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

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prepare to indulge in Beer and Food Events

Even though we've been back from the Great American Beer Fest, playing catch up with work has been pretty horrific.  As you know, Oktoberfest events are rampant over the next few weeks as are  food events.  Here's some that you might want to know about.
New cool kid on the block, Software Advice, is celebrating their 1st birthday in Austin with a party.  There's a few reasons to check them out.

1. If you're into software, technology, or friends with people in those areas, this is a great place to network with your peers over some beer.
2. They're having a keg of Live Oak Brewing. Enough said. :o)
3. Check out this cool time-lapse video of last year's party.  As you can tell, I like to walk around, quickly. 
2010 is shaping up to be a great year for Austin Texas. The city was named “Best City for the Next Decade” by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, “Best City for Job Growth” by and it ranks number one in the “Small Business Vitality Rankings” by We feel lucky to be among the businesses that now call Austin home.  It has been a little over a year since ERP Software Advice moved to Austin from San Francisco. It is one of the best strategic decisions our company has made. Austin’s business-friendly climate has helped us weather the economic storm and grow our company at the same time. Not to mention, it’s a fine place to live.
To celebrate our one-year anniversary, we are hosting our second “summer bash.” We'll serve hors d'oevres, free beer from Live Oak Brewing Company and live music from the PolySky band. The party is Thursday, September 30th at 6:00 PM. For more information, visit: We would love for you to join us, and bring your friends!
Austin Beer Week (Oct. 24-30) this year looks like it is going to be pretty hectic.  It looks like the system allows people to self-submit events, so it isn't easy to distinguish if the events are hosted by an organization, individual, or other.  I'm not posting the events individually because there is a plethora of them.  But nonetheless, enjoy safely!

The Draught House is turning 42 on Saturday, Oct. 23, 1-10 pm!  That means beer olympics fun.  Check out their busy schedule here.
NXNW 9th Oktoberfest to benefit three local charities -  October 16, 2010, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and
October 17, 2010, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Join NXNW for an Austin tradition! The annual Oktoberfest is back for its ninth year and is aimed to be fun for all ages. While the music of local bands Oma and the Oompahs and Sauerkrauts fill the air, Chef George will prepare traditional German cuisine to enjoy with special NXNW-crafted brews.  NXNW encourages attendees to donate $2 at the door. All Oktoberfest festivities will benefit three independent nonprofits: the Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas, Pet Pals of Central Texas and Central Texas Dachshund Rescue.

NXNW Oktoberfest will feature something for everyone: kids rides, face painting, artists’ booths, brewing demonstrations, and a balloon artist. On Sunday, there’s even an all-breed dog costume contest at 2:30 p.m. and a Weiner dog costume contest at 3 p.m. for the four-legged friends!

Central Market North Lamar and Central Market Westgate are hosting their own brew events from Sept. 22-Oct. 5th.  Again, the events are plentiful so please check out the links for a full list.  Also, for the food and beer nerd in you, check out the gastropub events.
Go Texan Round-Up - Sept. 27- Oct. 1
Love to support local?  Love to eat? This week is the Go Texan Round up.  All across Texas, restaurants are participating by sourcing food from Texas suppliers, and some restaurants are event donating a portion of their proceeds to a local food bank.  Not only are you going to be supporting local farmers and growers, you'll also be supporting organizations that help feed the hungry.  If you're interested in giving the Texas Department of Agriculture your feedback, you can earn a chance to wine win some pretty fantastic prizes.  The bed and breakfast prize at Messina Hof looks pretty tempting!  If you're a Twitter fanatic, check out the Twitter contest.  Use the #GOTEXAN hashtag to tweet your eats. 
Chefs Under Fire  Finals - October 25, 2010, 7:00 PM AT&T Executive Education & Conference Center1900 University Avenue – Austin, Texas 78705
Last night was the Austin/San Antonio Regional Chefs Under Fire Compeition.  With tables of tasty bites and drinks in had, attendees watched as five chef's battled for the change to compete at the finals.  The deserving winner was Chef Erica from Max's Wine Dive (below).  She'll move onto the next competition which will be held at the AT&T Executive Center on Oct. 25th.  Make sure you pick up a ticket before they sell out!

Photo by John Knox

Friday, September 17, 2010

GABF 2010 #4: Session 1 - Food, Beer, and Condoms

Day One of the Great American Beer Festival Sessions was bustling with excitement.  With many familiar faces and many new ones, the energy in the hall was high with excitement.  I'm a bit of a planner so I knew which breweries I wanted to hit up before the flood of thirsty attendees came rampaging through the isle.  I grabbed @windaddict and @beachbumchris, and we jumped into the fast growing New Glarus line.  By the time 5:20pm rolled around, the line was already 50 people deep, and we were happily at the front. 

The reason for my quick jump into the New Glarus line was for the delicious raspberry tart.  I had tried some last year, and I couldn't wait to try it again.  Apparently neither could anyone else as they ran out halfway into the session.  This raspberry tart is incredibly sweet and fruit as you'd expect, almost like a raspberry soda.  While this type isn't as common in the beer world, it surely is a coveted one.  The Enigma is a wonderfully delicious sour brown ale.  Smooth, sweet cherry, barley, and vanilla notes in an oh-so-complex marriage, it is absolutely delicious.  Congrats again, New Glarus, for impressing my palate once again.

This photo by John M. P. Knox.

Prior to the session, I was lucky enough to interview Alaskan Brewing outside of the flurry of activity.  I was interested in what the brewery representatives thought about their Fire and Ice: Beer and Seafood Throwdown session on Saturday night, but I got some pretty interesting inside scoop about the brewery.  Nestled in a town of 30,000, Alaskan Brewing's reach extends far and wide.  The line to sample their beers at the first session was fairly steady with smoked porter being a popular request (photo below).  The smoke porter had an amazing dark, rich color and a smoky aroma that is sure to make any Texan barbeque connoisseur green with envy. 

At the rare beer tasting, Alaskan Brewing will be sampling their smoked porter aged in Jack Daniel's barrels.  I'm pretty stoked about that one.  Other fun things that the brewery does is allow their employees to come up with new recipes in a small batch.  Recipes that are well-liked are moved up into bigger batches and potentially brewed for distribution in bottles.  Some of the interesting brews that may or may not have made it to distribution are the mango wheat, gluten free, white ale, stone brew, and double black IPA.  The stone brew is pretty interesting as they tried to brew it with stones, literally.  The stones weren't for the flavor, but rather for the heat.  I'm told that the stone recipe wasn't tried again. 

If you are catching their Saturday night session, look for salmon poached in Alaskan Amber with red pepper garnish and lemon drizzle and Dungeness crab salad.

Photo of Charlie Brown from Alaskan pouring a sample by John M. P. Knox.

As part of my media package, I was also given a ticket to attend the Farm to Table Pavilion where beer and food are paired.  The food was prepared by the Culinary School for the Rockies, and the beers were donated by the breweries.  Let the food and beer porn begin!

House made pork sausage with smoked fingerling potato and mixed cabbage and pear slaw served with Victory Brewery V12.

Spice cake with roasted pear compote and honey goat cheese cream served with Stone Brewing Co. Sawyer's Triple

Mini Rosemary Buffalo burger with Windsor Dairy Bleu Cheese and Caramelized Onion on a Brioche Bun served with Stone Brewing Co. Saison du Buff

Hazel Dell Wild Mushrooms and Thyme with Creamy Polenta served with Odell Brewing Co. Woodcut #3

Tripple M Bar Ranch Lamb Polpette, mint pesto, goat cheese, curry pinenuts, micro basil, balsamic reduction served with Ninkasi Summer Radiant Ale

I really loved this New Holland Brewing Company bottle.  The pig is flying.

Sebbie from Rogue Ale gifted me with this hilarious "family planning device."  I love that is says "Rise Up!"  I'll report that it is slightly larger than the one I got at SXSW Music.

GABF 2010 #3: Visiting Euclid Hall

Euclid Hall is generating its fairshare of buzz.  From Austin to Denver, from locals in Denver to Tweeps across the country, we kept hearing about Euclid Hall.  So after @theartofbeer's birthday party, @windaddict and I strolled down to check it out.  Euclid has only been open for about 6 weeks, and we'd say that they are full of potential.  Even though Euclid was offering beer and small plate pairings for $5 each, we were so hungry that we decided to get regular size portions.  The menu at Euclid is all a la carte and not your typical bar fare.

I ordered the cheesesteak (9.50) that was served with a cheese sauce, picked onions and jalapenos on a hoagie roll.  The meat was perfectly tender and well-balanced with the flavors of the mild cheese sauce and sour vegetables. 

TheBrat Burger (9.50) came highly recommended so we gave it a try.  Served on a bretzel bun with pickled cabbage, thousand island dressing, and Jarlsberg cheese, this dish is certainly for those who love brats.  It is a hearty sandwich with a sturdy bun to match.

 On the side, we ordered the hanger steak and braised short rib poutine fries with Wisconsin cheese curds.  While I enjoyed this dish, I think a few tweaks, it could be outstanding.  The fries were a bit unevenly cooked with some being a light golden color, and some being a darker crunchier brown.  With the heavy toppings on the fries, I think a little crunchier could have helped the fries hold up to the toppings.  Our serving was a little heavy on the cheese (more cheese than fries), and a slightly bit over sauced.  The gravy topping was fairly salty and tangy which overpowered the flavors of all the other items.  If I get the chance to try Euclid before I leave, I'd try a poutine dish again.

If you have a place in your heart for deep fried foods (DFF), this dish is for you.  These pig ear fries ($5) weren't like any that I've ever had.  These fries are time consuming to make.  The ears are first braised for some time (I think the chef said 4 hours), flattened, the cartilage cleaned off and removed, sliced thinly, and then battered/coated, and fried.  The results are little crispy shells surrounding the soft skin of pig ears. This dish is one for DFF-lovers.  If you aren't a fan of DFF, you might want to skip this one. 

Pretzel pies (7.50) are somewhat like deep fried pies, however the crust is made with a mixture of pretzel and pie dough.  One order comes with three of these little pies in three flavors: chocolate, cheesecake, and peach.  I thought they were fairly tasty, though the crust was a bit tough. 

We didn't order these, but they sure did look good.  Waffle ice cream sandwiches.  Mmm........

GABF 2010 #2: Concerts for Kids Community Garden

On Wednesday morning, @WindAddict and I met up with @BisonBrew for some lunch at the Concerts for Kids Farmer's Market.  While we were there, we samples many delicious bites, but there was one vendor that really stole the show.  The Inventing Room's dessert cart boasted inventive techniques and flavor combinations.  Collectively, we all decided that the mint chocolate space foam was the first thing to try.  What appeared to be mint chocolate whipped cream was placed on a spoon (see below), then dropped into liquid nitrogen.  This isn't liquid nitrogen ice cream though.  What resulted were frozen puffs of cream resembling divinity cookies.  One pop into your mouth, and you'll soon see that these were just a little colder than cookies; they were freezing!  Even for three adults, these treats were pretty fun to eat, and I wish I had gotten to sample other offerings from the Inventing room.

Whipped cream going on the spoon.

It is ALIVE!  Not really.  It is just freezing in liquid nitrogen. 

@BisonBrew is breathing out cold air.  The foam is pretty cold so it can freeze your tongue. 

We found a cupcake truck, but before we could settle down to enjoy a lunch, we were distracted by something else. 

A Concerts for Kids volunteer approached us and asked if we wanted a tour of the garden and if we needed a bag.  I was kind of confused, but we went on the tour anyways.  It turns out that the community garden is open to the public during specified hours.  The public is invited to harvest the fruits and vegetables of the garden.  Donations are accepted on behalf of Concerts for kids.  @windaddict, @BisonBrew, and I got to enjoy picking strawberries, okra, and noshing on fresh squash blossoms.  I'm bringing some okra seeds home for planting.  I love the idea of a community garden, and I was thoroughly impressed with the vibrant and lush garden in downtown Denver. 

@BisonBrew noshing on a strawberry. 


Another view of the garden.

Giant Squash.

GABF 2010 #1: Cooking with some Master Chefs

@Windaddict and I arrived a few days prior to the Great American Beer Festival to spend some times with friends.  @BeachBumChris invited us over for dinner at @SpeakEasyKitch's home, to which we gladly accepted.  They met on the set of Master Chefs, so dinner was sure to be a treat.  The menu consisted of fruit and veggies fresh out of the garden, an array of delicious cheeses,  shrimp etouffee, and a variety of beers to pair.  @SpeakEasyKitch's garden was overflowing with plump, fresh tomatoes, plums, and crisp kale.  I brought some plum seeds home to plant.   Photos by John M. P Knox.

Before dinner, we stopped by the cutest little ice cream shop ever.  Little Man Ice Cream wins in the creative and cuteness category. 

Chopped veggies. 

An Oyster stout with dinner. 

Cooking down the veggies.

The beer line up.  Note, we didn't try them all. I didn't anyways.

Finished dinner.  Thanks @SpeakEasyKitch and @BeachBumChris for the hospitality. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cupcake Smackdown 2.0 Wrap up with videos and photos

On August 21st, 2010, 409 Austinites gathered to set the first record of its kind - the most people simultaneously frosting a cupcake.  With the generous assistance of Le Cordon Bleu, Austin was able to pull of this awesome feat that benefited local non-profits including Lights, Camera, Help, Mobile Loaves and Fishes, Scare for a Cure, and Keep Austin Dog Friendly. Here are two videos chronicling the event.

This one was edited by me, footage by David Neff.

And this one was shot and edited by John M. P. Knox. 
In addition to completing the huge task of wrangling the masses for the cupcake frosting, Le Cordon Bleu also orchestrated the Guinness World Record attempt for most jaffa cakes eaten in one minute.  Unfortunately, none of our brave contestants beat the record of eight jaffa cakes.  Thank you so much to Le Cordon Bleu for stepping up to the plate on this. 
Other activities at the event included train rides, the cupcake pinata, and the infamous cupcake cannon.  Our event was so cool, that even Dave Chappelle made a debut. 

Photo by @Annainaustin.
We're still waiting for some administrative tasks of our world record to be completed, but I'd like to thank everyone else who worked hard to put on a great Cupcake Smackdown 2.0. The Cupcake Smackdown couldn't have happened without you!  Now onto the fun, here's the various links to press, photos, videos, and funny tweets.  List of sponsors at the end.




Gowalla Spots

Notable Tweets

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fall Events to leave you stuffed and tipsy

Fall is underway, and that means the food events are picking up like mobile homes in a tornado.  Excuse my sense of humor.  :o)  @windaddict and I will be in Denver covering the Great American Beer Fest over the next week, but here's some upcoming events to satisfy the glutton in you.  I also have some tickets to give away, so make sure you read the entire post.


Wednesday, Sept 15th, 6:30 pm - Jeff Potter, author of Cooking For Geeks, is coming to Austin on a book tour.  He is giving a talk on the science of cooking and will show some sous vide cooking equipment.
Event: Jeff Potter, author of Cooking For Geeks
Location: Whole Foods (525 North Lamar Boulevard, Austin, TX‎), Mezzanine
Time: 6:30pm
Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Wednesday, Sept 15th, 7 pm - Maker's Mark Whiskey Dinner at Highball.  Whiskey is delicious. In fact, it's so delicious, that aside from drinking it, sometimes we put it in food. There's going to be a lot of whiskey going around at this dinner, folks. The menu, four-courses of tasty whiskey-enhanced edibles, includes crab bisque served with White Dog, Texas Quail stuffed with a Maker's-infused duck liver mousse and served with underaged whiskey, beef tenderlion with a bourbon basted oyster mushroom duxelle, scalloped sweet potatoes and prosciutto bundled asparagus and served with a fully matured whiskey, and finally, an aniss scented creme brulee with salted shortbread, served with Maker's Mark 46.  Tickets are $57 and include everything listed above.  Purchase tickets here:

Saturday, Sept. 18th, 11am - 4 pm - Taste of North Austin invites you to sample good eats, enjoy live music, cooking demonstrations, children's events and fabulous shopping.  Food samplings and children’s activities will require wristbands. Beer and wine will be available for purchase at select restaurant booths. A wristband of 10 tastes is available for purchase for $20 at Simon Guest Services at The Domain. Purchase you wristband before September 12th for $5 off.  Location:  The Domain, 11410 Century Oaks Terrace, Austin, TX.  Contact for more information: Lauren Harris, Area Director of Marketing, 512.873.8099.


Sept. 17-20th - Whole Foods Turns 30!  Join Whole Foods as they celebrate their 30th birthday.  See here for list of events and activities.  


It isn't a secret that Indian food has a special place in my heart.  Here's an event I don't want to miss. 

Saturday, Sept. 25, 5-9 pm - Taste of India invites you to enjoy Indian Cuisine, entertainment from 6-7:30pm, henna art, and name writing.  Proceeds from this event will benefit orphanages in India and locally to Austin Mobile Loaves & Fishes. $3 for admission to this event that is sure to stimulate your taste buds.  Location: St. Williams Catholic Church in Round Rock.  More information here:

I also have 15 pairs of tickets to give away to this event.  To win a pair: Tweet "@misohungry I want to go to Taste of India! Benefits @MLFNOW!"


Wednesday, Sept. 30th - 6:00 pm -  Chef Showdown at the Southwest Bistro at the Hyatt.  I've judged several Chef Showdowns, and these are events that will leave you wondering how you managed to eat stuff so much in your face.  Here's the details!

WHO: Go Texan restaurant chefs representing the Driskill Grill, Roaring Fork, and Southwest Bistro
WHAT: The Hyatt Regency Austin hosts the third Go Texan Chef Showdown, a multi-course gourmet chef competition featuring local ingredients. Event is part of the Go Texan Restaurant Round-up.
WHEN: Thursday, September 30, 2010. Cocktail hour begins at 6 p.m.; Chef Showdown at 7 p.m.
WHERE: The Hyatt Regency Austin Southwest Bistro | 208 Barton Springs Rd., Austin, TX 78704.
TICKETS: $49 plus tax and gratuity. Includes wine pairings. Limited seating. Event reservations are available via or by calling 512.480.2035


Mondays Starting Sept. 13th - Hotel San Jose announced today the return of steak night, a monthly prix fixe menu prepared by Chef Larry Mcguire of Perla’s and Lambert’s with reservations at 6:30 pm, 7 pm, 8:30 pm, or 9 pm. The meals range from McAllen Ranch NY Strip ($40) with seared mushroom and shallot relish, Niman Ranch Natural Rib Eye ($40) with fennel salsa verde, Certified Angus Beef Filet ($45) with Hollandaise and fresh horseradish, or Ahi Tuna Steak ($40) with smoked paprika chimichurri. Served with salad, grilled asparagus, steak house potatoes and crispy shallots, diners are in for a real treat.  Dessert includes Mexia Pear and blackberry cobbler served with vanilla ice cream. Wine options for the evening include ($9/glass or $34/bottle) Fontsainte Corbieres Rouge from France 2008 vintage or Hugl Weine Gruner Veltliner from Australia 2008 vintage.  If you're craving a steak, the prix fix menu is sure to satisfy your tummy.  Hotel San Jose is located 1316 South Congress Avenue Austin, TX 78704. Reservations are limited, for more information or reserve your table call 512-852-2350.


Thursday, Oct. 7th- 6:30 - pm - Tour De Vin at Whole Foods Downtown.  I have 3 words.  This event rocks.  This is where I first had StEats last year, and it was absolutely amazing.  Trying food for the first time that tasted like comfort food is kind of mind blowing in that dejavu-Inceptions-meets-Matrix kind of way.  If you like food and wine with from other cultures, you'll love this event.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Strategy Idea: Activity Based Social Rewards using Location Based Services

Note: I don't work for any of the services mentioned in this post, but Gowalla was a Cupcake Smackdown 2.0 sponsor. 

With thought about how to incorporate more social media tools into Cupcake Smackdown 2.0, I wondered if I could set up social social rewards for attending large events featuring a variety of activities.  Location based is popular these days. FourSquare, Gowalla, Whrrl, Yelp, and now Facebook are all in on it.  I was thrilled that Gowalla sponsored a special event for Cupcake Smackdown 2.0, but what's next for location based services at events? 

Earning a Ride a Caterpillar Activity Badge at Cockrell Butterfly Center.

I wanted to reward people for participating in all the activities via social media, but there was no way to differentiate who did or who didn't participate as everyone checks into one location.  With most location-based mobile applications, the basic function is that a user checks in to a location.  The locations can have a check in range of at least half a mile, so trying to add activities as locations doesn't really work.  They will just be mostly inaccurate.  For events like Cupcake Smackdown 2.0, The Smithsonian, universities, or even Disney's Theme Parks, activity based rewards in location based applications can be useful for engaging visitors in activities, tracking engagement in activities, and an easy way for the user to share the activity with others. 

The Kim Possible Interactive Game at Disney's Epcot is one of the few activities and locations  that is using a similar system (but different technology).  For the Kim Possible Interactive Game, players are equipped with a cell phone and GPS.  They are sent to different locations with a mission (activity) to accomplish.  Once the activities are completed (confirmed via unknown technology), they are sent onto another activity.  Here's some links to write ups about the interactive game:

Here's two different strategies that can use the same tools in a very different way.  Currently, a user checks into a location by selecting it off a list of nearby locations.  My basic idea for these strategies is that users would check into the locations, and then receive badge, items, or points for completing activities.  For example: I would check into Disneyland (the location), and ride the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster, and then check into the "Buzz Lightyear" activity indicating I completed it.

Activities can currently be added as events to some of the available services, but that doesn't people from checking in even if they didn't complete the activity.  This could easily be remedied by password protecting the activity, and distributing the password to users after said activity.  There are two problems with this method: (1) The password gets out, and anyone can use it as long as they are checked into the location, (2) Some locations will have a plethora of activities.  The The Smithsonian has 18 museum, and a daunting list of exhibits and activities.  Scrolling through a list of 100 activities could be views as a pain.   

If possible, one time use QR codes could be distributed to users post-activity allowing them to "complete the activity" on Gowalla or FourSquare.  They could also be posted at the end of a ride as users are leaving the area.  I'm not sure if there is currently an interface with QR code scanners and the location-based mobile applications, but it would be cool if they did.  It would also let people check in or find secret locations or activities that one cannot find unless they scan in. 

Earning the Navigate a Submarine Activity Badge

Strategy 1:

Create a reward system for users who complete certain activities at a particular location.  This is similar to trips on Gowalla.  An example might be having a Super Scientist badge for users who view 12 of the 24 exhibits (I made up that number) at the American History Museum at The Smithsonian   Another might be to award a Thrill Seeker badge to those who ride all the rides at Disneyland Badges and social recognition are important.  I don't need to tell you that.  There are endless posts (like this one and this one) chronicling FourSquare badges.  Don't forget about the use of badges in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.

This strategy can also be kicked up by combining it with other similar locations.  For example,  The Smithsonian could partner up with another museum(s) located somewhere else to offer the same type of check in badges.  Users who collect all the badges from specified museums would be rewarded with a big badge, like having a star named for the user.  The target audience for that type of reward does exist, and we want to be Super Scientists.  :o)

Earning the Crawling with Kids Badge at the Smithsonian

Strategy 2:

Show activities to users who check in our your location.  For example, Twin Liquors could show the "Taste X Wine" activity to users who check in frequently.  Disneyland could advertise a secret ride only to users when they have completed certain other rides.  Completing these advertised activities when people check in could earn users a badge. 

This strategy has several advantages. 
  • One advantage is that users' friends will see the badge and want one too.  We already touched on the social value of badges.  That's marketing for the business. 
  • The second advantage is that there is exclusivity surrounding the activity.  It is only offered to people who check in (or other additional requirements), and people like getting things that are special. 
  • The third advantage is the gaming aspect of it.  Like the Kim Possible Interactive Game, fun activities are hidden and must be discovered via clues.  A short game with an activity at the end could easily be embedded into a park or museum.  Augmented reality could also be incorporated to show off new technology.  This engages the users and encourages them to discover new things that might not be related to the game itself.