Life is uncertain — eat all the tacos and drink the good beer.
Okay, maybe that wasn't the most important lesson of 2020, but for attendees of a three-day Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival, it was more than enough motivation to devour the flavors of the city after last year's COVID-cancellations left them starved for great food and fun events.
Held October 22-24, the slimmed-down, mini festival attracted 1,500 attendees to three outdoor events at the Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork. The events were slightly smaller by design, with fewer vendors and fewer guests than in previous editions — like a little amuse bouche before the festival's anticipated grand return in the spring.
The mission remained the same: to showcase local chefs, restaurants, and beverage purveyors and to raise money for culinary scholarships and grant programs. The special fall event was pulled together by FWFWF co-founder Russell Kirkpatrick, executive director (and event planner extraordinaire) Julie Eastman, their team of local food and beverage pros, and countless volunteers.
First came Friday’s Taco. Beer. Repeat., where guests got their taco fix from 18 different restaurants, including Los Vaqueros, Mi Dia From Scratch, and Del Norte Tacos.
Fans of brisket tacos got their fill, but some of the biggest hits were the ones that took foodie twists: Chef Juan Rodriguez of Magdalena's served up a short rib taco with pumpkin mole and pepitas on a blue corn tortilla. Tuan Pham of Four Sisters - A Taste of Vietnam prepared caramelized pork belly inside a bao bun. Funkytown Donuts threw down a savory elote cake doughnut. And the biggest surprise of the night? Angel D. Fuentes of Guapo Tacos filled tortillas with octopus.
Guests sipped beers from favorite local breweries, including Martin House, Panther Island, and Locust Cider. And those lucky enough to snag a spot inside the VIP tent got a custom cocktail mixed by Proper's Lisa Little Adams.
Saturday brought Gameday Gourmet, where 18 chefs prepped their tailgate favorites over live fire. Guests and chefs alike sported their favorite college gameday gear, with TCU purple dominating, of course. (Smartly, the event ended in time for TCU kickoff.)
Longtime chefs Jon Bonnell, Stefon Rishel, and Michael Thomson were joined by newcomer chef Juan Ramon Cardenas of the forthcoming Don Artemio Mexican Heritage restaurant, whose fire-roasting cabrito drew some of the longest lines. It was also a chance for some of the city's barbecue stars — including Derrick Walker of Smoke-A-Holics BBq and Shawn Edgecomb of Cousins BBQ — to do their thing.
The Makers Mark Camper and Beam Garden provided guests with specialty cocktails all afternoon, and Guynell Whetstone made sure wine cups were kept full of LangeTwins Wines.
The festival commenced Sunday with the decidedly fancier Bluegrass Brunch, featuring passed champagne and caviar and a five-course, Southern-inspired seated meal paired with beverages. Six chefs collaborated for this one, including Blaine Staniford of Grace and Shannon and Austin Odom of Walnut Springs’ buzzworthy Oma Leen’s. A live bluegrass band called the Quibble Brothers and community-style seating ensured a good time.
Besides the food and beverages, the biggest attraction of the weekend was a Hello Trouble Hall, a "Texas Honkey Tonk on Wheels," where guests could linger over cocktails and snap Insta-worthy photos under posters of Texas country and western stars.
Here's hoping it comes back when the big Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival returns in spring 2022; watch the event's social media accounts to keep up with plans. Tickets are expected to go on sale in December.