Food editor Virginia B. Wood on the first pressing of olive oil in Texas
During the last week of September, I was lucky enough to witness what may have been the birth of a new oil industry in Texas. Not black gold, this time, but green, the extra virgin kind. After several years of waiting for his precious olive trees to mature and bear fruit, Wimberley entrepreneur Jack Dougherty finally struck oil two weeks ago, even if it was only a few ounces in a Mason jar. The proud papa paced the floor of his pressing room like the expectant father he was, waiting for his newly imported stainless steel Italian olive press to render oil from about 50 pounds of Texas olives. Media guests, family members, and friends joined in the wait, eager to witness the debut of Texas' first commercially pressed olive oil. We were rewarded with a taste of the newly pressed oil, mild with a little peppery tinge at the finish. While it may be a couple of years yet before Dougherty's First Texas Olive Oil Co. has its product on the market, it's certainly worth looking forward to. If you're interested in visiting Jack Dougherty's Bella Vista Ranch (3101 Mt. Sharp Rd., 842-1240) to see the olive groves or pick-your-own from the fall raspberry crop, check out the Web site at www.bvranch.com.
The Vegetarian Network of Austin sponsors a Vegetarian Chili Cook-off this Sunday, Oct. 14 from noon until 5pm at the Old Settler's Park in Round Rock, next to the Dell Diamond. For entry information, contact them at 896-5018 or www.vegnetaustin.org... Two of Austin's favorite casual fine dining outlets are streamlining their hours in an effort to weather tough economic times. Recent celebrity hang-out Starlite (624 W. 34th, 374-9012) will now be open for dinner Thursdays-Saturdays from 6-11pm and for Sunday brunch from 11am-3pm. Si Bon (801 S. Lamar, 326-8323) owners Peter and Kara O'Brien announced recently they will now serve dinner only, Tuesdays-Saturdays. They've also reverted to just a beer and wine license, which means Si Bon will no longer serve cocktails but can allow patrons to bring their own wine to the restaurant for a corkage fee... One of East Austin's best-kept secrets, funky little Cafe Mundi (1704 E. 5th, 236-8634) has expanded their menu offerings. For info. about their hours of operation and a look at the new menu, check them out at www.cafemundi.com... After 41 years in business, East Austin Tex-Mex mainstay the Hernandez Cafe closed quietly in early September. Proprietor Leon Hernandez and son, Leon Jr. will be pursuing other business interests... After making a splashy summer debut in the Lakeway area, the pricey new Vineyard Restaurant closed unexpectedly two weeks ago. No word yet as to what happened... The new young chefs at Jean-Luc's Bistro (705 Colorado, 494-0033), Shawn Cirkiel and Philip Speer, have created a menu of seven small courses to be complemented by wines from "The World of Robert Mondavi" for a dinner on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 7:30pm. Dinner is $75, and reservations are required. If you're up for a drive to Fredericksburg, check out "A Paris Tasting" at the Navajo Grill (209 E. Main, Fredericksburg, 830/990-8289), which will feature a six-course meal and a blind tasting of wines from Becker Vineyards and Kendall Jackson of California. Dinner is $70, and reservations are required.