Though the Manor airport never took flight and gambling at Manor Downs hasn't become the financial boon it was advertized to be, there is still a serious attraction in Manor, the 47-year-old Texas roadhouse Cafe 290. Longtime owner Andy Taylor recently sold the cafe to a group of talented and well-traveled former Four Seasons employees. New owners Robert Guillory and Benjamin and Elizabeth Lynch will be keeping the Cafe's popular menu intact and adding occasional specials. They've given the cafe an interior face-lift and will celebrate their grand reopening on Saturday, January 14, 3-6pm, with a benefit for the Capital Area Food Bank. The festivities will include live music by Murphy's Law, complimentary samples from the cafe's menu and door prizes. Cafe 290 is 16 miles east of Austin on Hwy 290 E. Take your non-perishable food and cash donations with you and party on down... Though Christmas celebrations are barely over, it's time to start planning for Mardi Gras. Sure, you can mail-order King Cakes from New Orleans, but first check out the two varieties available at Amandine Bakery. Alain Braux is making the traditional King's Crown or Couronne des Rois, a brioche-style orange-flavored cake filled with candied fruits and containing a prize -- a treat popular in Louisiana. They'll be available daily for $12.50 until Mardi Gras, February 20. The second style, Galette des Rois, is a 10-inch puff pastry ring filled with almond cream that can be special-ordered for $18.50 Allons Amandine!... If you've often passed the stately mansion across from Hancock Center at 4100 Red River and wondered just what's there behind the fence amid the 10 acres of manicured lawns, wonder no more. It's the Perry Mansion, built in 1926 by the late E. H. "Commodore" Perry, a prominent Austin businessman (the Commodore Perry Hotel, etc.). The estate sits on the banks of Waller Creek along the north side of 41st Street, and is currently owned and in use by an educational foundation. Though a private school is operated on the premises, the foundation is now making many of the estate's facilities available for rental by the general public and event planners for wedding receptions, banquets, special events, conferences, business meetings, and social occasions. Call event coordinator Douglas Shea at 467-7756 or 454-3493 for floor plans, price schedules, and guided tours of the estate's many distinctive features and amenities... Dining in the downtown "entertainment district" is always a challenge because parking spots are at such a premium. Carmelo Mauro, owner of Carmelo's, has secured a large private parking lot due east of his popular Fifth Street restaurant. Mauro plans to enclose the lot with wrought-iron and stucco fencing decorated with lighted globes. Valet parking service will continue. The owners of Bertram's at 16th and Guadalupe offer parking in the state-owned garage across the street from their location during the evenings, and patrons at Jean-Luc's French Bistro are welcome to park in the Norwood Tower parking garage during the dinner hour, as well. Valet parking service is the growing trend in cramped downtown; Sfuzzi, Chez Nous, and Brio! all make it available to their patrons.... Reading cookbooks too often takes the place of actual travel in my life, but I've just read a new cookbook from a destination that is actually reachable, even for me. Now that I've read Royer's Round Top Cafe -- A Relational Odyssey (self-published, $30, hard) I'm determined to go out to Round Top after the first of the year, meet these people, and eat in their popular country restaurant. Friends who frequent James Dick's Festival Hill Concerts as well as Winedale Shakespeare Festival participants have told me about this place for years and now the book has really intrigued me. The elegantly photographed volume is very much a self-published book -- unabashedly emotional in some places, schmaltzy and repetitive in others, but obviously written directly from the hearts of the entire Royer family. Whether you are a long-time fan of the cafe or among the uninitiated, this book about the Royer family, their business philosophy, and the food they serve to appreciative crowds is worth checking out.


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