Last Minute Valentines

If your love life is about to be sabotaged because you neglected to make those all-important dinner reservations, don't despair. Doug Driskell (656-7796) at Speakeasy (412 Congress, 476-8017) may still have a table left. For this special occasion, he's teamed up with the creative cooks at 2 Dine 4 Catering
(658-8719) to offer a Valentine's deal at the popular downtown nightclub. The per-couple price gets you a table for the evening with live entertainment from Jon Blondel, enticing menu selections, a bottle of champagne, and a red rose for your beloved... If pastry is the way to your true love's heart, our favorite local bakeries are offering cookies, cakes, tortes, and tarts in the necessary heart shapes. Should only pie suffice, check out the heart-shaped delights from the Clarksville Pie Company, available retail at The Parlour Antiques & Pies (1234 S. Lamar, 326-1234). They'll have both cherry and chocolate in two sizes.


Lots of hot little bits this week, folks. The Texas Restaurant Association (472-3666) joined businesses all over the country to participate in Groundhog Job Shadow Day by inviting students from Gonzalo Garza Independence High School to shadow TRA members at work on February 2. Students observed association members as they lobbied legislators at the Capitol, then got a peek at the day in the life of a working restaurateur when Gerald Stone hosted their lunch at El Mercado Uptown (1700 Lavaca, 477-7689)... Longtime fans and new neighbors are pleased to see Russell's Bakery & Coffee Shop (3339 Hancock Dr., 419-7877) finally open in its great new northwest location. Try it for breakfast pastries, sandwiches at lunch, and wonderful desserts all day, every day... Look for Jo's (1300 S. Congress, 444-3800) to expand its operation to include a second outlet inside Book People at Lamar and West Sixth. The coffee shop in the bookstore becomes Jo's II this weekend, offering the scrumptious menu of chef Louis Lambert. The original Jo's will expand its hours into the evening just in time for SXSW... Hoover's Cooking (2002 Manor Rd., 479-5006) has added a weekend breakfast menu, and the word of mouth on it is good. Sad to report that two of the eateries featured in a late fall story on the Manor Road restaurant row have already closed. Miranda's Patio and Roscoe's Italian Kitchen did not survive... Gail Calder has taken over the manufacturing kitchen that once housed Jardine's and Neblett Foods and christened her busy condiment co-packing firm Austin Kitchens (3913 Todd Ln., #203, 326-2526). Among the many popular local sauces that Calder is packing are her own Hell of a Relish, chef John Randall's award-winning Austin Grand Prize Salsa and Red Wagon Salsa Fresca and Salsa Verde, the fundraising creations of Brackenridge Hospital chef John Landers... This week, Carlos and Kitty Salinas open their first restaurant, Ay Chiwawa! (1014 N. Lamar), with a menu that combines Tex-Mex and Interior Mexican dishes with a norteño influence. The Salinas family originally hails from Monterrey, and Carlos is an alumnus of both the Serrano's and Taco Cabana organizations... Even though we don't seem to be having an official winter, Texas French Bread (various locations) is acting as if we do, offering an inviting winter soup menu with several comforting, restorative bowls of soup to enjoy with their line of artisan breads.

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