Hottest Concept

Home meal replacement appears to be the hottest food concept in River City this summer. We hear that 1,000 rotisserie chickens a week are flying out of Central Market Westgate (4521 Westgate, 899-4300), and customers are snatching up 50lbs of roasted garlic to accompany grilled sirloin tri-tip steaks and fresh tortillas or items from the seafood boiling pot. No sooner did we learn that chef Louis Lambert is opening the Liberty Pie Company (1716 S. Congress) in near South Austin with a sophisticated takeout menu than word arrived about changes at the FreshPlus Grocery (1221 W. Lynn, 447-5574) that will bring exciting new Mediterranean carry-out cuisine to Clarksville. FreshPlus owners Jake and Arnette Knippa announced that they're moving the Cook's Night Out operation back into the store next to the excellent meat market. Longtime kitchen manager Laurent Fouillet will continue to feature a selection of semiprepared foods, charcuterie, and cold dishes. The move makes way for Ron Weiss and David Garrido of Jeffrey's (1204 W. Lynn, 477-5584) to present their new venture, a chic carry-out shop called Cippolina. In addition to higher-end wines and imported Italian gourmet items such as olive oils, pastas, and balsamic vinegars, Cippolina will offer a line of fresh baked goods by Sam Dickey, a menu of breakfast and lunch items, plus ready-to-eat take-home meals with a Mediterranean flair. Look for Cippolina to debut by summer's end, just in time to win the disenfranchised former patrons of popular Tarrytown grocery/butcher/takeout shop, The Grocery (3102 Windsor, 478-8582). Grocery owners Harvey and Sherry Tack have lost their lease and will call it quits rather than relocate. They'll be sorely missed by West Austinites who relied on the Tacks' good food and personal service.

Metroplex Dining

A quick trip to the Metroplex recently yielded two outstanding food experiences. Indowntown Fort Worth, friends joined me for lunch at chef Grady Spears' dynamic Reata restaurant. The bold, hearty flavors and ranchhand-size servings of cream of jalapeño soup, chicken-fried steak & cracked pepper gravy, and Shiner Bock-battered onion rings with serrano ketchup were very impressive, but the service was embarrassingly bad. After much stretching and napping, we soldiered on to Dallas, where chef/restaurateur/ cookbook author/TV personality Stephan Pyles and partner Mark Cox were celebrating the fifth anniversary of Star Canyon restaurant with a spiffy Western casual charity soiree. Dallasites two-stepped to the Western swing of Cow Jazz and sampled yellow tomato gazpacho with shrimp and red caviar, tiny pulled pork gorditas, and pork tenderloin with tamarind sauce, washing it all down with frosty glasses of Luckenbach lemonade and dry martinis. Chef Pyles found time to confide that he is indeed negotiating the lease on an Austin property and looks forward to doing business in this market.

Proud Papa

The proud father caressing a precious new baby on those South Austin Hospital billboards is none other than chef Brad Yerkes with his adorable daughter, Marley. Yerkes and chef Harvey Harris are spending lots of time in the kitchen these days, developing menu items for Siena, the Italian trattoria that Harris and Stan Adams will open at the corner of RR2222 and Hwy 360 by the end of the year.

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