Photo by Shelley Neuman

If you attended this year's CultureMap Austin Tastemaker Awards party, you might remember sampling a creamy, delicious pasta dish from the best new restaurant winner, Sophia's.

It was Orecchiette Tartufate, the Austin hot spot's No. 1 best-selling dish, and executive chef Mark Sparacino is revealing the recipe so you can make it at home. Join him as he shops Whole Foods Market for all the ingredients — from fresh to dried to specialty — and then follow the recipe below to whip up the famous pasta for yourself.

Orecchiette Tartufate

5 oz. fresh/dry orecchiette
2 cups heavy whipping cream (36%-40%)
3 oz. dry white wine
6 medium cremini mushrooms, quartered
5 asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 halves sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
1 tablespoon truffle paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
White truffle oil to drizzle
Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano to top
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Blanch and shock asparagus; reserve the water for sun-dried tomatoes.

Pour 3 oz. of hot asparagus water over sun-dried tomatoes. Steep for 15-25 minutes (depending on the dryness of tomatoes), then strain.

Sauté cremini mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a 10-inch sauté pan, add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and garlic. Sauté over medium heat for 1 minute.

Add cremini mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Sauté for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until garlic starts to lightly brown.

De-glaze with white wine, turn heat up to high, and allow to reduce most of wine.

Add the heavy whipping cream, truffle paste, and ½ teaspoon of salt. Allow cream to reduce by 50 percent.

Add asparagus, then turn heat off and set aside.

In boiling salted water, (should taste like the ocean), cook according to directions on package or to desired texture. Pasta should be cooked al dente (slightly undercooked), as it will finish cooking in the sauce.

Bring truffle sauce back to a simmer while pasta is cooking.

Strain pasta but do not rinse. Add directly to sauce, stirring 1 to 2 minutes until pasta is well coated and sauce well reduced.

Finish with parsley, a drizzle of truffle oil, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, and pepper to taste.

Chef Mark Sparacino dishes up Orecchiette Tartufate at the 2017 CultureMap Austin Tastemaker Awards.

Photo by Shelley Neuman
Chef Mark Sparacino dishes up Orecchiette Tartufate at the 2017 CultureMap Austin Tastemaker Awards.
Justin Holt/Ralph Smith Studios

These are the best restaurants and bars in Texas for 2017

Texas Tastemakers

Each year we hold a Texas-sized celebration of two of the things we love most: food and drink. The annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards honors the top restaurant and bar talent in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio.

The program started in Austin in 2012 and has expanded to include every city we cover. Our mission is to shine a spotlight on the people making the restaurant scene special and honor their innovation, energy, and creativity. Here's how it works. First, we collaborated with industry experts to determine a list of nominees in each city. Our local panels then selected winners in every category, except Best New Restaurant, which was determined by you, our savvy readers.

The winners were revealed at our swanky tasting events and awards ceremonies, held April 18-20 in Houston, Austin, and Dallas. (See highlights from the Austin party here.)

Meet the winners below, and join us in toasting the best of Texas dining right now.


  • Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye
  • Chef of the Year: Todd Duplechan, Lenoir
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: James Dumapit and David Baek, Old Thousand
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Abby Love, Dai Due
  • Bar of the Year: King Bee Lounge
  • Bartender of the Year: Josh Loving, Small Victory
  • Brewery of the Year: Hops & Grain
  • Wine Program of the Year: Bufalina
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: June's All Day
  • Best Burger: Contigo
  • Best New Restaurant: Sophia's


  • Restaurant of the Year: Lucia
  • Chef of the Year: Julian Barsotti, Nonna, Carbone's, Sprezza
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Josh Sutcliff, Mirador
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Sarah Green, The Joule
  • Bar of the Year: Armoury D.E.
  • Bartender of the Year: Charlie Papaceno, Industry Alley Bar
  • Wine Program of the Year: Gemma
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Bbbop Seoul Kitchen
  • Best Fried Chicken: The Slow Bone
  • Best New Restaurant: Pie Tap Pizza Workshop + Bar

Fort Worth

  • Restaurant of the Year: Tokyo Cafe
  • Chef of the Year: Jesus Garcia, Oni Ramen
  • Best New Restaurant: Tortaco


  • Restaurant of the Year: Coltivare Pizza & Garden
  • Chef of the Year: Ryan Pera, Coltivare Pizza & Garden
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Martha de Leon, Pax Americana
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Victoria Dearmond, One Fifth/Underbelly
  • Bar of the Year: Eight Row Flint
  • Bartender of the Year: Leslie Ross Krockenberger, Reserve 101
  • Wine Program of the Year: Pappas Bros Steakhouse
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: State of Grace
  • Favorite Taco: Tacos Tierra Caliente
  • Best New Restaurant: State Fare

San Antonio

  • Restaurant of the Year: The Bin Tapas Bar
  • Chef of the Year: Stefan Bowers, Feast
  • Best New Restaurant: Sangria on the Burg

Lucia, Dallas Restaurant of the Year.

Justin Holt/Ralph Smith Studios
Lucia, Dallas Restaurant of the Year.
Photo by Shelley Neuman

Austin foodies get their fill at best Tastemakers party yet

A Taste of Tastemakers

A huge crowd gathered at the Bullock Texas State History Museum on April 19 for the sixth annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards, our big event celebrating the top food and beverage talent in Austin and San Antonio.

Almost 800 foodies attended the swanky tasting event. It all culminated in an awards ceremony, emceed by beloved Texas chef Tim Love, in which the night's big winners were revealed.

Attendees noshed on bites from 827Ray's Kitchen + Cellar, Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden (San Antonio), Cannon + Belle, Culinary Dropout, Emmer & Rye, Geraldine's, Grizzelda's, Juniper, Lonesome Dove Western Bistro, Old Thousand, Parkside, Ritual (Houston), Rosemary's Catering, Salt Traders Coastal Cooking, Sophia's, Swift's Attic, Uchiko, and Wu Chow. A Sweet Suite featured treats from Chocolaterie Tessa, General Tso'Boy, The Cupcake Bar, Spread & Co., and Sugarfina.

Craft cocktails incorporating Woodford Reserve were flowing at the main bars, and the Bartender Showcase featured signature drinks from Natalie Mauser-Carter of Backbeat, Dennis Gobis of The Roosevelt Room, and Angela Zamora of Stay Gold. Wine from Sonoma-Cutrer and beer from Oskar Blues Brewery, Alaskan Brewing Co., and SweetWater Brewing Company rounded out the bar options. An Illy coffee bar got folks caffeinated, and Topo Chico kept them hydrated.

Nominees were treated to an exclusive lounge courtesy of Korbel, which featured free bubbly and swag bags filled with goodies from Jack Black Skincare, Kettle & Brine, Krave Jerky, Liber & Co., Nina Berenato Jewelry, Outdoor Voices, SoulCycle, Whole Foods Market, and Woodford Reserve.

A fun photo booth helmed by Ben Porter Photography and powered by Whole Foods Market had everyone smiling. Across the room, Priv pampered guests with fun, foodie nail art. The best part? Ten percent of the proceeds from the Tastemaker Awards supports the Austin Food & Wine Alliance.

Spotted in the crowd: Tyson Cole, Kevin Fink, Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Page Pressley, David Baek, James Dumapit, Abby Love, Jack Gilmore, Bill Norris, Billy Hankey, Justin Lavenue, Mark Sparacino, Paula Collins, Alexis Cawley, Simon Cawley, Stephanie Samuels, Kim Fuller, Kayluis Peña, Mary Verhaeghe, Dani Verhaeghe, Lizzy Verhaeghe, Shaun Monforte, William Jackson, Gabby Cikota, Stacy Hubrath, Holli Young, Hayden Walker, Misty Journey, Faez Khan, Melissa Kuo, Rebecca Kan, Craig Beveridge, Sarah O'Brien, Thien-Y Hoang, Melissa Grady, Torie Gehrig, W.H. Harris, and Marie Smyth.

Mary Verhaeghe, Dani Verhaeghe, Lizzy Verhaeghe, and Shaun Monforte.

Photo by Shelley Neuman
Mary Verhaeghe, Dani Verhaeghe, Lizzy Verhaeghe, and Shaun Monforte.
Photo by Melody Fury

Austin restaurant of the year, top chefs, and more revealed at 2017 Tastemaker Awards

Meet the Tastemakers

Over the past month, we've introduced you to the top restaurant and bar talent in Austin as part of our 2017 Tastemaker Awards. These outstanding nominees, selected by an expert panel of judges, represent the very best of Austin's celebrated food and drink scene.

On Wednesday night, emcee and Texas restaurateur Tim Love revealed the winners at our annual Tastemaker Awards party, held at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Join us in toasting the 2017 Tastemaker winners:

Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye
The food at this Rainey Street gem is adventurous but familiar, and the atmosphere, service, and bar round out a terrific dining experience. Chef Kevin Fink is an advocate for sustainability, sourcing heirloom grains (milled in-house); relying on whole-animal butchery; and making his own vinegars, preserves, condiments, and pickles using natural fermentation.

Chef of the Year: Todd Duplechan, Lenoir
Duplechan opened Lenoir with his wife, Jessica Maher, in 2012. In 2013, he was awarded the Tastemaker in this category for his expert take on "hot weather food." Recently, he partnered with Jeffrey Weinberger on the reincarnation of Youngblood's fried chicken, which is now open in Mueller.

Rising Star Chef of the Year: James Dumapit and David Baek, Old Thousand
Co-chefs James Dumapit and David Baek debuted Old Thousand in late 2016, and the east side hangout has become a go-to for Chinese food and cocktails. It's the first of four projects from SMGB, a new restaurant group comprised of talent from top spots like Hopdoddy Burger Bar and Hai Hospitality.

Pastry Chef of the Year: Abby Love, Dai Due
Abby Love honed her pastry skills in positions throughout bakeries and restaurants. Her current dessert menu at Dai Due ranges from refreshing lime and fresh mint sorbet to a delicate grapefruit shortbread tart.

Bar of the Year: King Bee Lounge
King Bee Lounge is an unassuming cocktail mecca in East Austin. Owner Billy Hankey has created a destination for top-notch mixed drinks, as well as wine, mezcal, and live music.

Bartender of the Year: Josh Loving, Small Victory
Loving has worn many hats in the local beverage scene, from his days as the wine buyer and bar manager at Fino to bartending at Midnight Cowboy and opening Weather Up. At his own venture, Small Victory, Loving continues his commitment to using the best possible ingredients, spirits, and ice to create memorable cocktails that break the mold while respecting the classics.

Brewery of the Year: Hops & Grain Brewing
This little brewery has grown exponentially since opening in 2011, always with sustainability in mind. The crew is in the process of opening a new brewery and taproom in San Marcos, via an innovative crowd-funding and investment platform.

Wine Program of the Year: Bufalina
Owner Steven Dilley prides himself on his wine list, which is surprisingly deep for a "pizza joint." Focusing primarily on French and Italian selections, the lists at Bufalina and Bufalina Due include cult Champagnes and grand cru Burgundies alongside easier-on-the-wallet options in a variety of styles.

Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: June's All-Day
Named for award-winning Austin sommelier June Rodil, this French-inspired bistro on South Congress boasts an outstanding wine program and expertly crafted cocktails. The food is elegant and eclectic, with items ranging from bites like salted cod croquettes to a seriously overstuffed burger.

Best Burger: Contigo
Contigo's burger is accompanied by house-cured bacon, lettuce, tomato, and pickles on a house-made challah bun smeared with aioli. It may be simple, but that allows the flavors of the fresh ingredients to stand out — and win this special 2017 category.

Best New Restaurant: Sophia's
This sultry Italian restaurant stepped into the former Bess Bistro space in summer 2016. Sophia's classic entrees and pasta plates are complemented by an extensive wine list, plus cocktails with a special emphasis on barrel-aged creations, amaro, and house-made vermouth.

And we can't forget about our neighbors to the south. Here are the San Antonio Tastemaker winners for 2017:

  • Restaurant of the Year: The Bin Tapas Bar
  • Chef of the Year: Stefan Bowers, Feast
  • Best New Restaurant: Sangria on the Burg

Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye.

Photo by Melody Fury
Restaurant of the Year: Emmer & Rye.
Barley Swine/Facebook

Get a taste of the best Austin restaurants for 2017

Restaurant of the Year

If you've dined at any of these restaurants, you will agree that they are all worthy of the title of Restaurant of the Year in our annual Tastemaker Awards. Representing many cuisines and ethnic roots, these fabulous spots have contributed to making Austin one of the hottest culinary destinations in the country.

Get a taste of the nominees below, and join us as we unveil the winner at our big event on April 19.

Barley Swine
At Barley Swine, local and seasonal are not just trendy adjectives. The menu here changes daily depending on ingredients available and whatever they inspire the chefs to create. Although chef/owner Bryce Gilmore gets the credit — and the James Beard nominations — his kitchen is egalitarian and everyone contributes to the greater whole. Now with an expanded space that allows more people to enjoy the nightly delights, Barley Swine continues wowing with impeccably beautiful plates, garden-to-glass cocktails, and excellent beer and wine lists.

Emmer & Rye
This gem in the heart of the Rainey Street District could very well find a home in a corner of any major U.S. city, except for the hyper-local nature of its menu. Chef Kevin Fink is an advocate (dare we say activist) of sustainability, and he walks the walk by sourcing heirloom grains (which are milled in-house); relying on whole-animal butchery; and making his own vinegars, preserves, condiments, and pickles using natural fermentation. As expected, the food is adventurous but familiar, and the atmosphere, service, and bar round out a terrific dining experience.

After honing his skills at some of the best kitchens in Austin and Dallas, chef Nicholas Yanes opened this lovely east side eatery to showcase his love for Northern Italian fare. At Juniper he delivers creative dishes inspired by his travels, showcasing Central Texas products as they marry with Old World techniques. The space is modern and inviting, and it features a convivial atmosphere augmented by a solid bar program.

L'Oca d'Oro
The "Golden Goose" has wowed since opening day, thanks to chef Fiore Tedesco’s adventurous Italian cuisine matched by Adam Orman’s sensational bar program. While it is a casual neighborhood hangout with personable, professional service, it is not your typical checkered tablecloth Italian. Here, classic and family recipes receive a modern interpretation using Texas ingredients from nearby farms, served in individual or sharable family-style formats. The restaurant is also a pioneer in paying servers a living wage, and it is one of only two Sanctuary Restaurants in Austin.

The lovely Lenoir continues to dazzle diners with chefs Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher’s “hot weather food,” sourced almost exclusively from Texas’ farmers and food artisans. The prix fixe menu changes weekly, and the wine list evolves through the seasons to match the cuisine. The atmosphere is exquisite and romantic without being stuffy, and the wine garden under the oaks adds yet another beautiful space to wine and dine.

Dining at Otoko is much more than just going out to dinner — it is a culinary experience for all the senses. Recently named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs for 2017, Yoshi Okai treats this intimate Japanese restaurant as his own private playground where he uses local produce, wild foraged herbs, and fish flown daily from Japan to create an omakase dinner like no other in town. The exclusive experience has a price tag, but from the moment you sip a cocktail at the low-lit Watertrade bar before entering the 12-seat dining room, you know you’re in for something very special indeed.

Swanky Sway brings Thai cuisine to a higher level in exotic surrounds that transport you to a faraway locale. Executive chef Martin Wilda offers a modern take on iconic dishes and shares creations of his own inspired by the ingredients and flavors of Southeast Asia, while the bar strives to offer beer and wine to match. They have a varied list of non-alcoholic house-made sodas and drinking vinegars that are a welcome addition. The chef’s counter provides the perfect perch for watching the chefs in action, and the large communal tables are perfect for large groups.

What more can we say about this duo of Japanese, trendsetting restaurants helmed by award-winning chef Tyson Cole? Uchi was one of the pioneers in shaping the Austin restaurant scene we know now, and Uchiko — loosely translating as "son of Uchi" — followed suit with even more adventurous sushi and cutting-edge dishes like the Jar Jar Duck. Both remain relevant and innovative in a city where new restaurants pop up on a weekly basis.

Wu Chow
This younger sibling to Swift’s Attic was one of the most anticipated openings of 2015, and it did not disappoint. Executive chef Ji Peng Chen and dim sum chef Ling Qi Wu prepare traditional Sichuan dishes like spicy deep fried chicken, soup dumplings, and mapo dofu in classic style, in a modern space that is sophisticated yet comfortable. Weekend dim sum service includes all the favorites and cool Tiki drinks.


Buy tickets now to the Tastemaker Awards on April 19 at Bullock Texas State History Museum. Learn more about the event here.

Barley Swine.

Barley Swine/Facebook
Barley Swine.
Photo by Kate LeSueur

Meet the best chefs in Austin for 2017

Top Chef

It's time to celebrate the nominees for Chef of the Year in our sixth annual CultureMap Tastemaker Awards. These are the chefs that dish up our favorite meals in Austin — and always leave us hungry for more.

Meet the nominees below, then join us for the big reveal on April 19 at the Bullock State History Museum.

Tatsu Aikawa and Tako Matsumoto, Ramen Tatsu-Ya
​These co-executive chefs are responsible for Austin's ramen craze. There are now two Ramen Tatsu-Ya outposts in Austin, plus a brand-new, well-received branch in Houston. And earlier this year, the team debuted Texas-influenced izakaya Kemuri Tatsu-Ya in East Austin.

Tyson Cole, Uchi, Uchiko
Cole is the mastermind behind Austin's most famous sushi restaurant and the first Austin chef to be named Best Chef: Southwest by the James Beard Foundation. He recently announced plans to take his restaurant empire across state lines: Uchi Denver will debut in 2018.

Todd Duplechan, Lenoir
Duplechan opened Lenoir with his wife, Jessica Maher, in 2012. In 2013, he was awarded the Tastemaker in this category for his expert take on "hot weather food." He recently partnered with Jeffrey Weinberger on the reincarnation of Youngblood's fried chicken, now cooking in Mueller.

Kevin Fink, Emmer & Rye
Grains are the star of the show at Fink's Rainey Street hot spot, Emmer & Rye. Lauded as one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs in 2016, Fink transforms grains into a celebrated selection of breads, pastas, desserts, dim sum, and more.

Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine, Odd Duck
This darling of the Austin restaurant industry won the Tastemaker in this category in 2014 and is eligible again this year. The son of veteran chef Jack Gilmore, Bryce hit the local scene with his Odd Duck trailer before opening standout restaurant Barley Swine. In late 2013, he introduced a brick-and-mortar version of Odd Duck, and last year, Barley Swine made the move to a bigger, better location on Burnet Road.

Jack Gilmore, Jack Allen's Kitchen
There's no doubt that Jack Gilmore is one of Austin's favorite chefs. His beloved Jack Allen's Kitchen concept has three locations around the area — with a North Central Austin outpost in the works. In 2016, Gilmore opened Salt Traders Coastal Cooking, bringing his signature Southern approach to coastal fare.

Yoshi Okai, Otoko
At the exclusive 12-seat Otoko, Okai executes a menu that honors Japanese tradition, while seamlessly incorporating local ingredients and regional tastes. It's what makes him "Austin’s Best New Chef" for 2017, according to Food & Wine.

Fiore Tedesco, L'Oca d'Oro
Tedesco's anticipated Italian restaurant debuted in the Mueller district last summer after three years of pop-ups and supper clubs. The result is pure gold, drawing from Tedesco's experience at top restaurants like New York's Roberta's and Gramercy Tavern.

Nicolas Yanes, Juniper
Our 2016 Rising Star Chef of the Year winner, Yanes advances to the Chef of the Year category for 2017. He opened East Austin restaurant Juniper as executive chef and partner in 2015; the endeavor, a fun place to experiment and enjoy high-end cuisine, is inspired by his travels through northern Italy.


Buy tickets now to the Tastemaker Awards on April 19 at Bullock Texas State History Museum. Learn more about the event here.

Yoshi Okai, Otoko.

Photo by Kate LeSueur
Yoshi Okai, Otoko.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Austin chefs turn out for farmer-focused food festival, returning this spring

Field Guide

Sometimes reinventing the wheel is a good thing, which may explain the immediate and warm welcome Field Guide Festival received upon its launch in 2021 and return in 2022. Moving past the food festival trope of tiny bites, loud music, and general Baccanalian vibes, Field Guide Festival seeks to foster connections between farmers, chefs, consumers, and everyone in between. Returning to East Austin on Saturday, April 22, the innovative event invites Central Texans to consider their role in the future of food in the Austin community.

Founded by female powerhouses, Lindsey Sokol and Trisha Bates, the goal of the fest is to leave guests inspired to participate in their local food system, equipped with the knowledge of where to find the best, most sustainable food available in Austin and the surrounding area.

"Field Guide Festival presents an answer to the question, ‘Where does your food come from?’ by highlighting the local farmers and chefs of Austin," Bates shares in a release. "Our festival is the only place in the city where you will see the farmers side-by-side with the chefs who transform their food, creating dishes uniquely representing this exact time and place. You'll never have this food, presented in this way, again."

The recently-released 2023 lineup features an impressive roster of 34 farmer and chef partners who will partner together to create dishes exclusive to the festival using in-season produce. Tickets will include a full day of food and beverages, cooking demonstrations, symposium conversations, live music, and a farmer’s bodega — all benefiting the Central Texas Food Bank.

“The Central Texas Food Bank is honored to be a partner of such a special gathering,” says Mark Jackson Chief Development Officer of Central Texas Food Bank in a releasE. “Not only will revenue from the event help ensure that thousands of our neighbors facing food insecurity have enough to eat, but attendees will learn about the impact food has on our whole community while having fun.”

Curated by Field Guide Culinary Director Chef Philip Speer, the 2023 chef and farmer lineup is below:

  • Abby Love (Abby Jane Bakeshop) & Amalia Staggs (Farmshare Austin)
  • Colter Peck (Elementary) & Becky Hume (VRDNT Farm)
  • Fiore Tedesco (L’Oca D’Oro) & Sean Henry (Hi-Fi MYCO)
  • Graeme Little (Fairmont Austin) & Julia Poplawsky Lewis (Cielito Lindo Farm)
  • Graham Fuller (Emmer & Rye) & William Nikkel (Trosi Farms)
  • Joaquin Ceballos (Este) & Anamaria Gutierrez (Este Garden)
  • Krystal Craig + Ian Thurwachter (Intero) & Celia Bell (Two Hives Honey)
  • Mia Li (Ora King Salmon) & Joe + Kasey Diffie (Joe’s Microgreens)
  • Natalie Gazaui (Chef Consultant) & Gregory Mast (Central Texas Food Bank Garden)
  • Nicholas Yanes (Juniper + Uncle Nicky’s) & Perrine Noelke (Local Pastures)
  • Rhys Davis & Michael Fojtasek (Maie Day) & Marianna Peeler (Peeler Farms)
  • Kevin & Rosie Truong (Fil N Viet) & Travis Breihan (Smallhold)
  • Susana Querejazu (Lutie’s) & Hannah Gongola (H2Grow Farms)
  • Todd Duplechan (Lenoir + Vixen’s Wedding) & Ryan Gould (Geosmin Regenerative)
  • Zechariah Perez (Sour Duck Market + Odd Duck) & Montana Stovall (Dancing Bear Farm)
  • Ooni Chef Demos by Casey Wilcox (Little Trouble) & Christina Currier (Comedor)
  • Force of Nature Chef Demo by Katrina Ferraro and Freddy Diaz (Las Brasas)

Featuring a mix of savory, sweet, and plant-based options, all food and beverages are included with each ticket, allowing guests to roam and sample everything. Tickets are $100 for adults, while a new Young Foodies ticket option ($50 for ages 13-30) and free entry children 12 and under encourages the whole family to come savor and celebrate the best of Central Texas food.

“New this year, Field Guide will welcome guests of all ages!" says founder Lindsey Sokol. "We’ve created a food festival that puts education first in order to strengthen the food system for the future, including the next generation. Our goal is to present food in a way no one else in Austin is doing, where the local food system is the priority.”

For more information and to purchase tickets for the event, please visit fieldguidefest.com or follow along on social media @fieldguidefest.

Trendy boxing gym knocks out Cedar Park with more planned

Out of the Box

New or aspiring boxers who worry about punching above their weight may have a new solution that caters to all. Rumble Boxing, a gym that boasts clients including David Beckham, Selena Gomez, and Justin Bieber, is now open in Cedar Park, with plans to expand elsewhere in Austin in February.

Unlike the boxing-solo-before-dawn movie trope, Rumble offers group classes that make the sport accessible and fun, including some workouts that aren’t just traditional boxing (called “boxing-inspired circuits”). Boxers of all levels get together for something that looks in videos like a spin class with boxing equipment.

The gym calls it a “10-round, 45-minute fight,” but an explanation on the website reveals “fight” to be more of a metaphor. Some rounds involve punching bags, while others incorporate floor training with bodyweight and dumbbell exercises. The classes promise a balance of both; half and half throughout the class.

Ambiance plays a significant part in the experience, and the gym emphasizes its music and lights along with “the program, and the collective heartbeat of the room.” Although the program contemporizes boxing for greater accessibility, the core elements are still there. Boxers will learn “the six punches”: the jab, the cross, front and back hooks, and front and back uppercuts.

The system has proven popular so far, and not just with celebrities. In business since just 2017, Rumble has 35 studios in the United States, plus some in Australia and the Dominican Republic. In Texas, there are also locations outside of Houston and Dallas, with more set to open in both by March.

Rumble Boxing is now open at 12160 W Parmer Lane, Suite #150. Hours of operation vary by day and are available at rumbleboxinggym.com.

This professional development group is working to connect Black Austinites and keep them in Austin

Fellowing the Leader

Even though Austin is generally understood as friendly and good for transplants, it’s always hard to land in a new city and gauge your longevity there. Finding resources takes time and connections, and for new Austinites who experience social marginalization, it may not feel possible to thrive.

Seeking to create those connections, the African American Leadership Institute (AALI) is a professional development group focused on increasing civic awareness and leadership opportunities for Austin's Black population. According to the website, their mission is to "build a stronger Black Austin community by equipping exceptional leaders to live up to their moral responsibility ... to make life better for everyone in our city, state, and the world."

Established in 2021, the idea for AALI evolved out of the Leadership Austin model, which also provides civic leadership training and is in turn an evolution of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. After participating in the 2002 class at Leadership Austin, AALI founder Heath Creech noticed a pattern: Companies were bringing Black employees to Austin, but underutilizing their skill sets when they arrived. Feeling more like guests than active community members, those employees packed up and looked for a new place to hit the ground running.

Creech realized Black Austinites needed their own program like Leadership Austin, so he connected with BiNi Coleman, a strategist who prioritized Black leadership through her organization 212 Catalysts. Partnering with Leadership Austin to create a parallel system, the pair started AALI to target exceptional leaders through its annual Leadership Cohort. This group of annual fellows learns how to engage in intensive community building and “deep dives” into multiple issue areas — all with a lens toward the Black community in Central Texas.

In just two years, AALI has seen in its first two groups that a third of participants say they were thinking of leaving Austin, but decided to stay. To find people willing to offer the vulnerability to apply even while feeling untethered from the Austin community, AALI had to drop some pretenses that other organizations may use to ensure commitment to applying.

“[The] AALI launch committee … determined for one that our Northstar metric should be connection: Addressing this lack of belonging in the community,” says Coleman, now AALI’s CEO. “If people emphasize that they feel a greater sense of connection to the Black community, or the overall community, we are doing our jobs. So far, that's never been less [affirmative feedback] than 96 percent or so.”

The only eligibility requirement is that participants must live in the Austin MSA (the Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos metropolitan area). The organization waived the minimum years of residence requirement. Applications could be written or recorded via video, to ensure that different communication styles made their strongest possible impacts. It’s working.

“We've had people that range from being … essentially homeless, and made it in AALI because they are relentless about being out in the community, and delivering basic needs to families and things of that nature,” says Coleman. “And then we have people that are corporate VPs, and we have people who are executive directors of nonprofits. In our inaugural year we had [Austin ISD Police Chief] Wayne Sneed, for instance. It really ranges the gamut.”

The 2023 fellows are no exception: Announced in January, the group of 34 includes an associate professor addressing education policy and philanthropy, the CPO of the Boys & Girls Club of Austin, the director of the Downtown Austin Alliance, a doula, multiple school principals, and more. Throughout the program, these Fellows’ main objective is to get to know each other and make themselves known, so when program leaders can offer connections to outside organizations, they know who to recommend. Coleman tells a story about Aaron Demerson of the Texas Workforce Commission speaking at a session, and having a meeting booked with one of the fellows within "a couple of hours."

AALI has further expanded its outreach by launching a one-day event, Black X Conference, which allows anyone who registers to join and make connections whether or not they plan to pursue a fellowship. Scheduled annually for the Friday leading into the Juneteenth holiday, this year's Black X Conference is set for June 16.

"People ... seem to just really enjoy it and it lights a fire beyond just connecting with each other" says Coleman. "They learn about all these different issue areas and the Black community history and lens ... and then they're connected. So now if they choose to activate, they'd have what they need: They've got the information, they're aware. They know where to get more information."

More information about the African American Leadership Institute (AALI), including a full list of 2023 fellows with LinkedIn pages, is available at aaliaustin.org.