Zoot relocates after 20 years, inauguration sweets from Austin, and more tasty tidbits
Folks in the suburbs of far Southwest Austin are salivating with anticipation over the impending arrival of one of Austin's seminal fine-dining restaurants in their neighborhood. Chef/owners Stewart Scruggs and Mark Paul are moving Zoot (11715 Bee Caves Rd., 477-6535, www.zootrestaurant.com) from the West Austin cottage where it's been located for nearly 20 years to a space formerly occupied by Bee Cave Bistro just east of Highway 71 West. The move will make it possible for the restaurant to expand both the seating and parking capacity as well as add a full bar. Scruggs says the new location should be open for dinner in mid- to late February with plans to add lunches a few weeks after that. During the transition period, Zoot chef de cuisine Andreas Exarhos had the time to work a very inspiring stage in the Cleveland restaurant kitchen of Food Network Iron Chef Michael Symon, a longtime friend of Scruggs and his wife, Abigail... Two Central Texas companies took Barack Obama's presidential inauguration very seriously this week. Handmade chocolate from Hico's Wiseman House Chocolates (www.wisemanhousechocolates.com) were served at parties in Washington during inauguration week, and Austin's Mary Louise Butters (www.buttersbrownies.com) created the Obama Brownie (chock-full of dried blueberries, cranberries, and white chocolate chips) for her Sweet Charity line. Butters will donate a portion of the proceeds from sales of the Obama Brownies to the hunger relief organization Feeding America... I've often said that one of the best perks of this job can be the food samples, but since I don't keep office hours in the Chronicle building, sometimes I do miss out – such as the Wednesday in December when the father-and-son team of Steven and Tony Cohn pulled their Stony's Mobile Pizza Kitchen (Sixth & Red River, 287-0666) trailer into the office parking lot and whipped out 20 assorted pies for my appreciative colleagues or the day early last week when Cody Fields and Kristen Studer of Mmmpanadas (Fifth & Brazos, www.mmmpanadas.com)dropped by the office with hot samples of all of their savory and sweet empanadas. Considering the positive comments from my colleagues, it looks like I'll be cruising the entertainment district some evening soon to check out both kinds of pies for myself... UT art professor Luanne Stovall invited me to the first Sweet Home Dream Pie Social she coordinated at Clarksville's historic Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church (1725 W. 11th) last weekend. Stovall's inspiration for the event was her desire to "create a meaningful culinary tradition as a part of our Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observances." The Rev. Steve Manning welcomed guests to the fellowship hall, where everyone enjoyed a recitation of King's legendary "I Have a Dream" speech by area school children, songs by the Sweet Home choir, an oral history project to savor pie memories, and the Dream Pie contest with a silent auction to raise funds for a handicapped access ramp for the church. I certainly hope this celebration becomes an annual event.