Daily Food
Interesting New Flavors
One of the most interesting aspects of this job is the opportunity to sample new food products when they are about to reach the local market. Over the past few months, I 've received samples of bread crumbs, chicken stock, various spices and condiments ( you should see the amazingly diverse selection of spices and condiments in my pantry just now!), breakfast cereals, several flavors of instant mashed potatoes (yuk), imported chocolates (alas, all melted), plus wines and liqueurs (always shared with other writers). None of these items really warranted much mention, but there were also some serious keepers. The best of the bunch was a box of six Sweet Tango apples developed by apple breeding researchers at the University of Minnesota. These were undoubtedly the best tasting apples I've ever encountered - crisp, sweet, spicy - really marvelous for eating and with enough body to hold up well when baked ( or so I imagine). I liked them so much that all I could think about was all the things I wanted to make with them - caramel apples, holiday pies, apple dumplings, apple crisps - but there were only six of them in the box and they were eaten long before any cooking could actually take place. These remarkable apples won't even be on the commercial market until the fall of 2009, but I promise to remind you about them when they arrive in Austin stores next year.

11:45AM Tue. Nov. 18, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

Break Out Your Best Holiday Dessert Recipe for Faraday's New Contest
Last year's Holiday Cookie Recipe Contest at Faraday's Kitchen Store (1501 RR 620 North, 266-5666) was such a success that organizers have decided to seek out the best Holiday Desserts in Austin for this year's competition. Prizes will be awarded in the following categories: Pies,Tarts & Tortes; Cakes and Cupcakes, Light & Healthy Favorites and; Other (for anything that doesn't fit in the first three). A Grand Prize winner will be chosen from the individual category winners and customers in attendance the day of the judging are encouraged to vote for a People's Choice winner. There will be prizes from sponsoring vendors, store gift certificates, and the grand prize is a 5qt Viking stand mixer. (I LOVE my Viking mixer!)
The judging will take place in the store at 11am on Saturday, November 15th. Entries must be dropped off between 8:30-10:30am that day. Desserts will be available for the public to taste from 11am-3pm and prizes will be awarded at 4pm. Judges for this year's event will be Chef Kelly Casey, pastry chef from Hudson's on the Bend;Chef Steve Mannion,Director and co-founder of the Culinary Academy of Austin and;Sharon O'Quinn, manager of Faraday's.
Potential contestants must submit a registration form and signed rule sheet by Friday, November 7th. For more information and entry forms, stop by the store or go to www.faradayskitchenstore.com. Good Luck!

11:57AM Fri. Oct. 31, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

A Satisfied Crowd Feasted on the Bounty of the Fall Harvest for a Good Cause
The annual Green Corn Project benefit on the grounds of Boggy Creek Farm is always one of my favorite tasting events on the Austin charity calendar. This year, the fall weather was marvelous and the new arrangement of vendor booths and dining tables really improved the overall traffic flow around the farm house. The higher number of food vendors and stellar quality of the seasonally-focused food made for a very satisfying afternoon for the crowd. Kudos to new organizer Lisa Fox and the hard-working all-volunteer staff of the Green Corn Project. My only suggestion to participating chefs would be in the area of portion control. Although this is a tasting event, many of the chefs were serving overly generous portions during the first hour, causing food to run low as early as 2:30pm when the event was not scheduled to end until 4pm. Organizers working the gate wisely cut prices to folks who bought tickets after the food began to wane, but guests who had purchased advance tickets and arrived towards the end of the afternoon found the pickings pretty slim. There are two solutions to this problem (1)encourage chefs to begin the day serving smaller portions and (2)limit the running time of the event from noon to 3pm rather than 4pm. After the jump is a list of some of the great food we tasted as we made our way around the front yard of the farm.

10:34AM Fri. Oct. 31, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

Spend Halloween in a Local Haunted Hotel
This time of year, Austin's historic Driskill Hotel (6th & Brazos, 391-1712) makes the most of its designation as the "most haunted hotel in Texas" with a special Driskill After Dark package deal. Guests can get special rates on accommodations as well as a guided tour of the identified haunted areas of the grand old hotel, the opportunity to observe all the garish and ghoulish costumed Halloween festivities on East 6th Street from the Driskill's popular balcony overlooking the scene, plus treats (or tricks) at turndown time. Not to be outdone, Driskill Grill Executive Chef Jonathan Gelman and Pastry Chef Tony Sansalone have created a special five-course Fright Night tasting menu featuring such items as Monster Maitake Mushrooms, Hatchet Chop of Venison, and the Devil's Chocolate Crunch Bar. Dinner is $85 per person or $135 per person with wine pairings and reservations are suggested

5:00PM Tue. Oct. 28, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

Eat Popcorn to Raise Money for Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Business partners Nikki Dugas and Nadia Elhaj, owner of Cornucopia Popcorn Creations (1914 Guadalupe, Suite B, 477-2676, will culminate a month-long fund drive with a benefit party at their store on Wednesday, Oct. 29th. at 6pm. The party will include complimentary pink cocktails, popcorn samples, and a screening of the irreverent and life-affirming documentary Crazy Sexy Cancer. Proceeds from the sale of all five pink popcorn flavors and the specially-made pairs of breast cancer awareness popcorn balls will benefit the Komen organization. In addition, guests will receive breast self-examination pamphlets and key chains decorated with various sized marbles (to help women in detecting and describing potential tumors)provided by the Austin affiliate of the Susan G. Komen organization.

4:29PM Tue. Oct. 28, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

October Is Still the Busiest Month
The second annual Texas Wine and Song Festival will showcase the best in regional wines, music, and food at the new Copper Tank Events Center (504 Trinity). Musical entertainment will be provided by the Gourds, Carolyn Wonderland, and Suzanna Choffel, and representatives of several Texas wineries and distilleries will be on hand pouring their finest vintages and providing seminars on wine, mixology, and food-and-wine pairing. Some of Austin's top restaurants will be dishing out samples of delicious signature dishes. Proceeds from this fun event will benefit the Sims Foundation and the newly formed Texas Wine & Song Foundation, a nonprofit providing scholarships and grants for the study of Texas enology and viticulture. Tickets cover the cost of 10 food-and-wine samplings and are $30 in advance at www.texaswineandsong.com or $35 at the door. Sunday, Oct. 19, 3-10pm…

If you missed the first Austin Restaurant Week event at the beginning of this past week, you've got a second chance to enjoy an economical experience at some of Austin's finest eateries. All that is required is a trip to the Web at RestaurantWeekAustin.com to check out the complete list of participating local restaurants and then a reservation for a delectable three-course prix fixe meal for either $25 or $35, depending on the price range of the restaurant. This weeks dates are Oct. 19-22. Bon appetit!

4:10PM Fri. Oct. 17, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

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October Is the Busiest Month for Events in Austin, Part II
Wow, this weekend is only the middle of October, and there are still myriad events left to tell you about! "Food-o-File" and "Event Menu" return this coming week, but for now, I've got more info on things you won't want to miss this weekend… South Austin salsa aficionados are very familiar with the expert salsa artistry of chef/restaurateur Ruben Rodriguez, chef/owner of Evita's Botanitas (6400 S. First., 441-2424), a frequent contestant and winner in our annual Hot Sauce Festival. The bad news is that Ruben is dealing with some serious health issues and medical bills. His family and friends invite you to a benefit to help defray those costs at Evita's on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 11am to 5pm. Tickets are $10, and the menu will include carne guisada or chicken mole with rice, beans, and a drink. A DJ will be spinning Latin tunes outside in the parking lot. This talented man deserves plenty of support… And speaking of benefits and folks who deserve our support, the musicians and longtime friends who loved South Austin restaurateur Danny Roy Young are staging a big benefit show in his honor at the Austin Music Hall this Sunday evening, Oct. 19. Danny's untimely death this summer left his family with some debts associated with the closure of the Texicalli Grille after Danny sold the restaurant and retired. The big party will feature a stellar musical lineup, as well as a silent auction stocked with Texicalli memorabilia, plus the sale of Texicalli T-shirts, bumper stickers, and menu items. The doors will open at 5pm to give guests time to visit with Lu and the family and preview the auction items. The music starts at 6pm. Tickets are only $10 and are available at all local GetTix outlets, at 866/443-8849, online, and at the door. Sponsorship tables for 10 are available for $1,000, and tables for four are $400. To purchase a table, contact Robin Shivers at rshivers@shiversgroup.com or 472-8463. This party is one you won't want to miss.

3:37PM Fri. Oct. 17, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

October Is the Busiest Month for Events in Austin
October is everyone's favorite month for events here in the River City, and it really isn't hard to understand why. The weather begins to moderate, making it possible to actually enjoy being outdoors, and the annual cash infusion from the new student population begins circulating in the local economy. Add to that the promise of a good UT football season, and what's not to celebrate? "Food-o-File" is on vacation this week because the print edition is celebrating our annual "Best of Austin" winners, so On the Range will take over to make sure I don't miss telling you about all the fabulous events and happenings coming up in the next few days… First up, those wacky Jolly Garogers need your help with their 2008 Trick AARRGGHH Treat donation drive. For every $10 ticket purchased between now and Halloween, LifeWorks will be able to send an at-risk kid to the wickedly marvelous House of Torment haunted house at Highland Mall this month. To donate, go to www.frontgatetickets.com. See the Chronicle feature "It Came From the Back Yard," Oct. 3, for more on the House of Torment…

10:25AM Wed. Oct. 15, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

Last Chance to Buy Tickets for Austin Film Festival Film & Food Gala
It's still not too late to purchase tickets for the Austin Film Festival annual Film & Food Gala Wednesday evening at the historic Driskill Hotel (5th & Brazos) in Downtown Austin. The best chefs from more than 20 Austin restaurants and catering companies will be serving up signature dishes, there will be delectable cocktails, plus an exciting silent auction. Tickets are $70 for festival registrants and members and $85 for the public. Proceeds from the event will benefit AFF's Young Filmmaker Program. For more information or to purchase tickets online, go to www.austinfilmfestival.com/new/film_food Wednesday evening, October 15th, 7-10pm

11:43PM Tue. Oct. 14, 2008, Virginia B. Wood Read More | Comment »

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