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Edible Austin Chef Auction, The Highland Opens, Austin History Center’s Mike Miller and more

Michael Barnes

FOOD: A sheltered corner beneath the Allan House served as the plating area. There, Daniel Olivera prepared folded slices of pork and squirted spicy liquid onto tapas, as he might at his shiny spot, Barlata, on South Lamar Boulevard. Olivera was at the historic home just north of the Travis County Courthouse for a Chef Auction to raise money for Edible Austin, the lifestyle magazine that recently moved from quarterly status to six issues a year, according to publisher Marla Camp. Wiry Olivera, 53, grew up outside Barcelona and moved to Chicago in 1979 because he was, in his own words, “a little rebel.” “Go to your uncle,” he family said. “And leave us alone.” Luckily, his uncle ran a straightforward Spanish restaurant. Nine years later, he headed west to learn about organic food in the Bay Area, working in spots such as Zuni. “I’ve been fortunate to end up in Austin,” he says in a smoky actor’s voice. “The food scene is still in the first quarter. People here are curious and super open to taste new things.” He also remarked on how peaceful it is here. “In Oakland, we were broken into and shot,” he says. “Here is a piece of cake.”

NIGHTLIFE: The three-year wait is over. The building at 404 Colorado Street served as a mostly gay dance club for almost two decades. Residential real estate expert Robert Grunnah saw something fresh in the building and invested extensive cash and time into completely transforming it. One of the most remarkable things is the way the lounge-like club opens to the street. “Gay bars in the past were closed in behind dark walls and glass bricks,” Grunnah says. “We don’t need to hide any more.” Indeed, as we shared a drink by an open glass screen, folks along Colorado Street turned and smiled at the scene and the party music. Grunnah, with the help of competing advisors, has thought out every detail, including the lakeside color scheme, multiple bars stocked with quality ingredients, a lounge setting on the dance floor for early hours, and an intended mix of straight and gay patrons. He’s also delighted that the Austin City Council OK’d a plan to paint rainbow colors over the crosswalks at Colorado and West Fifth streets, just outside his windows. A gay district is reborn.

HISTORY: Mike Miller manages Austin’s historical memory. Taken from my story in the Statesman: “Pale light from a tall window illuminates only a portion of Mike Miller’s deep-set office. Even when he switches on the overhead lamps — which he prefers to avoid — it is hard to distinguish among all the books, papers and ephemera. The dim space, however, looks just right for the archivist and manager of the Austin History Center, the steward of how the city remembers itself. The room is just off the main hallway in the dignified Beaux-Arts-style building that served as the city’s second main library from 1933 to 1979, when the modernist Faulk Central Library opened next door. That older building, now the Austin History Center, was deemed overly full by 2003. So a library master plan dictates that in 2016, when the new central library opens in the Lower Shoal Creek area, the history center will take over the Faulk, reserving the 1933 building as an Austin history museum.”