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Thanksgiving Food Matters: A half-baked pumpkin shortage, plus restaurants and wine choices

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Join Hoover Alexander and the rest of the Hoover's Cooking family for Thanksgiving dinner between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday. Call ahead to these restaurants for reservations.

Give thanks for holiday meals at restaurants

Many Austin restaurants and hotels are offering special meals and pricing for Thanksgiving Day. Here are a half-dozen of them, but you can find many more on Forklore, my restaurant blog at austin360.com/forklore. Many are taking reservations, so call ahead.

Cool River Cafe (4001 W. Parmer Lane. 835-0010, www.coolrivercafe.com): Four-course dinner with soup, salad, turkey with traditional sides and pumpkin or pecan pie. $34.95, $14.95 for children younger than 12. 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Hoover's Cooking (2002 Manor Road, 479-5006; 13376 Research Blvd., No. 400, 335-0300, www.hooverscooking.com): Holiday dinner includes one of six entrées — roasted turkey, Cajun pork roast, ham, jerk chicken, smoked sirloin, vegetarian — plus traditional sides. $15.99. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

McCormick & Schmick's (11600 Century Oaks Terrace, Suite 100 in the Domain, 836-0500; 401 Congress Ave., 236-9600, www.mccormickandschmicks.com): Three-course turkey dinner with traditional sides and dessert. $22.95. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Domain, noon to 9 p.m. downtown.

Renaissance Austin Hotel (9721 Arboretum Blvd. 343-2626, www.renaissancehotels.com/aussh): Brunch buffet. $47, $18 for children 5-12, free for children 4 and younger. 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Shoreline Grill(98 San Jacinto Blvd. 477-3300, www.shorelinegrill.com): A special menu with seafood specialties as well as butternut squash and roasted turkey dishes. À la carte pricing. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

T.G.I. Friday's (111 E. Cesar Chavez St. 478-2991, www.tgifridays.com): The Lady Bird Lake location of the chain is offering a brunch buffet with turkey, beef, ham, pastas, omelets, desserts and more. $24.95, $10.95 for children younger than 12. 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

— Mike Sutter

The long story behind food shortages

Thanksgiving is Libby's favorite holiday. Pumpkin pie gets little love any other time of year, so when the company that sells the majority of the country's canned pumpkin announces there is a shortage, panicked home cooks everywhere run to the grocery store to stock up.

Libby's announced weeks ago that after an exceptionally wet season where most of its pumpkins are grown, its canned pumpkin "will be hard to find." Consumers, now instilled with fear that their Thanksgiving dinner might not have its traditional pie, rush to stores to find not only plenty of Libby's, but lots of other brands of canned pumpkin to choose from.

This year has seen several other cases of companies announcing widespread shortages that aren't exactly what they seem. Kellogg recently announced a shortage of Eggo waffles, blaming rain for shutting down several of its plants. But one Atlanta plant was actually shut down to be sanitized after a routine inspection found Listeria bacteria in a package of buttermilk Eggo waffles, ABC News reported. That brand of waffles might have unreliable availability through next year, but plenty of other waffle companies will be happy to pick up the slack. Also this year, candy makers pleaded to lawmakers to do something about a sugar shortage, which wasn't a shortage as much as a dispute over prices and tariff-free imported sugar. Even the American Sugar Alliance said candy companies were crying wolf.

As for the canned pumpkin shortage? It was a rainy year for much of the Midwest, which I'm sure means that Libby's doesn't have as much of their signature product as they'd like, but that doesn't necessarily mean there isn't enough canned pumpkin to go around.

You can always make your own pumpkin purée from actual pumpkins. I'll tell you how at austin360.com/relishaustin.

— Addie Broyles

Talking turkey with wine merchant Jeff Courington

Thanksgiving wines are like Olympic athletes. They need the agility of a gymnast, the versatility of a decathlete and the strength of a pole vaulter to scale the towers of mismatched foods. And somehow, they have to get along with everybody else in the Olympic village. Here are five Thanksgiving medal contenders from Vino Vino (4119 Guadalupe St. 465-9282, www.vinovinotx.com), with commentary from Jeff Courington, who owns the shop along with Kelly Bell.

Can Feixes Spanish white ($24): "Elegant forward fruit with great acidity."

Kuentz-Bas Alsace white from France ($22): A blend of pinot gris, pinot blanc and gewurztraminer grapes. "An all-in-one wine, with moderate alcohol, bright acidity and minerality."

Chateau de Trinquevedel Tavel rosé from France ($30): Mourvedre and grenache grapes. "Dry, with strawberry fruit."

Givry les Bois Chevaux Domaine Thenard Bourgogne, a red from France ($36): "Pinot noir from France is very lean. Wild raspberry with a lot of terroir."

Chateau Famaey Cahors Malbec, a red from France ($24): "Intensely dark, rich and rounded. Very well-balanced."

— M.S.

Whip up a dessert with a more natural topping

Looking for a whipped topping that's free of high-fructose corn syrup to go with your pie on Thursday? TruWHIP is a whipped topping made with organic cane sugar that has no trans fats or hydrogenated oils. With an airy texture and nonmetallic taste, it's a closer substitute to real whipped cream but at a fraction of the calories and fat. TruWHIP (starting at $2.49 for 10 ounces) is available at H-E-B, both Whole Foods Market stores, Wheatsville Food Co-op and Central Market Westgate.

— A.B.

Openings and closings

Opening Sunday: Simplicity Wine & Eats, a tapas and wine bar from Restaurant Jezebel's Parind Vora. Tapas — including croquetas, spreads, cheeses, even chocolates — will be $3.95, and no glass of wine will cost more than $8. Hours will be 4 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 3 to 9 p.m. Sundays, when paella for two and a pitcher of sangria will go for $36. 4801 Burnet Road. 533-4844, www.simplicity

winebar.com.

On the way: Urban: An American Grill at the Westin Austin hotel at the Domain in North Austin. Both the hotel and the restaurant are scheduled to open in March 2010.

— M.S.