The 2003 Beaujolais Nouveau debuts, Austin's Pizza makes some changes, and several Austin restaurants were hot spots during the Texas Book Festival.

New Wine Tonight

In keeping with the annual French tradition, the 2003 Beaujolais Nouveau debuts today, the third Thursday in November. To enjoy two different varieties of this year's fresh vintage, stop by Austin's longtime favorite French bistro, Chez Nous (510 Neches, 473-2413), throughout the weekend for an authentic French meal and some Beaujolais Nouveau to celebrate the occasion.

Pizza News

Two weeks ago, everything came up coffee, and this past week, the news was all pizza. It all started when I tried to order a pizza from a new company that I'd heard about, but my address didn't fit their delivery area. My mouth was set on pizza by that point, so I called the 12th Street outlet of Austin's Pizza ( Since my move, I don't really fit their delivery area, either, but one of their drivers graciously agreed to bring me the pie. It had been several months since I'd ordered from Austin's Pizza, and I was in for a surprise. They began in 1999 with a $9.99 three-topping pizza and a free 2-liter soda of your choice, and have been consistently voted among the best pizza deliveries and the best deals in the annual Chronicle polls ever since. However, due to a variety of changes in their business, the price structure at Austin's Pizza has changed considerably. Co-owner Clay McLaughlin explained to me recently that drastic increases in raw-food costs, primarily mozzarella cheese, caused them to re-evaluate their prices, and the company also retrofitted all their locations with brick pizza ovens to improve the quality of their pies. "We evaluated our situation and decided to go upscale all the way," McLaughlin explained to me recently. "We were already using more expensive toppings like artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and sun-dried tomatoes, and we knew we wanted to go with brick ovens for a better crust, so prices had to go up across the board." Austin's Pizza pies are more expensive, and 2-liter sodas will now set you back a buck, but the menu is expanded and the pizza is still very good... In other local pizza news, the folks at Mangia celebrate their 15th anniversary this month with a contest to name their recently updated "monster." The customer who comes up with the winning name will win 15 years of free pizza, and the runners-up will receive prizes, as well. Drop your name idea in the ballot boxes at all three Mangia outlets (2401 Lake Austin Blvd., 478-6600; 3500 Guadalupe, 302-5200; 8012 Mesa, 349-2126) between now and the end of the month.

Overheard at TBF

The culinary luminaries in town for the recent Texas Book Festival found a little time to check out Austin restaurants between parties, panels, and signing-tent appearances. Breakfast at Las Manitas (211 Congress, 472-9357) was mandatory for Colman Andrews and Calvin Trillin, as well as Tom Valenti, who insisted on going two days in a row. It seems the NYC chef/cookbook author told his hosts he had never realized just how bad the Mexican food in New York really was until he had the authentic food at Las Manitas with which to compare it! Former New York Times restaurant reviewer Mimi Sheraton made a pilgrimage to Lockhart for the definitive central Texas barbecue at Kreutz Market, and serious barbecue aficionado Trillin sampled the local 'cue at John Mueller's Bar-B-Q (1917 Manor Rd., 236-0283). Indian chef and author Madhur Jaffrey, who has previously appeared as a guest chef at the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, enjoyed dinner at Wink (1014 N. Lamar, 482-8868) and a lunch at Asti (43rd & Duval, 451-1218).

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Asti, Wink, Madhur Jaffrey, John Mueller's, Kreutz Market, Mimi Sheraton, Tom Valenti, Calvin Trillin, Colman Andrews, Las Manitas, Mangia, Austin's Pizza, Clay McLaughlin, Chez Nous, Beaujolais Nouveau

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