Food Editor Virginia B. Wood's toaster activity and other recent Austin culinary news.

Toaster Activity

The busiest appliance in my kitchen in the weeks after Christmas has to have been the toaster! There were daily slices of Sweetish Hill's buttery panettone, studded with golden raisins and candied citrus peel for breakfast, followed by sandwiches, bruschetta, and crostini later on during the day. Those were made from slices of the hearty, toothsome breads imported from Los Angeles' premier bread operation, the La Brea Bakery, and sold locally in the deli at the GrapeVine Market (7829 Great Northern Blvd., 323-5900). La Brea's owner, renowned baker/ pastry chef Nancy Silverton, has created a delightful array of delicious artisanal breads which are available par-baked and flash frozen. The retailer only has to thaw the loaves and finish the baking process to have wonderful bread on their shelves. Varieties include country sourdough, roasted garlic, chocolate sour cherry, rosemary and olive oil, whole seven grain, ciabatta, and French baguettes with prices ranging from $2.99-$4.99. After trying these breads, I completely understand why someone nominated them for a "Best of Austin" award back in the fall. Even though they aren't local, and therefore not eligible for that particular honor, the breads are excellent. Just be careful about getting in the car with warm loaves; you could find yourself having to pull off MoPac and tear into them on the way home.

So Cool SoCo News

Those intrepid Lambert siblings have projects in the works that will give the South Congress neighborhood some new additions to enjoy just in time for South by Southwest. The long-abandoned space at 1301 S. Congress, once the original home to the Schlotzsky's sandwich, is about to become the room service kitchen and newsstand for Liz Lambert's Hotel San José (1316 S. Congress, 693-9317). Meanwhile, Liz's brother, busy chef Lou Lambert is selling his Liberty Catering operation and plans to open a small neighborhood restaurant in the space now occupied by his commercial kitchen. The working title for the 45-seat dinner house is Lou's Bar & Grill (1716 S. Congress, 383-8880), and don't expect skimpy portions of culinary architecture with sauce paintings at Lou's. The menu will feature seasonal, fresh Texas, and American regional specialties at very affordable prices, complemented by an interesting selection of beers and wines by the glass. "I moved back to Austin to open my own small restaurant a few years ago," Lambert told us last week, "and getting out of the full-time catering business will finally give me the time to do it the way I've always wanted to." Never fear, Lambert will still do events at the San José from time to time and plans to continue Tuesday steak nights there in good weather. Hordes of South Austin neighbors who still lament the closing of Lambert's very popular Liberty Pie Company take-out operation will no doubt be lining up to eat at Lou's as soon as the doors open in early March.


No sooner had restaurateur Jean-Pierre Piaget vacated his midtown location and headed for the southwestern suburbs to open the Y Bar & Grill (7720 Hwy. 71 W., 394-0220, www.ybar than someone else had designs on his old space. After stints at River Place Country Club, the Lafayette Club, and Brownstone restaurant, Houston chef Collin B. Treanor has created his first chef-owned restaurant, Collin B's Bistro & Wine Room (3500 Jefferson, Second Floor, 454-0004) in the completely redesigned former Jean-Pierre's space. Starting January 8, the new restaurant will be open Tuesday through Saturdays for lunch and dinner and will feature a rotating monthly gallery of works by local artists.

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