A Review of a Preview of the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival

Austin came to Houston last week on a rolling food and beverage tour promoting the upcoming Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival.

The biggest news? “Now you can drink from morning way into morning again,” announced Stephanie Bailey, who is handling the sponsorships for the April 10-13 event. In order to attract a younger crowd to the merits of fine wine and dining, they’re planning on piling on more late night events than ever before. Those should go especially well when followed up by a Hair of the Chihuahua breakfast (with drinks of course) on that Saturday.

Held at a luncheon at Reef (Travis and McGowen), the preview event had Houston chefs pitching in to show what they will be taking to the Austin festival, which usually attracts between 9,000 and 11,000 visitors. Jason Gould of Gravitas used native ingredients to make a Texas Goat Cheese Strudel and pickled mushroom salad. Mark Cox of Mark’s presented Texas quail stuffed with forest mushrooms, foie gras, and squash. Bryan Caswell of Reef provided the Grand Ilse Sheepshead in an oyster broth and Maria Ela of Reef cooked up a roasted pear bruschetta and gelato. (Of course, they’ll cook up this stuff for you here if you don’t want to travel to Austin.)

Beyond that, Susan Auler, co-owner of Fall Creek Vineyards, brought along Cache, a Chardonnay/Viognier and Muscat blend (retailing for about $18), and the just-released (under a separate label) 2004 Meritus ($40 a bottle and a deal). Auler said both are available at Spec’s and Whole Foods.

The largest part of the Austin ode to food and drink will be the Sunday Fair, expected to bring in its capacity of 4,500. Before that, various chefs and their creations will be on display, including Tre Wilcox (of Bravo TV’s Top Chef), Bob Waggoner of The Charleston Grill, Danny Trace of Café Adelaid in New Orleans, Joey Campanaro of The Little Owl in New York City and Aaron Sanchez of Centrico & Paladar in New York City. Individual event prices range from $40 to $150. For more info, visit www.texaswineandfood.org or call 512-249-6300. – Margaret Downing

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