11 August, 2016

My Year of Living Dangerously: Event Planning In Austin

Best Welcome Amenity ever
The Omni Barton Creek
Austin is a place I would love to plan an event.  It's central.  It's awesome.  And as I discovered on my #goingrogue Women Wine Writers Weekend, there is delicious wine and food in those TX Hills.  So in the spirit of my theme, here are five event planner lessons I learned

Be prepared to reconsider
I had travelled to Austin many years ago early in my career and had attended events at the Barton Creek Resort.  A lot has changed since then, all for the good.  The resort has grown and improved.  Now in addition to the golf course, there is a great fitness center as well as a full spa.  The Welcome cocktail alone was one of the nicest amenities I have ever experienced.  Everything was fresh and local and hit just the perfect note to welcome, relax and sweeten your journey. The staff was friendly and always helpful.  The rooms were comfortable including a princess bed. Many venues that put "resort" in the name don;t seem to get the concept.  However The Omni Barton Creek pays attention to every detail to make your visit relaxing, and comfortable.  I felt cosseted, so will your attendees.  I even felt cosseted when I wandered off the Nature Trail and onto the golf course.  Right when I was wondering if I was in danger, Steve Johnson, a former news reporter turned hospitality expert came and rescued me.  No rescue would be required from the meeting facilities here.  Elegance and convenience blended seamlessly.

If you feed them, they will come

Golf is great and the spa is luxurious, but the Fine Dining program here is reason enough to attend, event or no event.  The 8212 Wine Bar and Grill boasts "wine pairing".  I am in general a skeptic,  Was I pleasantly surprised! When this venue says Wine and Food pairing, they really have the team to make spectacular dining.  Our visit included  previewing a monthly dinner program .  First we were tested on wines and tried an Edna Valley Gruener Veltliner, an Oregon Riesling, and a lovely Rhone Syrah Grenache blend.  We were feeling bold blinding these successfully, then they threw in a Susumaniello. After the wine hazing, I mean orientation was complete, they brought out five perfectly paired dishes. These expertly seasonal and delicious plates showcased the kitchen's style.

While they are currently offering fun Burger Pairing and Tequila tastings, the staff , especially Chef Andre Natera have the range to really knock the socks off your guests.  Andre came from
Dallas and  is now the  regional chef for Omni.  His fine dining flair and focus on rich and surprising flavors are shining in Austin.  The Wine and Dine event happens about once a month .  It includes four to five courses and is designed to help you unwind with your family and enjoy destination dining.  At about $95 per person plus $35 for the skillful wine pairing it is affordable luxury.  There is also an 11,000 square foot gym to help you work off those delightful calories.  The Omni Barton Creek thinks of everything. More on the current offerings here

Life is better when you can explore snacks, booze and fire

Viewing Austin from an event planner's eyes, I was impressed with all the city has to offer in terms of great entertainment planned or on your own.  The food was amazing, the bar scene lively and there was a pronounced sense of place.  The mantra to "Keep Austin Weird" meant that guests would have a chance to explore an authentic place with a distinct identity.  Another wonderful thing about the knowledgeable staff at the Omin Barton Creek was when we asked for entertainment tips, they came through,  We took the reco to visit Rainey Street and ended up having a super fun time exploring the drinkity spots that were once disused bungalow-style housing. People watching, cocktails and snacking were a great way to spend an evening and come away with a sense of Austin.  We also got up close and personal with some Barbecue.  That could be a whole exploration on it's own.  Snacks, booze and fire.  Does it get any better?
Actually it does with a tour of Texas Hill Country Wineries, but that deserves a post of its own.  Event planners, people will think you are crazy but will come away thinking you are a genius if you select the right Texas Wineries where delicious fine wine is being made.

Have a good exit strategy

Some of my favorite people in the worlds have an Austin connection,  It seems like a lifetime ago that I visited often,  A lot has changed.  I found it all for the better.  One thing stayed the same, but I didn't have time to indulge on my whirlwind #goingrogue weekend.  Amy's Ice Cream has been keeping it weird and fresh and wonderful in Austin since 1984.  I was so thrilled to see an outpost at the airport where I could get my Mexican Vanilla and Irish Coffee on,  Those bold bright flavors were with me when I boarded my flight back to California.  It might fly in the face of the credo "Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first", but it was the perfect sweet exit to a wonderful event.  And I am most grateful that I didn't have to plan it!

Photo Credit: DallasWineChick
Many thanks to 8212 Wine Bar and Grill and the Omni Barton Creek for hosting me.  As well as Dallas Wine Chick, Melanie Ofenloch for planning a spectacular Wine Writer's retreat.  Y'all got me to enjoy Texas and hope I will be able to return to share the wine and fun again

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