Virginia B.Wood doles out some needed advice about how to capture the best Hill Country peaches and updates readers on the local culinary news.
Get 'Em While They're Ripe
Even though I knew mild winter weather coupled with months of parching drought would have a negative effect on this summer's Hill Country peach crop, when June rolled around I began to crave the Hill Country's best peaches. I contacted the folks at Llano County's High Rock Ranch to see when and if they'd be bringing their spectacular tree-ripened fruit into Austin. "This has been such a hard year, I'm grateful to have any fruit at all," peachman Brian Mayes told me solemnly. "There was a while there where I thought I was going to lose all my trees. For weeks, we'd been pulling the early fruit off and just throwing it on the ground. It wasn't big enough to sell and it was putting too much stress on the trees. This last three inches of rain [in June] has saved the month for me but I'm going to need a lot more rain before I can irrigate again." Mayes went on to explain he will bring a portion of his precious crop to Austin but due to new purchasing regulations at Whole Food's Market/Texas Health Distributors, Mayes' fruit won't be sold there, even though they've had great success with his product in the past. Luckily for Austin peach lovers, the luscious, tree-ripened High Rock peaches will be available at both Central Market stores (4001 N. Lamar, 206-1000; 4521 Westgate Blvd., 899-4300) as long as Mayes has fruit. "So far, they've been selling out as fast as I can get the peaches to the stores," said the hardworking Mayes. Our best advice: Be vigilant, check with the produce manager to find out what days Mayes delivers, buy all you can afford. These are the best peaches. I've already got several bags in the freezer to make peach ice cream all summer.
New Joint Venture
Local restaurateurs Erika and Bick Brown, owners of Hyde Park Bar & Grill, Zoot, and Dolce Vita, have produced a new joint venture. Virginia Cecelia Brown (9 pounds and 211é2 inches) arrived just in time for Father's Day, bearing gifts for her older brother, Miles. Young Ms. Brown is named for both her grandmothers, Bick's mom Virginia Brown and Erika's Italian-American mama, Concetta Cecelia Mastroianni, Dolce Vita's pastry and gelato queen.
A hungry crowd of invited guests packed Austin's newest Italian restaurant last Friday, sampling chef/owner Marion Gilchrist's fresh summer fare at La Traviata (314 Congress, 479-8131). The chic little spot with the long, inviting bar should be open this week... While enjoying crawfish étouffée followed by a plate of hot beignets at my new favorite Sunday brunch spot, I noticed Crescent City Beignets (1211 W. Sixth, 472-9622) will begin serving dinner this coming Sunday, July 2. Look for their signature red beans & rice, étouffées, and gumbos paired with crisp "sensation salads" and hush puppies from 6-9pm nightly... If your Independence Day celebration calls for good wine and big noise, plan to attend the annual Cannon Shoot at Becker Vineyards (on Jenschke Lane, off Hwy. 290 west of Stonewall, 830/644-2681) on Tuesday, July 4 from 10am-4pm.