We have been blessed this year with a relatively mild summer, especially compared with last years record breaking days over 100 degrees. The 5th annual Dripping with Taste Festival in Dripping Springs, TX had the advantage of a beautiful new location at the Texas Hill Country Olive Company as well as a first cold front of the season that brought temperatures into the low 90′s (don’t laugh, that is a cold front for central Texas in early September!) Record crowds doubled the attendance of last year and led to some crowding issues but the wines, beers, and food for tastings were plentiful and delicious!
Some of my favorites of the wines available for tasting included the Gotas de Oro from Wines of Dotson Cervantes, a crisp bite of fall stone fruits in a glass, an easy drinking Cabernet Claret from Spicewood Vineyards, and a delightfully dark and complex Dolcetto that is not sweet despite the name being Italian for little sweet one from Duchman Family Winery. General admission patrons were only given 6 tasting tickets and many of the food samples were 2 or more. Additional tickets were available for purchase for $1 each but so were bottles of wine. Many festival goers including myself chose to use their tickets for food tastings and purchase a favorite wine to share with others. This strategy also helped avoid the overcrowding in the tasting room.
In addition to the wineries on hand, many of the local breweries were represented as well including Independence, Jester King, Thirsty Planet, Live Oak, and Real Ale. Choosing my favorite among the beers is like choosing a favorite child. It has been a pleasure watching the brew scene explode and mature over the last decade in Austin. As hard as it is to choose, I would have to say my favorite of the day was the Devil’s Backbone from Real Ale because it is seasonal, hard to find, and very easy drinking despite its high alcohol content of 8.1%.
The food at the festival kept me going with all of that alcohol. The folks at Wednesday Dinner deliver a 3 course meal to the Dudley’s Wine Bar at 6pm for only $10 per person and the mussels they served at the festival had me wishing I lived closer to Dripping Springs. The curry and coconut broth had me licking the bottom of the bowl! Kate’s Place in Wimberley was serving up what they called “Ultimate Mac and Cheese”. That sounds like a challenge to me, so I had to try it. The cheese was creamy, the pasta toothy, the crumb topping crunchy, and the addition of tomatoes, not too many, just enough for a textural contrast made for a nice surprise. Although not my “ultimate” mac and cheese, it was definitely good enough to put Kate’s Place on my list of places to visit soon.
My favorite bite of the day came from the Nutty Brown Cafe. My hands were full and I actually had run out of tickets. I planned to go by some more and come back to Nutty Brown but one look at the unctuous bowl of Shiner braised short ribs over a steaming bowl of horseradish mashed potatoes and I had to have some immediately! The chef was nice enough to front me some and I was so glad he did! The short ribs were fork tender in a savory broth over a bowl of creamy potatoes with just a hint of kick from the horseradish. Very rich and perfectly paired with the Dolcetto.
Of course, we cannot forget desserts! And there were plenty of those as well. Some of the standouts were Better Bites Bakery which offers delicious vegan and gluten-free cake balls and cupcakes. Their products are available in Austin by delivery as well as at People’s RX among other places. High Street Chocolates from Comfort, TX offer handmade chocolate bars with a spicy kick. Rolling in Thyme and Dough is a bakery in Dripping Springs that offer fresh loaves of bread and sandwiches as well as an assortment of desserts and baked goods including a decadent chocolate dipped fig. Roadside favorite Navidad Farm Pecans had a selection of their specialty nuts and candies including a rainbow of brittles.
In addition to all the food, there were vendors with handcrafted goods, live music all day, and culinary demos plus a huge bar for tasting the delicious olive oils and balsamic vinegars available from our host at Texas Hill Country Olive Oil.
I came early to the fest and intended to leave mid afternoon because of a later event but I had so much fun with the weather, the music, the food, the wine and especially all of the friendly folks I met, I stayed long enough to actually get a bit of a sunburn on my back. Lounging at one of the tables provided for patrons, I met a steady stream of friends both old and new, exchanging glasses of wines and advice on must try bites of food. I will definitely be returning to the Hill Country for next year’s fest and even sooner to visit new places and friends.