Based on the upcoming local culinary possibilities, 2000 looks like a great year for Austin diners. Restaurateur Stan Adams, exec chef Harvey Harris, and GM Jay Knepp anticipate an early February opening for Siena Ristorante Toscano (6203 Capital of Texas Hwy. N.). Nestled at the foot of Mount Bonnell near Bull Creek, the stunningly beautiful stone building evokes images of a medieval Tuscan castle. Harris' menu will feature traditional Tuscan cuisine with an emphasis on roasted meats and game... Mezzaluna alums Michael McGovern and chef Will Packwood are hard at work making Emilia's a reality in the group of charming historic downtown buildings known as the Waterloo Compound at the corner of Second Street and Red River. Permit delays have pushed their opening date back to early May... Enthusiastic potential investors are considering the business plan for Asti, an Italian trattoria concept developed by Emmett and Lisa Fox. The popular local chefs have lined up a dynamite central city location and are ready to move once financing is in place... Jean-Luc's French Bistro (705 Colorado, 494-0033) is expanding its liquor license to include mixed drinks, which will allow the restaurant to capitalize on its cozy bar. Drop by for happy hour Tuesdays through Fridays... Just up the street from Jean-Luc's, the ground floor of the historic Brown Building will be home to the Cajun/Creole eatery Gumbo's (710 Colorado, 480-8053), opening January 17. They'll be serving lunch weekdays from 11am-2pm and dinner every night. Creed Ford's Fired Up Inc. purchased Gumbo's from founders Michael and Yoli Amr in 1999, and now the company operates both the Round Rock and downtown Austin outlets. Though Michael Amr is no longer in the Gumbo's kitchen, he has signed on with Fired Up Inc. as a consulting chef and will continue to develop menu items for the restaurants... South Austin taco queen Maria Corbalan plans to give nighttime business another shot. After some renovations to the patio and the addition of a mixed drink permit, look for Taco Xpress (2529-A S.Lamar, 444-0261) to open for dinner just in time for SXSW... It's always good to hear that soul food purveyor Flo Williams is back in business. Flo's (1311 Chestnut, 236-8236) is serving up soul-satisfying Slam Breakfasts and daily lunch specials for $2.99!... Brewmasters at Live Oak Brewery are justifiably proud of the rave reviews their Live Oak Pilz received from international beer expert Michael Jackson, and they expect to keep the great brews coming in the new century... The Hill Country viticultural appellation should produce some very interesting wines in the coming year, such as the new port from Becker Vineyards (Jenschke Lane, off Hwy. 290 near Stonewall, 830/644-2681) plus the new sangiovese and tempranillo varietals coming from Jim and Karen Johnson's San Saba country property, Alamosa Wine Cellars (FM 340, 915/628-3480)... The visiting chef lineup for the next few months at the Central Market Cooking School (4001 N. Lamar, 458-3068) includes such luminaries as Barbara Tropp, Caprial Pence, Christopher Kimball, Lisa Ahier, Steve Howard, John Ash, and Bruce Aidells.
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