A reader's e-mail query a few weeks back prompted me to investigate one of Austin's newest restaurants, Pacific Moon
(2712 Bee Caves Rd., 328-8888), and what a story. Collin and Donna Liu were successful Hot Springs, Arkansas restaurateurs looking for a new menu direction when they discovered the award-winning cookbook by Philadelphia chef/restaurateur Susanna Foo. Once they had "devoured" the book, the Lius contacted Foo to see if perhaps she taught classes. The generous chef invited the couple to Philadelphia where they spent a week eating every dish on Foo's "Asian nouvelle" menu and checking out her entire operation. Collin Liu soon returned to Philadelphia and paid for the opportunity to work several months in Foo's kitchen. Training completed, Liu remodeled his Arkansas eatery on the banks of Lake Hamilton and reopened it as Jasmine Harbour, featuring a menu influenced by Foo. Though Jasmine Harbour won rave reviews and several awards, the Lius soon realized that the small resort community at Hot Springs was too remote to provide affordable access to the raw materials for the sophisticated cuisine. The intrepid couple sold their restaurant and enrolled in classes at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) to broaden their knowledge of classical cooking techniques. Collin and Donna also consulted with a national network of friends in the restaurant business about where they should relocate with a new venture. Austin's reputation as a progressive food city with an educated population and birthplace of both Whole Foods and Central Market tipped the scales in our favor. Once they'd settled in Austin, the Lius gutted the original Chinatown location on Bee Caves, remodeling from the ground up. The new Pacific Moon is tastefully decorated with the Lius' lovely collection of French and Chinese antiques and has a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. Austin fans of Jasmine Harbour have already found Pacific Moon and are sharing it with their friends. This should be worth a look.
Owners of Skyline Grill (801 S. Lamar) were forced to face unpleasant economic realities in mid-May. Skyline managing partner John Woolsey reports that even with an infusion of personal cash, he was not able to pull Skyline's finances out of the deep hole created by the previous management's failure to make regular payroll tax payments. A Central Texas wild game rancher is currently negotiating to take over the attractive
100-seat restaurant, increase the parking capacity, and reopen with much the same style and menu. Meanwhile, Woolsey is busy promoting the stove-top smoker he invented through the Range-Top Gourmet Smoker Company (477-3502).
Early June is berry time in Central Texas. Contact grower Suzanne deUnger at
512/253-6726 for directions to her blueberry patch in the Bastrop area to pick your own. McDade farmer Dan Wolf at Wolf Farms, 512/273-2388, has fields of plump, delicious dewberries (aka Brazos blackberries) ready for picking, too: $3.50 a gallon on weekdays, $4.50 on weekends.
There are already "foodie" movies and novels; is it any wonder that "foodie" comedy is not far behind? Comic Sean Donnellan, host of the Television Food Network's How to Boil Water will be at BookPeople June 11, 7pm, promoting his new cookbook, Something Tastes Funny (Warner, $4.95 paper). Donnellan will sign books and offer samples of some of the book's recipes. I'm now officially in the wrong line of work.
Shop to support Texas culture. Texas Folklife Resources will be the beneficiary of a 5% day at Whole Foods Market locations on Thursday, June 12. The statewide cultural arts organization will provide cooking demonstrations, folk music, and craft activities for children during the day.