Dot's Place suffers a tragic fire but is already rising from the ashes; the Texas Book Festival hosts Bon Appetit, Y'all; and Halloween's around the bend

Dot's Disaster

Austin lost another longtime-favorite neighborhood restaurant last week when the local mother church of comfort food burned to the ground. Dot Hewitt, owner and chief cook at Dot's Place (13805 Orchid Lane, 255-7288), had allowed her expensive fire insurance premiums to lapse, and she appeared devastated by the fire. However, Hewitt and her restaurant are so beloved by the clientele, offers of money and other forms of assistance began pouring in even before the embers had cooled, as the hungry lunchtime crowd (usually 500 strong) drove up to find the charred remains. The fire made front-page news in the daily and was the lead story on some TV newscasts, so that should broaden the outreach to folks who might want to make contributions. Chronicle readers have already started calling and e-mailing with questions about any possible relief efforts. Considering the number of electricians, plumbers, carpenters, engineers, and contractors who've eaten at Dot's every week for nearly 25 years, there should certainly be an accomplished talent pool of folks available to lend a hand. I haven't been able to get in touch with Mrs. Hewitt yet, but I do know there was a benefit barbecue luncheon last Wednesday in the restaurant parking lot, and a fund has been set up for people who want to offer financial aid. I'll keep you posted when and if a full-scale, organized effort to resurrect Dot's gets under way. Meanwhile, donations can be made at any Wells Fargo Bank: Jerald Burns; Dot's Place Fire; Account No. 8504735609.

Event Menu: Oct. 28-Nov. 3

The Texas Book Festival kicks off with their annual culinary celebration, Bon Appetit, Y'all, which moves to the Four Seasons ballroom this year. New York Times food writer Julia Reed hosts the party, where you can drink, hobnob, and nosh with visiting celebrities Andrea Immer, Christopher Kimball, and John T. Edge. The tickets are $75, and there will be a few available at the door, or you can still try to make reservations by calling 477-4055 or going to Thursday evening, Oct. 28, 6-10pm at the Four Seasons (98 San Jacinto).

Las Elefinas presents an evening of treatful tricks at Ararat Restaurant (111 E. North Loop, 419-1692) with live music, bellydancing, a puppet show, and costume contest, tricks, and treats. Cover charge for the outdoor party is $5 (BYOB), and if you'd like to have dinner in the restaurant beforehand, you should make reservations now. Sunday, Oct. 31st, 6-10pm.

Free Ice Cream To thank Austinites for 20 years of support, Amy's Ice Creams will give away free ice cream at all Austin locations from noon to 6pm, Monday, Nov. 1st.

Merlot Noveau at Spicewood Vineyards

Vintners Madeleine and Ed Manigold are releasing their Merlot Noveau 2004 this weekend. The wine is produced by a process that originated in the Beaujolais region of France. The fruity, low-tannin wine pairs well with Texas regional fare, and is meant to be consumed young. Chef Steve Howard of Buffalo River Cuisine will prepare a meal to complement the new wine. Tickets are $30, and seating is limited. Call the winery at 830/693-5328 for reservations. Saturday, Oct. 30, at 7pm.

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