Jezebel looking for new space after July fire

Restaurant Jezebel, chef Parind Vora's high-end home of French technique and global flavors, will not reopen in its current location at 914 Congress Ave. The restaurant was damaged by an accidental fire July 26. The cost of repairing the burned-out dining room and smoke-damaged walls and kitchen is too high to justify holding onto the lease, Vora said. Instead, he'll look for another location. "I was looking at six to eight months, because of the historical nature of the building and because of the City of Austin, to reopen," he said. "If I find another location, we could open in a few months. The whole point is to get Jezebel opened faster." In the meantime, Vora will continue operating his wine-and-small-plates bar called Simplicity (4801 Burnet Road. 419-0200, www.simplicitywinebar.com ) and a new mid-priced bistro called Braise (2121 E. Sixth St. 478-8700, www.braiseaustin.com ).

- M.S.

CookBooks make food fun for kids

If you have young kids, you know how hard mealtime can be. Serving children food that is both healthful and appealing is one of a parent's toughest jobs, and three new books are here to help.

For parents of infants who are just moving away from breast milk or formula or toddlers who are exploring solid foods, Cooking Light has published `First Foods' (Oxmoor House, $19.95), a cookbook and guide to making healthy foods that are appealing to young eaters. The dietician-approved book outlines when you should introduce what foods to your kids as well as information on food allergies and intolerances. Two of the most helpful sections deal with how to make foods for special occasions like holidays and birthdays that are as nutritious as they are fun.

Preschoolers who adore Dora the Explorer and her cousin Diego will get a kick out of cooking from `Dora and Diego Let's Cook' (Wiley, $16.95), a new book that features kid-friendly recipes that Dora and Diego fans can also help cook in the kitchen. Like the show, the book offers some Spanish language instruction, but parents might be most pleased with how exciting Dora can make otherwise off-putting ingredients like quinoa seem to picky eaters.

Bento boxes filled with cute animal-shaped foods have been a kids' lunch trend for several years, but not until `Yum-Yum Bento Box' (Quirk Books, $16.95) has there been such a complete step-by-step guide to making them. Learn how to make kittens, monkeys, pandas and even zebras out of healthful but still kid-friendly ingredients. Most important, the book includes a guide to where to buy the specialty molds, boxes and other bento-making materials.

­- Addie Broyles

Incan Quinoa Pudding

3 cups apple juice

1 cup quinoa

1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

1 cup plus 2-3 Tbsp. low-fat milk

2 eggs

1/4 cup honey

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 small bananas, sliced

1/4 cup dulce de leche or caramel ice cream topping, warmed

In a large saucepan on medium-high heat, bring apple juice, quinoa and apricots to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the 1 cup milk, eggs, honey and cinnamon until well blended. While stirring, slowly add egg mixture to cooked quinoa. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes or until thickened. (Pudding will coat the back of a spoon.)

Transfer pudding to medium bowl; cool slightly. Cover surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours until fully chilled.

To serve, spoon into dessert bowls. Top with banana slices. Thin dulce de leche with 2 to 3 tablespoons of milk, if necessary. Drizzle pudding with dulce de leche. Serves 8.

- From `Dora and Diego Let's Cook' (Wiley, $16.95)

Wimberley woman stakes her claim

Wimberley resident Chera Little has won a spot in the national finals of the Beringer Great Steak Challenge. Little took regional honors Aug. 14 with a pecan-crusted Gorgonzola rib-eye with a reduction of balsamic vinegar and Beringer pinot noir. She'll compete against nine other regional winners in early October at Beringer Vineyards in Napa, Calif., where the top prize is $15,000. Little is a landscaping office manager with aspirations to become a cooking coach. Even in casual conversation, the advice flows. "A lot of people make the mistake of not using spices, and they have a tendency to overcook their meat," she said. Little also has entered the Sutter Home Build a Better Burger contest, and she recently took second in a black-eyed pea contest in Fredericksburg. She'll show how to cook her steak at the Dripping with Taste Wine and Food Festival in Driftwood on Sept. 11. Details at www.drippingwithtaste.org . "I'm just following my dream," she said.

- Mike Sutter

Pecan Encrusted Gorgonzola Butter Steak

2 cups coarsely ground fresh pecans (reserve a few whole pecans for garnish)

2 Tbsp. freshly ground black peppercorns

3 Tbsp. blackened-redfish seasoning, preferably King Kooker

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (reserve 2 Tbsp. for steak and 6 Tbsp. for sautéing peppers)

2 sticks unsalted butter

12 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (reserve 2 Tbsp. for sauce and a few pinches for garnish)

10 small sweet bell peppers, seeded and cut julienne style (feel free to use red, yellow and orange) Reserve 2 that have been cut in half

2 cups aged balsamic vinegar

11/2 cups Beringer pinot noir

6 14-oz. prime rib-eye steaks, about 1 inch thick

6 fresh rosemary sprigs, washed and dried

Bring grill to 475 degrees.

Blend ground pecans and peppercorns with redfish seasoning in food processor on light pulse. Coat the steaks on all sides with olive oil and the seasoning. Use your fingers and make sure to rub it in. Use same food processor to blend butter and Gorgonzola. Place in small oven-proof saucepan and set aside.

Place peppers in small bowl and add balsamic vinegar, pinot noir, olive oil and 1 cup of water.

Place a cast-iron skillet on the grill. Grill should come back to 450 degrees. Add the bowl of peppers and its mixture. Stir and let come to a boil or cook until peppers are lightly browning but not burning. Remove from heat. Place pan of Gorgonzola butter on grill and melt slowly.

While pepper mixture is cooking, add steaks to the grill. Drizzle with the melted butter. Grill steaks 8-9 minutes on the first side. Flip and grill 6-7 minutes or until internal temperature reaches medium-rare, 130-140 degrees.

Remove steak to a plate. Drizzle with butter, lightly tent with foil and let rest. Plate and garnish each steak as follows: Top steak with pepper-balsamic reduction, a few small pinches of fresh Gorgonzola and 3-4 slices of sweet pepper and a few pecans. For an "up-do" garnish, add a rosemary sprig.

Serves 6.

- Chera Little, for the Beringer Great Steak Challenge

You don't have to go to coast to find seaweed

In a landlocked city like Austin, "local" and "seaweed" aren't two words you're likely to read in the same sentence, but Lewis Weil is changing that with his new company, Austin Sea Veggies. After reading an article about how many of the world's commercial seaweed beds are being contaminated with pollution, he started researching how to grow seaweed in aquaculture beds. He found a few varieties that grow well and taste good and is now selling them at the Sustainable Food Center's Farmers' Market at Sunset Valley on Saturdays. "There's a lot more interest than I thought there would be," Weil says. He knows there's a certain novelty to his product, but he thinks Austinites are just open to finding interesting ways to use new products. "It works well as a green or an herb in a salad, miso soup or sandwiches," he says. "Or you can use it as a filling in sushi or served with rice." He sells two varieties of seaweed (the coarse, moss-like ogonori and a large, thin-leafed sea lettuce) together in a mixed pack ($5). austinseaveggies.com

- A.B.

Openings, closings and coming soon

• Open: The Surfing Hookah, a retail smoke shop and hookah lounge with dozens of shisha flavors, plus stations for Xbox and PlayStation games. Open noon to midnight daily, with BYOB allowed on weekends. 5501 N. Lamar Blvd, Suite A-101. 866-686-7873, www.thesurfinghookah.com .

• Open: Papalote, a taco shop from the owners of Azul Tequila in the Austinville 78704 development at 2804 S. Lamar Blvd. Open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. 804-2474.

• Open: Maggie's Cafe, serving `American country comfort food,' said Sara Davis, who owns it with her husband, Michael Davis. The menu ranges from country-fried steak to ahi tuna and, on the weekends, Belgian waffles and variations on eggs Benedict. Open 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, until midnight Fridays, plus 8 a.m. to midnight Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays. At the former site of Gabbi's Burgers n Dogs . 12001 N. MoPac Blvd. (Loop 1), Suite J . 906-0069.

• Coming soon: A trailer called Fried Green Tomato, in mid-September `at a trailer park in South Austin,' the website www.greentomatoatx.com says. The menu pairs fried green tomatoes with dipping sauces and in sandwiches such as pimiento cheese, BLT and Caprese.

- M.S., A.B.

Texas products get spotlight on menus

The Texas Department of Agriculture's Go Texan Restaurant Round-Up, featuring Texas-grown menus and wines from hundreds of restaurants throughout the state, will run Sept. 27 to Oct. 1. Among the Austin restaurants participating are the Carillon, Carmelo's, Paggi House and Opal Divine's, which will fill dozens of beer taps with Texas-made brews. Details at www.gotexan.org/restaurantroundup .

- M.S.

Food and wine briefs

• Three University of Texas fraternities will square off in a jalapeño-eating contest at 5 p.m. today for the grand opening of the Whataburger location at 2800 Guadalupe St. The team that eats the most peppers in one minute will win $500 for charity.

• Wineries, restaurants, wine stores and wine lovers around the world are celebrating cabernet wines Thursday. In Austin, East End Wines at 209 Rosewood Ave. is hosting a special tasting from 6 to 8 p.m. You can do your own tasting at home and use the #cabernet hashtag on Twitter to follow other cab lovers who are celebrating. www.cabernet.eventbrite.com .