Food-o-File

The peaches are sweeter, the markets are fruitful, and the grass is greener on Jessie Street

Fête Accompli Catering owner Quincy Erickson was shopping at Restaurant Depot late last Friday afternoon when staff members mentioned they were sprucing up the store in anticipation of the arrival of some celebrity shoppers. Erickson left the store just at closing time and noticed a film crew and SUVs full of chefs unloading in the parking lot. She reports recognizing Uchiko Executive Chef Paul Qui in the group. Sounds like the rumors about Bravo's Top Chef filming in Texas this summer could be true, but there's still no confirmation from the network. However, it has been announced that former Steeping Room pastry chef Lina Biancamano will be one of the contestants on the second season of Top Chef Just Desserts debuting in August. Biancamano now lives in the Metroplex and is the executive pastry chef at Stephan Pyles in Dallas.

It's been great to get back to area farmers' markets after missing a few weekends of shopping. Be sure to arrive early at the Downtown market if you want to get one of Bola Pizza's breakfast variety ($12): chewy sourdough crust topped with fresh sauce, local mozzarella, locally cured speck, and a farm-fresh egg, sunny-side-up. What a way to start the day! On another morning, we opted for fruit-based refrescos from Fête Accompli paired with spicy bison tacos from Tacodeli and a marvelous slice of peach upside-down cake from Cake & Spoon. I grabbed a bag of purple hull peas, a small watermelon, and some CKC Farms herbed chevre before heading out. At the Barton Creek market, I picked up a fragrant box of Caskey Orchards peaches and an incredibly sweet cantaloupe from Caeda Farms near Elgin. Later, the tasty bison hot dogs from High Country Bison plumped up beautifully on the grill, and my whole house was perfumed while I processed the peaches for the freezer.

Though the severe drought has hit area farmers hard, causing earlier harvests of smaller crops, all the fruit I've tasted this summer – peaches, plums, melons, apples, figs – is sweeter and more flavorful than in years past. This tiny silver lining of the drought situation extends to the Hill Country grape harvest as well. Many vineyards have already harvested small crops of intensely flavored grapes. Winemakers expect the resulting wines to have a more robust alcohol content due to the higher sugar concentration in the drought-stressed fruit.

Restaurateur Michael Vilim was in touch last week with the news that he would be closing Streat (3211 Red River). The quick casual eatery with an eclectic international street food menu showed lots of promise but never really found a footing. Vilim blamed a more costly and longer-than-anticipated build-out on the space for the restaurant's demise. He also acknowledged that consistent production of such a wide variety of ethnic dishes had proven more difficult than he had anticipated. I'll miss Streat's churros and coffee.

The attractively landscaped Feed the Soul food trailer park (1508 Rio Grande) is now devoid of food trailers while members of St. Martin's Evangelical Lutheran Church (606 W. 15th) congregation try to build consensus with their neighbors regarding a zoning change that would allow the trailers to return. An anonymous complaint to the city of Austin's Code Compliance Department shut down the food trailer court last month. We can report that two of Feed the Soul's most popular trailers, Cha Thai and La Tasca, have relocated to the new Jessie Street Eats (415 Jessie) park and are back in business.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Quincy Erickson, Fete Accompli, Fête Accompli, Top Chef, Bravo, Top Chef Just Desserts, Lina Biancamano, Stephan Pyles, Paul Qui, farmers' market, Bola Pizza, Tacodeli, peaches, drought, Michael Vilim, Streat, Feed the Soul, food trailer, St. Martin's Evangelical Lutheran Church, code compliance

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