In this week's edition of Food-o-file, Austin Chronicle Cuisines editor Virginia B. Wood goes on a mini-rant and updates readers on local restaurant news.


There's a proverbial "bee in my bonnet." It's been put there by some recent events. First, I read the entire invitation brochure for the upcoming Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival and could only find the names of four female chefs listed. The lineup for the Friday-night tasting showcase, "Stars Across Texas," is very familiar, with most of the same restaurants (and the same male chefs) that participate year in and year out. It appears that only four women in the entire state of Texas were invited to attend. Congratulations to Concetta Mastroianni of Dolce Vita in Austin, Annie Wong of Liberty Noodles in Dallas, and Cypress Grill chef/owner Debby Stein of Kerrville. (Marie Claire

Quittelier, owner of Marie Cuisine in Fredericksburg, will prepare one of the winery luncheons.) While this is probably the greatest number of female chefs who have been asked to participate in the THCWAFF since the celebrity chef lineup was all-women in 1995, I'm curious about why more women aren't regularly included in this and other high-profile events. Could it be that the chefs who present year after year are jealous of their protected spots and loathe to give anyone else a chance to build a public profile? Surely it can't be because the THCWAFF Board assumes that women can't draw a crowd. Anyone who harbors that concern should have seen the hungry throng chowing down at the Women Who Cook fundraiser benefiting the Austin Girl's Choir on February 27. As some of Austin's best female singers crooned, this all-girl culinary lineup wowed the crowd with marvelous food: Suzann Garde of Central Market Westgate, Sondra Crawford of Private Affairs Catering, Amy Juried of the Culinary Academy of Austin, Rebecca Rather of Rather Sweet Bakery, Brigid Abdenour of Tom's Tabooley, Betsy Johnson of Tocai, Anna Salinas of El Sol y La Luna, and Concetta Mastroianni of Dolce Vita and Hyde Park Bar & Grill. The event netted more than $13,000 for the choir's trip to Germany, and guests loved the food. Charity board members and event planners alike should take note that Austin's women chefs have plenty of talent to bring to the table when given a chance.


Quick updates on local restaurant news: The projected opening date for Siena Trattoria Toscana (Hwy. 360 & RR 2222, 349-7667) is now mid-March. We'll keep you posted... Though city street crews have blocked access to Tocai (601 W. Sixth, 457-8880) from the front, it's still possible to reach their parking lot from Fifth Street or approach on foot for a chance to try the eclectic bistro-style lunch menu that changes daily... Thanks to a tip from a hungry, homesick Cajun, we found Ms. B's Authentic Creole Cuisine (8105 Mesa, 372-9529) in the former Roppollo's Pizza space at Mesa & Spicewood Springs. It's the newest venture from the owners of McGowan's in Pflugerville. Check out the daily specials and the great crawfish or softshell crab po'boys... After 14 years with the Magnolia Cafe West (2304 Lake Austin Blvd., 478-8645) general manager Karen Rusk is leaving the cafe in the capable hands of new general manager Ross Harper. We'll all miss her smiling face and her great crawfish pies!

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