While local restaurant owners quietly

celebrated the end of the two-week Olympic seige, their counterparts in the food-delivery business hated to see it end. "The Olympics gave our sales a big boost," reports local Take-Out Taxi franchise owner Chris Marrus. Staff operators were able to identify commercial breaks or dull events by the volume of telephone calls. "It was like half-time at a football game," explains an Entrees on Trays manager, "the phones would all start ringing at once." The two national franchise outfits and Austin's homegrown dinner-delivery business, Eat-Out-In, also confirmed that Austinites vigorously exercised their dialing fingers during the Olympics... Though world travel was out of the question this summer, a thoughtful reader turned me on to an international dining experience that would have remained completely overlooked, if not for her call. Nestled against a Quality Inn at 3200 S. IH 35, Marco Polo Restaurant serves an interesting mélange of international dishes from an extremely economical buffet as well as a menu. The owners, formerly of the popular Shanghai restaurant, chose Marco Polo as their namesake because the intrepid 13th-century Venetian explorer was responsible for a major cultural and culinary exchange of far-reaching impact. The menu and buffet feature mostly Chinese dishes with a sprinkling of Japanese, American, French and Italian choices for variety. All the food is meticulously prepared, quite tasty and the buffet is value-priced at $5.95 for lunch and $7.95 for dinner... As part of his effort to get Austinites cooking seafood at home, Central Market seafood manager David Canny recruited new chef Jay McCarthy and restaurant chefs from Jeffrey's, Hudson's on the Bend, Gilligan's, Zoot, Louie's 106 and Coyote Cafe to develop fresh seafood marinades. Up to a dozen marinades will be available daily at the fish case along with recipe cards and fliers brimming with ingredient lists, fish suggestions, cooking instructions and chef technique tips. The marinades will not be packaged, but added to the fish once it's selected for purchase. Canny hopes seafood-shy cooks will be inspired by his plan to take some of the mystery out of fish cookery. He also plans to sell copies of Shirley King's Fish--The Basics (Chapters, $16.95, paper) in the fish department and have a reference copy on the counter at all times, saying "There's no better basic fish book than Shirley's..." The Austin Java Company (12th and Lamar) has added a new evening cook, French-born Alexandra Rey. In the French craft tradition, Rey is the fifth generation of her family in the kitchen. Her parents are globe-trotting chefs (France, Africa, Australia, Texas, Florida) and her great-grandfather was chef to Charles deGaulle for a time. Having apprenticed with family members, Alexandra contemplates a formal culinary education while creating new menu items like crawfish avocado salad and garlic roasted pork loin with honey lime carrots... Recent correspondence from husband and wife Georgia Coleman and chef Tim Kartiganer confirms the rumor that they have sold Mars restaurant, 1601 San Antonio, to longtime manager Lori Simon. Tim and Georgia have departed on a year or two of extensive globe-trotting and plan to do some research for a possible future restaurant venture. The other local sale rumor involving a management team buying Romeo's from Mike Young and John Zapp of Comida Deluxe cannot be confirmed at this time... Austin Film Society benefactor Quentin Tarantino was spied at the Texas Chili Parlor reading a screenplay over a bowl of XXX Chili and a Shiner Bock. Word has it he's a generous tipper.

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