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Food Matters: A cookbook ideal for D-I-Y Foodies, Travel back to Yesteryear with candy

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

A cookbook Ideal for do-it-yourself foodies

We'll do our annual cookbook round-up in a few weeks, but if there's one book that has crossed my desk this year that I'd have been just as happy to see under the Christmas tree, it's Jennifer Reese's "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" (Free Press, $24). Reese tackles the do-it-yourself movement head on by asking the often overlooked question: Is it really worth my time, money and effort to make the cheese/sausage/bread/pickles myself? Like many people who grew up in a house where few things were made from scratch, I find a great deal of satisfaction learning how to do things that homesteaders once had no choice but to do: Grow vegetables, raise chickens, cure bacon, make pickles. But I can't tell you how many times I've been, say, curdling milk for mozzarella cheese and I've wondered if that was the best use of my time.

Reese wondered the same thing, so she took on all kinds of projects, from making maraschino cherries and peanut butter to frying her own potato chips and doughnuts, to find out what things were really worth doing yourself. She found out that some things, like hamburger buns and butter, are worth buying at the grocery store while others, like yogurt and ricotta cheese, are reasonable to do at home. Reese has all kinds of stories of success and failure, and she has a delightful tone in her writing, but the book could really use some photos to help illustrate some of the projects. All in all, it's a great book for do-it-yourselfers on your Christmas list.

Shiner brewers win at European Beer Awards

I've been alerted via press release that the Spoetzl Brewery, brewers of Shiner beers, have brought home several awards from the eighth annual European Beer Star Awards.

Out of 1,100 beers in 49 categories, the Oktoberfest won a silver medal in the German Märzen-style category, and bronze medals for the Bohemian Black Lager in the Bohemian-style Schwarzbier category and the Old Time Alt in the Düsseldorf-style Altbier section. Last year, Shiner won gold and silver for the Oktoberfest and Shiner 101 Czech-style Pilsner.

In related news, the seasonal Shiner Cheer is out in stores again for your festive imbibing. I will admit I didn't fancy the peachy brew last year. I found the bold fruit and pecan flavors overwhelming.

The folks at McGarrah Jesse dropped off a six-pack for me recently; I gave it a second try. Not sure if the brew has improved, or perhaps it's just my ever-evolving palate picking up on new flavors, but it's growing on me. The fruity flavors are still in your face, and I usually prefer a subtle approach, but when paired with food, it was enjoyable.

— Emma Janzen

Travel back to Yesteryear with candy

Candy cigarettes might have disappeared from convenience store shelves, but they aren't gone for good. Neither are wax bottles, violet candies, Bonomo Turkish Taffy, Necco Candy Buttons or hundreds of other childhood favorites from years past. In 1996, after searching high and low for her childhood favorite, Candy Raisins, Colleen Chapin started Hometown Favorites, which tracks down hard-to-find candies and other grocery goods.

Chapin lives in Florida, but the company and warehouse stocked with more than 1,800 kinds of cereals, sodas, snacks, treats and other food products that aren't widely available are based in Houston.

"If one person is looking for it, hundreds of people are looking for it," says Chapin, who is still mourning the loss of Candy Raisins, which Necco stopped producing in 2008. "The nostalgic value of it is huge. It pulls your heart strings. Everyone has that one thing that they'd do anything for."

On the website, www.hometownfavorites.com, you can browse the products and buy them individually, but for a fun surprise, check out their Decade Candy Boxes, which feature sweets sorted by the decade going back to the 1940s.

OPENINGS, CLOSINGS & COMING SOON

Open: El Tacorrido. a drive-through taco shop at 2316 S. First St. 912-1939, eltacorrido.com.

Open: Hopfields, a gastropub at 3110 Guadalupe St. from Bay and Lindsay Anthon featuring French street food from Connie Zuloaga, wine and 40 craft beers on tap. 537-0467, hopfieldsaustin.com.

Open: Big Brotha's Smokehouse BBQ, a barbecue restaurant at 100 12th St. in Pflugerville. 512-351-3359. Search "Big Brotha's Smokehouse BBQ" on Facebook.

Food Briefs

Trio, the restaurant inside the Four Seasons Hotel downtown, has hired Grant MacDonald to fill the position vacated last month by Todd Duplechan, whose new restaurant Lenoir is in the works. MacDonald was previously at the Four Seasons in Vancouver. Across Lady Bird Lake, the Hyatt Regency Austin has hired Robert Howell to help run Southwest Bistro and to replace Kevin Dee, who is now at Eleven Plates and Wine.

At 6 p.m. Tuesday, Cafe Josie is hosting its third annual Wine Me Dine Me Sparkling Celebration Dinner, a five-course dinner paired with sparkling wines. Tickets cost $75 a person, tax and gratuity included.

Rather than simply using local farmers' produce at East Side Show Room, chef Sonya Coté is taking her cooking to them. Coté recently launched The Homegrown Revival, a themed monthly dinner series at Springdale Farm. The Dec. 14 dinner will be a Feast of Seven Fishes holiday meal, and in January, February and March, she'll serve seasonal, locally sourced dinners based around doves, frogs and hares, respectively. Tickets ($65, bring your own beverages) and information at thehomegrownrevival.com. Coté says she hopes eventually to take the Homegrown Revival on the road to explore the local bounty of towns outside Austin.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to correct the name of the cookbook "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter."