The Austin Food + Wine Festival is where you can mix and mingle with some of the biggest chefs and sommeliers in the country. This Valentine’s Day, we’re offering you a piece of the action! You and your special someone (or a friend!) could win a one-on-one culinary experience with talented Austin Food + Wine Festival chefs in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, or Houston.
We caught up with the chef to talk cheese, wine and of course, Valentine’s Day.
AFW: épicerie takes a casual approach to the French grocery + café concept. In addition to your delicious menu of inventive classics, how do you curate your selection of wines and cheeses available for purchase at the restaurant?
Every Thursday, we sit down and taste wines with 5-6 vendors. We choose small batch, eclectic wines with a lot of variety and pick from the smaller vineyards. We try to have affordable price points because the expensive ones aren’t necessarily better. We also focus a lot on old world wines because in my opinion, they’re better.
With cheese, it’s kind of the same. We order in from about 4 different cheese vendors. We work with those vendors to find new and different cheeses. We focus on small artisan cheeses, with an emphasis on old world and New American cheeses. We don’t ever carry big production cheeses.
What are you most looking forward to about walking the winners through your personal favorite wine, beer & cheese combos?
I think people are often hesitant to try stinky cheeses or blue cheeses because they can have harsh flavors when trying them for the first time. But when paired with the right thing, it can mellow them out. Pairing with something fruitful, like a deep lush grenache, cuts the spicy tanginess of the blue cheese and makes it more well-rounded.
I like to teach people that maybe they do like stinky or blue cheeses. We definitely have a lot of strong blue cheeses, but we also have a large variety. At the tasting with the winners, we’ll go heavier on the cheeses they know they already like, and lighter on ones they are scared of.
Ok, let’s talk Valentine’s Day. What is the best gift/experience/surprise you’ve ever received – or given?
My husband, Jackson, got us on a float for Mardi Gras. It was a Valentine’s Day/birthday gift (my birthday is February 26).