The Meat Shop shuts its doors in anticipation of SH 130; plus, the Shoal Creek Saloon's Ski Lodge and Quack's Maplewood Bakery

The Meat Shop

One of the coolest things about this job is discovering the best food outlets in Central Texas and sharing that information with our readers. The flip side of that is having to inform you when one of them closes. The Meat Shop was the local retail outlet for the organic, grass-fed, dry-aged super prime Wagyu beef raised at the Harrell Ranch (512/276-1166) east of Austin near Decker Lake. Their top-quality meat was not only popular with locals (see "Cut and Dried: A Primer," Jan. 30, 2004), it was featured on the menus of such nationally renowned chefs as Chicago's Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller of Napa Valley's French Laundry. The Harrell Ranch folks recently closed the Meat Shop and took down their Web site in anticipation of the arrival of Texas Highway 130, soon to cut a mighty six-lane swath through the center of their pristine property. Highway construction and the subsequent bisection of the ranch will render their prized organic permits invalid. Ranch owners were unwilling to make public comments about this issue while they are still involved in negotiations with the state over the appropriate compensation for the loss of their property and livelihood. The search is currently under way for an alternative ranch property. The excellent Harrell Ranch beef is still available by phone, if you're interested in a side of beef for the freezer rather than a few steaks. We plan to stay in touch with the ranchers and will keep you posted if and when they open another convenient retail outlet.

News Around Town

In a recent story about sports bars, we neglected to mention the big expansion at Shoal Creek Saloon (909 N. Lamar, 474-0805). Owner Ray Canfield hopes you'll check out the comfy new "Ski Lodge" addition with plenty of seating and many more television screens. They've also added an awning over the creekside deck and an enormous New Orleans Saints football helmet on the roof, in keeping with their heartfelt team affiliation... Many of my Maplewood-area neighbors were happily lolling in the brilliant sunshine on the deck at Quack's Maplewood Bakery (1400 E. 381Ú2) last Sunday, enjoying pastries and coffee. The new spot will be open on weekends only until early March... After a big January clearance sale, the Chef's Toolbox (4004 N. Lamar) closed recently, leaving a note on the door advising customers who had left knives to be sharpened where to retrieve their cutlery.

Event Menu: Feb. 18-24

Still hungry for chocolate information? The Foodways Group of Austin presents the premiere of a new documentary film Chocolate: Pathway to the Gods by Meredith L. Dreiss. The filmmaker and her collaborator, Sharon E. Greenhill, will discuss the film and the companion book they are writing about the "sacred realm of cacao and chocolate in Mesoamerica," complemented by a demonstration of sweet and savory chocolate preparations by pastry chef Aimee Olson. Texas Culinary Academy, 11400 Burnet Rd. Sun., Feb. 20, 3pm. $20 for guests without reservations.

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Quack's Maplewood Bakery, Chocolate:Pathway to the Gods, Meredith L. Dreiss, Sharon E. Greenhill, Shoal Creek Saloon, Ray Canfield, The Meat Shop

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