If it's late August, it must be heaven for Austin chile heads; plus, paying visits to husband-and-wife teams living their restaurant dreams
Husbands & Wives
I spent Sundays on the road the past couple of weekends and met two delightful husband-and-wife teams who have forsaken the big city to live their restaurant dreams in the Texas Hill Country. Mark and Shelly Schmidt said goodbye to Mark's high-profile chef jobs in Dallas and Santa Fe for their own cozy spot in the Highland Lakes resort town of Marble Falls earlier this year. The Schmidts are the proud proprietors of Cafe 909 (909 Second in Marble Falls, 830/693-2126), the hottest new fine-dining venue in the fast-growing lakeside community, based on our recent brunch visit. Both the food and service are excellent. The weinerschnitzel was fork-tender and crisp, topped with fried eggs and paired with tasty cottage fries. A glance at the dinner menu piqued my interest to go back for dinner very soon... Chef Michael Cramblit spent years working in Austin restaurants before he and wife Melody Hilburn purchased a former roadside hamburger joint in Dripping Springs and rechristened it Roscoe's (660 Hwy. 290 W., 512/858-4167) with an expertly prepared Texas cafe menu. The voluptuous hollandaise sauce on our Eggs Benedict was the tangiest I've ever tasted; the portions are generous, and the prices very affordable. Brunch appears to be a standing-room-only affair here, so go early for a good table.
Jam Up and Jelly Tight
When Central Market Westgate nonperishables director Darrel Benavides began to fantasize about a green-chile jam to offer his customers during the end-of-summer Chile Festival, he happened to mention his dreams to just the right folks. Jill and Kevin Lewis are famous for the award-winning condiments that bear the Austin Slow Burn label, and they knew they were up to the challenge. After a few days of tinkering, they developed a new product that "leads the taste buds through the whole fire roasted Green Chile experience," balancing sweet heat with the irresistible chile flavor. Benavides was duly impressed, placed a gigantic order, and now Austin Slow Burn's Fire Roasted Green Chile Jam will be for sale at all Central Market outlets in Texas by Aug. 21.
Event Menu: Aug. 20-29
Stomping Grapes: Roasting Chiles, Hill Country Harvest Wine Trail: All 16 Texas Hill Country wineries have some kind of festivities planned over the next few weekends. There are gourmet luncheons, river cruises, and stomping to old I Love Lucy videos at Fall Creek (www.fcv.com); new T-shirts and the release of the 2000 Chardonnay at Spicewood (www.spicewoodvineyards.com); and live music, grape stomping, and the chance to taste newly fermented wine at Becker (www.beckervineyards.com), just to name a few. Custom-designed appetizer plates decorated with the winery logo at each stop make great souvenirs. Aug. 21-22, 28-29: Check individual wineries for specific hours and events, and see www.texaswinetrails.com/calendar.htm.
Heaven for Chile Heads: With the chile roasters fired up and the hot sauces cooking, it must be the end of August in Austin! Hatch Chile Fest at both Central Market locations with plenty of roasted chiles and items made with them, Aug. 21-22, 28-29. Burgers, Bock & Blues on the cafe patio at Central Market Westgate with grilled green chile burgers, Shiner Bock, and live blues from 6 to 10pm, Friday and Saturday evenings, Aug. 20-21, 27-28. Hatch Chile Roasting at Austin's Historic Farmers' Market (6701 Burnet Rd., 454-1002) the folks who first brought Hatch chile roasting to Austin are again offering fresh roasted chiles for sale by the pound from 8am to noon, Aug. 21 through Labor Day. Chile Pepper Fest at the Westlake Farmers Market (4100 Westbank, 280-1976), 10am-1pm, Aug. 28. Everything chile you can imagine. Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival: 11am-5pm, Sunday, Aug. 29. Same as it ever was.
Fine Wine and Cuisine Dinner to benefit Hyde Park Theatre: Mirabelle (8127 Mesa, 346-7900) hosts a five-course culinary adventure through Italy for $75 per person. Seating is limited. Call the theatre at 479-7529 for necessary reservations. 6:30pm, Thursday, Aug. 26.
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