It's the most wonderful time of the year: the weekend of Austin Food + Wine Festival, when we throw caution to the wind and enjoy more food and wine than we thought humanly possible. There's a lot going on this year at the fest, held April 27 to 29, but a few aspects have stuck out to us. Keep an eye out for these five festival highlights:
Tacos, tacos, tacos: So many tacos. More specifically, tacos at Rock Your Taco, which takes place at Fair Market on Saturday at 7pm and is included in the all-in ticket. A handful of the country's top chefs—Tyson Cole, Ray Garcia, Amanda Freitag, Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto, among others—will be vying for top taco marks at this annual competition. Our bodies are ready.
Badass lady talent: Take Nyesha Arrington, chef and co-owner of Native in LA, who'll be presenting "The Perfect Cure" at Sunday's Cooking Demo Tent. Or June Rodil (Austin) and Helen Johannessen (LA), each of whom are all-star somms in their respective wine bars and wine shops. (Rodil will be presenting on Sunday at the Meet the Maker Tent, while Johannessen is presenting on Saturday at the Tasting Sessions Tent.) Or Stephanie Izard, who will be making dishes from her newest cookbook, Gather & Grace, in the Cooking Demo Tent for "Who Doesn't Love Brunch?".
Monkey Mixer: You may have seen the Monkey Mixer around town already (it was parked outside of Nickel City on Wednesday night), but if you haven't seen the giant cocktail shaker that looks like a cement mixer, Austin Food + Wine would be the place to check it out. The Monkey Shoulder shaker holds 2,400 gallons of liquid, and it'll be pouring a Mixed Up Monkey cocktail like something out of our weird, boozy dreams.
All the fire: One of Austin Food + Wine Festival's standout features is its Fire Pit, which takes place alongside Grand Taste at Auditorium Shores on both Saturday and Sunday. Think of it as a giant neighborhood barbecue, one where local and national chefs grill their best dishes over an open fire. Stop by for bites from Andrew Wiseheart (Contigo), Evan LeRoy (LeRoy & Lewis), Sonya Coté (East Eden/Hillside Pharmacy), Jennifer Nguyen (Parkside) and more.
Wines around the world: The festival is, of course, Austin Food + WINE—and while there will be plenty of local wineries to check out, it's also a chance to sip on vino from around the country and world. Stop by Tom Gore Vineyards from Sonoma, CA; Bocelli Family Wines from Tuscany; Rioja from Spain; Sequoia Grove Winery from Napa and others.