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Austin Food & Wine Festival: Meaty madness at Live Fire!

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

Live Fire! has been a hit since its inception in 2011 , when it was part of the Hill Country Wine and Food Festival.

When that long-running festival ended to make way for the Austin Food & Wine Festival in 2012 , Live Fire! was the lone event that carried on, this time organized by the Austin Food & Wine Alliance , the beneficiary of the Austin Food & Wine Festival .

Last night, the alliance hosted this year’s Live Fire! at the Salt Lick Pavilion, the unofficial kick-off for this weekend’s big festival at Butler and Republic Square parks .

Building on last year’s success , Live Fire! drew another sold-out crowd who came to try an array of beef dishes from some of Texas’ best chefs, including Randy Rucker and live music from the Grammy-winning Redd Volkaert.

As expected, Aaron Franklin’s line was long, but it was rivaled only by the queue for beef ramen from Tatsu Aikawa of Ramen Tatsu-Ya, whose beef tongue chashu in a rich beef broth was one of the most tender bites of the night.

Rene Ortiz served a super spicy jungle curry from his restaurant Sway, while San Antonio chef Jason Dady dazzled guests with a beef tongue pastrami that he’d been curing for the past three weeks. (Austin has been good to Dady this year. He reported that his stint at Paul Qui’s SouthBites trailer park during South by Southwest wiped him out but was worth every drive back and forth to his home city to restock supplies.)

Austin chefs Kristine Kittrell, Jeff Martinez and Josh Watkins also served some of the best dishes of the night.

Kittrell, who has settled in nicely at Mulberry, served a coconut beef that had been braised, seared on a grill and then topped with a salad of blistered green beans and thinly sliced shallots.

Watkins, the chef behind The Carillon, served a crispy beef cheek as well as a melt-in-your mouth beef rib from Richardson Farm that he paired with a Poteet strawberry gastrique.

Martinez, who returned to El Chile Cafe y Cantina earlier this year and says the restaurant has recently expanded its happy hour to 3 to 6 p.m. seven days a week, served a taco made with beef tongue and a mango pico de gallo.

You can find more photos of the event in this gallery .

Earlier this year, the alliance gave out $20,000 in grants to three local food organizations: Tecolote Farm, Argus Cidery and the Connally High School Culinary Program.

The Austin Food & Wine Festival officially starts tonight and runs through Sunday. We’ll be blogging from the event, and you can follow the tweets via the #afwfest hashtags.