A boozy bread pudding recipe from specialty food pioneers Fischer & Wieser

Earlier this week, I told you about Fischer & Wieser, the specialty food company in Fredericksburg that gained national fame in the 1990s with their roasted raspberry chipotle sauce.

Case Fischer, CEO and President, and his wife Deanna Fischer, Chief Experience Officer, of Fischer & Wieser, a Central Texas company which has been selling jams and jellies from Fredericksburg for more than three decades. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

It’s hard to believe this, but before 1996, you wouldn’t find raspberry chipotle anywhere, but in the years that followed, many specialty foods companies started blending sweet, smoke and heat in grocery store products. Fischer & Wieser continued to grow, adding more partnerships and products as the years rolled by, and last month, I toured their production facility to give you a glimpse of what goes into making the next roasted raspberry chipotle sauce.

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Hundreds of boxes of test recipes sit in a warehouse of Fischer & Wieser, which has been selling jams and jellies from their Fredericksburg headquarters, called Peach Haus, which opened as a peach stand in the 1950’s. The company has grown into an international condiment and sauce company, with a production facility in an old building in Fredericksburg, TX.

One of their bestselling products is an amaretto peach preserve, an ingredient in one of the company’s most popular recipes, this pecan bread pudding that tastes like it has amaretto. You could easily add a splash of rum or amaretto to this dish when making it to add a more pronounced flavor, or you could rely on the jam alone for the hint of amaretto.

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This amaretto bread pudding is one of many recipes on Fischer & Wieser’s website that gives cooks ideas for how to use their products. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Amaretto Peach Pecan Bread Pudding

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 jar Fischer & Wieser Amaretto Peach Pecan Preserves
1 cup pecan pieces
6 loaves Mexican-style bolillo bread
6 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the sauce:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 10-inch-by-14-inch baking dish with vegetable spray. In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese with half the preserves and half of the pecan pieces.

Slice the bread across as though for sandwiches and spread the cream cheese mixture between the slices. Replace the lid on each loaf.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, heavy cream, milk, brown sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon and salt. Tear the bolillo sandwiches into small chunks and set into the egg mixture. When all bread is in the bowl, press down to absorb all the liquid. Let sit for about 5 minutes, then transfer to the baking dish. Press down gently to cover and flatten the top. Bake in oven till set and golden brown, about 1 hour.

As baking time nears its end, prepare the sauce by combining the sugar, water and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Let the liquid bubble without stirring until it turns golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Don’t let it burn. Stir in the cream until the sauce is smooth, then add the remaining preserves. Turn off heat and let preserves liquefy into the sauce. Remove the bread pudding from the oven and let cool about 10 minutes. Spoon sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining pecan pieces. Serve warm in squares. Serves 10 to 12.

— From Fischer & Wieser, jelly.com

Sorry, coworker dude: That’s not how you make mac ‘n’ cheese

Mac and cheese took over Twitter today.

A Twitter user @coolstoryjanis posted a photo on Thursday morning of a macaroni and cheese that her coworker brought to potluck.

It doesn’t look like the mac and cheese that you might have been expecting.


Of all the mistakes you could make when preparing mac and cheese, this one is pretty common. Technically, it *is* macaroni and cheese, but the cheese hasn’t been heated enough to melt and — even more critically — hasn’t been melted into a sauce that will coat the pasta.

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This poor coworker got roasted on social media, but I think we’ve all been there (minus the internet shame).

So how do you make proper homemade mac and cheese? Well, you could just buy a frozen container of Luby’s and serve it in a casserole dish — just don’t fib about it when you get to the potluck.

Luby’s makes some of the best mac and cheese around, and you can buy it in the frozen section of many H-E-B stores. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

For traditional homemade cheese, you’ll need to make a standard bechamel sauce with flour/butter/milk/cheese, similar to this Chowhound recipe.

It’s not difficult to cook the flour in the butter and then add the milk and cheese, but it does take more effort than opening a box.

That’s not to say I don’t serve the Kraft blue box, too, but it’s nice to know how to make a cheesy sauce that you can use on plain ol’ macaroni or in a casserole.

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Best-ever homework assignment leads to best-ever granola

Earlier this week, my first-grader came home with a school assignment that made my heart swell: “We have to make something together. You know, like cookies or something.”

My 7-year-old son had a homework assignment earlier this week that required us to make something together, so we made granola. Avery was the one who picked out the cookbook, and we used our reading skills to find the right recipe and page number. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Avery, a 7-year-old who has struggled a bit recently with homework motivation, was obviously angling for cookies, but I’m not quite ready for cookie season to start, but more importantly, it was 8 p.m. when he told me about the project. I needed a dish that was faster to make than cookies and involved ingredients that were a little more kid-friendly to measure.

Nuts and oats are easier to scoop for little hands than vanilla extract, sugar and flour, I thought, so I suggested granola, a food he has enjoyed before but isn’t a regular fixture in his diet. I didn’t give him time to try to convince me to make the cookies instead. “Go to the bookshelf and find a cookbook with a granola recipe”

He reached for Alton Brown’s “Good Eats: Volume 1, The Early Years” (Harry N. Abrams, $37.50), recognizing the author as “the guy who dressed up like a meatball” on a television show. Together, we looked up the “g” recipes in the back and sounded out “granola.” He was in charge of flipping to the correct page number.

We omitted the shredded coconut and added chia seeds and flaxseeds to this Alton Brown-inspired granola. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

I read the recipe introduction to him and we followed Alton’s instructions to use a digital scale to measure ingredients. Avery helped me tare the scale after each ingredient, and we learned about ounces and grams. We also used our knowledge of categories and science to make substitutions.

Instead of using cashews, we went for walnuts, and we skipped the coconut. The almonds in my pantry were already toasted, and Avery guessed correctly that we shouldn’t add them until the end. He was feeling adventurous enough in the moment to let me add chia seeds and flaxseeds, which I explained would make the granola extra-healthy.

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We used non-maple syrup and watched the oil and the syrup separate in the measuring cup. His brother, who is studying density in fifth grade, stepped in to give his own science lesson, and by the time the granola was in the oven and it was almost bedtime, Avery was still thinking of adaptations we could do if we made the granola again, like mashing bananas or applesauce with the syrup.

He was asleep by the time the granola finally came out of the oven. I finished adding the raisins and let it cool overnight. In the morning, he was delighted to snack on a treat he’d had such a hand in making, and we packed a bunch of it into a plastic container for his classmates and teacher.

Even if she couldn’t pass the granola out to the class, she could enjoy it as a little mid-year teacher appreciation. The next day, she stopped me in the hall to ask for the recipe, calling it the best granola she’d ever had.

Well, that was the best homework assignment he’d ever had, so I guess we’re even.

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Teacher’s Favorite Granola

10 ounces rolled oats
4 1/2 ounces slivered almonds
5 ounces raw cashews, walnuts or pecans
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
3 ounces dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon flaxseed or wheat germ (optional)
3 ounces maple syrup
2 ounces vegetable oil
4 ounces raisins or other dried fruit

Heat over to 250 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, almonds, cashews, coconut, brown sugar and salt. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the oil and maple syrup. Add to the dry mixture and stir to combine.

Transfer the mixture to a sheet pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to ensure even browning.

— Adapted from a recipe in “Good Eats: Volume 1, The Early Years” by Alton Brown (Harry N. Abrams, $37.50)



Anthony Bourdain’s latest project hits Alamo Drafthouse this weekend

Anthony Bourdain might be known for being drunk on screen, but his latest project, “Wasted,” isn’t about booze.

The popular CNN host and author is now on a crusade to help us understand why food waste is a growing international problem.

The movie, which debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, opens this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, with wider release possible if ticket sales are good, and you can also find it On Demand. You can find screenings at the South Lamar Drafthouse for tonight and into next week.

The film features appearances by chefs, including Dan Barber, Mario Batali, Massimo Bottura and Danny Bowien, and is directed by the Emmy-winning Nari Kye and Anna Chai, who is known for her work on “The Mind of a Chef” and “The Layover with Anthony Bourdain

According to a release: “Audiences will see how the world’s most influential chefs make the most of every kind of food, transforming what most people consider scraps and rejects into incredible dishes that feed more people and create a more sustainable food system. The film also features several food waste reduction stories all over the world including waste-fed pigs in Japan, a disposal program that has reduced household food waste by 30 percent in South Korea and a garden education curriculum New Orleans”


Slurp up this behind-the-scenes video of the world’s largest ramen expo

Remember that world’s largest ramen expo we told you about a few weeks ago?

Ramen Expo USA was in Austin earlier this week, and attendees found booths from businesses that make all kinds of ramen products, including noodles. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Well, it took place Monday and Tuesday at the Travis County Expo Center, and I stopped by on Tuesday afternoon to check it out.

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There were about two dozen booths with vendors who make noodles, broth, seasoning, dumpling, chopsticks, bowls and everything else you’d need to run a ramen shop. I was there right around the time the expo opened to the public, so you’ll see the lines growing at some of the ramen booths and hear from a local food truck owner about why he was there.

Kale noodles were one of the discoveries at the Ramen Expo USA that took place in Austin this week. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

H-E-B is making meal kits, but are they any good?

Purple Carrot, Blue Apron, HelloFresh and Plated have created an entirely new segment of the grocery industry: The meal kit.

Many grocery stores are starting to make their own meal kits, and this is H-E-B’s Meal Simple kit filled with the ingredients to make beef stroganoff. Everything except the cooked egg noodles were fine, but I decided against using the mushy pasta in the final dish after tasting a small bite of it. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

These handy (or overly expensive and wasteful, depending on whom you ask) kits contain all the ingredients you need to make a meal. Some services focus on healthful eating or vegetarian meals, while other emphasize their sourcing or unique recipes.

All these services cost about $10 per serving, give or take a dollar and whatever promotion they might have going on.

With sales in the billions, it’s no wonder meal kit companies are inspired traditional grocery outlets to create their own meal kits. Central Market has had them, to some degree, for years, but only recently has H-E-B introduced what feels like a direct competitor to the iced-down box that might drop on your door.

H-E-B’s new meal kits. From heb.com.

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You might have seen at H-E-B the little trays of salmon or chicken with a small side of vegetables and a grain that you heat up in the oven or microwave, but this latest round of prepared meal kits requires the cook to do some of the work.

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These H-E-B Meal Simple meal kits ($14-18 for two servings) come in a cardboard box with a recipe card explaining the steps in the meal. From options including chicken stir fry, teriyaki salmon and chicken marsala, I chose the beef stroganoff with green beans. The beef was already sliced and the green beans trimmed, two nice touches that differentiated it from the ingredients as I’d buy them on their in the store. The stroganoff sauce came in a bag and — wait for it — so did the cooked noodles.

H-E-B is making a variety of Meal Simple meal kits. They aren’t as adventurous as the meal kits you might order online, but they are also less expensive. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

After I’d cooked the beef and the green beans, I opened the bag of broken, soft egg noodles and nibbled on one of them. They tasted as bad as I’d feared, so I tossed them in the trash and cooked a pot of egg noodles I had in the pantry.

With the sprinkle of Parmesan and red pepper flakes, the meal felt like a slightly different meal than what I might have made otherwise, but it didn’t taste gourmet. Gourmet isn’t exactly H-E-B’s brand, but the dishes didn’t have the appeal of some of the more creative dishes we are seeing from the national meal kit delivery companies. That doesn’t mean these kits won’t sell, of course. They are priced at $7-9 per serving, which is about the same as the H-E-B tray meal that you cook in the oven and don’t have to do any active cooking to prepare.

H-E-B is introducing many new “helper” products that allow cooks to create different kinds of dishes at home than what they’d normally make. These sweet potato ribbons weren’t the most delicious thing I’ve ever made, but maybe to another palate they might be. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

On a side note, I also recently tried one of the new H-E-B Veggie Toss Kits ($3.48), and I was also underwhelmed. I picked the sweet potato noodle and alfredo sauce, but the two flavors just didn’t meld well. The sweet potatoes cooked nicely and the little package of sauce was decent, unlike the noodles in the kit above, which were inedible.

Are there too many farmers markets? 10-year market closing this month

Austin is losing a farmers market at the end of the month.

After 10 years of bringing local food to Austinites in one of the first mixed-use projects in the city, the SFC Farmers’ Market at the Triangle is closing Oct. 25, according to the Sustainable Food Center, the local nonprofit that runs two other markets in Sunset Valley and downtown.

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The SFC Farmers’ Market at the Triangle opened in 2010 and took place every Wednesday afternoon in the mixed-use building north of the University of Texas. 2010 photo by An Chih Cheng / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Joy Casnovsky, the deputy director of SFC, said it was a decision the staff made after many conversations with farmers and other vendors, who reported lower sales in recent years as the number of markets in the area expanded.

The farmers’ market at the Triangle featured more than a dozen vendors from all over Central Texas. 2007 photo by Kitty Crider / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

More markets means more options for customers — perhaps too many options (see below) — but it means more labor and time away from the farm for the farmers.

“Over the past decade, our Central Texas food community has seen amazing growth in the number of sales opportunities for our local producers, and we are so proud that our Triangle market helped to shape this growth,” Casnovsky wrote in a statement on the website. “Unfortunately, it appears now that this market location is no longer a viable option for our farmers, ranchers and food artisans.”

Regular patrons of the SFC Farmers’ Market at the Triangle gathered for playdates and weeknight picnics to enjoy the live music, fresh food and neighborly vibe. Leslie Pool is seen here with her pet cat, Jake. 2008 photo by Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Triangle farmers market was the second market that SFC opened, just a few years after opening the downtown location. In 2010, SFC opened a third market in Sunset Valley, which is still open in the Burger Center parking lot, and the longtime market that had been operating in that space became Barton Creek Farmers Market and moved to Barton Creek Square Mall, where it now has a stunning view of the downtown skyline.

The nonprofit said that the proposed last day of the market is Oct. 25, so check the Facebook page for updates.

So, does this closure mean the local food economy is saturated?

Although the Triangle is a rare mid-week farmers’ market in the middle of the city, shoppers these days can choose from more than a dozen farmers’ markets in the Austin area, from the larger markets at Barton Creek Square Mall and Lakeline Mall on Saturdays and the Mueller development and Plaza Saltillo on Sundays, to weekend (and some weekday markets) in Bee Cave, Dripping Springs, Buda, San Marcos, Round Rock and Georgetown that have a small-town feel and a loyal customer base.

The markets in the outer areas of Austin seems to be doing well, even with the expansion of Trader Joe’s, Sprouts’ and Whole Foods’ new 365 store. The organizers of the Williamson County markets are teasing two new markets in Cedar Park, which is already home to Texas Farmers Market’s Lakeline market.

Are customers in the middle of Austin saturated with options? Is the Triangle too off-the-radar for newer Austinites? Are they getting local produce delivered by CSA? Are they hitting up the local farmstands at Boggy Creek, Springdale Farm and Green Gate Farm? Are they growing more food on their own or simply at traditional food stores instead?

My gut says that the mid-week market was too hard for customers to get to, especially as traffic in the city has worsened. There’s no way I can get to that Triangle market from my office downtown — much less my house even farther south — during that weekday afternoon window. But I also know that the farmers who kept the market going for so many years have to be smart about how they spend their time and how much they make at each market. On Facebook, several shoppers commented about the dwindling number of vendors at the market over the past few years.

What do you notice at local farmers markets these days? Are there too many markets or not enough? Did you go to the Triangle market? What will you miss about it?

Republic Square Park reopened, but SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown isn’t moving back in – yet

In May of 2016, Republic Square Park closed for renovations, and the SFC Farmers’ Market Downtown had to move out of the park and into a closed-off section of a street next to the park.

The park finally reopened late this week, but the market isn’t moving back in just yet.

Republic Square reopened to the public the evening of Oct. 5, 2017, for the first time in over a year. Photo courtesy of Emily Smith

The Sustainable Food Center has been running the downtown market on Saturday mornings for more than a decade in this historic park west of Congress Avenue, but the dozens of farmers, ranchers and food artisans who sell each week haven’t been able to line the edges of the green space, including a lovely strip near the stunning new federal courthouse, like they always have.

The Sustainable Food Center’s Farmers’ Market Downtown had to move to accommodate recent renovations to Republic Square Park, but the market will be moving back into the park on Oct. 14. Rodolfo Gonzalez for the Austin American-Statesman

The city announced this week that Republic Square Park was officially reopen, but the Sustainable Food Center says it won’t be able to move the market back into the park because of the last-minute notice. This weekend’s market will have the same footprint that it has had since last year, but on Oct. 14, shoppers will find vendors set up in the newly renovated park. There won’t be an official reopening event until March, a rep with the nonprofit said.

SFC operates three weekly farmers markets, including one on Saturday mornings at Toney Burger Center in Sunset Valley and another on Wednesday afternoons at the Triangle in Central Austin, and they also host an array of cooking and gardening classes at their East Austin headquarters. Click here to find the schedule of upcoming events, as well as the locations of the organization’s community farmstands.

When it comes to queso, why processed cheese is your friend (and Velveeta is just OK)

Lisa Fain’s new cookbook, “Queso!: Regional Recipes for the World’s Favorite Chile-Cheese Dip” (Ten Speed Press, $15), is about one of Texas’ most iconic dishes.

Lisa Fain’s new cookbook is all about queso, a dip that’s easy to make at home if you know how to work with melting cheese. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

The author of the popular Homesick Texan blog has published two indispensable books that cover a range of Texas staples, but in this book, she dives deep on queso, a deceptively simple dip that dates back farther than you might think and has as many regional variations as tacos and chili. (Mark your calendars for Nov. 2, which is her book launch event at BookPeople.)

The most common queso in Laredo, for instance, is called choriqueso and is as much chorizo as shredded Monterey Jack cheese browned under the broiler. In Houston, you might have grown up eating the thick, paprika- and cayenne-laced queso at Felix Mexican Restaurant, but just on the other side of the border in Mexico, you might find queso fundido, a gooey dip so thick that it’s best eaten with tortillas, or even queso guisado, which is made with cubes of non-melting cheese stewed in chilies and tomatoes.

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Homesick Texan writer Lisa Fain lives in New York City but grew up in Texas. Her new book is all about queso. Contributed by Homesick Texan.

Fain covers all the Austin variations, from the heavy, spicy queso at Torchy’s Tacos to the thinner diner-style queso you’d find at Kerbey Lane and Magnolia Cafe, and these are the most helpful recipes for most cooks who are trying to break out of the Velveeta rut.

And this is where I found the biggest takeaway for this novice queso maker: Just buy the processed cheese.

Fain clearly distinguishes between brick processed cheese (aka Velveeta, which she does not disparage) and American processed cheese, which is sold in pre-packaged slices and at the deli counter. Here’s how she explains the difference:

American cheese is a blend of cheeses such as Cheddar and Monterey Jack mixed with oils, milk and emulsifiers. It’s a semifirm cheese that has a low melting point, which makes it ideal for Tex-Mex chile con queso, though it does need liquid and/or starch to hold it together in a smooth sauce.

Brick processed cheese is a mixture of various cheeses, oils and stabilizers that doesn’t have enough diary to legally be called cheese, so instead it’s classified as “cheese food.” No matter, because of these qualities, it’s amazing for queso as it doesn’t need any extra stabilizers to melt smoothly.

These are two different American processed cheeses, one is yellow and the other is white. Most yellow cheeses are colored with annatto, so these are nearly indistinguishable in taste from one another, but they taste different from Velveeta, which is processed even further so that it is shelf stable but melts more quickly. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Those are just two of more than a dozen cheeses that Fain explains how to use in the book, but these are the two that you’ll most likely want to use for everyday Austin queso. I made the diner-style queso this morning, and it does, in fact, taste like what you’d get during happy hour on a number of local patios, and the best thing — to me — is that it didn’t taste like Velveeta.

IMHO, there’s a time and a place for Velveeta, and that’s a big party where you’re serving a bunch of people and there’s a whole spread of food. If queso is the focus of the moment — say, you’re having a friend over for a drink after work — Velveeta doesn’t cut it. Sure, it melts like a dream, but it’s too yellow, too salty, too chemical-y to really savor.

Processed American cheese melts easily in the hot milk and water that has been thickened with cornstarch. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

However, thanks to Fain’s book, I now have a better understanding of how to turn the next best thing (American processed cheese) into that smooth, creamy dip that keeps us coming back to Mexican restaurants in Austin. The key is cornstarch, which she whisks with milk and water or chicken broth in a number of the book’s recipes. The cornstarch dissolves in the liquid and then thickens the dip over heat. (The queso I made this morning was almost thick enough to dip even before I added the shredded cheese.)

Lastly, I wanted to mention how delightful it was to see the creative dishes in the back of the book: chicken fried steak with queso gravy, a green chile queso burger, macaroni and cheese with green chile queso blanco. She even has a recipe for a Frito wedge salad — a chunk of iceberg lettuce topped with black beans, Frito chips, sliced grape tomatoes and a little drizzle of queso — and a cream cheese-based ice cream with green chile jam.


Here’s your chance to have bubbles and brunch with goats

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop is always hosting cool events, but this month, they are getting the goats involved.

Bee Tree Farm near Manor is a farmstead dairy and cheesemaking farm, and you can tour the farm at an upcoming brunch event. Contributed by Antonelli’s Cheese House

The popular Hyde Park cheese store has two events this month where you can learn about cheesemaking and meet goats while you’re at it.

The first is a Bubbles and Brunch event at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 14 at Bee Tree Farm, that goat farm near Manor that sells farmstead cheeses, including halloumi. Attendees will meet at the farm at 8317 Burleson Manor Road to enjoy cheese, charcuterie and adult beverages while enjoying a fall morning in the country. Tickets cost $55.

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Jester King and Pure Luck Dairy & Farm are two stops on an upcoming Antonelli’s Cheese Shop events. Contributed by Antonelli’s Cheese Shop

On Saturday, Oct. 28, the cheese shop will host a bus tour to Pure Luck Farm & Dairy and Jester King Brewery, which are both near Dripping Springs. The event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and attendees will gather at Antonelli’s Cheese House, 500 Park Boulevard, to catch a ride that will include tastings on the bus. At Pure Luck, guests will tour the farm and enjoy their famed products, do the same at the brewery and then head back to Austin for a chocolate tasting back at the cheese shop. Tickets cost $125.

Another event of note this month is a cheese and preserves pairing class ($45) at the cheese shop with Stephanie McClenny, whose Confituras brick-and-mortar on South Lamar is in its final stages of completion.