Photo courtesy of Shooters Shot

A new, groundbreaking basketball conference is coming to the 2024 Final Four on April 4-5. Changing The Game says it's the first-ever all-female player and coach development conference, led by Austin native BriAnna Joy Garza.

Garza is a professional shooting coach and owner of Shooters Shot, a basketball mentorship and training program. She was inspired to create the conference after she witnessed female players only being asked about their experiences through a "gendered perspective," rather than through their hard work and skill development.

The action-packed conference will feature empowering speeches and panel discussions, hands-on demonstrations, and networking opportunities.

At Garza's side to lead the two-day conference is Lady Magic herself: Nancy Lieberman. Lieberman is a former professional basketball player, a two-time famed Olympian, and a member of multiple Halls of Fame.

"Nancy Lieberman was my No. 1 pick because there are few names in basketball that are more recognizable and respected than hers," Garza said in a release. "But every speaker has something unique to offer attendees. We are covering basketball development from all angles and bridging gaps between different schools of thought in the industry."

Garza continued, "We’re combating the current culture of toxic competition and fighting for a new wave of collaboration in the player development space. We’re not ‘passing the mic,’ we’re sharing it."

Additional speakers at the conference include:

  • Vera Jo Bustos – Mentality Solutions founder and former college basketball coach
  • Dr. Hillary Cauthen – Director of performance services at Texas Optimal Performance & Psychological Services in Austin
  • LaSandra “San” Dixon – Defend Your Legacy Basketball founder and director of camp programs for Dick’s Sporting Goods, Curry Brand, Mamba Athletics, and the Jr. NBA & WNBA
  • Julie Fournier – Ball Is Psych founder and director of player development at Clemson Women’s Basketball
  • Marke Freeman – ESPN analyst, Max-OUT Foundation founder, and author of Champions Creed
  • Kait Jackson – Mint Athletics founder and lead biomechanist for University of Texas, specializing in elite sports performance
  • Jasmine Jenkins – Davidson College assistant coach and recipient of Women’s Basketball Coaches Association’s 30 under 30
  • Beth Mounier – Mounshot Performance founder and former college basketball coach
  • Jess Racz –JR Performance founder
More information about the conference, registration, and guest speakers can be found on the Changing The Game website.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

A new daiquiri bar and authentic spicy ramen top Austin's 11 tastiest bites of food news

News you can eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of Austin’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings and closings

Despite Austin's proximity to the Gulf Coast and the Louisiana Bayou, we don't have too many restaurants replicating the area's cuisine. A new bar and grill called Austin's Very Own Saltt is adding to the growing niche, highlighting seafood and daiquiris — popular in New Orleans for how easy they are to make and dispense to loaded, novelty-seeking tourists on a hot day. Along with seven or more variations on the sugary frozen drinks, expect classics like Cajun butterfly shrimp, fried catfish, and shrimp fried rice as a side. Surprisingly, this bar won't entertain downtown day drinkers, but a milder crowd up north (2525 W. Anderson Ln.). It opens December 2 at 5 pm.

Austinites likely need no introduction to Shake Shack, the fast food burger joint with surprisingly upscale culinary initiatives. A new location in Cedar Park (1905 E. Whitestone Blvd.) is the first in the area, and it's wooing new customers with several opening day offers. On December 5, guests will receive branded holiday ornaments, and Shake Shack will donate $1 for every sandwich sold to Texas Humane Heroes, a pet shelter with an adoption center in Leander. Hours are 11 am to 10 pm Sunday through Thursday, and 11 am to 11 pm Friday through Saturday.

ICYMI: One of the most famous barbecue joints near Austin, the Salt Lick BBQ, offered big news this week: It's opening its third full-scale location. This one will be in Fredericksburg, opening sometime in 2025 if everything goes according to plan. Another famous restaurant with more upscale international credentials, Quince, also shared photos of its beautiful plates and views after a very quiet soft opening of its Lake Austin location. If you've been reading for a while, you may recognize a few other restaurants that opened this week: Mutts Canine Cantina,El Alma Cafe y Cantina, and a Milk Bar pop-up.

Other news and notes

Many Austinites swear by Jinya Ramen, which originated in Tokyo and now commands a cult following here, in Austin. On December 1, it brings back its "fan-favorite" Red Garnet bowl, featuring "thick noodles," vegan broth, a spicy garlic sauce, pork chasu, green onion, kikurage (wood ear mushrooms), onion, and spinach. It'll be on menus until February 29, 2024. New to the United States locations is also the Curry Nikuman bun with pork soboro (ground pork) and a curry dipping sauce.

Speaking of local favorites, Home Slice is also bringing back a unique menu item: vodka pie, featuring a cream sauce made with Tito's Handmade Vodka and fresh mozzarella. The pies, two new natural wines, and a prize drawing will all raise funds for Southern Smoke in Houston, and Foundation Communities in Austin. One lucky winner will win free pizza for a year; Tickets ($10, or 3 for $25) are available for purchase in-store until December 24.

Widely recognized as one of Austin's best new-ish restaurants, Canje charms guests with Caribbean flavors — especially as Austinites crave a little tropical feeling during winter months. On December 3, the restaurant is inviting anyone to stop by for a free Trinidadian dance party with a DJ and Trinidadian street food. Details are sparse, but we don't need much else to be convinced it'll be worth a visit. The party goes from 5 pm to midnight. RSVP on Eventbrite.

Aspiring architects who don't have the budget to experiment on Austin land can try on gingerbread houses first, at beautiful South Lamar restaurant Eberly. Pastry chef Raven Breitfeller will guide visitors through the delicate process, but things won't be too serious as the seasonal cocktails and passed apps start rolling in. Tickets ($90) include all materials, one cocktail, and snacks, and are available via Resy.

Photos with Santa, holiday hotel deals, and 8 more Texas travel tidbits for December


It's the most wonderful time of year for Texans to travel and spend quality time with family. Need help deciding where to take a quick vacation, road trip, or staycation? Here are 10 events, special celebrations, and hotel happenings to help plan a getaway in December.

In the Hill Country

Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a special event December 8-10. Throughout the weekend, the winery will offer an anniversary bundle featuring three special wines for $99 plus tax. On Saturday, December 9, visitors can stop by to enjoy wine and cake while supplies last. Reservations are required for tastings, and can be made online via Tock or by emailing tasting@pedernalescellars.com.

From Jingle Bell Runs to photos with Cowboy Kringle, the Christmas season is in full swing in Gruene. There are festive holiday happenings during every weekend in December, starting with the 22nd annual Gruene Pony Express Ride, the Gruene Town Lighting, and the Christmas Market Days on Saturday, December 2. And if swing dancing is on the list of resolutions for 2024, Texans can get a head start by visiting Gruene Hall on December 19 and 26 to learn easy, fun moves for beginners. Swing dancing lessons are $10 per person, but many other family-friendly events in Gruene are free to the public.

There's plenty of time to make your way down to Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk for a unique 12 Days of Christmas event that runs December 12-23. Activities include complimentary mini-massages from the Thompson Spa's expert therapists on December 13, a must-know mixology class on December 17, and a live jazz performance on December 21. These events are free, and visitors can register to participate online via the website.

Across North Texas

In its first holiday season, the new Omni PGA Frisco Resort is offering a special "Home On the Range for the Holidays" package that includes movie nights, holiday games and crafts, s'mores, and a Santa meet-and-greet. Valet parking, early check-in and check-out, and weekend breakfast are included. Nightly rates for the holiday package (offered through December 23) begin at $426. For some extra holiday wonderment, guests can unwrap up to 20 percent off their stay at the resort with the Ticket to Wonder package in partnership with Dallas chocolatier Kate Weiser.

In the Houston-Galveston area

The Dickens on the Strand Festival in Galveston received quite a gift for its 50th anniversary: official recognition from the United Kingdom’s Parliament. The annual event immerses visitors in the world of Charles Dickens' larger-than-life characters in 19th-century England. From December 1-3, the family-friendly festival will include fun parades, entertainment on four different stages, and costumed vendors selling Victorian-inspired crafts, clothing, jewelry, and more. Admission is $25 for adults, $18 for children aged 7-12, and free for children aged 6 and under. Tickets can purchased via Eventbrite.

And if you're looking for a swanky place to stay during the festival weekend (or any weekend, for that matter), Gavleston's newly-opened Hotel Lucine (formerly the Treasure Isle Motel) is a brand-new contender. CultureMap's Eric Sandler shared his first impressions of the hotel and all of its luxe amenities, including its rooftop bar, lobby bar and restaurant, and The Fancy – a "fine-ish" dining restaurant currently serving dinner. The hotel’s owners aimed to transform the two-story property into a "modern experience designed to appeal to gen x’ers and millennials." Nightly rates at Hotel Lucine begin at $155 in December.

The C. Baldwin Hotel in downtown Houston is enticing hotel guests (and any visitors who want to make merry) with 12 Days of Cocktails, featuring a rotating specialty cocktail menu available at the hotel's Lobby Bar and Rosalie Italian Soul. Seasonal offerings include Apple Cider Old Fashioned, Pumpkin Spice Martini, Winter Spritz, and more. Plus, a special holiday market in partnership with Houston's Southern Kindness Gallery will feature 30 local artisans, Saturday, December 9. More information can be found online.

At home in Austin

On Christmas Eve, families staying at Austin's Commodore Perry Estate can enjoy milk and cookies while children write their letters to Santa, then feast on a special Christmas Eve prime rib dinner and participate in holiday cookie decorating. On Christmas Day, the resort will have a breakfast display of homemade pastries and more. A special yuletide feast prepared by Chef Bradley and Chef Susana will be available all day, paired with holiday wines curated by the estate's sommelier. Rates at Commodore Perry Estate begin at $454 per night in December.

Santa is making special appearances throughout Texas to learn what children want for Christmas, and at the Barton Creek Square, families will be able to grab a photo with Mr. Claus throughout the month. On December 5 and 12, families can don their most festive holiday pajamas for a Pajama Day photo op with Santa. Visitors also can bring their furry friends for special pet photo sessions on December 10, 6:30-8:30 pm. Reservations are encouraged, and can be made via whereissanta.com.

The Hyatt Centric Congress Avenue Austin has launched its own deluxe holiday deal for guests through January 3: the Miracle on Congress Avenue package. Guests can use the promo code "WINTER" when booking a stay at the hotel's Artist's Residence and enjoy the comforts of a beautifully decorated holiday-themed penthouse suite on the 31st floor, a $100 food and beverage credit that can be used at the famed Luminaire restaurant or Le Bis rooftop terrace bar, and a complimentary holiday mini bar. Rates for the Miracle on Congress Avenue package begin at $747 per night.

Music documentary American Symphony covers Jon Batiste during trying times

Movie Review

Singer/musician Jon Batiste has a boundlessly infectious personality, whether at concerts, on stage at the Grammy Awards, or in his former role as bandleader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

And as a new documentary American Symphony demonstrates, his ability to stay upbeat in spite of enormous recent personal struggles is nothing short of remarkable.

The film, directed by Matthew Heineman, follows Batiste in 2021 and 2022, years that would prove to be of great consequence. In those two years, Batiste would win both a Grammy and an Oscar for his work on the Disney/Pixar film, Soul; win Album of the Year at the Grammys for his fifth album, We Are; and prepare to debut his work, American Symphony, at Carnegie Hall in New York.

At the same time, his partner (and soon-to-be wife) Suleika Jaouad had a recurrence of leukemia after being in remission for 10 years. As if to underscore the wildly fluctuating emotions with which Batiste was dealing, the day that he was nominated for 11 Grammys also happened to be Jaouad’s first day of chemotherapy, a head-spinning turn of events that few could deal with adequately.

The film tracks Batiste as he goes back-and-forth between the important things that demand his time, while also giving a primer on the musician’s career for those who may not be familiar with him. The result is a portrait of a man that both underscores his musical brilliance and gives a glimpse behind the curtain of how people going through a cancer battle deal with the toughness of the disease and treatment.

Heineman attempts to give Jaouad her own time in the film, highlighting her own accomplishments as a musician, writer, and budding painter. Through no fault of her own, though, the overwhelming nature of the cancer and Batiste’s exploding career push her to the background. The love story between the two of them is strong and clear, but most of the feelings are felt through the perspective of Batiste.

Jaouad says to Batiste at one point, “I feel like we’re living a life of contrasts,” and the film is all about the juxtaposition between their two lives, again mostly by showing Batiste’s two lives. One day he’s giving an exuberant performance and winning the top award at the Grammys, and the next he’s back in Jaouad’s hospital room, where she stayed for five weeks.

The multiple stressors in his life take their toll, with Batiste confessing to panic attacks and taking time to talk regularly on the phone with a therapist and practice breathing techniques. At one concert, Batiste dedicates a song to her and pauses for a long time before starting, clearly having a big emotional moment.

Still, because of Batiste’s natural personality and the love he and Jaouad have for each other, the film never becomes a depressing watch. Instead, it inspires with his artistry – typified by the title symphony, which brings together disparate elements for a unique experience – and a relationship that appears to have the ability to weather many storms.

American Symphony blends together two stories that could each warrant their own showcase, but it becomes something richer by demonstrating how they – and the two people at the film’s center – complement each other. Batiste’s music has the power to touch your soul, but this film indicates he has much more to offer than just that.


American Symphony is now streaming on Netflix.

Jon Batiste in American Symphony

Photo courtesy of Netflix

Jon Batiste in American Symphony.