Being extremely punctual, my husband and I were one of the first people to arrive. The main dining room was set up with red lighting, Chinese lanterns, paper dragons, and a gin & tonic — not to mention the old-school hip hop blaring through the speakers. It was a little like being in a club, except with a ton of food. The room had been transformed into two long tables. I suspected it was a family-style dinner from the beginning, which is always fun because you get to talk to strangers, all there for their love of food. And talk to them we did! We were all very close together (one might even say crammed in) but no matter, we survived. We talked to the people around us about their favorite restaurants, where we worked, what restaurants had opened lately, and everything food-related. Chef Dady came up to introduce the Austin Food & Wine Festival crew, and then the food began to come out! Having been to the Austin Food & Wine Festival dinner last year, I knew that I had to pace myself with the food. But once the 14 courses started coming around, I had a really hard time not eating the last crispy roll filled with shrimp and drinking the curry right out of the bowl.
What can I say about the food that would possibly come close to describing the sheer awesomeness of that meal? Maybe I should just say that I didn’t even put down my sticky rib to high-five Chef Dady. Or that I told my husband that the last shrimp roll was “looking at me, saying ‘eat me.’” Or that I almost cried uncle before the last two courses, only to find myself grabbing for more pork belly and brisket. I am full just thinking about it. My favorite dish of the night was the spicy wings with red curry paste. Crispy, peppery wings deep fried to fatty perfection, buried under a mound of basil, mint, cilantro and hot pepper rings. Oh, those wings. Once Chef Dady told another group they could take food home, I immediately flagged waiter Josh down and told him to box up the wings for me. How many?, he asked. All of them, I replied. Josh obviously didn’t believe me, because he only gave me two boxes. We took them and rolled ourselves home, happy and oh-so-full. That didn’t stop us from eating all the wings for lunch the next day. My mouth is still a bit on fire from that curry, but it’s worth the pain. I’m looking forward to trying more delicious food at the Austin Food & Wine Festival next month. Last year, I got to hear award-winning chefs and experts talk about food philosophy, share their cooking experiences, and just be really down-to-earth and real. Maybe they’re all just really nice people, or maybe being in Texas makes everyone a little nicer. I’m most excited about sessions like Razzle Dazzle from Jonathan Waxman, so I can learn impressive techniques for my dinner parties. Or American Classics 2.0 with Graham Elliot, who can create surprising dishes out of thin air. More than anything, I can’t wait to be surrounded by all the other attendees who have traveled far and wide to learn, eat and drink! See you in Austin!
Small PlatesFire Roasted Edamame Shrimp Roll with pork Jowl and Ginger Chilled Soba Salad, Black Sesame, Creamy White Sesame Spicy Wings, Fresh Red Curry Paste Hot Sticky Ribs Fried Rice Thai Eggplant Chinese Broccoli
BowlsPanang Curry, Duck Confit, Crispy Noodle Wood Oven Mussels, Lamb Broth, Thai Herbs
Large PlatesCrispy Pork Belly, Smoked Soy Brother, Scallion Salad Lemongrass Roasted Chicken “On a Can” Spicy Cumin Lamb Tamarind Glazed Smoked Brisket, Scallion Pancake and Peanut Bombay Sapphire EAST with Fever Tree Tonic and Keffir Lime served upon arrival
When asked why he was excited to represent San Antonio in Austin, Chef Dady was quick to acknowledge the wealth of additional talent set to share their skills at the second annual festival: “I’m so honored and humbled to once again be invited to Austin. It is such an awesome opportunity to showcase what San Antonio restaurants have to offer. To be a part of such a premier event with chefs from across Texas and the country is such an inspiring and exciting time.”
“I can’t wait to rock it out this year. Let the party begin!”