The most impressive holiday gift basket I received was an offering announcing the opening of a new online shopping and delivery service called Coterie Market, brainchild of local entrepreneur Chelsea Staires. She offers shoppers an assortment of locally made products on her website, for delivery within 48 hours of ordering, and she is open to suggestions for additions to her product line. My basket featured a sampling of the wonderful nonperishable food items Staires represents: Amity Bakery pain au lait, a honey bear squeeze bottle from Austin Honey Company, pear butter from Confituras, Reel Popcorn, and an elf-sized bag of Cocoa Puro whole bean chocolates. Her larder is also stocked with Dos Lunas cheeses, Coyote Creek eggs, and dairy items from Mill-King, plus local sodas, snacks, condiments, oils, chocolates, and more. Retail offerings include home and beauty lines, plus clothing, jewelry, and accessories. Check out Christian Remde's informative video introduction to the new venture at www.vimeo.com/56830959, and then hit up www.coteriemarket.com for a local shopping spree.
A lightning round of local food news: Chef instructor and restaurateur Iliana de la Vega has resigned her teaching position at the Culinary Institute of America's San Antonio campus and will concentrate her energies full-time at El Naranjo (85 Rainey), which now offers lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch... Chef Ben Hightower has left Trace at the W for "an unseen opportunity that will allow me to slow down some and raise a family." No word yet on his replacement, or where his wonderful cooking might show up around town in the future... After a yearlong victory lap, Austin's top chef Paul Qui is back home concentrating on menu development for his various East Side King locations and the new Qui restaurant scheduled to open later this year at East Sixth and Comal. Look for him at the ESK Grackle trying out new menu items over the next few weeks... Award-winning local chocolatier Miles Compton lost a foot to circulatory problems before Christmas, but the retired Marine swears he'll be up and around, sporting a world-class prosthesis festooned with his Miles of Chocolate logo come spring... Christy Herbstreit is the proprietor of Austin's newest Nothing Bundt Cake franchise in Westlake Hills (2785 Bee Caves Rd.), offering a variety of cakes with custom decorations for special occasions... Hot on the heels of their recognition by Food & Wine magazine as one of the Best Juice Bars in America, Matt Shook's JuiceLand has announced a fourth local outlet in the Spider House compound, where cocktails made with fresh juice mixers are now available.
On the local charity front, Foreign & Domestic's fourth-quarter bake sales raised $2,000 for Planned Parenthood; the Empty Bowl Project gave $63,070 to the Capital Area Food Bank and $11,130 to Meals on Wheels & More; Lustre Pearl raised $165,000 for the African Children's Choir at a New Year's party; and ThunderCloud Subs' annual Turkey Trot presented Caritas with a check for $325,000, the largest donation in the 22-year history of the Thanksgiving Day race.
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