Bragging rights and the latest flavors round out this week's "Food-o-File."

Bragging Rights

As an editor, I'm very well aware of just how lucky I am to have a rich talent pool of contributing writers from which to assemble the Chronicle Food section. I've bragged about them before, and due to recent events, I now have occasion to do so again. In late October, the new book from our wine writer Wes Marshall hit bookstores. Look for The Wine Roads of Texas -- An Essential Guide to Texas Wine & Wineries (Maverick Publishing, $18.95) with a foreword by legendary California winemaker Robert Mondavi, all over town. It's a must-have companion for traveling Texas wine trails, and we'll be telling you more about it in an upcoming issue. While attending the annual Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford, Miss., this fall, I was proud to note that contributor MM Pack is one of the Southern writers featured in the first edition of Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing (University of North Carolina Press, $16.95), an annual collection edited by SFA founder John Egerton. Pack's essay, "The Peach Continuum," originally appeared in the Chronicle as a summer-food memoir. Our newest contributing writer, Claudia Alarcón, is currently involved in the research for a book on the tamales of her native Mexico and has been awarded a travel grant by the International Association of Culinary Professionals to finance her research excursions. Claudia has just returned from a visit to the National Mole Festival in Mexico City and Día de Los Muertos celebrations in the state of Oaxaca. Mick Vann is eagerly awaiting the spring 2003 debut of his book The Appetizer Atlas: Around the World in Small Bites (John Wiley & Sons, 2003), which will have some laudatory cover blurbs from such nationally known chefs as Bruce Aidells, Anthony Bourdain, and Steven Raichlen. Vann and writing partner Art Meyer are busy in the research and recipe-testing stage of their second collaboration. The authors will present a seminar on the cuisine of the Philippines at the annual conference of the International Association of Culinary Professionals in April.

New World Flavors

At the early November San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival (, I attended a seminar on chocolate full of new taste sensations. Seminar guests sampled several varieties of the exemplary Venezuelan El Rey Chocolate (, some of which was complemented by a luscious Mexican liqueur called Xanath (sha-nath) Crema de Vainilla. Xanath is made by several generations of the Gaya family using organically grown vanilla beans from the rainforest of Veracruz. Our samples of the elegant libation came with a history of its production and recipes for its use (i.e., in cocktails and coffee drinks, pound cake, poured over ice creams, etc.). At both that seminar and the gala dinner later in the evening, we were also treated to samples of handmade candies from chocolatier Frans Hendriks, owner of Roscar Chocolates (512/303-1500, in Bastrop. For years, Hendriks ran a restaurant in San Antonio and now has his own small candy factory in Bastrop where he makes signature bonbons and country truffles that are simply delightful. Look for such flavors as lemon curd with dark rum in white chocolate, raspberries with black raspberry liqueur in milk chocolate, sun-dried cherries with vintage port in white, bittersweet, or milk chocolate, and jalapeño pepper, tequila, and lime in white chocolate.

Closer to home, two Hispanic culinary entrepreneurs have created some great new sweets. Adding a few extra egg yolks to her ever-popular varieties of flan left Austin's flan queen Marta Guzman with surplus egg whites. Always the frugal businesswoman, Guzman decided to turn the egg whites into the meringue cookies she remembered from her Puerto Rican childhood and see if there was a market for them locally. In just a matter of weeks, the dainty little no-fat beauties in the attractive package have proved to be so popular that Guzman has had to hire more staff and is now buying egg whites specifically to keep up with the great demand. Marta's Meringues (476-4334) come in classic, lime, coconut, and chocolate rum flavors and are available at Central Market, Whole Foods Market, Grape Vine Market, Cafe Mia, Northwest Hills Pharmacy, Food! Food!, the Kitchen Door, and the Seton gift shop. Have you noticed that tres leches (literally three milks) cake has replaced tiramisu as the hot new restaurant dessert? All of a sudden, it is on Mexican restaurant menus all over town, and Nicaraguan-born dessert maker Jesse Cordova is partly responsible. Cordova's company, Tres Leches y Mas (848-6988), is not even a year old, and already her family heirloom recipe for the moist cake in vanilla, cajeta, chocolate, and lime flavors is very popular. Look for Cordova's Tres Leches at El Arroyo, Curra's, Antonio's Tex-Mex Cantina, El Gallo, La Reyna, El Rey, Polvos, Janitizio, Taquerias Vallarta-Jalisco, Casita Jorge's, Margarita's, La Parilla, Mariscos, and La Morenita. The cajeta and vanilla flavors are particularly good.

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