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Photo by David Moir/ Food Network

Flavortown may be more of a concept than an exact set of coordinates. But on May 24, the pin will be firmly set in Texas as San Antonio's Braunda Smith becomes the latest local chef to compete in Guy’s Grocery Games.

Part Supermarket Sweep, part Chopped, the popular Food Network show pits four chefs in a cooking elimination contest using ingredients commonly found at the grocer. Guy Fieri assigns each round’s theme, then gleefully introduces at least one twist as a challenge.

Sometimes chefs are told they can only use canned goods, and sometimes they must “shoplift” wearing oversized tracksuits. The last chef standing is sent on a panicked run through Flavortown Market as they solve clues for a chance to win $20,000.

Although the affable owner of Lucy Cooper’s Ice House confirms she will battle it out on the Guy Fieri-hosted show, Alamo City fans will have to wait until the air date for further specifics. A rep for Discovery, Inc. did not return a request for comment by press time.

If Smith prevails, she will be the first San Antonio chef to take home the final prize in the series. Two other San Antonians, Cesar Zepeda of Sangria on the Burg and James Canter of Guerilla Gourmet, fell just short of the final round when they were put through the wringer.

Still, Smith’s punchy fare should find a fan in the famously flame-shirted host. From cheeseburger eggrolls to a pulled pork sandwich loaded with ham, applewood-smoked bacon, and sausage, Lucy Cooper’s serves precisely the kind of grub Fieri would describe as “lights-out delicious.”

Let’s hope that Smith makes a winner-winner Grocery Games dinner.

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Austin's meat palace Fogo de Chao expands its menu with new plant-based options

Vegan News

Well, here's a twist: Fogo de Chão, the churrascuria-style restaurant concept from Brazil known for its dedication to meat, is expanding its menu in an unprecedented new direction: They're adding tofu.

Effective immediately, the restaurant will offer new plant-based and nutrient-dense dishes, alongside an enhanced Bar Fogo beverage list that has new non-alcoholic craft cocktails made with low-proof spirits (less than 0.5 percent alcohol).

Fogo CEO Barry McGowan says in a release that they're responding to demand from their younger, more health-conscious customers.

"Our young and dynamic guests consider themselves food explorers who seek new culinary discoveries with each visit,” McGowan says. “For nearly 45 years we’ve had nutrient-dense and plant-forward dining options for every occasion and dietary tribe throughour Market Table. With the rollout of our new dining choices and clean cocktails, we continue to offer our guests the variety and discoveries they crave while doing it in a wholesome and flavorful way.”

The Market Table is their famed salad bar, which has sated many a vegetarian diner or else those just not up for the whole skewered meat thing that is a trademark of Fogo and other churrascuria-style places.

Entrees
Two new plant-based innovations will join Fogo's existing Vegetarian and Pescatarian dishes such as the Cauliflower Steak, and will be available on the main dining menu available for lunch, brunch, and dinner as an alternative to the Full Churrasco Experience, as follows:

  • Seared Tofu with Miso Black Bean Pasta - Chimichurri-marinated tofu served atop black bean pasta sautéed with green onion, Napa cabbage, pickled onions and carrot ginger-miso dressing. Vegan and gluten-free.
  • Roasted Power Vegetable Bowl - Roasted eggplant, marinated mushrooms, roasted zucchini, asparagus, and baby peppers served with chimichurri spinach rice. Vegan and gluten-free.

togo power bowlRoasted Power Vegetable Bowl at Fogo de Chao.Photo courtesy of Fogo de Chao

They're also rolling out new dishes on the Market Table which for the past 45 years has showcased nutrient-dense and flavorful choices including seasonal salads, micro greens, natural and plant-based proteins, imported charcuterie, and more.

New items on the Market Table are as follows:

  • Spring Hummus - Fresh hummus blended with herbs, roasted garlic and citrus, topped with radish, fresh mint, edamame, and olive oil.
  • Baby Kale & Mango Salad - Fresh baby kale, Napa cabbage, red radish and mango, tossed in a lime honey dressing.
  • Miso Black Bean Pasta - Gluten-free black bean pasta tossed with green onion, Napa cabbage, pickled onions and carrot ginger-miso dressing.
  • Apple Manchego Salad - Granny Smith apples and Manchego cheese tossed with honey, cracked pepper and black mission figs.
  • Power Greens - A seasonal mix of vitamin-rich greens, fresh herbs and micro-shoots

The Bar
The Bar Fogo menu now features five new cocktails, including three made with Clean Co’s non-alcoholic spirits with less than 0.5% alcohol, as follows:

  • Yellowbird - Desolas Mezcal, Passion Fruit, Pineapple, Cointreau, La Marca Prosecco
  • Espresso Martini - Diplomatico Reserva Rum, Caffe Borghetti and Licor 43
  • Clean Cosmo - CleanCo V (Vodka) Apple, Cranberry, Fresh Lemon
  • CleanR Sour - CleanCo R (Rum), Passionfruit, Pineapple, Aquafaba, Bitters
  • Clean Cucumber Martini - CleanCo V (Vodka) Apple, Cucumber, Basil, Lemon Twist

Founded in southern Brazil in 1979, Fogo has seven other locations across Texas: Addison, Uptown Dallas, Plano, Friendswood, Houston, San Antonio, and The Woodlands.

City of Austin spikes weekend parking rates at Zilker Park

pay to play

Starting May 1, one of Austin's most popular parks will be increasing parking prices and start charging for parking in lots that were previously free.

At Zilker Park, the parking lots that currently charge $5 for parking will be increased to $7 from May 1 through Labor Day.

The parking lot off of Stratford Road, just north of the Zilker Botanical Garden, and the South Barton Springs Pool parking lot, near Azie Morton Road, will start charging $7 on the weekends and holidays.

Both of these parking lots were havens for visitors and residents alike, as they were free to park. Park visitors like P.K. Luangsingotha liked that parking was free at the lot off Stratford. Luangsingotha said he is not happy that he will have to start paying to park.

"I believe people should be out enjoying the parks, the sunlight, et. cetera, and not have to [pay]. I mean, the City is already making so much money as it [is]. Now trying to tax people more on parking — I think it’s kind of unfair. Just my opinion," Luangsingotha said.

Hailey Adams, an Austin resident, also enjoys coming to Zilker and the free parking near Stratford with her dog. Come May, Adams may adjust the activities she participates in at Zilker due to the cost of parking.

“I definitely want more of a [full-day] activity, versus sometimes [coming] for 30 minutes," Adams said.

The Austin Parks and Recreation Department said it hopes charging at the parking lots will help with traffic issues.

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Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

700-acre Southeast Austin ranch adding new clinic and bus station to its amenities

COMMUNITY-BUILDING

An affordable, 700-acre mixed use development in Southeast Austin has broken ground on delivering new services to the area’s “medical desert.”

Goodnight Ranch’s main goal was to create “an inviting and sustainable community” according to developer Myra Goepp. In addition to focusing on residents daily needs, such as their proximity to schools, parks, and their jobs, now the ranch will focus on adding medical services and retail.

The city’s largest network of clinics, Austin Regional Clinic (ARC), has broken ground on a new location that will eliminate the distance to the next closest medical provider from a 4-mile radius down to zero. It will be located at the southeast corner of Vertex Boulevard and Slaughter Lane.

ARC currently operates 34 other clinics in the greater Austin area. Their upcoming Goodnight Ranch clinic will span over 6,500 feet with 18 exam rooms and an on-site lab, with family medicine and pediatric services slated to begin in early 2024.

ARC isn’t the only new amenity joining Goodnight Ranch. CapMetro is in the design phase of a new park and ride station at the development, which will connect the ranch to a 14-mile corridor that extends all the way up to the Northeast Austin Mueller area. CapMetro’s all-electric bus services are expected to begin in 2025 at the corner of Goodnight Boulevard and Slaughter. The new park and ride will also serve as a charging station for the buses.

In a retail expansion, The Ramble at Goodnight Ranch will bring 31,000 feet of retail and office space to the development. Local grocer Goodnight Market and Duke’s Liquor already leased commercial spaces with an expected opening of early 2024. And a brand new, nearly 12,000-square-foot Amazing Explorers Academy is also bringing their child-care services to the ranch, but a construction date has yet to be anounced.

More information about Goodnight Ranch can be found on their website.