Another Austinite takes first at the Texas Sommelier Conference; plus, how about Italian tonight?
There certainly is a lot of good news about local folks. Congratulations to Mark Sayre, who was named Texas' Best Sommelier for 2007 at the third annual Texas Sommelier Conference that took place in Austin Aug. 19 and 20. Twenty-five Texas wine professionals competed in a rigorous three-part examination (tasting, service, and theory) evaluated by a panel of nationally recognized master sommeliers. This is the second year in a row that an Austin sommelier has won the coveted title and valuable scholarship package. Sayre began his career at the Westwood Country Club here and has recently moved to the Four Seasons, where he will be in charge of wine service at the hotel's new restaurant, Trio, scheduled to open in September... None other than celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse has validated what Austin Chronicle Readers Poll voters have said for years: that the hamburgers at Hut's (807 W. Sixth, 472-0693) are among the best in the country. A clip of Emeril himself chowing down on a great burger at the Austin landmark ran a couple of weeks ago during a Good Morning America segment on burgers... And speaking of sandwiches, two tasty concoctions from the sandwich menu at Hoover's Cooking (2002 Manor Rd., 479-5006; 13376 Research, 335-0300) are featured in the newly released Roadfood Sandwiches by traveling food writers Jane and Michael Stern... Did you happen to catch the Food Network program about Bon Appétit magazine's picks for the best restaurants around the country for 2007? We were fascinated by the choice of the original Jasper's (11506 Century Oaks Terrace, 834-4111) outlet in the Metroplex area as the best place for pork ribs. They beat out the legendary Rendevous in Memphis, Tenn.! We've got to check out those ribs... It does appear that we're about to reach critical mass where Italian restaurants are concerned. Five new Italian eateries have opened here during the summer, and another one is due in October at the Domain. The folks at Cannoli Joe's (4715 Hwy. 290 W., 892-4444) have added a Sunday brunch ($12.99) to their schedule, giving hungry folks in Southwest Austin a very affordable brunch option. We hear folks in SoCo are enjoying the live music offered some evenings at Botticelli's (1321 S. Congress, 916-1315), where the fare is described as Chicago-style Italian-American. We're eager for Stortini (1917 Manor Rd., 391-9500) to add weekday lunches to their schedule, and we're told that's a possibility sometime in the fall. Restaurateur Giovanni Cocciante has relocated to the Downtown space formerly occupied by Noodle-ism and has christened his new venture Ristorante Bellissimo (107 W. Fifth, 391-1881) in honor of his family's successful restaurants in Virginia and California. The new place does not yet have a beer-and-wine license, so feel free to take along your favorite bottle of wine to enjoy with your lunch or dinner. And finally, an intrepid group of Texas Culinary Academy graduates has opened Gypsy Italian Bistro (1025 Barton Springs Rd., 499-0200). Proprietor Shawn Gamble spent 20 years working around Europe as a financial planner, and then his love of good food led him to a career change. He completed the culinary program at TCA, spent some time cooking in Italy and Germany, and then returned to Austin to open a restaurant. He and his staff took over a former sandwich-shop location and have transformed it into a warm and charming neighborhood bistro. Both sous chef Sherry Gordion and floor manager Janet Tran are also TCA grads. A friend and I had lunch there last week, and the new spot has lots of possibilities: The planned rooftop bar could develop into one of the most popular vantage points for enjoying drinks and appetizers during events on the shores of nearby Lady Bird Lake.
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