While there were events all weekend long, the Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival crescendoed Friday night with the Main Event, which featured nearly two dozen DFW chefs and more beer, wine and liquor than any mere human could hope to sample safely in one night. Hundreds of people packed into the Pier 1 Imports building, everyone participating in the delicate balancing act necessary at food and wine festivals. Will we ever figure out how to eat food from a tiny plate while balancing a glass of booze in one hand? Even those who sprang for little wooden plates that attach to wine glasses seemed to fare no better than those precariously balancing fagotelli atop plastic glasses of Orin Swift. The lack of solution to this predicament is one of humanity's greatest failures.
At events like these, it can be hard to stand out — chefs churn out hundreds or thousands of dishes at rapid-fire pace to a large, impatient group of gluttonous consumers whose taste buds have been dulled by palate fatigue. Even still, there are always some standouts — some surprising and some definitely not. These were our favorite bites from the Main Event at the 2016 Fort Worth Food and Wine Festival:
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Small Brewpub's faro fagotelli
It's no surprise that Small Brewpub's Misti Norris was churning out interesting plates on Friday night — does this woman even know how to cook ho-hum food? Many of the Main Event's most popular plates started to run out around 7:30, but those who arrived early enough got a taste of Norris' faro fagotelli made with 44 Farms beef heart tasso, tongue chips, tallow aioli, rose petal lardo, pickled celery and fresh dill. It had crunch, it had umami, it had creaminess and it definitely had that moment of uncertainty that often comes from Small Brewpub dishes — it's that moment when you say to yourself, "I have no idea what I'm eating, but I'm OK with that."
Patina Green Home and Market's brisket biscuit slider
There's a reason people drive out to McKinney on Fridays for Patina Green's brisket sliders with jalapeño blackberry jelly on a smoked cheddar biscuit. In a world that's constantly trying to replicate the bold, laid-back flavors of Texas cuisine, Patina Green's Robert Lyford nails it effortlessly. These weren't the only brisket sliders at the Main Event, but they were by far the best, and this rustic, sweet-meets-salty bite of Texas goodness made a lot of people wonder why they don't make the trek to McKinney more often. Lyford is known for making his own jams and jellies with nothing but fruit, sugar and time, and the effort definitely pays off.
Rough Creek Lodge's duck skewer
It's a bit of a hike to get to Rough Creek Lodge and Resort in Iredell, nearly two hours southwest of Dallas, but if chef Gerard Thompson's food at the Fort Worth fest is any indication, it may be be worth the trip. Thompson's duck skewer with tzatziki sauce was so juicy, flavorful and tender that we were a little surprised it was made with duck meat. We were happy to snag one of these bad boys just before Thompson ran out.
Hunt and Fish Social Club's Pork, Pork and Beans
Hunt and Fish Social Club turned 100 lbs. of sausage and 18 gallons of pork and beans into one of the most memorable dishes from this year's fest. Founded by Fort Worth food and drink pros Lou Lambert, James Smith and Chris Reale, this collective of outdoorsy restaurateurs and food lovers brought a much-needed element of laid-back fun to the festival. Appropriately located outside among the smoky barbecue pits and craft beer offerings, Hunt and Fish Social Club wowed us with every component of this dish: white beans with brown sugar-smoked pork butt, fresh pork sausage and a bright, enticing fennel salsa verde. After hanging around this table for a few minutes, we couldn't help but feel like this is definitely our kind of club.
Grace's miso-glazed chicken
If there's one thing we learned from this year's fest, it's that we need to eat in Fort Worth more often. Case in point: this delightful little bite from Grace, a downtown Fort Worth steakhouse and new American eatery. Chef Blaine Staniford's miso-glazed chicken came atop sweet sticky rice with a radish slaw. The blend of flavors and textures created a dish we went back for more than once.