Food-O-File

Austin isn't exactly known for New Orleans-style Mardi Gras celebrations, but Central Market (4001 N. Lamar, 206-1000) is doing what it can to bring the flavor of Louisiana to Austin before "fat Tuesday." The store is stocked with fresh baked King Cakes, genuine Cafe du Monde coffee, beignet mix, and the Hurricane Cocktail mix from the legendary French Quarter watering hole, Pat O'Brien's. The fourth annual Central Market Gumbo Contest is Sunday, February 22, with Louisiana culinary historian and cookbook author Marcelle Bienvenu as a celebrity judge. In addition to co-authoring a couple of cookbooks with New Orleans chef/TVFN cooking show host Emeril Legasse, Bienvenu has written several books and is a food columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Contest forms and entry fees must be turned into the store by Friday, February 20. Prior to the contest, on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, Bienvenu will teach classes on the basics of gumbo making... While you're shopping for Mardi Gras, register for the February 26 class on the cuisine of Interior Mexico to be taught by chefs Cameron Graham and Linda Fox of the Villa de la Roca Cooking School in Zihuatanejo, Mexico and Graham Catering in Horseshoe Bay.

Beginning next weekend, Texas Folklife Resources (904 West Ave., 320-0022) will start "The Art of Food," a series of demonstrations which focus on traditional foodways in community life. The first installment will be a class for children featuring award-winning cookbook and children's book author Angela Shelf Medearis. The class will be Saturday, February 28, 10-11:30am, at the Central Market Cooking School (4001 N. Lamar, 458-3068). Children and parents are encouraged to register for the interactive class which will offer African-American dishes especially suited to young children. Register by calling the cooking school or request one of the limited number of scholarships available from TFR.

Local aficionados of the foods of the eastern Mediterranean have cause to rejoice. Ruth Skivofilax, owner of Ethiopian Nile Cuisine, has resumed her Ethiopian buffet meals at St. Elias Eastern Orthodox Church (408 E. 11th, 476-2314) every Friday from 11am-9pm. Also, a few readers have e-mailed me to advise that the downtown location of Longhorn Po-Boys (906 Congress, 476-7753) features truly delicious homemade Lebanese specials daily.

Two Austin restaurants have recently received national accolades. Carmelo's (504 E. Fifth, 477-7497) is one of 170 small businesses designated as "Blue Chip Enterprises" in the annual competition sponsored by Mass Mutual, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Nation's Business magazine. In addition, the restaurant's quarterly newsletter Fireside Chat was included as one of 50 examples in the handbook Restaurant Newsletters That Pay Off, by Walter Mathews, the publisher of the American Express restaurant newsletter Restaurant Briefing... For the second year in a row, Fonda San Miguel (2330 North Loop, 459-4121) has been nominated for the prestigious Ivy Award given annually to restaurants of distinction by Restaurants and Institutions magazine. Fonda is the only restaurant in Austin and one of only three in Texas to be so recognized.

One of the best local vintner dinners of 1997 featured the elegant wines of the Niebaum-Coppola winery of Rutherford, Napa Valley, California. On Wednesday, February 25, winery representative Erle Martin will be in town at Jeffrey's (1200 West Lynn, 477-5584), pouring such wines as Niebaum-Coppola's 1979 Rubicon Meritage and its newly created, yet to be released "Cask" Cabernet with a four-course menu designed by executive chef David Garrido. Reservations are necessary.

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