Blue Bell is really cranking out the new flavors this year.
Today, the Brenham-based ice cream company announced the latest ice cream to hit store shelves: key lime mango tart.
The “sweet and tangy key lime ice cream blended with graham cracker crust pieces” has a “luscious mango sauce swirl” and “tastes like summer,” according to the tweet this morning.
Like dozens of other Blue Bell flavors, this one is in half gallon and pint sizes, but it is considered a seasonal flavor, so it won’t be around for long. You’ll remember that Blue Bell is still bouncing back from a months-long shutter caused by a listeria outbreak in 2015.
Harry Akin had already been running hamburger stands for 20 years when he opened the Frisco Shop in 1953.
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The beloved 65-year-old restaurant, the last of Akin’s pioneering Night Hawk family of restaurants, will close for good on July 29.
It’s a sad day for fans of the restaurant’s famous “top chop’t steaks,” but you can still find a nostalgic taste of these iconic Austin restaurants through Night Hawk frozen meals, the Buda-based food manufacturer that has been a separate entity since 1989, when Charles Hill bought the retail side of the brand.
Akin, who went on to become mayor and one of the first business owners to integrate his restaurants during the Civil Rights era, was also a pioneer in frozen foods. In the 1950s, Akin started selling frozen charbroiled steaks to local grocery stores, and the full frozen meals launched in 1964, just a few years after the first heat-and-eat dinners hit the market.
The meat-and-potatoes meals were originally made in a co-packing facility off Shelby Lane, near the motor mile along Interstate 35 in South Austin. In 1993, Charles Hill built a plant to expand in Buda next to the already established food co-packer Jardine’s, which has bottled salsas, dressings and other jarred foods since 1979.
Hill’s daughter, Leanne Logan, took over Night Hawk several years and now runs it with her husband, Scott. For a 2015 story about the local packaged food industry, I found out that the Night Hawk has branched out to sell nearly 20 different meals, many of which feature the famed Night Hawk charbroiled beef patty that was once the star of the restaurant. They have added a breakfast line in recent years, but instead of taking on entirely different cuisines, they’ve always stuck with their comfort food appeal, Leanne Logan says.
Of the 48 workers, a handful have been there for more than 30 years. “If there is turnover, it’s because they retire,” Scott Logan says, citing a woman who recently retired after 42 years with the company.
According to the event website, “The Big Bake Sale for Social Justice is a community-driven fundraiser created to benefit groups and organizations that fight for civil liberty, equality, and social justice for all people.”
A similar bake sale in San Antonio recently raised $11,000 for legal aid for families that have been separated during recent enhanced immigration enforcement on the border.
The volunteers who are organizing the Big Bake Sale for Social Justice in Austin have raised tens of thousands of dollars for natural disaster and other community crisis relief efforts through Austin Bakes, another citywide charity bake sale.
The citywide bake sale will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on August 4 at the venues below, and the group is seeking partners now. To learn more or sign up to participate, go to thebigbakesale.org.
Eldorado Cafe – 3300 W. Anderson Lane
Crema Bakery & Cafe – 9001 Brodie Lane
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ – 11500 Manchaca Road
Jo’s Coffee – 1300 S, Congress Ave.
Bennu Coffee – 2001 E Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Hops and Grain – 507 Calles Street
El Taquito – 130 Louis Henna Blvd. in Round Rock, TX
Cote, who has worked with local farmers her entire food career, has for the past five years operated her Eden East eatery on the grounds of Springdale Farm, a 5-acre property that started as a landscaping company more than two decades ago and became an urban farm in 2009.
Cote, who also operates Hillside Farmacy, had grown close with the Foores over those years, and when they decided to retire , Cote and her partner, David Barrow, started talking with them about taking over day-to-day operations. PSW, the developers that bought the land, won’t start to build on the property for at least a few years, so Cote has signed a two-year commercial lease to continue operating Eden East and keep the farm and farmstand running.
“I’ve always been close to the farmers, and I feel very inspired by growing things,” Cote says. “It makes sense to close the loop. To take on the farm seemed like the next evolution.”
Barrow has been working with the Foores and their longtime staff to learn the ins and outs of keeping the current crops going and planting again for the fall and spring, but Cote says he doesn’t call himself a farmer just yet. She says they are inspired by other chefs who farm, such as Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, who integrate agriculture and education into the dining experience.
“This place is a community gem,” she says. “We want to bring out as many people as we can to see the space while it’s still here.”
Springdale’s last day under the Foores’ ownership was June 30, which Cote noted was just a few days after Boggy Creek’s Larry Butler died. The East Austin farmer community, which also includes the nearby Rain Lily and Hausbar farms, has always been close-knit, she says: “We lost our patriarch.”
She knows she’s now the newbie in the group. “I feel blessed to have the opportunity. I’m still processing it,” she says. “I want to grow into this as a community and carry on Glenn and Paula’s legacy.”
The farmstand will be closed July 4, but it will reopen from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 7 with all of the same products and produce customers would have found the week before, Cote says. In preparation for this transition, she says the restaurant has a reworked menu to add more a la carte options and will offer breakfast Wednesdays and Saturdays to serve customers who visit the farmstand.
Along with chef Kaycee Braden, who is now a business partner at Eden East, Cote says she plans to make some products, maybe herb blends or another culinary product, to sell at the farmstand.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” she says. “We want to maintain what they started.”
Larry Butler, one of the pioneering farmers behind Boggy Creek Farm and a well-known figure in the local food community, died Thursday of liver cancer. He was 70.
In the early 1990s, the former TV repairman and his wife, Carol Ann Sayle, started one of the country’s first urban farms, located on a historic East Austin property along Boggy Creek, and for more than two decades, they ran a farmstand that continues to have a dedicated customer base of families, neighborhood residents and the city’s top chefs.
Sayle and Butler met on a sidewalk in Oak Hill in 1973. She was moving her art studio into a row of businesses where he had a TV repair shop. With three children from previous marriages, they married in 1976 and blended their families easily with the former spouses, Sayle says. “Larry would go hunting with Wayne,” her ex-husband, who died last year, she says. “They coached Little League together.”
In the 1980s, they wanted to embark on a new career of growing food. Butler had grown up in Gause, where Sayle says he rode a horse named Palm to and from elementary school, so that’s where they looked for land to get started. They found 45 acres to start an organic farm, and a few years later, the couple bought the East Austin property and continued to farm at both locations.
They first started selling their produce in 1991, from a card table set up in front of Wiggy’s on West Sixth Street. Later that year, they had a bumper crop of tomatoes, which they sold to Whole Foods, a relationship that lasted until the drought of 2011. After two years of selling produce in front of the liquor store, the Boggy Creek farmers started selling at the Sustainable Food Center’s first farmers market at the corner of East Seventh and Robert Martinez Jr. streets. By the late 1990s, Butler was a fixture at the Westlake Farmers Market on Westbank Drive across from the high school, Sayle says. He moved with the market when it went to Sunset Valley, but then they decided to focus all their sales efforts on the East Austin farmstand.
More time at the farm meant that Butler could pursue another passion: food preservation. Butler loved to can, smoke, jar and otherwise preserve the food they grew, and he was known in particular for his smoke-dried tomatoes. He sometimes taught classes in the farmhouse kitchen, and in 2002, he appeared on a Food Network show that featured his jams and sauces.
Butler’s aging father lived on the property for a number of years, and to make him more comfortable before he died, Butler built a dogtrot-style house behind the farmhouse. A tireless extrovert, Butler loved to give tours, explaining the historical architecture of both the new and old homes, why the soil needed the kind of compost they used and what the government should or shouldn’t be doing about subsidies.
The couple meticulously researched the history of the farmhouse, which was built in 1841 and is as old as the French Legation. Butler loved to tell customers about the letter from Sam Houston that indicates he ate dinner in the house they lived in, located right next to the farmstand.
After the drought in 2011, customers’ habits started to change, Sayle says, especially as food delivery options increased. “He was worried about the future of the farm,” Sayle says. “We spent our last week reassuring him that everything was under control and that we loved him and that everybody’s OK.”
Butler’s son, Tom Butler, is now overseeing the Gause farm, and Sayle’s daughter, Tracy Geyer, is helping with operations at the urban farm.
Butler died Thursday at home. Sayle says they are planning a wake from 4 to 7 p.m. on July 15 at the farm, but until then, the farmstand will have regular hours, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. “The farm is a beast of its own and has to be fed. The farm goes on,” Sayle says. “It’s open right now.”
Paula Foore, co-owner of the nearby Springdale Farm, called Larry a “wonderful mentor.” “He was always so generous with his farming information and tips. A true legend. He will be sorely missed by our entire community.”
Eden East chef Sonya Cote, who has cooked frequently at Boggy Creek, said that the week before he died, Butler was giving tours at a fundraiser to replace the farmhouse’s windows. “We lost our patriarch,” she said. “Just last weekend, he got to tell us about everything he built. I was humbled by the experience.”
“(Carol Ann and Larry) have been the center of the plate, the heartbeat of the local food scene,” former Statesman food writer Kitty Crider said on Friday, just a few days after stopping by the farmstand to buy tomatoes. “Quiet celebrities, they opened their farm to tours, to fundraisers, to national chefs. On my kitchen counter sit four varieties of their tomatoes. I think I will go eat one — standing over the sink — in memory of Larry.”
The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that cities do not have the right to take away flimsy plastic bags at the grocery store.
You’ll remember the controversy in 2013, when Austin’s bag ban went into effect, barring retailers from using plastic bags that were not thick enough to be reused. There were some exceptions, but for the most part, we stopped seeing these formerly ubiquitous bags in stores and, more importantly, along roadsides and stuck in fences and trees.
On Friday, the judges unanimously ruled that citywide plastic bag bans “run afoul of a state law that prohibits cities from trying to reduce waste by banning ‘containers’ and ‘packages’.”
Although the decision upheld a lower-court ruling that struck down a bag ban in Laredo, the same state law apparently preempts similar bans in Austin and about a dozen other Texas cities.
The Laredo case was widely watched for its potential impact.
On one side were environmentalists, wildlife advocates and city officials who argued that bag bans are essential to managing litter — a goal that protects animals, saves cleanup costs and limits damage to clogged sewers and drains.
They were opposed by retailer groups, limited-government advocates and the Texas attorney general who argued that the bans hurt businesses and create a patchwork of rules that vary across the state.
A few years ago, I wrote about how much I was enjoying using reusable bags, especially when it meant that my front yard didn’t collect bags strewn about in the wind and I didn’t see a single littered bag as I commuted to work.
Five years later, I still forget to bring my ever-growing stack of reusable bags into the store sometimes, but even if I have to spend 25 cents to buy one now and then, I can only imagine how many flimsy bags I would have thrown away in that time. (Thousands, surely.)
What do you think of today’s decision to reverse the bag ban? Do you think local stores will be quick to start giving away the flimsy plastic bags again? Will the culture of reusable bags remain?
Before the new library opened downtown, one of the most exciting proposed elements was the Cookbook Cafe, a cookbook-inspired eatery on the bottom floor.
The Central Library opened in October, but today, the cafe opens with a surprise: The books lining the shelves were the collection of Virginia B. Wood, the late food writer who was influential in Austin’s food community before her death earlier this year.
The Cookbook Cafe, which is run by the ELM Group, will features dishes pulled from the cookbooks in Wood’s collection, whose books line the shelves of the interior dining space, as well as in the personal collections of chefs Andrew and Mary Catherine Curren.
So what cookbooks will you find featured on the menu? “The Commander’s Palace Cookbook” by Ti Adelaide Martin & Jamie Shannon inspired the granola parfait, and Heidi Gibson’s “Grilled Cheese Kitchen” holds the recipe for the restaurant’s breakfast grilled cheese.
At a preview event over the weekend, we got to sample a rice pudding with strawberries and spiced hibiscus syrup from “Baking Chez Moi” by Dorie Greenspan. The restaurant will be serving coffee, matcha and tea, as well as beer, wine and spirits. The literary-inspired cocktails include The Adventures of Huckleberry Gin and Murder on the Orient Espresso.
The hours of the restaurant will be 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday. The Cookbook Cafe also runs a rooftop coffee cart in the library’s top floor from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 3 p.m.
You can park in the underground lot at the library, but there are also some street parking options. The library is located at Cesar Chavez and San Antonio Streets, between the Seaholm Development and the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail.
Anthony Bourdain loved Austin, but he loved a lot of places.
In fact, that’s the gift Bourdain left with this world after his death today at age 61. He was in France, filming for his CNN show, “Parts Unknown.” According to news reports, his friend and chef Eric Ripert found him unresponsive in his hotel room.
It’s an understatement to say that this is heartbreaking news in the food world. This is devastating. Millions of viewers gravitated toward Bourdain’s rigorous thinking, his challenges to the status quo, his endless curiosity about how cultures work, how they intertwine, how they serve the people who carry them on to another generation.
He came to fame as a chef in New York City, and people still called him that, though he joked that he hadn’t been in a kitchen so long, he wasn’t sure he could keep up anymore. His real fame — and cultural impact — started in 2000 with a memoir called “Kitchen Confidential.” He wrote with biting wit about the underbelly of the chef world, and the book quickly became a bestseller, launching Bourdain out of the restaurant kitchen and in front of the camera.
If chefs were the new rock stars, then he was Johnny Cash, an outlaw who softened as he aged and became a family man but who never lost his edge. He likely also never lost his feeling of being an outsider. He spoke often in interviews about the grueling realities of filming international television and the difficulties of being recognized everywhere. Fame turned out to be heavier than a chef’s knife, but he kept going, creating new seasons of “No Reservations” on the Travel Channel from 2005 to 2012 until CNN picked him up in 2013.
Since then, he’d been making new episodes of “Parts Unknown,” traveling to unexpected parts of the world — from Koreatown in L.A. to Jerusalem, Detroit and the Mississippi Delta — to uncover culinary cultures that hadn’t yet had their turn in the spotlight. Bourdain was the first travel show host who used food as a launching point to discuss politics and current events in addition to cuisine. In 2006, he turned an episode about Beirut, where he and his crew were stuck for a week due to the war between Lebanon and Israel, into an Emmy-nominated episode about geopolitics.
He spoke at South by Southwest in 2012, when he was in Austin to shoot an episode of “No Reservations,” and again in 2016, where he was interviewed on stage by one of the founders of Roads and Kingdoms.
Last fall, Bourdain, who was the father of an 11-year-old from a short-lived marriage, became an outspoken advocate in the #MeToo movement, in part because his girlfriend, actress Asia Argento, publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of rape.
The lanky, tattooed Bourdain wasn’t chipper. He always had something acerbic to say about Rachael Ray or Paula Deen, but that was almost always in response to a question from an interviewer. He used his platform instead to heap praise onto the line cooks and street vendors who keep most of the world fed. He was adamant that home economics should be mandatory for everyone.
Bourdain was a more gifted writer than he was a cook, but his years in kitchens gave him something to write about and a perspective that he carried to every corner of the globe. With a cinematic team that could rival any in Hollywood, Bourdain told unforgettable stories that were only tangentially connected to food. He was unapologetic in his mission: He wanted viewers to confront our prejudices and our privilege to better understand and appreciate the marvelous world outside our comfort zone.
His memoirs might have inspired many to enroll in culinary school in an effort to become part of that “rock star chef” world, but his true legacy is inspiring a generation of travelers and cooks to look at the world through his eyes, where beauty, chaos, friendship and something good to eat could be found anywhere.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-8255. Chefs with Issues is also a resource if you are struggling and in the food world. Locally, you can call 512-472-4357 to connect with mental health services.
Joe’s Organics, which opened in 2012 as a composting facility and in 2015 expanded to include produce and microgreens, is a familiar name to area chefs and farmers’ market shoppers.
An electrical issue on Sunday at the farm, 7204 Shelton Road in East Austin, sparked a fire that destroyed the farm’s inventory, as well as its seed bank, shed, greenhouse, tools, watering and farmers’ market booth equipment. In a post on Instagram, owner Joe Diffie said it only took the Austin Fire Department five minutes to show up, and firefighters were able to prevent any further damage or injuries. He estimated the loss at $40,000.
“We down but not out. Still have our shipping container to grow in and the drive to rebuild,” he wrote online. “Probably gonna do a crowdfunding thing this week to help get the farm over this hurdle, so plz don’t forget your friendly neighborhood food recycler in the coming days.”
Of all the national food days, National Donut Day (or National Doughnut Day, if you’re following AP Style) is one of the oldest.
It dates back to 1938, when the day was established to to honor the Salvation Army volunteers who handed out doughnuts to soldiers during World War I. Twenty years later, the Salvation Army designated June 1 as National Donut Day to raise awareness (and funds) for their cause. (That makes today the 80th anniversary of National Donut Day, if you really want to celebrate.)
You can read the full story about these “donut lassies” over on the Salvation Army page, but if you’re just looking for where to get a free doughnut today, the answer is Walmart.