Back for its third year, the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival runs March 31 through April 3, and this year, offers a lineup of new venues along with a new slogan: “Taste the New Texas.”
The numbers are impressive: more than 100 chefs and culinary participants, 25 craft breweries, 10 distilleries and 100-plus wines from around the world will be featured across six signature events. Last year, 3,000 people from 16 states attended, and three events (those dedicated to burgers, brunch and dessert) sold out.
“We definitely wanted to have the chefs and culinary participants who’ve been loyal to the festival back this year,” says Sarah Hooton, Central Market Fort Worth Cooking School manager and chef committee chair for the festival. “We also wanted more Texas chefs, including Dallas chefs. There are so many cool chefs in Dallas right now. We wanted to invite them over while still showing off Fort Worth talent.”
Festival events benefit the Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation, a nonprofit with the mission of raising funds for local grant programs and culinary scholarships. The festival has awarded approximately $20,000 in scholarships to students in Fort Worth, organizers say.
Here’s a glimpse at what’s in store for 2016.
Touted as “A Salute to Fort Worth’s Fine Arts,” the elaborate festival precursor takes place at Bass Hall, beginning with caviar and champagne in the lobby before a multicourse dinner on stage. Fort Worth chefs collaborating for the exclusive culinary experience include Lanny Lancarte II of Righteous Foods, Jon Bonnell of Waters and Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, Michael Thomson of Michaels Cuisine Restaurant & Bar, Molly McCook of Ellerbe Fine Foods, Blaine Staniford of Grace and Sarah Hooton of Central Market Fort Worth. Each course will be matched with a prized wine chosen to complement the cuisine’s region of origin. The Walter Kaufmann Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to the Lancarte family of Fort Worth landmark restaurant Joe T. Garcia’s. 6-9:30 p.m. March 2, $250.
The four-day feeding frenzy begins with an evening of Texas barbecue featuring smoked meats from some of the state’s best pitmasters. They include local phenom Billy Woodrich of Billy’s Oak Acres BBQ along with new participant Matt Dallman of 18th & Vine Kansas City Barbeque in Dallas and returning favorite Barrett Black of Black’s BBQ in Lockhart. This year the showdown takes place at a new location, the W.R. Watt Arena at Will Rogers Memorial Center. 6-9 p.m. March 31, $60.
The Main Event
A wine and food lover’s paradise, the Main Event showcases more than 100 wines from around the world, each readily poured for patrons’ tasting pleasure. It is here that some of Fort Worth’s most prestigious chefs will showcase their culinary specialties. New participants this year include Sandra Avila of Le Cep in Fort Worth, Robert Lyford of the buzzworthy Patina Green Home and Market in McKinney, and Top Chef contestant Danyele McPherson of Dallas’ Remedy and HG SPLY CO. Returning chefs include some of Fort Worth’s best: Molly McCook of Ellerbe Fine Foods, Jon Bonnell of Waters and Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine, Marcus Paslay of Clay Pigeon Food & Drink and Blaine Staniford of Grace. Expect indoor and outdoor components at the event, thanks to a new location at the Pier 1 Imports building. 6-9 p.m. April 1, $125.
#latenight Desserts After Dark
Sold out last year, this desserts-only, after-hours affair features 12 pastry chefs and 12 craft bartenders who incorporate Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. TX Blended Whiskey in their sweet concoctions. New this year are nibbles from gourmet cheese artisans, including Dallas Mozzarella Company, and a new location at The Shack at Panther Island. 9 p.m.-midnight April 1, $45.
Rise + Dine
Festival coordinators learned that Fort Worth loves brunch, as proved by last year’s sold-out Rise + Dine crowd. Featuring brunch-inspired dishes, mimosas, bloody marys and locally roasted Avoca coffee, the event will be held at the Pier 1 Imports building this year. New participants include David Hollister of Dagwoods Fire Grill Tap and Common Ground, Katie Schma of Local Foods Kitchen, Brandon Moors of FunkyTown Donuts, and Kalen Morgenstern of FW Market + Table. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. April 2, $65.
Burgers, Brews & Blues
Perhaps the most popular event of the festival, Burgers, Brews & Blues will take place once again under the stars and string lights of the Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork. Burger joints battle to take home the people’s choice award for the best slider, while local craft breweries pour their best brews. Participants include Rodeo Goat, Fred’s Texas Cafe, Little Red Wasp, Thurber Mingus, Tommy’s Hamburger Grill and more. Patrons can sip suds while listening to live music, too. 6-9 p.m. April 2, $65. (Early entrance at 5 p.m., $80.)
Family Sunday Funday: A Picnic at Panther Island
Children 12 and younger are admitted free at this family-friendly event featuring picnic-inspired fare from local chefs, food trucks, chuck wagons and caterers. Guests can savor bites from Lee’s Grilled Cheese, Salsa Limon, TacoHeads and more, then cool down with frozen treats from Alchemy Pops. 2-5 p.m. April 3, $50.
Collaborative Chefs’ Dinners
Food lovers who can’t wait for the festival can attend collaborative chefs’ dinners at Central Market Fort Worth this month leading up to the event. Marcus Paslay of Clay Pigeon Food & Drink will team up with Stefon Rishel of Max’s Wine Dive on March 3; Molly McCook of Ellerbe Fine Foods and Ben Merritt of Fixture FW join forces March 9; and Jon Bonnell of Waters and Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine will match up with Jason Harper of Trio New American Cafe in Colleyville on March 23. All dinners begin at 6:30 p.m. and are $65 per person.
Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival
March 31-April 3
For information and event tickets, visit www.fwfwf.com.
Be a VIP: Festival-goers hungry to experience all six signature events can do so at a discounted price when purchasing a VIP ticket for $350. The all-access pass includes admission to the BBQ Showdown, The Main Event, #latenight Desserts After Dark, Rise + Dine, Burgers, Brews & Blues and Family Sunday Funday: A Picnic at Panther Island. Bonus perks with the pass include admission to The Main Event’s VIP area, early admission to Burgers, Blues & Brews, and a logo festival wineglass and wooden tray with wineglass holder for convenient noshing.