After a Pandemic Hiatus, the Popular Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival Returns
March 24, 2022 | Celestina Blok | Texas Highways
After a two-year hiatus, Fort Worth’s largest food festival is back.
Nearly 7,000 food lovers will gather over four days and three nights to celebrate Cowtown’s thriving culinary scene during the seventh edition of the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival, taking place March 31-April 3. Organizers say pandemic-related cancellations in 2020 and 2021 haven’t deterred interest for the feeding frenzy’s grand return.
“Ticket sales are better than ever, which proves to us that the culinary community is ready for the festival celebration once again,” Director Julie Eastman says.
The festival features six different sip-and-stroll tasting events, five of which take place at the Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork, a tree-shaded open space at historic Edwards Ranch alongside the Trinity River. Each event offers a unique concept showcasing Fort Worth’s culinary range, from the Thursday night Tacos + Tequila party ($50) to the Sunday afternoon open-flame cooking demos during Ring of Fire: A Next-Level Cookout ($65). The festival’s premier fete is the Friday night Main Event ($125), which will present substantial noshes from more than two dozen Fort Worth-area chefs paired with more than 100 wines, craft beers, and spirits. The featured chefs range from celebs Jon Bonnell and Tim Love to up-and-comers like Victor Villarreal of La Onda and Jenny Castor of Luckybee Kitchen.
Also on Friday is Nite Bites ($60), a sweet soiree that takes festival patrons out to the 112-acre Whiskey Ranch—where TX Whiskey is distilled—for desserts, whiskey cocktails, and dancing.
“This year we are bringing new and exciting experiences, from internationally recognized James Beard Award Winners to on-site guest activation stations that allow eaters to experience food and wine at its best,” Eastman says.
While the festival was founded to showcase the breadth of Fort Worth’s culinary talent, the non-profit Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation was also formed in conjunction to provide grants to aspiring culinary students using festival proceeds. But when the pandemic forced the festival to halt in 2020, the foundation pivoted its mission to help struggling food businesses across the city.
“In 2020, there were so many unknowns about how to keep our business alive,” says Robbie Werner, owner of Stir Crazy Baked Goods in Fort Worth’s Near Southside neighborhood. “Within the first month of the world shutdown, the Fort Worth Food and Wine Foundation reached out to all food businesses in our city. It felt like such an outpouring of relief because we were truly unsure of how we could put together enough sales to pay our staff some weeks.”
Werner says because of the Fort Worth Food and Wine Foundation grant, she was able to pay staff while using her savings to take of other business necessities. “Things like paying the electric bill on time and buying inventory were less stressful because of that relief fund,” she says.
Fine dining restaurants were hit especially hard during the 2020 shutdown as many diners opted to cook at home or buy family-style meals to-go, either to avoid crowds, save money, or both. Adam Jones, owner and operator of Grace in downtown Fort Worth, says a Fort Worth Food and Wine Foundation grant fund enabled him to ride out the shutdown and keep many of his employees on-staff.
“We had so many employees in need before the Paycheck Protection Program money came out, and the Fort Worth Food and Wine Foundation stepped up and offered help,” Jones says. “The program was a lifesaver for our employees.”
Tickets are selling fast for all festival events, with early entry already sold out. Visit fortworthfoodandwinefestival.com for schedule and ticket information.