Food Fun to Look Forward to in 1999

The first few months of 1999 look to be greatones for food lovers, with the openings of severalnew eateries and food emporiums around town, and a slew of culinary programs with top-notch local and visiting chefs filling the calendar. Here's the way things are shaping up.

While the original Central Market (4001 N. Lamar, 206-1000) celebrates the beginning of itsfifth year with classes and contests all this month, the opening date of the new Westgate Central Market (4521 Westgate, 899-4300) is fast approaching. Set to open the third week of January, the South Austin store promises more shopping and parking space than its North Austin cousin. And look for longtime Austin chef John Mims to be on the range there... Not to be outdone by the new store's smashing debut, the Central Market Cooking School (4001 N. Lamar, 458-3068) kicks off the year with a stellar lineup of top women chefs, local, national, and international. The "Women Chefs in Austin" class series will be featuring Satay chef/owner Foo Swasdee, freelance chef Beth Pav, and Green Gourmet caterer Diana Welsch in January, followed by soup chef Ruth Carter of East Side Cafe, Food! Food!chef/owner Susan Eggert, Welsch, and Pav in February. International cooking teacher and cookbook author Anne Willan, founder of the La Varenne Cooking School of Paris and White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, is coming to teach a class on Friday, January 29, 6:30-9pm. Willan will present a French dinner class based on recipes from her newly published book Cook It Right. The first weekend in February, well-known Louisiana food writerMarcelle Bienvenu will be returning to town toteach gumbo classes before judging CM's annualGumbo Contest on Sunday, February 7. Then, onFebruary 10, the school welcomes chef and authorBarbara Tropp, one of the country's leading experts on Chinese cooking. Tropp was chef-ownerof the highly respected China Moon restaurant in San Francisco for 10 years and is one of the founders of the national organization Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. The local class will offer spicy foods from the Hunan and Szechuan provinces, along with Tropp's insightful observations about Chinese food, art, and culture... Whole Foods Markets (Gateway, 345-5003; Sixth & Lamar, 476-1206) are offering an entire schedule of seminars, classes, and cooking demonstrations built around Kristy Walker's Body Balance program designed to help you get 1999 off to the healthiest possible start. April Lowe's popular Thursday wine tastings continue at the Gateway store, in case you've resolved to learn more about wine in '99... Folks are raving about Michael Vilim's well-chosen wine list for the new Mirabelle (8127 Mesa, 346-7900), sure to be one of the hottest neighborhood restaurants of the new year... Downtown wine lovers are also checking out the wine "flights" atThe Grape Escape (314 Congress, 236-9463), a great little place for pairing a variety of wines with tasty foods... If you vowed to eat more contemporary Indian food in the coming year, The Clay Pit (1601 Guadalupe, 322-5131) is justthe place to fulfill that resolution. This classy newtenant of the historical Bertram Building looks like a winner: an affordable weekday lunch buffet; a comfortable bar with an inviting selection of specialty drinks, martinis, imported beers, single malt scotches, and well-chosen wines; a sumptuous and sophisticated dinner menu with excellent renditions of traditional Indian favorites as well as signature dishes such as Penn Cove mussels in garlic curry sauce created by international chefMaqbool Ahmed; courteous, professional service in a tastefully decorated setting. This place has success written all over it, just like 1999.

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