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Food Matters: Clarifying the rules on dogs in restaurants; HenHouseSitters.com; Rising Star Revue

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Ask addie: dogs in restaurants

Perhaps you can clarify for me the rules regarding dogs in restaurants. I was under the impression that unless a dog is a service animal, it is not allowed inside of a restaurant. (The patio is OK, if the restaurant allows it.) Seems like more and more I am seeing dogs inside of restaurants. Most recently was at Freddy's Custard on West William Cannon. A family came in, and one of the children was holding a small dog. The manager said nothing. They did order to-go but waited inside the restaurant with the dog for 20 minutes. Mind you, I am the owner of two dogs, so I'm not a dog hater. What is going on? Do people think that just because their dog's feet are not touching the floor that it is OK?

— Amy Pearson

With the exception of service animals, it is against city regulations to have a dog (or any live animal for that matter) inside a restaurant or grocery store, even for a short period of time.

And Pearson is right about patios: Just because a restaurant has a patio does not mean that it's OK for a dog to be there. Restaurants have to post a sign stating that dogs are allowed in the outdoor dining area and create an outdoor entry for the customer and dog to get to the patio without having to go through the restaurant. The dog also must be on a leash.

"We do receive a few complaints about animals in restaurants and grocery stores," said Carole Barasch, communications manager with the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services, but unless a health inspector sees a dog during a routine inspection, it won't result in an official violation. When it comes to service animals, it's important to note that not all disabilities are visible, so it's best to talk directly to a manager if you are questioning whether a dog should be allowed. If that doesn't work, you can call 311 and file a complaint.

"I hate it when some dog owners ruin it for the rest of us," said Jennie Chen, a dog owner who runs the local dog resource website Keep Austin Dog Friendly (keepaustindogfriendly.com), which lists more than 400 places where dogs are welcome in at least some areas, such as a patio. "Sometimes the business owners don't want to upset the customer, but they aren't supposed to be there." Even as a dog owner and advocate, she knows that there are certain places that just aren't suitable for four-legged friends. "It's a restaurant, not a playground."

While you're away, care for your clucks

Backyard chickens abound in Austin — there are three coops, including mine, in my South Austin neighborhood — but just because your neighbors have chickens doesn't mean they'll have time to take care of yours when you are out of town. Longtime backyard chicken owner Vicky Barnes has created HenHouseSitters.com, an Austin-based service that provides the care of chickens and upkeep of coops while the chicken owners are away. (She also can take care of other animals and your veggie garden while you're away.)

Super Bowl parties get all the attention. David Harap, author of "Entertain Like a Gentleman," wants to elevate your March Madness basketball watch parties with a hands-on cooking class, featuring dishes such as homemade chips, bison chops and bourbon rice pudding, at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Central Market Cooking School, 4001 N. Lamar Blvd. You can sign up for the class ($65) at centralmarket.com.

The Austin chapter of Les Dames d'Escoffier is offering four $1,500 scholarships for area women who are pursuing full-time culinary coursework in a culinary arts program. Applicants must have completed at least 20 credit hours, have a GPA of 3.5 or higher and be enrolled in a local certificate or associate's degree program in culinary arts, baking and pastry or hospitality and restaurant management. The deadline to apply is March 15, and applications are at ldeiaustin.org.

Food and drink converge at Rising Stars revue

The Driskill buzzed with culinary talent and enthusiasts at the StarChefs.com Rising Stars Revue last week.

The San Antonio-Austin area is among the four U.S. "cities" that StarChefs.com featured this year. More than 18 chefs and beverage industry professionals were selected from area restaurants to represent the identity and soul of the Central Texas culinary scene.

The upscale event kicked off with cocktails by San Antonio's Jeret Peña, the master barman at Esquire Tavern (and a James Beard Award semifinalist). Traditionalists often claim that a good scotch shouldn't be mixed, but Peña crafted a cocktail that showcased and complimented the bold power of Highland Park's 12-year single-malt. The Cabin Fever cocktail tasted like a warm summer afternoon on a sprawling Texas ranch.

The awards ceremony recognized each winner individually. Kevin Brand of (512) Brewing won the Rising Star Brewer Award, and Brian Peters of Uncle Billy's was recognized with a Brewer Mentor Award. Chef Andrew Weissman of Il Sogno won the overall Mentor Award, determined by a blind ballot from each of the chefs.

After the formal awards ceremony, the chefs were released to their tables to share their culinary talents with guests. The chefs and their teams prepared a small dish that showcased each chef's individual style.

I didn't make it to every station, but I did get to sample the light and refreshing Sunchoke-Dashi Soup with Uni, Bottarga, Baby Carrots and Zucchini Blossoms from Paul Qui, who, like many of the other chefs in attendance, had a constant flock of admirers requesting personalized Kodak moments. Another delight was from John Bates and Brandon Martinez of the Noble Pig, who appropriately cut wedges of Italian sausage sandwiches with roasted red onions, tomatoes, provolone and basil aioli that paired delightfully with the (512) Rye Wit beer.

Aside from the featured brew from (512), wine samples accompanied the dishes at the event, with each pairing carefully orchestrated by June Rodil of Congress Austin. Tasting Foreign and Domestic's delectable Australian Wagyu flank steak with red pepper sauce, fried orzo, poached egg and ham broth with the shiraz/viognier from Australian winemaker Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier reminded me that while beer and cocktails make for acceptable food and beverage pairings, the perfect wine match can elevate a dish to the status of a work of art.

Desserts were available from each of the pastry chef Rising Stars. Plinio Sandalio of the Carillon and Philip Speer of Uchi. Sandalio presented his booze-inspired grapefruit sorbet and Angostura bitters ice cream with Campari pop rocks, and Speer stopped the show with a Peanut Butter Semifreddo, with Miso-Apple Sorbet, Peanut Brittle, Micro Wasabi and Raisins. I don't usually enjoy peanut butter desserts, but the explosion of flavor and playful textures in this dish were remarkable. For more photos of the event and a full list of winners, go to austin360.com/food.

— Emma Janzen