Archive | February, 2012

Dining Out Sustainably: 2012 Austin Restaurant Round-up

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My, how this list has grown.  In the four years since I started this blog, the number of restaurants working with local farms, ranches and food artisans has exploded. You can find farm fresh eggs, just picked greens and humanely raised meats on menus that range from diner fare to fine dining.

A number of new faces joined the fray this last year offering a unique blend of casual Austin atmosphere with carefully crafted food.  Contigo, with its expansive outdoor seating, is the perfect place to wile away the evening with friends while sipping a beer or craft cocktail and enjoying their pates, sausages or brunch.

Kome wowed me with its straightforward and carefully crafted Japanese food from the flavorful ramen to the refreshing Endo in NY roll and  the simple pleasure of the Tamago nigiri made with a Haus Bar Farms egg.  If you can get a seat at the sushi bar, you’ll enjoy the experience even more.

Tamago at Kome

The most anticipated opening of this last year for me was Lenoir from my friends Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher.  I will claim all forms of bias because Todd and Jess are two of my favorite people in Austin’s culinary scene, yet I was captivated by each carefully crafted dish and the casually elegant dining room.  Even the finishing salt is thoughtfully blended – yes, the salt.  My favorite part of their prix fixe menu is the ability to pick three dishes from any course meaning that you don’t have to order dessert.  Score one for the savorians (my made up term for people who prefer to skip the sweets).

chick pea panisse and egg

Chick pea panisse at Lenoir

Olive & June is the most recent addition to the mix.  Chef Shawn Cirkiel has added another outstanding restaurant to his growing family of eateries which also include The Backspace and Parkside. Named after his grandmothers and with a focus on shared dishes, Olive & June invites you in to enjoy the comfort of a loving Italian meal with family.  There were more than a few dishes over which we negotiated who got the last bite.

I’m excited to see fine breads and pastries take center stage at Easy Tiger and Elizabeth St. Cafe, both of which also offer tasty lunch and dinner fare to accompany their gorgeous baked goods.  The ham and butter sandwich at Easy Tiger is one of my new favorite lunch items. It sounds so plain, yet the contrast between the crunchy baguette and the sweet ham is perfect.  And the pretzel rolls, oh the pretzel rolls…


Baguettes at Easy Tiger

Showing off the French influence in Vietnames cuisine, Elizabeth St. Cafe has beautiful pastries, like the delicate almond croissant, served side by side with banh mi, bun and pho dishes.  Yes, the food is pricey by Vietnamese food standards, but most pho houses aren’t sourcing from area farms.

Of course no food story in Austin is complete without a few food trailers.  One of my favorite catering companies, Royal Fig Catering, opened The Seedling Truck, a roving food trailer offering up farm to table fare.  I like to catch them for brunch at the Barton Creek Farmers Market while I’m filling up my market bag.


Hoover Alexander of Hoover’s Cooking has started a trailer and community space with Hoover’s Soular Food Trailer which serves vegetable centric fare from local farms.  Thunderheart Bison, who you may know from the local farmers markets, has also started a trailer and is serving up some of the tastiest chili in town.

Whether you want to hang with your friends at a trailer or enjoy an elegant meal, you have a plethora of good choices where you can also support local farms, ranches and artisans.  Following is my full list of recommendations organized by area of the city.

If you are interested in other facets of Austin dining, be sure to check out the full Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide.

The Backspace, 507 San Jacinto, Antipasto and Neopolitan style pizza cooked in a brick oven imported from Italy, average pizza price $12.
Chez Nous, 510 Neches, French Bistro, lunch and dinner, 3 course prix fixe menu $25.50, average dinner entree $25.
Congress, 200 Congress Ave., New American,  Dinner only with 3 courses ($65) or chef tasting menu ($95.)
Easy Tiger, 709 E. Sixth St.,  Bakery and beer garden open breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night with artisan breads and meats available to go or in the beer garden, average entree $10.
La Condesa, 400 W. 2nd St., Mexican, dinner and Sunday brunch, average dinner entree $26.
Manuel’s, 310 Congress Ave., Mexican, lunch, dinner and Sunday Brunch, average dinner entree $20.
Parkside, 301 E. 6th, New American with an emphasis on oysters and seafood crudo, dinner, average dinner entree $23. Austin Farm to Table profile
Second Bar and Kitchen , 200 Congress Ave., New American.  Lunch, dinner and late night, average dinner entree $22.
SFC Downtown Austin Farmers Market, 4th and Guadalupe at Republic Square, various vendors with prepared food, fresh produce, meats, cheeses and artisan food products, Bola Pizza, Dai Due Saturdays 9:00 am – 1:00 pm.
Trio, at the Four Seasons, 98 San Jacinto, New American, breakfast, lunch, dinner, average dinner entree $25.  One of the best Happy Hour deals in town. Austin Farm to Table profile
Trace at the W Hotel, 200 Lavaca St., New American, breakfast, lunch, dinner, prices vary widely between breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Central West Austin
24 Diner, 600 N. Lamar, American diner fare, 24 hours, average dish $11.
Cipollina, 1213 West Lynn, Bistro menu, specializing in pizza, lunch and dinner, average dinner entree $15. Austin Farm to Table profile
Counter Cafe, 626 N. Lamar, American, breakfast and lunch, average entree $10. Austin Farm to Table profile
Fabi & Rosi, 509 Hearn St., New American, dinner and Sunday brunch, average entree $20.
Wink, 1014 N. Lamar, New American, dinner, average entree $25 (the wine bar has a separate less expensive menu). Austin Farm to Table profile

South Austin
Barley Swine, 2024 S. Lamar Blvd., New American, dinner, average dish $14.
Elizabeth St. Cafe, 1501 South First St., Bakery and Vietnamese cafe, breakfast, lunch and dinner, average entree $15.
Jack Allen’s Kitchen, 7720 W. Hwy 71 (this place is a jaunt from downtown, but worth the drive), casual Texas cuisine, lunch, dinner, Sunday brunch, average entree $13. Austin Farm to Table profile
La Boite Cafe, 1700 S. Lamar Blvd., baked goods & sandwiches, sandwich du jour $6.
Lenoir, 1807 South First St., New American, dinner, prix fixe only with 3 dishes for $35, extra dish for $10.
Olivia, 2043 S. Lamar, New American, lunch (Friday & Saturday only), dinner and Sunday brunch, average dinner entree $30. Austin Farm to Table profile
Perla’s, 1400 S. Congress, Seafood, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, average dinner entree $25.
Snack Bar, 1224 S. Congress Ave., diner and lounge, daily brunch, lunch, dinner and late night, average dish price $9. Austin Farm to Table profile
Taco Deli, 1500 Spyglass, Tex Mex, breakfast and lunch, average taco price is $3.
Thai Fresh, 909 W. Mary, Thai, lunch and dinner, average dinner entree $10. Austin Farm to Table profile
Uchi, 801 S. Lamar, Contemporary Japanese cuisine + sushi, dinner, average small plate $15, average roll price $12.
Whip-In Parlour Cafe & Market, 1950 S. IH-35, Indian, breakfast, lunch and dinner, average dinner entree $11.

East Austin
Blue Dahlia Bistro, 1115 E. 11th St., French Bistro, breakfast, lunch and dinner, average dinner entree $11. Austin Farm to Table profile
Contigo, 2027 Anchor Ln., New American, dinner and Sunday brunch, average entree, $15.
East Side Show Room, 1100 E. 6th St., Bistro, dinner, average dinner entree $20. Austin Farm to Table profile
Eastside Pies, 1401B Rosewood Ave., Pizza, lunch and dinner, large pizza averages $20.  Try a slice of their Farm to Table pizza – it’s my favorite (naturally).
ASTI Trattoria, 408-C E. 43rd St., Italian, lunch and dinner, average dinner entree $20. Starting March 1st, ASTI is offering a happy hour from 4-6 pm, Monday-Friday featuring a $5 selection of wines and small bites.
FINO, 2905 San Gabriel, Mediterranean/Spanish, lunch, dinner and Sunday Brunch, average dinner entree $22. Austin Farm to Table profile
Foreign+Domestic, 306 E. 53rd St., New American, dinner, average entree $19.  Austin Farm to Table profile
Kome, 4917 Airport Blvd., Japanese, lunch and dinner, average dish $9.
Olive & June, 3411 Glenview Ave., Italian, dinner, average pasta dish $16,  average entree $27.
Taco Deli, 4200 N. Lamar, Tex Mex, breakfast and lunch, average taco price is $3.
Uchiko, 4200 N. Lamar, Japanese farmhouse dishes and sushi, dinner, average small plate $15, average roll $13. Austin Farm to Table profile
Vino Vino, 4119 Guadalupe, New American, dinner, average dinner entree $18.
Hoover’s Soular Food Trailer, 1110 E 12th St, Southern, breakfast and lunch.  Check Facebook and Twitter for updates on hours.
The Seedling Truck, roving food truck, New American, check their schedule online for brunch, lunch, dinner locations, average dish $6.
Thunderheart Bison Trailer, 201 W. 5th Street, American/Southern, dinner and late night, average dish $6.
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New Feature: Event Calendar

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After two months of trying to keep up with all of the events hitting my e-mail inbox, I decided it was time to take the plunge and add a calendar to the site.  Events are organized by area and you can narrow the events for your location by clicking on the Categories button and picking the city of your choice.

I’ll update the calendar as I learn about events and will still write at least a monthly event post highlighting some of my favorite events.  If you would like to submit an event for the calendar, e-mail me at austinfarmtotable at  Please remember that I post events that feature sustainable food, farmers and ranchers, food artisans and chefs and benefit a non-profit organization.

New to the list since the last event round-up is the Tops in Texas Cookoff being put on by Time Warner Cable Media and Keeper Collection.  It looks like an all-star lineup with Chef Josh Watkins of The Carillon, Chef Paul Petersen of Vivo, and Chef Andrew Wiseheart of Contigo going head-to-head for promotional time on Time Warner and a vacation to Key West. Sounds like a fun night!


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Farmers markets are thriving in San Antonio

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A few weekends ago I visited San Antonio and had a chance to stop by both the Pearl and Quarry Farmers Markets.  Once again, I was delighted to see how quickly the markets in San Antonio are growing and how much they have to offer.

Saturday morning there was quite a crowd at the Pearl Farmers Market as the City of San Antonio Parks and Rec department was giving away fruit and nut trees.  The line for the trees wrapped around the brewery and the Culinary Institute of America.  I love that Pearl can accommodate the market and other activities with plenty of parking and space for both and that many of the people waiting for trees made their way over to the market to shop.

The farm booths were packed with lovely winter produce with plenty of to offer thanks to the almost spring like weather that week.

Turnps at the marketWinter produce at Pearl market

I recognized a number of the vendors from my previous visits and was happy to discover a number of new faces.  I bought some chorizo from La Hacienda products and was tempted by their cookies but decided to save those for another day.

Hacienda chorizo and pastries

I was particularly excited to find Restaurant Gwendolyn at the market.  I had read Chef Michael Sohocki was now offering hot and prepared food at the market, and I couldn’t wait to try it.  My dinner at Restaurant Gwendolyn was one of the best meals I ate  last year and the market offerings did not disappoint. The biscuits and gravy were terrific and the lentil soup looked amazing – one of the vendors said it was the best lentil soup in town.  I also picked up some of their spicy sausages and whole seed mustard for home.

Lentil soup from Restaurant Gwendolyn

I had a lovely chat with Bryan and Rhonda Bickham of Springfield Farm.  They used to work the SFC Downtown Austin Farmers Market each week, but have family running that booth so that they can focus on the bustling San Antonio markets. Bryan shared with me that Pearl is their highest volume market and continues to grow.  In addition to their fresh produce, the Bickhams are also selling body products made by their daughters from natural ingredients and herbs.  I picked up some rosemary and mint lip balm that I love. It keeps your lips soft and it smells minty fresh in case you’ve misplaced your breath mints.

Body products from Springfield farm

I also had a nice visit with with Kelly Escobedo of South Texas Heritage Pork who shared the news of the revitalized Slow Food South Texas Chapter and helped connect me with the group.  I can’t wait to attend some of their upcoming events.

South Texas Heritage Pork pig parts

Sunday, I headed to the Quarry Farmers Market nestled in the parking lot of the Whole Foods at the Quarry shopping center just north of downtown San Antonio.  When I visited last May, this market was brand new with about a dozen vendors.  In less than a year, the market has doubled in size and is bustling with customers.

Crowd at Quarry market

There were plenty of produce and meat vendors to fill your shopping bag.  I’m particularly fond of the wild boar pan sausage from Koch Ranches and I was happy to catch Bikkurim Farms, regulars at several Austin markets, on their first weekend at Quarry.  Some of the best additions to the market were the hot and prepared food vendors.  Restaurant Gwendolyn, the Rolling Pig food truck and The Gardener’s Feast (tamales) were all serving up delicious dishes

The most intriguing hot food booth was Ming’s Things where Ming Qian and husband Chef Hinnerk von Bargen, a professor at the Culinary Institute of America,  were cooking up gorgeous crepes and steamed buns.

Ming's Thing Crepe in the making
Ming's Thing sloppy joe buns

If baked goods are more your speed, Bakery Lorraine and Bistro Bakery have gorgeous pastries.

Bistro Bakery pastries

Heather Hunter of Cowgirl Granola has done an outstanding job organizing a successful Sunday market for the folks in San Antonio.

Have you been to either of the San Antonio markets? Who are your favorite vendors?

See you at the market!

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Event round-up: Star Chefs, Foodways Texas Symposium, Austin Food & Wine Festival and Chefs for Farmers

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If you had any doubt that the Texas culinary scene is happening, all you have to do is look at the upcoming events to know that we are sitting at the epicenter of some really fantastic food., an online culinary industry magazine that, in the words of one of my chef friends, “is a big deal,” has announced their Rising Star Award winners in the Austin/San Antonio area and is hosting an event on February 21st where you can sample dishes and sips from these all stars.  I’m particularly excited about this event because not only does it include some of my favorite Austin chefs like David Bull, Tyson Cole, Ned Elliott and Paul Qui, but you can also try the food of incredible San Antonio chefs like Jason Dady, Michael Sohocki and Quealy Watson without having to make a trek down I-35.  I was wowed by these San Antonio chefs last spring when I visited for my Edible Austin article and I can’t wait for you to have a chance to try their food.  The $85 ticket price is worth it.

Austin is also playing host to this year’s Foodways Texas Symposium March 25th to 27th.  This weekend conference focuses on celebrating and preserving Texas food culture and last year’s conference had rave reviews.  In addition to thought provoking panels, demonstrations and speakers, the food schedule looks pretty terrific with meals prepared by Chefs Sonya Cote, Tom Perini and Justin Yu.  I expect my brain and belly to be full by the end of the weekend.

A bit further out, but well worth planning for, is the Austin Food & Wine Festival the weekend of April 27th.  The former Hill Country Wine and Food Festival has transitioned to the experienced hands of Food & Wine Magazine and C3 Presents, the folks who bring us the Austin City Limits festival, and they are bringing some really big names to Austin for a weekend of food and wine fun.  Chef Morimoto is going to be here.  Chef Morimoto. This is a big deal!  Some have expressed sticker shock at the $250 price tag, but if you add up all the individual tickets you bought for previous festivals, the weekender pass comes out to be a bargain for two grand tastings and 35 cooking demos.  I choose to think of this as my annual food and wine holiday staycation and plan accordingly.  I’ve had the dates on my calendar since they announced the festival, my spare room is booked with out of town guests and I can’t wait to learn from culinary experts on the international and regional stage.

Also mark your calendar on April 26th for the Austin Food & Wine Alliance Live Fire event.  The Alliance is the nonprofit beneficiary of the festival and they will be using their funds to invest in local culinary entities through grants.  The Live Fire event, focused on barbecue and all things sizzling, promises to be a signature fundraiser for the organization .  This one of my favorite events at last year’s festival and it sounds like they are turning up the heat for even more fun this year.  The event will be held at the Salt Lick Pavilion and stay tuned for more details.

An event I’m sorry I’ll miss (niece’s birthday trumps foodie fun) is the Chefs for Farmers Mixin’ it up on the Boulevard festival in Dallas on Sunday May 6th. This casual tasting event includes over 30 Dallas chefs cooking up dishes featuring local produce, wine and cocktail tastings and a samples from local food artisans.  I so wish I had a cloning machine.

Following are details on these and many other events in Austin, Dallas and Houston over the next few months. (Events are organized by city in alphabetical order, then by date.)  If you think I missed something, send it to me and I’ll add it to the list.


Thursday, February 16th,  Slow Food Happy Hour at Foreign & Domestic, 5:30pm-8pm,. Slow Food Austin’s Monthly Happy Hour will be Thursday, February 16th at Foreign & Domestic 5:30-8pm featuring a special charcuterie menu prepared by Chef Ned Elliott and a $5 Slow Drink Menu featuring beer from St. Arnold’s Brewery.  Please dress appropriately, there is limited indoor seating.  306 East 53rd Street.

Tuesday, February 21st, Star Chefs Rising Stars Awards Revue, 6:00 – 9:30 pm., an online magazine for the culinary industry, has announced its first class of  Austin–San Antonio region Rising Stars award winners. Each winner will offer a sample of their fare at this walk-around tasting and attendees will get to vote for their crowd favorite.   Tickets are $85 per person; VIP tickets are $125 and include a private reception with Champagne and Petrossian caviar, beginning at 5:45pm. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 212.966.7575.  Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos St. 

The 2012 Austin – San Antonio Rising Stars Award Winners are:


David Bull, Congress Austin –

Ned Elliott, Foreign & Domestic –

Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue –

Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine –

Rene Ortiz, La Condesa –

Paul Qui, Uchiko –

Quealy Watson, The Monterey –

Andrew Wiseheart, Contigo – 


Plinio Sandalio, Carillon –

Philip Speer, Uchiko –


Michael Sohocki, Restaurant Gwendolyn –


Josh Watkins, Carillon


John Bates and Brandon Martinez, Noble Pig –


Tyson Cole, Uchi, Uchi Houston, and Uchiko –

Jason Dady, Bin 555, Tre Trattoria, and Two Bros. BBQ Market


June Rodil, Congress Austin –


Jeret Peña, The Esquire –


Jonathan Gelman, Driskill Grill –

Monday, February 27th – Tuesday, February 28th, Brown Symposium: Back to the Foodture, 9:00 am Monday to 1:00 pm Tuesday. The Brown Symposium is presented by Southwestern University on an annual basis and this year’s focus is on the future of food and includes lectures from professors from Indiana University, University of California Davis.  Open to the public without charge, the symposium is funded through an endowment established by The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston, Texas. While the event is free, they do request that you RSVP.  2012 lecture events will be held in The Alma Thomas Fine Arts Center, 1001 E. University Avenue, Georgetown, TX 78626.

Saturday, March 4th,  Wine & Food Foundation of Texas Cowboys + Gauchos, noon to 4:00 pm.  This tasting features barbecue and wines from Texas vineyards and South American wineries, as well as beer from Thirsty Planet.  Participating restaurants include Judge’s Hill Restaurant & Bar, Cafe Josie, Zocalo Cafe, Live Oak Barbecue, Wild Bubba’s Game Grill, Mmmpanadas, Delysia Chocolatier and more.  Tickets are $40 for members and $50 for non-members. Salt Lick Pavilion, 18300 FM 1826, Driftwood, TX.

Friday, March 23rd – Sunday, March 25thFoodways Texas Annual Symposium.  This 2.5 day conference will focus on the ways we preserve Texas (as a region, as an idea) in our food and the ways we preserve food in Texas. Sessions will include  will include a canning demo by Confituras owner Stephanie McClenny, the folks behind the Shrimp Boat Projects out of Houston and a group of intrepid Austin historians out to collect stories from iconic restaurants around the state. Experts will update us on this historic drought and its effect on different segments of our food economy, while an expert panel of craft brewers will discuss the world of Texas breweries and help us launch our Craft Brewery oral history archive. Registration includes lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday as well as a Sunday Chuck Wagon Brunch from Tom Perini of Perini Ranch Steakhouse. Chefs for the weekend include Justin Yu of Oxheart Restaurant in Houston and  Sonya Cote of East Side Showroom in Austin. The Blanton Museum of Art Auditorium will host our daytime speakers and panels.  Tickets:  $225 Members, $250 General Public, $85 Panels Only (no meals) limited availability.

Thursday, March 27th,  Connally High School Culinary Program, 7 pm.  The Cooking with Connally students  host the next dinner in their Guest Chef Dinner Series with Sous Chef Chris Wilson from Lake Austin Spa. Proceeds from the dinner support the cost of this high school program including uniforms, cooking supplies and registrations and travel for competitions where the students can win scholarships to cooking school. Tickets are $25.  Purchase tickets here. 13212 North Lamar Boulevard.

Saturday, April 14th, Wine & Food Foundation of Texas Rare & Fine Wine Auction, 6:00 pm.  This annual event includes a live and silent auction of rare and collectible wines, dinners and wine trips while patrons enjoy sipping an array of fine wines and a lovely buffet. This year a portion of the funds raised  will benefit The Texas No Kid Hungry Campaign, a public-private partnership with the nation’s leading child anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength® and the Texas Hunger Initiative. Ticket prices have not yet been announced.  Four Seasons Hotel, 982 San Jacinto Boulevard.

Thursday April 26th, Austin Food and Wine Alliance Live Fire!, time TBA.  The nonprofit beneficiary of the Austin Food & Wine Festival will host their own fundraising event the night before the festival kicks off.  This event celebrates meat, barbeque and all this is wonderful about it.  Details are still pending, but definitely mark this on your calendar.  Salt Lick Pavilion, 18300 FM 1826, Driftwood, TX.

Friday April 27- Sunday 29, 2012,  Austin Food & Wine Festival.   Food & Wine Magazine and C3 Presents, the event and promotion company that produces the Austin City Limits Festival, have taken over the former Hill Country Wine and Food Festival and are bringing some serious culinary star power to Austin.  The weekend long festivities will include demonstrations and sessions with internationally recognized Chefs Masaharu Morimoto, Marcus Samuelson, Michelle Bernstein and Andrew Zimmern as well as TV personality and culinary experts Gail Simmons.  Don’t worry, plenty of Texas chefs will also take the stage; Chefs David Bull, Tim Byres, Tyson Cole, Jason Dady, Aaron Franklin, Bryce Gilmore, Tim Love, Rene Ortiz, Monica Pope, Philip Speer and Paul Qui are all on the lineup. Tickets are $250 for a weekender pass or $850 for a VIP pass.    Most events are at Auditorium Shores with a few at Republic Square park.


Friday, February 17th – Sunday, February 19th, Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Annual Conference. This year’s conference will be held at the Mesquite Convention Center in Mesquite. This annual conference is a valuable educational and networking opportunity for new farmers, experienced farmers and people who like to grow their own food, with an exciting lineup of workshops, vendors, a bookshop and more. Visit for details and to register.

Sunday, May 6th, Chefs for Farmers Mixin’ it up on the Boulevard, 1:00 – 5: 00 pm. Chefs for Farmers, a grassroots organization that celebrates all things local, is hosting a picnic style festival  featuring dishes from 30 of Dallas’ top chefs, wine and cocktail tastings and samples from local artisans.  Proceeds are given to Meals On Wheels, Inc., and Water for Chizavane.Lee Park Dallas, TX. Early bird tickets are $100 for two tickets through February 21st;  tickets are $60 per person starting February 22nd.  E-mail for more details.


Monday, February 27thThe Progressive Forum and Urban Harvest present Alice Waters, 7:30pm. A pioneer of the sustainable-local food movement since she established her famous restaurant in Berkeley, Chez Panisse, Alice Waters has inspired chefs, farmers markets, and leaders of the food movement by using the freshest, local organic products, served only in season.  She’s the author of 11 books including The Art of Simple Food (2007) and 40 Years of Chez Panisse: The Power of Gathering (2011). She will sign books and greet fans at the end of the evening. Ticket prices range from $14 to $94.  Wortham Center, 500 Texas Avenue, Cullen Theater.

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