FOOD: I am a complete convert. Monday, media types gathered in the long chef’s room at Olive and June for a special meal. Little did I know how special it would become. The scrumtious Italian food was overseen by chefs Shawn Cirkiel, Justin Rupp and Steven Cak. The acute Italian wine pairings were explained by charming Pier Manna for Serendipity Wines. The novelity of this particular dinner party was that all seven courses — including warm burrata, light minestrone, plump ravioloni, tiny lamb loins and blood orange cake — all were prepared with olive oils from the Southern Hemisphere provided by Austin’s Con’Olio, the vinegar and premium oil outlet. Co-owner Jeff Conarko convincingly related in great detail the need for freshness and quality in olive oil and how virtually everything else on the American market is markedly inferior and sometimes way overpriced. (I don’t know if I can buy grocery store oil again.)

CITY: One more step toward sustainability. Reported by Ricardo Gandara in the Statesman. "Last year, the city shut down the East Austin urban farm where Dorsey Barger raised, slaughtered and sold chickens. Her neighbors complained about the smell and officials cited her for several code violations — cutting off Barger’s livelihood and spawning a debate about the proper place for farming in the city. Now a panel has recommended expanding Austin’s current and vague urban farm code with changes that could boost the city’s grow local, eat local movement — and put Barger’s HausBar Farms back in business. Under the proposed recommendations, urban farms could continue to operate in residential neighborhoods as long as the property is between one and five acres. What’s new, farmers would be allowed to raise and slaughter chickens, rabbits and fish in proportion to the size of their farm. Barger, for example, would be allowed to slaughter 20 chickens a week on her 2-acre farm. Farms could also host events such as weddings, fundraisers and cooking classes, but only with a special permit." http://shar.es/Kr09F(Read the objections and tell me what you think.)

BUSINESS: A big merger with likely big Austin impact. Reported by Kirk Ladendorf in the Statesman: "Applied Materials Inc. and Tokyo Electron Ltd., the two biggest makers of semiconductor manufacturing equipment, say they plan to merge into a combined company in a deal worth about $29 billion. Both companies have substantial operations in Austin, but it was not known immediately how those operations would be affected by the pending merger. Applied Materials employs more than 2,000 people in Austin in its global manufacturing center. Tokyo Electron has its North American headquarters in Austin and employs a few hundred people here in marketing, sales and technical support. Under the terms of the merger, Applied Materials shareholders will own about 68 percent of the new company, while Tokyo Electron stockholders will own 32 percent." http://shar.es/Kr05p(Both companies huge in Austin business culture.)

MUSIC: One way Austin is like none other. Reported by Michael Corcoran in the Statesman: "More than the Austin City Limits Music Festival or even South by Southwest, Tuesday’s HAAM Day celebration/benefit is the biggest annual event for the Austin music scene. There are no throngs of out-of-towners raving about migas on this day that belongs to local musicians. With wellness as the day’s theme, the songs ring out in businesses across town, from clubs to chiropractors: no badges or wristbands necessary. There are a plethora of music festivals and confabs all over the world, but there’s nothing else like this day devoted to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, when more than 275 businesses donate at least 5 percent of their proceeds and more than 200 acts play to support a program that provides free dental and low-cost health care to more than 2,000 current card-carrying musicians. Last year, HAAM Day raised $312,000, about one-third of the organization’s yearly operating budget. The first HAAM Day, in 2006, raised just over $50,000." http://shar.es/KrmTd(Grassroots do-gooding at its best.)

HEALTH: Sugar and obesity in lockstep. Reported by James Hamblin in the Atlantic: "As the global cost of obesity approaches $700 billion, international bank Credit Suisse puts an economist’s eye to the science of soda, table sugar versus high-fructose corn syrup, the increasing size of humans, and what’s to be done. … Charts like these paint a correlation that seems to be changing the world. Mexico, for example, is second in the world in adult obesity, first in type II diabetes (the leading cause of death in the country), and fourth in infant obesity. It’s also second in added sugar consumption per person, and second in soft drinks consumed per person." http://bit.ly/16tHu2L(You gotta see the graphics.)