If you walked onto the grounds of Fort Worths Coyote Drive-In on Sunday afternoon somehow unaware that a Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival event was going on, you might easily have believed that the year-old drive-in had become Fort Worths latest food-truck park.
The drive-in was the site for the festivals Meals on Wheels for Meals on Wheels event, in which about a dozen food trucks showed off dishes in a $50-a-ticket benefit for the charity, which delivers food to homebound people.
Its going to help us be able to serve more people in need, said Carla Jutson, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels Inc. of Tarrant County. Were so grateful to the promoters of this festival, because it will mean more people being fed. Im thrilled -- its a gorgeous day and people are coming out and everybody Ive talked to has said theyve had a wonderful time. Jutson added that the event was the festival organizers idea.
Familiar trucks on the DFW scene, such as Salsa Limon, Nammi, Easy Slider and Taco Heads were there ... as well as a couple of chuck wagons -- the original food trucks, as festival director and co-founder Russell Kirkpatrick put it.
Also on site were such trucks as Bellatrino Pizzeria -- which not only features a full wood-burning oven, but a small bar area at the rear where diners were catching up with March Madness games on the two TVs -- and Sauzys Food Truck, making vegetarians (as well as a few meat eaters) happy with a beet-patty veggie burger. (Sauzys offers beef burgers as well, but each truck was only allowed one item for this event.)
The Meals on Wheels event was the final event of the festival, and Kirkpatrick was there, as he was at all events, chatting with diners, chefs and cooks and making sure things were running smoothly. We asked him to sum up the inaugural festival, and he had a quick response.
Amazing, Kirkpatrick said. Surreal. I think surreal is the best word.
From an observers perspective, the festival had remarkably few hiccups for a first-time event; maybe there werent enough trash cans at the Kickoff Party on Thursday night at Billy Bobs Texas, maybe the $500 ticket price for the fancy Tastes of the World event Saturday morning at Bass Hall scared some people off of that; maybe the blues at Saturday nights Burger, Brews and Blues event at Edwards Ranch/Heart of the Ranch wasnt reflective enough of Fort Worths blues scene (the burgers and brews did a good job of making up for that).
But the turnout was strong for the events we attended, everything was well-run, and the festival was blessed with near-perfect weather for outdoor events such as Burgers, Brews and Blues and the Meals on Wheels event, adding to the good vibes.
Ive heard a few [complaints] -- which I want to hear, said Kirkpatrick, who is also assistant general manager of Reata. As a restaurant guy, I want to hear feedback. I would much rather have somebody tell me at the tabletop somethings wrong, so that I can fix it. Same goes here. Theres tweaking were going to do. But there hasnt been a major ball-drop of Oh, my God, we dont have plates or we forgot something.
Earlier Sunday, the festival had its second Sip + Savor event at the Worthington Hotel, in which restaurants, bakeries, food vendors, wineries, distilleries and breweries offered samples for a large but not claustrophobic crowd in the hotels Grand Ballroom.
The mellow event had a large and diverse lineup, with restaurants such as Godleys Del Norte Taco (which impressed with a spicy shrimp cocktail and brisket tacos); Fort Worths Aventinos Italian Restaurant, Little Lilly Sushi and Shinjuku Station; and Dallas Barter (whose executive chef, Andrew Dilda, is an alumnus of Fort Worths Woodshed Smokehouse) setting up stations while retailers such as Happy Tomato Salsa and The Virgin Olive Oiler caught foodies attention.
Swiss Pastry Shop offered slices of its popular Black Forest cake, Stir Crazy Baked Goods had an array of sweets, and speaking of sweet, Dude, Sweet Chocolate offered ... well, sweet chocolate. And yes, were leaving a lot of presenters out -- there were too many to mention. (For a longer list, go here and scroll down.)
I was so excited for those guys, Kirkpatrick said. Its good for the Jesus Garcias [of Little Lilly Sushi] to get that attention and Salsa Limon and Mariposa and these places where people are like, Ive heard of you, but Ive never eaten there. Then they taste things and theyre like, Oh my gosh -- wheres Del Norte Taco? Ive got to find this place.
Kirkpatrick acknowledged that Friday nights Grand Tasting, which was also at the Worthington Grand Ballroom and had even more restaurants and vendors than the Sip + Savor events, got a little too crowded -- but festival organizers solved that by adding tables to the ballroom foyer for the Sip + Savors.
I really thought people would gravitate there during the Grand Tasting, Kirkpatrick said. I was totally wrong. Nobody came back out of the ballroom. It was like theyd rather stay in this really crowded room than in this giant space out there. So thats why we added tables and chairs for the Sip + Savors. It really got people out there.
But Kirkpatrick said that otherwise he couldnt think of anything he would do differently, other than a few small adjustments for next years festival, which is already planned for March 26-29.
Its been fun, Kirkpatrick said. Its been so fun. Hindsights 20/20, they say, but I couldnt be more pleased. I think well tweak some things along the way, but I couldnt have asked for anything better.