by Virginia B. Wood

The pie-covered counters at the Central Market Cooking School evoked visions of the county and state fair pie competitions of yesteryear. There were shiny fruit pies, cream pies under clouds of meringue, a few pies whose presentation was elegant and sophisticated, and many more that looked homey and rustic. These pastry creations were the pride and joy of 38 local pie makers competing in the first annual Great American Pie Contest. A group of judges including myself, KXAN newsman Russ Rhea, Central Market fishmonger David Canny, pastry cook Chris Greagor, and store partner Angie Brinkley tasted all 38 pies on Sunday, February 23. Congratulations to the winners: Honorable Mention for the Best Savory Pie went to Hunter's Camp Pie from Linda Morton; Honorable Mention for the Best Coconut Cream Meringue Pie went to Robin Huffaker of Biti Pies; the Most Unique Pie was Janie Cravens' Elizabeth's Dream Pie; the Best Crust was underneath a Classic Cherry Pie by Rebecca Salinger; and the Best Pie award went to a Sour Cream Peach Pie by Elizabeth Balsam. Look for the winning recipes at

At least once a year it seems that a paean to the wonders of Austin runs in The New York Times. This year's tribute to the club scene and South by Southwest was written by Vance Muse. It also salutes the appeal of such Austin eateries as Las Manitas, Manuel's, Iron Works, Stubb's, Ruby's, Threadgill's, Texas French Bread, Sweetish Hill, Little City and Ruta Maya...

Wine lovers should note that one of Austin's most knowledgeable wine merchants, Leonard Joseph of The Cellar, is hosting a new series of Friday Premier Wine Tastings at his Westlake wineshop on the third Friday of every month. The informal, inexpensive tastings will present wines that are "not in the everyday category." January featured red Meritage wines from California, and February saw a comparative tasting of Pinot Noirs from California, Oregon, and France. On Friday, March 21, patrons will taste Sauvingon Blancs. The Cellar (328-6464) is located at 3520 Bee Caves Road...

When the Backyard reopens for the concert season, foodservice will be in the hands of a restaurant group represented by long-time Austin restaurant manager David Bair. The new menu will include familiar items from both the Waterloo Icehouse and Iron Works BBQ. The new restaurant operation will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week, and also handle catering functions and event concessions at the Backyard...

After two years of building advertising campaigns around his name to generate business, the owners of Brio parted company with frequent award-winning chef Raymond Tatum in late February. Tatum is one of a handful of local chefs (David Garrido, Miguel Ravago, David Dailey, Stewart Scruggs, Emmett Fox) whose name identification and distinctive cuisine are recognizable enough to deliver a built-in clientele to any restaurant investor. Tatum is not much of a public person, preferring to stay on the range and let his signature sweetbreads, smoky gumbo, and roasted garlic soup do his talking for him. A talent of his caliber should not be at large for long.

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Virginia B. Wood, Sept. 18, 2015

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