Food + Wine Festival: Fort Worth’s tastiest weekend is back and tastier than ever
March 23, 2023 | Rick Mauch | Fort Worth Business Press
The Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival, billed as “Fort Worth’s tastiest weekend,” just got a little tastier.
The annual event, which benefits the Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation (FWFWF), returns Thursday-Sunday (March 30-April 2) with even more temptations to bring visitors to the Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork. The 13-acre event venue that once was part of the historic Edwards Ranch will be transformed into a dining paradise showcasing more than 100 chefs, restaurateurs, and beverage providers.
In other words, come hungry and thirsty, and ready to enjoy some of the finest food and drink Panther City has to offer.
After skipping 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic the festival made a joyous and successful return in 2022, attracting more than 7,000 foodies and just plain hungry, thirsty fun-seekers.
This year, there’s even more as the foundation offers exclusive, limited-seating, collaborative dining experiences. For an ultimate VIP experience, Garden & Gun Magazine, alongside Visit Fort Worth and FWFWF have joined forces to bring an unparalleled brunch event to the festival that adds an air of mystery to the delicacies.
Set in a secret location only accessible by private shuttle, the farm-fresh affair will feature three nationally recognized Southern chefs: James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalist (2020) Molly McCook of Ellerbe Fine Foods, Jon Bonnell of Bonnell’s Restaurant Group, and seven-time James Beard semifinalist David Bancroft of Acre and Bow & Arrow BBQ will work together to develop and serve a multi-course menu rooted in the flavors of the American South.
“Our dedicated patrons and supporters have shown us they are ready for more,” Fort Worth Food + Wine Foundation Executive Director Julie Eastman said. “From our sold-out events to the amazing feedback on last year’s specialty dinner, we knew we needed to bring even more in 2023.”
The partnership with Garden & Gun and Visit Fort Worth marks a major milestone for the foundation, showing that people are taking note of the culinary community in North Texas and that the Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival is becoming a true destination for foodies across the country.
The city benefits greatly from the annual event with visitors coming from all over, according to festival co-founder Russell Kirkpatrick – and when those visitors see the kind of food Fort Worth has to offer, it brings them back.
“Fort Worth is quickly becoming a leading tourist destination, and restaurants play a significant role. We’ve had guests from 47 states attend the festival over the years,” Kirkpatrick said. “We hope to encourage first-time visitors from all over to come to see us and then convince them to promptly plan a return visit to spend more time in this fantastic city.”
Something that separates the festival from others is that it is a nonprofit event. The foundation is made up mostly of volunteers dedicated to giving back to the culinary community and since the festival’s founding the main goal has been cultivating the next generation of Fort Worth chefs and restaurateurs, with the festival providing funds to offer scholarships to youngsters with culinary dreams.
Over the years the foundation has awarded more than $113,000 for scholarships and culinary classroom equipment.
“If we can help even one young person achieve their dream of getting a culinary degree and encourage them to return to a Fort Worth kitchen or dining room,” Kirkpatrick said, “it enhances our culinary community’s overall quality.
“Fort Worth is a large, diverse city home to so many talented tastemakers representing a growing number of cuisines. We are fortunate enough to play a small role in highlighting these talented individuals, so it’s easy to see why the event has become so popular and continues to grow as more people experience it and share it with friends. Obviously, a tremendous amount of time and effort goes into making the festival a success, but the credit really goes to our amazing participants.”
Tickets are available online at fwfwf.com, beginning at $55. A weekender pass is available that includes entry to five signature events plus the Rise + Dine event for $649, but only 50 passes are available. The weekender pass provides access to the VIP area all weekend.
Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival
March 30-April 2
Heart of the Ranch at Clearfork, 500 Clearfork Main St.
Whiskey Ranch (Night Market), 2601 Whiskey Ranch Road.
The weekend features six signature events and two exclusive collaborative dining experiences:
- Tacos + Tequila, Thursday, March 30, 7-10 p.m. Early entry $89, general admission $55. From the traditional to the inventive, this is a fan favorite with 18 chefs and 12 tequila vendors.
- The Main Event, Friday, March 31, 5:30-9 p.m. Early entry $199, general admission $135. More than 100 exceptional wines, craft beers, and spirits from near and far pair perfectly with bites from 27 of the best North Texas chefs, restaurateurs, artisan producers, and crafters.
- Night Market (formerly Nite Bites), Friday, March 31, 8-11 p.m. Early entry $89, general admission $65. At this re-imagined signature event, attendees will be transported into the bustling streets of the world’s hottest culinary hubs. From Mumbai to Mexico City, Whiskey Ranch is transformed into a night market of twists and turns with flavor at every stop. Top local bartenders will sling Texas whiskey cocktails alongside craft brews and wines.
- Rise + Dine (formerly Culinary Corral), Saturday, April 1, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., no early entry, general admission $85. FWFWF has officially updated the festival’s Saturday afternoon festivities to better reflect and represent the culinary offerings of the event. Rise + Dine offers a wide variety of menu items including seafood options, classic brunch favorites, inspired fresh dishes with local ingredients, and more. Beverage offerings include champagne, wine, crips cocktails, and local beer. Rise + Dine is the perfect event for those seeking to sample flavors and dishes from an array of restaurants across varied cuisines.
- Burgers, Brews + Blues, Saturday, April 1, 5-9 p.m. Early entry $129, general admission $85. Celebrating a trio of all-American classics – sliders, craft beer, and blues, this rockin’ party on ranchland along the Trinity River will feature 13 chefs grilling up their best mini-burgers, and craft breweries pouring two of their signature brews. Celebrity judges will choose their favorite burger while guests select a fan favorite for burgers and beer.
- Exclusive Collaborative Brunch: Hunt & Gather (new event), a southern brunch hosted by Garden & Gun and Visit Fort Worth, Sunday, April 2, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tickets $250. An outdoor, one-of-a-kind brunch event featuring culinary delights from Molly McCook, Jon Bonnell, and David Bancroft of Acre and Bow & Arrow BBQ. Bancroft, a Texas native based in Auburn, Alabama, is a self-taught chef, farmer, and forager committed to showcasing sustainable ingredients and local harvests. A special brunch shuttle will transport guests to a secret location. Topping off the experience, local sommeliers and mixologists will pair craft cocktails, wine, and champagne with each course.
- Ring of Fire: A Next-Level Cookout, Sunday, April 2, 1-5 p.m. Early entry $129, general admission $85. Twenty-two pitmasters and chefs, and 15 beverage vendors will take the cookout concept to a whole new level. Joining the classics, like BBQ, will be exotic meat dishes and other surprising auditions – all paired with wine, beer, and spirits set to the beat of a live band.