The 2015 Food and Wine Festival Satisfied Appetites and Exceeded Expectations

The 2015 Food and Wine Festival has come and gone, leaving downtown Fort Worth satiated for another year. Such a stellar array of winemakers, distillers, brewers and chefs leave quite an impression, however, and attendees are forgiven if they’re already salivating at the prospect of 2016’s festivities.

The party kicked off at Billy Bob’s Thursday night, March 26th, and continued through the Sunday Family Funday at the Coyote Drive-In. In between, event sponsors, ticket-holders, and media were treated to a host of premier events that included the Grand Tasting, Desserts After Dark, Rise + Dine, and Burgers, Brews and Blues.

The Artisan Marketplace in Sundance Square gave attendees a chance to stretch their legs, encourage their digestion, and enjoy the festival weekend’s clear skies and temperate weather. The Grand Tasting, held at the Worthington Renaissance Hotel on Friday evening, paired food from the best of North Texas’s chefs with regional brews and wines from around the world. Attendees were presented with an embarrassment of riches, as the exhibit halls contained over 100 presenters who somehow managed to keep the generous samples flowing throughout the event’s three hours.

Chef Jon Bonnell’s Waters Restaurant offered succulent calamari steak fries paired with a jalapeño remoulade. In the adjacent booth, Ellerbe Fine Foods offered up confit duroc pork shoulder. Some presenters delivered inspired takes on classic dishes, such as the delectable pork and beans served up by downtown’s Grace. Austin’s Dripping Springs Vodka was on hand to showcase its newest offering, an artisanal gin, and also prepared drinks with a grapefruit and rosemary-infused vodka. A clutch of craft brewers also supplied drinks, and the dozens of winemakers didn’t skimp on the good stuff.

The fun continued at Desserts After Dark, which picked up where the Grand Tasting left off and continued until midnight. Held at 809 at Vickery, the event highlighted local distillers Firestone & Robertson, whose TX Whiskey fueled an extravagant fete of cocktails and desserts. Those who burned the midnight oil could still make Saturday’s Rise + Dine, which didn’t kick off until 11a.m. Also held at the Worthington Renaissance, Rise + Dine mirrored the set-up of the Grand Tasting, though with an emphasis on brunch-style foods. A highlight came in the form of Max’s Wine Dive’s boudin, served with a yellow curry sriracha ketchup. Black Rooster Bakery and newcomer Pearl Snap Kolaches gave attendees their daily dose of baked goods, and Avoca saved many attendees’ mornings as the sole presenter on-hand with coffee.

Those in need of eye-openers had no shortage of options, what with three Bloody Mary bars, two cocktail lounges, and the return of many of the previous evening’s brewers and winemakers. The Artisan Marketplace in Sundance Square brought a sense of festivity to downtown Fort Worth, with 20 tents and a variety of vendors. Highlights included Sweet Lucy’s Pies, whose homemade creations feature local and seasonal ingredients, and Scorpion Gourmet Hot Sauce. If you’re brave, try Scorpion’s Very Hot blend, made here in Fort Worth with 100% organic ingredients and no preservatives.

The Sunday Family Funday, held from 2 to 5 p.m. at the scenic Coyote Drive-In, provided the perfect capstone for the four-day festival. Thirteen of Fort Worth’s finest mobile food vendors — including an authentic chuck wagon — lined up to distribute samples. Also on hand were Rahr Brewing and St. Arnold’s, two festival stalwarts whose generosity kept the good times flowing. Also deserving of mention is H9, whose bottles of water kept people hydrated throughout the festival.

If you missed out on the festivities this year, or only managed to make it to an event or two, don’t fret: you’ll get another chance in 2016, when the Food and Wine Festival returns March 31st through April 3rd.