The fifth annual Austin Food & Wine Festival will feature a couple of new events and a host of new faces when it takes over Auditorium Shores and Republic Square Park on April 22-24. There will also be a new/old look to ticketing for the festival that features dozens of tastings, book signings, demonstrations and interactive discussions.
Two new events will help bookend the festival, with a separately ticketed Social Hour, featuring Austin mixologists Justin Lavenue and Dennis Gobis of the Roosevelt Room, taking place at the Madison on Friday night, and a Sunday gospel brunch featuring pedal steel great Robert Randolph and the Voices of Greater Cavalry Gospel Choir at Auditorium Shores.
In addition to welcoming returning chefs like Tyson Cole of Uchi and David Bull of Second Bar + Kitchen, the festival will see a flood of new talent from around the state and country. Friday night’s Taste of Texas event at Republic Square Park will welcome familiar faces Steve McHugh of Cured in San Antonio and Tatsu Aikawa of Austin’s Ramen Tatsu-ya, as well as newcomers Matt Blake of Bolsa in Dallas, Mary Cuclis of Indian restaurant Pondicheri in Houston and pastry chef Susan Querejazu of Barley Swine and Odd Duck.
The daytime events Saturday and Sunday include the popular fire pit cooking demonstrations from chefs like Barley Swine’s Bryce Gilmore and Qui’s Paul Qui, and the chef showcases both days will include food from veterans Todd Duplechan (Lenoir) and Rick Lopez (La Condesa), as well as bites form first-timers Frank Mnuk (Geraldine’s), Tim Lane (Burn), Nicholas Yanes of Juniper and many more.
Rock Your Taco, one of the festival’s most popular events each year, will take place Saturday night, with talented chefs from Texas and across the country trying to outdo each other with inventive tacos. Reigning champion Tim Love (Lonesome Dove) will defend his crown against a group that includes two-time winner Cole and impressive Rock Your Taco rookies like Jimmy Bannos and Jimmy Banos Jr. of the Purple Pig in Chicago and Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Trois Mec in Los Angeles.
Ticketing will revert to the format of the first few years, as the festival has eliminated a la carte ticketing options for the Friday and Saturday night events at Republic Square Park. The Weekender pass ($250) gives attendees access to the Saturday and Sunday events, tastings and live fire demos at Auditorium Shores, including the Gospel Brunch, while the $625 All-In badge gives festival goers admission to all day and night events, as well as an opportunity to participate in chef Love’s rowdy and popular hands-on grilling demos one of the weekend days. Tickets for the Social Hour and Thursday night’s unofficial kick-off dinner, Feast Under the Stars, must be purchased separately. Tickets are on sale at austinfoodandwinefestival.com/tickets.
There may be no more beloved Austin service professional than Johnny Guffey at Jeffrey’s. He’s waited on presidents and dignitaries, rock stars and once-a-year special-occasion diners, treating all with the same personalized service.
His smiling visage and big personality are so recognizable that over the four decades of his career in Austin, his named landed in the Statesman’s pages almost a dozen times. Former Statesman food writer Kitty Crider even profiled him in 2005.
The avuncular server retired after service on New Year’s Eve, ending almost 40 years of service at the Austin institution. To commemorate his long career, Jeffrey’s commissioned Austin artist Elizabeth Chapin to paint a wonderful portrait of Guffey, as colorful as the man himself. The painting, presented to Guffey on his final shift, now hangs in the room he patrolled for so many years, fittingly known as Johnny’s Room.
Bryce Gilmore’s exceptional farm-to-table restaurant, Barley Swine, has a new home at 6555 Burnet Road. The restaurant, which seats about twice as many (65 inside and 20 on the front patio) as the original South Lamar location (which seated 36 and closed on Jan. 2), opened Monday.
Barley Swine, which now features a full bar in addition to its always-solid beer and wine list, serves a tasting menu as well as a la carte shared plates. Come spring, the restaurant will also offer a chef’s table that seats about a dozen located in the restaurant’s garden.
“While we’re moving and expanding, we see this version of Barley Swine as a completely new restaurant. It takes pieces of each iteration of Barley Swine over the years, but is different in so many ways that it should be considered a new experience to everyone,” Gilmore said.
The full bar means a craft cocktail program, which will be helmed by bar manager Robert Stevens, formerly of Blackberry Farms outside Knoxville, Tenn.
Barley Swine is open Sunday-Thursday, from 5 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. (barleyswine.com).
Austin-born Mighty Fine Burgers opened a food trailer at the Picnic over the weekend (1720 Barton Springs Road). It is the fifth Mighty Fine location and offers covered picnic-table seating. Mighty Fine’s Web presence does not indicate the hours, but it opened for lunch over the weekend at 11 a.m. The Picnic now also includes the Brunch Haus food truck.
Mia culpa time: When I put together my list of restaurants opening in 2016, I absentmindedly left off the two new projects from Apis. The excellent restaurant in Spicewood, which earned a spot in my Top 10 restaurants in Austin in 2015, is planning a pizzeria in Spicewood and a restaurant named Hive in Austin.
Pizzeria Sorelina will be located in the chapel style building on the Apis property in Spicewood and offer seated service at long family-style tables. The restaurant will serve Italian pizzas that it considers a cross between Neapolitan and Roman-style. Apis says that almost all of the ingredients and products will be made on-site. The restaurant from executive chef Taylor Hall and chef de cuisine Adam Brick is expected to open in the spring and seat about 70 people.
Hive will be more casual than the flagship Apis and will have a menu that focuses on (and is organized by) providers. The idea is to bring attention to exceptional food producers, whether they be from New York City or Italy, and make a connection for the diner between source and plate.
“Hive wants their customers to see and understand why the chosen products are so personal to them,” a representative for the restaurant said.
The menu will feature small and large plates, as well as snacks and a large format menu. There is no firm opening date, and the location is still to be determined. The restaurant will also be spearheaded by Hall and Brick.
Change in service
Bouldin Creek neighborhood favorite Thai Fresh moved from counter service to full table service. The restaurant, which opened in August 2008 and emphasizes sustainable and locally sourced ingredients, will also eliminate tipping in an effort to ensure a living wage for employees. The restaurant still offers to-go service.
“The change reflects the early stages of an industry-wide movement looking to close the ‘front and back-of-house’ wage gap as well as ensure regulated wages overall,” the restaurant said in an emailed statement. “Traditional gratuity will be integrated into menu prices rather than employee wages being left to fluctuations in business flow.”
The restaurant owned by Jam Sanichat and Bruce Barnes also features a bakery and café selling vegan items, a retail shop selling Thai grocery items and offers Thai cooking classes.
Foreign & Domestic concluded their Monday dinner service. The restaurant will now serve dinner Tuesday-Thursday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. That means Monday’s fried chicken-and-oyster night is no longer, but chef Ned Elliott’s North Loop restaurant will return $1 Oyster Night, which includes a menu of additional seafood items, to its original Tuesday spot on the calendar.
New on the menu
Shake Shack is riding the fried chicken sandwich craze. The New York City-based burger joint announced last week that it was placing its Chick’n Shack sandwich on the permanent menu at Shake Shack locations across the country (including the two in Austin). Shake Shack teased diners with a taste of the sandwich last summer at Brooklyn locations.
So what’s the word on this bird? The sandwich is made with an all-natural, antibiotic-free, buttermilk-marinated chicken breast fried in 100 percent soybean oil. The chicken is served on a potato roll with shredded lettuce, pickles and buttermilk-herb mayonnaise made with chives, parsley and thyme. Louisiana hot sauce is now available at Shake Shacks for those who want a little kick.
The sandwich costs $6.29. Shake Shack is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.