Archive for July, 2007

Botticelli’s quick-lunch

Botticelli'sThe wine list is entirely Italian and so, of course, is the food. Botticelli’s on South Congress offers a lunch menu and a dinner menu. We were told it’s closed on Mondays, but otherwise serving throughout the day from 11 am, up to 10:00 or so most evenings, and until 11 on Fridays and Saturdays as I recall (1321 South Congress; call 916-1315 to confirm hours). People were coming in and sitting at the bar to pick up take-out lunch orders while we were there. There’s an indoor bar and a little one on the way to the outdoor seating area, partly shown in this picture.

There were just two of us and we shared a giant green salad with a delicious vinaigrette dressing and a generous quantity of marinated green olives. I ordered the pork cutlet sandwich, which arrived accompanied by lots of homemade potato chips. Homemade chips are quite often seen around town these days, but today’s are the best I’ve tried; they weren’t greasy and they weren’t over-browned. The pork was thin and breaded, very nicely done, again, not greasy. Sharing the ciabatta with the pork was a ground-floor layering of pesto and a top layer of dressed dark greens of some sort, or at least that’s what it all tasted like to me without my actually performing an inspection. This sandwich seemed to be a popular take-out choice, and I can see why. The other person ordered capellini (long and thin pasta) with a very light tomato dressing and lots and lots of hot Italian sausage, well seasoned with plenty of fennel and a good dose of pepper. That person enjoyed this dish very much, but, since it was such a large portion, kindly shared it with me, and I enjoyed it just as much. The desserts sounded tempting and inventive, but it wouldn’t have been possible to take another bite. The lunch menu included several sandwiches. Also on the menu were a crab soup and a white gazpacho that included grapes. We saw orders of tempting-looking mussels being carried to other tables. The evening menu adds fish dishes. We were told that the menus will change seasonally.

This room is very pleasant, with some booths and some tables. A fresh Gerber daisy was at each table, and on the side of the booths, in a way reminiscent of church pews at a wedding, vases held colorful arrangements of fresh flowers. The table coverings and the napkins were of cloth. There were hanging fixtures and wall sconces of colored art glass, and textured clear glass formed part of the backs of the booths. The acoustics, at least at lunch, favored conversation. I’ll be very happy to try dinner at Botticelli’s.

Islamabad Metblog Coverage of Lal Masjid

The Islamabad Metblog has been doing amazing coverage of the Lal Masjid siege in their city. This has implications for us and for the rest of the world as Pakistan is a major battleground between moderates and extremists. The comment threads are particularly interesting to those of us not from that part of the world.

This time, it’s next door

Within the past year, the NYT has carried two features in its national edition about local real estate. Yesterday, there was another, this time datelined Bee Cave (“Battling to Keep the ‘Country’ in Texas Hill Country,” byline Kristina Shevory). Representatives of the usual outfits are quoted (i.e., S.O.S. and the Lower Colorado River Authority). According to this article, the LCRA’s extension of water lines has made large-scale development a profitable activity where it wasn’t before. Developments mentioned include West Cypress Hills, Terra Vista (peeled off from some of Willie Nelson’s land), and Belvedere (some on-line listings included houses with asking prices of $1 million and up). I found the comparisons between Austin and San Antonio one of the most interesting parts of this article. S.O.S. has already linked to this feature.

Local icon displaced

Those for whom the expressions “rub board,” “Don Cornello,” and “that salad” create a mental association will be saddened to learn that word’s gone out reporting that yesterday was the last day of business at 534 East Oltorf for the Texicalli Grille, now searching for a new home following an increase in the rent. The fine folks at Texicalli, successor long ago of Coney Island Franks and later joined as a neighbor by Guero’s, followed by Curra’s, promise to keep those interested updated by e-mail (send a request) and they hope to post good news soon at the Texicalli Web site.


Since the Glorious Fourth was a rained-out and clogged-up holiday, we caught up some on our reading. Have you seen the bright new banner on East Seventh that says Paila? There hasn’t been a minute to stop by and check out what’s going on there. Thanks to El Mundo, however, now I know that three guys have opened a restaurant serving Peruvian cuisine (“La deliciosa cocina peruviana llego a la capital de Texas,” byline Angela M. Angulo, July 5-11). Paila is located at 5100 East Seventh where it intersects with Shady Lane. Hours are 11 am to 9 pm Wednesdays through Saturdays, and a Sunday buffet is served from 1 to 4 pm. The article says that diners may bring their own beer or bottle of wine (or there’s Inca Cola). There’s much emphasis on true Peruvian ceviche and lomo saltado. They make their own desserts, including bavarois de guindones (bavarian with raisins). We’ve noticed that there seems to be shady and inviting outdoor dining, along with plenty of parking. The article says there’s free wireless service. >>> El Mundo also reports that La fea mas bella, the telenovela that has enslaved me and countless people I know for over a year, in its final two-hour episode won more viewers for Univision during that time period than were watching ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, or CW, and that the lead continued for the remainder of prime time, because members of the cast of the soap opera were live on El Show de Christina (and we watched Christina, too). The number of USA viewers is reported to have been over 9 million. The current Ugly Betty show is a variant of this story. >>> In the latest ¡ahora sí! there’s an extensive interview with Rosalba Ojeda y Cardenas, the new Mexican consul here in Austin (conducted by Sara Ines Calderon, July 5 issue). The site of the Mexican consulate doesn’t seem to reflect her arrival, which I think occurred a couple of months ago. I was interested to learn that she earned a master’s degree at UT in 1975 and can scarcely believe how much Austin has grown since then.

Drafthouse Round-Up: Robosaurus and Downtown Closing

I didn’t make it out to the final night of the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown last week or the Robosaurus / Transformers opening extravaganza at Alamo South Lamar last night. We did see Robosaurus resting on his way into town at Slaughter and the I-35 frontage road on Sunday. My 8-year-old is still wondering what cruel world kept him from attending. My wife did take him down there yesterday afternoon to check things out, but they didn’t take photos.

Here’s a round-up of links from those who did make it out to those events.

Alamo Downtown’s Last Night:

Robosaurus at Alamo South Lamar:

Update (07.06.07 9:17AM CDT): Drafthouse Henri links the best of robosaurus videos on YouTube.

At it again

Raymond Sokolov, having already traversed this locale in search of burgers and nachos, went on a national quest for “The Best Barbecue” and reports that he found it at Smitty’s in Lockhart (WSJ, June 30, Pursuits section). He doesn’t qualify his opinion; he has no reservations; his verdict is absolute. Perhaps he’s a bit bedazzled by the old-time atmosphere, but in his very last sentence he says, “if I could only have one meal before being forced to turn vegan, I would charter a plane to Smitty’s for a piece of brisket pulled from the pit.” There’s a place to weigh in with your very own ‘cue opinions, and readers do have their opinioins. For me, the result must be smoky and it must be lean; others believe that “tender” includes “fatty.”

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