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Food Matters: Foodways Texas, holiday tamales, Rachael Ray in town

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Santa Rita Tex Mex Cantina is selling two kinds of tamales by the dozen or for dining in.

New group promotes Lone star cultures

Texas has never really fit in with the rest of the South. Sure, we're in the southern half of the country and we share a state line with several states that are decidedly Dixie, but as much as three-quarters of the state is more akin to the Southwest. Others would argue that Texas is in a category all its own.

Food is another way you could draw the line between where the South ends and where Texas begins, which is why a group of food writers, chefs, restaurateurs, scholars, scientists, farmers and ranchers have formed Foodways Texas, a nonprofit whose goal is to "promote, preserve and celebrate the diverse food cultures of Texas."

The group comes together years after noted food professionals created the Southern Foodways Alliance, which honors the diverse food traditions of the South through films, oral histories and events. Foodways Texas director Marvin Bendele, who lives in Austin, says the Texas group will do the same. "We want to uncover stories that were never told," Bendele says. "If you can educate people on what's happening in other communities, the less prejudice they'll have toward the other, the unknown. If you don't understand where you come from, you don't really understand the ground you stand on."

After a founders' meeting this summer in College Station, the group commissioned University of Texas graduate Keeley Steenson to make a documentary about a family in Yoakum that makes sorghum syrup in the traditional Czech style. The group will show a screening of "Good, Better, Best" during its first Austin event from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Momo's, 618 W. Sixth St., which will also feature live music and food from restaurants including Hoover's and Quality Seafood. The event costs $30, and you can sign up to be a charter member ($50 students, $75 individuals, $100 family).

Bendele says the group's first symposium, which is open to the public but offers a discount for members, will explore the changing food culture of the Gulf Coast and will take place Feb. 25 and 26 in Galveston. Other events, such as a three-day barbecue class with Texas A&M University meat scientists in June, will take place in various locations around the state.

- Addie Broyles

Follow photos, step by step, with Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray knows that photos of food are what really sell a recipe. Or a cookbook. Showing how to prepare food, after all, is her specialty. The host of "30 Minute Meals" and the eponymous daytime show is in her 10th year on the Food Network, and her new book, "Look + Cook" (Clarkson Potter, $24.99) is Ray's 17th. Not too bad for a self-taught cook who started out working the candy counter at Macy's. The new book features step-by-step photos for more than 170 new recipes (she also demonstrates 30 of them on her website, www.rachaelray.com ).

Ray will be in Austin on Tuesday for an event at 7:30 p.m. at BookPeople. She'll be signing books for people who've received a wristband by buying the new book at BookPeople, but you can come hear her speak beforehand for free.- A.B.

Pimiento Mac 'n' Cheese

Salt

1 lb. cavatappi pasta or pasta elbows

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. butter

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Black pepper

3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. sweet paprika, plus additional for garnish

2 cups whole milk

2 tsp. hot sauce

3 cups grated sharp yellow Cheddar cheese

2 (4-oz.) jars pimientos, drained

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf or curly parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the pasta to just shy of al dente. Heat a large pot over medium heat with the olive oil and butter. When the butter melts, add the onions, garlic, salt and pepper and cook until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook for another minute. Stir in the paprika. Whisk in the milk and hot sauce and bring up to a bubble, then cook to thicken for a minute or two. Turn off the heat and stir in half of the cheese in a figure-eight motion until melted. Add the pimentos. Preheat the broiler. When the pasta is nearly al dente, drain it well and add it to the pot with the cheese sauce. Toss to combine. Then pour the pasta into a baking dish, top with the remaining cheese, and brown it under the broiler, 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with the chopped parsley and a generous sprinkle of sweet paprika. Serves 6.

- From 'Look + Cook' by Rachael Ray (Clarkson Potter, $24.99)

Get taste of the holidays with eateries' tamales

Santa Rita Tex Mex Cantina is tapping into the tradition of making tamales for the holidays. Through Dec. 24 both locations (5900 W. Slaughter Lane, 288-5100; 1206 W. 38th St., 419-7482) will offer pork or chicken tamales for take-out or dining in. For takeout, they'll be $16 a dozen for chicken with tomatillo-serrano sauce or pork with Tex-Mex chili sauce. Each will include Santa Rita's acclaimed hot sauce. For dining in, an order of three tamales with rice and beans will be $7.95 at lunch, $9.95 at dinner.

Peruvian newcomer La Sombra Bar and Grill (4800 Burnet Road, 458-1100) will sell tamales from Tuesday through Dec. 23 for takeout. Call the restaurant before 3 p.m., and they'll be ready for pickup after 3 p.m. the next day for $16 a dozen or $9 a half-dozen, warm or frozen. The two varieties are pibil pork and chicken with green chile.

- Mike Sutter

Openings, closings and coming soon

• Open: Little Thai Food, a trailer at 1207 S. First St.

• On the way: An outlet of the regional chain Baker St. Pub & Grill, in the former Old Alligator Grill site at 3003 S. Lamar Blvd. www.bakerstreetpub.com .

- M.S.

Food and wine briefs

• Better Bites of Austin comes to Austin City Hall (301 W. Second St.) from 4 to 8 p.m. today . The free event features local artisan food vendors selling goods to build holiday gift baskets. www.betterbitesofaustin.com .

• The Swedish furniture store Ikea (1 Ikea Way, Round Rock) will host a traditional Swedish buffet called a Julbord from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday . $9.99, $2.49 children 12 and younger. 828-4532, www.ikea.com.

• The specialty tea retailer Tea Embassy (900 Rio Grande St.) will host its monthly tea party at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. Saturday . The event includes a catered assortment of tea sandwiches, tartlets, desserts and scones with clotted cream, jam and lemon curd, along with four teas, with a caffeine-free, herbal option. $35, by reservation. 330-9991, www.teaembassy.com .

• Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort (575 Hyatt Lost Pines Road) is hosting Breakfast with Santa at 9 a.m. Saturday , with breakfast, crafts and a chance for a picture with Santa. $16.95, $9.95 for children 4-12, free for 3 and younger. Reservations at 512-308-4860, www.lostpines.hyatt.com .

• Danika Boyle's Petite Peche & Co. will host a salon-style dinner at Church House Studios, 1161 Nickols Ave., from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday . The event in the restored church includes a four-course dinner and music. $70, BYOB. Registration at www.petitepecheandco.com .

• Central Market Cooking School (4001 N. Lamar Blvd.) is offering gingerbread-house decorating classes for kids Dec. 17, with ages 5-7 at 10 a.m. and ages 8-12 at 1 p.m. The two-hour classes include a gingerbread house, icing and candy. $40. Reservations at 206-1014 or www.centralmarket.com .

• The interior Mexican restaurant La Condesa (400-A W. Second St., 499-0300, www.lacondesaaustin.com ) has added lunch hours with soups, salads and sandwiches such as a Cubanita with pork belly, ham and Swiss. Lunch hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays-Fridays.

- M.S.

Have Christmas Dinner at Luby's or Four Seasons

What do Luby's and the Four Seasons Hotel have in common? They'll both be open to feed you on Christmas Day. For a list of dining options for Christmas and New Year's, see my Forklore restaurant blog at austin360.com/forklore .

- M.S.