by Virginia B. Wood

The world really is coming to Austin this Christmas; just consider the events scheduled in the next week: Central Market (458-3068) kicks off an international week with a Tamale Extravaganza taught by Mexico City native Claudia Alarcon tonight, Thu, Dec. 12. On Saturday, Dec. 14, Bottega della Pasta chef/owner Rino Lanzalotti will present a sumptuous Italian holiday menu with a traditional chestnut-stuffed Capon, Sweet and Sour Rabbit with polenta, grilled young goat with artichokes and a panettone. Sunday, Dec.15, Green Gourmet caterer Diana Welsch presents a Southern style holiday feast, and Foo Swasdee of Satay Restaurant will teach the preparation of some Thai holiday appetizers on Monday, Dec. 16. The spicy traditions of a Jamaican Christmas will be featured in a class from CM executive chef Jay McCarthy on Dec. 17, hot sauce mogul J.P. Hayes of Sgt. Peppers will deliver his class participants a Santa Fe Christmas on Dec. 18, and Roger Mollett stirs up the holiday flavors of New Orleans on Dec. 19. On Saturday, Dec. 21, Carol Kelly, owner of Manners, Music and More presents a children's class with cookies and carols from Germany...

With a minimum of travel, an Old World Christmas experience is available in Fredericksburg this weekend. The annual Kriskindl Markt is Dec. 14-15 in the festively decorated Marketplatz located downtown. They'll have merchandise from over 65 juried craftspeople, Hill Country wines and jellies, plus vendors serving lots of German culinary delicacies. Wish them Frohe Weinachten while you're there...

Check out the KLRU fundraising line-up tonight for an as-yet-unseen special holiday segment of Chef! The good news from the programing department at KLRU is that several more episodes of British comic actor Lenny Henry's hilarious English restaurant comedy become available in the spring. Look for Chef! in its regular time slots at 11pm on Saturday and 11:30pm on Sunday evenings...

There are always plenty of good choices for Austintatious food gifts but this year, they're even better than usual. For the celebrity-watching foodies on your list and especially anyone who treasures Austin's parks, greenbelts, trails, preserves and swimming holes: Proceeds from the Austin Hill Country Celebrity Cookbook (Lost Trail Productions, $20, paper) benefit the Austin Parks Foundation, a grassroots volunteer organization dedicated to the preservation of Austin's green spaces. The foundation folks requested recipes from both famous locals and national celebs with local ties, compiling the responses into an interesting cookbook with a profile to accompany each recipe. Try out bassist/Jeffrey's pastry chef George Reiff's Lyle Loved It Tart, Jody Conradt's Slam Dunk Oatmeal Cookies, the Drunken Chicken `n' Dumplins that fortified Fran Christina and the other Fabulous Thunderbirds or Marcia Ball's authentic Heart of Louisiana Etouffée. There are recipes for everything from the secrets of the Broken Spoke's legendary chicken fried steak to the tuna spread favored by Marion Winik's father. Congratulations to authors Sheila Liermann and Nancy Reid and Parks Foundation Director Paula Fracasso for offering a great gift idea that will keep giving to Austin for years. For the homesick former Austinite who left in search of cheaper rent and bigger paychecks, the natural choice is: Threadgill's: The Cookbook (Longstreet Press, $22.95, paper) by local cultural icon/restaurateur/raconteur Eddie Wilson. It's a gift of history, food and fun.

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