The best news I've heard in a while is that chef/restaurateur Mark Schmidt is back in town and will open a new restaurant called Blackbird & Henry (3016 Guadalupe #100) sometime in February. Austinites will remember Schmidt and his sommelier wife, Shelly, as the proprietors of the former fine dining destination restaurant Cafe 909 in Marble Falls. Schmidt, who spent much of his youth in England, already had a firm grasp on the nose-to-tail, farm-to-plate cooking aesthetic before it became trendy in this country, so elements of that style are bound to be featured at his new place. He also had a profound impact on young chefs who came through the Cafe 909 kitchen, most notably Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine and Odd Duck, whom Schmidt identified as a rising star early on, and David Griffin, who will once again be cooking with Schmidt at the new eatery. We have more to say about Mark Schmidt and Blackbird & Henry on our daily feed (austinchronicle.com/daily/food).
Texas Monthly barbecue editor Daniel Vaughn reported at TMBBQ.com last week that KLRU will produce a 10-episode television program tracing the history and culture of barbecue in the state of Texas with Austin celebrity pitmaster Aaron Franklin as the host. According to Vaughn, money is being raised to finance the series and episodes will begin at Austin's famous Franklin Barbecue before setting out to other locales, perhaps even to some barbecue competitions. This program is being developed after the great success of last year's web series, BBQ With Franklin, which has now been viewed over a million times. New episodes of the web series are in the works as well.
And while we're on the subject of food television, Bravo has announced that they are adding a new program to the successful Top Chef stable. Look for Top Chef Extreme (working title) to debut later this year with former chef-testants returning to compete against one another. No word yet on whether Austin's own Top Chef winner, Paul Qui, has signed up for the show, but his photo is being used in press materials.
Peached Tortilla entrepreneur Eric Silverstein announced last week that he expects to open the first brick-and-mortar location of his popular food truck concept at 5520 Burnet Rd. in the fall of 2014. While the restaurant is under construction, Silverstein intends to continue the series of pop-up dinners he began last year to familiarize more Austinites with his fusion cuisine. More information about the dinners will appear on the Peached Tortilla Facebook page.
And speaking of things announced via social media: Titaya's Facebook page updated last week with the news that, pending any last-minute hiccups, the restaurant's long-awaited grand reopening (5501 N. Lamar Ste. C-101) will take place Friday, Jan. 31. The beloved Thai eatery missed an opening target date earlier in the month, but we're betting there are long lines there on Friday.
There are only a few last-minute seats left for Project Transitions' Guess Who's Coming to Dinner benefit dinners on Sat., Feb. 1. Call 512/454-8646 for reservations, and visit www.projecttransitions.org for more info.
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