Roger Mollett relearns cuisine; plus, cupcakes make a comeback

Designer Cupcakes

One of the most attractive cookbooks to cross my desk this summer is The Artful Cupcake (Lark Books, $17.95) by Marcianne Miller. The slim volume is chock-full of recipes and instructions for making a variety of inviting morsels, illustrated with mouth-watering photographs. The designer cupcake trend is all the rage these days, with beautifully decorated individual cakes showing up at such grownup events as weddings, baby showers, and fancy dinners, as well as kids' birthday parties. If you'd rather purchase cupcakes than make your own, check out these offerings: The pastry case at Russell's Bakery & Coffee Shop (3339 Hancock Dr., 419-7877) always has some elaborately decorated cupcakes from which to choose, and they're happy to prepare custom orders, as well; the bakeries at both Central Market stores (4001 N. Lamar, 206-1000; 4521 Westgate, 899-4300) sell chocolate and white cupcakes topped with your choice of lovely sunflowers, pansies, bluebonnets, or roses; though they don't have a pastry case, choose whichever cupcake designs suit your fancy from the photo album at All in One Bakeshop (8556 Research, 371-3401), and you can also purchase paper cases, decorating materials, and several different cupcake stands in case you get inspired to make your own, after all.

Mollett Mending

Roger Mollett was chef at the Central Market Cooking School for many years, welcoming hundreds of guest instructors and teaching thousands of students during his tenure there. Since leaving the store, Mollett has catered and taught private classes under his own Fonds de Cuisine banner. However, this summer the genial chef is teaching himself to cook all over again as he wages a life-threatening battle with non-alcohol-related liver disease. He's working with doctors and a nutritionist to develop a heart-healthy, low-carb, low-protein diet to help restore his health. Mollett and his partner Greg Murphy are currently visiting Murphy's family in Minnesota and plan a stop to see Mollett's family in Oklahoma, as well. I'm sure that Mollett's legion of fans, friends, and former students join me in wishing him a speedy recovery.

New Flavors

The Vermont Cultured Butter with sea salt crystals from Vermont Butter & Cheese Company (exclusively at Whole Foods) is out-of-this-world marvelous – I've been eating it on corn on the cob, toasted scones, and I even melted a little slab of it over a petite tenderloin of Wagyu beef the other night for an incredible treat! Whole Foods also sent along a bottle of imported tangerine-flavored Italian soda from their private label 365 line, and it is officially my new favorite summer libation. Speaking of Wagyu beef, I've been enjoying some samples from Strube Ranch Gourmet Meats of Pittsburg, Texas, which is currently available at Henry's Butcher Block (1702 N. Mays, 512/310-7007) in Round Rock and the Westlake Farmers Market (4100 Westbank, 280-1976) on Saturdays from 10am-1pm. This is my first experience with the hormone- and antibiotic-free beef from imported Japanese cattle, and I have to say, it's really wonderful. Quick-cooked over high heat, it's exquisitely marbled, flavorful, and fork-tender. Very pricey, but remarkably tasty.

Event Menu: Aug. 8-13

Children's Basilfest

The motto at this popular South Austin Montessori primary school is "it takes a garden to grow a child." Ronda Disney's gardening tots invite you to join them for their annual Basilfest. The program includes basil tastings, recipes, double-digging demonstrations, garden tours, and the sale of herbs grown by the children themselves. Sharing what they've learned is an important part of their curriculum, and they'll be glad to teach you "everything you ever wanted to know about ocimum basilicum."

9am-1pm, Sunday-Friday, Aug. 8-13 at Ronda's Montessori Garden, 4300 Mt. Vernon Dr., 707-8635.

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