Stay Gold Goes Long, Hard Luck Turns Sunny, Sway Is Hopped, Spread & Co. Gets Woodsy, TFM Celebrates Blackness, and – Oooh, Free Cheese?

All the news that's fit to get your taste buds quivering

Here’s some of what’s happening in Austin’s culinary scene during this first week of February.

Yes, it’s your Food News Buffet, as wrangled from numerous PR releases, official posts, words on the digital street, and even the occasional (verified) IRL eavesdroppings.

Oh, Antonelli's, what a friend we have in cheeses …

First, let’s note that we have a hearty plethora of Valentine’s Events wrangled up for you to peruse (and even a few Lunar New Year recos for celebrating this Year of the Ox with, in that mix) … and now the news: The esteemed Stay Gold watering hole on Cesar Chavez, shuttered for a while now, is being replaced by a second iteration of the Long Play Lounge, wherein there will be – as owner Will Tanner tells the Chronicle’s Kevin Curtin – “live music at least five days a week,” once the pandemic’s sufficiently diminished.

And the former Hard Luck Lounge on East Seventh is being transformed into a plant-based, extremely dog-friendly pub and patio by Charissa and Merritt Vaughn, who formerly ran the popular vegan bar Beelman’s in, ah, downtown Los Angeles. (Anybody else sense a growing trend, or is it just us?) The place is called Sunny’s Backyard, and the menu will include comfort food classics with an upscale, plant-based twist. And, besides an intimate indoor bar, they’ll also have a 3,000-square-foot dog-friendly patio, with seating for more than 100 guests – with outdoor entertainment and music when pandemic restrictions are lifted. Bonus: Once they’re open but before their TABC licensing’s complete, they’ll be giving away free beers. Follow them here for updates.

Ooookay. You know that the elegant Sway venue of Thai cuisine on South First has been closed since the novel coronavirus blew into town, right? Well, count it down and out for good – although the Sway in Westlake is still, it seems, going strong – because the Bouldin Creek building will eventually be turned into another Hopfields. We’re well-fed fans of the culinary feats that chef James Flowers continues to conjure in the original Hopfields on Guadalupe (look, here’s their Valentine’s special), so that helps mitigate the sorrow just a skosh, but still.

In news that’s purely good, it’s more than just Free Cheese Week at Antonelli’s Cheese Shop right now: “Somehow it turned into Free Cheese Weeks over the past two years,” says Kendall Antonelli, “and why not?” Which means that, from now until Feb. 13, they’re treating their social-media followers to some damn fine gifts. “45 pounds of free cheese! 35 giveaways! 33 Texas makers! 11 Austin restaurants! 11 Austin nonprofits!” Suggestion: Click here for details and don’t, ah, don’t let anything get in the whey.

And, wait, there’s more reason for smiling: Spread & Co., Austin’s first grazing-board company to turn cheese-centric café, has launched a new outlet on the grounds of the Contemporary Austin’s Laguna Gloria sculpture park. “Housed in compact, modern steel and glass structures surrounded by shaded terraces right at the entrance to Laguna Gloria’s iconic property,” no less. “Signature favorites from the Rosedale restaurant will be available, including a broad selection of grazing boards, cheeses, and cured meats, along with jams, pickles, dips, and breads. The menu will also include salads, sandwiches, coffee, and (soon) beer and wine.” Jesus, we may weep for joy right now. If Spread & Co. ever teams up with Northern-Southern’s outdoor initiatives – Oh! Can you imagine? – we’ll be bawling like a baby.

Continuing on the positive side of things, the Texas Farmers’ Market celebrates Black History Month by featuring several of its Black-owned vendors in a series of Instagram takeovers that’ll run on the TFM Instagram page every Tuesday in February. Three of the several Black, woman-owned businesses are: Luv Fats Ice Cream, creators of dairy-free coconut milk and avocado-based ice cream with rotating seasonal flavors including yellow watermelon sorbet, Columbian chocolate, and butter pecan; Jeany's Ginger Elixir, which offers “the Caribbean in a bottle” with six flavors of juice elixirs – and vegan collard green eggrolls(!); and Oatmeal & Company, with curated oatmeal flavors that blend fruit, organic oats, and spices for tastes of smoked peach bourbon, blueberry cardamom, lemon lavender, bananas Foster, and strawberry basil.

And we can’t not tell you about what’s going on at Austin’s Wanderlust Wine Company. Because they’ve recently debuted what they assure us is the largest self-pour wine wall in the country – a vertical expanse created by PourMyBeer that boasts 56 taps from which guests (that’s you, citizen) can fill their own glasses. Not only is this set-up impressive and convenient, it turns out to be better suited for safety in these coronavirus times. (Which, until we can throw most caution to the wind sometime in, probably, the fall of this year, we’re all about. Suggestion: Take the wine, dig that girl, wear a goddamn mask.)

The Truffle Masters, that annual celebration of one of the world’s most precious culinary ingredients – winter black truffles – continues this year without the lavish in-person tasting event but by encouraging diners to support their local eateries through in-restaurant dining or takeout. This mycological wonderment is fomented and honcho’d, as ever, by DR Delicacy out of Houston, yes – but the many statewide participants include Austin’s own El Alma, Juniper, and Vinaigrette. (And of course you're aware that DR Delicacy and their indefatigable trufflers have partnered with the Texas Food & Wine Alliance to establish a series of culinary innovation and community giveback grants that'll be distributed through the Alliance’s regional chapters statewide, but we'll remind you anyway.)

The folks at Freebirds World Burrito write in to remind us that Monday, Feb. 8, is National Potato Lovers Day. Of course, they do this by way of working the ol’ publicity angle – for better hawking of their Queso Potatoes side dish, right? Which is a fine mess of freshly diced and grilled potatoes all drizzled with delicious queso, that side dish, and … oh, hell, brb: Gotta go to Freebirds now.

Also, please note that Geraldine’s in the Hotel Van Zandt, that fancy bar on the fourth floor? They have that guinea hen as a mascot? Listen: One dollar from every vodka-based, fruit-forward “Causemopolitan” cocktail that Geraldine’s sells this month will be donated to Austin Urban League, a group supporting COVID relief in underfunded communities. Cheers!

Now eat and drink as well as you can, citizen, and watch out for those ’ronas.

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