Plant-Centered Cuisine

Two important presentations scheduled for the upcoming week should appeal to folks looking for plant-based alternatives in their diet. While not strictly vegetarian, The Phytopia Cookbook (IPG, $18 paper) uses in-depth scientific research to create delicious, healthy, and healing recipes that bring plant-based foods to the center of the plate. Dallas food writers Barbara Gollman and Kim Pierce will offer a class on eating the phytopia way this Saturday, March 13, 10am-12:30pm at Central Market (4001 N. Lamar, 458-3068). Vegetarians and vegans seeking inspiration and/or affirmation will want to attend a lecture from EarthSave Austin (323-6016, and the Vegetarian Network of Austin. Activist Erik Marcus is touring to promote his book Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating (Logan Press, $14.95 paper), and he'll speak and sign copies of it on Monday, March 15, 7:30pm, at the Pearl Street Co-op (2000 Pearl).

Critical Mass

Just when it seemed the downtown area had achieved critical mass in restaurant development, three interesting new eateries are set to open. The Elba Restaurant Group has transformed the former Sfuzzi spot into a classy, upscale dinner house, Sardine Rouge (311 W. Sixth, 473-8642). The menu offers fresh cold-water Atlantic seafood and European fish with subtle Asian influences, as well as beef, lamb, veal, game, and poultry creations. In the Old World tradition, the restaurant will offer tableside preparation of dishes such as the classic Caesar salad, pheasant dinners, and dynamic flambé desserts. Sardine Rouge is open nightly for dinner with Elba Group's co-owner Norbert Brandt as executive chef and Antonio Raci, formerly of the Cafe at the Four Seasons, as manager and maitre d'.

In the warehouse district, check out the new Saba, A Blue Water Cafe (208-D W. Fourth, 478-7222) opening Monday, March 15. Chef-owner Larry Perdido has created an eclectic menu of little pan-Pacific tasting dishes in the $4-8 price range. Later this spring, look for Austin natives Kevin Williamson and Sharon Gerhardt to open Ranch 616 (616 Nueces) in the former BB's Mexican Cafe location just off West Sixth. According to Gerhardt, the new spot will combine elements of such legendary Austin joints as BB's, Cisco's, and Jake's to offer very affordable fare at breakfast and lunch and a fun watering hole for evening recreation.

Personal Appearance

After his sold-out class at Central Market, award-winning cookbook author and New York pastry chef Nick Malgieri will be at Fonda San Miguel (2330 North Loop, 459-4121) for its Sunday brunch on March 14, 11am-2pm. Malgieri will present pastries and desserts from his cookbooks on the buffet and offer autographed copies of his cookbooks for purchase.

It's a Match

Austin's Sustainable Food Center (434 Hwy183 S., 385-0080) has been awarded a challenge grant from the Feinstein Foundation of Rhode Island through which the foundation will match every contribution made to the center during March. According to executive director Anna Maria Signorelli, donations will be used to support the SFC's spring and summer Farmer's Market projects, plus its Youth and Community Gardening efforts. Anyone wishing to help SFC can make tax-deductible contributions before March 31.

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