Virginia B. Wood delivers a half-ton o' news in this week's "Food-o-File."


A Half-Ton o' News

Last week, local baker Miles Compton called to say that a truck from Whole Foods Markets had just left his kitchen with a half-ton of Miles of Chocolate for distribution to their entire Southwest region -- 21 stores in five states. Look for the decadent dessert bar, a cross between a brownie and a chocolate truffle, at Whole Foods, Central Market, Grape Vine Market, the Boggy Creek Farm stand, and several area restaurants... You could wear yourself out trying to keep up with the Lambert siblings, Liz and Lou, this summer. While Lambert's (1716 S. Congress, 383-8877) is doing sold-out business five nights a week, chef Lou has been traveling quite a bit, doing restaurant consulting for the Chisholm Group, the Grady Spears outfit that has ongoing restaurant projects in Fort Worth, Granbury, Houston, and Las Vegas. When he's neither here nor there, Lou is helping big sister Liz refurbish two motor courts that they've recently purchased in the far west Texas hamlet of Marfa. The renovations at the Thunderbird and Capri Motels won't be as extensive as the work Liz did on her nationally recognized Hotel San José (1316 S. Congress, 444-7322) in SoCo, but the new lodgings will include a cafe with a full-service menu. The Lamberts eventually hope to find an energetic young culinary couple to run the cafe operation out in Marfa with regular support from Lou's restaurants here... Kudos to Texas Culinary Academy ( instructor Ken Rubin who recently competed in the American Culinary Federation's Knowledge Bowl at their annual summer convention in Washington, D.C. Rubin was a member of the victorious professional squad made up of Le Cordon Bleu schools chef/instructors from around the country. Until this year, the Knowledge Bowl competition (a cross between the old College Bowl and Jeopardy) was only open to student teams, but a professional division was added in 2003. Questions cover a wide range of culinary topics, including sanitation, culinary nutrition, classical French cooking, and various world cuisines. Rubin says his team got lucky because one of their categories was foods of the Southwest, and he was able to run the entire board with a quick trigger finger... If you were a fan of Aster's Ethiopian Restaurant in the early Nineties here in Austin, you'll be glad to know Aster Kassaye is back in business. The healthy, flavorful dishes of Aster's Ethiopian Catering (786-9524) are now available at both the Westlake and Austin farmers' markets on Saturdays, as well as at Whole Foods and Wheatsville Co-op all of the time. She's also available to cater any and all special occasions... In celebration of their first anniversary, the 1886 Bakery & Cafe (Sixth & Brazos, 474-5911) is having a sale on whole cakes and pies from pastry chef Jimmy McFarland's packed pastry case. Hurry on in and grab something... The best way that I've found to beat the heat plus get a jolt of energy to keep moving is to stop by Babbo's Gelato & Coffee (1206 W. 38th, 451-9555) for an energizing cup of espresso granita. Babbo's not only makes superior gelatos and sorbettos, they also offer a complete line of coffee drinks that rivals the offerings at any national chain shop.

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