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Barbecue nirvana at this year's 'Texas Monthly' fest

By Virginia B. Wood, Fri., Sept. 28, 2012

My mighty meaty weekend started before noon last Friday with a 79-cent pork chop lunch at Perry's Steakhouse (read more about this in our On the Range blog) and ended with a meat coma induced by the third annual Texas Month­ly BBQ Festival on the City Terrace at the Long Center. Try as I might, there was no way I could sample the brisket, ribs, and sausages at each of the more than 20 exemplary barbecue joints invited to this year's fest. Not voting for People's Choice Awards didn't spoil my fest experience one bit, though some rabid barbecue fanboys took to the Twitter-verse to express their outrage about that change this year. It was great to see Taylor Cafe patriarch Vencil Mares presiding over his booth and legendary pit-mistress Tootsie Tomanetz greeting folks at Snow's BBQ. I had a nice visit with Nina Schmidt Sells from Smit­ty's about the progress the third generation of the Schmidt family is making on Schmidt Family Barbecue southwest of Austin. I was curious about why John Muel­ler's JMueller BBQ wasn't included this year alongside fellow Texas Monthly cover boy Aaron Franklin, but it was explained that although JMueller's was certainly eligible quality-wise, Pecan Lodge of Dallas got this year's Newcomer of the Year slot in an effort to represent statewide barbecue diversity. Add in the excellent musical entertainment and availability of beer and Sweet Leaf peach tea, and the event amounted to heaven on earth for serious Texas barbecue lovers.

Although the Austin Food & Wine Alliance is less than a year old, the culinary nonprofit is already a well-established player on the local scene. Based on its status as the beneficiary of the new Austin Food & Wine Festival and the success of several fundraising events over the past year, AWFA recently announced it will award $20,000 in grants this year to support chefs, farmers, ranchers, and artisan food producers; beer, wine, or spirit makers; and/or food-focused nonprofits. "Because of amazing community support, we are thrilled to be able to fund these grants to benefit and highlight the talent, craftsmanship, and innovations of our area culinary community," said AFWA President Cathy Cochran-Lewis. The organization will award three grants: one at $10,000 and two at $5,000. See complete details about eligibility and applications at www.austinfoodwinealliance.org/grants. The application deadline is midnight, Oct. 19.

For a lightning round of restaurant news: Chef/restaurateur Parind Vora opened his new Bar Mirabeau (800 W. Sixth) quietly over the weekend and says his new Restaurant Jezebel in the Cirrus Logic building should debut in late October... Épicerie Cafe & Grocery (2307 Han­cock) now has all its permits and is going forward, despite the best efforts of some Rose­dale neighbors bent on quashing it... Bridget Dunlap has added chef Andrew Francisco and general manager Daniel Brooks to the opening team of her new Eastside restaurant and bar, Mettle (507 Calles), coming this fall in the same warehouse that is home to Hops & Grain Brewery... Read about how Stephen Shallcross and Mickie Spencer will resurrect Arkie's in our On the Range blog.

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