When a person enters a new decade, it seems only appropriate to celebrate for at least a week. Which is how I found myself at La Dolce Vita tonight, thanks to the wonderful generosity of Jennie Chen (who shall also henceforth be known as my food event sugar mama).
Wow - what an amazing event. Whoever put this thing together should be commended. A fundraiser for the Austin Museum of Art, La Dolce Vita (Italian for "the sweet life") is held on the gorgeous grounds of Laguna Gloria and, at $100+ a head, attracts a staggering crowd (early press estimated attendance at 1600, but I would not be at all surprised if it exceeded that, as the expansive grounds were elbow-to-elbow people). Everyone was dressed in their finest, and it was quite the swanky affair.
And the food...oh, the food! Some sixty restaurants and fourteen purveyors of wine and spirits participated, and it sure seemed as if everyone brought their A-game. It got dark not long after I arrived and between the crowds and the lack of surfaces upon which to set things down, most of my photos are pretty sad, but here, for your viewing pleasure, are a few of the ones that turned out (and some of the ones that didn't).
First of all...LOVE these plates. I've seen these before, but have never had anybody hand me a free one at an event before. Hold your food and your wine and have one hand free! (Now if they could just install a little tripod, I'd be all set).
Amaaaaazing cake balls from Austin Cake Ball. Moist, rich yet still fluffy, lovely crumb, FULL of flavor. Their competition had me believing that I didn't really like cake balls. SO not the case. Loved these.
Homemade Oreos from Perla's.
(When you're 40, you get to eat dessert first.)
Shrimp and salmon (er, I think) cakes from Austin newcomer, The Highball. Bowling, karaoke, skeeball, cocktails, and (apparently, delicious) dining can all be found here. Must check this place out.
So sad these photos didn't come out better. My favorite booth of the evening, and the one that received my "green marble" vote for best restaurant, The Driskill Grill. As evidenced by their work at the recent Chef Showdown, the Driskill has really been pulling out all the stops on presentation and originality. They had three selections - a beef tartare, a tuna tartare with fresh figs, and a foie gras with dried fruit relish and mint. Foie gras at an event where the food is presumably donated is impressive in my book (and it was the only thing I ate more than one of other than the cake balls). All were served on beautiful flat rock surfaces with a pile of dry ice stacked in the middle, and all came with an ingenius "push-up" popsicle of the wonderful cilantro sorbet they'd had at the Chef Showdown.
Beef tartare from the Driskill Grill - not the greatest photo,
but the best of the several I took at the Driskill booth.
Braised oxtail with pumpkin puree on a wonton chip from Max's Wine Dive.
Wasabi-crusted salmon roll from Piranha Killer Sushi.
Raw salmon with gala apple, pommery mustard, thyme, and chives from Parkside.
Ahi poketini on a wonton chip from Roy's.
The Whole Foods Culinary Center dubbed this "green eggs and ham." It was actually a perfectly-crisped potato cake topped with pork belly confit (!!) and an herbed hollandaise sauce. Sam I Am would've loved this version, and I did too...as well as the beautiful pressed bamboo plates.
Lemon and garlic rock shrimp with smoked tomato and lobster bisque
from Stories at the Hyatt Lost Pines.
And one more dessert - a sassy chocolate-y number from Annie's.
I simply cannot think of a nicer way to spend a gorgeous fall evening in Austin. Eating well, visiting with great people, and supporting a terrific cause - it doesn't get any better than that. La dolce vita, indeed.