Cuisines editor Virginia B. Wood explains why Austin is home away from home for several French chefs and updates readers on local restaurant changes.

Home Away From Home

Several of the Frenchmen in town for the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival found a home away from home at Fonda San Miguel (2330 W. North Loop, 459-4121). Chefs Remi Lauvand, Francois Payard, Dominique Bouche, Christophe Felder, hoteliers Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and Philippe Leboeuf, plus francophile Saveur magazine editor Colman Andrews were impressed with the subtle, sophisticated cuisine of French-trained Fonda chef Roberto Santibanez and put completely at ease by his gracious hospitality and perfect French.

Home Field Advantage

Clinical herbalist Ginger Webb, owner of Grassroots Botanicals, will lead a series of herb walks at Boggy Creek Farm (3414 Lyons, 926-4650) from 10-11am on the mornings of Wednesday, April 19 and May 10, as well as Saturday, May 13. Webb will take participants on a walk around the historic five-acre East Austin farm, identifying native and adapted herb species and explaining both their medicinal and nutritional uses. Guests will be able to taste some of the plants as well as cut samples to press for comparison and identification. Cost is $10 and children are welcome. Make reservations at 476-1521.

Home Meal Replacement

Residents of the Northwest Hills area have a brand-new neighborhood restaurant to call their own. Former Eatzi's and Central Market executive chef Adrian Creasey is the proud new proprietor of Cafe Mia (3573 Far West, 342-9570). The new cafe's menu reflects a Mediterranean influence and everything is designed to eat in or take out. In the early mornings, there's a breakfast taco bar with turkey bacon, eggs, black beans, cheese, and the like plus fresh Hot Jumbo bagels and breakfast pastries from Rather Sweet Bakery. Lunchtime offers French, Greek, or Italian antipasto platters, an array of salads, a large variety of Sammy's (sandwiches) on grilled homemade focaccia, gyros with lamb, ratatouille, or salmon and hot entrees such as chicken and gnocci, Mia meatloaf, herb-crusted chicken, beef lasagna, stuffed ravioli, and Tuscan pot roast. The dinner menu includes all that as well as daily specials. All the antipasto platters, salads, and entrees can be purchased for take-out. Creasey plans to add an exclusive line of desserts as well as beer and wine selections in the near future. In an effort to support local food manufacturers, Creasey gets his pastas from Bottega della Pasta, Mediterranean specialties from Tom's Tabooley, fresh-ground New Orleans French Roast, Kona and House Blends from Cotton House Coffee, and gelato from Benasco Gelateria. Everything we sampled was very tasty and we can't wait to see what Creasey adds next... Speaking of locally made take-out food products, check out the classy new packaging on the ever-popular Marta's Flan. Flan entrepreneur Marta Guzman reports that flans in the sturdy new black plastic perforate-to-open package are just flying off the shelves of local grocery stores. The new package label design is the work of graphic artist Dee Dee Ritzinger's A3 Design. Ritzinger's company is also responsible for the label designs of Classy Delites, Hombres Salsa, Austinuts, Chisholm Trail Winery, Pam Made Pies, and Herrman's & Sons Jerky.

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