Photo courtesy of Field Guide Festival

In Austin, our cup overflows with food festivals — almost too many to track — so when a new one comes along, an innovative approach is a must. Field Guide Festival does exactly that, focusing less on the fanfare and more on introducing attendees to the often unsung heroes behind our farm-to-table restaurants: farmers.

The fledgeling festival's 2023 iteration took place on Saturday, April 23, welcoming over 750 attendees to Fiesta Gardens. This year's lineup featured 34 chefs and farmers, partnered together to create dishes exclusive to the festival.

Austin's own Rambler Sparkling Water and Tito's Vodka were on hand to keep guests hydrated (and de-hydrated), and a host of local makers and vendors were the perfect distraction when food supplies ran low — and they did, after an hour and a half.

Here were some of the most interesting bites and sips we tried:

Juniper, with pork by Local Pastures
Things started very strong with shredded pork on focaccia by Chef Nic Yanes. Layering these open sandwich bites with basil created an unusual flavor profile that was rich and bold without being as heavy as "pulled pork" sounds. The salty combo complemented the bread, making it the star instead of a serving necessity.

L'Oca d'Oro, with mushrooms by Hi-Fi Mycology
Fungus lovers would appreciate this innovative way to layer mushrooms on mushrooms. Lion's mane latkes by Chef Fiore Tedesco held together impressively, held a crispy texture, and tasted very mild. They were topped with a sort of mushroom ragu (in this case presented as a tomato jam) and a creamy dressing.

Alta Marfa wine
Visitors had their pick of many wines throughout the booths, and one of Alta Marfa's more adventurous offerings brought an exciting and refreshing twist. A 50/50 white blend of muscat and viognier called "First Rodeo" was funky and sour. Described by the pourer as "salty," it smelled and tasted like a light kombucha.

Foreign & Domestic, with pork by Munkebo Farm
Always some of our heroes at food festivals, chefs Sarah Heard and Nathan Lemley brought a juicy, fatty pork chop served on arugula with a sweet dressing. This is everything a salad should be if you don't believe in meek, leafy salads. The strips of fat still intact were cut well by its refreshing green pairing.

Maie Day, with Wagyu steak by Peeler Farms
One of the last food booths left standing, manned by Chef Gregory Martinez, presented a tender Wagyu tri-tip with a crunchy biscuit crumble and a celeriac puree. The well-balanced, rare meat-forward bites were perhaps the most luxurious of the day, and great to have while things died down. Maie Day is still in the running for a fan-voted Tastemaker Award in the Best New Restaurant category.

And in good news for anyone who missed out on the 2023 event, the festival's 2024 dates have already been announced. Field Guide Festival will return on April 20, 2024, and a full lineup will be announced in the near future.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B giving away 250,000 reusable bags for free on Earth Day


Yet another reason why H-E-B is the best grocery chain in the world. H-E-B brand stores all over Texas will be giving away 250,000 reusable bags on April 22 as part of their annual Earth Day tradition to reduce single use plastic among its customer base.

Visitors at any H-E-B, Central Market, Joe V’s Smart Shop, and Mi Tienda in the state have been able to get a free Earth Day-themed bag since 2008, amounting to over three million bags within 15 years.

The annual bag giveaway event will begin in all stores at 10 am while supplies last. Customers who would like to own more of the “Our Texas, Our Future” Earth Day bags can purchase them for just $1.50 each.

Many H-E-B Partners are celebrating Earth Day in their own way by volunteering for clean-up or tree planting events, or by hosting in-store events for customers. Select stores will even host family-friendly "Environmental Education Scavenger Hunts" with EcoRise, a local sustainability organization in Austin. The self-guided tours will allow children to learn how H-E-B protects the environment, and how they and their families can get involved with eco-friendly practices.

Earlier in April, H-E-B rolled out new environmentally-conscious initiatives to boost the company’s commitment to reduce waste while maximizing eco-friendly choices in local communities. Some of the new measures include revamping plastic bag collection bins, introducing a new curbside plastic bag collection system, and switching their plastic cutlery to biodegradable versions at all stores, restaurants, and business locations.

Additionally, students from 600 Texas elementary schools participated in H-E-B’s yearly “School Plastic Bag Recycling Challenge” and collected over four million plastic bags. The winning schools that collected the most plastic bags will receive H-E-B gift cards.

The San Antonio region elementary schools that won H-E-B’s challenge are:

  • Randall Fields Elementary
  • Hopkins Elementary
  • Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary

H-E-B also partnered with Keep Texas Recycling to choose six projects to distribute their 2023 Community Recycling Grants, totalling $157,000. The grants will fund improvements for better access to recycling and developing educational resources for nearly 350,000 Texans in Pharr, Ingleside, Cuero, Texas City, Burleson County, and San Angelo.

More information about H-E-B's sustainability initiatives can be found on their website.

Photo courtesy of Whisper Valley

Test drive Teslas around Austin's most sustainable master-planned community on Earth Day

Live Green

In Whisper Valley, Earth Day is more of a 24/7, 365-type celebration. As Austin's greenest and most sustainable community, it's leading the charge in planning, developing, and building residential neighborhoods and business districts that truly make the world a better place to live.

Curious about what that means? April 22 is the perfect time to stop by and see.

Whisper Valley is hosting a green home tour that day from 10 am-5 pm where you can peek inside both model and available homes — all of which are zero-energy capable and achieve a HERS rating of 7-25. That means they are roughly 75-80 percent more energy efficient than standard homes.

To up the fun factor, there will be four Teslas on hand for you to drive around the 2,067-acre Whisper Valley, as well as raffle prizes and a visit from Frank's Taco Truck (from 11 am-1 pm). The first 100 guests will even receive a free tree sapling to take home and plant.

See homes from AHA Dream Homes, GFO Home, Pacesetter Homes, Thurman Homes, and Terrata Homes. In the near future, Chesmar Homes will also be on that list. Prices start in the mid-$300s and go into the $600s.

Not only are these dwellings stunning to look at, but they also boast some incredible innovations designed at helping the planet.

Standard features include geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, Energy Star appliances, pre-wiring for EV charging, and smart home technology like home energy monitoring.

The community itself is set among 700 acres of beautiful parks, scenic trails, rolling hills, meandering streams, and quiet meadows. There's an expansive dog parks\ and several playgrounds, plus a full-featured fitness center and resort-style pool with beach entry.

There are even neighborhood organic gardens where you can help grow the fresh, local produce you'll later enjoy.

Planned for the future are village-type restaurants, retail, office areas, three school campuses, an emergency services center, and a transportation center.

Come see it all for yourself on Saturday, April 22, at 9400 Petrichor Blvd.

Whisper Valley is located just off State Highway 130 and is 20 minutes from downtown Austin, 10 minutes from the Dell and Samsung corporate campuses, and 10 minutes from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Whisper Valley home

Photo courtesy of Whisper Valley

Tour both model and available homes, like this one from Pacesetter Homes.

Photo courtesy of LawnStarter

Austin digs up 8th best ranking nationwide for urban gardening, says report


Most Austinites probably started or picked back up on a hobby during the pandemic: crocheting, caring for houseplants, or reading, just to name a few. But now that we’ve adjusted, Austinites are focusing their attention on one hobby in particular: urban gardening.

In fact, Austin was ranked the No. 8 overall best city for urban gardening in a new report from local lawn care company LawnStarter. If you’re not familiar with the activity, it's about repurposing unused areas into green spaces for growing food or plants. Think of vertical plant walls, modular farming units, or the Central Austin Public Library’s rooftop garden. The 13.7-acre, green-focused transformation plans for Brodie Oaks also fits the bill.

The report is a way to commemorate April as Lawn and Garden Month (although we mostly recognize April as Earth Month). They compared 200 of the nation’s largest cities across four categories and 12 different metrics, such as easy access to gardening space, climate, number of gardening communities, and more.

Austin ranked No. 4 for the number of community food forests in the area and No. 2 for the highest number of local gardening social groups. In the category of the average annual number of cold days, the city came in at No. 66. And in the number of nurseries and gardening-supply stores per square mile, Austin ranked No. 93.

The top 10 best cities for urban gardening are:

  • No. 1 – New York City
  • No. 2 – Atlanta
  • No. 3 – San Francisco
  • No. 4 – Portland, Oregon
  • No. 5 – Tampa, Florida
  • No. 6 – Seattle
  • No. 7 – Miami
  • No. 8 – Austin
  • No. 9 – Pasadena, California
  • No. 10 – Orlando
If you live in an area with few or no community gardens, there are some alternatives. Kathy Kelley, a professor of horticultural marketing and business management at Penn State, says city dwellers can use their small patios or balconies to grow herbs and small fruits.

"Containers work for outdoor and indoor gardening, but there are many planters that will fit over outdoor balcony railings if there is a lack of floor space," she said. "There are lightweight containers that attach to glass for indoor gardening that can be used to grow microgreens, herbs, and small houseplants. Hanging baskets will also work for areas with limited floor space."

She also suggests trying out small hydroponic systems that require minimal effort.

"[They] only require homeowners to plug the unit in to an electrical socket, fill it with water, add fertilizer every other week, insert seed pods, and wait for flowers to bloom or plants to be ready for harvest," she added.

The report can be found on lawnstarter.com.

Photo courtesy of H-E-B

H-E-B rolls out new sustainability initiatives for Earth Month


Central Texas' top grocery store by most measures, H-E-B, is celebrating Earth Month with some new environmentally-conscious initiatives for all of its stores.

The new measures were planned with the ultimate goal of boosting the company’s ongoing commitment to reducing its overall waste while maximizing eco-friendly choices in the communities they serve. H-E-B Partners will also spread awareness of their practices through community events and donations to sustainability-focused organizations across the state of Texas.

A few of the new initiatives include improving awareness of the company's pre-existing plastic bag recycling program with more prominent bins at every store, and rolling out a new curbside plastic bag collection system.

Many municipalities don’t accept plastic bags at their recycling centers, so H-E-B is stepping up to provide its own alternative to landfills. With the new curbside program, shoppers can bundle their eligible plastic bags and items for an H-E-B employee to collect during the customer’s designated curbside pickup time. If a customer would like to bring their plastic items while shopping in-store, they can drop them off in the newly designed, highly visible bins at the main entrances.

Plastic items that will be accepted by the new Curbside program and in-store drop off bins are:

  • Retail shopping bags
  • Produce bags
  • Bread bags
  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Newspaper bags
  • Plastic over wrap, such as the plastic packaging that comes around toilet paper

H-E-B will also switch all their plastic cutlery to biodegradable versions at all stores, restaurants, and business locations. The new cutlery and straws are made from agave and other plant-based materials.

Additionally, H-E-B will host their annual reusable bag giveaway on April 22 to honor Earth Day. 250,000 reusable bags will be given to shoppers, free of charge.

Other actions the company will take include their annual “School Plastic Bag Recycling Challenge” at 600 Texas schools, their 2023 H-E-B Community Recycling Grants for funding improvements for infrastructure and educational recycling resources, hosting local community markets at select stores in Austin, and participating in other community-based events.

In 2022 alone, H-E-B recycled 19 million pounds of plastics thanks to its “Our Texas, Our Future” commitment.

More information about H-E-B’s sustainability initiatives can be found on their website.

Photos courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation Department

New cooperative nonprofit will "honor, preserve, and enhance" every acre of Austin's Zilker Park

351-acre caretaker

The Zilker Area is one of Austin’s largest, most central treasures, and many people have been tasked with taking care of it. Those ranks now include a brand-new nonprofit called Zilker 351 (named for the number of acres in the park), announced on April 3 by a community board of directors.

The organization exists to “honor, preserve, and enhance the natural, cultural, and recreational treasures of [the] 351-acre Zilker Metropolitan Park for all,” according to an exclusive release sent to CultureMap. As most protectors of the park emphasize, this is a matter of long term preservation for “current and future generations.”

Zilker 351 makes its contributions through organizing: addressing needs in advocacy, fundraising, volunteering, and “streamlining communications among the Zilker groups.”

“Our ultimate focus is balancing equitable access for all park visitors with environmental stewardship to ensure an ecologically healthy park for Austin,” said Zilker 351 board member Mike Cannatti, also president of the Barton Springs Conservancy.

Although Austinites may see the park as an open space with minimal infrastructure, it is much larger than many realize. Beyond the Great Lawn and the Barton Springs swimming areas, it also includes the Austin Nature and Science Center, a theater, a nature preserve, fields specifically dedicated to different sports like rugby and baseball, the Violet Crown Trailhead, several parking areas, and more. Annual events that require planning include festivals like Austin City Limits, Blues on the Green, the Trail of Lights, and ABC Kite Festival.

There are many organizations that already work within the park, like the Austin Parks Foundation, the Barton Springs Conservancy, and the city’s own Parks and Recreation Department (PARD). Zilker 351 aims to smooth out communications — not between these specific organizations, but in general across and next to the park — to improve the visitor experience.

PARD heads these communications, but Zilker 351 "intends to establish a PARKnership" with the department to help implementation. Decisions also must go through the Austin City Council before the city can pass off any projects.

“Andrew Zilker said that Zilker Park 'ought to belong to all the people of Austin,'" said Zilker 351 interim executive director Karen Blizzard. “Zilker 351 envisions a park that welcomes all visitors to experience its natural beauty, vibrant programs and recreational opportunities, for years to come. We are thrilled to formally come together as Zilker 351 and be advocates of our city’s crown jewel.”

More information about Zilker 351 is available at zilker351.org, and listed below.

Board Members:

  • Jesús Aguirre - CEO, Waterloo Greenway
  • Heidi Anderson - CEO, The Trail Conservancy
  • Karen Brimble - Cofounder, One Skye Foundation
  • Mike Cannatti - Partner, Terrile, Cannatti & Chambers, LLP
  • Jason Cheng - Director, DTJ DESIGN, Inc.
  • Deena Estrada Salinas - Producer, DeepWell DTX
  • Rich Garza - Partner, Giant Noise
  • Rachel Green - Global Diversity and Recognition Program Manager, Cloud Go-To-Market
  • Evan Taniguchi - Principal/Owner, Taniguchi Architects
  • Colin Wallis - CEO, Austin Parks Foundation

Advisory Board-affiliated organizations:

  • ABC Kite Festival
  • Austin Parks Foundation
  • Austin Sunshine Camps
  • Barton Springs Conservancy
  • Friends of the Austin Nature and Science Center
  • Friends of Barton Springs Pool
  • Girl Scouts Zilker Cabin
  • Hill Country Conservancy
  • Rowing DockThe Trail Conservancy
  • Trail of Lights Foundation
  • UMLAUF Sculpture Garden + Museum
  • Waterloo Disc Golf Club
  • Zilker Botanical Garden Conservancy
  • Zilker Park Boat Rentals
  • Zilker Theatre Productions
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Here are the top 7 things to do in Austin this holiday weekend

Weekend Event Guide

Holiday weekends call for packed schedules and these selected happenings are certain to keep you busy. Foodie festivals, outdoor films, and a plethora of live music performances are just a few ways to stay entertained in the days ahead. Check out the top seven things to do in Austin this weekend. For a full list of events, visit our calendar.

Thursday, May 25

Aaron Franklin's Hot Luck Fest
Big flavors and big cooking stars collide at the return of Hot Luck Fest. The three-day event at various venues including Franklin Barbecue and Fair Market will showcase the best in barbecue and live music. The chef lineup includes Chris Bianco, Crystal Wahpepah, Mashama Bailey, Ashley Christensen, Fermín Núñez, and many more. Live shows are scheduled nightly, immediately following the foodie fun. Visit hotluckfest.com for a full schedule of events and to buy tickets.

Texas Author Series with Cari Clark: Interview with Mark Pryor
Well-known mystery novelist Mark Pryor comes to Chez Zee American Bistro for an evening of dialogue as part of the Texas Author Series programming. The England-based author is best known for his successful Hugo Marston mystery series. Stick around after the conversation to enjoy an intimate Q&A. Get tickets on Eventbrite.

Austin Parks Foundation presents Movies in the Park: Free Guy
Settle in under the stars and in the glow of the silver screen at Gustavo "Gus" L. Garcia District Park. Guests of all ages are invited to a free screening of the 2021 film starring Ryan Reynolds, Free Guy, at this Austin Parks Foundation-hosted film series. Dogs, picnics, and lawn chairs are welcome. Admission is free.

Friday, May 26

Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church presents Austin Greek Festival
Experience and celebrate Greek culture and hospitality at this family-friendly festival. Highlights of the three-day event include Greek cuisine offerings, dance performances, souvenir markets, tours of the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, and live music by a band hailing from Greece. Go to austingreekfestival.com

Canopy Projects presents "Here Now" opening reception
Be among the first guests to experience the work of more than 50 artists from the East Austin community at Canopy Austin. The “Here Now” pop-up exhibition includes a range of mediums including photography, sculpture, paint, mixed media, and more. Following the opening reception, this exhibition will be on display through June 15. Admission is free and open to the public.

Saturday, May 27

Zilker Botanical Garden presents Woodland Faerie Trail Opening Day
Whimsical moments and folklore come together in the fields of the Zilker Botanical Garden. Guests to this summer trail kickoff will have the chance to participate in Scottish Country dancing, fairy story time, and activity tables for all ages. They can also learn botanical folklore and tour the Austinite-built faerie homes made in natural materials along the trail. Get more event details at zilkergarden.org.

14th Annual Lone Star Jam
Texas country music takes center stage for two days straight at Round Rock Amp. This year’s Lone Star Jam lineup features more than a dozen performers including Pat Green, Josh Abbott Band, Stoney LaRue, Bri Bagwell, and Parker Ryan. Check lonestarjam.net for ticket and schedule information.

Hot Luck Festival
Photo by Alison Narro
Indulge in equal parts food and music at Hot Luck Fest this weekend.

This is how big Austin apartments get for $1,500 a month


We all know what renters dream about when they’re not thinking about the logistics of owning a home: low rent prices with the perfect amount of space. In a city like Austin, that’s getting harder and harder to come by.

In fact, for renters who have a budget of $1,500 a month, the average apartment size they can get in Austin spans about 714 square feet. That’s according to a new study by apartment rental marketplace RentCafe. The study looked at data from their sister site, Yardi Matrix, to determine the average size and price per square foot for a $1,500 monthly budget in 200 of the largest American cities.

Austin is at the bottom of the list in the overall analysis of Texas cities with the smallest space for the price. In Killeen, which is only 70 miles north, renters can find apartments that span a whopping 1,095 square feet. San Antonio renters can similarly find apartments that are nearly 300 square feet larger for the same budget.

If you head to the Houston area, Pasadena residents get an average of 1,180 square feet of space for $1,500 a month, whereas renters searching for apartments in Houston proper will only get about 997 square feet.

Renters looking to live in Fort Worth or Dallas will notice a nearly 100 square foot difference between apartments, at 909 and 805 square feet, respectively. Residents can get the most bang for their buck in the suburbs with an average apartment size well into the 900-square-foot range. Mesquite residents, by far, get the most space, at 999 square feet, whereas renters in Garland and Arlington get an average of 937 and 928 square feet for the same budget.

Elsewhere in Texas, apartments in the Rio Grande Valley have the best price per square foot in the state. McAllen residents get the most space out of any other Texas city with an average apartment size of 1,471 square feet. Renters in Brownsville, which is 60 miles east on the border, can get a similarly sized apartment that’s 1,307 square feet for the same $1,500 a month budget.

Here’s how much space you can rent for $1,500 a month in other Texas cities:

  • Amarillo – 1,318 square feet
  • El Paso – 1,222 square feet
  • Lubbock – 1,218 square feet
  • Corpus Christi – 1,126 square feet
  • Grand Prairie – 873 square feet
  • Denton – 868 square feet
  • Irving – 848 square feet
  • McKinney – 809 square feet
  • Plano – 766 square feet
  • Frisco – 740 square feet

The full report can be found on rentcafe.com.

ATX TV Festival cooperates with WGA strike by hosting panel and adjusting programming

Not Written Off

Anyone on social media or the news has likely heard of the 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike. This demonstration since May 2 has had TV writers stepping away from creating content, while getting out in the streets to protest entertainment industry practices that put writers in a tough position.

Like any strike, it can be hard to understand the depth of the problem or the nuances of proposed solutions. But this is an important topic; Not only do most people benefit from the work of TV writers (who create what almost everyone uses to unwind at some point in their week), but the conversations occurring tackle subjects that apply to workers in many more industries, especially as AI content proliferates.

The ATX Television Festival (June 1-4) is making sure Austinites have local access to this discourse, using its "Season 12" programming as a platform for some of the WGA leaders to explain their goals and concerns. A panel conversation will cover what problems writers have been seeing in their daily work, what changes they want to see, and what this means for non-writers.

Perhaps most importantly, this will become a tactical conversation not just about creative rights, but what a strike can achieve, and how. (WGA Negotiating Committee member Adam Conover of Adam Ruins Everything briefly explains the logistics on YouTube, with a hopeful spin and some strong language.)

Panelists will include Zoanne Clack, Damon Lindelof, and Julie Plec of WGA West, plus Negotiating Committee member Greg Iwinski of the WGA East. Beau Willimon of WGA East will moderate the panel.

The WGA's demands, nearly unanimously agreed upon at 98.4 percent approval, are publicly listed and include increases of minimum compensation, adjustment of compensation after writing is finished (in reuse cases and excerpts, for example), and regulation of AI use for producing scripts.

“ATX TV Festival has always been a place of celebration and community," said co-presidents and founders Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson in a statement. "It is where important conversations are had about the history and future of television in a safe and inclusive environment. We will maintain these tenets as we believe education and conversation between both Industry and Consumers are needed now more than ever."

"There wouldn’t be television without writers," the statement continues. "They have always been the rock stars of our festival, and though this year will look a little different, it will continue to be a place to showcase their talents and importance. The stories and characters we care so deeply about would not exist without them, and neither would this festival.”

Being careful not to figuratively cross the picket line, the festival has cleared the rest of the programming with the WGA, adding and removing coverage as necessary. It has also been sure to include content that focuses on a writer's experience outside the strike conditions, such as the panel “Why Do You Write?” The programming track "Hollywood, Health and Society" steps away from show business itself to discuss "social issues in storytelling."

Finally, the festival's sponsored pitch competition is still on the books, even though pitching shows is currently barred as part of the strike. In this case, the goal is not to sell any shows, but to receive feedback from mentors, inclduign other writers, showrunners, and producers. Hopefully, this advice can be applied in the future when participants return to business as usual — or rather, business in a whole new way.

More information, tickets, and badges are now available at atxfestival.com.

Clarification on added and canceled programming, from the announcement in its original language:

Programming Additions:

  • WGA on Strike!
  • Beyond the Page
  • Why Do You Write?
  • Queer Stories We Want To See
  • …The End Programming

Please Note: These members of the WGA support and believe in their series and teams, but stand with the WGA at this time and will not be attending.

  • Late Night with Seth Meyers
  • Andor: A Conversation with Tony Gilroy
  • Tiny Beautiful Things with Liz Tigelaar and Cheryl Strayed
  • Dawson’s Creek 25th Anniversary Screening & Conversation