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A Lookback at the 2014 Austin Food & Wine Festival

A Lookback at the 2014 Austin Food & Wine Festival


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Covering the Austin Food & Wine Festival for the Daily Meal put a pip in my step for at least six weeks. It was like being Lois Lane on the scene of Superman saving Metropolis. Being a first time attendee of the Austin Food & Wine Festival meant morphing into a writing soldier was the only option.

After spending most of Friday attending the 3rd Annual Food Republic Interview Lounge, it was finally time to head over to the Taste of Texas Kickoff at Republic Square Park, which truly was a first-class tasting event. Chefs created signature dishes for guests to devour under live oak trees with a breeze. Almost as exciting as the food was listening to a live performance by Escort, which is a 17-piece award-winning disco orchestra.

Saturday and Sunday's Grand Tasting lasted from 12 - 4pm at Butler Park. As guests entered the H-E-B Grand Tasting Pavilion, they were welcomed by a talented deejay who even had sassy flashing lights surrounding his area. This is the exact moment the Tito's Vodka girls informed everyone they were giving away sunglasses and shots. This particular tent housed a variety of different wine vendors, as well as incredible food from highly respected chefs.

The grilling area seemed to make everyone stop in their tracks. Chef Tim Love stood on stage demonstrating how to grill exactly like... Tim Love. Please, feel excited. The lucky audience members each had their very own grill and a gigantic smile could be seen on each and every person’s face. Other high profile chefs and television personalities in attendance were Ming Tsai, Georgia Pellegrini, Andrew Zimmern, Rick Bayless, Mark Oldman, Graham Elliot, and many more. Book signings were also available during different times throughout Saturday and Sunday.

Just when it seemed like a regular day, there was a fenced in mini-area with a pink ping pong table beside fluffy couches and chairs. This particular place even had ball boys wearing Keds with the shortest shorts ever. Girls in charge of drink happiness were wearing white tennis dresses while parading around in none other than ball-socks. Ball-socks are best for people who do not like their short socks sliding down into their shoes while playing tennis. Ball-socks have to be one of the most underrated inventions of all time.

While Saturday and Sunday were both incredibly wonderful, Saturday night's Rock Your Taco Showdown stole the show. There's nothing better than a park filled with chefs duking it out to beat reigning taco champion Tyson Cole of Uchi and Uchiko. While so many tacos possessed creative ingredients and impressive flavors, it was chef Richard Blais who took home the winning taco title with an octopus and lamb picadilo taco.

This year's Austin Food & Wine Festival was a glorious weekend filled with outstanding food and wine. The hard work of some of the country's most talented chefs made the Austin Food & Wine Festival an event to remember.


FESTIVALS IN AUSTIN

Austin is a 24-hour town populated by an upstart mix of musicians, techies, film pros, athletes and foodies - and our yearly events calendar shows it. The Austin Marathon draws 20,000 runners from around the world. The Austin Food + Wine Festival welcomes visitors from across the nation and showcase the best innovative cuisine. Old Settler&aposs Music Festival has been celebrating the best of Americana, bluegrass and roots music for more than 30 years and Fantastic Fest, which features sci-fi, horror, fantasy and other genre films, has become a favorite of film buffs and celebrities alike. SXSW Music, Film and Interactive Conferences and Festivals expand every year and the Austin City Limits Music Festival will once again welcome 70,000 fans per day to Zilker Park for performances by more than 100 bands.


Credit Charles Reagan Hackleman, courtesy ACL Festival.

Here are our top picks for must-attend Austin events in the new year.

January

Free Week
Red River Cultural District
Hundreds of local bands participate in this week of free live music that encompasses venues all over downtown Austin.

Martin Luther King Jr. March and Festival
Huston-Tillotson University
March from the University of Texas to Huston-Tillotson University to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.

February

Austin Marathon & Half Marathon
Downtown Austin
Nearly 20,000 participants, 40 bands and a course through Austin’s scenic neighborhoods make this race a must-hit for everyone.

Austin Oyster Festival
Republic Square
Try every style of oyster at this annual food fest, while enjoying live Cajun and “newgrass” music.

Carnaval Brasileiro
Emo&aposs
Experience authentic Brasileiro-style samba, costumes and wild abandon at one of the biggest Brazilian Carnaval celebrations outside Brazil.

OUTsider Festival
Various Locations
As one of Austin’s most progressive festivals, OUTsider brings together Austin’s LGBTQI community for five days of creation and inspiration. This multidisciplinary art festival showcases film, performance art, music, visual art and more.

Ellen Page at SXSW Film. Photo by Robert A Tobiansky, Getty Images for SXSW.

March

ABC Kite Fest
Zilker Park
The nation&aposs oldest kite festival features hundreds of kites in the air, kite flying contests, food, games and more all for free.

Austin Urban Music Festival
Auditorium Shores
Some 15,000+ fans converge on Auditorium Shores for this festival celebrating R&B, neo-soul and hip-hop music.

GT World Challenge America
Circuit of The Americas
This racing series features more than 100 production-based cars that have been prepped specially for racing. There will even be access to the paddock to see the cars up close, hear the engines roar and speak with the drivers.

Rodeo Austin 
Travis County Expo Center
Over the years, Rodeo Austin has grown from a show featuring 16 animals into one of Austin&aposs premier events, featuring ProRodeo events, daily concerts, livestock show and more.

St. Patrick&aposs Day Festival
Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms
This family-friendly St. Patrick’s Day fest celebrates all things Irish. Come enjoy authentic Celtic music and dancers, Irish language workshops, the finest Irish imports and plenty of good craic!

MARCH 2020 DATES CANCELLED
SXSW® Music, Film and Interactive Conference and Festival

Various Locations
Noted filmmakers, musicians and thought leaders showcase music, film and interactive media at this international event.

World Golf Championships - Dell Technologies Match Play
Austin Country Club
The WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play returns to historicਊustin Country Club, bringing the top 64 golfers in the world for a weekend of golf action.


Art City Austin. Credit Rich Merritt.

April

Art City Austin Festival
Republic Square
The event will showcase a highly curated selection of 75+ local and visiting visual artists, designers, installation artists, artisans and makers showcasing and selling their work.

Austin Food + Wine Festival
Auditorium Shores
Join top chefs, sommeliers and winemakers from across Austin and the nation for a three-day epicurean adventure unlike any other.

Austin International Poetry Festival
Various Locations
Poets from around the world, country, and all of Texas gather for four days of live performances, readings and workshops during the Austin International Poetry Festival in April.

Austin Reggae Fest
Auditorium Shores
A fundraiser for the Central Texas Food Bank, Reggae Fest features three days of reggae, world and dub talent, along with more than 50 vendors selling food and arts & crafts.

Fusebox Festival
Various Locations
This hybrid arts festival champions adventurous works of art in theater, dance, film, music, literature, visual and culinary arts.

IndyCar Challenge
Circuit of The Americas
The popular, American-bred IndyCar series tackles COTA’s curves, along with special COTA Super Stage performances from award winning bands.

Lonestar Round Up
Travis County Expo Center
A huge outdoor car show and live music festival with tons of vintage hot rods and custom cars driven here from all over the country, and bringing visitors from all over the world.

Moontower Comedy Festival
The Paramount Theatre & Other Locations
Moontower Comedy & Oddity Festival, presented by the Paramount Theatre, brings the funniest comics to Austin each April.

Old Settler&aposs Music Festival
Tilmon, TX
Central Texas&apos signature music event features three days ofਊmericana and roots rock live music from around the world, camping, family events, food and libations.

Cine Las Americas International Film Festival
Various Locations
Catch screenings of contemporary films and videos from Latin America (North, Central, South America and the Caribbean) and the Iberian Peninsula.

Hot Luck Festival
Various Locations
Come hungry and thirsty, and bring your dancin’ boots, to this eat-with-your-fingers food festival highlighting culinary know-how and live music.

JMBLYA Music Festival
Circuit of The Americas™
This one-day music festival showcases the most sought-after talent in hip-hop music today.

Pecan Street Spring Arts Festival
East Sixth Street
Musicians, food vendors, artists and crafters turn Sixth Street–historically called Pecan Street–into a lively street fair.

West Austin Studio Tour
Across West Austin
The West Austin Studio Tour is a free, self-guided tour that celebrates Austin’s talented and wildly diverse creative community. 


Courtesy of Austin Food + Wine Festival.

African American Book Festival
George Washington Carver Museum
This free, annual literary event showcases new works by and about African-Americans.

ATX Television Festival
Downtown Austin
The first festival devoted to television, ATX Television Festival features premieres of new series, current hits and cult favorites.

Austin Asian American Film Festival
Around Austin
Asian and Asian-American cultures and experiences are promoted at this fest showcasing cinema and the creativity of Asian-American artists.

Fourth of July Fireworks and Symphony
Auditorium Shores
The Austin Symphony hosts an annual concert of patriotic music culminating in a spectacular firework display over Lady Bird Lake.

Hot Summer Nights
Red River Cultural District
Venues throughout the Red River Cultural District host four days of free live music, alongside local food and vendors.

Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic
Circuit of The Americas™
This annual event features a star-studded lineup, headlined by Nelson himself, and a fireworks display at the end of the night.


Credit Pierce Ingram.

August

All Genders, Lifestyles and Identities Film Festival (aGLIFF)
Various Locations
The oldest and largest LGBTQI film fest in the Southwest is also the largest LGBTQI cultural event in Austin.

Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival
Fiesta Gardens
Join in one of the world’s largest hot sauce festivals, which attracts as many as 10,000 spectators each year.

Austin Pride Parade & Festival
Fiesta Gardens and Downtown Austin
Don’t miss the festival and parade down Congress Avenue during the largest annual LGBTQI advocacy and fundraising event in Central Texas.

Bat Fest
Congress Avenue Bridge
Celebrate the world&aposs largest urban bat colony, which takes up seasonal residence beneath the Congress Avenue਋ridge, with live music, children&aposs activities and a costume contest. 

Capital City Black Film Festival
Austin Conventionꃎnter
Recognizing black filmmakers, the Capital City Black Film Festival provides a stage for burgeoning talent in the heart of Austin.

September

Fantastic Fest
Various Venues
The largest genre film festival in the U.S. specializes in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and more from around the world.

Out of Bounds Comedy Festival
Various Locations
Comedians from around the country head to Austin for this festival showcasing the best in improv, sketch and stand-up.

Pecan Street Fall Arts Festival
East Sixth Street
Musicians, food vendors, artists and crafters turn Sixth Street–historically called Pecan Street–into a lively street fair.

Texas Tribune Festival
Downtown Austin
This annual event brings students, educators, journalists, politicians, policy makersਊnd other political junkies to the Capital of Texasਏor three days of informative and engaging sessions.


Courtesy of Texas Book Festival.

October

Austin City Limits Music Festival
Zilker Park
One of the country’s largest celebrations of music, this six-day festival includes 140+ musical acts over two weekends.

Austin Film Festival
Paramount Theatre & Various Locations
Recognized as one of the top film festivals in the country, this cinematic event shines the spotlight on both top-billed films and indies alike.

Formula 1 United States Grand Prix
Circuit of The Americas
Experience three days of F1 racing, camping, live music events, headline performances by international acts and more.

LEVITATION
Downtown Austin
This independent festival has grown from a small word-of-mouth event to an internationally acclaimed, full weekend event that attracts attendees from all over the world.

Texas Craft Brewers Festival
Fiesta Gardens 
The Texas Craft Brewers Fest is the largest beer festival for and by Texas Brewers,򠿪turing the best of Texas਌raft beerਊnd the thriving beer community across the Lone Star State.

Texas Teen Book Festival
Georgetown, TX
This one-day festival invites readers to engage with some of the best YA authors in the country.

Viva La Vida Festival & Parade
Downtown Austin
Viva La Vida is Austin’s largest and longest-running D໚ de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival, featuringਊ Grand Procession, art activities and demos, traditional foods, live music and performances throughout the day.

November

Austin Celtic Festival
Jourdan-Bachman Pioneer Farms
This annual festival is also the largest gathering of Celts in Central Texas. The event is home to four stages of Irish, Scottishਊnd Breton music, dance, sports, storytelling, workshops and more.

Chuy&aposs Christmas Parade
Congress Avenue
A procession of giant balloons, marching bands, vintage cars, celebrities and floats usher in the season of giving. 

East Austin Studio Tour
Various Locations
More than 70 eastside art studios and galleries open their doors for the public&aposs viewing and purchasing pleasure during this਋i-annual event.

Texas Book Festival
Texas State Capitol Building
Enjoy readings, panel discussions, signings, cooking demonstrations, live music, local food, YA authors, children’s activities and exhibiting vendors.

Texas Monthly BBQ Festival
Long Center for the Performing Arts
Visitors are invited to sample as many of Texas’ best BBQ joints as possible at one of Austin’s most delicious festivals.


Austin Trail of Lights. Credit Dear Wesleyann Photography.

December

Armadillo਌hristmas Bazaar
Palmer Events Center
The Armadillo Christmas Bazaar makes holiday shopping fun with nearly 200 artists and makers, live music daily, interactive activities, local food and two full bars.

Austin Music Video Festival
Various Locations
AMVFest celebrates Austin’s long-standing music video heritage with screenings, awards, parties, panels and workshops around town.

Austin&aposs New Year
Auditorium Shores
This alcohol-free, family-friendly event celebrates the diversity and creativity of the city with 4 stages, 22 bands, visual art installations, jugglers, storytellers, fire dancers and a grand fireworks finale.

Trail of Lights
Zilker Park
The Trail of Lights is part of the essentialਊustin experience, lighting up the season with a celebration of community, memories and fun. Plan your visit early and don&apost forget to take a spin under the Zilker Tree!


Exploring Diverse Foodways at the Austin Food & Wine Festival

By Melanie Haupt, Fri., April 26, 2019


Now in its eighth year, the Austin Food & Wine Festival has settled into a recognizable pattern: special ticketed dinners and events after hours, the fire pit with chefs demonstrating their mastery of fire, culinary demonstrations by celebrity chefs like Andrew Zimmern and Jonathan Waxman, raucous wine tastings, and the overwhelming (and blissfully overstuffing) Grand Taste, where chefs from Austin and its surrounds put their best bites forward.

Far from being formulaic, there are always new and twisty surprises at AF&WF. In 2018, there were more female chefs represented in the Grand Taste than in previous years, and spirits have gained an increasing presence on the grounds. However, there are two new chefs and foodways who've sneaked under the tents this year &ndash pioneers in their fields of high desert cuisine and vegan tacos.

On Saturday, chef Alex Gates of Marfa's storied Cochineal showcases the flavors of West Texas, a welcome addition to the slate of Central Texas and Hill Country profiles we all know and love. Gates, whose circuitous career path found her in Austin as executive chef at Hotel Saint Cecilia for a spell, took over ownership of Cochineal in 2018 and jazzed up the menu to reflect European and Asian influences (with a few nods here and there to the previous chef-owner, Toshi Sakihara, who passed away in 2014).

When asked to describe the flavors of West Texas, Gates is effusive. "There are herbs and plants that you don't even know the names for. Agave and prickly pear. Wildflowers to harvest and eat. I was surprised by how many fruit trees, apples and pears, there are out here," she says, enumerating the various flora available in the high desert. The fauna is plentiful and diverse, too. "Obviously, there's a lot of beef, steak, but also wildlife and game." Gates sources her proteins from Texas ranches, hewing as close to home as possible.

"I think of East Texas food as being more Southern, and Austin is more barbecue and Tex-Mex. There's Mexican food out here, but it's different because it's drier out here," she explains. The liminal nature of the high desert terroir allows for lots of flexibility, rooted in a baseline of European culinary practice. To that end, Gates plans to serve wild boar rillette with prickly pear gelée hit with smoky mezcal, pickled veggies, and house-made bread during Saturday's Grand Taste.


Another pleasant surprise on the Grand Taste roster is Chris Rios of the Vegan Nom, Austin's first vegan taco truck. Those who've attended AF&WF in previous years know that the event is notoriously meat-heavy. While there are often meatless bites under the tents (notable tastes from fests past include a spear of white asparagus from Contigo's erstwhile Chicon concept, a teeny-tiny pie from Tiny Pies, and pretzels from Easy Tiger's David Norman), there haven't been dedicated vegan restaurants represented at AF&WF before now. In fact, at a party where there are literal pigs' heads dangling over open fires, it's a groundbreaking development to invite a chef who eschews all animal products.

"Part of the mission is to show that hey, we can make tasty vegan food and it's good for the environment and animal welfare," says Rios. "I think that being invited is turning over what veganism's all about now. People are starting to understand and are more educated about veganism. I think what makes Vegan Nom unique and able to contribute to that kind of environment is that I'm able to create vegan meats that can compete against actual meat and hold up. I do a very strong presentation of vegan smoked brisket, of chicken and pork. And my cheeses speak for themselves as well. Being on this type of stage allows us to show that we're plant pioneers."

Rios is still working out the details as to what he'll be serving at Sun­day's Grand Taste, but he's leaning strongly toward his house queso (it's legume-based and virtually indistinguishable from dairy queso) and his vegan brisket, which he is confident passes as actual beef. "People taste it and ask, 'What kind of beef is that?' and I say, 'It's seitan beef,'" he laughs.

Rios also belongs to a burgeoning class of food-truck owners invited to participate at AF&WF this year, along with Lakana Sopajan-Trubiana of Dee-Dee Thai and siblings Margarita and Nestor Mendez of Pueblo Viejo this close attention to diversity (of food practices, cuisines, and practitioners) is reflective of the festival's growth over the past few years, and it's an exciting development indeed.

Perhaps the most exciting development at this year's fest, though, is the new partnership with H-E-B Curbside. Attendees order their favorite wines from the fest and pick them up from select stores. Anyone who has ever rushed straight from the festival grounds to Total Wine in hopes of finding that one magnificent rosé they just tasted only to have to make do with a lesser bottle would agree that this is a game changer.

The Austin Food & Wine Festival relies heavily on those high-profile, reliable faces year after year to draw the crowds to Auditorium Shores. But the truly exciting work is being done by the people you may have never heard of, one bite at a time.


Life Is Sweet

By Melanie Haupt, Fri., May 9, 2014

Vilma Mazaite stands before a sea of onlookers, preparing her exegesis on wines by female winemakers in a seminar called Tour de Femme. "I don't want to start a feminist debate," she tells the attendees of the 2014 Austin Food & Wine Festival, "but it's important to showcase the good work that female winemakers in the world are doing." From there, she proceeds to walk those present &ndash probably about a hundred people &ndash through a series of wines produced by women from around the world. In the process, she dispenses a mind-boggling amount of information about the winemakers, their history, the regions from which the wines emanated, and the various characteristics of each wine.

"Do you taste the mushroom?" she asks the crowd, smiling, of the Ponzi Pinot Noir.

Mazaite is charming, always beautifully dressed and clearly possessing a love of statement accessories (her latest is a delicate, sparkling engagement ring, which she twists absentmindedly as she talks). It's easy to imagine her holding court in the dining rooms of LaV, the newly opened high-end wine bar and Provençal-inspired restaurant on East Seventh, charming guests as she gently grills them on their tastes and preferences, culminating in the perfect wine selection for that evening's dinner. She is a bon vivant and a natural fit in her role as the face, sommelier, and managing partner of LaV.

Her partners at LaV provide just the right blend of personality counterpoints. Exec­ut­ive Chef Allison Jenkins is bookish and somewhat reserved she once harbored dreams of a career in medicine but just couldn't make it past organic chemistry. Executive Pastry Chef Janina O'Leary is the driven one who sets her mind to something and doesn't stop until she achieves it. Together the three women form a dream team of "leaning in," making a high-profile splash in a field flooded with male chefs adored by diners and food media alike.

Last September, the Austin Business Journal published a story titled, "Meet Austin's celebrity chefs," featuring Jack and Bryce Gilmore, Tyson Cole, David Bull, Shawn Cirkiel, and, of course, Paul Qui. The absence of women on that list was annoying to many locals, but not as internationally incendiary as Time magazine's "The Gods of Food" cover last November featuring three male chefs. An accompanying "tree of influence" graphic depicted an international who's who of male chefs. When pressed by Eater National to explain this decision, Editor Howard Chua-Eoan stated, "We did not want to fill a quota of a woman chef just because she's a woman." Chua-Eoan's rationale for excluding enormously successful female chefs like Anita Lo and Alice Waters was that, as self-made women who had to "force their way to where they are now," they had not made adequate use of the boys-club network that defines the rarefied world of chefs.

And therein lies the rub: The problem is not that female chefs aren't as successful or influential as male chefs, the problem lies in the way we talk about them. According to Dr. Deborah Harris, associate professor of sociology at Texas State University, the cultural conversation about male chefs is couched in a notion of international empire building, while female chefs are discussed in terms of how they can make people happy.

By way of example, Harris, who is currently putting the finishing touches on the manuscript for Taking the Heat: How Gen­der Inequality Is Sustained and Challenged Among Women Chefs, co-written with her colleague, Dr. Patti Giuffre, and due out on Rutgers University Press next year, cites the way convicted felon-turned-Manhattan-restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow talks about Miami chef Michelle Bernstein. In a June 2006 article in Food & Wine magazine, the author explains that Chodo­row chose Bernstein as the "concept chef" for his network of Social restaurants because she was "a perfectly marketable package &ndash female, pretty, ex-ballerina, Miami-based, Latina, trained by some of the top-name chefs in the world." "We're going to give her tremendous exposure," Chodorow is quoted.

"The way they talk about Bernstein is Pygmalion-esque," says Harris. "'We're going to give her exposure, we're going to make her great,' rather than focusing on her skills." For men, the assumption is that they are already great, and that the natural next steps involve high-profile TV projects or opening new restaurants everywhere.

Which is to say, let's be careful about the way we talk about the women running the show at LaV. They are not aliens from outer space arrived out of nowhere to shake up the Austin restaurant scene, although the tenor of the discussions around LaV's leadership team in the run-up to the restaurant's early-March opening might suggest otherwise. These are seasoned, skilled professionals with impeccable credentials who have among them decades of experience in some of the country's most auspicious dining establishments. In short: They've got the skills to pay the bills.

Mazaite, who studied journalism and public relations in her home country of Lithuania before coming to the States, apprenticed under Rajat Parr, the wine director for the Michael Mina restaurant group in Las Vegas. She helped open that city's Wynn luxury resort, which attracted the attention of Paul Bartolotta, whose eponymous Italian restaurant has garnered critical acclaim since its opening in 2005. From there, she was recruited by Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali to work in wine service at Babbo in New York. After a few years there, the opportunity to work at the Little Nell, a luxury resort in Aspen, Colo., fell into Mazaite's lap. "I wasn't looking for it, but it was the best three and a half years of my life," she says. "That's where I met Allison and Ralph [Eads, the owner of LaV]."

Jenkins, from south of Dallas, was going back and forth between Aspen's Ajax Tavern and the Little Nell, where she eventually held the title of executive chef, when she met Mazaite. Like her counterpart, a career in food hadn't really been on her radar until her medical aspirations dissipated. After taking a summer course at Le Cordon Bleu in London, she returned for her junior year at Trinity University in San Antonio with a newfound sense of purpose. "It was revelatory in terms of there's so much to learn, I'm always going to be excited about it," she recalls. Her background in science didn't hurt, either. "I never understood the theory, but I could always pass the labs. I could go in there and make things happen, but I could never explain why. It was an almost easy jump from the chemistry to the cooking." After completing her training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Jenkins worked on Martha's Vineyard and in Santa Fe before landing in Aspen, where she worked six Food & Wine Festivals and fed an impressive assortment of celebrity chefs each season.

O'Leary grew up in a family of modest means in Del Rio, Texas, near the border. Early in life she decided that she wanted to go to culinary school, so she graduated from high school early and, at age 15, moved to New York to attend the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) in SoHo. After completing the pastry program there, she decided she wanted to work at Thomas Keller's Per Se. She literally walked into a job one day when, during a snowstorm that prevented several kitchen staff from making it to work, she knocked on the back door of the restaurant and offered to work. Her four-year career at Per Se started that day. She was 16.

From Per Se, O'Leary moved to Batali's Del Posto to work as assistant pastry chef before moving on to work with renowned pastry chef Pichet Ong. Once O'Leary and her chef-husband learned that they were expecting their son, now 3, it was time to make some tough decisions. "We ultimately decided that New York wasn't the right spot to raise our son, and my husband came up with Austin, even though he'd never been to Texas." Upon their arrival, O'Leary chanced into a job with the W, working as the pastry chef at Trace until last fall.

Now then. Someone was saying something about a tree of influence?

While it is true that these women are all working in service to Ralph Eads' long-standing dream of having a wine-centric fine-dining restaurant &ndash "My goal is to make LaV the premier wine destination in the country," he says via phone &ndash all three women chose to take this leap with him. Both Jenkins and O'Leary had other offers on the table when they decided to join up with Eads and Mazaite.

"After I left the W, I thought I was going to take a little time off, maybe travel a little," says O'Leary. "I had a lot of great and enticing offers from local restaurants and some nationally acclaimed chefs. But after meeting the team at LaV, this just seemed to be the right fit at the right time."

"We all dream about opening a restaurant in this industry," says Mazaite. "You dream about it, but you sometimes don't even try to get there because it's a daunting project. It takes a lot of effort and money to open a place. [LaV] is amazing, and it just found us." When any of them speaks of Eads and his passion for this project, it is in terms of admiration and respect. Mazaite gets to live her passion for wine, Jenkins has free rein to express her local, seasonal point of view, and O'Leary is able to demonstrate her expert pastry skills while also balancing the demands of family life. It's not quite having it all, but it's pretty damn close.

This is the first in an occasional series spotlighting the women who have shaped Austin food.


A Look at Festival Center Merchandise for the 2012 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

I’ve been looking forward to the return of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival since the day the 2011 festival ended. This year, the festival returns to Epcot from September 28 through November 12. I love this event as it combines a few things I enjoy: food and beverages from around the world, and great music during the Eat to the Beat Concert Series (can’t wait to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy again). This past week, I stopped by the Festival Center at Epcot while the merchandise events team was setting the Festival Store. The Festival Center operates daily from 9:00 a.m. to park close, and is the best place to find an assortment of goods. Here is a look at some of my favorites from this year.

In July, Lindsay Voigt, product developer for this event, told me about the colorful “Sketch” program she was introducing for the Festival. It was nice to finally see the entire assortment in one sport. I loved the four mini-dishes with different icons, and the set of four stemless wine glasses would be a nice addition to my cupboard.

This year, there are several different apparel options for both women and men. We are introducing a new program called “Brews Around the World,” which features a shirt, sweatshirt, some glassware and a bottle opener. I personally like the “Mission: Around the World” shirt as it always feels like I’m on a mission to visit each booth during the festival.


Gallery

One thing that will help during my multiple visits this year is a new food tray. It conveniently contains a checklist and a place to hold glasses (no more balancing act!).

We will be holding a special week-long sale of select items from October 8-14 via the Disney Parks online store. We will offer the ever popular festival cookbook, the shirts seen in the third image above, the set of two wine glasses and the “Brews Around the World” glassware. I hope to see you in World Showcase in the coming weeks. I’ll most likely be at the Hawai’i booth.

For more Epcot International Food & Wine Festival news, check out the posts below:


Frequently bought together

Review

&ldquoCrystal Esquivel brilliantly captures the essence of Austin&rsquos restaurants&mdashtheir stories, the chefs behind them, and the recipes shared by them. Aimee Wenske&rsquos photography is delicious. Austin Chef&rsquos Table is not just a great cookbook it is a must-have for any foodie interested in exploring Austin. Bravo!&rdquo--Lisa Fox, ASTI Trattoria and FINO Restaurant Patio & Bar restaurants

"Austin Chef&rsquos Table is an incredible snapshot of the thriving dining scene in Austin, Texas. It showcases the seasonal, farm-to-plate attitude of the new garde of local chefs while rightly honoring our classic BBQ and TexMex institutions. Crystal&rsquos heartfelt descriptions, complemented by Aimee&rsquos crisp shots of food, chefs, and local landmarks, guide the reader on an honest, stunning, and mouthwatering tour of our town." --Chef Andrew Curren, Executive Chef / Partner, 24 Diner, Easy Tiger, Arro

About the Author


Cooking the Texas Book Fest: Pimiento Cheese with Jack Gilmore

Jack Gilmore&rsquos first cookbook is called &ldquoJack Allen&rsquos Kitchen.&rdquo Photo by Kenny Braun.

People have been asking Jack Gilmore about a cookbook for, oh, 20 years.

In 1994, Gilmore was the head chef at Z&rsquoTejas, an Austin-based restaurant company that eventually expanded to a handful of markets around the company. Gilmore was the face of the brand, and people loved his food.

Fast forward 20 years and people are still loving Gilmore&rsquos food, perhaps even more now than they did then. Why? Because Gilmore&rsquos commitment to buying as many ingredients from local farmers has become almost as well known as his pimiento cheese.

In today&rsquos food section, I write about Gilmore&rsquos path from working two jobs to support his young family, including son Bryce, the Food & Wine Best New Chef who now runs Barley Swine and Odd Duck, to his position now as one of the most respected chefs in the city who has just published &ldquoJack Allen&rsquos Kitchen,&rdquo one of the most anticipated cookbooks of the year.

Gilmore will cook from his book at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Texas Book Festival&rsquos cooking tent, followed by an official cookbook launch party on Tuesday from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Jack Allen&rsquos Kitchen in Oak Hill, 7720 U.S. 71. He&rsquoll head to the Round Rock location on 2500 Hoppe Trail for a similar party on Nov. 5. At 7 p.m. Nov. 21, you can catch him at BookPeople and on Dec. 6 at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. You can find out more about Gilmore&rsquos upcoming events at jackallenskitchen.com/cookbook.html.

Pimiento cheese has always been one of Gilmore&rsquos most-requested recipes. Photo by Kenny Braun.

When I was growing up, we went to an old steakhouse where they served a little crock of cheddar cheese spread and saltine crackers. I wish I could remember the name of that restaurant because it&rsquos what inspired us to greet customers with this at Jack Allen&rsquos Kitchen. It&rsquos customary to get chips and salsa at Tex-Mex restaurants, and Italian and fine dining restaurants present diners with bread and butter or olive oil. We wanted to serve something unique. Something that was Southern and Texan in spirit. The homemade Pimiento Cheese gets people talking the second they are seated.

This recipe makes quite a bit. But if you&rsquore going to put in the effort, you may as well make enough to last a couple of weeks. Plus it makes a great gift to bring over to neighbors and friends.

1/2 lb. cream cheese, softened
1/2 lb. Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/2 lb. cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup red bell pepper, roasted, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Whisk together all ingredients in mixer, and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Serve with chips, on sandwich bread, or however you want. Makes 8 to 10 Mason jars.

&mdash From &ldquoJack Allen&rsquos Kitchen&rdquo by Jack Gilmore and Jessica Dupuy


A Lookback at the 2014 Austin Food & Wine Festival - Recipes

Photo credit: Treaty Oak Distilling

Memorial Day weekend is almost here, and for all you folks out there jonesing to get out and do something, have I got news for you! Treaty Oak Distilling and Smoke + Mash are throwing a shindig that combines three of my very favorite things: smoked meats, delicious libations, and hot rods.

On May 29th Treaty Oak Distilling Ranch is hosting an all-day BBQ expo featuring delicious offerings from ranch resident Alice’s Restaurant, six-time World Barbecue Champion pitmaster Tuffy “The Professor” Stone, third-generation North Carolina pitmaster Sam Jones , and award winning pitmaster Moe Cason. Each vendor is offering a tasting plate of excellent ‘cue that showcases their particular style and flavor profile.

Guests may purchase $5 tickets (one ticket per tasting plate of barbecue), and enjoy drinks from the bar in Alice’s Restaurant while listening to live music by the Hot Texas Swing Band, Night Cap, and Deezie Brown. The event benefits Southern Smoke, a nonprofit that provides emergency relief for people in the food and beverage community, and Tate Farms in Rockwall, Texas. Southern Smoke distributed more than $6 million dollars to 2,744 service industry people during the March 2020 – March 2021 portion of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the nonprofit has supported people and industry organizations with upwards of $8 million in donations. Tate Farms is a fourth-generation ranch whose event barn was destroyed in an April fire. Tate Farms has been raising Hereford cattle for over 50 years, selling their grass-fed and finished beef to the public.

During this event, Treaty Oak Distilling launches their new, limited-edition Red, White & Blue Single Barrel Whiskey. Whiskey connoisseurs, the Red, White & Blue will be available all day for purchase, and through July 4th or until all 210 bottles have sold. Don’t sleep on this one, or you’ll miss out. The whiskey is a three-year old Texas bourbon that was barrelled in March 2018. Bottled at 123.5 proof, Red, White & Blue Single Barrel is made with heirloom Bloody Butcher corn, white corn and Hopi blue corn, delighting the palate with roasted caramel, cinnamon and raisin flavor on the nose, smoothing out to a spicy earthiness. For each bottle sold, Treaty Oak will donate $5 to USA Cares, a national non-profit providing post-9/11 veterans and their families with emergency financial assistance.

Photo credit: Treaty Oak Distilling

Austin Speed Shop’s hot rod car show starts at 2pm. Anyone familiar with Austin Speed Shop knows they produce the most stylish customized cars around. This show will have a mix of cars, both completely customized, as well as ones preserved true to their time period. Expect plenty of circling around a car to take in every meticulous detail, and selfie opps, of course.

Photo credit: Treaty Oak Distilling

The weather should be beautiful, after our mid-month rains, and this is the perfect occasion to enjoy stellar smoked meats and liquor crafted from heirloom grains. Come eat, sip, enjoy, relax and appreciate, knowing that your good time will positively affect change in the lives of others.


The Plantation at Comal Bluff

By Sam Ramos, Fri., May 23, 2014

Over its long history, a number of stories have been written about what has come to be known as the "Sneed House." Like teasers in a TV news report, they typically begin with titillating commentary on its origins, meant to catch the reader's interest. This story, I hope, will be different but like any writer, I want you to keep reading. To that end, let me briefly introduce the Sneed House, also called "Comal Bluff."

According to scans of faded documents generously provided by the Austin History Center, the house was commissioned by Sebron Graham Sneed in 1852, on a hill near what is now the corner of I-35 and William Cannon Drive, in what is now the Dove Springs neighborhood. Slavery was legal in Austin then, as it was in all of Texas, and Sneed was a slaveowner, which came in handy in procuring labor power for the house's construction. The house was ready to live in by 1857. What the slaves built for Sneed and his family was a six-room limestone estate, a rather severe edifice designed (most likely) by Abner Cook, the same man who designed the Governor's Mansion.

A look into the timeline of the house suggests a long run of deteriorating luck that began almost as soon as construction was completed. The Sneeds were owners of 21 slaves as late as 1860, a year before the start of the Civil War. Sebron was a delegate to the Texas Secession Convention, which decided the state of Texas should secede from the Union and join the Confederacy. Sneed's sons fought for the Confederacy, and Comal Bluff was used as a Confederate recruiting station. (A 2013 Austin American-Statesman article says the house was a Con­fed­erate hospital. Either way, the political affiliation seems clear. Perhaps the house served as both.) In the end, things didn't turn out well for slavery, and by 1865 the laborers who'd built and maintained the house a few years earlier were no longer obliged to do so.

The Sneed family gained various positions of prestige around the Austin area both before and after the war. Sebron himself was a judge. His son, Thomas, was briefly mayor of Austin. The family lived in the house until 1921, when it was sold. According to the Statesman, a man named Calvin Hughs purchased the house from a Sneed descendant and lived there until his death, at which point his daughter stayed there until she died at an old age some time "in the 1960s."

This is when the story of the house starts to become a troubling puzzle of squabble and conflict between various corporate owners interested in making use of the land for profit and those, like the Texas Historical Commission, who wish to harness and commemorate the significance of the house as a relic of Texas' past. More recently a local resident, Bobby Cervantes, has made serious efforts to save the property. While he's had luck securing the nearby Sneed family burial plot, he has had much more difficulty keeping current owners Indo Pak Invest­ments LLC from infringing on the ruins of the house itself. "At times," Cervantes says, "it seems as though no one cares. Calls, emails go unanswered, City Hall and our City Council couldn't care less."

It is not hard to sympathize with his frustration. Reading the reports of meetings and lawsuits and appeals is confusing and disheartening, as no clear plan ever seems to shake loose from the proceedings. There have been times when the house has come to public attention, only to disappear again until someone new (like myself) comes along and takes it up as though we were the first to hear of it.

All along, the house itself has remained in the same place, on an unnamed lot behind a shopping center, surrounded by apartment complexes on Austin's mostly ignored southeast side. Since its last resident departed, "in the 1960s," it has gone through a persistent and seemingly irreversible process of decay, the windows boarded up and antique interior elements stolen by pillagers, until its original details have been utterly stripped away, its white walls marred with graffiti. In 1989, at the end of a series of meetings and threats between the city and then-owners Data Port Inc. (the city wanted the owners to secure and renovate the house the owners said they couldn't afford it), most of the house was burned down &ndash razed in a devastating and permanent way. All that remains is a stone, Gothic skeleton.

A Lost History

This was the state of Comal Bluff when I first came to learn of it, in the early Nineties. I grew up in Dove Springs, the low-income, mostly Latino neighborhood that currently circles the house. One day my mom stopped at the corner of Bluff Springs Road and Nelms Drive and pointed out the car window toward the trees on the other side of a chain-link fence. Near the top of the tree line was the unmistakable and thrilling sight of a ruin: the white stone walls of something ancient. She said it had been a plantation, and that it had burned down. My mind was blown, because this was not the kind of history that was supposed to exist only a few hundred yards from the Super­cuts where I had my head buzzed, behind the Target where my mom bought my school clothes. I'd had some introduction to the Civil War and slavery, some understanding of what took place on a plantation &ndash mostly based on my sister's VHS copy of Gone With the Wind. They were not stories I associated with Austin. How could they be, when despite my years of Texas history in Austin public schools, and even through my ensuing high school years, the state's intimate relationship with slavery and segregation was rarely, if ever, mentioned?

In the context of this astounding ignorance, the "plantation" my mom pointed out to me that day was an impossible insistence of history upon a city and a neighborhood that, from my perspective, didn't even have one. How could slavery and the Civil War possibly exist in a neighborhood that as far as my 8-year-old mind knew hadn't come into being until the early Eighties?

Imagine my surprise when my mom later pointed out the Williamson Creek Cemetery (distinct from the Sneed family plot), a small and overgrown graveyard near the intersection of I-35 and Stassney Lane, the highway separating the cemetery from Comal Bluff, like the modern ancestor of an early Texas river set into the hills of old Austin country. According to documents provided by the Texas Historical Commis­sion, the cemetery is known to hold the graves of members of the Sneed family as well as some of former slaves, and has seen its own history of neglect and abuse, including the vandalization and theft of headstones. When my mom took me into the cemetery (nearly 20 years ago) it was little more than a patch of weeds and brush in an anonymous lot. Stones had been kicked over and names had been rubbed away. The cemetery is currently settled within short reach of the Metropolis movie theatre and a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop, among other establishments. At the time, my mom said it was a slave cemetery, though it is difficult to say for sure. Some stones are so rubbed down that their origins are unknown and they could, indeed, be the final resting places of people who died in slavery, including some who may have laid stones and gathered lumber for Comal Bluff.

Forgetting a Bloody Past

Whether Williamson Creek Cemetery can truly be called a slave cemetery or not, its existence, as well as its relationship to the Sneeds' antebellum estate, helps to complete a story on Austin's southern border that has largely been overlooked &ndash a story of a time and place when and where the buying and selling of human beings for forced labor was an accepted practice, a practice that was worth fighting two wars over: the Texas Revolution and the American Civil War. With a tighter and more personal focus, the story becomes one of pain, loss, tragedy, persistence, wealth, power, family, and time, a story that was taking place on the edge of the Texas frontier in the middle of the 19th century, in places all across the Hill Country and deeper into the slaveholding regions of the state.

Considering the degree to which Comal Bluff has deteriorated, the story can also be said to be one of forgetfulness and, perhaps, regret. In some places south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the antebellum and Confeder­ate past remains, somewhat awkwardly, still a glorious dream. Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy, has maintained Confederate President Jeffer­son Davis' house, and erected a museum to the Confederacy, both venues dedicated to the memory of an unfortunate history Virginians have embraced, largely because it is a history they could never realistically manage to abandon. Austin, although its history is likewise tightly intertwined with that of the Confederacy and the antebellum South, has largely managed to distance itself from what took place here when slavery was still legal, and later, when Jim Crow still menaced &ndash when race and racial relations were more overt, virulent, and bloody affairs than they are now.

Austin has largely understated (or forgotten) its role during the years of slavery and the Civil War, but that doesn't change what actually happened. S.C. Gwynne puts it plainly in his remarkable book Empire of the Summer Moon, when he describes the mood in the city at the beginning of the war, just four years after the completion of construction on Comal Bluff: "Abraham Lin­coln had been elected president the previous fall, and anti-Union sentiment in Texas was in full cry. Austin was its center." Indeed, it is likely those Civil War-era residents would recognize lingering elements of Austin's secessionist past that typically go unnoticed by 21st century Austinites.

While working on this story, for example, I was reminded that some statues on the Capitol grounds as well as the University of Texas campus are specifically dedicated to "heroes" of the Glorious Cause. A page on the UT website refers to statues of Jefferson Davis and Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Albert Sidney Johnston as an "honor court." I do not know what an "honor court" is, but it does sound sufficiently Southern. Fittingly, these statues are located on the campus' South Mall and, equally fitting, they face south. The statue of Jeffer­son Davis is especially noble, standing at the foot of the UT Tower in rank with Pres­idents George Washington and Woodrow Wilson, looking toward the Capitol Building, location of both the Confederate Soldiers Memorial (erected in 1903 on the south side) and the Hood's Texas Brigade Mem­or­ial (erected in 1910). It is as though President Davis is still giving orders and surveying territory for the rebellion.

I have passed these monuments innum­er­able times and, to my discredit, never stopped to truly consider what they referred to until now. I can distinctly recall noting that it was odd to see a memorial to Confederate soldiers on the Capitol lawn when the Confederacy had lost the war, but odd is all it seemed to me. Even more preposterous, and more telling of the degree to which I was unable to recognize the significance of what was right in front of me, is that I graduated from Albert Sidney John­ston High School. The tragic irony of a high school in a predominantly Mexican-Ameri­can neighborhood being named after a high-ranking Confederate commander is almost as rich &ndash or tasteless &ndash as that of a house built by slaves existing within the confines of Dove Springs, another mostly Mexican-American neighborhood. (The high school has since been renamed Eastside Memorial.)

I lived in the shadow of Comal Bluff for most of my life, and would like to think that I am somewhat more enlightened, and can comprehend the situation of the crumbled plantation on Austin's southeast side. But even now I have no firm grasp of what the house means to the city, aside from its being an unmistakable reminder of the way years pass and times change. The house seems to have been built for an era that ceased to exist almost before the building was finished. Since then, days, months, and years have rolled over it like tides, unstoppable, and our memories have gone with it.

Beauty and Horror

Like anyone else alive today, I have no real knowledge of what black American slavery was like before the Civil War, in Austin or anywhere else. I only know that it was a degrading and miserable manifestation of human cruelty, a three-century holocaust whose legacy continues to darken social, economic, and political dialogue across the nation.

I have always wanted to climb the fence surrounding the house's ruins to get a good look at them, wander among the rubble and trash I'd surely find there, but I don't know what I might actually learn by doing so. Even reading articles and looking at pictures seem to have the same result as going on a ghost hunt, searching constantly for an ultimate answer to something that has already said its piece, though softly: You cannot know. It is a haunting claim to consider, especially for those dedicated to saving the house, who have suggested plans for memorializing it. Personally, I am a fan of these ideas. I ache to see the house maintained, for what is left of it to be conserved for public display. I do believe there is something in the object, something to be learned, something we need, especially in the South, a seat of American beauty and American horror.

As I mentioned above, I wanted this Sneed House story to be different from those that have come before it. In retrospect, that was a terribly pompous statement. It first suggests that I might have had the time and initiative to read everything that has ever been written on the house (in fact, there does not appear to have been much, so I may have come close to doing this). It then suggests I might be able to stumble on some angle that no other writer or reporter has previously considered. I would like to believe that by adding my words to the conversation, a tide of new interest might bring the house out of the catacombs of Austin's cultural awareness and into the light for good, turning it into a popular attraction like the Alamo or Monti­cello (the former home of President Thomas Jefferson, another slaveowner. Austin's leadership could perhaps learn a lesson from that Virginia plantation, an example of a memorial that is determined not to forget its roots in human bondage) &ndash that somehow I will be doing a small part to reclaim a bit of important history.

These seem worthy goals, but unlikely to be achieved. This story has been less about the house itself, than about the tendency of events to be replaced by more events until all or most are forgotten, and only the most meager strands survive. While I would like to see the house renovated to recall some semblance of what it once was, a more conspicuous reminder of our own complex past, this is mostly out of curiosity, my personal interest in relics and legends. Ford's Theatre in D.C., where Abra­ham Lincoln was shot, and the Petersen House across the street, where he died a few hours later, have both been kept in a condition that is very close to what they were in 1865 when those events occurred. They include period furnishings as well as some original artifacts, such as the pillow Lincoln bled on as he was dying. I've visited these places and, to some extent, was moved by them. But even with the attention these historic places have seen, and the upkeep they have benefited from, they do not replicate the eras they have witnessed. It is this fleeting quality of lives and moments that leaves me more befuddled than outraged at the glorification of Confederates on the Texas Capitol grounds, or the subtle, determined nudging of Comal Bluff toward oblivion.

I described the house as having been "marred" by graffiti. Perhaps it is appropriate that it is so. After all, what amount of allegiance to a 19th century slaveowning family's home could a modern teenager, most likely a racial minority, be expected to have? What is unfortunate may be not that the graffiti exists, but that it is more blind deviance than political gesture, an artifact of economic and social disparities which are themselves a product of America's legacy of inequality. These economic and social structures are far more sinister, and much harder to ignore, than a crumbling foundation on the south side of town.

I can write my story, but in the face of the years, those before me and the ones to come long after I've gone, I am powerless. This story, like the Sneeds, might briefly shine a light on a corner of Austin &ndash but after a few days, that light will fade, and the story will retreat to the margins to haunt the legacy of the house . another ghost.

The house will stay where it is, on an unnamed portion of acreage at the edge of civilization, destined for demolition, primed to be forgotten.

Photo Gallery: The Sneed House

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.


Help for Restaurant Industry Workers

National and Statewide

An advocacy nonprofit founded by industry workers, the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation recently launched the RWCF COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund to collect donations that will provide relief to individual workers. Currently, the organization is working to allocate 50 percent of funding to direct relief of individual restaurant workers, 25 percent for nonprofit organizations serving restaurant workers in crisis, and 25 percent for zero-interest loans for restaurants to get back up and running.

Since 1948, the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild has been supporting the bar industry with education, networking, and career advancement opportunities. Through its charity wing, the USBG National Charity Fund, the organization is raising money to help support those affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Industry professionals may apply for aid from the Bartender Emergency Assistance Program COVID-19 Relief Campaign.

This Phoenix, Arizona-based nonprofit serves as a financial resource for the hospitality industry through scholarships and emergency assistance. Industry professionals may apply for emergency relief through the website.

A rapid response to the needs of the sommelier community in America, this fundraiser’s founding team includes a handful of master sommeliers, masters of wine, and other beverage professionals. Donations are currently being accepted through the website, and applications for individual aid are now being accepted for sommeliers who have lost employment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more than thirty years, the James Beard Foundation has been an integral part of highlighting the centrality of food culture throughout the country. The foundation has recently launched a fund that will gather support from corporate and individual donors to provide micro-grants to independent food and beverage businesses in need. Donations are currently being accepted online, while small, independent restaurants are encouraged to request assistance online as the foundation works to hammer out its official application.

A newly forged partnership between Maker’s Mark and chef Edward Lee, this relief response for those who have been laid off includes free dinners for those affected throughout specific cities in the country, including Houston. Beginning Saturday, March 28, partner restaurant Riel serves as the sole Texas-based Lee Initiative location in which out-of-work hospitality workers may pick up free to-go dinners as well as other essentials such as fresh produce, toilet paper, and diapers. The program is funded by both of its founding partners, but is also taking donations to help grow the program.

An outlet for purchasing gift cards to various restaurants, this site functions as an aggregator of restaurants around the country. Currently, there are nearly two hundred Texas restaurants participating from most of the state’s major cities.

Led by the Alliance for a Just Society, a nonprofit organization advocating against the sub-minimum wage lays for tipped workers, the One Fair Wage Emergency Fund aims to raise $213,000, a reference to the $2.13/hour most restaurant employees earn in accordance with the federal minimum wage for tipped workers. The organization will provide immediate cash assistance to restaurant employees, delivery workers, and other tipped workers in the food industry.

This organization originated as a worker relief center for restaurant workers and their families affected by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Today, the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United has shifted its focus to help both documented and undocumented restaurant workers who lose their jobs during the pandemic. With a goal of raising $500,000 for its emergency relief fund, the organization is taking donations on its website. Industry workers in need of aid may apply for assistance on the site, which also serves a resource for information on other national, state, and local relief funds.

For those looking to maximize the opportunity for financial assistance, this virtual database helps locate financial aid from donor funds, government agencies, and nonprofits. Users may search by state as well as by job role.

As part of the Texas Restaurant Association‘s effort to advocate for support of the more than 50,000 restaurants throughout the state of Texas, this fund was established through its 501(c)(3) nonprofit wing, the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation. With a goal to raise at least $10 million to support as many of Texas’s restaurants as possible, the association accepts donations online or via text—send “TRRF” to 31996. Restaurants in need of relief may apply online for a grant of up to $5,000. These funds are specifically allocated for restaurants in order to keep their doors open and their workers employed.

Unite Here is a labor union that represents members in the hotel, gaming, food service, manufacturing, textile, distribution, laundry, transportation, and airport industries throughout the United States and Canada. It is currently collecting donations to help assist its members with rent, groceries, health insurance, and lost wages.

Austin

This basic Google spreadsheet offers a running list of out-of-work service industry professionals along with their Venmo or PayPal handles.

Managed by local volunteer administrators in cities all over the country, the Service Industry Tip jar for Austin randomly selects servers in the city who have signed up through the site following a layoff. The site randomly selects a server each time you visit and encourages patrons to leave a tip via Venmo or on Cash App every time you sit down for a drink at home.

Dallas–Fort Worth

A part of the Dallas-based 8020 Concepts is a DFW restaurant group founded in 2013 that owns HG Sply Co, Standard Service, and Hero. While the restaurant dining rooms have been shut down, the hospitality group has left the kitchens open to launch the Everybody Eats campaign to provide free meals to Dallas-area families or individuals who have been laid off or displaced due to the virus. Those who want to donate or sponsor the initiative, as well as those in need of assistance, are encouraged to do so through the website.

The Fort Worth Food & Wine Festival 501(c)(3) foundation has temporarily shifted its focus from educational grants and scholarships to launch this Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. It has redirected a minimum of $100,000 to aid employees who have fallen victim to the pandemic’s restaurant closures. The organization is accepting donations online to help increase funding allocation. Individuals may apply online for relief of up to $500. Applications are currently being reviewed and approved weekly.

This is a new concept from Front Burner Restaurants, the hospitality group that owns Whiskey Cake, Legacy Hall, Mexican Sugar, and Sixty Vines. The company has collaborated with Vestals Catering and City Square, a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the effects of poverty, to create Furlough Kitchen, a pop-up nonprofit, which provides unemployed hospitality workers a free pickup meal every day, Monday-Saturday. The kitchen is churning out more than one thousand meals a day through its drive-thru pick up window.

ServiceIndustry.tips is a website, organized by city, that lets users give a donation, using Venmo or Cash App, to a participating member of the service industry, including restaurant and bar people, among others. Your recipient is randomly selected for you. Both donors and donees may sign up.

Houston

BCN /MAD’s Curbside Community Kitchen

Spanish restaurants BCN Taste and Tradition and MAD have launched the Curbside Community Kitchen as a way to offer Houston out-of-work hospitality industry workers a free meal. For the time being, 2oo complimentary meals will be handed out from the MAD location from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Monday through Friday.

This volunteer effort has been organized by sommelier Cat Nguyen, publicist Jonathan Beitler, and event organizer Claudia Solis. (Each were also instrumental in galvanizing restaurant resources to feed people displaced by Hurricane Harvey.) Houston Shift Meal offers daily options for unemployed restaurant workers. Through generous corporate and individual donations, the organization gives restaurants $250 in exchange for fifty meals that will be given away. To date, participating restaurants have included Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s, Rudyard’s, and Cherry Block. In addition, Goodnight Hospitality is distributing boxes of raw ingredients sourced from the company’s Good Thyme Farm. Those interested in obtaining a free meal can follow Houston Shift Meal’s Facebook page. Those wishing to make a donation or who would like to become a restaurant partner can visit the Houston Shift Meal website.

San Antonio

Celebrating the rich culinary culture of San Antonio, this nonprofit organization has launched a relief fund campaign to raise money for those who have lost jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization is currently taking donations at its website and is working with local chefs such as Jason Dady to distribute free meals to industry staff. Dady’s Alamo BBQ Co. restaurant on Grayson Street has been temporarily renamed “HospitALLity House” and is serving free lunches and dinners based on funds raised by the Culinaria Emergency Relief Fund.


Venison in Red Wine + Port Mushroom Sauce

Start by removing any silver skin or muscle tissue from the backstrap and season the venison with salt and pepper liberally on all sides.

Then slice shallots and mushrooms thinly and set those aside.

Heat a skillet with 1 tablespoon of the grape seed oil until smoking hot.

Add the venison backstrap and sear on all sides until well browned, about 5 minutes in total for rare, about 8 minutes for medium rare. I never eat it more than rare because the more you cook it the more you ruin the flavor and turn it into a gray leathery mess. That’s also how you get that gray gamey flavor in meat that turns people off.

Remove the backstrap to a rack or cutting board and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. This is super important to do with all meat because it allows the juices to retreat back into the center. If you cut the meat too soon, all of the moisture will end up on your cutting board and not in the cell walls of the protein.

Add more oil to the pan, heat, and add the mushrooms and shallots. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to help release the juices and cook until soft.

They will have some nice brown crusty bits too which is where the flavor is at.

Sprinkle with the flour and stir to dry out the pan.

…and port, and simmer, stirring to break up the flour. Let reduce by about half until thickened and the alcohol burned off.

Slice the venison into thin slices…

It is full of sweet and salt and tang and the sauce will go well with so many simply prepared lean meats. Give it a try this week!

There’s nothing like a simple quick and satisfying meal with friends in these shorter colder days.

Now… I want you to take my survey:

How do you like your meat cooked? Especially if you eat wild game?

I’ll go first: I always eat it rare. Always. You get that gamy taste the more you cook it and risk giving it the texture of shoe leather, since it is pure lean protein with virtually no fat.

I posted this picture on my Facebook page and it caused quite the debate so let us know in the comments where you fall on the spectrum!