Longtime San Antonio and Austin hospitality professional Daniel Brooks (Vespaio, Mettle) has left his position as general manager at Mettle to begin creating Licha's Cantina (1306 E. Sixth) in the cottage that was formerly home to Papi Tino's. His business partner in this endeavor is Claude Benayoun. They'll maintain the inviting Mexican cantina vibe with decor and a selection of quality tequilas, mezcals, and sotols as well as fruit infusions made with those Mexican liquors, plus beer and good cocktails. Brooks says the menu will feature his version of the street food of his native Mexico City with small plates of appetizers in the $6-8 range and heartier cazuelas (casseroles) for $10-15. "I left my last job working for someone else on New Year's Eve and began working on my own first restaurant on the first day of 2014," Brooks told the Chronicle. "Mid-February looks like a realistic opening date for the new place because we aren't doing anything that requires permits."
Several years back, an artist and art instructor named Luanne Stovall began realizing her vision to create a food component for the celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday every January. She chose pie, and pie socials, because, as Stovall explains, "Pie symbolizes inclusiveness with its round shape and diverse ingredients, and pies come in many shapes and sizes from around the world." Her first local pie social was at the historic Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church (1725 W. 11th) in 2009. Stovall's organization is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit known as Peace Through Pie. Over the years, the pie social program has grown to include other churches and interfaith groups in the Austin area (and the country) as well as 10 high school culinary programs in Austin, Pflugerville, Leander, Round Rock, Manor, Hutto, and Del Valle. I'm lucky enough to be an invited guest to a pie social at Travis High School on Friday and a pie judge at the Peace Through Pie social at the Faith4Life Church (1000 McNeil Rd.) in Round Rock on Saturday hosted by food and nutrition writer Toni Tipton-Martin, who partnered with Stovall in hopes that "PTP socials would bring people together around the table where there is room for all and every voice is respected." For more information about MLK holiday pie socials, check out our Meal Times listings and www.peacethroughpie.org.
The media opening party at Dolce Neve (1713 S. First) last week was a lively event, what with the food writer moms and their pint-sized gelato taste-testers. We got to witness Dolce Neve's old-school, vertical batch gelato maker in action and were allowed to taste any and all of the available flavors. I was partial to the salted caramel, but the most amazing revelation was the sweet cream with Meyer lemon zest – the delicate scent of lemon was inherent as every luxurious bite dissolved in your mouth. While Francesca and Marco Silvestrini and their partner (and her fiancé) Leo Ferrarese are quite serious about the quality of their products and their equipment (check out their gorgeous espresso maker), they are utterly charming folks and I'm predicting the Bouldin Creek neighborhood will embrace them wholeheartedly.
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