The Austin Chronicle


By Virginia B. Wood, May 29, 2009, Food

I had the opportunity to chat with chef Alma Alcocer-Thomas about moving from the kitchen of one renowned local landmark restaurant (Jeffrey's) to another, with her new position running the kitchen at Fonda San Miguel (2330 W. North Loop, 459-4121, The Cordon Bleu-trained chef talked about how the new job provides her first opportunity to cook the traditional cuisine of her native Mexico in a professional setting and described taking inspiration for off-menu specials from the herbs and vegetables harvested daily in Fonda's scenic organic garden (see "Agricultural Convergence," Feb. 20)... Meanwhile, two daring young chefs are putting their personal stamp on long-established menu items at Jeffrey's (1204 West Lynn, 477-5584, Chef Deegan McClung has reimagined the famous crispy oysters; although we've yet to taste the new recipe, we're told even the most outraged regulars are now gobbling up Oyster Octavia, named for the New Orleans street where McClung grew up. Pastry chef Sarah Jane Jordan has also been busy lightening up the recipe for Chocolate Intem­perance, using a flourless chocolate-cake base topped with two different chocolate mousses. Chocolate Intemperance was first prepared for Jeffrey's by local cooking teacher Marilyn Scher and has been a menu staple at the Clarksville neighborhood eatery since 1976! We'll be trying these new dishes as well as McClung's new bar menu some day soon... Restaurateur Carlos Rivero was in touch to let us know his second El Chilito outlet recently morphed into El Chile Cafe y Can­tina El Centro (918 Congress, 391-0936,, explaining that the sleek urban space is a much better match for El Chile's more sophisticated menu and popular bar offerings... In other Mexican food news Downtown, the owners of Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (301 San Jacinto, 476-8300, have made both interior design and menu changes, adding two new private dining spaces, several interesting new cocktails, and an enhanced tequila selection... Readers advise they are very enthusiastic about the affordable menu options at the new Fabi & Rosi European Kitchen (509 Hearn, 236-0642, located in the West Austin cottage that was home to Zoot for so many years. Another plus is that patrons are allowed to bring their own wine for a minimal corkage fee. This place is definitely on our list of places to try... On the restaurant closure front, we've learned about the demise of two local eateries we really liked. The popular East Central Austin neighborhood spot Gene's New Orleans Style PoBoys & Deli (1209 E. 11th) closed quietly earlier this year, and we're told genial proprietor Gene Tumbs has returned to his native New Orleans. And no sooner had we rewarded the soup wizardry at Whisk Hand-crafted Cuisine (4238 Bee Caves Rd.) with a Critics Pick in our recent Restaurant Poll than we discovered chef/owner Linda Waller closed the take-out shop in the charming West Lake stone cottage before we could learn the secrets to chef Jacob Zavala's Catalan carrot-ginger soup. Chef, call me, please!

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