom Pérignon champagne, 3L and 5L large format bottles and cult wines and let the check books bleed.

Marshall Jones, Executive Director, looking suave as hell in a black velvet jacket, casually tells me the Foundation puts the money to good use. They pay out the fattest culinary scholarship and largest dedicated pastry scholarship in the country. In addition to that, the Foundation is the leading underwriter of the TexSom beverage conference. Spreading the fertilizer to grow the next crop of brilliant chefs and sommeliers is an august cause.

Big Reds is all about connecting people with the chefs and sommeliers that create fine dining experiences. Jones and foundation members know that great wine and food is dependent on a vibrant community. To get the event started on that path, they held a VIP tasting of four rosé champagnes hosted by Master Sommeliers, Craig Collins and Guy Stout. John Antonelli of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop described the cheeses paired with each wine. You can’t ask for a better educational experience.

There were plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with the culinary elite. Celebrity Chef, Brad Sorenson, provided a bit of comic relief as the MC. He comes across as a young and handsome version of Conan O’Brien with his boisterous personality and tall, lanky form. Brad caught the eye of the Wine & Food Foundation when he was a contestant on season 6 of The Next Food Network Star and Chopped! He is getting more involved in the Austin culinary scene and was visibly excited to talk about his plans to open Nova Bar on Rainey street in April 2012. The two-story, 100-seat eatery will present an elevated take on bar food. Everything will be done from scratch, including the inventive cocktails created with loving care by mixologist, JC Rodriguez.  At Big Reds he drew attention to some gems from A-list chefs and stand-out wines like the father and son duo Jack Allen Kitchen Executive Chef, Jack Gilmore, and Barley Swine Chef, Bryce Gilmore.

It turns out the Foundation has been throwing this bash every year for nine years. Big Reds & Bubbles got its start as way to kick off the holidays. Since the start Glazer’s has partnered with the Foundation to introduce its stand-out wines like 2008 Nickel & Nickel Cabernet, 2007 Chateau Montelena and 2008 Dunn Vineyards to average Joes. If you ask this average Joe, it’s a fantastic way to ring in the holiday bender season.

So who was out sipping bubbles and red wine from 85 different wineries? It was a great mix of wine industry types, like Master Sommelier Craig Collins, Pedernales Cellars President, Fredrik Osterberg, Foundation board members and lots of people eager to have a great time. Here is a selection of some of the pretty faces in the crowd.

Me with Marshall Jones, Wine & Food Foundation Executive Director


Lamarca Prosecco Lady starts things off


Celebrity Chef Brad Sorenson
Barley Swine chef, Bryce Gilmore with his dad Jack Allen Kitchen chef Jack Gilmore



11. Scott Ota, Advanced Sommelier for the Driskill Grill, Bill Elsey, TexSom Texas Best Sommelier 2011 and Craig Collins, Master Sommelier










Paulina Tavera and Mark Bergeron
Dominique and Will Douglas
Steve Tipton, Wine & Food Foundation President and Michael Russel, Foundation Board Member.





Me with the gorgeous Jennifer Grathwohl, Foundation Events Director
Jane Rash, Rob Reynolds, Carol Willis and Shae Anami
Lauren Bridges and Wim Rouwet


This article also appears on CultureMap Austin, without the funky formatting problems.

What are you drinking?