Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Ultimate Guide to Food and Drink Festivals

If you’ve attended any food events in the past, you’ve learned a few things. You usually need to carry everything, walk a good distance to the festival from your transportation, and be prepared for whatever the weather brings.  Here’s a compilation of tips I’ve learned over the years of going to food, wine, cocktail, and beer events along with links to past posts about it. 

A sling for your glass means your hands are free to stuff your face.
General Tips
1. Wear comfortable shoes.  You'll be walking from where you parked to the festival, and all over the festival.  
2. Sunblock.  Sunblock.  Sunblock.  And sunblock.  UV rays don’t discriminate when you’re eating foie gras.  
3. If you must wear a dress or a skirt, make sure it has some structure and substance so it doesn't get blown around.  The wind was causing some free peep shows.  
4. Neti-pot (with distilled or boiled water) when you get home.  Festivals are usually outdoor, and they can get quite dusty.  Your sinus will thank you.
5. Phone charger.  Also bring a portable charger if you can.  You don’t want to be glued to an outlet. Keep it in a plastic bag big enough for your phone and camera in case it rains. 
6. Bring your own fork and spoon, because you might need your own when the disposables run out. Bring your own glass sling too.  Instructions here: http://misohungrynow.blogspot.com/2013/04/make-your-own-wine-or-beer-sling-for.html
7. ID. Even if you look like you’re 85 years old, TABC could be watching.  No one wants trouble with TABC so bring your license and don’t pitch a fit if you’re required to show it.
8. A designated driver. You can destroy your own liver, but please don’t destroy another person’s life.
9. Cash. While many vendors may take credit cards onsite, cell service can be spotty at large events.  Cash is king.  
10. Your manners. Don’t piss off people.  Don’t be rude.  Everyone here wants to have fun, including the volunteers.  
11. Drink water.  And more water.  And then more water.
12. Benadryl and band-aids.  You never know when you or someone at the festival will have an allergic reaction to food or insect bites.  I always carry benadryl, just in case.  And you never know when you're going to need a band-aid for a blister, burn, or cut. 
12. If Franklin's is at the festival, run to the line first.  RUN! RUN! RUN!

Nothing more satisfying than a man and his meat.  Get your head out of the gutter. 
1. Bring an umbrella to New Orleans if you don’t want to get wet.  It rains almost everyday.
2. Bring some pretzels or a turkey leg on your neck for Great American Beer Festival.  Unless you are going to a food event, you will need food reserves. There are food vendors inside with limited selection.  I would bring my own vittles. 

This man is simply awesome.  Turkey leg necklaces are a must for the ultimate beer loving carnivore. 

1. Unless you have a VIP pass, it might be wise to wait until the last hour of the grand tasting.  During the VIP period, it was pretty tame.  However, during general admission, it could get a little squishy.  If you wait until after most of the crowd had eaten their fill, the tents started to clear out.
2. Arrive very early to the cooking demos.  The lines can start as far as an hour in advance.
3. Bring a bag big enough to carry all the books and swag that you'll collect.  They do give you a resuable tote bag, but it does get difficult to carry.  I bring my own sling or shoulder strap style bad. 

The cooking demo line for Qui Ingredients at the 2013 Austin Food and Wine Festival
1. Helmet.  This might seem odd.  There are many bikers (the motorcycle kind) out in West Texas.  You’ll never know when you need one for a ride on a Harley.
2. Boots.  This is mandatory dress code for West Texas.  Boots.  
3. Lotion and chapstick.  Did I mention that this is the desert? You'll dehydrate quickly. 

Boots are a must.
Brewery Events
1. Chair.  If you can’t stand for long periods of time, bring a chair.  The brewery most likely will not have any.
2. Snacks. And sometimes there is no food provided at brewery open houses, though it is becoming less common.  Pack a power bar, banana, apple, or some crackers.
Wish you were Beer.....at Big Bend Brewing Company in Alpine, TX. 
Dog Friendly Festivals
1. Dog on leash. Do NOT bring your dog off-leash.  I’ve been to so many festivals where dogs are running the street because the owners are too busy doing something else.  The leash is for safety.  Use it.  No one wants to leave a festival early because their dog got hurt. 
2. Water + drinking bowl.  I bring a water jug with a shoulder strap for my dogs because they drink directly out of the jug.  Dogs need water throughout the day as well.
3. Poop bags.  Nature calls.  Clean it up.  No one wants to step in dog poop.  Or human poop either.  Keep a diaper on the babies.  
4. Snacks.  If you’re out and about for a long period of time, bring snacks for the puppies.  If you can’t go eight hours without food, why should your dog go without food.  I also bring treats for my dogs because I use every outing as a training session.  
5. Your dog’s manners. No one likes cranky people, and no one likes rude dogs.  Please train your dog how to behave appropriately in public before bringing it out to play.

This durable $10 dress gave me the freedom to shuck 450 oysters at Viva Big Bend and run around.  And it was machine washable.  Get over here and have an oyster!

Working festivals:
If you’ve worked a food festival, there requires just a little more.  
1. Prepare your stomach in advance.  You may not get to eat as you’ll probably get caught up in work and forget to eat.  You might have to eat after midnight after clean up. 
2. Wear something that is durable and machine washable.  You might be hauling 50 lb cases of raw seafood or have someone drop a bowl of salsa on you.  If it wasn’t totally out of theme with the event, I might even consider wearing workout gear.  You might be getting a serious one.  

Monday, March 31, 2014

Taking #GoogleGlass in a Lamborghini on the Circuit of Americas Track

I was very lucky to have been invited to take a spin on the Circuit of the Americas track in a Lamborghini Gallardo, one of the sexiest vehicles around by Lamborghini of Dallas.  This was a once in a lifetime experience that I decided to take despite the consequences of motion sickness afterwards.  To prepare, I fasted for 18 hours in advance, sipped on water, and brought #GoogleGlass and candied ginger with me.  I've been on many tracks before as the driver and the passenger, and I had a feeling that this was going to be one of those where I probably wouldn't be in the best condition after exiting. 

This is one SEXY machine.  It has a nice rear.

The front isn't too shabby either. 

This is the one I actually rode in on the track.  It is smooth, slick, and sexy as hell.  If you haven't ever been on a racetrack or autocross track, people who suffer from motion sickness can get sick very quickly.  Going 160 mph isn't a bad when you are going straight.  When you are taking hairpin turns, it can really do a number on your system.  Usually, the nausea subsides after a few hours.

However, this time was even rougher on my system.  I went into stress overdrive and lost motor control.  It has happened before with a dose of epinephrine, which is typical.  I guess studying behavioral neuroendocrinology was useful.  In a nutshell, I just had a really high dose of cortisol.  However, it took several days to go back to normal.  If it happens to you, don't fret.  Eventually your cortisol levels will return to normal.

Here's the video taken with Google Glass.  Enjoy!

Isn't it beautiful? 

And here's the driver, Les Betchner.  Not only does he drives at these types of events, he also does stunt driving for movies.  I asked him if he felt bad for destroying cars, and he said, "No. They have it worked into the budget."  Aww.... I feel bad when the cars are destroyed! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Holeman and Finch in Atlanta

Holeman and Finch was one of my last stops on a an evening of eating and drinking.  It was pretty dark we're a little low on the photos.  Three things that I would order again at Holeman and Finch:

1. Drinks - the cocktails here were creative and well executed.  I ordered the Spikey #1, but every time another drink went by, I looked longingly.  Next time, I'll make Holeman and Finch my first stop and stay awhile.

2. Things with meat.  I ordered the amazingly crispy and clean tasting sweetbreads and the charcuterie board.  Get it.  Eat it.

3. The pork fat caramel is amazing.  It is simply, simply, simply amazing.  It is was definitely a sweet dessert with a subtle savory note.  I did manage to procure the recipe, and I'll be trying to make it at home.

Pork fat caramel with apples!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Behind the scenes with @Cirque Du Soleil's Varekai with #GoogleGlass

Varekai, means "wherever" in Romanian, is one of Cirque Du Soleil's traveling shows - one of the rare opportunities to get to experience Cirque Du Soleil outside of their stationary shows.  Varekai was my eighth (or ninth) shows, and it does not disappoint.  While the core of the show is around human feats of strength and skill, the frame and feel of each show distinct and beautifully done.   All photos by John M. P. Knox / @hopsafari
Photo by John M. P. Knox - @HopSafari
One of the biggest lessons that everyone can learn from Cirque is how to tell a story - how to repackage something that we've been exposed to previously and turn it into something absolutely stunning.  Prior to Cirque, impressions of "circuses" were dirt floor rings, unfocused acts, lack of story, and sometimes the smell of elephant. 
  Photo by John M. P. Knox - @HopSafari
The best example of this is Zarkana in Las Vegas.  Of the shows that I have seen, this is the one that is the closest to traditional circus acts.  However, the creative directors added a story, distinct and elaborate costumes, live music and beautifully choreographed movements.  It doesn't resemble anything that you might see in a three ring circus.

I was very lucky to get a behind the scenes experience of Varekai.  A big thanks to Endicott PR for inviting us see the artists in action.  Above is a video compilation show of clips taken by the artists wearing my GoogleGlass and my iPhone during rehearsal.  Next, I'll have some photos of the artist during rehearsal and onstage.  Enjoy!
This is Karen.  She was on the stage when we arrived. 

Karen is from New Hampshire.  It is imperative for the artists to practice at a new site because each one is a new space.  Movements need to be adjusted and refined to ensure safety.  The set takes about 16 hours to set up!

Here she is getting a few pointers. 

And this is her on opening night.  The costumes and makeup are so elaborate that it is hard to tell which artist is which. 

As she leaves the stage, the two Ukrainian artist take a turn on the stage.  There are about 50 artists total in this show from 18 different nations.  While we walked around backstage, I was certainly exposed to make other languages and accents.  It is amazing to think that these artists trust each other with their lives even though they might initially speak different languages. 

My palms are still getting sweaty and shaky looking at this photo.  I did take a trapeze class after last year's Quidam show.  It was pretty scary being 60 feet up in the air hanging onto dear life by some wires.  My hands are really sweaty now. 

Here they are setting up for the next moves. 

After watching these moves, I can not complain about planks or hand stand walks.  This is an amazing display of control. 

Do you recognize the artists?  I wouldn't have!  These boys made my heart skip a beat several times!

Icarus, the character, is getting his make up put on.  It takes the artists about two hours to prepare their make up and costumes for the performance. 

And here he is on stage, falling from the sky. 

A big thanks to Cirque Du Soleil for having us during your dress rehearsal and opening night.  What a treat!