Virginia B. Wood comes bearing nothing but glad tidings and good food news in this week's "Food-o-File."

Good Food News

The production crew from the TV Food Network's Best Of series spent an entire week in and around Austin with host Mark Silverstein investigating the historical hauntings at the Driskill, sampling the down-home blue plate specials at Hoover's Cooking, checking out the student fare at O's Campus Cafe, and tasting definitive Austin cookies at Penny's Pastries. Then they chowed down on Texas truck-stop menu mainstays at Dorsett's 221 on I-35 South, and visited the venerable 50-year-old Storm's Drive Inn in Lampasas, where Elvis ate when he was stationed at Ft. Hood. The segments filmed in Central Texas will show up in several different Best Of programs that will air in the winter or early spring. This makes the second time TVFN has come to Austin. Last year, Food Finds showcased Marta's Flan, Smoky Denmark Sausage, and Boggy Creek Farm, boosting their sales and helping build national profiles for our local food scene. Any time Austin restaurants or food businesses receive national attention, whether it's a prime-time Visa commercial for Threadgill's, a Wine Spectator Award for Emilia's, a chef's appearance at the James Beard House, or Saveur magazine pieces about Austin musicians who are great cooks, it's good food news for us all.


Steak lovers and local jazz vocalists alike are excited about the opening of Reed's Jazz & Supper Club (9901 Capital of TX Hwy., 342-7977) the swanky new eatery from the San Gabriel Restaurant Group that offers a sophisticated night out for customers and a smoke-free venue for singers... Louisiana expatriates Troy Authement and John Houg have opened the casual, friendly Cypress Grill (4404 W. William Cannon, 358-7474) serving fried seafood, various bayou specialties, and the best muffaletta I've found outside of the French Quarter... We had a delightful brunch at the lovingly restored 1886 Cafe & Bakery in the Driskill Hotel a couple of weekends ago. The restoration of the space will knock you out, and the food is fine, too. It's possible to dine alfresco with a view of Sixth Street or to have a front-row seat at the window for pastry chef Jimmy McMillan's busy baking kitchen... Ice cream-loving residents near the trendy SoCo shopping strip have reason to rejoice: Next month, Amy's Ice Cream will open a small retail scoop shop at 1301 S. Congress, sharing space with the Jo's kitchen in the little building that was the birthplace of the original Schlotzsky's.

Gingerbread Houses

Local pastry chefs and amateur bakers take note: Organizers of the annual Creekside Christmas celebration in Wimberley are holding a gingerbread-house competition on Dec. 14. Amateur bakers will compete for trophies, while the winner in the professional division will receive a $1,000 prize. Each participant will be paired with a Wimberley bed and breakfast or merchant for a display area, and the exhibit size must be approved by the paired host. Gingerbread houses must be made of all edible elements except for the base and any lighting associated with the displays. The five-member judging panel will include two chefs, a real estate broker, an architect, and a grandmother. The houses entered in the competition will be on display during Wimberely's Creekside Christmas holiday bed and breakfast tour during the weekend of Dec. 14. There is no entry fee, but the deadline to enter is Oct. 5, so act quickly. For more information and entry forms, contact Jean Ross at the Blanco River House: PO Box 1887, Wimberley, TX, 78676, or call 512/847-7060.

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