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Food Matters: Dripping Springs couple give ketchup makeover

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Flat Creek Estate is offering a Leap Day propsal package complete with cheese, wine and a hideaway spot in the vineyard, background above, to pop the question.

Bill Hallett and his wife were at a restaurant in Nashville a few years ago when they were served french fries with a trio of flavored ketchups that weren't really that good, but the underwhelming sauces got them talking: What would it take to make a really good gourmet ketchup?

They came back to their home in Dripping Springs and started working on a line of tomato-based specialty sauces that didn't contain tomato paste, puree, concentrates or "and certainly no high fructose corn syrup," Hallett says. "It had to be full of flavor, not just flavors added to the standard ketchup."

He bought as many kinds of ketchups as he could find both online and off and started testing recipes and creating new ones, including a chipotle ketchup that he says was their "eureka moment." They developed a sweet onion ketchup and a spicier version of the original chipotle flavor to create a line of three Drippin' Sauces, which he first started selling at the Dripping Springs Farmers' Market in 2010.

Two years later, you can now find the sauces online (drippinsauce.com), at the Barton Creek Farmers’ Market and at a number of area retail outlets and specialty store, including The Meat House on Bee Cave Road, Taste Buds in Wimberley and Carmela's Pizzaria Cafe, Rolling in Thyme and Dough and Bell Springs Winery in Dripping Springs. The sauces, which Hallett recommends using on not just hamburgers and hot dogs but pork tenderloin and even baby back ribs, cost about $9 per 13.4 ounce bottle. You can also buy a sample pack of three 4-ounce bottles for $15 online or at the farmers markets.

Get your food, craft fix at Cedar park market

• The Austin Open Air Market is a new weekly event in Cedar Park that is a hybrid of a traditional farmers' market and a crafts fair. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Sunday at the Cedar Park Center, 2100 Avenue of the Stars, you'll find produce and meat from local farmers, as well as honey, baked goods, prepared food, flowers, chocolates, jewelry, crafts, art, clothing, live music and more. For a list of vendors and more information, go to austinopenairmarket.com.

• Women propose to men every day of the year now, but tradition used to dictate that Leap Day was the only day a woman could ask a man for his hand in marriage. Flat Creek Estate near Lago Vista is hoping to host a few proposals that day by offering a $65 proposal package that includes a wine tasting and a bottle with a custom label, a cheese plate and views overlooking the Texas Hill Country or a hideaway spot in the vineyard to accompany the big question. (www.flatcreekestate.com)

• Dr. Eydi Bauer knows that switching to a gluten-free diet can be as big an emotional challenge as a practical one. In her book "Life After Bread: Get Off Gluten and Reclaim Your Health," Bauer chronicles her own transition to a gluten-free diet after discovering she had celiac disease and explains the health benefits that even people without celiac can have by eliminating gluten. Bauer, a chiropractor specializing in nutrition and food allergy testing who recently moved her practice to Whole Body Health in Austin, is speaking at 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at BookWoman, 5501 N. Lamar Blvd., where she'll also give out samples from some of the recipes in her book. LifeAfterBread.com

• Food delivery has long since expanded beyond pizza, and a new Austin company, Smitty's Beer and Wine Delivery, is offering delivery for a flat fee of $3.49 for orders up to $39 and free for orders above that amount. Co-founder Tyler Smith says that the primary delivery area is between Lady Bird Lake and Koenig Lane and MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) and Interstate 35 but that they'll delivery anywhere within the city limits for a negotiable price. To order or find out more, go to smittysdelivery.com.

Newest Alamo features restaurant, bar

When Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League, executive chef John Bullington and team were planning the new Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane in Southwest Austin, opening in March, they decided to cut the eighth theater in half to create a mini theater that is more suited for private parties and small screenings. But what to do with that other half theater space? Make a cocktail lounge called 400 Rabbits, of course.

It helped that they had hired cocktail specialist Bill Norris, who had just come back from a trip to Guadalajara, Jalisco, where he learned about the ups and downs of the tequila industry, as well as the myth of Mayahuel, the Aztec goddess of fertility and creativity who was said to have given birth to 400 rabbits, which Mayahuel fed fermented agave. These 400 rabbits became the gods of drunkenness, Norris said on a media tour of the building earlier this month.

400 Rabbits will be part restaurant, part bar and it will be open to everyone, even people who aren't there to see a movie. Though the focus will be on agave-based spirits, which include mescal and sotol, there will be plenty of nonagave drinks, too, Norris says.

The everyday menu will have only seven or eight items, but Bullington says they'll host a number of special dinners and pairing events at 400 Rabbits. They've added an outdoor patio, which brings the seating total to 88. The restaurant opens March 22.

The Sherry Darling

As soon as I started working on the menu, I knew I wanted to do a sherry and tequila drink, because they have flavors that marry beautifully together. As soon as I tasted the Duque de Carmona, I knew I'd found the sherry I wanted to use - the orange and nut flavors were so clear and precise.

1½ oz. 100 percent Blue Agave Reposado Tequila

1 oz. Bodegas Gongora Duque de Carmona Orange Sherry

½ oz. Grand Mariner

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with cracked ice. Stir until very cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass or coupe. Garnish with a spiral cut orange peel.

- Bill Norris

NASCAR chef talks wild game at Central Market

It's been 10 years since California native Lisa Freeman became NASCAR's executive chef, but she hasn't been too busy to continue hunting, fishing and teaching people how to cook foods they harvest themselves. Tonight, as part of a continuing series at Central Market with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Freeman will teach a sold-out class about cooking wild game with olive oil that includes tasting oils from Bozzano Olive Ranch, which is near Freeman's hometown. One of the recipes she'll teach is this fish salad that, unlike traditional ceviche, is cooked before being marinated in a lemon juice and oil mixture.

Fish Salad

1 Tbsp. fresh minced shallots

1 Tbsp. fresh minced thyme

3 Tbsp. fresh minced Italian flat leaf parsley leaves

1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp. course ground black pepper

1 tsp. kosher salt

Juice from 1 large lemon

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp. to rub on fish

2 lb. solid white fish, such as Albacore tuna, mahi mahi, halibut or redfish

Salt and pepper, to taste

Lettuce or corn tortillas, for serving

In a medium size bowl, mix together shallots, thyme, parsley, pepper flakes, ground pepper, salt, lemon juice and ¾ cup olive oil, reserving some olive oil to rub on the fish. Set aside.

Rub fish in remaining oil and a little salt and pepper. Grill or pan sear fish over medium high heat until preferred doneness. Let cool for a few minutes, then dice the cooked fish and mix into the marinade. Refrigerate the mixture. Flavor is best if made at least four hours ahead of service. Serve in lettuce cups or a wrap of your choice, such as corn tortillas.

- Adapted from a recipe by Lisa Freeman