Of all the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival’s events, the Main Event can be the hardest to wrap your head around: More than two dozen chefs, plus wineries, breweries and distilleries, showing off their wares on two levels inside and outside the Pier 1 Building on the western edge of downtown.
On the surface, it’s not that hard: Serving stations are laid out neatly, mostly in rectangular sections, so a systematic approach should work. But then you run into someone who says, “You should try this place before they run out,” or tells you to go outside while it’s still light enough to take photos, or you run into a long line that makes you decide to return later, only to find out that the item that led to that line is no longer available, and the systematic approach quickly goes awry.
The Main Event began at 6 p.m. Friday, but if you showed up after 7, you risked missing out on some stuff. Most chefs were better-prepared than that, but by 8:30, lots of stuff had been scarfed completely, making you wonder if anyone who attended the Main Event had room for the Desserts After Dark event afterward. But some people are good at pacing themselves. Or just don’t mind being really full.
The Main Event was also a little less crowded than it has been in the past — not that there weren’t a lot of people there, but it wasn’t a wall-to-wall sea of moving bodies like it sometimes has been. Even the longest line I stood in moved pretty quickly, and it was only long because the cooking was running a little slow.
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A few impressions:
Best bites: The bacon-wrapped chorizo-stuffed dates from chef Blaine Staniford (Grace, Little Red Wasp) hit the right notes of sweet and savory without overdoing it on either — and were in a bite-size serving that kind of said, “Look, we know there’s a lot of other food here, so we’re making room for it.” The 48-hour braised short rib from Fixture Kitchen and Social Lounge was melt-in-your-mouth tender. Seared tuna with Asian slaw from HG Sply Co. was a little virtuous, as that restaurant’s food tends to be, the slaw came with a nice little hit of heat. The deviled lamb, pimento cheese and strawberry jam crostata from Patina Green in McKinney was also good, but if you got to that table too late, it was gone, as were the people from Patina Green.
Best gimmick: The smoked hamachi pipettes from Vox Table in Austin. Smoked hamachi, pickled cucumber and tomato raisin were served on a small plastic skewer with a tube at the end:: Put the hamachi in your mouth and squeeze the tube for a mouthful of dressing. It was a lot of people’s favorite item Friday night. The kick from the Thai chili in the ... dish might have had something to do with that.
Best rationaliztion: “It’s Saturday somewhere, right?” — Guy from Nonna Tata serving focaccia with salami, in response to Catholic concern about eating meat on a Friday, a no-no during Lent, which doesn’t end till Easter.
Best regional-cuisine beneficiary: Most people who got the roasted whole hog carnitas from Dallas celebrity chef John Tesar (Knife) got it carved, served on a beautifully grilled tortilla and artfully covered in four sauces and cilantro. Which was a good way to have it. But there was the guy who told Tesar, “I’m from Louisiana. I only want the skin.” Tesar gave him a slab of skin — think pork rinds, but even more crunchy and crackly — that was bigger than his plate. And people say Tesar’s not a nice guy.
Correspondent Anna Caplan contributed to this report. The festival continues Saturday with Rise + Dine and Burgers, Brews + Blues. For more information, visit http://fortworthfoodandwinefestival.com