Fans and friends of internationally acclaimed chef Miguel Ravago have waited more than a year for news of a new local restaurant from him. The good news is that Buckner Hightower and Gregg Schnurr of the Bertram's Group have chosen the popular Ravago as the new executive chef and partner in Bertram's Restaurant & Bar (1601 Guadalupe, 476-2743). Famous around the country for his celebration of the cuisine of interior Mexico, Ravago will showcase Hispanic Texas cuisine -- his fresh interpretation of the cuisines of Texas and Mexico -- in the historic Bertram's building. "We're excited and honored to have the opportunity to form a relationship with an internationally known chef who could work anywhere in the world," says Hightower. "I've followed Miguel's cooking since he had San Angel in Houston in the early 1970s. We think Hispanic Texas cuisine is perfect for Bertram's."

In the year since his departure from Fonda San Miguel, Ravago has been busy completing Cocina de la Familia (Simon & Schuster, 10/97), a cookbook co-authored with Marilyn Tausend, catering, and consulting with restaurants around the country. When news of Ravago's new restaurant deal began to circulate in the Austin food community, organizations such as the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival and Share Our Strength were already eager to enlist his participation in events for the coming year.

"At Bertram's, I'll be exploring dishes that are new to Austinites," explains Ravago, add-ing that because of the diversity of Hispanic Texas cuisine, there will be no emphasis on enchiladas or tacos on the new menu. "Relating the food to the building is an interesting challenge," he says, "and we'll continue to serve the fine meats, game, and seafood that customers have come to expect here." In addition to the new lunch, appetizer, and dinner menus, Ravago will be introducing his legendary Sunday brunch at Bertram's, often referred to in the national food press as a culinary and visual feast.

Hightower announced that Bertram's previous chef Peter O'Brien will be opening a new restaurant in the downtown warehouse district with the Bertram's Group soon. Bertram's will close for interior renovations to complement the new menu concept on June 22 and reopen for dinner on Thursday, June 26. The first Sunday brunch will be on June 29 and lunch service will begin July 6.

A big thank you to home-cooking lovers kind enough to advise me about some eateries I managed to overlook, such as Grace's Home Cooking (6601 N. Lamar, 451-4949) and Soul Kitchen (2931 E. 12th, 478-0251). Also, the musical stylings daily at Flo's are the work of the talented pianist Obatallah, who can also be heard tinkling the ivories during the cocktail hour at the Caucus Club, Top of the Marc, and other local venues.

Tonight, June 19, 7-9pm, is Mystery Toast '97, a food & wine tasting to benefit the Children's Shelter & Assessment Center of Texas at Central Market Cafe. Tickets are $20 at the door for food, wine, and music from Dave Sebree & Bad Rodeo, and a speech from children's advocate Judge Jeanne Meurer. The Children's Shelter is a nonprofit that provides emergency care for children ages birth to 17 who are removed from homes due to abuse or neglect. Event proceeds will go toward expanding facilities to include a second home in September `97.

The informal series of Friday Premier Wine Tastings continues at The Cellar (3520 Bee Caves Rd., 328-6464) with a comparative tasting of Premium California Sparkling Wines and French Champagnes on Friday, June 20, 5:30-7:30pm. Cost is $8.

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