More puff, pastrywise; plus, Tommy Li, Bollywood, and William Dunmire
Considering the ongoing evolution of our local restaurant industry, from time to time it's necessary to make some changes in our annual Restaurant Poll ballot, reorganizing categories, adding some and deleting others. For instance, this year we've added a listing for Best Pastry Shop, because five new places have opened since our last poll, four of them since the first of this year alone. I took a whirlwind pastry tour this past week, and here's some of what I found: At the Big Kolache (2407-A S. Congress, 383-9050), owner Steve Frederick makes 16 different varieties with sweet fillings made from scratch and savory fillings that include ham and cheese and Elgin sausage with jalapeño. Lone Star Kolaches (3800 N. Lamar, 323-3663, www.lonestarkolaches.com) owner Massey Wallace turns out traditional and new wave kolaches as well as other sweets, croissants, sandwiches, soups, and drinks to lines of people spilling out her door. Downtown business types are finding their way to BakerMan's Bakery (120 E. Seventh, 476-0060, www.bakermansbakery.com) where baker man Chris McGuill whips up a full line of pastries, including big, fluffy, handmade doughnuts. His signature item is a Texas-shaped doughnuts filled with lemon, appropriately named the Yellow Rose of Texas. Rebecca Castellanos of Mad Cakes (3808 Spicewood Springs Rd. #102, 795-9285) creates a line of Bundt cakes in various flavors and sizes with custom decorations for all occasions. We were impressed with her dessert bars, especially the lemon and the pecan.
We've got an alert reader to thank for this hot tip. Fans of quality Vietnamese food will be interested to discover that the founding chef of the excellent Sunflower Restaurant (8557 Research, 339-7860) has moved on and opened his own place. Tommy Li is now the chef/owner of Le Soleil (9616 N. Lamar, 821-0396), where the menu resembles his original, but he plans to offer new items, as well. Our Asian food expert, Mick Vann, says both places are worthy of a visit.
Experience the elegance of a Royal Victorian High Tea in the lobby of the Driskill Hotel (Sixth & Brazos, 474-5911) with delicious tea sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream, petit fours, a selection of imported teas, plus champagne or sparkling cider for $36 per person. Reservations are necessary; seatings at 3, 3:30, and 4pm, April 15, 22, 29, and May 6 and 13.
Event Menu: April 15-21
Talk about great food and film combos! The Austin Film Society launches its Bollywood series at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown with the musical-action epic Don complemented by an Indian feast prepared by chef James Holmes. And who could possibly refuse the offer of The Godfather at the South Lamar location featuring a dinner menu designed by chef John Bullington paired with wines from filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola's winery? Reservations are necessary, make them online at www.originalalamo.com; Don, 5pm, Saturday, April 16; The Godfather, 7pm, April 18.
The Hill Country looks more like the South of France all the time! Lavender lovers will want to check out events this weekend featuring Sharon Shipley, author of The Lavender Cookbook who will sign books and teach cooking classes at Hill Country Lavender (1672 McKinney Loop outside Blanco, 830/833-2294, www.hillcountrylavender.com) and at Kiss the Cook (201 Wimberley Square, 512/847-1553, www.kissthecooktx.com). Reservations are necessary; 11am-2pm, April 16-17, at Hill Country Lavender; 5:30-7:30pm, April 17, at Kiss the Cook.
Author William Dunmire will give an informative presentation describing how the plants, foods, and agricultural practices of the Old World made their way from Spain to Mexico and then to the colonial frontier of the American West, based on his book Gardens of New Spain at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (4801 LaCrosse Ave.). For more information, contact Nancy Bless at Texas Folklife Resources at 441-9255; 7pm, Wednesday, April 20.