The Austin Chronicle


Mourning the restaurant that brought Thai to Austin

By Virginia B. Wood, September 5, 2014, Food

• Austin gelato maker Matt Lee and his family are in Rimini, Italy, this week in preparation for the finals of the Gelato World Tour where the owner of Tèo Espresso, Gelato, & Bella Vita (1206 W. 38th) is representing North America Sept. 5-7. Since being chosen as a finalist in April, Lee has been busy developing a second competition flavor to serve alongside his winning Nuts creation made with a peanut base and a chocolate hazelnut swirl. The new flavor has a butter pecan base with a swirl of candied Texas pecans and whiskey caramel sauce made with Balcones single malt whiskey from Balcones Distillery in Waco. One of the last trial batches he made certainly tasted like a winner to me. Before Lee left, he was concerned that the pecans he had shipped to Italy in advance might get stuck in customs, so he said he and his family planned to pack extra pecans in their socks and underwear, just in case.

El Naranjo restaurant (85 Rainey) joins forces with the Consulate General of Mexico and the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at UT to present a Fiestas Patrias Culinary Festival Sept. 16-23. The event will feature renowned Mexican chef Tomas Dominguez in a series that includes dinners, a foodways seminar, and cooking classes based on the distinctive cuisine of the state of Veracruz. For information about the free foodways talk on campus, go to and to make reservations for the meals or cooking classes, email

Edible Austin has announced that the featured speaker at this year's Eat, Drink Local Week Dec. 6-13 will be chef Dan Barber (right) of Blue Hill restaurant at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture in New York and author of The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food (Penguin Group, $29.95). Barber will speak at the Paramount Theatre on Dec. 8, and tickets are on sale now at

Many Austinites, myself included, had their first taste of Thai food at Dick Simcoe's Little Thailand located in a mobile home near what was then Bergstrom Air Force Base. Opening in 1981, the Simcoes served up spicy Thai food, Dick's signature Thai Bloody Marys, and inimitable hospitality in that spot for years before moving to a building at 4315 Caldwell near the Garfield water tower before the turn of the century. Dick passed away in 2009, and Surin Simcoe announced recently that she was ready to retire. Little Thailand closed at the end of August – the end of an era, for sure.

After a summerlong refurbishment, the 1886 Cafe and Bakery in the historic Driskill Hotel reopens on Monday, Sept. 8 for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch. There's a new grab-and-go counter for coffee and pastries with easy access from the corner entrance on Sixth and a 12-seat Baker's Table with power outlets for guests who want to stay awhile.

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