Austin Food & Wine Fest: Dustbusters

 
 
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 04.26.13
 
True grit wasn’t supposed to be a Food & Wine Festival factor. But last year, the dusty moonscape of Auditorium Shores was a bigger player than Andrew Zimmern, Tim Love or Marcus Samuelsson. And while the three of them are back for the second Austin Food & Wine Festival that starts today and runs through Sunday, the organizers decided not to invite Auditorium Shores to the party.
 
Instead, C3 Presents moved the festival across Riverside Drive to Butler Park. Not the pitch-and-putt course, but rather the egg-shaped space that lies just west of the Long Center. And not a moment too soon, because Auditorium Shores looks like an Arizona prison yard again this year, ground to tan stubble by daily traffic and last weekend’s record-high crowd at the Austin Reggae Festival.
 
And while the Butler Park lawn isn’t quite the movie-star carpet of Food & Wine’s flagship festival in Aspen, there’s enough green to keep the dust out of the tasting glasses.
 
 
The photos above show the fenced-in festival grounds at Butler and the vast central lawn where the Fire Pit will be. The overhead map reveals a footprint similar in size to last year’s festival, with room for a 100-Weber grilling demo, seven showcase tents and a big tasting pavilion that looks like one of those emoticons for screaming. With joy? With half-drunk abandon? With frustration? The next three days will tell.
 
The festival starts at 7 tonight with the Taste of Texas walkaround sampling at Republic Square Park, then continues on Saturday from 10-4 and Sunday 11-3 at Butler Park. On Saturday at 7, Republic Square will host a Rock Your Taco tasting. Tickets are $850 for a Savor Pass that allows access to all those events, or $250 for a Taste Pass that includes only the Saturday-Sunday events at Butler Park. For details and a full schedule, go here.
 
For comparison’s sake, here’s how Auditorium Shores looks this year:
 
 
And here’s what the festival grounds at Auditorium Shores looked like last year:
 
 
(Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking; maps from the Austin Food & Wine Festival)