Bug-eating festival set for Zilker this weekend

In a few months, throngs of music lovers will descend upon Zilker Park for the Austin City Limits Music Festival, but at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, a slightly more offbeat crowd will gather at the picnic area near the Rock Garden in the center of the park to eat bugs.

Yes, you read that right. A food festival celebrating all the free protein flying, crawling and squirming around us every single day. "I know it's a little extreme," says Marjory Wildcraft, a Bastrop gardener and educator who is co-organizing the event, but bugs are an acceptable form of food in countries around the world, so why not here? "Insects have probably got to be the easiest source of food you'll find in your backyard."

Wildcraft, who teaches people how to grow their own food through her website GrowYourOwnGroceries.com and corresponding DVDs, has teamed up with Alan Davison, who used to be known around town as "Wheatgrass Alan" because he sold the nutrient-rich grass to local businesses, to introduce people to bug-eating, which she's still a little grossed out by. "I want to get over the `yuck factor,' too," she says. "That's the reason we started the event in the first place. If it's a party and there's a little bit of peer pressure, you're more likely to try it."

Scorpions, though a challenge to find and catch without getting stung, are her favorite, but every year, there are new insects to try. Davison is the expert on bug-eating, so he'll be grilling up whatever edible bugs that people bring to Zilker on Saturday. Yes, it's a BYOBug event, and Wildcraft suggests turning on a light at night the night before and collecting whatever bugs are drawn to that light. Keep them in a jar and bring them to the party alive, if possible. Attendees can also bring non-bug dishes for a traditional potluck. ($5 for adults, free for kids. For more details, go to FreeProteinAndFat.com.)

"The kids are usually crowded in the closest," Wildcraft says "They just jump right in there and try everything. I've been amazed at how many kids confess they've been eating bugs all along."

Cocktails inspire local gelato master's flavors

Matthew Lee has more than 500 recipes for gelato and sorbetto that he uses to stock the freezers at Téo Espresso and Gelato, but one of his current favorites didn't come from his files.

A woman who was getting married had hired Word of Mouth Catering, longtime favorites in the world of wedding catering, and she'd requested a gelato that neither they nor did Lee made: Red currant and St. Germain, the elderflower liqueur that is popping up on cocktail menus in every part of the city.

Word of Mouth asked Lee if he could make it, and he said yes. The result was a gelato so good that Lee started serving it out of his cafe at 1206 W. 38th St., where he's been serving some of the highest-quality gelato found anywhere in the U.S. for almost 10 years.

Lee, who recently went back to Florence, Italy, for more training with his gelato mentor, makes all of the gelati, as well as the dairy-free sorbetti, from scratch, which means no high fructose corn syrup, a frequently used ingredient in the commercially made bases that are used in most of the gelato sold in this country.

The seasonal offerings right now include three frozen treats made with peaches: a peach sorbetto, a traditional peach gelato and a peach gelato that has a hint of Campari.

Clearly, cocktails are inspiring a whole new set of gelati, and Lee says that he's happy to make just about any flavor combination you can think of, as long as you're willing to buy at least two half-gallons of the product, which cost about $25 each. That might seem pricey, but it's nothing compared with the cost of going to Italy for the gelato that inspired Lee to get into this business in the first place.

Catfish Parlour products hitting Buc-ee's

It's been almost 40 years since Dave Kerbow opened Catfish Parlour on U.S. 183 in Northwest Austin.

"There was nothing out here when I opened up," Kerbow says now. "You used to be able to go into any restaurant in Austin and know somebody. It's amazing how much things have grown."

His restaurant has grown, too, from that one location to three, two of which (the original and Georgetown restaurants) are run by his sons, Tommy and Chris, and a third on Ben White Boulevard that he leased to Jay and Carol McKinney more than 10 years ago.

They've added grilled items such as lemon pepper tilapia and blackened chicken to the menu over the years, and the south location even features an oyster bar and a private event space for up to 90 people. Three years ago, Dave Kerbow created a line of Catfish Parlour products, including their famous coleslaw dressing, a jalapeño tartar sauce, a hush puppy mix and two seafood breading mixes, that until now has only been available in the restaurants and online at catfishparlour.com.

A few months ago, Kerbow sent samples to the Buc-ee's headquarters in Lake Jackson, and to his surprise, the company that runs some of the most beloved gas stations in the country picked the jalapeño tartar sauce and coleslaw dressing to carry in its New Braunfels store, which opened last month. (Buc-ee's is notoriously picky about which products it picks to go on shelves.)

From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dave Kerbow and his son Tommy will be at the New Braunfels Buc-ee's passing out samples and talking about all the ways you can use the products, which each cost $5.95 both in the restaurants and at Buc-ee's, even if you don't like to eat coleslaw or fried fish. "My wife uses (the tartar sauce) as a base for deviled eggs and slices cucumbers and pours the slaw dressing on."

Grass-roots food programs happy hour tonight; ‘Blackbird Bakes' signing Thursday

Jake Stewart, the city of Austin's sustainable urban agriculture and community garden coordinator, is hosting an informal networking happy hour from 5:30 to 7 p.m. tonight at Black Star Co-op Pub, 7020 Easy Wind Drive, to help connect people who are involved in the many grass-roots food projects, programs and initiatives in the area.

The Food Network TV show "Chopped" is casting in Austin for the first time. There's no open casting call, but "dynamic, outgoing, experienced chefs" can apply at ChoppedCasting.com.

To accommodate the heat, the HOPE Farmers Market at Fifth and Waller Streets is now operating on its summer schedule, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

Karen Morgan, who last year published "Blackbird Bakes Gluten-Free" and who is currently working on her second cookbook, is hosting a free book-signing and baking demo from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at Anthropologie at the Domain. You can find details at artofglutenfree living.com.