FWFWF Saturday Recap: Highlights from the Culinary Coral and Burgers, Brews & Blues

FWFWF Kari Crowe

Spring storms threatened to wash out Saturday's Food and Wine Festival events, but the rain quickly dissipated and the Culinary Corral was instead awash with colorful and decadent bites and beverages.

The newly named and structured Culinary Corral took the place of the brunch-focused Rise and Dine event of past years. It transformed into a four-hour extravaganza complete with a tasting tent and profusion of vintners pouring their best blushes, burgundies and bubbles.

Some fun pop-up events were on display throughout the day, including a food photography lesson by Fort Worth Magazine's former food columnist Nancy Farrar; another called "Parm Porn," which displayed a technique for flaming a huge wheel of Parmesan cheese with Nonino Grappa Chardonnay to create a to-die-for pasta coated in cheese sauce; and champagne sabering lessons, which were held at the Sabering Tent.

The weather only hampered the Artisan Marketplace, which would have displayed the wares of several local makers, from jewelry to leather-goods and even succulent plants.

Some of the morning's best dishes were served up by the likes of BREWED, which passed out a rich and dessert-like crème brulée French toast. Chef Jenna Kinard of the Hotel Drover, which will open next year in the Stockyards, came up with an equally hearty dish. Her charred poblano and jalapeño grits with smoked pork belly were a hit.

Funky Town Donuts offered two options: the Funky Goat donut with strawberry glaze, a dollop of goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar; or a donut hole trio — one filled with lemon raspberry mascarpone and another filled with pineapple jalapeño cream cheese, the last was dusted with cinnamon sugar.

The avocado toast trend was on full display with entries by both Press Cafe and Local Foods Kitchen. The Press version featured smashed avocado atop a sourdough slice with creamy ricotta cheese, watercress, campari tomatoes and watermelon radish. Local Foods toast was topped with a tangy bacon jam, pico de gallo and a soft-boiled quail egg.

There was a long line to sample one succulent grilled scallop by Waters Restaurant, and Cafe Modern crafted some Korean BBQ sliders with pickled cucumber and grilled pineapple relish. Cannon Chinese delivered what they called "Hong Kong Style" chicken and waffles with a hint of Chinese spices. Cannon announced they will again be opening for lunch, hopefully before the end of April.

Burgers, Brews and Blues felt familiar since the Heart of the Ranch has long been its home. The tantalizing scent of sliders filled the air and musical acts lent to its laid-back atmosphere. Each Festival event draws a different crowd and this one is all about the backyard cook-out. Festival-goers donned their more casual or cowboy attire, as usual, and bellied up to sample some truly scrumptious sliders and sip some sophisticated, local brews.

The judges gave top honors to Knife Burger this year, whose chef, John Tesar, was on hand personally manning the grill. His famous Ozersky Burger is a perennial award winner and lauded for its simplicity. The freshly ground meat from 44 Farms was perfectly seasoned, topped with melting cheddar slice and shaved red onion, and it was served with the perfect medium-rare center.

Another of my personal favorites was a new creation by Kincaid's Hamburgers called the "Firecracker" and with all the rave reviews they received at the festival, it just might become a regular on their menu. The classic Kincaid's patty is topped with (who are we kidding, it is smothered with) jalapeño cream cheese and crispy bacon, and drizzled with habanero-infused honey.

Two other items debuted at the Burgers, Brews & Blues as well. Owner, Kelly Smith of Tommy's Hamburgers, rolled out a new menu item she called the "Billy Goat" which will be available at all Tommy's beginning next week. It was topped with fluffy goat cheese, candied jalapeño slices, barbeque sauce and crunchy onions.

Finally, Kari Crowe, owner of Melt Ice Creams, showed up with her trademark bright yellow food truck. Along with new flavors like Birthday Cake Batter, she chose the event to launch her new push pop design called (what else?) Happy Pops — it's a childhood throwback and the "neat-freaks" preferred way to eat ice cream.

Not only did the event sizzle with hot-off-the-grill burger creations, there were plenty of suds to sample, by 22 local, craft breweries — each brought at least two of their latest or greatest to share. And, (sigh of relief) the weather was cool and dry.