Food-O-File

Last week saw some major transitions in the downtown restaurant scene. After 27 years in the same campus-area location, Les Amis served its last cup of coffee and slice of carrot cake. The ramshackle sidewalk cafe proudly demonstrated Austin's now infamous "slacker-style" waitservice and was the definitive hangout to thousands over the lifespan of the restaurant. Over on West Sixth, the owners of Brio and Z'Tejas Grill (1110 W. Sixth, 478-5355) closed the original Brio and will use the restored Victorian home to expand Z'Tejas. The expansion will provide more parking spaces, additional restaurant seating, a full bar and lounge, as well as space for private parties, special events, and live music. One new addition will be a 14 ft. breezeway over the driveway to connect the restaurants. Z'Tejas will remain open during renovations and downtown Brio customers can enjoy their menu favorites at Brio Vista (9400-B Arboretum Blvd., 342-2642) under the direction of chef Larry Perdido. Several local cooks and food writers are busy with major projects this summer. Former Chronicle staffer Robb Walsh, who now writes regularly for Natural History and American Way magazines, will be contributing food commentaries to National Public Radio's Weekend Edition. Author and herbalist Lucinda Hutson has been styling photographs for the second edition of her popular Herb Garden Cookbook (Gulf Press, $21.95 paper). Mick Vann, popular chef of the former Clarksville Cafe, is currently working in horticulture but has found time to complete a cookbook manuscript with buddy Rob Lallier and co-author an article about growing and cooking with Thai herbs for the The New York Times with Anne Lewis. The working title of Vann and Lallier's cookbook is Couch Potatoes in the Kitchen: A Cookbook for Guys. Children's book author Angela Shelf Medearis has a new book about entertaining menus and recipes for the African-American kitchen; it will be out from Dutton this fall. In between cooking classes and catering gigs, Diana Welsch, aka the Green Gourmet Caterer, is completing her first major magazine article assignment and starting her first cookbook.

Congratulations to Grand Prize winner Delaine Jechow and the other winners of the Central Market Homemade Ice Cream contest. Their names and recipes are posted on the store's website, http://www.centralmarket.com. This year's contest was significantly different than last with fewer entries, more categories, more and younger judges, and interesting taste trends. Coffee, espresso, and Chai tea with ginger were major ingredients in many recipes, and jalapeños found their way into ice cream with both peaches and kiwis. The sample I most wanted to take home was the ultimate cookies & cream for coffee lovers, Coffee Biscotti Crunch, by Fonda San Miguel pastry chef Natalie Poilpre.

If you're headed southwest of Austin this weekend, go check out the International Food Fair at the Victoria Community Center, 2905 E. North St., in Victoria. The event takes place Friday evening, August 8, 5-9pm, with the proceeds benefiting Hospice of South Texas. There will be Cajun, Mexican, American, German, Czech, Italian, Scottish, Greek, and Norwegian dishes available. Call 800/874-6908 for directions.

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