Austin food lovers rejoice!

Last weekend was great for Austin food lovers. To kick things off, a capacity crowd sipped and strolled around the scenic grounds of Laguna Gloria reveling in La Dolce Vita Thursday night. I left before the People's Choice voting was completed, but my favorite dish of the evening was the Driskill Grill's divine scallop and foie gras "corn dog" paired with kumquat ice cream. Tied for a close second were the voluptuous corn bisque from Urban at the Westin and the delightfully seasonal butternut squash lobster bisque from the Carillon. Plenty of good food out there that night! Curious foodies packed sessions in the Texas Book Festival Cooking Tent both Saturday and Sunday, and the increased participation of nearby local food vendors certainly gets our vote. We're told that 300 eager fans showed up to hear Food Network star Alton Brown speak and sign books Saturday night at the Central Market event in his honor, while another 200 folks gathered at Rain Lily Farm that same night to meet cookbook author and New York Times columnist Amanda Hesser and dine on dishes from Hesser's The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, generously prepared by a stellar lineup of local chefs. The enthusiasm for extracurricular food events to enhance the Book Festival's culinary offerings is a good sign in my book – let's hope that continues... This coming weekend promises to be just as tasty; be sure to consult our "Event Menu," below, when making your plans... Olympic gold medalist, überfoodie, and University of Texas alum Garrett Weber-Gale ( will be the celebrity emcee at the Chefs Under Fire 2010 final cooking competition to be held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on the UT campus (1900 University Ave.). After winning regional competitions in Dallas, Austin, and Houston, finalists Juan Rodriguez of Reata Restaurant in Fort Worth, Erica Beneke of Max's Wine Dive in Austin, and Christina Lee of the Central Market Cooking School of Houston will compete in the final to be judged by Texas celebrity chefs and former Iron Chef contestants David Bull, Tyson Cole, and Kent Rathbun. The audience will enjoy samples of the competition dishes prepared by culinary students of Le Cordon Bleu Col­lege of Culinary Arts, while the contestants cook for the judges. The event is sponsored by Keeper Collection, an online interactive cookbook company. Tickets are $45 for general admission and $70 for VIP seating; buy online at The event is Monday, Oct. 25, at 7pm... Tamara Mayfield and Jesse Griffiths welcomed daughter Paloma Juniper Griffiths (6 pounds 12 ounces, 20 inches) into the Dai Due household on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Our best wishes to them all.

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Austin Museum of Art, Laguna Gloria, La Dolce Vita, Driskill Grill, Urban at the Westin, Texas Book Festival, Cooking Tent, Food Network, Central Market, Alton Brown, Rain Lily Farm, The New York Times, Amanda Hesser, The Essential New York Times Cookbook, Garrett Weber-Gale, University of Texas, Chefs Under Fire 2010, AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, Juan Rodriguez, Reata Restaurant

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