HOUSTON HAPPENINGS: HTX WHISKEY WEEKEND
By Jake Gaines Photography by Mario Santos
Recently, HTX Whiskey Weekend was a huge hit in the region. On Day One, the three-day libation celebration kicked off with the talents of three Bayou City Bravo Top Chef contestants—current competitor Evelyn Garcia and past participants Dawn Burrell and Sasha Grumman— coming together in the kitchen at the bequest of sustainability-focused food group, The Butcher’s Ball, to benefit Houston food-focused non-profit Urban Harvest. The four-course dinner for 100 in an expansive tent, festooned with flowers, on The Plaza and started with chilled snapper aquachile, charred citrus, scallion oil and crispy plantains by Garcia—perfect start to prepare the palette—followed by smoked oyster mushrooms and potatoes with preserved lemon dill yogurt, zhug and spring onions, toasted seeded focaccia, and fonio fry bread by Grumman. Burrell rounded out the course with suya dusted beef cheeks with a charred onion glaze and tomato and corn curry and crispy yams, all seasoned to absolute perfection. All three chefs collaborated on what was no less than a grand finale—a berry crumble topped with sweet corn ice cream and a fish sauce caramel for dessert. After dinner, the attendees danced under poetically strung garden lights and continued to indulge in whiskey tastings from Still Distillers and Old Humble Distilling, along with bites from Island Grill and cigar rolling courtesy of Lucho Houston.
The HTX Whiskey Weekend Day Two then began with yoga and bootcamp classes on City Place Plaza, where necessary sweat and burn sessions for attendees before the festival transitioned into the afternoon’s bevy of whiskey programming. The early afternoon included three sold-out educational seminars: Collecting Whiskey 101 with Carl Norris, The Business of Whiskey hosted by Blair Ault of Milam & Greene, and A Perfect Pour: Whiskey Cocktail Class with Patrick Abalos of Not Too Sweet Ventures, each of which was held in the poolside Canopy room at the adjoining Houston City Place Marriott.
Then, A Taste of City Place, the weekend’s signature outdoor event, drew hundreds to the waterfront edge of City Place Park and featured whiskey samplings from a multitude of local and regional distillers, including MKT Distillery, Devil’s River Whiskey, Gentle Ben, Frontier Spirits, Hill Country Distillers, Still Austin, Rebecca Creek, Blackland Distillery, and others. The whiskey samples were complemented with an array of food samplings in collaboration with non-profit Urban Harvest from notable chefs, including award-winning pitmaster Ara Malekian of Harlem Road Texas BBQ in Richmond, TX, Austin Simmons of acclaimed Tris in The Woodlands, Andrew Musico of The Fattest Cow, and Drake Leonards of Eunice, Bryan Caswell of Caswell Catering and private chef, Christofer Dilan. The beautiful spring afternoon was made complete with live music performances by Rapture, Jake Bush, and Johnathan Tyler, and The Northern Lights.
The weekend culminated on Day Three’s Sunday morning with Waffles & Wheels, which featured an eclectic mix of Art Cars, whiskey-infused brunch items served by Star Cinema Grill, and hair of the dog aplenty for weary festival-goers. The inaugural HTX Whiskey Weekend proved to be a smash hit with attendees…and plans for it to return bigger and better in 2023 already underway.