Thoughts on the feeding tube; plus, Nu Age, El Chilito, and everything you need to know, event-wise, for the upcoming week on the Austin food scene
There's so little original programming on TV in the summer, I didn't think I'd have any problem following the various competitive food reality shows: Cooking Under Fire (PBS), Hell's Kitchen (Fox), and The Next Food Network Star (TVFN). As it turned out, I've only been able to follow one through to completion. In addition to the overall sleazy "Fox-ness" of Hell's Kitchen, chef/star Gordon Ramsay's abusive behavior toward all the participants in the program is so unappealing I couldn't sit through an entire episode, though I made several attempts. I finally realized the choice of a new Food Network star just didn't engage me much and gave up on that one, too. I've only ever watched one TVFN program specifically because of the star, Tony Bourdain in A Cook's Tour, and the network canceled his show after two seasons, so maybe I don't share its taste. (Speaking of Bourdain, his new show, Without Reservations, debuts on the Travel Channel next week.) Cooking Under Fire, however, did hold my interest through to the end for a variety of reasons. The program offered the realistic premise of winning a chef job in a prominent New York restaurant, and the panel of professional judges treated the prospective chefs with respect even when offering criticism and/or the "86" pan. I was very pleased when the three finalists were all women with very different styles and personalities, and the judges' ultimate choice was not particularly surprising. My only lingering question after the final episode is whether there will be some kind of follow-up to tell us just how long winner Katie Hagan-Whelchel actually works in Todd English's kitchen?Ê
Not long after our big "Chillin'" feature, we were advised there will soon be even more gelato available around town. The newest Gelato's (3300 Bee Caves Rd., 732-2198) outlet opened last week in the Westbank Shopping Center, and the locally owned company plans to open a third location on Guadalupe several blocks north of the UT campus this fall... Nu Age Cafe (2425 Exposition, 469-9390) was named PETA's "Restaurant of the Month" for July. Chef-owner Kwan Wong's vegetarian eatery replaced the hamburgers and home cooking of the original Holiday House in the West Austin neighborhood last year... Had a chat with Carlos Rivera of El Chile Cafe y Cantina (1809 Manor Rd., 457-9900), who reports that in response to customer demand, they'll soon be adding a Saturday brunch and dinner on Sunday evenings. He also said we can expect the opening of the new El Chilito at the corner of Manor and Cherrywood for coffee and take-out tacos by the end of the month... Drop into the Cafe at Central Market Westgate (4521 Westgate Blvd., 899-4300) and order some dessert for a special treat: As a summer project, kids from the TownLake YMCA have been painting scenes on dessert plates, and the folks at the cafe then bake them in the oven to set the food-safe paints. For $10, diners get a dessert and a custom-painted plate to take home, while $5 from every sale benefits the kids programs at the TownLake YMCA.
Lotsa Restaurant News
Raw food expert Paul Nison will present a free lecture on making healthy food choices and the benefits of a raw-food diet at the new Whole Foods Market (525 N. Lamar, 542-2200). Meet at the concierge desk at 2pm, Sunday, July 24.
Event Menu: July 22-28
Culinary Flavors of Austin is the annual gala fundraiser benefitting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Chapter of Central Texas. Fifteen of Austin's finest restaurants will present their signature dishes at the Design Center (3601 S. Congress) while guests nosh and bid on a fascinating array of silent auction items. All proceeds benefit CFF. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased by calling 338-1744; they will also be available at the door; 6:30-9:30pm, Thursday, July 28.
Majic 95.5 radio joins forces with some of Austin's best restaurants for Restaurant Week, an innovative fundraiser to benefit Caritas of Austin (www.caritasofaustin.org, 479-4610). During the week of July 25-31, participating restaurants will offer a special $25 three-course menu with $5 from each of those meals going to Caritas. At press time, the restaurants included the Mansion at Judges Hill, Cool River Cafe, Moonshine Patio Bar & Grill, Carmelo's, Sao Paulos, Zin Bistro, Iron Cactus, the County Line BBQ, Dragon Gate, Tokyo Steakhouse, Roaring Fork, 34th Street Cafe, and Santa Rita Cafe & Cantina. For news about more participating restaurants, go to www.majicrestaurantweek.com; all over town, July 25-31.ÊÊ
Cooking Under Fire, Katie Hagan-Whelchel, TownLake YMCA, Central Market, El Chilito, Nu Age Cafe, Kawn Wong, Carlos Rivera, Paul Nison Culinary Flavors of Austin, Design Center, Majic 95.5, Caritas, Restaurant Week