Food-O-File

It was bound to happen. No matter how thorough we try to be, some deserving restaurant invariably gets overlooked in round-up stories. Comfort food devotees were kind enough to remind me about Soul Kitchen and Grace's Home Cooking. Drunken conspiracy theorists confronted me in a restaurant because Casino El Camino and Mike's Pub were inadvertently left out of the burger round-up. This week, I had a very pleasant phone conversation with Karen Stewart, proprietor of Cafe Lago (1200 Lakeway Dr, #1, 261-8141), which was left out of our lakeside dining round-up. She wanted me to know about her little coffeehouse tucked into the lower level of a small shopping center in the heart of the Lakeway community. Though it's not easy for strangers to find, Cafe Lago is a busy neighborhood spot, serving breakfast, lunch, and weekend brunch. Stewart opened for business nearly five years ago as a gourmet coffeehouse with a limited menu. Over the years, she has expanded her menu by popular demand and in addition to the regular meals now offers hors d'oeuvres, party trays, and whole pies and cakes to her loyal clientele. Based on the faxed menu, Cafe Lago is on the list of places to stop on the next trip to the lake.

Though the Hot Sauce Festival and the Fiery Food Show have come and gone, green chile season is just beginning. This weekend, chile roasters at the Travis County Farmer's Market (6701 Burnet, 454-1002) will be all fired up, roasting the new crop of sandia chiles for sale from Hatch, New Mexico. Market master Hill Rylander says this will continue weekly until the fall crop runs out. It's a snap to freeze the prepared peppers in individual freezer bags for use all year long. Roasting Hatch chiles in the fall has been a tradition at Chuy's Tex-Mex Restaurants for nearly a decade. This year, the ninth annual Green Chile Festival is scheduled for September 8-28 at all Chuy's restaurants around the state plus Shady Grove and Hula Hut. The delicious green chiles will be featured in special menu items during the festival and limited edition T-shirts and green chile tattoos are for sale.

Researching chile stories, I encountered two new notable local businesses. Austin Slow Burn (282-7140) is the brainchild of Jill and Kevin Lewis, who have created three top-quality food products made with habanero chiles. "We like to think we make the habanero edible," says Kevin, "using it not so much for the heat but its subtle fruity flavor." Their Habanero Jelly with Rosemary is the perfect sweet, spicy complement to cream cheese and crackers. Homestead Farms (6701 Burnet, 302-9088) is new this summer at the Travis County Farmer's Market. Owner Chancey Horn raises her own vegetables (including lots of chiles) at her farm near Paige. Horn "puts up" her own produce, selling jams, preserves, pickles, and pickled peppers in the charming shop. There's an antique pie safe full of two-quart jars of dill pickles and peppers just waiting to be taken home. Due to customer interest, Horn plans to teach classes in canning, growing, and propagating herbs this fall. Visit her shop to sign up.

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More Food-o-File
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Virginia B. Wood, Sept. 18, 2015

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