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September 20, 2010 - GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up (cont.)

     As part of the Austin celebrations, the Hyatt Regency Austin hosts the return of the GO TEXAN Chef Showdown on Thursday, September 30th, at the downtown hotel at 208 Barton Springs Road on the shores of Lady Bird Lake.  The multi-course gourmet chef competition - featuring local ingredients - includes chef teams from the Driskill Grill, Roaring Fork, and Southwest Bistro, with proceeds benefiting the Austin Children's Shelter.
     I had the pleasure of guest judging last year's competition, and I can assure you that the food is some of the best in Texas.  Judging will be based on flavor, Southwestern flair, presentation, and use of local ingredients, and both the attendees and the guest judges have a hand in selecting the winner - which was very difficult.
    Hyatt executive chef Javier Ortiz purchases an array of fresh ingredients from a GO TEXAN-participating farmer's market prior to the The Top Chef-style contest.  Then, each chef must prepare one appetizer and one entrée with a Southwestern twist, and dishes must be plated at the chef's station in the Hyatt kitchen.
     Event is $49 for a six-course tasting menu (appetizer and entrée from each chef), plus a dessert and coffee buffet and local wine pairings.  Cocktail hour begins at 6 p.m.; Chef Showdown at 7 p.m.  For more information and reservations, call (512) 480-2035.
September 15, 2010 - 78th Annual St. Elias Mediterranean Festival.
    Three generations of Central Texas families bring a taste of the Mediterranean to Austin on October 1st and 2nd for the 78th Annual St. Elias Mediterranean Festival.  The outdoor festival of Mediterranean culture fills a full city block on 11th Street between Red River and Trinity streets.
     For 78 years, the Jabour, Dagar and Attal families have been the driving force behind the annual Mediterranean Festival. As part of their tradition, the legendary Austin culinary families cook up their menu specialties from scratch each year, personally hand-rolling thousands of grape leaves, mixing up dozens of fresh batches of tabouleh, and baking enough baklava to feed an army. The remarkable food - and dedication to their family heritage - has been handed down from generation to generation, helping the annual feast become a celebration
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for more than seven decades.
    Created in the early 1930s as a fundraiser for St. Elias Orthodox Church, which is now an historic Austin building and landmark, parishioners hoping to raise enough money to build the church would prepare their classic Lebanese, Greek and Middle Eastern entrees, then sell their tantalizing dishes at the historic intersection of Sixth Street and Congress Avenue in downtown Austin. Enough money was raised to build St. Elias, and the one-day event quickly became a tradition, eventually evolving in to a two-day festival.
     Food booths operated by the families who support St. Elias Orthodox Church will be serving up authentic Lebanese, Greek and Middle Eastern delicacies - including kefta, hummos, tyropita, spanakopita, kibbeh, nammoura, baklava, Greek kourabiedes cookies, Lebanese butter cookies, and Arabic coffee.  The Ellinakia and Levendia Greek Dancers and LAAND Greek Band - with Middle-Eastern D.J. Chris Ferris - perform both evenings from two stages.            
    Admission is a mere $5 donation, and a portion of the net proceeds will go to Caritas of Austin and the IOCC International Orthodox Christian Charities.  Gates open at 6 p.m., and the celebration continues until midnight.  For more information, visit www.MediterraneanFestival.org.
September 13, 2010 - La Dolce Vita Returns
    And one of our favorite annual events - La Dolce Vita - returns on October 14th combines the art and culinary worlds into one night of sensory overload on the grounds of Laguna Gloria.  This year, the Austin Museum of Art will go "back to the future" - to the 1920s, to be exact - for the 21st annual food and wine festival on the grounds of Laguna Gloria.
    Clara Driscoll experienced Italian
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Futurism in the years leading up to the construction of her home, Laguna Gloria - the 1916 Italianate-style villa on the shore of Lake Travis. The decade was a time of excitement, energy, and endless opportunity, when communicating by computer and traveling through space at unheard of speeds were only in the biggest of imaginations.
    Beginning at 6 p.m., partygoers travel from one table to the next, sampling food, wine, and spirits provided by more than 60 of Austin's best restaurants and labels.  The DJs of groovelabs will spin on stages throughout Laguna Gloria, while performers move through the crowds.  Proceeds from the event benefit AMOA's education programs.
   Tickets are $125, with an optional scotch lounge add-on ticket for $25.  This event sells out every year, so visit www.AMOA.org/LaDolceVita to secure your tickets while they are still available!
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Working the Room
Blogging Austin’s arts events with Rob Faubion