by Virginia B. Wood

The beginning of every new year brings with it the consideration of emerging trends. On the national scene, the buying public is considering low-fat, low-cholesterol meat alternatives that are not heavily treated with hormones and antibiotics. Game meats such as venison, wild boar, antelope and ostrich are growing in recognition and popularity. Already a signature dish at nationally famous restaurants such as Dallas's Mansion at Turtle Creek, ostrich just could be the chic darling in the coming year. More enticed by taste than the health claims, noted GQ food columnist Alan Richman recently described ostrich as meat that tastes as though it comes "from a cow of dubious pedigree, one with a turkey hidden in its family tree." If you're inclined to give it a whirl, ostrich shows up as a special item on local restaurant menus from time to time and has been seen in the meat markets at Bon Fresh Food Market, Central Market, Sun Harvest, and Whole Foods Market...

Evaluating local trends, it appears that the coffee bar explosion may have peaked and we are achieving critical mass where bagel stores are concerned. The Chesapeake Bagel Bakery location on West Sixth is up for rent and owner Gene Atwell is looking for a suburban neighborhood spot in North Austin that will be as successful as his William Cannon store. The newest contender in the bagel wars is Golden, Colorado-based Einstein Bros. Bagels. Their first of four projected stores opened last week at the corner of 12th & Lamar. In addition to bagels, Einstein Bros. offers a selection of cream cheese shmears, hearty sandwiches, soups, salads, premium coffees, sodas, and flavored iced teas...

Much as I enjoy a good bagel, this year's hot food item looks to be wraps rather than bagels to me. A popular item on the West Coast for a couple of years now, wraps are multi-ethnic variations on a very familiar Southwestern peasant dish, the burrito. Look at it this way, if national fast food chains are already touting their wrap items, can multiple neighborhood wrap shops be far behind? Two enterprising local entrepreneurs are already riding the wrap wave. Former Magnolia Cafe general manager Dave Wilson and Ace Custom Tailors owner Daryl Kunik were inspired by the fresh food and business success of a place called World Wraps in the San Francisco Bay area. They came up with Wrapido, a smart little wrap shop at 3023 Guadalupe. The menu includes all manner of wraps with different ethnic influences, sodas, teas, coffees, and divine smoothies. The bestseller is the Thai chicken wrap with rice, chopped fresh veggies, and a peanut sauce with a real kick to it. There's a BBQ version, grilled chicken, catfish, more than a few veggie variations, and even some tofu. For burrito purists, there is a menu section offering more traditional burrito fillings such as beans, rice, and cheese. Tortillas for the wraps are made fresh locally by El Galindo, including their regular, whole-wheat and fat-free varieties, plus a spinach and sun-dried tomato version made from Wilson's specifications. Other ingredients are all fresh and prepared on-premise. Wilson developed marinades with a very low ratio of oil to other ingredients and the cooking procedures are grilling and quick stir-frying. Wrapido opened quietly the day after Christmas and sales have been so encouraging the owners are negotiating for the second and third locations. "The first question people ask when they come through the line is if this is a franchise restaurant," says Dave Wilson, "when we tell them we hope it's the beginning of a franchise, their next question is how can they get one." You saw it here first.

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