Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Big Reds & Bubbles Video

Special thank you to Moth to Flame Films for filming Big Reds & Bubbles 2011. See the video here:

And be sure to "like" them on Facebook too (https://www.facebook.com/mothtoflamefilms)!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2011 Scholarship Winner, Renee Morgan Using Talents in a New Way

A lot of folks have been asking what I’m up to since graduation. Well, I have an exciting new project to tell you all about. I’m thrilled to introduce Chefalicious Hospitality, Inc., a 503(c) non-profit foundation. You see, as a mother, grandmother and culinarian, I feel very strongly about children’s nutrition and it’s effect on their health and development. In Williamson county, Texas, over 60,000 people are food insecure at any one time. Of those, over 32,000 are children under the age of 18. (These statistics are according to the U.S Federal Census Bureau and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.) As a long time resident of Williamson county, I know that much of the county is rural, which means many times it is exceptionally difficult for these people to obtain assistance. Even if a family receives assistance in the form of SNAP (food stamps), a family of four generally receives around $150 or less per month. If the children of such a family receives free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school, they many times still go hungry nights, weekends, summers. That’s where Chefalicious Hospitality comes in.

Our mission is to use our culinary talents and resources to provide for the nutritional welfare of the economically disadvantaged children of Williamson County, Texas, the surrounding area and the world. We aim to do this through providing nutritious food, education, partnerships with area schools and daycare, cooking lessons, installation of home gardens and scholarships for the study of culinary arts to deserving students.

What does that mean exactly? Well, here’s the way it works. Chefalicious Hospitality offers catering, personal and private chef services, meal delivery for those know don’t have the time or inclination to cook, cooking lessons and classes and summer cooking camps for kids. Let’s say you need one of these services. If you chose to hire Chefalcious Hospitality (CH) as you would any other caterer or private chef, you also get the added benefit and peace of mind in knowing that your money is helping to feed hungry kids. You see, all of our proceeds are used to provide nutritional services to food insecure children in Williamson county.

We seek to assist children and their families in several ways:
-  CH will partner with No Kid Hungry™ to provide grocery store tours to economically disadvantaged parents to teach them how to read nutritional labels, menu plan, avoid unhealthy foods, and shop on a limited budget.
-  CH will provide a hot and healthy meal to any child under the age of 18 in need. We seek to partner with the USDA to provide lunch for children in the summer and this grow this service to include all other meals.
-  CH will provide cooking lessons to parents and children in food insecure families. Our intent is to teach children to prepare simple healthy snacks and give parents the tools they need to prepare delicious, quick and healthy meals for their families.
-  CH will gift a home garden to food insecure families, teach them how to grow and maintain their garden, and how to preserve their harvest for long term consumption.
-  CH hopes to offer training and culinary scholarships to promising high school students who demonstrate talent and financial need.   
Why now? I suppose my own story impacted my decision to start this foundation. Prior to attending culinary school, I had been a successful realtor and business owner. My husband owned a prosperous delivery company. We enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. When the recession hit our country in 2009, we found ourselves to be casualties. Along with so many others in this country, we lost everything. After trying to find work for over a year, I decided it was time to reinvent myself by going to culinary school. It was very difficult but it was something I had always wanted to do. Sometimes we didn’t have enough food, heat or even utilities. But I had a goal and nothing was going to stop me. I am grateful and blessed to say that I was able to finish culinary school with no debt because of winning the Stephan Pyles Cook-Off Scholarship, along with several others. I am forever indebted to the The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and Chef Stephan Pyles.

This experience forever changed me and highlighted the plight of so many in my community.  While I was in Boston completing my culinary internship with America’s Test Kitchen, I saw a billboard that advertised a place where any child under 18 could get a meal in the summer. It was sponsored by the USDA. I started thinking about how I could start something like that at home. Once back home in Texas, I started talking to people about my idea. Pretty soon, I had a professional kitchen, a dining room and office space with utilities donated by a local church in Leander. Next a farmer began donating organic vegetables. Then a certified master gardener offered to help with the gardens. A retired grant writer offered to help raise funds. We were on our way!

Currently, we are working on putting together our board of directors and infrastructure of the foundation and expect to be fully operational early in 2012. We hope to have a grand opening and a gala fundraiser in upcoming days. I would love to invite all of you to consider being a part of this important work, either by volunteering time, donating, or hiring CH for your events and culinary needs. We look forward to serving you and the children of Williamson county.

Please contact me regarding opportunities or to contract CH for events and services at renee.morgan1@gmail.com, 512-300-6128 or PO Box 1058, Liberty Hill, TX 78642.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It’s Exactly What I Wanted…
The beloved holidays are upon us. It’s my favorite time of the year! I get warm fuzzies just thinking about the smell of a decorated tree, the taste of our cul-de-sac cookie exchange or the tune of a soft holiday song. All of our senses are enhanced during the holidays. We want you to spend more time enjoying the holidays and less time trying to decide what to get your family and friends as gifts, so we’ve done the work for you and hope you can check everyone off your list with these amazing gift selections. And, as usual, we include the special WFF wine & spirits section.
By Marika Flatt

The Instant Wine Refresher by Ravi
If you’re like me, you always need to chill wine at a moment’s notice.  I have my reds in a wine cabinet and my whites in a wine cooler, but they don’t get as cold as we Americans like our whites. As wine accessory specialists, each of Ravi Solutions’ product lines is designed to maximize drinking pleasure while offering sophisticated style and flawless performance.  The smallest and fastest wine chiller on the market today, this unique tool transforms room temperature white and red wine to cellar temperature in seconds, for a smoother taste and enhanced flavor. The wine chiller can also be used to chill spirits. $39.95, http://www.ravisolution.com

Custom iPhone case
Whenever you go to an electronics store to get a new iPhone case, they are all the same. If you’re like me, you love a case with personality! All oenophiles will adore the wine cork case from Zazzle. 

It will be a great conversation piece and then you can tell the person your favorite wines. Zazzle can print literally any picture, graphic or design onto a case, letting you design something completely original. Custom Zazzle and Case-Mate mobile cases range from $34.95 to $39.95, www.Zazzle.com/cases

Cookies by Design’s “Aged to Perfection” cookie bouquet
Who doesn’t love to eat sweets during the holidays? This cookie bouquet is perfect for all of us oenophiles! This adorable design is great for hostess gifts or a gift you want delivered to someone. Check out this “Aged to Perfection” bouquet: http://www.cookiesbydesign.com/gift-baskets/birthday-gifts/aged-to-perfection-boutray ($90.99). And, for that hard-to-buy-for guy, Cookies by Design has licensing agreements with the NFL, NCAA and MLB to reproduce team logos and colors on cookies. It’s a great gift for the ultimate fan, especially with his name on a jersey cookie! Check out: http://www.cookiesbydesign.com/nfl-gifts/dallas-cowboys-gifts/dallas-cowboys-cookie-bouquet

Woozie wine insulators
The first time I saw a Woozie wine glass insulator, I was at my sister’s 40th birthday party and I was coveting her gift of this stylish and functional little Woozie. Just like using a koozie for your beer, you pull this fashionable Woozie over your wine glass and it creates an insulated and adorable glass of wine, not to mention you don’t need a wine glass charm. Now, Woozie has wine bottle insulators and glass insulators that come in holiday designs and even a Woozie to cheer on your favorite sports team! I just love this inexpensive gift idea for anyone who enjoys wine, www.woozie.com.


Foreverlily perfume
My favorite flower is the lily and I am a real girly girl with perfume so I was giddy when I heard about this! This is a wonderful fragrance from GoodTrueBeautiful in the most gorgeous packaging I’ve ever seen for a perfume bottle!
The recipient of this gift will be amazed and impressed simply by looking at the chic aqua and red box.  This is definitely an upscale fragrance – the Collector’s Edition (3.4 ounce eau de parfum) retails for $125 (www.mygtblife.com).

 Jockey Person to Person Convertible Cardigan and Ponte Jacket
The Convertible Cardigan is my new favorite piece of clothing! With a shorter back length and front panels that cascade into a longer length, this cardigan is the most versatile garment I’ve ever seen. There are literally a dozen ways to drape and wear this piece!
There is a video of one of the designers showing several ways to wear the Convertible Cardigan (http://jockeyp2p.com/DesignerCorner/ConvertibleCardigan). It comes in black/graphite stripe, pink scarlet, and Marrakech turquoise, $82. The Ponte Jacket is a denim-inspired look that comes in charcoal heather, black, true love, $95, www.JockeyP2P.com.


Sea Salt collection
I recently read a health article about how using sea salt is so much healthier for your body than the typical table salt. The Spice Lab offers over 150 sea salts from 30 countries. They have a unique gift item – Gourmet Sea Salt Collections that offer 5, 6 or 11 test tube sampler sets of exotic salts, all attractively displayed in a handcrafted wooden base.
Great for the foodie to keep in the kitchen and use in those tasty recipes! The sampler kits run from $24.95 - $59.95,  www.thespicelab.com.

Grafton Village Cheeses
During the holidays, we’re all entertaining and looking for yummy goodies to bring to dinner parties. Handcrafting world-class artisanal cheeses for over a century in the quintessential town of Grafton, Vermont, Grafton Village Cheeses are perfect for the holidays.
Pair these signature cheeses with crackers from the deli and a bottle of red wine. Grafton Village Cheese offers a variety of gift baskets that feature their award-winning cheeses along with an array of specialty Vermont goodies. Holiday flavors like Sage Cheddar and Garlic Cheddar make these baskets a delicious and welcomed change to the foodie gifts that friends and family have been sending for years. $39.99 - $59.99, http://www.graftonvillagecheese.com/.

Guylian Artisanal Belgian Chocolates
First of all, we all know how decadent fine chocolates and red wine are to our palettes. During the busy holidays, sometimes we just need to slow down with a truffle and a glass of cabernet in the evening. So, forget about purchasing this gift for someone else, just go ahead and purchase it for yourself and hide it away in your favorite decadent hiding spot.

This is truly a new chocolate experience (think hazelnut filled praline seashells). Guylian Chocolates are small treasures that are only sold at specialty, artisanal chocolate stores (2 piece $0.99 to $1.49; 6 piece $2.99 to $3.99 and 22 piece ranges from $7.99 to $14.99, www.GuylianBelgianChocolate.com)

McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil
Those of us who enjoy cooking from fresh ingredients find ourselves using olive oil on a regular basis. Whether you’re sautéing veggies or following a yummy winter soup recipe, EVOO is almost always in need.

Grown and produced in Northern California, McEvoy Ranch Olive Oil has been written up a variety of national print publications and holds many culinary distinctions. A blend of six early-harvest Italian varieties—bottled immediately, without filtration—in the traditional Tuscan style, McEvoy Ranch Olio Nuovo has a distinctly vibrant green color, rich fruit flavor and peppery finish. McEvoy Ranch Olio Nuovo retails for $22 (375mL) / $42 (750 mL) www.mcevoyranch.com and Whole Foods.

GLOB Paint Kit
Most arts & crafts paints stink. GLOB is a new line of all natural botanical paints made from fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices.  With colors like lemon verbena, pomegranate and basil green, (and they all smell like the color) GLOB paints are delightful for projects. Using non-toxic, food-grade ingredients, GLOB paints are all natural and biodegradable. Each kit includes 6 color packets, 6 compostable jars with lids & 2 bamboo brushes. $15 www.globiton.com

Funky Junque Accessories
For girls, we know it’s all about the accessories!  This online site is a great location to shop for the young girl in your life (no matter the age). Some of this season’s great finds are the Silicon Wrap Watch, which comes in Black, Hot pink, light pink, purple, $26.00; and the Kitty Cat Fold Over Glove in assorted colors, $24. Either of these would make a great gift or stocking stuffer. www.Funky-Junque.com

Soulo Karaoke
The vocal performance/karaoke application and microphone developed for the iPad, Soulo transforms iPads into cutting-edge personal karaoke singing machines that you can bring anywhere and have non-stop singing fun. Soulo is a really cool mic/accessory and super easy to use - just plug it in, launch the app and start singing.

The Soulo App is available for free at the App Store and integrates with your iTunes account.  The Soulo Digital is available at Target and the Apple Store for $99 and a wired microphone is available for $69.

Happy Napper
This plush goes from a soft comfortable pillow to a cuddly companion with a simple zip - and back again. Eight total designs are now available including Bug Bungalow to Lady Bug, Doghouse to Dog, Igloo to Penguin, and Castle to Dragon.  Each reversible Happy Napper lives in his Home Sweet Home complete with sleepy sound doorbell.  Kids ring the bell to wake up their Happy Napper, and then unzip the door to invite their friend to come out and play. Designed for preschoolers to teens, a portion of sales proceeds for all Happy Nappers goes to the Home Sweet Home Fund benefitting the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation (www.cbtf.org). www.happynapper.com, $20  

Mario’s Pizzeria game
It’s amore!  If the parent is a foodie, sometimes the child is too! Children will “cook up” tons of fun with this fun game. The 8-piece play set has all the ingredients of a perfect pizzeria – three pizza pies, chef, delivery boy and vehicle, along with a very special oven that “fires-up” when the button is pushed.  www.ravensburger.com, $40


Cakebread wines, i.e. the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
I was lucky enough to tour the famous Cakebread vineyard and winery in August and was completely overwhelmed with how amazing their operation is, how they utilize modern technology in their vineyards and how amazing each and every pour tasted! 

I now have my souvenir Cakebread glasses and enjoy their wines whenever possible.  The grapes for their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon come from terrific vineyards in prime locations in the Napa Valley. With fruit sources from multiple, diverse microclimates, they craft a sumptuous, elegant Cabernet Sauvignon that melds the opulent black fruit character and firm tannins typical of the valley’s warmer northern microclimates with the bright fruit tones and crisp acidity characteristic of its cooler southern precincts. Enjoy with a great steak!

Alex Elman Wines
This summer, Alexandra Elman, entrepreneur and wine expert, launched a collection of accessible, organic wines. The inaugural offering is made up of four varietals from Argentina—a Chardonnay, a Torrontés, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Malbec, and are representative of what the collection aims to deliver: hand crafted, sustainable, honest wines that are truly emblematic of their terroir.

Alex's story is an inspiring one. The self-dubbed "Blind Wine Chick" lost her sight at age 27 and instead of slowing her down, Alex discovered that her palate had become even more focused and her passion for wine even more intense. She now travels the world seeking out sustainable fine wines to bring to the U.S. market, accompanied by Hanley, her seeing eye dog.

Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon
Rarely do you find a winery that exists to produce just one variety of wine. But how refreshing is that! Make what you know and focus on making the best in that variety and exceed your customers’ expectations!

While the 2007 Silver Oak cab is great for the holidays, be it a holiday meal or as a gift to your holiday party hosts, what really stands out is Silver Oak's ability to etch their bottles of wine. The etching takes the classic bottle of wine and turns it into whatever the customer would like; messages, pictures, logos...the bottle's can be completely customized and etched however they would like. The etchings can be done on either of the two most recent Silver Oak vintages, the 2007 Alexander Valley as well as the exquisite and ever popular 2006 Napa Valley Cab (www.silveroak.com)

 Rutherford Hill Merlot
At just $25, Rutherford Hill Merlot proves that you don’t have to spend a lot for great, quality bottle of wine thus making it ideal for a holiday host or hostess gift.

Rutherford Hill’s Merlot is an elegant, refined blend of classic Bordeaux varietals that create its rich aroma and flavor. Bursting with notes of cherry and plum, this silky, full-flavored wine is balanced, firm and the perfect gift for anyone who appreciates fine wine.
To learn more, please visit:  www.rutherfordhill.com

2009 Landmark Vineyards Overlook Chardonnay
Stumped on what wine to gift to your foodie friend whose typical Monday night menu sounds something like this -- Caramelized, balsamic-glazed heirloom figs and parmesan crisps with Chanterelle Mushroom tapenade?

With a rich and round mouth feel, this well-structured wine will pair well with anything, from crab cakes with saffron aioli to roasted rabbit. Your foodie friend will appreciate the versatility of this food friendly Chardonnay. http://www.landmarkwine.com/, $28

2009 JUSTIN Cabernet Sauvignon
For the friend who always knows everything on the up and up, give the gift of wine from one of California’s up and coming wine regions, Paso Robles. Only 14 miles from the coast, the limestone soils, hot days and cool nights in Paso give birth to elegant, high caliber wines.  JUSTIN Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception.

Made in a classic Bordeaux style, showcases the universally appealing flavors of delicate ripe raspberries, currant, and vanilla. http://www.justinwine.com/, $26

Herradura Añejo
Casa Herradura is one of the oldest and most respected producers of tequila, which many believe delivers the world's highest quality, most authentic tequila experience because of the expertise and leadership it has developed since 1870. 

Tequila Herradura is 100% blue agave tequila carefully crafted using traditional methods, such as cooking the agave in clay ovens and fermenting naturally with wild yeast. Herradura Añejo is aged for 25 months, which is 13 months longer than the industry standard. Its deep copper color hints to its oaky, spicy taste, which is apparent at the sniff of this refined expression and lingers on even after the first sip. Enjoyed like a fine Cognac or bourbon, Herradura Añejo is a great gift. $59.99 – 750 ml bottle

Sandeman Founders Reserve Collector's Tins
Sandeman, the world's leading port and sherry company, has released Sandeman Founders Reserve Collector's Tins ($20). The tins are decorated with images from the company's iconic poster artwork that makes Sandeman recognizable worldwide, and contain a bottle of Founders Reserve, Sandeman's signature and most versatile port. It is a memorable present for everyone from a cocktail novice (as six tasty cocktail recipes are included inside) to a Sandeman fan.  Sandeman's aged tawny ports come in 10, 20, 30 and 40-year old vintages ($40-$137), are the top rated imported ports in the United States and represent the quality that Sandeman has demonstrated for over 200 years. The rich yet elegant flavors of these tawny ports are sure to please and impress anyone who takes a sip. Of course, they can be given as a collection, representing a whole century of quality ports, but are also great when purchased individually to commemorate any special occasion or anniversary.

Marika Flatt has been a freelance writer since 2002, writing for publications such as: GoodHousekeeping.com, Austin Lifestyle, Austin Woman, FamilyTravel.com, ChickVacations, and several others. Her writing has also appeared on NPR.org. She is also the founder of PR by the Book, www.prbythebook.com. She lives with her husband and 3 children in Austin.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Stephan Pyles Celebrity Chef Dinner Recap

Now in its twelfth year, the Annual Stephan Pyles Celebrity Chef Dinner & Live Wine Auction held in Dallas this past weekend at Stephan Pyles Restaurant was anything but repetitive.  With different chefs cooking each year, the event always offers new surprises and inventive culinary creations to keep guests coming back for more.  This year’s line-up included David Garrido of Austin, Joel Harrington of Dallas, Nick Badovinus of Dallas, Jason Dady of San Antonio, and Rebecca Rather of Fredericksburg cooking alongside Stephan Pyles himself.  To get the night started, this year’s Stephan Pyles Culinary Scholarship winner Reneé Morgan prepared three passed hors d’oeuvres for the crowd of 100 that were so good, people were amazed to hear they had been prepared by a recent culinary school grad, rather than a chef with a pedigree such as that of Stephan Pyles.  Morgan’s samplings, paired with a Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne, made for a happy crowd right from the get-go.  After four courses of scallops, salmon, quail, and lamb, each perfectly paired with wine, the lively and exciting auction portion of the evening began as doughnuts, ice cream, and bacon (!) were served for dessert. I don’t know about everyone else, but I practically rolled out of there, happy as a pig in mud.

All in all, a truly wonderful night to support a wonderful cause – this year’s dinner raised over $20,000 to support next year’s Stephan Pyles Culinary Scholarship awarded by The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas.  Many thanks to our headlining sponsor Central Market, without whom this dinner would be impossible, all the chefs for donating their time and effort, and the wine sponsors (Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, Evening Land Vineyards, Sokol Blosser Winery, Pedernales Cellars, Palm Bay International, and Esprit du Vin) who were extremely generous to donate all wine for the evening.  We’re already looking forward to the 2012 Scholarship competition which will take place in San Antonio March 17-18th.  If the next winner cooks anything like 2011’s winner Reneé Morgan, we’re in for a treat!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Beautiful Night at Big Reds & Bubbles

The 9th Annual Big Reds & Bubbles was a beautiful evening, filled with festive spirits! Selling out early this year, guests who purchased their tickets in time were treated to delicious tasty bites from over 20 Austin chefs and wine samples galore.

As guests entered the event, they were greeted by a glamourous Champagne girl, sponsored by LaMarca prosecco, encouraged to grab a glass of bubbly from her skirt. Throughout the evening, our host, Chef Brad Sorenson who was featured on season 6 of The Next Food Network star, provided light-hearted commentary.

The Dylan Jones trio provided background music and guests bid for unique items at the silent auction. One guest took home a bottle of 1955 port with their winning big!

Thank you to everyone that joined us for this wonderful evening and to our sponsors for helping us make it happen. Next year we'll celebrate our 10th Anniversary, so be sure to buy your tickets nice and early again.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trailers Leading the Way

With so many food trucks in Austin, it’s hard to make the rounds and get a sampling from all over the city… or is it? Not when it’s Gypsy Picnic weekend! For the second straight year, my husband Morgan and I got there when it opened to have first dibs on all the trailers. However, unlike last year’s approach to try something from every single trailer (at which we failed miserably when trailers ran out of food and lines were hours long), this year’s approach involved sampling food from trailers we haven’t yet tried. Gordough’s, you were so tempting, but rules are rules.

Right off the bat, we tried some deliciously spicy vegetarian eats from Conscious Cravings and then downed a hot and crispy slice from Spartan Pizza. As a native Chicagoan, I’ve been on a quest for great thin crust pizza here in Austin and this was a shining light of hope – I’ll definitely be headed back to Spartan soon. We walked around a little more, found one trailer that was already hopelessly struggling to keep up 15 minutes after opening and wondered if there would be a repeat of last year, with hungry attendees hopelessly wandering in search of anything to eat. But with the festival more spread out this year, Gypsy Picnic seemed to avoid many of the problems it faced in its inaugural year, and many happy GP-goers got plenty to eat.

Other highlights? Crispy, straight-out-of-the-fryer eggs rolls from Fresh Off The Truck were one of my favorites while Morgan enjoyed deep fried steak mac n’ cheese from Trey’s Cuisine. It was most definitely as sinful as it sounds. To make up for it, I had a bright, fresh, and delicious mini O.G. from Blenders and Bowls. What’s that, you ask? Blended acai topped with fresh fruit, hemp granola, and Round Rock honey. That’s healthy, right? With some other less memorable stops in between, we wrapped up our gorging with Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches. Dirty Mint Chip sandwiched between Chocolate cookies and Salted Caramel between Chocolate Chip Cookies – it’s hard to go wrong. I even checked out their website and saw a Brown Butter with Candied Bacon ice cream – yes, please!

This year’s Gypsy Picnic was certainly an improvement over last year and I was happy to find some new trailers to frequent. Ready for Gypsy Picnic 2012? You bet I am!

Written by Becka Brown, Community Relations Director

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chef's Under Fire Finals

We were very excited about the opportunity to volunteer at Chefs Under Fire 2011 Finals, that occurred this past weekend at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. Created by Diane Dixon of the Keeper Collection, this event has quickly become a foodie favorite in Austin. We welcomed guests to this great event, helped register them and sent them on their way into the pre-tasting. There, they could watch the chefs prepare dishes, try various wines, and sample some outstanding lobster bisque and pork belly created by Executive Chef Josh Watkins of The Carillon. Yum! 

Chefs had a limited time to prepare a dish including potatoes, beets, green onion, and Longhorn beef. Each chef introduced his dish to the celebrity judges, who included Chef David Bull, Chef Tyson Cole, and Chef Kent Rathbun. Also in attendance to talk about the wines was Devon Broglie, Master Sommelier and Global Buyer at Whole Foods Market.

Guests were seated in the large ballroom after the testing, and were presented with the three different dishes. The event was incredibly interactive as guests were able to vote for their Fan Favorite via Twitter, and appear on a live Twitter feed. The Judge’s pick was Chef Harold Wong, but Chef Daniel Valenzuela pleased our palettes with his dish, and won Fan Favorite. Between the cook-off, the delectable dishes, and various wines and cheeses, the event was fun for all!

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Wine & Food Foundation team were very excited to see the chef-off between Shawn Cirkiel of Parkside and Paul Peterson of Vivo Lake Creek, hosted by Top Chef judge Gail Simmons! Sponsored by Target on a parking lot at 4th and Congress streets, the event was a fun way to enjoy the weather and see some great cooking with fresh ingredients.

Chef Cirkiel cooked up a halibut with a carrot sauce that smelled fabulous, while Chef Peterson made pork accompanied by a guacamole with tomato and pineapple. With the help of an audience member, the chefs had 20 minutes to create their dishes. Meanwhile, Simmons talked about some of her foodie faves. In the end, Simmons appreciated Chef Peterson’s Tex-Mex flare, and announced him winner of the chef-off.

After the event, our Community Relations Director Becka Brown took a photo with Simmons and spoke about the Foundation. Hopefully we will be seeing her at an event soon! It was wonderful to watch both chefs compete, create incredible food, and we can’t wait to see more of these types of creations at Big Reds & Bubbles on November 17, 2011.

Written by Lauren Brandewie, Foundation Intern

Friday, October 14, 2011

Holiday Preview

We attended Glazer’s Holiday Tasting event at the Long Center this week, and thoroughly enjoyed meeting distributors, vineyards, and trying some delightful drinks. We spoke with the Lange Twins family winery (who will be at Big Reds & Bubbles!) and particularly enjoyed their 2010 Petite Sirah Petite Verdot. Texas Hills Vineyard featured their Kick Butt Cabernet Sauvignon. On a lighter side, Pacific Rim winemakers from Oregon brought sparkling Rieslings that were perfectly light and sweet. The tasting event had tons more to offer, from whiskey to tequila, to 100-calorie margaritas, there will be many drinks to toast to this holiday season!

Written by Lauren Brandewie, Foundation intern

Friday, September 30, 2011

Out and About? You Bet We Are!

Congrats to many of our Board Members, Partners and Foundation Members for being listed on Michael Barnes prestigious Out & About 500 list.
Food: David Garrido, Susan and Ed Auler, David Bull, Paula Biehler, Shawn Cirkiel, Quincy Erickson, Bryce Gilmore, Jennifer and Marshall Jones (Our Executive Director!!), Cameron Lockley, Rob Moshein, plus Deborah and Larry Peel (Our Chairman!).
Business: Eddie Safady, Wendy Casey Sooch and Nav Sooch
Interactive: David Wyatt
Media: Dave Shaw, George Elliman, Deborah Hamilton-Lynn,
Nightlife: Chad Auler, Becky and Damon Holditch, Sylvia and David Jabour, Kara and Matt Swinney
Style: Rachel Elsberry
Thank you to everyone for their continued support of The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tour de Vin Recap

Around the world in one night!

Food was plated, wine was being poured, and Japanese Taiko drummers were performing as guests arrived at the W Hotel on Thursday night for our internationally-inspired wine and food pairing event, Tour de Vin. Featuring 15 Austin restaurants and over 85 wines to taste, the night was sure to please… and that it did!

Guests sampled food inspired by many regions of the world including North America, South America, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Japan, and Australia, and were able to pair wines (or sakes!) with each tasty bite. But don’t forget the bubbly! A step out on to the second floor terrace on this comfortable summer night revealed champagnes and sparkling wines galore.

A few of the lucky event-goers were also able to sign up for sommelier tours on the terrace led by Gusto Tastings throughout the night. And of course, we couldn’t forget the cigars that were graciously passed out by Heroes & Legacies.

But that’s not all! Surprise entertainment throughout the night included salsa dancing by Dance International and belly dancing from Viviane Bressan. And for those who wanted a souvenir by which to remember their world tour, the silent auction offered dinners, jewelry, gift certificates and of course, wine. A great time was had by all!
Now it’s on to our holiday kickoff, Big Reds & Bubbles. Let the planning begin!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bill Elsey Named Texas' Best Sommelier

We had an amazing time at TEXSOM 2011! Three jam packed days of registration, wine education and networking with the best in the wine business. Huge kuddos to James Tidwell MS, CWE, Sommelier at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in La Colinas and Drew Hendricks MS, CWE, Director of Beverage Education for Pappas Restaurants in Houston for leading this outstanding conference filled with a new media symposium and two days of wine seminars. Plus, did you know there was a competition going on as well? 20 individuals were competiting in a rigorous three-part wine examination involving service, blind tasting and theory with the winner, Bill Elsey of  Duchman Family Wines announced during Grand Tasting event on Monday evening. It was a fantastic conference and we can't wait for 2012!

Monday, August 1, 2011

TexSom Around the Corner!

We are gearing up for the 7th Annual Texas Sommelier Conference on August 13-15 at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas, Dallas. Be prepared for two full days of wine seminars led by the world's top experts, followed by a grand tasting of more than 150 world-class wines and small bites by Executive Chef Christof Syre.

Behind the scenes of the conference, the annual Texas' Best Sommelier competition will be taking place, with the winner announced at the Grand Tasting on Monday evening. Each year the winner of the competition is awarded scholarships for professional certification courses.

If you haven't registered for this one-of-a-kind conference be sure to do so soon - tickets are selling fast. http://www.texsom.com/

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cleveland or Bust! By Renee Morgan, 2011 Stephan Pyles Scholarship Winner

Cleveland ... or bust! By Renee Morgan, 2011 Stephan Pyles Scholarship Winner

What a great time we had in Cleveland!  Wait...Cleveland, you say?  What’s in Cleveland?  How about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?  Or the Cleveland Browns?  Or the Indians for that matter?  Or the USS Cod Submarine Memorial?

One of the many perks of winning the 2011 Stephan Pyles Cook-Off Scholarship is the opportunity to travel with Chef Pyles to one of the many events he does throughout the year, and boy did I use the time to pick his brain, as well as that of his Executive Chef, Joel Harrington.  I was so honored to accompany Chef Stephan Pyles and some of his staff to Cleveland June 24-25 for the annual 5 Star Sensation, a charity event extraordinaire whose honorary chairperson is none other than Chef Wolfgang Puck!  The idea of the event is to bring top chefs and vintners to Cleveland for a magical night of culinary extravagance to raise money for the cancer hospital.  In addition to the opportunity to meet and do tastings with some of the nations top chefs, such as Wolfgang Puck, Francois Paynard, Lydia Shire, Paul Prudhomme, Michael Symon, one of my favorite vintners, Dr. Ernest Loosen and of course, the great Stephan Pyles, I was so pleased to be even a small part of working to benefit this charity, having lost my own dear mother to brain cancer some years ago.

Let me set the scene for you...we arrived late in the afternoon on Friday and were immediately whisked away to the gorgeous Carr estate for a reception and dinner honoring the chefs and vintners who are there to give so generously of their time, talents and resources.  We were treated to a lavish cocktail reception, followed by dinner, a live band to serenading us and an extensive fireworks show.  Apparently, Mr. Carr loves fireworks and put on the show himself, with a little help from the Cleveland fire department.  This was the first moment I realized just what a great trip this was going to be.  Chef Puck addressed the audience and announced that year’s event raised close to 2 million dollars so far to assist the cancer center, which is one of the best in the country.  He also announced that in an effort to make hospital food choices better, he is partnering with the Cleveland hospital to open the first Wolfgang Puck Bistro and the grand opening/ribbon cutting would be held the next day! How cool is that?

The big event is the next evening and I still had no idea what to expect.  Preparations have all been done at the Cleveland Browns Stadium, who have generously donated the use of the stadium kitchens for the visiting chefs.  The event was held on the grounds of a local college and I am told by the event organizer that local foodies and Cleveland society look forward to the 5 Star Sensation all year.  The event spans the space of 3 huge tents, all decorated in cheerful orange and hot pink satins, and features a band, dance floor, silent auction, as well as, dining tables that organizations have paid thousands to sit at.  Each chef and vintner, has their own booth with glassware, china, silver, cooking equipment and so on.  Chefs, cooks and staff are working furiously to get set up and get food ready to serve. All have brought their best. Chef Joel tells me we are to serve up to 2000 that evening!  As the event begins, swarms of people arrive, dressed, as they say, to the nines!  Service has begun!  We are serving an almond gazpacho, with vanilla roasted fennel, lobster ceviche and Champagne grapes, and Texas goat cheese and short-rib tamale with oxtail and Texas peach and arugula salad.  It is amazing and people are coming back time and again for more!  About halfway through service, Chef Joel graciously suggested I take a “walkabout” to see what everyone was doing.  An awesome opportunity!  I talked with many of the chefs, tasted their food, listened to good advice and received invitations from several chefs to contact them when I’m done with school!  Never one to miss out, I took pictures with each of them...I plan to send them a copy of the picture with my resume!

That night, there was an after-party at the famous Lola Bistro and Wine Bar. I’d read about Lola in The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman, so it was exciting to experience it live!  The next day, it was all over and time to leave but I carry the sights, smells and experience with me always.  Many thanks and a debt of gratitude to the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas, Jennifer Grathwohl, Chef Stephan Pyles, Chef Joel Harrington and Lisa Moore for their tireless efforts and for making this priceless experience possible for me.

P.S. - I’ll be on externship at America’s Test Kitchen in Boston for the next three months.  Be sure to watch for more updates and pictures!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Susan Tran Named Winner of the 4th Annual Pastry Competition

Congratulations to Susan Tran of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin for taking home the top prize of $5,000 in the 4th Annual Pastry Competition. The two runners-up, Andrea Morgan and Lauren Ortiz took home $1,000 each. Choosing the winner was a tough decision for our three judges led by Chef Mark Paul of Wink Restaurant, Pat Sharpe of Texas Monthly Magazine and Chef Almar Alcocer of El Chile Restaurant as all three contestants showed off amazing skill and talent!  

Friday, May 20, 2011

4th Annual Pastry Competition

Three students will battle it out this weekend competing in the 4th Annual Pastry Competition at Le Cordon Bleu Austin! Each finalist will be creating a compossed dessert, traditional Texas dessert (this year Tres Leches), a standard technique dessert, mignardises plate and basic yeast bread to showcase their skills.

Swing on by Le Cordon Bleu this Sunday from 11:30am - 2:30pm to watch the competition and see who gets crowned the winner!

Thursday, May 12, 2011


We’re kickin’ up our boots and gearing up for The Wine & Food Foundation’s first-ever Cowboys + Gauchos!  It’s sure to be a rip roarin’ good time showcasing Texas and South American BBQ and wine, so mount your caballo and mosey your way down to famed Salt Lick PAVILION to join us on May 15th at Noon.

We’ll be chowing down on the fare of cowboys and gauchos provided by local favorites La Sombra Bar & Grill, Fogo de Chao, Fleming's Steakhouse, Cafe Josie, Judges' Hill Restaurant & Bar, Pit Master Arturo Ramirez, and Wild Bubba's Wild Game Grill, in addition to the Salt Lick BBQ.  Delysia Chocolatier will also be tantalizing our senses with wine-infused truffles – yum!

But don’t forget the wine! We’ll be serving up whites and reds from Texas and South American producers Fall Creek Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery, Llano Estacado Winery, McPherson Cellars, Stone House Vineyards, Lapostolle, Terrazas de los Andes, Fin del Mundo, and RJ Viñedos. Austin’s own Thirsty Planet Brewing will be providing ice cold beer as well!

The Spirit of Flamenco performers will be there dancing and clapping a passionate rhythm and The Alvin Crow Band will provide boot scootin’ country tunes throughout the event.  Cowboys + Gauchos is a not-to-be-missed event; can’t wait to see you there!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

26th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction Raises Over $300,000

The 26th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction held at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin was an exciting and fun-filled evening! We raised over $300,000!
Special thanks to Twin Liquors, Republic National Distributing Company, Retour Wines and Sokol Blosser. Some great looking lots that were up for auction and the crowd was eager to start bidding! Thanks to our Auctioneers Harvey Kronberg, Doyle Fellers and Kevin Patterson.

Huge thanks to our models for working the runway and helping us out all night!

High bidders were treated with champagne at their table.

Thank you to everyone that attended and made this event another success for The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas!

Monday, March 14, 2011

New Lots Announced for the 26th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction!

The excitement is building as we ramp up to the 26th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction!  We're happy to announce some more exceptional items that will be up for auction at this always-outstanding event!
  • “A Seat at The Table” - 16 of the rarest wines from 8 Auction Committee Members’ personal collections, Chef Mark Paul of Wink, and a beautiful Lady Bird Lake view. Only 8 seats will be on the auction block for this incredible wine experience.
  • Chuck Wagner’s Caymus Special Selection has been the benchmark California cabernet for over 3 decades, and we have a Salmanazar (9 liters) of the 2008 Caymus SS Cabernet Sauvignon! That’s a case of Caymus in 1 bottle!  $3,500 Estimated Value
  • 2 Nights for 2 people in Siena, Italy at the San Felice Holiday House Le Bonce with a tour of the winery and a personal tasting. This wonderful package comes with a 5 liter of 2006 San Felice Chianti Classico to get in the spirit!
Don't miss out on the opportunity to place the winning bid on these impressive lots.  Reserve your seat today to be part of an evening full of festivities, food, and of course, wine!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rare & Fine Wine Auction Tickets Available For Purchase!

Saturday, April 16, 2011
The Four Seasons Hotel Austin
$250 per person / $2,500 table (of 12)
Join us for one of our signature events - the 26th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction! Festivities begin at 6pm with a champagne reception and silent auction debut. At 7pm, guests are treated to an array of fine wines as well as a decadent buffet of heavy hors d’oeuvres prepared by Executive Chef Elmar Prambs of the Four Seasons Hotel. Then the fun begins!! Starting at 7:30pm, the boisterous, fast-paced and always competitive Auction will begin with more than 100 exceptionally rare and collectable wine lots up for bid.

Featured Lots for 2011:
  • 3 bottles (.750 liter) of 2007 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon in the wooden box, 100 point rating by Robert Parker; $7,500 Estimated Value
  • The wine dinner in the Larry Peel Wine Cellar is always a success and is back on the auction block this year. Winners of that lot are treated to a dinner prepared by Executive Chef Elmar Prambs of the Four Seasons, paired with fine wine from Peel’s Cellar while surrounded by over 5,000 bottles of rare and fine wine in the rustic yet charming cellar; $4,000 Estimated Value
  • One Imperial (6 liter bottle) 2007 Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon, 98+ rating by Robert Parker; $2,500 Estimated Value
Join us for an incredible and memorable evening...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Featured Lots for the 26th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction

The 26th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction is really living up to its reputation this year! The Foundation is proud to present three bottles of the 2007 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Savignon. Screaming Eagle is the finest & rarest collectible collectible Cult Cabernet in the world. Only a few precious bottles exist and are selling as high as $3,500 in some parts of the country. Robert Parker rated it 100 points and calls it "the most profound Screaming Eagle since the 2002 and 1997". A bottle of the 2007 Screaming Eagle is a must-have for the wine collector.

Also on the Auction block is a Private Wine Tasting for 6 at Joseph Phelps Vineyards. Six guests will enjoy a unique visit to the Joselph Phelps Vineyards for a private, high-end tasting (typically reserved for Phelps preferred members). The tasting will feature a selection of their current releases including their flagship wine, Insignia. Since the release of the 1990 vintage, Insignia has been produced estate-grown grapes from two of the most desirable sources for Cabernet Savignon, Rutherford Bench and the Stags Leap District.

Join us on Saturday, April 16th to see these items (and many other greats) up for Auction!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

26th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction

Mark your calendars! The 26th Annual Rare & Fine Wine Auction is set for Saturday, April 16 at The Four Seasons Hotel in Austin. Auction festivities will begin at 6 pm with a Champage reception and silent auction debut. At 6:45pm guests will be treated to an array of fine wines as well as a heavy buffett of hors d'oeuvres by Executive Chef Elmar Prambs. At 7:30pm the loud, fast-paced and always competitive auction of more than 100 rare and collectable wine lots will begin.  We hope that you can join us for an evening of spectacular wine and fun-filled memories.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sipping and Savoring All Around Town

Only a few days left to Sip & Savor Austin  a city-wide food and drink celebration with one goal
benefitting The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas. So far between the staff and interns we've visited NoRTH, urban an american grill, Jo's Downtown, El Arbol, Judge's at Mansion Hill, Sagra and Whole Foods! But there are so many other fantastic restaurants offering deals that we're sure to stay busy the next few days.
To see all special, menus and events - visit http://www.sipandsavoraustin.com/. Let us know where you'll be Sipping and Savoring and hopefully we can meet up!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas is thrilled to be selected as the 2011 beneficiary of Sip & Savor Austin - a city-wide food and drink celebration with one goal – to get the most “people in the door” of participating restaurants and bars, surpassing any food and drink event in the city.

Sip & Savor Austin is a 2-week event from January 16-30, 2011 featuring a variety of venues including Max's Wine Dive (Foundation Community Partner!), Whole Foods Market, Urban at The Westin, The Carillon, Paggi House, La Sombra, III Forks and many, many more!

To see all special, menus and events - visit http://www.sipandsavoraustin.com/. Let us know where you'll be Sipping and Savoring - we'd love to join you!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Texas Culinary Students - We Challenge You!

We are now accepting applications for the 11th Annual Stephan Pyles Culinary Scholarship Cook-Off which will take place on Saturday, April 2 and Sunday, April 3 at the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Austin.

Open to all currently enrolled culinary students throughout Texas, the scholarship challenges students to create a unique three-course meal utilizing a predetermined ‘basket of food’ containing many Texas food products. The competition consists of two phases:
  • Phase One is the application phase, whereby menus and application packets are submitted. Entries are then blindly evaluated by an expert panel of The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas judges. Ten participants are blindly selected and sent to Chef Pyles for final evaluation.  Chef Pyles then blindly selects the final three contestants.
  • Phase Two consists of the actual cook-off event whereby three finalists will be competing for two days by cooking and serving their menus to a panel of culinary experts (through a blind tasting). 
In addition to capturing the glory of being the 2011 Stephan Pyles Scholarship winner, the grand prize is a $15,000.00 scholarship made payable to the winner’s school. The winner also have the opportunity to travel with Chef Pyles to a celebrity chef fundraising event in Los Angeles and the opportunity to present a course at the Stephan Pyles Annual Celebrity Chef Dinner & Live Wine Auction in November in Dallas.

The two remaining finalists will each receive $1,000.00 scholarships made payable to their respective schools.

Download an application here. The deadline to submit your application is 5pm on Friday, February 11, 2011.

About the Scholarship:
Named for Texas culinary legend Chef Stephan Pyles, known as one of the founding fathers of Southwestern cuisine, the Stephan Pyles Culinary Scholarship is a tribute to his remarkable contribution to the culinary arts in Texas. This scholarship is one of the many ways in which The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas fulfills its mission of providing education and research in the culinary and viticulture arts.

This scholarship challenge fosters the drive, passion and imagination in student chefs, thus furthering Texas’ great culinary legacy. It is challenging, demanding and requires skill, imagination and drive. The competition is rotated between culinary schools throughout the state and is judged by a number of Texas chefs and culinary experts each year, including Chef Pyles.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 = Even More Wine & Food Fun

Happy New Year wine and food enthusiasts! Hopefully you enjoyed some tasty bubbly on New Years Eve and are ready to tackle 2011 with gusto like us here at The Foundation.

We've got a busy start to the year with an Argentinean dinner pairing at La Sombra (February 2), Zinfandel Grand Tasting (March 6), Annual Stephan Pyles Scholarship Cook-Off (April 2-3) and the always fabulous Rare & Fine Wine Auction (April 16). Plus, we're working on some new, exciting events that celebrate and highlight what we love...wine and food! Stay tuned...