How 'bout them apples?

One of the best things I tasted in the whole year of 2008 was a sample box of a new variety of apples that were developed by some folks at the University of Minne­sota. Last fall, they promised that the marvelously crisp, slightly tart SweeTango apples would be released in the fall of 2009. I'd been on the lookout for them for a couple of weeks when I got word that a limited supply of my new favorite apple was allocated for the Austin market. As far as I know, they're only for sale at Central Mar­ket ($2.99/lb), and there's no guarantee about how long they'll be around. I intend to get as many of them as I can while they last! I'm thinking apple pie, caramel apples, apple dumplings, apples every day... Austin's homegrown ThunderCloud Subs ( is on a building spree and expects to open two new outlets in local condo projects in the coming months. One is in Shops at SoCo (3600 S. Con­gress) and the other is in 360 Condo­min­iums (Third and Nueces streets). In addition, it's also remodeled some older shops on West 12th Street, Lake Austin Boulevard, and William Cannon. ThunderCloud has been serving some of Austin's favorite sandwiches since 1975... Max's Wine Dive (207 San Jacin­to, 904-0111, is now open for lunch Friday and Saturday from 11am to 4pm, with a menu that includes a mixture of some of its more popular dinner items and lunch specials that will change weekly. It's also offering weekly wine tastings on Saturdays from noon to 4pm with six wines for $6 and hosting UT game day happy hours with special prices on selected beers and menu items. Check out the newly completed 2,100-square-foot basement-level private dining space, Max's Under­ground, with an eye toward booking private parties and corporate events... And speaking of wine bars, Austin's newest is Simplicity Wine & Eats (4801 Burnet Rd., 533-4844, from Parind Vora, chef/owner of Restaurant Jezebel (914 Congress, 499-3999, Vora describes the new spot as a "casual eatery below a bistro and above a dive" where friends can enjoy simple food with good beer and wine every evening. The menu offers tapas for $3.95 per plate, a few good beers, and a constantly changing selection of wines by the glass, the bottle, and for retail sale... In keeping with the current local and national trends in sophisticated mixology preparations, the very busy bars at Eddie V's (301 E. Fifth, 472-1860; 9400-B Arboretum Blvd., 342-2642; are offering 10 new cocktails. Ask about them the next time you drop by for happy hour... Kudos to Jill and Kevin Lewis of Austin Slow Burn, who report they recently conquered the Houston Hot Sauce Festival with first place wins in both the dip (Green Chile con Queso) and marinade (pork butt with Jamaican Jerk Marinade) categories, in addition to third place finishes in the red sauce (Salsa con Habanero) and green sauce (Salsa Verde) competitions. Hooray!

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