The sixth installment of Fort Worth's annual smorgasbord/feeding frenzy — otherwise known as the Food and Wine Festival — kicked off with handmade tortillas, a squeeze of lime and a lick of salt.
In order to provide a festival-like atmosphere, many of the traditional venues (like Pier One and Panther Island) were abandoned for the cozy, tree-lined Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork. Huge, big-top tenting provided a nostalgic, childhood thrill to festival goers as they arrived. Only one event will be held elsewhere — Desserts After Dark, which Firestone & Robertson's Whiskey Ranch will host tonight.
The Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival added the Tacos and Tequila event to the calendar last year, but the Brik Venue proved no match for the throngs of taco-heads who came ready to throw down. This year, the event was more evenly spaced and paced, with creative entries by some expected taco mavens as well as a few chefs that you might not have seen coming at all.
This was the "Taco Thursday" of your dreams. Tacos were both humble and elevated.
Drakes Yolk Wood & Wine presented a classic brisket taco on a fluffy flour tortilla. The oak-smoked brisket was served sans sauce, so the fresh flavors of the cotija cheese, chopped pico and onion sprout garnish were prevalent and delectable. 203 Cafe served the only breakfast taco offering, which included house-smoked brisket, scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese and house salsa, garnished with spiked beans. The taco came with a tequila sunrise shooter to wash it down.
One of my favorites from the evening was a duck taco crafted by Mi Dia from Scratch. Served on a flour tortilla, the duck carnitas (pulled from bone-on, roasted duck) was delicious with a slightly sweet chile morita sauce and garnished with pickled onion and baby greens.
Wild Salsa's dish was one of the most colorful. Their Tacos De Aguacate Ahumado was a lightly smoked avocado coated with a chicharon (pork rind) panko crust and fried to perfection. It was topped with a poblano bacon pecan pesto sauce, crispy beets and micro cilantro.
In the more eclectic category were some fun twists that kept the evening inventive. Patina Green Home and Market concocted a Modelo beer cheese dip with pickled cauliflower and crispy chicharon chips. Four Sisters – A Taste of Vietnam had an amazingly tender and flavorful pork belly bao bun.
Black Rooster Bakery brought their amazing, savory empanadas in three flavors: sweet potato and black bean, chorizo and avocado and shrimp with aioli. Bartaco was handing out a beachy tuna poke tostada with fresh guacamole and sesame sauce topped with green onion.
There were also plenty of tequila samplings and cocktails to amuse. Palm Wood Catering mixed up a crowd favorite — Lemon Merengue — with Cabo Wabo tequila, lillet, lemon juice, orgeat, cream, citrus saccharum and black lemon bitters. Another ingredient-laden winner was presented by Proper on Magnolia. "The Big Easy Sour" was a blend of Monte Albon silver tequila, La Caravedo pisco, Patron pineapple citrogne infused with raw coconut, lime, agave, orange cream bitters in a toasted orange and coconut-spiced rim glass. And, one of the smoothest sipping tequilas that I have ever tasted was the 100 percent agave premium Anejo by G4. Might have to splurge on a bottle of this one.
The Heart of the Ranch was a fantasy with teepee structures and cozy lounge-scapes just beyond the big tent. Barrel top tables and picnic table seating on the lawn were lit by dangling string lights overhead. The Steve Martin-penned classic "Three Amigos" was projected on a screen, and one of the coolest features traveled up from Austin for the occasion — a handmade honky-tonk on wheels that one has to see to believe. The organizers really upped the cool factor and added plenty of Insta-worthy backdrops this year.