A tasteful remembrance of an Austin original

Like many female Austinites in the Seventies, I became enamored of Joe Gracey's voice and his voluminous musical knowledge listening to him on KOKE-FM. By the time I finally met him a few years back, cancer had robbed him of his voice, but his nimble mind and wicked wit were still as enchanting as ever. I met Joe and his wife, Kimmie Rhodes, when I was assigned to profile her for the Chronicle Music section (see "Rich From the Journey," Music, Feb. 1, 2002). The three of us bonded over a shared love of music and good food. From then on, whether they were helping me determine wine and dessert pairings for a Valen­tine's presentation at Spicewood Vineyards, hosting a benefit dinner for Project Transitions, or entertaining visiting magazine editor Colman Andrews in their Briarcliff home, Joe and Kimmie generously shared discriminating palates, great humor, genuine friendship, and warm hospitality. I'm still proud of the fact that introducing them to Andrews played a part in Joe being invited to submit food articles to Saveur magazine and connecting the talented duo to Kelly Ann Hargrove had them teaching cooking classes as part of Central Market's Austin Music on the Menu series. I had a big crush on their marriage: a romance, a creative and business partnership, and a family all rolled into one. We should all be so lucky to have what Joe and Kimmie had in this life. The cancer returned recently and took Joe Gracey last month. Everyone who loved him feels that loss, and our hearts go out to Kimmie and their entire family.

Owners of Noble Pig (11815 RR 620 N. #4) threw a media party to launch a new deli space next door to the popular North­west Austin sandwich shop where everything is made from scratch. From the deli case, we sampled excellent charcuterie, dynamic mustards and pickled items, and pastrami to die for, all served with house-made breads. The food here is well worth the long drive.

I've been busy checking out new Sunday brunch offerings. It came as no surprise that the brunch at Contigo (2027 Anchor) was busy as soon as it was announced. Go early if you don't want to wait for a table (10:30am-2:30pm), and be sure to try the beef tongue hash ($12), the rabbit with dumplings ($15), and the potentially addictive raspberry jelly doughnuts ($3)... There was no wait for a table last Sunday when our party of 12 gathered at the new Eleven Plates & Wine (3801 Capital of TX Hwy. N. Ste. C-200). We enjoyed attentive service and excellent food. The eggs Benedict with jumbo lump crab cakes ($18) and bananas Foster French toast ($10) were the consensus stars of the table. The staff takes great care brewing the house signature iced teas, hot chai tea, and coffee drinks, and there's an extensive, eclectic wine selection. Go now (Sun­days, 10am-3pm), before the folks of Davenport Ranch and Riverbend Church make this delightful gem their go-to neighborhood brunch spot.

The fabulous annual holiday light and music extravaganza at Mozart's Coffee Roasters (3826 Lake Austin Blvd.) is bigger and better than ever this year; enjoy it hourly from 6pm until midnight through New Year's Eve.

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