Hot Luck Austin, the new food festival, officially opened Thursday night at Franklin Barbecue, near downtown. With the State Capitol building visible, the joint's “back yard” is a great spot for a party.
As normal, though, when Posse member Mike Gagne and I arrived a few minutes before the 6 p.m. start, there was a line. We were 40 or so back. But it moved quickly and there was never much backup at the seven chef stations over the next three hours.
The event was open only to those who bought $550 all-access Hot Luck Austin passes (us), sponsors, guests and media. Hot Luck continues through the weekend.
Five thoughts from opening night at Franklin:
1. BBQ Snob Daniel Vaughn, also barbecue editor of Texas Monthly, cooks a nice steak and serves a nice steak taco. He wasn’t giving up any hints about who will be No. 1 on the magazine’s list of the best barbecue joints in the state, expected next week. But there was some “knowing” buzz among a few in attendance that Truth Barbecue in Brenham will be at or near the top. The Posse a few weeks back, if you recall, predicted Killen’s Barbecue will be No. 1 and we put Truth in our Top 10. Stay tuned.
2. Chefs at these events work incredibly hard. Ivan Orkin, the “ramen genius” from New York, and Sara Kramer, one of Food & Wine’s best new chefs of 2017, meticulously plated scores and scores of small tasting dishes for guests. Kramer, a singer before she became a culinary pro, served smoked sweet potato.
3. The highlight food of the night was the charcuterie from Elias Cairo of Portland. “It was mind blowing,” Mike Gagne said. “It was melt in your mouth delicious.” Cairo also had the most relaxed approach to serving. He offered a nice selection on cutting boards and let people serve themselves. Mike made a return near the end and Cairo gave him a small, wrapped roll of sausage to take home. Franklin’s brisket was also excellent and the blood sausage from Peter Cho of Portland was very good. Cho is another Food & Wine best new chef.
4. Servers said they were told to prepare for about 400 people. Mike and I estimate the crowd over the course of that evening at about 300 or so. And there were many more people with white (staff), orange (guest), black (sponsor), blue (media) lanyards than our red (Whole Enchilada) lanyards. At 8 p.m., with still an hour before scheduled close, people had pretty much stopped eating. Vaughn still had 18 steaks on the grill beside his serving station.
5. Was it worth the money ($1,200 or so with tax) for two all-access Hot Luck Austin passes? The jury is still out for me. But after the first night of three, we’re tending toward “yes.”