Winners and losers on Food TV and more

The third time was definitely the charm for former Austin pastry artist Bronwen Weber, who brought home a gold medal and a check for $10,000 as the winner of the Food Network's Gingerbread Mansions Challenge. The Grove Park Inn Resort in Asheville, N.C., hosts a gingerbread-house competition every December, and in 2005 the Food Network issued challenge invitations to five nationally known pastry artists to compete in a special mansions category. Weber, then a pastry instructor at the Texas Culinary Academy and a second place finisher at two previous pastry challenges, was one of the five artists. The Food Network aired the hourlong feature about the competition for the first time April 23 and will rerun it periodically. Keep an eye out for Bronwen's award-winning gingerbread rendering of Austin landmark the Bremond House (700 Guadalupe). It may be difficult to congratulate her in person, however, because Weber has left TCA and is now creating specialty cakes at the Frosted Art Bakery ( in Dallas... And speaking of cooking competitions on television, I am totally hooked on Bravo's Top Chef. I've found the way the weekly challenges are designed to reveal the various strengths and weaknesses of the contestants to be very engaging and almost always agree with the judges' decisions regarding eliminations. At press time, there were four contestants remaining, and the arrogant, clueless sommelier was finally sent home! Next week, the show moves to Las Vegas where the final three cooks will fight it out for the big prize. I'm betting on Tiffani, Lee Anne, and Dave... Did anyone else notice that NBC's highly promoted Celebrity Cooking Challenge was mercifully canceled in the middle of its scheduled weeklong run? The show, a cross between Dancing With the Stars and Iron Chef, was wrong on so many levels: lots of flowing hair on both men and women (very unappetizing), beauty queens revealing too much cleavage (exposing tender areas over sauté pans is a very bad idea), high heels in the kitchen (stupid and dangerous), and respected New York restaurant reviewer Gael Greene in garish uniforms that appeared to have been abandoned by Michael Jackson when he fled the country. Truly awful.Ê

Event Menu May 5-11

The Central Texas Farmers' Market resumes weekly sales in front of the Marbridge Garden Center (2310 Bliss Spillar Rd.) in Manchaca. This is a small-growers-only market, Fridays through October, 3-6pm.

Fleming's Steakhouse and Wine Bar (320 E. Second, 457-1500) invites you to experience Spier wines from South Africa paired with appetizers and entrées prepared by chef Erick Nixon. $65 per person, reservations necessary. Friday, May 5, 6:30pm.

Wine expert and author Karen MacNeil will present a master-level wine appreciation class at the Whole Foods Market Corporate Conference Center (Sixth and Bowie) after a champagne reception on the Rooftop Plaza. Tickets are $75, and necessary reservations can be made at the WFM concierge desk or by calling 542-2243. Friday, May 5, 7-8:30pm.

The Texas Culinary Academy (11400 Burnet, 837-2665, hosts their second annual Barbecue Cook-Off this weekend in conjunction with the Texas Beef Council, Martin Preferred Meats, East Poultry, and the Central Texas Barbecue Association. Both teams of culinary students and teams of community members will compete in three categories: beef brisket, pork ribs, and whole chickens. The public is invited to attend, and $10 covers the cost of all-you-can-eat barbecue plates and nonalcoholic drinks. For registration information, e-mail [email protected]. Saturday, May 6, 11am-4pm.

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