Tasting Austin in June

I am in Austin, TX for the IACP Annual Conference. I have come to learn of Austin as a city full of arts, music, clubs and food. Known as the “music capital of the world”, “home of Whole Foods” and “city for the creative class” and a lot more- all keeps Austin weird. The people here are friendly, eclectic and open minded, as I would discover over the next few days.

As this was my first time attended the IACP conference, I wasn’t sure what to expect. With over 700 attendees, I have obviously met a lot of who’s-who from the culinary world. Also, I got to taste some interesting food and drinks, showcased by chef’s, restaurateurs, and authors from around the world.

The opening night reception was a fabulous event that was held at the famous Bob Bullock State History Museum. We were greeted by bulls and armadillos waiting by the giant lone star monument. A few of us even raced the armadillos against each other inside the little barricaded area they were chilling at Well, not really raced, but gently nudged them to move along the cones in hopes of winning a bandanna!

Inside was a world of gastronomy to be explored against the backdrop of the museum’s rich history. Local vendors had set up tables of Austin’s finest creations for the most discerning patrons. Here is a brief synopsis of what was showcased…

Whole Foods Market presented an appetizer of cashew chive cream cheese with balsamic pickled fig on whole grain crostini and a sweet and spicy treat, smoked BBQ shrimp with carmelized ramps on a crispy flat bread. East to make and good hors devours one can make ay home for entertaining.

The heirloom tomato tart by Jeffrey’s had a good balance of crunch, cheese and tart. Again, easy to make for a cocktail party.

Ranch 616 put an interesting twist on the snack food-Frito chips, serving chilli, sour cream and pico de gallo inside the bag itself. I like the idea of serving everything in a bag with a fork especially when you are having a pool-side or backyard party. I bet kids would find it a novelty that can’t resists.

I wasn’t very impressed by Rosemary’s Catering. The combination of quail egg fry with bacon and soggy hard bread did not do it for me. I loved the Antonelli’s Cheese Shop presentations and would like to visit them to take a few things home. The freshness of cheese with off the beaten path combinations (blue cheese with strawberry jam), were a fiesta in the mouth.

Another interesting twist on the cheese balls was a corn flakes encrusted goat cheese ball. Your guests would keeping popping all through the night, forgetting the calories.

There was nothing to rave about the peach pie with bacon-pecan-maple sauce served with lavender ice cream. The peaches were undercooked and the ice cream “vanilla.”

For drinks, there were stations of tequila which ran out halfway into the evening. I managed with a peach iced tea. The ambiance of the history museum, along with a guest list, made the event even more special, in spite of the mediocre food. I was hoping to taste more local flavors with south-western influences. Perhaps I had bigger expectations from Austin’s culinary creators but I am sure they also had a challenge preparing for these many guests in 100F weather.

Let’s continue to explore rest of the food scene here…

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Sucheta Rawal

Sucheta is an award winning food and travel writer, who has traveled to 80+ countries across 6 continents. She is also the founder and editor of 'Go Eat Give' and author of 'Beato Goes To' series of children's books on travel.