Culinary Connoisseurs Get Their Fill at 2023 Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival

Stephanie Allmon Merry | CultureMap

The 2023 Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival filled up plates (and filled out waistlines) over four days, March 30-April 2. The city’s biggest feeding frenzy, the festival showcased Fort Worth’s culinary stars and some out-of-town guests, too. Click or swipe, above, to relive the delicious weekend through dozens of photos. Below is a quick recap of the whole event. Things got started Thursday, March 30 with a special seated dinner, Noche del Soul, featuring collaborative cuisine of Fort Worth chef Juan Rodriguez and Dallas chef Tiffany Derry. The special ticketed dinner at the Fort Worth Club saw the popular chefs cooking with soul and heart to showcase their heritages; guests couldn’t get enough of Rodriguez’s carnitas and Derry’s beef tenderloin (among other spectacular dishes). Across town at Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork (where most events took place), a sold-out Tacos + Tequila had 18 chefs and 12 tequila vendors share their tastiest creations. It was such a gut-busting kickoff to the festival that some attendees said they were still full the next day. Good thing belts can be loosened because the biggest event of all came next … The Main Event, the festival’s showcase event, featured more than 100 wines, craft beers, and spirits paired with dishes from 27 chefs, restaurateurs, and food artisans. So. much. food. One popular stop? Luckybee Kitchen’s unexpected and delightful Smoked Black Garlic Cotton Candy. (Who’d expect anything less from the 2022 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards Chef of the YearJenny Castor?) A first-timer to the annual festival was TV-celeb chef Graham Elliott, who recently joined chef Felipe Armenta’s restaurant team and was serving up steak frites on their behalf. Those eager to make a late night of it headed to Whiskey Ranch for the first-ever Night Market. Previously a desserts-and-cocktails only event, the new-and-improved extravaganza featured savory dishes (such as shrimp tacos from Coco Shrimp, pecan-smoked “Smokey Gnocchi” from Gnocchi Dokie, and eggrolls and dumplings from Hao’s Grocery & Cafe) along with scrumptious desserts (lines were long for waffles from Mama Llama Sweets’ food truck). Mixologists got creative concocting drinks featuring TX Whiskey, and there was even a competition. Runner-up was cherry blossom-inspired Neon Bullet from Clay Pigeon, and winner was a boozy cream soda from Nickel City. (Reata’s butteredpPecan-themed Buttered TX Whisky was a fan favorite.) There was no snoozing Saturday; it was time for the brunchy Rise + Dine, back at Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork. Those who’d nursed their Friday night hangovers and were up and at ’em by 11 am got to enjoy classic breakfast favorites, seafood dishes, pastries, and more paired with cocktails, coffee, craft beer, and of course, lots of bubbly. Always one of the most popular tickets of the festival, Burgers, Brews + Blues was the beefiest event of all. Thirteen chefs grilled their best burgers in slider form for celebrity judges and guests to select their favorite. The competition was heated, but in the end, Tommy’s Burgers + Brews triumphed as judges’ winner with their Thai Tommy burger (100% Nolan Ryan beef, Thai sauce, kimchi, cheese, and purple onion); and Gigi Howell’s JD’s Hamburgers won the fan vote for their “Pig & Pico” (a burger smothered in pico and garlic cream cheese and topped with crispy bacon). Sunday brought tornado warnings and quick bursts of hail all around North Texas, but that didn’t stop the Ring of Fire event from bringing the festival to a sizzling finale. The event gathered the best pitmasters in Fort Worth and let them loose with live fire for the ultimate backyard barbecue. The Babes of Que podcast stars even brought an onsite activation featuring women in the world of barbecue. Produced by the Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation, the festival is more than a good time – proceeds raise funds for local grant programs and scholarships for culinary students in Fort Worth. To date, the non-profit has raised more than $325,000 for the cause. This year’s totals are still being tallied.