A group of Austin chefs had such a good time at the Wine & Swine outdoor pig roast last spring they planned a similar beef event for this year called Vaca y Vino. Inspired by the live-fire cooking of Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, chefs Emmett Fox, Andrew McArthur, Lou Lambert, and Larry McGuire put together a trial run last weekend in the Bridges Ranch pasture, and Chronicle contributors Wes Marshall, Mick Vann, and I were lucky enough to be invited. Guests enjoyed a feast of grilled fava beans, picadillo empanadas by Buenos Aires Cafe chef Reina Morris, succulent cuts of beef and spicy pork sausages with a tangy chimichurri, new potato salad, grilled escarole, and tres leches cake with mixed berry coulis, all paired with Argentine Malbec and local craft beers. The ranch property is beautiful, and the gracious Bridges family made everyone feel at home. Vaca y Vino benefits the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance; buy tickets ($75 per person before April 1, $95 after) at www.vacayvino.com.
Two of Austin's favorite female culinary entrepreneurs are launching a new product and looking for some community support. Marta Guzman of Marta's Desserts and Penny McConnell of Penny's Pastries have teamed up to create Chocolate Divino, a line of flavored hot chocolate mixes that are blended with evaporated milk. The talented duo is throwing a prelaunch party at Russell's Bistro (1601 W. 38th #1) on Sunday, March 4, from 3-5pm to debut samples of their delectable new products and give their Kickstarter campaign a boost. So if you were a devoted fan of Austin's best flan or the most exquisitely decorated sugar cookies in town, go to www.chocolatedivino.com to help get their new company off the ground.
Based on the success of the annual Food Fight online fundraising campaign, the Austin chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier International will award $6,000 in scholarships to local women pursuing a culinary education. For complete eligibility details and application forms, go to www.ldeiaustin.org before the March 15 deadline.
A lightning round of restaurant news: The lovely patio at the reopened Hickory Street (800 Congress) is already packed on sunny days; can't wait to try it... Asti Trattoria (408 E. 43rd) kicks off a new happy hour menu this week with a list of $5 menu items and $2 off of beers and wines by the glass, 4-6pm weekdays... Santiago and Solemar Aponte of the new Chago's Caribbean Cuisine (7301 N. Lamar) will serve the authentic flavors of their native Puerto Rico and El Salvador at our April 3 Paper Cuts event at the Palm Door, so be there to try it out... Saturday is kids' day at Opal Divine's three locations: kids 12 and younger eat free from 10am-3pm, and half price from 3-10pm (one free or discounted kids' meal for every adult entrée)... After sampling a couple of delicious tacos from the Little Shady food trailer, I'm eager for the Shady 7 restaurant (5100 E. Seventh) to open this month. Chef Tyson Blankemeyer describes the tacos, tortas, and aguas frescas as "food for Mexican souls."
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