Food-o-File

Local artisan food producers should have a big 2007

A couple of weeks back, we ran a short piece about the 2007 Gallo Family Vineyards Gold Medal Awards competition, encouraging all of our talented local artisan food producers to enter. The deadline is Feb. 28, so download entry forms at www.gallofamily.com, and bring home one of those awards! Austin has quite a community of artisan food producers, each with a distinctive tale about the difficult road from the concept in their kitchen to placement on grocery-store shelves. Successful product placement may get easier in 2007 for several reasons. There is a proliferation of small neighborhood markets, such as P&K Grocery, Farm to Market Grocery, Royal Blue Grocery, Whip In, and the soon-to-open Cissi's Market that show real enthusiasm for stocking local products to appeal to a discerning clientele. We're also home to two trendsetting retail grocery giants: Both Central Market and Whole Foods demonstrate a willingness to give local products a shot on the shelves. Whole Foods recently strengthened their commitment to local products by creating a specific local forager position for the Southwest region, based in Austin. When Lisa Gargas begins her job in February, her mandate will be to research and identify artisan food products that fit the Whole Foods quality criteria and then help the producers clear the hurdles necessary for product placement with the company. It should be very interesting to see what Gargas discovers over the coming year and then to observe how new products fare once they actually have to compete for space on the shelves at Whole Foods. Another potential boost for our local artisan food economy is the recent merger of Gail Calder's co-packing operation, Austin Kitchen Inc., with Terra Sol Foods, owned by Alexandra Weeks. Calder described the new company, Gourmet Resources (3913 Todd, 326-2526), in a phone conversation last week. "Now our co-packing clients will also have access to the solid marketing and distribution networks that Alex has developed over the years," she says. "Adding her expertise and experience in promotion and marketing makes it possible for me to concentrate on research and development in the kitchen, which is really my strength. We're much more of a full-service operation now."... New places in the news – Lamberts Downtown Barbecue (401 W. Second, 494-1500) added Sunday brunch (11am-3pm) to their weekly lineup last week. Chef Larry McGuire tells us that a mix of Downtown dwellers and loyal fans of the original Lamberts on South Congress are packing the place. Seems as though the concept of "fancy barbecue" and live music is working really well at the new spot... Another homegrown eatery just debuted in the 2nd Street District. Be sure to drop by the newest Austin Java (300 W. Second, 481-9400) the next time you've got business at City Hall... The newest full-service Mangia Pizza (3016 Guadalupe, 302-5200) opened last week with a big benefit for Meals on Wheels & More. The new location has a semiprivate Longhorn Room available for parties and replaces their mostly delivery outlet that was next door to Amy's... For those readers who are curious about La Speranza Catering from the Best Bites of 2006, contact Hallie at 452-7517 or lasperanza@swbell.net. You'll be glad you did.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Gallo Family Vineyards Gold Medal Awards, Cissi's, P&K Grocery, Whip In, Lisa Gargas, Gail Calder, Gourmet Resources

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