Virginia B. Wood reflects on 20 years of reviewing Austin restaurants

Twenty years ago this summer, my first reviews of Austin restaurants appeared in this newspaper. The first few restaurants I wrote about no longer exist, but nonetheless, I have vivid memories of my initial reviewing experience and its ramifications. I was genuinely disappointed when our large group of friends was served a couple of overpriced, mediocre meals that were haphazardly served. I used my inaugural, scathing review to demonstrate just how sarcastic I could be at someone else's expense. However, my new employers stood behind me and I learned an invaluable lesson: If I was going to sign my name to and take responsibility for an opinion, I had better choose my words carefully. I've endeavored to do so ever since.

Robin Allen is back with the third book in her Austin-based, Poppy Markham: Culinary Cop series, titled Out of the Frying Pan (Midnight Ink, $14.99). The novel's setting couldn't be timelier, what with Poppy the intrepid health department inspector solving a murder that occurs at a farm-to-table event set at a fictitious organic farm, but Allen's cast of potential murder suspects could use more depth of character development to make the story believable. Oh, and literary license aside, a novel set in the Texas capital shouldn't describe the main campus of the University of Texas as being in "south-central Austin."

The cleverest local dessert delivery system I've seen recently has to be the pink oven-shaped box with a "door" that opens to reveal up to three six-packs of Hey Cupcake! miniatures in a variety of flavors. For pictures and ordering details, go to

Sunday's Slow Food Austin Grub Trivia event attracted a veritable who's who of the local food community for an afternoon of great food and seriously fun culinary trivia competition. National urban farm pioneers Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler of East Austin's Boggy Creek Farm were winners of Slow Food Austin's first Snailblazer Award for their 20-year contribution to the local food movement, receiving a well-deserved standing ovation from the appreciative crowd. While there, I chatted with chef Sonya Coté about her Eden East project at Springdale Farm (755 Springdale), where they serve a reservation-only, prix fixe dinner Thursday through Saturday nights. Coté says customer response to dining in the lovely pastoral setting is encouraging; for menu and reservation info, go to

I thought I'd said everything I had to say about the Paula Deen situation in last week's blog post, but then the Emmy nominations were announced and a prime example of that American double standard I was talking about slapped me in the face: An unrepentant former heroin addict who gets drunk and stoned on television is regarded as a "charming bad boy" and gets multiple award nominations, but Paula Deen is a pariah? Seriously?

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