That Takes the Cake! recap, Central Texas food on the national level, and more local deliciousness

The That Takes the Cake! 2010 Sugar Art Show & Cake Competition this past weekend was a fascinating cultural phenomenon. A large and very diverse crowd of sugar-art enthusiasts – grade school kids to grandparents – packed the building to compete for prizes, view the various decorating entries, buy all manner of equipment, and attend classes taught by industry professionals. Though all the elements of the decorated entries were technically edible, a vast majority were there to be judged on their demonstration of decorating techniques and skills alone; a much smaller group of confections was entered in the taste competition. Chronicle contributor Kate Thornberry and I joined a group of judges that included pastry chefs Tony Sansalone and Robin Foster of the Driskill and Kristie Sasser of All in One Bake Shop to judge cakes, cookies, and confections in a blind tasting. The most interesting thing in my category was a peanut brittle spiced with both green chile and bacon. The bacon-in-desserts trend is seriously out of hand in many quarters this year, but the pork was in proper balance in this brittle. The candymaker used a judicious hand with both savory ingredients, skillfully achieving a chile tingle on the tongue, accented by a delightful crunch of salt and smoke. The best evidence the brittle deserved high marks? The judges continued to nibble on it well after our judging duties were completed! A complete list of competition winners will be posted at by the end of this week. Congratulations to Jennifer Bartos of All in One Bake Shop and the entire Capital Confectioners of Austin club for putting on an excellent event that has become one of the biggest cake shows in the country in just a few short years... Sad to say the closing of the venerable Dot's Place in Pflugerville on Feb. 26 caught me completely off guard. I didn't get to make a final pilgrimage to that mother church of Southern comfort food for a big piece of cornmeal-crusted catfish, a pillow-soft yeast roll, and a bowl of fruit cobbler. I'm a longtime admirer of the soul-satisfying cooking and warm hospitality of the incomparable Dorothy "Dot" Hewitt, and I wish the 70-year-old restaurateur a well-deserved retirement... Rereading a fall column about the demise of Gourmet magazine, I realized I'd been downright snippy about Condé Nast's decision to keep Bon Appétit in print rather than my preferred publication. I hadn't read Bon Appétit in years, but it has been pointed out to me that someone there certainly does keep an eye on the culinary scene in Central Texas, and I'm glad to see it. Austin restaurants and food trailers have been mentioned regularly, and this month the magazine has included Round Rock Donuts (106 W. Liberty in Round Rock, 512/255-3629, in a list of the Top 10 Best Places for Donuts. And speaking of local businesses in the national news, did you happen to catch the piece about Flip Happy Crepes (400 Josephine, 552-9034, on CNN at the crack of dawn earlier this week? (Me neither – I recorded it.) After its great showing on Throwdown! With Bobby Flay, we hear the Food Network has been in touch with Austin's beloved crepe mavens about a segment on another show, but all the details aren't firmed up at this point. We'll keep you posted... The conventional wisdom used to be that fall was the best and safest time to open an Austin restaurant, what with the influx of new student money in the local economy and all. However, early spring debuts appear to be an emerging trend – there's a whole new crop of local restaurants to talk about next week.

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