March 10, 2015

A food lover’s cheat sheet for SXSW Interactive

With influential tech, venture capital and media together in Austin for South By Southwest Interactive, food offerings and culinary programming have exploded. Does this crowd enjoy food more than their SXSW counterparts in film and music? Probably not. But organizers of SXSWi have yet again created space in the programming schedule for SouthBites, a series of events that lets chefs, artisans and tech leaders discuss the challenges and innovations that are influencing how food is grown and served. Here’s a quick tip sheet on doing SouthBites for maximum impact.

Starting the day: Two of Austin’s best third-wave coffee shops are within an easy walk of the Austin Convention Center. Head to Caffe Medici (200 N. Congress) or Houndstooth Coffee (401 N. Congress) for your French-pressed fix. For coffee talk and trend-spotting, don’t miss the “Next Wave Coffee” panel with Food and Wine Senior Editor Lawrence Marcus.

Celebrity chef spotting: Look for a likely Anthony Bourdain drop-in at the world premiere of “Bone In The Throat,” a U.K. film based on his novel of the same name. Fellow TV host Andrew Zimmern hosts the “Building A Better Breakfast” panel on March 15, when he’ll discuss nutrition and sustainability. Momofuku guru David Chang will discuss the convergence of tech and food on March 14, while Napa restauranteur Michael Chiarello and his wife Eileen discuss their new Barnraiser project at The Driskill on March 15. Finally, catch barbecue genius Aaron Franklin discussing celeb chef culture with Bon Appetit Restaurant and Drinks Editor Andrew Knowlton.

Pop ups: If you’d like to splurge, book tickets for the collaborative dinner helmed by Husk’s Sean Brock, “Top Chef” winner Paul Qui and Nathan Myhrvold on March 15 (cost: $250). The sprawling and beautiful French Legation Museum hosts a very exclusive pop up from Michelin-starred French Chef Gérard Bossé from March 15-20. Finally, ramen nerds get a exciting visit from Washington D.C.’s Toki Underground at the SouthBites food court.

Banter: Love food podcasts? SX offers a chance to watch tapings and interact with Sporkful, Good Food and Food Is The New Rock. If you’d prefer more two-way conversation, hit the opening day of the food and tech meet-up at the gleaming new JW Marriott.

The drink guys: We can’t tell you when, but wine entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk usually hosts a secret, ‘ambush’-style party during Interactive. Follow his Twitter account for the announcement. If you’d like more notice, Master sommelier Craig Collins does a solid “Geek Up/Drink Up” for wine lovers of all stripes. And, for a high quality wine bar experience, try nearby local favorites Arro (601 W. 6th) and Red Room Lounge (306 E. 3rd).

The easy win: In 2013, SX brass upgraded festival dining markedly by hiring Paul Qui’s team to curate the SouthBites outdoor food court. This year’s lineup is the best yet: there’s Micklethwait Craft Meats (a Top 10 Austin favorite), killer tacos from Veracruz All-Natural (get the migasor fish), lobster rolls from Garbo’s, and kebabs and falafel from late-night favorite Kebabalicious. The lot that vendors will will occupy is open 11 a.m. to midnight, though hours will vary.

The nightcap: Many of Austin’s best cocktail bars are close to SX. Book well in advance at Midnight Cowboy (313 E. 6th) for a speakeasy-style experience (press the Harry Craddock buzzer for entry), or hit walkable perennials like Bar Congress (200 N. Congress) or Peché (208 W. 4th) for expertly done classics. Just next door, Peché’s sister bar Isla is a great choice for modern Tiki drinks.

Images: East Side King/Facebook. Andrew Mager/Flickr.