Virginia B. Wood hopes that you have an appetite for authors and new restaurants.
There certainly is something for every taste this weekend! The Capitol-area complex will be abuzz with the Texas Book Festival (www.texasbookfestival.org), where you can meet your favorite authors under the big signing tent and attend a multitude of panel discussions on every literary topic imaginable in the underground extension building. Check the schedule on p.40 for the food-related panels on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, where you'll have a chance to listen to such national and local culinary luminaries as Mimi Sheraton, Calvin Trillin, Colman Andrews, Terry Conlan, Lucinda Hutson, Terry Thompson-Anderson, Tom Valenti, Kelsey August, Sara Singer, Mick Vann, Art Meyer, and Robb Walsh... If wine and fine art are your particular area of interest, hop in the car and head for the hills, where a select group of artists, galleries, and winemakers is celebrating the Texas Hill Country Art & Wine Trail 2003 from 10am to 6:30pm on Saturday, Nov. 8, and noon to 6:30pm on Sunday, Nov. 9. Refreshments will be available at all locations to complement the sensory banquet of fine art at area studios and galleries. In addition, three of the Hill Country's premier wineries will offer tastings of award-winning wines and tours of their facilities during the weekend. For a list of participating artists, galleries, and wineries, plus a trail map, go to www.texasfineartandwine.org.
There's plenty happening on the local restaurant scene, as well. Fall is the best time for opening a new restaurant venture in Austin, and several brave folks have done just that. My new neighborhood has not one, but two new Mexican restaurants, and I couldn't be happier! After living in SoCo for 10 years, I was beginning to have withdrawal symptoms from not having enough good Mexican food handy on a regular basis, but that shouldn't be as much of a problem anymore. Roger Diaz's Vivo Cocina Mexicana (2015 Manor Rd., 482-0300) is doing great business and now has a new neighbor. A group of Jeffrey's alumni, including Carlos Rivero, Jeff Martinez, and Christine Kittrell has opened El Chile Cafe and Cantina (1809 Manor Rd., 457-9900) in the Manor restaurant row space formerly occupied by the Sacred Cup. They're offering an eclectic Mexican menu with some Tex-Mex, some Interior, and a healthy dose of vegetarian dishes for your dining pleasure. Both these new places are serving puffy tacos, how about that?... Good word of mouth from Louisiana natives encouraged me to check out the new Evangeline Cafe (8106 Brodie Ln. #110, 282-2586) in far South Austin. After a dozen years in the Cafe Serranos organization, Louisiana man Curtis Clarke struck out on his own with a cozy little Cajun-Creole joint in the space recently outgrown by a Maudie's outlet. Everything we sampled was very tasty. Be sure to try a basket of the homemade potato chips and a stuffed pistolette... And speaking of good Cajun-Creole food, New Orleans native Gene Toombs has recently added Sunday brunch to the bill of fare at Gene's Poboys & Deli (1209 E. 11th, 477-6600). Drop by for some of his favorite Louisiana-inspired specialties on the a la carte brunch menu from 11am to 3pm each Sunday... After 13 successful years in North Austin, Taj Palace (6700 Middle Fiskville Rd., 452-9959) owners Ajay and Kiren Behl have opened a second outlet featuring their expertly prepared Indian cuisine. Look for their signature tandoori meats, zesty curries, pilafs, and biryanis, in addition to hearty stuffed sandwiches and plump samosas in the upper level food court of Highland Mall (689-5960). The original Taj Palace remains open, and the Behls invite you to sample their award-winning buffet for weekday lunches as well as dinner on Monday and Tuesday evenings... Another longtime Austin restaurant favorite to expand into a faster food venture is Satay (3202 Anderson Ln., 467-6731). Dr. Foo Swasdee has added Satay Express (467-6819) next door to the original restaurant, where customers on the go can drop in and grab ready-made soups, salads, entrées, and her stellar line of Thai condiments to take home. The new shop will also take catering orders.