Along with the recent deluge of rain came a deluge of grocery products for consideration. It included everything from wine to a national brand of cookie that tasted like little pieces of cardboard sandwiched around sweetened shortening to an inedible bread sculpture to a tasteful selection of locally made salad dressings and a huge basket of grocery products from a store's new product line. The Martin Brothers Calamata feta and Caesar salad dressing flavors are a wonderful complement to the tender fall greens from Boggy Creek Farm. The festive basket was filled with samples of the new line of store brand products from Whole Foods Market labeled "365," which means these goods meet the company's quality standards and will be available at the same prices every day. The line includes sodas, pastas, chips, cereals, salsa, pasta sauce, tuna, and cereal bars. The organic tomato sauce is fine on angel hair pasta, and the water-packed tuna is first rate, firm and flaky. I never thought I'd see the day when Whole Foods would be selling packaged mac and cheese, so I'm very curious about the box of pasta shells with Alfredo sauce.

There's a fair amount of career movement among Austin's pastry professionals this month. San Gabriel Restaurant Group pastry chef Shannon Swindle (who came to Austin from Stephan Pyles' Star Canyon restaurant) is returning to Dallas as the assistant pastry chef at the Mansion on Turtle Creek. The multi-talented Lisa Fox has forsaken desserts for the moment and signed on with the busy catering department at Bertram's. The corporate division of Schzlotsky's/Bread Alone has promoted pastry chef Rebecca Rather to a product development position in its R&D department. And Fabulous Cheesecakes has hired Achim Thiemermann as executive pastry chef to develop new dessert items and expand its specialty and wedding cake lines.

Random notes: Two popular downtown restaurants have recently closed for lunch. Jean-Luc's French Bistro (705 Colorado, 494-0033) suspended lunch service several weeks ago, but it has since added dinner service on Sunday evenings. Bertram's (1601 Guadalupe, 476-2743) is no longer serving lunch on weekdays, but it continues to serve dinner six nights a week as well as brunch on Sundays... Fans of Marta's delightfully delicious pumpkin flan will be pleased to note that the great pumpkin has returned to scads of local restaurants, Whole Foods, and Central Market... The 34th Street Cafe (1005 W. 34th St., 371-3400) will host a dinner and sampling of wines from the Rhone Valley on Tuesday, October 28. The four course menu features rack of venison from J*one*S Ranch and four Rhone varietals. Reservations are necessary...

This Saturday, October 25, check out the Hogeye Festival in historic downtown Elgin. The annual pig party will be serving up hot guts and live music and playing Cow Patty Bingo from 11am-6pm in the Sausage Capital of Texas. This event sounds entirely too sophisticated to miss, so take Hwy 290E from Austin to Elgin to attend... The new issue of Food Arts magazine includes a feature story by Dallas chef/restaurateur Stephan Pyles describing his culinary adventure in Ecuador. While there, Pyles was treated to one of the signature national dishes: deep fried guinea pig (cuy). Pyles says that cuy tastes somewhat like duck, but he doubts Texans would eat it, so it will never appear on the Star Canyon menu.

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