The Austin Chronicle


By Virginia B. Wood, December 31, 2010, Food

This year has raced by, leaving many fascinating local food stories in its wake. The local trailer food explosion has to be the year's biggest story: Local trailers attracted attention from national newspapers, bloggers, and food and lifestyle magazines as well as reality TV – while inspiring a popular new community culinary event. One of the more interesting aspects of the trailer scene has to be its fluidity. Busy food trailer parks emerged on vacant properties in several neighborhoods almost overnight. We saw some trailer entrepreneurs capitalize on their successes and move into brick-and-mortar operations (Hey Cupcake!, Torchy's Tacos, Odd Duck Farm to Trailer/Barley Swine, Franklin Barbecue) and some established local eateries use trailers to enhance their operations and reach out to a new clientele (Hudson's on the Bend/Mighty Cone, Artz Rib House/Bar-B-Que-T). Trailers gave nonprofessional cooks the opportunity to change careers (nurse Jaynie Bucking­ham of Cutie Pies, for example), and at least one longtime local chef, Raymond Tatum, will take his first shot at self-employment when his Three Little Pigs trailer debuts in East Austin after the first of the year.

Local foodies have been buzzing for months about the fact that the International Association of Culi­nary Professionals has chosen Austin as the site for its annual conference in June 2011. The local host committee is busy making plans to assure that the Austin and Central Texas food community makes the best possible showing on the international culinary stage... 2010 was also a pivotal year for the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival, as organizers worked to solidify funding and maintain the relevance of the state's premier, 25-year-old culinary event.

Two long-established, high-profile food businesses experienced trauma in 2010 and emerged with very different results. The lovely Artisan Ballroom at the Barr Mansion was destroyed by a lightning fire last spring, putting the busy venue's entire late spring and summer wedding season in jeopardy. By year's end, the historic property had survived both fire and divorce with the business intact. A new and improved ballroom facility is currently being built, and Barr Mansion continues to be the nation's only certified-organic event facility... On the other hand, the venerable Katz's Deli did not fare as well. After a bankruptcy filing earlier this year, deli owner Marc Katz announced last week that the longtime Downtown mainstay would cease operations Jan. 2.

A baker by trade, I couldn't help but find myself somewhat envious of all the opportunities there were for bakers in 2010 Austin. While our established bakeries continue to flourish, small neighborhood pastry shops, cake salons, dessert trailers, and farmers' market booths have sprouted up all over town, selling cupcakes, cake balls, crepes, macaroons, custom-sculpted cakes, whoopie pies, tortes, tarts, cookies, and pies! Some of the new endeavors are the work of accomplished home bakers who have decided to go pro, but we can also thank the excellent baking and pastry programs at both Le Cordon Bleu and the Culinary Academy of Austin for the overall improvement in desserts and pastries around town.

Other local stories that illustrate how Austin is on the cutting edge of national culinary trends include: our wealth of local artisan butchers, a cocktail renaissance fueled by the talents of several internationally competitive local mixologists, and our rapidly emerging craft-brewing culture, complete with the world's first community-owned brewpub cooperative. Food- and drinkwise, 2010 was a newsworthy year.

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