Food Editor Virginia B. Wood has had correspondence from several of the most tasteful men in Austin's food scene in the past week and it's all good news.

Men of Good Taste

I've had correspondence from several of the most tasteful men in Austin's food scene in the past week, and it's all good news. I was truly disappointed last spring when the pleasant Mediterranean-inspired bistro and wine bar Tocai was an early victim of downtown construction street closures and the faltering economy. I considered restaurateur/sommelier Anthony Garcia to have one of the best palates in town for pairing food and wine and hated the thought of such a gifted man existing without a restaurant home. The good news is that Garcia is the new sommelier at Emilia's (600 E. Third, 469-9722); owner Denis Tracey has given him a fair amount of autonomy in developing some new features there. On Valentine's Day, they kicked off the Tasting Room at Emilia's, turning the carriage house bar and patio into a casual dining area with some more affordable dining options (a man after my own heart, right there). Now it's possible to get some great wines by the glass while noshing on various items from the new charcuterie menu that's augmented with fine cheeses, olives, and some distinctive ethnic dishes created by chef Will Packwood. In addition, Garcia and Packwood have put together some wine and appetizer party packages for groups of 25 or more featuring Italian, French, Spanish, and American food and wine pairings. Beginning in March, Garcia will host a series of eight weekly wine seminars which will include light appetizers and a tour of Emilia's distinctive wine cellar. The seminars can be purchased individually or as a series. When you drop by to check out the Tasting Room and the seminars, ask Garcia about the new Apex Affair dinners where he'll pair some of Emilia's cache of rare fine wines with chef Packwood's award-winning cooking.

Grapevine Market (7938 Great Northern Blvd., 323-5900) cheesemonger/deli manager Ike Johnson recently notified me about a series of classes he's scheduled for Tuesday evenings this spring. Coming up on March 12 is Ike's Cheese Lectorate with five cheeses and three wines for $35 per person. April 2, he'll present an Italian Cheese Lectorate to preview his presentation on Italian wines and cheeses at that weekend's Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival. He'll also do a Caviar Primer in April with the appropriate champagnes, a chocolate class in May with delectable chocolates from El Rey, Scharffen Berger, Dolfin, and Valrhona paired with wines and liqueurs, and a repeat of the "Paint Your Own Wine Goblet" party with local artist Celina Frisbee that was so popular this fall. Call Ike for the complete course schedule, prices, and reservations.

Two wine dinners scheduled for Monday evening, March 4, present diners with a serious culinary dilemma. At Jean-Luc's Bistro (705 Colorado, 494-0033) chef Shawn Cirkiel joins forces with DeLoach Vineyards of Northern California's Russian River Valley to present an inviting California-inspired meal. Down the street at Girasole (219 W. Fourth, 481-0219), winemaker Pierangelo Tommasi makes a rare American appearance and chef Daniel Nemec will create a menu to showcase Tommasi's wines from Italy's Veneto region. Reservations are required at both restaurants.

Chef David Garrido reports the response to the food at his O's Campus Cafe (201 E. 24th in the A.C.E.S. Building, 232-9060) has been so positive, UT officials have asked him to open satellite operations at several spots around the forty acres, starting with the Main Building. Garrido also invites everyone who is interested in sustainable agriculture to his Cipollina (1213 W. Lynn, 477-5211) restaurant on Sunday, March 3, from 7:30-9pm for the first annual Foodshare shareholder meeting of the Sustainable Food Center. The Foodshare program is designed to help raise funds to support SFC's many worthwhile community programs. For more information about SFC and its programs or an invitation to the meeting, contact Suzanne Santos at 236-0074.

Glen Mack e-mailed to let me know that the newest tenant at Austin's Historic Farmer's Market (6701 Burnet Rd.) is Gastronom (459-1449,, a Russian grocery and deli operated by Sasha Lifschitz. The store offers a selection of fresh smoked and marinated fish, caviar, top quality meats and cheeses, Russian-style canned goods, pickled and marinated vegetables, Russian breads, Pelmeni, Blinchiki, desserts, and candy. They'll have prepared foods to take out and offer a home delivery service. Credit cards are welcomed and both Russian and English are spoken.

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Grapevine Market, Ike Johnson, Mack Glen, Sustainable Food Center, Emilia's, Denis Tracey, The Tasting Room, Anthony Garcia, Will Packwood, David Garrido, Gastronom, Sasha Lifschitz

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