Ah, to live the life of the Chronicle Food editor; plus, Gingerbread pancakes, Girl Scouts, and the Gilstraps of Wimberley

Professional Perks

The opportunity to taste great things is undeniably one of the best perks of my job. After the exhaustive research on local food products for Christmas gifts, we still managed to miss something important, but I was lucky enough to sample it myself over the holidays. After a hiatus of a few years, the folks at Kerbey Lane Cafe are once again packaging their signature Buttermilk and Gingerbread Pancake mixes. What could say Austin any more definitively than that? The mixes are for sale at all four Kerbey Lane locations, as well as both Fresh Plus grocery stores and Wheatsville Co-op. FYI: They are particularly wonderful (and even more Austintatious) when slathered with Cinnamon and/or Orange Bee Butter from the Bee Caves Honey Company... Another taste treat I really enjoyed was an impromptu lunch prepared for me by Austin Culinary Institute of America student Alex Kahn. During the holiday break, Alex was working on a recipe he plans to enter in a culinary student scholarship contest being sponsored by the Maple Leaf Farms company. Recipes must utilize their duck breasts as a key ingredient, and culinary students around the country will compete for scholarship funds in the range of $1,000 to $5,000. Alex's personal creation was marinated in simple syrup, roasted in the oven, finished with a robust red chile glaze, and paired with a hearty serving of Guinness sweet potato mashers. It certainly tasted like a winner to me. And while we're on the topic of student recipe contests, the Texas Wine and Food Foundation ( recently announced its fourth annual Stephan Pyles Culinary Scholarship competition. Students currently enrolled in an accredited culinary school are encouraged to enter the competition, which awards a whopping $15,000 scholarship every year. For more details and application information, contact director Rebecca Robinson at 327-7555 or

This Weekend

The Lone Star Girl Scouts Council's annual Girl Scout Cookie Sale begins this Saturday, Jan. 17, and will continue until Friday, Feb. 20. Your all-time favorites -- Thin Mints, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Patties, and Shortbreads -- will be joined this year by the new Piñata, a crunchy oatmeal-based cookie with a berry filling, icing, and a crumb topping. The idea of selling cookies as a community service project is said to have originated with a Girl Scout troop in Muskogee, Okla., in 1917, and troops all over the country were making and selling sugar cookies to raise money by the 1920s. The cookies began to be produced commercially by 1936 and are now some of the top-selling cookies in the nation. Be on the lookout for girls selling cookies in your neighborhood... The owners of Blair House country inn (100 W. Spoke Hill Dr., 512/847-1111; near Wimberley have scheduled a wine dinner showcasing the culinary creations of their chef Christopher Stonesifer paired with the Italian-style wines of Texas Hills Vineyard on Saturday evening, Jan. 17, at 7:30pm. Texas Hills vintners Gary and Kathy Gilstrap will be on hand to discuss their winemaking philosophies and techniques with dinner guests. Reservations are necessary. Making a weekend of it in Wimberley? We suggest you stop in the village and do some shopping at one of our favorite culinary toy stores Kiss the Cook (201 Wimberley Square, 512/847-1553;, and also drop by the Wimberley Exchange in Olde Towne Plaza (13801 RR 12, 512/847-9914; for a box lunch or some reliable takeout food.

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