Last weekend, I traveled all the way to Austin for it’s first ever FOOD & WINE festival. With a weekender badge hanging around the neck, my friend and I got a weekend of indulgence, culinary education and celeb chef citing.

Thousands of gourmands and food fanatics lined up for the festival at the Austin’s Auditorium Shores for celebrity chef cooking demonstrations, seminars and grand tastings.

Grills Gone Wild: Hands-on Demo by Tim Love

From sushi-making, elegant tapas creations, hangover cures and featured wines of Texas, there was everything a foodie would want to know and learn about “the food & the wine”.  We kicked-off our weekend at the festival by making it into the “Grills Gone Wild” – a hands-on grilling demo by Fort Worth’s chef and co-founder of the festival, Tim Love!

 


With one hundred charcoal grills, lined up and all fired up at once on the shores of Lady Bird Lake and then chef Love’s charcoal grill on the raised center stage, this event was the highlight of the festival. Chef Love had us the minute he stepped on the stage…we were clapping, cheering, and laughing along with him. He called it the largest hands-on grilling demo in the world. Hearing that, my friend and I felt excited as we stood at our table eager to learn the art grilling from the pro!
“Now I cook them medium rare. Cause I’m an American. Not only am I an American, I’m also a  Texan”  said chef Love as he riled up the crowd. He explained us how to perfectly sear, rest and slice a steak….and while he talked he took a few occasional pauses and called for Tequila shots  😉

We pulled out two pieces of steak – NY strip steak and a skirt steak  from the cooler beside our table as chef Love explained the cuts, how they are graded and the proper way to season them. “Use twice as much salt and pepper that you think you need”, he said. He thinks most people don’t season meat enough. Then he asked us pat the seasoning into the steaks to help close the pores of the meat. He also recommended using peanut oil, not olive oil, for grilling because of its higher burning point, and also because it’s cheaper. “What else is cheap? Kosher salt. I’m a cheap bastard,” he said 😀 .

Making sure the grills were hot enough, we raised the steaks and placed them on the grill, as instructed by chef Love. “Put the steak on and close the grill cover, vents open. Don’t lift the lid! You know you want to, but don’t do it!”, he said. Then he told everyone to pour a glass of white wine and wait as the steaks sizzled away.

After a few minutes when we lifted the lid and flipped the meat over, it had a beautiful golden brown crust! We let it sit on the other side a few more minutes before pulling it out and letting it rest.

Next up was the skirt steak, which we had also brushed with peanut oil, and then sprinkled with Tim Love’s Wild Game Rub, a mix of salt, ground pepper, chile powder, cumin, thyme, and rosemary. The best part is that we got to keep the jar with the remaining as a souvenir!

Chef Love then instructed us to place the steaks directly on the hot coals and I think that took the grilling to a whole new level! The direct contact with the hot charcoal gave the steak a wonderful charred-smoky flavor that was out of this world!

 

While both the steaks rested, we moved on to grilling the broccolini for a few minutes, again by drizzling peanut oil and rubbing it with salt and pepper before throwing it on to the grill. Chef Love recommends grilling vegetables with just oil and basic seasonings and then pumping up their flavor by drizzling olive oil, rubbing garlic, sprinkling red pepper flakes and squeezing lemons over them while resting for a minute or so before serving.

Another  interesting technique I learnt was that after pulling the steaks off the grill and letting them rest to redistribute the juices, we should put them back on the grill for a couple of minutes to finish the steaks. After that, we could serve the steaks hot off the grill without any need to rest them. And finally, the perfect way to serve the perfectly grilled meat, is to cut it against the grain.

With his high energy and a fun, engaging hands-on demo, chef Love stole the show at the festival. At the end of it, we were totally in love with Love!

Makimono: Hands-on Demo by Tyson Cole & Paul Qui

I tried my best to get into this one by waiting in the line for almost 1.5 hours in scorching heat, but it was a hands-on demo for  pre-registered VIPs only and a weekender lime myself, just couldn’t get in! I, along with several others, stood outside the tent and watched the Uchi and Uchiko chefs Tyson Cole and Paul Qui give a demo on everything it needed to roll a makimono.

I heard a bit on how to make a “California Roll” after which Paul came down the stage and I was so excited to simply get a closer look at my most favorite chef and the winner of this past season  🙂

Hair of the Dog : Jim Meehan

Jim Meehan of New York speakeasy PDT and author of the PDT Cocktail Book,  kicked off Sunday morning at the festival with a comprehensive crash course in hangover prevention and cures, something many people might have needed after the previous night’s indulgence.

Meehan gave some useful pointers and shared his hangover cure cocktails with the attendees:

  • The easiest way to avoid the hungover feeling in the first place is  to stay hydrated throughout the night. “Drink a glass of water for every glass of cocktail”, he said.
  • If you wake up dehydrated with a throbbing headache, take Advil and drink as much water as possible. Gatorade, Vitamin Water and coconut water are all helpful as well due to the extra electrolytes in the drinks. He has even designed a hangover cocktail called the Chairman’s Refresher to helps your body in re-hydration. The cocktail is made up by muddling cucumber in 2 oz. of coconut water, 1.5 oz. white rum and .5 oz Frangelico.
  •  If you wake up feeling sluggish and vitamin deficient, Meehan said that first vitamins that need to be replenished are B, A, and C. All the standard brunch cocktails like the Bloody Mary and Mimosa are packed with vitamins from the citrus and tomato juice. But he shared the formula for a vintage cocktail, the Corpse Reviver which is a mixture of gin, lemon juice, Lillet Blonde, Cointreau and a a dash of Absinthe.
  • If you wake up with a terrible stomachache, bitters serve to be a digestive aid. Based on this fact, Meehan has a cocktail using classic Campari and soda, which he claims to be the perfect drink on empty stomach.
  • If you wake up with a serious lack if energy, according to Meehan, a simple coffee or a caffeinated soda is great to pick you up after a long night of drinking.

In wrapping up the seminar, Meehan mixed a couple of cocktails from city of New Orleans – Ramos Gin Fizz and Milk Punch that are his go-to hangover cures.

I was one of the few ones to get a tasting of the Milk Punch, made by mixing Myers rum, 1/2 oz of simple syrup, 1 oz milk and Cognac.

Spanish Tapas: Michelle Bernstein

Our last and final participation was for the Spanish tapas demo by another favorite chef, Michelle Bernstein, who makes regular appearances on Top Chef and Food Network.

As a huge tapas food fan, I enjoyed watching her cook some unique tapas food like the black rice (made with squid ink) with sauteed calamari, pan-fried cauliflower with aioli and even got a tasting of the traditional Spanish flan that she had prepared and brought to share with the crowd!

 

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