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In the news: Chinatown owner’s new outlook on life, cooking

Addie Broyles

So many food stories, so little time to keep track of them all!

Here is a smattering of food stories I across in the newspaper in the past few weeks:

On Sunday, Matthew Odam took off his critics’ hat and told the story of Ronald Cheng, the owner of Chinatown who has suffered some physical setbacks in recent years. But the silver lining to that dark medical cloud was moving back in with his mother, who has re-inspired his love of cooking. If you’re going to pay a dollar to read one story this week, make it this one.

Back on the review train, Odam last week filled us in on The Hightower, a new restaurant on East Seventh Street serving “bold flavors at modest prices.” You can also find updates on the progress of new eateries Dai Due and Sugar Mama’s over on his blog, The Feed. Oh, and did you hear that Ramen Tatsu-Ya is planning to open a South Lamar location later this year? And that Torchy’s Tacos is opening in the old Fran’s on South Congress? And that In-N-Out might be coming to South Lamar, too?

If you’re looking for a place to take the family for Easter brunch, here’s our annual roundup of what area restaurants have planned for their buffets and special holiday menus.

On the news side of things, I wasn’t surprised to read that rice farmers along the Texas coast are experimenting with non-rice crops, including corn, that would require less water to grow. Summer’s just around the corner and the drought hasn’t gone anywhere, so expect to read more about this in the coming months.

Last week’s Civil Rights Summit was a fascinating examination of politics, history, race and the evolution of societal changes that many of us take for granted. The recaps from my metro colleagues, including Patrick Beach and Ken Herman, were illuminating, but so were the stories from Out & About columnist Michael Barnes and music writer Peter Blackstock, who captured a colorful food quote from Mavis Staples: “She (recalled) the March on Washington: ‘After the marching, there was the munching: cornbread, turnip greens, corn on the cob — boy, I’m getting’ hungry’.”

(One more presidential note: Bill Clinton, who was one of four presidents in attendance last week and is no longer a vegan, ate at Maudie’s on Lake Austin Boulevard. Obama ate — again — at Stubbs. Can someone please get him a pass to skip to the front of the line at Franklin? Please?)

Gary Dinges has been on the restaurateurs-behaving-badly beat lately, telling us about Damian Mandola’s recent arrests and reports that the Vivo owners did some serious (and seriously nasty) damage to their old building on Manor Road.

One of the most random (and only kinda food stories) I read over the past week was this business profile of Ashley Hunter, a major player in some, well, unexpected areas of medical insurance but who also runs Hill Country Bike and Wine bicycle touring company in her spare time.

With the help of Wild Oats, Walmart is beefing up the amount of shelf space it gives to organic products and goods. We framed the story in our business section in terms of how it would (or wouldn’t affect Whole Foods), but I think the bigger story is that Walmart is taking organics more seriously, and the repercussions for that are monumental. I’ve heard from experts that the month Walmart started carrying Stonyfield organic yogurt, it changed the economics of the entire industry, leading to countless competitors and increasing availability in all kinds of stores across the country.