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Discover Puerto Rico Kicked Off My Austin Food and Wine Festival in Caribbean Style

Discover Puerto Rico Kicked Off My Austin Food and Wine Festival
Photo Credit: Gary Miller/The Travel Addict

One of my biggest highlights of Austin Food and Wine Festival actually came on Friday night before the formal festival began at the Discover Puerto Rico press event at The Riley in downtown Austin.

Discover Puerto Rico presented the evening in partnership with Don Q Rum and award-winning Puerto Rican Chef Mario Pagán.

Discover Puerto Rico Kicked Off My Austin Food and Wine Festival
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

The evening started out with a cocktail hour with mixologist Israel Bravo serving three custom cocktails featuring Don Q rum. 

  • Bacon Fashion featuring Don Q Gran Reserva, Coriander/Black Peppercorn infusion, Bitters and BBQ Bacon.
  • A la Caprese with Don Q Double Aged Vermouth Cask Finish, Basil/Cherry Tomato Infusion, Lemon and Caramel Celery Foam.
  • Caribbean Max included Don Q Reserva 7, Orange Liquor, Jalapeno Syrup, Lemon Juice and Homemade Green Tajin.

My favorite was the Caribbean Max with a bit of a sweet margarita feel with an upgrade of the special dark rum.

While guests were enjoying the drinks, the first taste of the authentic Puerto Rican delights were passed around. Hors D’eouvres included Arroz Pollo Croquetas with Piquillo Aioli, Salted Cod Bascalaitos (Beef Tartare with Caviar), and my personal favorite Briskett Pastelilos with Acreola Berry BBQ. 

Discover Puerto Rico Kicked Off My Austin Food and Wine Festival
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

The tables were setup with beautiful flowers outside on the upper deck of the Riley with beautiful open-air views of downtown Austin. As dinner service was about to start around 7 PM a huge rain storm passed through and delayed the dinner so the bar stayed open as guests continued to socialize and meet the Don Q representatives to learn about the magical rum from the island of Puerto Rico.

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Before the meal, Don Q Master Distiller, Sylvia Santiago told the story of the rum and it was evident how much love is put into every batch with her passionate descriptions of the products. Sylvia has been with Don Q for 48 years and has a limitless wealth of knowledge about the brand and the rum production. 

The menu was well worth the wait and it became my favorite meal of the whole year with so many unexpected dishes. The four course dishes took the guests on a culinary tour of Puerto Rico.

Discover Puerto Rico Kicked Off My Austin Food and Wine Festival
Chef Mario Pagán Photo Credit: Gary Miller/The Travel Addict

The meal started with a warm roasted yellow corn coconut soup topped with bacon. I don’t often choose soup but this silky creation was the perfect opening to the dinner.

Spiny Lobster Thermidor was presented with yuca mofongo as the second course. Again, the sauce made the whole dish as the small lobster tails melted in your mouth.

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Lechon Wellington was a new dish for me with a pork twist on a beef wellington classic. 

Discover Puerto Rico Kicked Off My Austin Food and Wine Festival
Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

The meal came to a perfect end with a Goat Cheesecake with a Passion Fruit Glaze and Loiza Cocoa Nibs. I would never have imaged a cheesecake made with goat cheese and the passion fruit glaze was just the perfect compliment.

Photo Credit: Amy Harris/The Travel Addict

Overall this was a fantastic evening that made me want to jump on a plane and head to Puerto Rico just to enjoy the drinks and dine at Chef Pagán’s restaurant. At the very least I want to join this traveling crew that includes an award-winning chef, master distiller and ultra-creative bartender. I wonder if they need a full-time photographer?

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