Food

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT

The second Austin Food & Wine Festival wrapped Sunday, with a new setup and schedule.

While last year's festival was marred by long lines, little food and a dusty Auditorium Shores, a venue change to Butler Park (with plenty of grass and shade) and some tweaks to the schedule (with less events competing with each other) made for a vastly improved festival experience.

TastyTouring/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/tastytouring/4715459338/

Celebrity chefs will descend on the city this weekend for the second annual Austin Food and Wine Festival. People will shell out at least $250 for the opportunity to taste the food of famous cooks such as Marcus Samuelson, Jonathan Waxman and Graham Elliot

But if the ticket price is too high for your budget, you can still enjoy some of the featured food without having to buy a badge. That's because many of the chefs have restaurants right here in Austin. Austin American-Statesman restaurant critic Matthew Odam stopped by KUT to tell us about some of the local chefs at the Austin Food and Wine Fest. Listen to our conversation by clicking the player above. 

www.flckr.com/worldbankphotocollection

On the table today at the Capitol’s “Food Policy Day” is school breakfast. That’s federally funded cereal, milk, yogurt and fruit.

Now, about 1,800 schools in Texas participate in the federal School Breakfast Program. Food policy advocates and some legislators are hoping that a bill up for vote at the Capitol would add another 1,000 schools to the list.

Qui/Facebook

Austin’s restaurant scene is constantly growing and evolving, and Jessica Dupuy, food editor at CultureMap.com, has her eye on five openings expected between now and the summer. Click the player above to hear our conversation and read her article at CultureMap.

Marissa Barnett for KUT News

It was perhaps the most well-known food trailer park in Austin, but now the mobile food vendors on the 1600 block of South Congress have been given a date by when they’ll have to leave: May 25.

SOCO ATX Development notified vendors last week. The company plans to build a three-story hotel on the lot, according to documents filed with the city. The building will include space for retail and a two-story underground parking garage. 

Alberto Martinez, Austin American-Statesman

Sway is one of the most talked about new restaurants in South Austin, but it’s not exactly on the lower end of the price scale. A couple people could easily rack up a $60 tab before ordering any drinks. So is it worth it?

To help answer that question we spoke with Austin American-Statesman restaurant critic Matthew Odam.

Specner Selvidge for the Texas Tribune

Using wooden tokens, Ellen Ray pays for carrots, parsnips and broccoli at the Austin Sustainable Food Center’s farmers market in Sunset Valley. Ray, a participant in the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is grateful that the market allows customers to buy its fresh produce with SNAP benefits.

“I was overwhelmingly enthusiastic when I found out they took SNAP,” Ray said, eyeing jam at one stand. “It’s an enabler to do something I already love.”

SNAP, which is operated in Texas by the state’s Health and Human Services Commission, has provided grants and other support to states including Texas to make it easier for farmers markets to accept benefits as currency. Another federally funded program that helps low-income Texans buy groceries, the Texas Women, Infants and Children program, launched a two-year pilot program in December 2011 to allow farmers markets to accept WIC customers.

htomren/Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/htomren/8577768870/

In the area between downtown and the University of Texas, there are not a lot of food options, writes Austin American-Statesman restaurant critic Matthew Odam. In his latest review, Odam writes about Cherry Street, a restaurant that brings some Italian flavor to the area.

Odam dropped by KUT today and talked about the Cherry Street's appeal to the Capitol lunch crowd and its effort to build an evening service. Listen to what he had to say by clicking the player above. 

Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts

Austin Independent School District teachers may tell their students they’re special, but numbers never lie. And the numbers say that they’re (just a bit) above average.

Thankfully, that’s not a bad thing.

This interactive map from the office of Comptroller Susan Combs displays the body mass index rates of over 2 million students in public schools across Texas. The measurements are based on statistics from the Fitnessgram, a program which measures the fitness levels of Texas public school students from grades three to 12. And it's also the target of a bill in the state legislature that would end the program.

Marissa Barnett for KUT News

South Congress could be missing some visitors by the end of this weekend, and not just because the last of Austin’s South by Southwest visitors have fled to the airport: the land between East Milton and East Monroe streets on South Congress Avenue where nearly a dozen food trailers are parked each day could be vacated any day now.  

When KUT News visited the park on Friday, almost every trailer offered a different closing day: “this Sunday,” “by the end of March,” “sometime around April” or “nothing is certain yet.”

nuevoleoninaustin.com

After 31 years in operation, east end Tex-Mex restaurant Nuevo Leon has closed. 

Owner Rachel Davila left a note on the door this weekend announcing the closure and thanking customers for their years of business. We called Davila and asked her about why she started the restaurant, the changes she’s seen in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood, and what she plans for the future.

KUT News: Why are you closing your restaurant?

Rachel Davila: I am retiring and the only way I can retire is to close it and sell it.

flickr.com/wallyg

Torchy’s Tacos has been keeping Austinites fed since 2004. Back then, they had little more than a trailer and some taco fixings. Now, Torchy’s has opened locations in both Dallas and Houston, and is literally slinging tacos with its famous Taco Cannon.

But despite statewide success, Torchy's is still keeping secrets.

Jenn Hueting/Oceana

According to a new study from ocean conservation advocates Oceana, one-third of the nation’s seafood is mislabeled.

Oceana collected 1,200 seafood samples from 674 retail outlets in 21 states to determine if they were honestly labeled. Mislabeling occurred anywhere from 87 percent (red snapper) to seven percent  (salmon) depending on the kind of fish.

flickr.com/ahockley

The James Beard Foundation announced its semi-finalists for one of the most prestigious set of culinary awards, and five local chefs made the shortlist

  • Tyson Cole of Uchi and Uchiko (Outstanding Chef)
  • Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine (Rising Star Chef of the Year and Best Chef: Southwest)
  • Janina O’Leary of TRACE (Rising Star Chef of the Year)
  • Laura Sawicki of La Condesa (Outstanding Pastry Chef)
  • Rene Ortiz of La Condesa (Best Chef: Southwest)

Whole Foods

Whole Foods is recalling two lots of Whole Catch Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon because it may be contaminated with Listeria—a bacteria that can lead to fatal infections in young children, elderly people and people with weakened immune systems.

The second lot, with code 7425A2297A printed on the back of the package, on the upper left side, was sold in Texas stores.

flickr.com/aged_accozzaglia

The Austin City Council is set to hear a request from Wheatsville Co-op on whether it can sell beer and wine at a new location on South Lamar Boulevard.

A respected local business looking to open a second location, with the backing of neighbors and local organizations: sounds like a slam-dunk, right? 

flickr.com/dasqfamily

The Austin Yellow Pages lists 39 doughnut shops in the Capital City.

Now former Longhorn Colt McCoy, known better for passing the pigskin than passing the crullers, is set to increase that number by more than half: An investment crew lead by the former UT quarterback is planning on bringing two dozen Dunkin’ Donuts stores to Austin.

KUT News

Local farm and food enthusiasts already have sown some seeds at the Texas Capitol, and they’re pressing for more legislation in 2013 that could help their industries grow.

Proposals likely to come before lawmakers once they convene in January will address food sampling at farmers’ markets, expanding last session’s “cottage foods” law and reducing barriers for small farms seeking the agricultural property tax exemption.

As bill filing began Nov. 12 for the upcoming session, Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, proposed legislation easing restrictions on the sale of raw milk, a measure some small farmers backed unsuccessfully in 2011.

KUT News

No holiday is more closely associated with food than Thanksgiving. But many Central Texans will be thankful just to get enough to eat this holiday season.

Several free holiday meals are being offered this Thanksgiving holiday. 

In a week in which the news has been filled with a fiscal cliff, rockets, sex and security, a restaurant review also raised a ruckus.

Pete Wells, the restaurant critic of The New York Times, reviewed the new restaurant Guy Fieri has opened in Times Square with a string of rhetorical questions that began by asking Mr. Fieri if he's ever eaten at his own place.

flickr.com/kevharb

The 2012 Austin City Limits Festival is less than 24 hours away.

Thousands of ACL attendees are probably compiling lists of bands to see, foods to eat, and places to go. But it's going to be a challenge: There's over 100 different acts performing at the festival, close to 40 different vendors serving all types of food and drink, and tons of events and parties going on all over downtown Austin.

While we can’t put your list together for you, maybe we can help you get started.

Here's some picks compiled by KUT's Austin Music Matters team: 

From Susan Castle, KUT Music Host:

flickr.com/winemegup

Rain or shine, the annual St. Elias Mediterranean Festival is kicking off this weekend.

The festival, now in its 80th year, promises Mediterranean delights from Lebanon, Palestine, Greece, Eritrea and Romania. According to the festival, “Gyros, Kibbee, Baklava, Spanakopita and Mici are only the beginning as you feast outdoors on delicacies from the Orthodox world.”

Along with a feast of foods, the festival will offer shopping in a festival marketplace, dance demonstrations and children’s activities at the Kid’s Oasis. Music and live dancing will be provided by Laand Greek Ensemble.

facebook.com/backspaceaustin

Dozens of Austin restaurants are highlighting their best this week, offering deals on three-course prix fixe dinners. It’s all part of Austin Restaurant Week, a biannual event that raises awareness of Austin’s culinary scene and money for charities.

Restaurant Week is a bit of a misnomer, however: it’s actually made up of two half-weeks. The good eats kicked off yesterday, Sept. 23, take a break on the 26th, resume Sept. 30, and come to an end on Oct. 3.

Taylor Perkins is with Austin Restaurant Week. He says the festival is a testament to Austin’s burgeoning culinary standing. “The event has grown hand-in-hand with the Austin culinary scene,” he says. This installment marks Austin Restaurant Week's fourth year.

Where foodie influences were previously imported into Austin, Perkins says local chefs have evolved to create their own styles. “The scene in Austin has really come into its own,” he says. The majority of participating restaurants are found only in Austin, and Restaurant Week increasingly focuses on restaurants that source locally and offer a unique experience.

flickr.com/Matt Peoples

While food trucks have been embraced in Austin and can be found clustered throughout the city, Houston food truck owners are struggling to change city ordinances that impose limits on their operations. 

Yesterday, dozens of food truck operators and enthusiasts came before the Houston City Council to petition for changes in mobile food unit ordinance, which bans food trucks that use propane stoves and grills from operating in the busy downtown area.

The Houston Mobile Food Unit Collective has proposed that the mobile food unit ordinances be amended to allow trucks with propane tanks under 40 pounds to operate downtown, eliminate the required 60 feet of space between trucks and permit food trucks to provide up to three tables and six chairs for patrons.

Congress is set to make a brief appearance in Washington this week, then recess until after Election Day. That means a farm bill is likely to be left undone, just one of the many items on lawmakers' "to-do" lists that won't happen anytime soon.

KUT News

Almost one out of five Texas households is at risk of hunger, according to a new report by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The USDA says 18.5 percent of Texans households experienced “low or very low food security” from 2009 to 2011. The Texas rate exceeds the national average by almost four percent and is the third highest rate of “food insecurity” in the country.

The USDA considers a family “food secure” if it has enough nutritious food to eat without having to rely on emergency food supplies, scavenging or stealing food. The USDA has used food insecurity as a measure since 2006 because it says “hunger is an individual-level physiological condition” which is more difficult to track.

KUT News

A Stanford University study published today doubting the health benefits of organic fruits, vegetables and meats has some Texas farmers raising questions.

The study, authored by Dena Bravata, MD, MS, was published in today’s issue of Annals of Internal Medicine. It found no consistent differences in the vitamin content of organic food versus the cost-cutting, conventionally grown alternative.

“That study doesn’t really look at a lot of very important factors,” says Judith McGeary, founder of the Texas-based Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. “Vitamin content isn’t the only issue, even for adults. One issue is the exposure to pesticides, which are to be blunt, poison. And the study did show that there was significantly less exposure to pesticides from organic produce than from conventional."

Todd Wiseman / Julie Jordan Scott, Texas Tribune

As Congress debates proposed cuts to programs that help feed needy families and school children, some school officials and advocates for low-income families are concerned about how the changes could affect Texans who rely on food stamps and reduced price school lunches.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, provides food for 3.6 million Texans each year. But some lawmakers argue that the program has grown too large and become too expensive, and they are looking for ways to cut SNAP in the 2012 Farm Bill.

"A lot of Texas families rely on SNAP, especially now," said Jonathan Lewis, food policy specialist for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an Austin-based liberal think tank. "Families that already are having trouble paying for their electrical bill, rent and the gas in their car could struggle even more." 

Photo courtesy flickr.com/USDAgov

The Austin Independent School District will be feeding free breakfast and lunch to children starting today. The summer food service program is in place at more than two dozen campuses.

Students don’t have to apply for the program. The free meals are open to any child ages one through 18 regardless of family income.

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