Rachael Ray likes to party — and the food celebrity certainly can throw a good party or two.
Her get-togethers in Austin during South by Southwest, or SXSW, are the best. Plus, she gets a slew of sponsors, so people can mix and mingle with plenty of music, food and spirits to make them feel right at home.
This past week, she had her usual greenhouse party on the city’s east side, and with it, came plenty of chances to enjoy fine weather on top of the treats she had in store.
At the bar, Patrón tequila was pouring a new bittersweet chocolate liquor, Patrón XO Café Dark Cocoa, for those who enjoy drinking cocoa, but with a touch of alcohol instead of milk. Another delicious variation was the coffee-flavored tequila, Patrón XO Café, mixed with San Pellegrino Aranciata, a bitter orange soda; slightly shaken with ice, it was coolly refreshing, like an Italian coffee drink but with extra oomph.
Patrón also offered paletas in a variety of flavors, including a Spiced Orange with perhaps a little too much clove in it, but the frosty nature of the treat made it most welcome on a hot afternoon.
At the back of the house the food truck Mmmpanada pulled up to offer a variety of dough-encrusted treats that ranged from the meaty (prosciutto with asparagus, green chile chicken) to the vegetarian (spinach and mushroom, spicy black bean). The peach cobbler-stuffed treats disappeared quickly, as did the Argentinian, a pocket filled with ground beef, egg, olive and potato. The blueberry was also just right.
So was the music Ray offered, including the Cringe, featuring her husband, John Cusimano, and the Click Clack Boom. Ray was on hand, talking with guests, posing for photos and rocking out to her husband’s band.
Hey, why throw a party if you can’t enjoy it, right?
Saturday was a big day for her, as she also threw her annual bash at Stubbs BBQ on Red River. This was my favorite event of the few I attended, and it was largely because reggae legend Jimmy Cliff was performing. Ray sat just off the edge of the stage with her husband while Cliff sang a few of his great tunes and even Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now.”
Thousands filled the area out back of the barbecue joint, where two stages were used for the lengthy list of musical acts. Some of the food included miniature corn dogs, brisket sliders, shredded chicken sliders, tacos and vegetarian refrieds. Blue Moon, Honest Tea, Deep Eddy Vodka and Bacardi were among those who provided the drinks.
From there, my friend and I headed south on Red River to the Doritos party, which was built around a 56-foot stage area shaped to look like an inflatable concession machine, pomoting Doritos’ new flavors: Smoky Enchilada, which had a little too much cumin for my tastes, and Smoky Chipotle BBQ, which I found too sweet and my friend found too spicy. The live music was great, however, and Snoop Dogg was among of the featured acts one evening (just not on the night we were there).
Whole Foods got into the act with an earth-friendly area along Red River that let you use solar power to recharge your cell phones and other fun gadgets. Meanwhile, back on the rooftop of the main supermarket on Lamar Street, another musical showcase could be found, yet another place where food and music joined for a lively party. And that’s what makes SXSW so much fun to return to each year.