• The Farmall 2013 Calendar
  • Adventure Motorcycle 2013 Calendar
  • The Adventurous Motorcyclist's Guide to Alaska

There's a country song about how tractors are sexy. This farm equipment certainly sells a lot of books and calendars for Austin-based Octane Press.

Octane focuses on the transportation niche, says owner Lee Klancher, including not only tractors but race cars and motorcycles. A prolific writer and photographer, Klancher first got into the niche in college, running an engineering school magazine, and was subsequently recruited by Motorbooks, which covers the transportation market from motorcycles to heavy equipment.

“They hired me to write a book about Farmall farm tractors, which sold about 40,000 copies the first year,” Klancher says.

But who are these people buying books about tractors?

“There is a huge group of collectors, people who store them and take them to shows. Sales are also driven by people who have fond memories, growing up with parents or grandparents who were farmers. Tractors played a huge role in our history.”

“There is a huge group of collectors, people who store them and take them to shows. Sales are also driven by people who have fond memories, growing up with parents or grandparents who were farmers. Tractors played a huge role in our history.” Klancher points out that tractors also benefited from the touch of some top industrial designers.

A 2012 calendar, "Tractor: The Art of the Machine," featured collectible tractors getting the super-model treatment by Klancher and light painter Mark Jenson, who photographed the equipment at sunrise, sunset, in the studio and under the stars.

If you don’t think tractors are sexy after seeing these spreads, well, you just don’t appreciate clean lines and beautiful lighting. The 2013 calendar features only Farmall tractors from some of the premier collectors in America, prettier than any working vehicle has a right to be, with more artful lighting and beautiful settings.

Octane Press has published full-length books about tractors, too, including one called How to Restore Tractor Magnetos. Most people probably don't even know what that means, and Klancher admits it truly is a niche market. But he happens to like that.

“When I started Octane Press, no one was doing tractors. Motorbooks had quit doing it, so I jumped at the opportunity to fill that vacuum. Our book sellers actually ask us for more tractor books, and I enjoy it, especially the photography. I love being out in farm country shooting early in the morning.”

Motorcycles are another passion of Klancher’s – he got his first one at age 11 – and they feature prominently in the press catalog. There are books on Honda, Ducati and Triumph motorcycles; books on how to choose, find and buy the perfect motorcycle; and one about motorcycle dream garages, which include a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in New York, a private airplane hangar in southern California, and Jay Leno’s garage.

Klancher personally researched “The Adventurous Motorcyclist’s Guide to Alaska” with friend and co-author Phil Freeman, hitting dirt roads and backcountry trails through remote country, dealing with inclement weather, bears, and bad food.

“The harder a place is to get to, the more interesting I find it, and Alaska is full of remote spots, some as out there as the Bolivian Amazon and Australian outback,” he says. “Alaska is the holy grail of adventure motorcycle riding.”

One of his favorite Alaska rides is the 135-mile route from Cantwell to Paxson on the Denali Highway, a narrow dirt road with views of Mount Denali, the Talkeetna range and the northern lights. On the almost-60-mile McCarthy Road, Klancher came up behind a grizzly running down the road, which is maybe 15-feet wide and tree-lined. Fortunately, the bear turned off.

He also publishes several books on auto racing.

“I like good narratives, and in this niche the good narratives are in racing,” he says, something anyone who followed the sometimes soap-opera-like saga of Austin’s F1 track will believe. Other books on the list came from friends of friends or other connections. “I tend to back authors over ideas. If I find an author I believe in and want to work with, I’ll go that way.”

The Press does a brisk mail-order business, and while the standard is media mail, those looking for a great last-minute gift for a race car, motorcycle or even tractor fan (we know you’re out there!), offers overnight shipping. Klancher suggests calling the office to get something overnight. He keeps some items in stock and will be happy to find a way to get them to local customers.

Because no one should have to start 2013 without a Farmall calendar.

Moving Christmas and other green-themed, interactive Christmas tales for kids

so this is christmas

In Moving Christmas, Brandon Camp’s and Richard D’ovidio’s new children’s book that’s been launched across the whole gamut of modern book release platforms with the help of Austin's Chaotic Moon, including an interactive iPad app that’s sold well in the iTunes store, Santa and his elves go green.

Yes, as part of the authors’ Frank Duffy series about an unflappable owner of a moving company, the author’s are upfront about their environmental parable. When the melting polar caps ravage Santa’s workshop, he’s quick to point out why: “Mother Nature warned me this was going to happen! Global warming has melted our Village!” Santa exclaims (emphasis theirs).

The book, featuring vibrant illustrations from Max Miceli, doesn’t lay it on quite as thick as its opening act, but harnessing the power of the sun through solar-powered toys does serve as a green-version of your standard deux ex machina. It’s otherwise a perfectly pleasant kid’s Christmas book — sweet-natured, a little silly and moves along at a fast enough clip for parents to stomach.

But Camp’s and D’ovidio’s book isn’t the first to make Christmas a jumping off point for a lesson in reducing your carbon footprint. In addition to Moving Christmas, available now, a roundup of green holiday kids titles:

Night Tree, Eve Bunting

Teaching kids to give back (to nature). About trimming the tree with popcorn, apples, tangerines,and sunflower-seed balls for the animals of the woods.

Santa Claus is Green!: How to Have an Eco-Friendly Christmas, Alison Inches

Keep on the Nice List and ride your bike instead of driving your car, why don’t ya? Includes notes on alternatives to tree decorations, wrapping presents and general (green) gift giving. (Although, green is not Santa’s color.)

When Santa Turned Green, Victoria Perla

Endorsed by Al Gore himself: “When Santa Turned Green helps even the youngest child grasp the importance of caring for our planet and solving the climate crisis.” '

'Twas the Night Before a Green Christmas, Tracy and Scott Snowman

A spin on the The Night Before Christmas, as told from the perspective of a snowman. It’s unclear whether the authors’ last name was a source of an inspired play on words or just plan laziness.


Still shopping? Check out this discount link for Moving Christmas.

  • The Story of O by Pauline Réage
  • Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
  • Building Stories by Chris Ware
  • Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico
    Photo by Penny de los Santos
  • Marie Lu's Legend series
  • America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't by Stephen Colbert
  • Salt Lick Cookbook by Jessica Dupuy and Scott Roberts

Sex, satire, fashion, food and literature: Nice and naughty books for everyoneon your list

Book gift guide

With only a few days left for holiday shopping, we at CultureMap would like to offer a happy medium between fighting the frenzy at NorthPark and just giving up and throwing gift cards at loved ones. How about a nice book?

The well-selected, gifted book literally and sometimes literarily tells a story to the receiver and can send many messages. I love you. I know you so well. I understand what you like. Please stop trying to force me to read 50 Shades of Grey.

Without further ado, here is the CultureMap definitive, but completely random, book gift guide.

Movie lover
For the movie lover who’s just not into books, let him know Hollywood is with a gift basket filled with The Life of Pi, Cloud Atlas, Les Misérables (the book turned musical, turned movie), Anna Karenina, Jack Reacher, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and The Hobbit. Do readers' imaginations project at 48 frames per second or 24?

Contemporary lit reader
For the contemporary literary reader with shelves of signed copies and tales of meeting authors, pick up Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue.

Teen reader
If instead you’re shopping for a teen reader who wants to get into the next big series before the rest of the world flocks to the obligatory movie, we suggest the Legend series by Marie Lu, who used to call Sugar Land home. In this post-apocalyptic novel, the main character, a teen, is slated to become an assassin. Things get nutty when she is sent to kill a boy who may have killed her brother.

Food lover
Need a gift for a foodie who always buys locally? Try a cookbook by a favorite Texas chef. Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico is not only filled with his favorite recipes, but he also includes personal stories to savor with each dish. An equally good idea is the Salt Lick Cookbook by CultureMap Austin dining editor Jessica Dupuy.

If that fashionista in your life loves the behind-the-scenes drama of the industry as much as the clothes, find some sophisticated gift wrap for Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington, the woman who managed to steal the spotlight from Anna Wintour in not one but two documentaries about Vogue.

Hipster satire-lover
Give the gift of historical irony to your favorite hipster satire-lover by pairing Stephen Colbert’s latest, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't, with some ancient school Gulliver’s Travels. Because if Jonathan Swift were alive today, he’d no doubt have his own Super PAC.

For the bibliophile who refuses to buy an e-reader and is looking for validation, we like Chris Ware’s Building Stories, an oversized box of 27 different booklets, each with a different point of view. It is a book to wade through rather than read start to finish.

Lovable Luddite
And if that lovable Luddite reader is raising little ones, we recommend In My Den by Sara Gillingham, because you can’t download the felt finger puppet that comes with the board book and then poke it through a Kindle.

Future forecaster
For the gambler, baseball stats lover or fortune-teller in your life, let he or she know that the future can sometimes be forecast with The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail but Some Don't, the new book by this nation’s recently chosen math-nerd-in-chief, Nate Silver.

An alternative to 50 Shades of Grey
And, finally, for that sweet, budding-sadist friend who won’t stop insisting you have to read 50 Shades of Grey, try giving her The Story of O by Pauline Reage, described as a story of love and submission. It won the French literary prize in 1954, the year it was originally published, and it has been in print ever since. Another option is Exit to Eden, Anne Rice’s S&M romance written under her pseudonym, Anne Rampling.

If those suggestions don’t send the message, throw a hardback copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer at your best friend's head. Carrie Fisher would approve.

  • JM Drygoods
    Photo by Jessica Pages
  • Nannie Inez
    Photo by Caitlin Ryan
  • Tribe: A Pop-Up Shop
    Photo by Caitlin Ryan

Design store round up: Local shopping stops for the aesthetically aware

creative focus

Though deeply entrenched in music, Austin's collective consciousness has always had one eye towards fixed on the development of a strong art and design scene.

Over the past few years — months, even — more and more shops with a curated selection of homewares, jewelry, textiles, art, books and nifty knick-knacks have cropped up in the center of town.

If you still have some holiday shopping to take care of, look no further than the below design-focused stores for inspiration. These are the types of shops where you might up shopping for yourself rather than sticking to the original mission you entered with.

Mockingbird Domestics
2151 South Lamar Boulevard

This South Lamar storefront specializes in what the owners call "modern classics." You'll find handcrafted objects with a focus on home design that are nothing if not classic and sleek. The focus is on the artist at Mockingbird, with a featured venders on rotation and on display each month.

Spartan + JM Drygoods
215 South Lamar Boulevard

These are actually two separate stores, housed within adjoining spaces. Spartan boasts immaculately designed merchandise and objects from around the world like golden barber scissors, recycled bottle planters, ceramic bowls and niche magazines like The Gentlewoman.

JM Drygoods adds a mesmerizing array of color to the space with Latin-inspired everything, including hand-embroidered Odilon blouses, blankets, rugs, candles and sage. Together, these stores make a strong statement that Austin not only knows good taste but loves an obscure designer.

Nannie Inez
2210 South First Street

The newest kid on the block, Nannie Inez bursts onto the design-concept scene with an interior space defined by mathematical lines, funky furniture and downright happiness. The sharply executed objects sourced everywhere from Japan to England remind you that life doesn't have to be all that serious. It's the place to visit when in the mood for dream-inducing exploration.

Aviary Decor & Lounge
2410 South Lamar Boulevard

The only store brave enough to tempt the fate of a wine bar nestled within displays of very expensive furniture, Aviary is a multifunctional design-and-furniture-store-cum-hangout. A visit to Aviary doesn't mean you'll be pressured into a big ticket item; it's also a great place to go to learn about wine from the owners, which you can then go purchase just down the street at South Lamar Wine & Spirits.

Tribe: A Pop-Up Shop
609 Congress Avenue

Open only until December 23, Tribe is the fruit of two sisters' labor who have brought in an array of products from L.A., London, New York, Paris and Austin. Jewelry, limited edition art, iPhone cases, T-shirts and the like can be found in Tribe's temporary home above Royal Blue Grocery on Congress Avenue. These are seasoned fashion industry gals, so expect highfalutin' taste, limited quantities, but reasonable price-points.

Jonathan Adler
1011 West Fifth Street

Not local, but still a gem. Jonathan Adler's Austin storefront is full of vases, pillows, and books with "pop." This is the go-to place for any design-conscious friend with a sense of humor as wicked as Adler's (we recently interviewed him here). Our favorite? The ceramic canister marked "Puppy Uppers," perfect for your pal's treats.

  • Champagne Toast.
    Photo by Matt McGinnis
  • Sandeman Rich Old Oloroso Sherry is a Great Christmas Desert.
    Photo by Matt McGinnis
  • Graham's 20 Year Old Tawny Port.
    Photo by Matt McGinnis
  • Reisling and Beaujolais for the Holidays.
    Photo by Matt McGinnis
  • Gruet Rosé
  • King Estate
    Photo by Jessica Dupuy

'Tis the season wine list: Top 10 holiday wines, from sparkling to dessert

Holiday Wine

Looking for the perfect holiday wine? If you need a little help, and you're willing to take the advice of two relatively well-informed wine enthusiasts, then look no further than our very own "'Tis the Season wine list."

CultureMap contributor Matt McGinnis of WhatAreYouDrinking.net and food editor Jessica Dupuy bring you a short and simple list of 10 wines. Two sparkling wines, two whites, two reds, two dessert whites and two dessert reds.

Matt McGinnis: "If you follow just one guiding principle for selecting wine for your holiday celebrations, by all means make it this one: don’t be a Scrooge. Whether you are hosting guests or celebrating just with your family, the holidays demand that you go the extra mile. You don’t have to be ostentatiously extravagant or break the bank, but don’t skimp on the most important element of your holiday meal, the wine."

Jessica Dupuy: "McGinnis' list may appeal to the Champagne and Lace wine lover, but let's say you've got to host a large group of people and don't want to shell out the big bucks for a crowd who — most likely — doesn't care what alcohol-infused beverage you put in their hands. Or let's just say it, you're like a lot of us Scrooges out there and are just plain cheap, my list is the one for you."

Sparkling Wine

McGinnis Picks: Godmé Père et Fils NV Brut Réserve Premier Cru
The first wine you should grab for any holiday occasion is bubbly. Every aspect of opening, pouring, serving and drinking Champagne excites the senses in ways no other wine can. This Christmas, look for a smaller Champagne house that grows its own grapes and produces its own wine. You can find these Champagnes, known as grower-producers, by looking for a tiny “RM” on the label. This is a good short-hand for finding high-quality bubbly without overpaying.

Godmé Père et Fils NV Brut Réserve Premier Cru fits the bill for “party-in-a-bottle.” Once popped open, riotous showers of bubbles race to the top of the glass to form a creamy mousse and the bubbles continue to dance and play on the tongue with aplomb. It fills the nose with walnut, apple and pear with the burst of each festive bubble. The Godmé has toasty bread and bright green apple, ripe strawberries flavors and a jangling citrus zip.

The best way to start off any holiday celebration is a kiss under the mistletoe quickly followed by a toast with lovely Champagne. It’s a perfect mate with soft creamy cheeses, ripe berries and just about any hors d'oeuvre you choose to serve before dinner.

I picked up this lovely bubbly from The Red Room Lounge for $55.

Dupuy Picks: Gruet Rosé Non Vintage
While Matt's philosophy is certainly altruistic if not a bit showy, there was a time when shelling out a few extra bucks to ensure you could show up to a holiday dinner with a good wine was key. But these days, the global market for wine has been blown wide open with a whole slew of impressive wines on the shelves for under $15. You just have to know how to find them.

Everyone loves a good celebration. And a few bubbles in the bottle is a sure fire way to summon a good time. While the best from the large French Champagne houses or even the most delicate of small production grower-producer Champagnes can be instant show-stoppers. And sparkling wine is no doubt the go-to wine for that. But you're just as likely to turn heads with a little bubbly from the sandy loam soils of New Mexico.

The Gruet Rosé is bright with flavors of strawberry and raspberry as well as hint of lemon zest and warm limestone. When it comes down to it, it's really just as sophisticated as the real deal. It doesn't hurt that the winery was started by a French family in the mid-1980s while looking to make a mark with wine on the American frontier.

You can find Gruett Rosé at Spec's for about $15.

White Wine

McGinnis Picks: Fritz Haag 2010 Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese
Coming to Christmas dinner without a white wine is like going to church without any pants. You just wouldn’t do it. Riesling is among the most food friendly wines on the planet and a sure bet to pair well with almost anything you choose to serve at the holidays. I recommend an ever so slightly sweet Spätlese variety which will accompany savory, spicy and sweet dishes alike.

Here is the second place where you shouldn’t be a cheapskate. Spend a bit more to get a fine German Riesling like the Fritz Haag from the Mosel region. This is an absolutely delightful wine that smells of honeysuckle, ripe pear, baked apples and cotton candy. It has luscious cocktail pears and peaches, honeydew flavors balanced with an electric acidity that makes it sing. It’s great with your salad and appetizer courses.

Fritz Haag Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling is available for $40 at the Austin Wine Merchant.

Dupuy Picks: Domaine de Bernier Chardonnay
McGinnis's shrewd selection of German Riesling for the holidays is certainly noble, but potentially foolish. I'm not about to waste a few drops of precious angel tears on someone who doesn't appreciate them. And when it comes to holiday celebrations, you are usually running the gamut of wine drinkers who love anything from the oakiest of Rombauer Chardonnays to the most delicate of German Rieslings. I'm in favor of meeting somewhere in the middle.

Offer all the citrus and apple notes that a fine Chardonnay can offer, with an extra boost of minerality from the French region of the Loire Valley. This crisp little wine barely has a kiss of oak, but finds its strength in its acidity, which makes it a great food wine for your average turkey dinner to grilled fish or pork tenderloin.

Whole Foods Market has this wine for only about $10.

Red Wine

McGinnis Picks: 2011 Domaine Chignard Fleurie 'Les Moriers'
Christmas dinners can be a cacophony of clashing flavors with several brash dishes competing for your tongue’s attention. It’s tough to pair a red wine with diverse dishes like goose, turkey or beef Wellington and Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and Waldorf salad. Beaujolais, made with the Gamay grape, are soft, fruity and versatile enough to go with almost any dish.

The engrossing experience of drinking a Beaujolais cru is a departure from the unfussy toss back of inexpensive Beaujolais Nouveau. It has bold scents of wild strawberries and maraschino cherries. Unlike the Nouveau, it has complexity on top of the fruit-forward juiciness. The sassy cheery cherry and blueberry flavors are balanced with granite minerality, crisp acidity and soft tannins. It is a festive accompaniment to almost anything you choose to serve.

This lovely Beaujolais is among the sumptuous selections of French wine at the Austin Wine Merchant for $25.

Dupuy Picks: Marques de la Musa Garnacha
True, Beaujolais is an elegant and beautiful choice — and I look forward to joining McGinnis’ holiday dinner to enjoy some. But just as with Riesling, it’s the type of wine that is more on an acquired taste for some than for others. I choose to move to the warmer climate of Spain, specifically to the Cariñena region where Garnacha (Grenache in French) reigns supreme.

Similar to the Gamay grape found in Beaujolais, Garnacha is a thin-skinned grape often used to bring more depth of fruit to blends with a breadth of earthiness and tannin. This wine is light, but with a fair amount of complexity. And as it is a warm climate grape, it lends itself to foods with a little spice — as is fairly typical of holiday dinners in Texas. Smoked pork loin with an apple, cranberry and jalapeño chutney would be ideal for this wine.

You can pick this up at Whole Foods Market for about $9.

White Dessert Wine

McGinnis Picks: Sandeman Royal Corregidor Rich Old Oloroso Sherry 20 Year Old
Sherry is one of the most complex and difficult to produce wines in the world. I could bore you with the intricacies of how it’s made, but suffice to say that if someone shares Sherry with you, it’s because they think you are worth it. That’s reason enough to put it on the holiday table.

The Sandeman aged Oloroso smells as good as a holiday party with roasted candied pralines, almonds and baked pear. It tastes like kissing the gorgeous, foul-mouthed intern in the coat closet at the end of that Christmas party; nutty and bitter mixed with 20-year-old sweetness and the saltiness of a reluctant tear. I can’t imagine another wine combining sweet, bitter and brine in a more pleasurable way.

Back at home, serve it slightly chilled, but not refrigerator cold, in a tulip shaped white wine glass. It is a perfect compliment to the end of a holiday meal. Its rich raisiny sweetness goes well with many traditional holiday deserts like gingerbread, rum cake and chocolate-cherry trifle.

This diminutive 500ml bottle will set you back $20 at the Austin Wine Merchant.

Dupuy Picks: King Estate Pinot Gris Ice Wine
While McGinnis is manipulating the intern into the coat closet, I'd rather keep my dessert wines on the classy side. They can be sweet, but more in the vein of angelic seraphim and cherubim rather than tawdry underaged tarts. So I'm going with a lovely little ice wine from Oregon.

The King Estate uses the often mis-represented Pinot Gris grape for this crisp and delicate wine brimming with ripe pear, apricot, peaches and wildflower honey. At only 11 percent alcohol this wine is searingly delicate, but the fragrant aromatics and the higher level of residual sugar will do doubt ensnare your senses. Serve chilled alongside a cornmeal cranberry-orange zest cake and you'll certainly hear the songs of angels.

Technically, I'm barely shaving a few dollars off the price of his Sherry with my ice wine, but with the difference, you can still do your best to entice the intern with a Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boy — she probably won't know the difference. You can also find this at Whole Foods Market for about $18.

Red Dessert Wine

McGinnis Picks: Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Porto
Port has always been one of my favorite fortified wines. The Port screams "Happy Holidays!" Drinking Port at Christmas is definitely a British tradition, but it’s getting more and more traction in the states as people are more open to explore fortified wines. This 20 Year Old Tawny has a boozy nose of dried orange peel and figs. Port is always bold and this one doesn’t disappoint. Orange, cherry, leather and cigar cling together in a sweet vanilla present.

When you are all done with your feast having eaten every tidbit of Who-pudding and every morsel of roast beast, sip on this nectar and you won’t have a care in the least. Sit back by the fire and sip a snifter of joy while enjoying visions of sweet fairies dancing, oh boy. It’s just as sad to finish the glass as unwrapping the last present under the tree.

The Austin Wine Merchant has a good selection of Port and this one goes for $50.

Dupuy Picks: Pedernales Cellars Glögg
McGinnis does have me here. I am a sucker for Port. But while he's savoring his last drop of Tawny, I'll likely be polishing off the last of the dirty dishes from the Holiday feast. But I'd never leave my guests without something to talk about. Which is why I'm going with something a little unorthodox: a Swedish-inspired wine made from a local Hill Country producer.

Glögg is a seasonal holiday fortified red wine infused with a whole range of spices including cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. It's typically served warm with a cinnamon stick and handful of raisins or dried cherries tossed in the bottom of the glass — an excellent treat to enjoy when the Glogg is at its end. This velvety red sticky is made in homage to Pedernales Cellars co-founder Fredrik Osterberg who grew up in Sweden and now finds his home among the rolling landscape of the Texas Hill Country. Serve this libation with a handful of Swedish-style ginger snaps and know that you're not only spreading good cheer but supporting a local producer all at the same time.

Currently Glögg can only be found at the Pedernales Cellars winery in Stonewall for about $19. You can order it online and still probably stay under the price of McGinnis' Port.

  • Crochet Cozies
  • Little Low
  • Greenling
    Photo by Alison Narro
  • Soy Delites from Wheatsville Co-op
    Photo by Shannon McGarvey
  • Goodflow Honey from Wheatsville Co-op.
    Photo by Shannon McGarvey

Go green gift guide: Distinctly local and eco-friendly presents

Divine Presents

Whether you're shopping for your Granny in Chattanooga, your sister's next-door neighbor in Portland, or the ever-fickle Secret Santa at work, Austin has a bevy of green merchants that are sure to satisfy almost every taste.

Although this list is not comprehensive, it does represent a broad cross-section of products and, what’s more, unique green gift ideas.

Crochet Cozies
Handmade and inspired by classic cult movies, television shows and pop culture, these distinct beverage koozies — er, Cozies — are weird, woven, and totally Austin. Noteworthy Cozies include: Frida Kahlo, Jurassic Park, Beetlejuice and Nintendo. Supplies are very limited, so act fast!

This award-winning Austin delivery start-up connects organic, local and sustainably-produced foods (dairy, meats, produce, and more) with consumers in an amazingly simple and eco-friendly way. With Greenling there are no contracts, no traffic or long lines, ten times the local selection of natural food stores, and only a $25 minimum on all orders. This service is available exclusively in Central Texas and Dallas.

Little Low
Specializing in quirky, eco-friendly prints, pillows, stationary, calendars and apparel, Little Low also touts a completely green and Austin-based work studio. Their “Wild and Free” line of prints and apparel is kind of to die for.

Sabia natural apothecary carries exclusive natural skin care brands such as Kiehl's, Jurlique, and Dr. Hauschka, but also boasts an exclusively local and organic cosmetics line. There is also an aromatherapist onsite to create custom-made essential oil blends.

Wimberley Lavender Farm
Due to the drought conditions of the past five years, the Wimberley Lavender Farm is now permanently closed to the public. Even so, the farm maintains a booth at the Wimberley Farmer’s Market on the first Saturday of every month. For most Austinites, however, visiting the farm’s comprehensive online product catalog — lavender soaps, natural insect repellent, misters, oils and more — will prove the most sensible option.

Tillery Park
Located deep in the heart of Austin’s east side, Tillery Park is the city’s latest biodynamic mixed-use retail venues (read: trailer park). The site features the Elphas Maximus vintage clothing store, Nettie’s Cloth & Ink, The Juice Well, a coffee shop, community gardens, and more:

Wheatsville Co-op
Although most people regard “Wheaties” as their go-to neighborhood grocer and co-op, it is also a fantastic source for green, local, and often edible gifts:

  • Third Coast Coffee Roasting Company: These bean experts import their product from Fair Trade cooperatives in 15 different countries and then roast it at the Third Coast shop on South Congress. Every blend is especially tailored to the best preparation method (drip, French press, percolator, etc), so do a little research before diving in.
  • Soy Delites: Soy candles are not only more aromatic than the traditional paraffin variety, but also longer lasting. Soy Delites are made locally by a husband and wife team and from 100 percent soy wax and cotton wicks. December’s scent of the month is “Jack Frost.”
  • Austin Natural Soap: These soaps are handcrafted and handmade in South Austin using only plant-based oils of olive, palm and coconut. Soaps include so many natural moisturizing elements (cocoa butter, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, shea butter) that skin is left clean and soft, no lotion required. Try the oatmeal honey exfoliating soap or the Lone Star Soap Sampler, for out-of-towners.
  • Goodflow Honey: Goodflow is the table wine of Texas honey, supplying wildflower, Orange Blossom, Clover and raw varieties from several hundred Austin area hives. Honey products can be purchased onsite at Wheatsville, from the company’s East Austin location (2601 E. Cesar Chavez Street), or by calling 512-472-6714.
  • Carter’s Select Salsa: Local salsa is a great gift for out-of-towners, especially those who are used to more mainstream brands. Carter’s Select, available in Hatch Autumn Roast, Original, Spicy, Fireside, Chimichurri, Smokey Peach, and En Fuego Con Habenero, might just blow their minds.
  • Pecan Shop Natives: Relatively new to the Central Texas pecan-harvesting scene, this product is among some of the best, and most sustainable. Try the Apple Pie Pecans for a sweet treat or the Mesquite Smoked variety for a more savory flavor.
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Austin Pets Alive and Austin Animal Center launch $31 pet adoptions for the holidays

New home for the holidays

Two Austin organizations are looking to get local pets into their "furever" homes this holiday season. In a special December promotion, Austin Pets Alive! (APA) and Austin Animal Center are working to get as many animals out of the shelter as possible, by making all adoption fees a flat $31.

The promotion runs December 1-31. According to a release, APA's director of lifesaving operations, Stephanie Bilbro, sees this as a great opportunity to clear out the shelters and make a great impact heading into 2023.

“The holidays are a great time for the Austin community to come together and add to their families. We have so many precious kittens, puppies, cats, and dogs just waiting for their turn to find a family,” said Bilbro. “We hope this is a chance for any family who’s been looking to add a pet to theirs to do so right in the middle of the holiday season. We know Austin is in the upper echelon when it comes to animal welfare. We hope this promo sets us and AAC up for a successful end to 2022 and a fast start going into 2023.”

Both shelters are also seeking fosters and volunteers throughout the holiday season, for Austinites looking to help the shelters without making a long-term commitment.

APA has two locations, one at 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St., and one in Tarrytown (3118 Windsor Rd.). Both locations operate 12-6 pm daily, except Christmas Eve (12-4 pm), Christmas Day (closed), and New Year’s Eve (12-4 pm). The Austin Animal Center is located at 7201 Levander Loop and is open every day from 11 am-7 pm for adoptions. For holiday hours, AAC will be closing at 5 pm on December 23 and will be closed December 24-26.

'Famous' rooftop igloos return to Austin hot spot for the coolest experience this winter

Stay Cool

There aren’t so many winter wonderlands in Austin during the holiday season, but things get colder at higher elevations. The Hotel Van Zandt fourth-floor rooftop may not be high enough to change the weather, but visitors throughout December are invited to hang out in its self-proclaimed "famous" all-weather igloos, snacking on bites from inside and themed cocktails after the sun goes down.

Each private, six-seat igloo at the “South Pole” contains a Christmas tree, board and card games, festive records, and other cozy holiday decorations. It’s as private as Austin dining gets without completely breaking the bank, but the poolside mini-village of transparent igloos creates a warm feeling of togetherness. And in case it actually does get cold (a Christmas miracle!), the vinyl globes are heated.

It's not just a fun gimmick — as cute as the igloos are, Geraldine's is a great foodie destination. Visitors can expect (strong) drinks like the “Dandy Andes,” a minty chocolate mix of Grey Goose vodka, crème de cacao, crème de menthe, and matcha tea. “Santa on a Beach” combines tropical flavors with cinnamon, and other drinks include unusual ingredients like Chartreuse whipped cream, pistachio, and chocolate mole bitters.

Geraldine’s menu focuses on classic Southern cuisine without getting weighed down by tradition; that means a roster of semi-adventurous gourmet comfort foods, like mole birria short ribs, smoked carrots, and salty Brussels sprouts with serranos and mint. Shareables are a good idea, since the igloos are intimate (read: not especially convenient unless you like balancing a dinner plate on the couch).

Two rounds of two-hour seating will be available every night, and reservations will go very fast. As of December 5, there are only a few dates left. Reservations ($100 upfront) entail a $200 minimum on food and beverage, plus a 20 percent service charge. Book on Eventbrite.

Acclaimed Texas chef toasts the Italian liqueur that's perfect for the holidays

The Wine Guy

Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day and covers it regularly in a column for CultureMap's Houston site. Here, he talks not about wine, but the perfect after-dinner sip.

All right, team! Listen up! I’m going to give you some very important holiday information to help you get through all of the parties, family gatherings, and large festive dinners. We are not going to talk about wine today. We’re going to talk about another love of mine — the life-saving amaro.

What is amaro, you ask? It’s an Italian herbal liqueur that’s traditionally consumed post-meal as a digestif. Think of it this way: you start your meal with an aperitif — could be a martini, Campari, or Aperol spritz — to get your palate going and your body ready to eat. After dinner, amaro will help you get through the rest of your night. This elixir will magically and quickly break down everything you just consumed.

Most amari are from Italy, but fortunately new producers with similar styles are popping up all over the world. Some are sweeter, some are more bitter. You just have to find the style you like. Producers don’t traditionally tell you what’s in their amaro, because most of them are made up of dozens of herbs and spices. It’s all about trial and error to find the one you love.

I drink it neat, but some people drink it on the rocks. More and more, you’re seeing amari in cocktails, too.

The amari selection at our house is awesome. My wife and I are firm believers in this beverage as a night cap, and it’s even become part of my regiment pre-dinner as a spritz. Kill two birds, you know?

Unfortunately, not a lot of restaurants carry multiple amari, so it’s up to you guys to get this trend moving. The more you ask for it, the more they’ll stock it.

Our No. 1 go to at home? Montenegro. It’s easy to find, and it’s easy drinking. It has flavors of vanilla and orange, but it’s not too sweet and not too bitter. It’s had the same recipe since 1885, and I hope they never change it.

My wife’s favorite is Braulio. This spirit is from the Italian Alps and aged in Slavonian casks. Using more medicinal herbs and fruits means it skews more bitter than Montenegro, but it has a nice sweetness at the end.

A newish player in the amari game is Amaro Nonino. The Nonino family is historically one of the best grappa producers in the world — they’ve been distilling grappa since 1897 — but they didn’t start to produce their namesake amaro until 1992. (By newish, you get what I mean.) It has lots of honey, vanilla, licorice, and orange flavors. It’s a tad less sweet than most, but I think it’s fantastic.

Pasubio is really different from other amari. If you’re a fan of blueberries, this is for you. It literally tastes like crushed blueberries.

The next two are really cool and unusual, because they're made here in the U.S. An all-time favorite is Southern Amaro from High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston. Yaupon is one of the main characteristics, which is found all over Texas.

High Wire built its reputation on using regionally grown and foraged ingredients. If you’re ever in Charleston, you should stop into the distillery and say hi to Scott and Ann! Also, try some of their Jimmy Red Corn whiskey. Actually, everything they make is delightful.

Heirloom Pineapple Amaro is made in Minneapolis. To me, this is fantastically bitter but also tastes like roasted pineapple in a glass. One of my new favorites, for sure.

Now, here’s a helpful tidbit of info. You may have heard of fernet. That’s a general term for an amaro with very little to no sweetness. Branca is a producer that makes fernet, and it’s the most well-known. Search out others as well, because they’re all pretty cool.

Almost everything I listed can be found at most liquor stores. Don’t be afraid to try something. Yes, sometimes it tastes like taking your medicine. But I’ll bet the smell of Jägermeister penetrates your early 20s, and surprise — that’s a style of amaro as well.