New products, new smokers, new catering operations, and a new cake studio? Is it our birthday again already?

I'll admit that when Royal Blue Groc­ery (247 W. Third, 499-3993; 360 Nueces, 476-5700; proprietor George Scariano e-mailed to announce that his stores are the exclusive local vendor for Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, I'd never heard of the product. But no sooner had I responded to his e-mail than I happened to catch a Food Network show with a segment on the artisanal ice cream company in Columbus, Ohio ( Ice cream samples and a press kit followed a few days later. Jeni Britton Bauer and her staff hand-make small batches of distinctively flavored ice creams with cream from a nearby Ohio dairy. The company has several shops in southern Ohio and also ships its product via UPS. The salty caramel and bourbon buttered pecan I took home were particularly delectable, and the three pints I left at the office (chocolate, goat cheese with cherries, honey vanilla) quickly disappeared amid moans of delight. Scariano reports that even at $11.49 a pint, Jeni's ice creams are very popular with his clientele, and he keeps several flavors in stock... Fans of Franklin Barbecue (3421 N. I-35, 653-1187) will be pleased to know pit master Aaron Franklin has added a second smoker to his arsenal, which extends his supply of delicious smoked meats until about 1:30pm Wednesdays through Sundays. Franklin also reports he's scouting East Austin for a permanent indoor location. As always, we'll keep you posted... Custom cake designer Paloma Efron has a new cake studio location for Coco Paloma Desserts (6701 Burnet Rd., 419-1582). She's available to discuss wedding and special occasion cakes at the studio by appointment only... Maudie's Hill Country (12506 Shops Pkwy., Bee Cave, 512/263-1116, is open, with the restaurant's popular Tex-Mex menu complemented by scenic Hill Coun­try views. Be sure to try the Bee Cave Crunch ice cream while you're there... Fans who would prefer to enjoy an Olivia-style, seasonal locavore meal in the comfort of their own homes now need only ask. Olivia (2043 S. Lamar, 804-2700, chef/owner James Holmes has added a catering component to his South Austin restaurant, and he's eager to consult with clients about their needs... Turns out we missed some tasty area offerings in our recent Oktoberfest cover issue (see "Follow the Lederhosen," Oct. 1). There are still a few seats available for the multicourse Okto­berfest feast to be prepared by chef Law­rence Kocurek on Oct. 22. It's $80 per person, BYOB. Austin Wine Mer­chant (512 W. Sixth, 499-0512) has the menu and can suggest wine pairings. Make necessary reservations at Also, the European Bistro (111 E. Main, Pflugerville, 512/835-1919, and Nuernberg Brauhaus (1202 FM 685 Ste. B-5, Pflugerville, 512/990-5544) are featuring special Oktober­fest menu items all month.

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Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, Olivia, Royal Blue Groc­ery, George Scariano, Food Network, Jeni Britton Bauer, Franklin Barbecue, Aaron Franklin, Paloma Efron, Coco Paloma Desserts, Maudie's Hill Country, James Holmes, Oktoberfest, Lawrence Kocurek, Austin Wine Mer­chant, European Bistro, Nurenberg Brauhaus

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