Clarifications, openings, closings, and a holiday baking contest!
We need to clarify some misinformation that appeared in Wes Marshall's recent review of the Ventana restaurant on the campus of the Texas Culinary Academy. The campus does have a mixed-beverage liquor license and is therefore unable to allow restaurant patrons to bring their own wines into the restaurant... Speaking of wine and liquor, Austin's original Grapevine Market (7938 Great Northern Blvd., 323-5900, www.grapevinemarket.com) is closing. The store is offering close-out prices on all merchandise and will remain open Monday-Saturday, 11am-7pm until the sale is over. The Round Rock store will continue to operate as usual... Our Wes Marshall has checked out two new spots in his neighborhood: the newest well-stocked Spec's (13015 Shops Pkwy., 263-9981, www.specsonline.com) and the second Mandola's Italian Market (12815 Shops Pkwy., 600-8500, www.mandolasmarket.com) are both open for business in the Shops at the Galleria. He reports the new market is a greatly expanded version of the original Mandola's in the Triangle, with lots more dine-in seating... The owners of Sprouts Farmers Market (www.sprouts.com) are certainly bullish on the suburban Austin market. They've opened stores in Sunset Valley (5601 Brodie, 334-4175), Rollingwood (2805 Bee Caves Rd., 439-5782), and Round Rock (110 N. I-35, 334-4684) so quickly I haven't had a chance to shop at any of them yet... Kudos to wink restaurant (1014 N. Lamar, 482-8868, www.winkrestaurant.com) for making OpenTable's (www.opentable.com) 2009 list of the top 50 national restaurants "Fit for Foodies," where its seasonal, locally sourced menus have put it alongside many of the best restaurants in the country... Local bakers have until Nov. 14 to submit crowd-pleasing holiday dessert recipes to the Holiday Baking Contest at Faraday's Kitchen Store (1501 RR 620 North, 266-5666). There are four different categories and very cool prizes. I'm looking forward to being a judge this year. Complete info, rules, and entry forms are available at www.faradayskitchenstore.com... I was in Manuel's (310 Congress, 472-7555) for the first time in a long time recently and discovered some changes they've made to further upgrade the quality of their menu items and services. The company operates two full-service outlets (10201 Jollyville Rd., 345-1042, www.manuels.com) and two more casual Changos taquerias (3023 Guadalupe, 480-TACO; 3005 S. Lamar, 416-1500; www.changos.com). They've recently begun serving all-natural premium Black Angus beef, hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken, and hormone- and antibiotic-free pork in all four restaurants, as well as wild-caught fish and shrimp harvested by sustainable fisheries along the Texas Gulf Coast. Like many food service outlets concerned about their environmental impact, Manuel's and Changos are also using new eco-friendly, compostable items for to-go orders. The restaurants are recycling at both the Downtown and South Lamar locations, with plans in the works to add recycling programs at the Guadalupe and Jollyville outlets in the near future. All these laudable improvements have been made without any substantial increase in prices... For the scoop on the great food served at last week's Film & Food Gala at the Driskill, check out my blog, On the Range, at austinchronicle.com/ontherange.