Rachael Ray has never been shy about proclaiming her love for Austin, so as she prepares to return this week to host her 10th annual South by Southwest Feedback party as well as open her first pop-up boutique, we had to ask: Why don’t you just move here already?
“I think I’m just going to keep making up more and more excuses and more and more things to do there until my husband and I have absolutely no choice but to buy a patch of land,” she said during a phone interview Monday. “I think it’s kind of weird that I’ve been in love with the city for 20 years and I haven’t bought something there yet.”
New this year is Ray’s pop-up boutique, Moxie, located at 1327 S. Congress Ave., which she dreamed up with her friends and stylists Gretta Monahan and Cara Apotheker.
“It was just us girls sitting together saying, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if we did a pop-up to see if people like our groove?’” Ray said. “We’re trying to show people a smattering of everything we’re interested in, in an environment that’s more like a hangout. If they like it, maybe we’ll do it again. That’s our hope.”
Inside the shop, which is open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. through March 19, you’ll find a sampling of Ray’s favorite designers, including several Austin-based brands: Alexandra Dieck’s Lexicon of Style, Kristin Ann Rudge’s Kar-bn and Molly Salvi’s Squash Blossom Vintage. It’s decorated with furniture from Ray’s newly launched furniture line and also features a space to play vinyl records. There’s also a bar where cocktails will be served from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and brunch cocktails will be available from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
“Rachael is a person who wants everything to be family, friends, and feel like home,” said Monahan, who flew in last week to oversee the boutique’s opening. “This is super personal for her.”
Ray said she’ll head to the store, which also features a water bowl by the door for her four-legged visitors, as soon as her flight lands in Austin midweek.
“I’ve brought my dog (to SXSW) every year,” Ray said. “She’s 12 years old and she’s been going there since she was 2. She’s welcome in Austin, and that makes me feel happy.”
Ray will also host her 10th annual Feedback event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Stubb’s. She said it’s amazing that something that started as a small party has become one of the highlights of SXSW.
“Ten years ago I was petrified. I was like, ‘People are going to throw stuff at me,’” she said about the first Feedback. “They’re gonna be like, ‘What is this cook girl doing down here?’ But I was like, you know what? I love this town. I love music. I write good food. I’m going to give it a shot. We got a couple of small sponsors and we threw our first party and people came and they were like, ‘Wow, this is really good. These bands are pretty cool. This is really fun.’”
This year’s lineup includes Weezer, Action Bronson, De La Soul, Margo Price, Bob Schneider and the Cringe, led by Ray’s husband, John Cusimano.
“We’ve been doing this so long you can actually see an arc of some of the bands,” she said. “A lot of bands have played more than once, but they started on smaller stages. It’s just amazing.”
As for this year’s menu theme? Queso everything, Ray says, laughing. Expect two-beer slow-cooked barbecue brisket over tater tots topped with queso, grilled corn dunked in queso and nachos with queso topped with crumbled chorizo and pico de gallo.
“I worked on this queso so hard. I bet it was tested 55 times,” Ray said. “I am so proud of this queso. … It’s going to taste like Rotel and Velveeta, but upping the game a bit. Honestly if I dipped my arm in this queso I would take a big bite.”
In addition to spending time at the boutique and hosting Feedback, Ray said her Austin itinerary will include stops at Grizzelda’s, Wu Chow, Emmer & Rye and Ramen Tatsu-Ya, among other favorites.
“Austin epitomizes everything I love about being an American. It really celebrates the individual, it celebrates artists. It’s conducive to conversation,” she said. “It was green before it was cool to be green. It’s a very loving, social place. I just love being there.”
And if the pop-up shop is a success and turns into something more substantial, Ray said, it could finally give her the excuse she’s been needing to do some real estate shopping in Austin.
“If Moxie does well and is something that’s sustainable maybe that’ll be one of the catalysts for that,” she said. “If I had a reason to go that was business related several times a year, wouldn’t it make sense to have a place there?”