by Virginia B. Wood

It's hard to imagine certain restaurants without their longtime staff members. As of two weeks ago, there're still "no fries, no draft, and no frou-frou drinks" at the Texas Chili Parlour but there's also no Paisley Robertson at Friday Happy Hour. She's at home wondering how 30 years of waitres-sing experience didn't fit in with the "young" clientele.

French Patissier Alain Braux has consolidated his entire Amandine Pastries and French Sorbets operation into one central location, the popular cafe at 917 W. 12th. Amandine is alive and well with new flavors for fall. Stop in for a slice of the divinely decadent Hazelnut Chocolate Terrine, rich, chocolate cake layers soaked in hazelnut syrup, filled with French buttercream and frosted with Chocolate Ganache. Their Chocochino Sorbet, a dark chocolate sorbet with a hint of espresso, is outselling all the other sorbet flavors 10 to one. Braux has just lowered the wholesale price on his sorbets so they should be more affordable in local grocery stores... Austin is experiencing a French Invasion, of sorts. New last month is Lupin Restaurant at 3300 Anderson at Shoal Creek. Lupin, named for the famous gentleman bandit of turn-of-the-century, French popular fiction, features a pleasant, soothing atmosphere and an understated decor. Owner Wakako Hemmi and General Manager Thierry de Roche, formerly of Chez Nous, have hired CIA-trained chef Charles Bloemsma to present a menu with classic French and European influences. They are still working out some opening glitches but this place looks very promising.

Coming near the end of November will be Jean-Luc's French Bistro at 705 Colorado in the stylish Norwood Towers. The chef-owner is Bordeaux native and longtime naturalized Texan Jean-Luc Salles, well-regarded by many after his long stint at Cook's Night Out. Salles is very excited about the old Colorado Street Cafe location around the corner from Congress Avenue and he plans to serve traditional French homestyle cuisine in an unpretentious atmosphere at reasonable prices. At night, ample free parking in the Towers parking garage will make Jean-Luc's Bistro a great place to dine downtown and afterward stroll the Avenue or bar-hop in the West End district.

Austin's newest two-fer is Xpresso Lube, a unique experience at 3016 Guadalupe. This is an innovative business where you can get your oil changed, sip cappucino and espresso, sample fine gourmet pastries, and listen to live local music all at the same time. This potential franchise venture is the brainchild of Charles Green of University Automotive Services. He has converted the old Texaco station across the street from Wheatsville into the first Xpresso Lube location. Manager Allison Morton reports that lubes are available all day Monday through Saturday, and you can get coffee and pastries all day, every day... On Monday, November 6, the owners of Zoot offer the opportunity to sample a variety of ports with six sumptuous courses featuring everything from salmon to sweetbreads to chocolate, and then top off the evening with excellent cigars. Call 477-6535 for reservations -- tickets are $75... Today's mail brought an inviting catalogue from Dallas' Mozzarella Company, makers of fine handmade cheeses in the Italian tradition. They supply marvelous cheeses and gift baskets ranging in price from $20-$100. Call 800/798-2954 for a catalogue... James Hewitt, husband of Dot Hewitt and co-owner of the popular Dot's Place, recently passed away. We offer our sincerest sympathy.

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