Two Austin hosts, Monica Peraza and Nina Seely, made the 2018 Salonniėre 100 list, a project that attempts to name America’s best party hosts each year. It’s an intensely researched product of the Salonniėre website, founded and edited by our city’s Carla McDonald.
Also new to the list, which spotlights honorees from 34 cities in 28 states, this year are national celebrities such as movie star Reese Witherspoon, supermodels Cindy Crawford and Heidi Klum and singer-songwriter-actor Solange Knowles. Returning to the list are media mogul Oprah Winfrey, fashion designer Lela Rose and interior designers Ken Fulk, Alessandra Branca and Bunny Williams.
“I am deeply honored to be recognized on this prestigious 2018 Salonniere 100 list of the best party hosts in America, among bold faced names like Reese Witherspoon and my passionate friend Monica Peraza,” says Seely, most recently of the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum with its Umlauf Garden Partyand now a real estate agent. “Whether hosting friends, family or creating a community event, a great party is made possible with incredible guests, and I’m so fortunate to live in a community rich with engaging, passionate and dynamic people.”
Peraza was also pleased.
“I feel incredibly honored to be on the 2018 Salonniere 100 list,” says Peraza, incoming board captain of the Long Center for the Performing Arts and founder of the Hispanic Alliance, which stages the crucial Authentic Mexico benefit at the Long Center each fall. “Not only because I have so much respect for Carla Stanmyre McDonald but also because of the other people on the list, among them Oprah Winfrey and my friend Nina Seely.”
She put in a few words for the upcoming party.
“We have had the privilege of hosting the best chefs of Mexican cuisine, both in Mexico and the United States … and of course the best in Austin, too!” Peraza says. “Eleven chefs prepare dinner every year on Sept. 16. So far over 50 chefs have been part of the Authentic Mexico Gala, including the one and only Diana Kennedy.”
9 Core Values for First Tee
Maybe I should take up golf. Everybody at First Tee of Greater Austin, which teaches character through sport, seems so amiable. And the group’s annual 9 Core Values luncheon not only spotlights its worthy efforts, the brisk ceremony reminds us of our local heroes. (Oh yes, I just remembered my hand-to-eye coordination problem.)
This year at the Hyatt Regency Austin’s large banquet hall, emcee and golf sportscaster Fred Albers introduced Stephen “Steve” F. Mona, CEO of the World Golf Foundation, who assured the big room that the golfing industry was stable and making strides with women, millennials and people of color. Then came the parade of honorees who embody the values that First Tee tries to imbue on youngsters.
The theme this year was — naturally — the golf community. So the Robert W. Hughes Philanthropic Leadership Award went to the three founders of the local chapter of First Tee — John Ellett, Tom Martin and Jay Watson. Following that lead were others from the local golf world.
Confidence: Paul Family, founders of Golfsmith
Courtesy: Barbara Puett, golf instructor
Honest: Tom Kite, World Golf Hall of Fame
Integrity: Ben Cresnshaw, World Golf Hall of Fame
Judgment: Mike McMahan, rules expert and friend of golf
Perseverance: Mary Arnold, community champion
Respect: Beth Clecker, manager of Morris Williams Golf Course
Preposterously charming Armie Hammer and TimothéeChalamet — greeted by squeals of joy on the red carpet — were the big draws at the split-screen 2018 Texas Film Awards. Yet there was so much more to observe and savor before, during and after the inevitable celebrity highlights.
1. A moveable feast. In the past staged primarily at the Austin Film Society‘s hulking studios on the north side of the Mueller development, this year’s incarnation of the group’s most dazzling benefit was held in at least six locations. A welcome reception was held at a private home on Thursday. An honoree lunch and panel sponsored by Variety magazine took place Friday at the sparkling new Fairmont Austin Hotel, as was a VIP dinner for 100 or so guests later in the day. A red carpet and cocktail reception followed early in the evening inside a tent and in the lobby of the relatively new AFS Cinema at The Linc. Guests were split into two theaters, one for in-person action, the other for televised treats, for the Awards Ceremony. Then we all strolled to the cinema’s event room, decorated like a pop-up nightclub, for the After Party. Although not corralled into a traditional sit-down dinner during the ceremony, we were well-fed and -watered.
2. Two new social magnets. We heard high praise for the Fairmont, Austin’s newest and largest hotel. John Paul DeJoria judged the steak the best he’d ever tasted at a social event like this one. His actress wife, Eloise DeJoria, and hometown film hero, MatthewMcConaughey, fresh from his light-as-smoke “Beach Bum” project,joined him at an intimate table. Meanwhile, the AFS Cinema, called a “beacon of film culture” by AFS CEO Rebecca Campbell, but still unknown to most of the city, provided a suitable backdrop for the Awards Ceremony. “I think Austin is really growing up,” said entertainer and humanitarian Turk Pikpin as we headed from the tent to the lobby. (I will say that getting in and out of the movie theater rows during the multi-hour ceremony was a bit of a game for some of us.)
3. Keeping it light. Many a regular gala guest dreads the live auction part of a benefit evening, unless lighting strikes and a rare combination of auctioneer, bidders and auction items is especially electrifying. AFS backer and Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith acknowledged as much when he rose to conduct the Fund a Filmmaker part of this gala. He was helped by young Augustine Frizzel, who gushed about her AFS grant and how it transformed her most recent project. “It came at the most vulnerable and most precarious time in a filmmaker’s career,” she said. Then with elegance, humor and precision, Smith raced through the $30,000 digital drive to the relief of all. So far, AFS has given out $1.8 million in grants to rising talents.
4. Real reels. “Whoever edited that clip reel deserves an award,” said honoree Paul Thomas Anderson, eight-time Academy Award nominee and director of “Boogie Nights,” “Magnolia,” “There Will Be Blood and, most recently, “Phantom Thread.” This has always been a superpower for the AFS ceremony, which has gone by several names. Editing wizardry worthy of any Oscar telecast was also applied to Dallas-raised Hammer’s career, whose reel included “The Social Network,” “J Edgar,” “Nocturnal Animals” and, most recently, “Call Me By Your Name,” and the posthumously honored Jonathan Demme, whose clips included “Stop Making Sense,” “Philadelphia” and “The Silence of the Lambs,” along with samples from his astounding array of documentaries, feature films and music videos.
5. Gracious grace. Each AFS ceremony is a lesson in Austin film history. Louis Black dug deep into his stories about Demme’s timely interventions into local film culture. Rick Linklater and Anderson, who won the Jonathan Demme Award, talked at length about “the great risk-taker” Demme’s profound influences. They weren’t the only ones to show grace. Guests called Chalamet’s introduction of Hammer “incredibly sweet” and “authentic,” while Hammer responded to his “Call Me By Your Name” romantic partner by saying: “I think I’ve handed you about 20 of these awards, so you handing me this one means a lot.” Hammer and Chalamet have charisma to spare. We were reminded of the old line: “Actors Studio can make an actor, but only God can make a movie star.”
We are discovering little coffee gems in Northwest Austin.
These days, we build our coffee district reports one shop at a time. (See older district reports below.) And we’ll start in the Great Northwest with …
Nelo’s Cycles & Coffee. 8108 Mesa St. 512-338-0505. neloscycles.com. 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m.-noon Sun. Lots of surface parking in shared shopping center lot. Coffee nook is small but comfortable.
David Wyatt introduced us to this little winner that’s near his new offices on Spicewood Lane at Elizabeth Christian Public Relations, which recently absorbed Wyatt Brand. Lance Armstrong long ago proved that coffee and bicycles go together with his Juan Pelota Cafe inside Mellow Johnny’s. We were the only customers at Nelo’s on a very rainy day, but that made the warm coffee nook in the back of the shop all the more inviting. The cycle services look very serious, but so is the coffee, made with Grimpeur Brothers Specialty Coffee. Add a few tempting snacks and some comfortable seats around small tables and you have a perfect place to meet up.
Epoch Coffee @ Far West. 3900 Far West Blvd. 512-436-8594. epochcoffee.com. 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Decaf espresso drinks, tea and chai. Limited surface parking, but plenty of street options on Chimney Corners. Don’t park in nearby lots. Outside, this shop is quiet; inside it is very quiet.
Austin’s Epoch Coffee has proven that it can reinvent itself in countless ways. While the funky flagship @ North Loop remains the overwhelming public favorite, this one might be mine. The first thing one notices is the huge windows that look like overhead doors associated with auto garages. Inside, there’s a incongruous central stairwell that leads to a close-off basement. Both features are clues that this structure formerly served as a Jiffy Lube — and perhaps another such business before that. The remaining layout required some creative arrangements, with long, shared tables in the central area and a calm, narrow, darker room to the west of that. (Warning: You won’t hear your order come up back there.) The main event, of course, is the counter, which is bright, brisk and efficient. The coffee products are predictably good and the pastry fresh. There for an early afternoon meeting, I was struck by the fact that almost everyone else was lost in laptop land. Nobody, however, was tempted by the patio out front this very hot day.
We trying something fresh here by building up our coffee district reports one shop at a time. (See older district reports below.) And we’ll start with …
Café Crème. 1834 E. Oltorf St. 512-710-9473. cafecremeaustin.com. 7 a.m.-6p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Decaf, teas, chai, beer, wine. Plentiful surface parking. Lots of quiet niches.
I remember this space as an arts center. Can’t remember the name. The S-shaped room is located in a nondescript office-like building that’s easy to miss along busy East Oltorf Street. Yet plenty of people from the Travis Heights East, Riverside and Pleasant Valley hoods have found it and deem Café Crème, which blends French, Vietnamese and other influences, the best coffee spot in Southeast Austin. The counter is front and center. Multiple rooms with tables and chairs — including conference rooms with doors — extend to the left and right. The crowd includes a healthy mix of silent laptappers and quiet chatters. The espresso-based drinks can be quite good, but the owners are also quite proud of their bakery that turns out pastries, kolaches, breakfast tacos and crêpes.
We’ll seek out more Southeast Austin coffee shops soon.
Central East Austin is home quite a few excellent coffeehouses.
We are going to try something new here by building up our coffee district reports one shop at a time. (See older district reports below.) And we’ll start with …
Houndstooth Coffee. 2823 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 512-243-8902. houndstoothcoffee.com. 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-7 pm. Sat.-Sun. Very little street parking. Decaf, teas, chai, beer, wine, cocktails, food. Carefully calibrated music. Some outdoor seating.
We recently profiled Houndstooth brothers Sean and Paul Henry. Here’s what we said about their third Austin spot: “It anchors the Platform residence complex near the MLK stop on the MetroRail line. It’s also tall, angular and welcoming. The long counter is backed by a food preparation area that will provide more food to go along with the coffee, beer, wine and cocktails as the shop matures. Several features, inspired by trends in the hospitality industry, stand out: One can order from anywhere in the shop as baristas make their way to one’s location; also, one can open a tab during a longer stay. “We want to bridge the a.m.-p.m. divide,” Paul says. “People think coffee shop in the morning and bar in the evening. Why not both?” The music slightly elevates the energy in the place depending on the time of day, while sound panels help keep down the echo in a room where more than 50 people can gather and still hold a conversation.”
Cuvée Coffee. 2000 E. Sixth St. 512-368-5636. cuveecoffee.com. 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Limited onsite parking with the option to park next door when indicated. Some outdoor seating available on the former loading dock. Wifi now on!
Few Austin makers of coffee are as serious about their craft as the folks at Cuvée, who have been roasting their own beans since 1998. They also introduced nitro black coffee cold brew to Austin, which they pour from a tap at their main spot and when they cater. Even if you’ve never been to their remodeled warehouse on rapidly evolving East Sixth Street, you’ve likely savored their products, since several other Austin coffee houses employ their beans (look for the icy blue bags). At the East Austin outlet, a central triangular well offers coffee on one side, beer on the other. It’s one of the most inviting counters in town, but you can also choose from tables large and small, as well as a few well-shaded outdoor sit-downs. But here’s the big news: They now offer wifi. Valiantly, the owners had tried to encourage a sense of community by keeping the laptopping to a minimum, but they have relented and at least a few customers were taking advantage during our most recent visit. Cuvée still keeps on staff some of the most engaging baristas around and that cold brew is so inviting, this reporter defies his heart doctor to skip the decaf for a refreshing cup.
Cenote. 1010 E. Cesar Chavez St. 512-524-1311. cenoteaustin.com. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun. Street parking available, but you might have to walk a bit. Teas, chai, decaf. Strong WiFi. Many quiet niches.
One of the first coffee shops of this type in East Austin, Cenote takes full advantage of its 19th-century Victorian house with its ultra-tall ceilings as well as the rich alluvial soil of its surrounding gardens. Seating is divided roughly in thirds, one part inside, one part along tables on a shaded east patio, one part among scattered tables in the south garden, which includes a small performance stage. One orders from the counter to the back. Drinks are listed on customary boards, but for food, pick up a menu by the register. Besides the hot and cold beverages, Cenote serves beer and wine as well as a copious selection of food, including tacos, pastries, sandwiches and veggies, all carefully sourced. The place is popular with laptoppers, but if you are there to meet someone, your conversation won’t disturb them. In fact, Cenote is so well-liked, you might have trouble locating a free table during certain stretches of the days and nights. Note: Be kind to neighbors by watching where you park in the residential neighborhood to the north.
Thunderbird Cafe. 2200 Manor Road. 512-472-9900. thunderbirduaustin.com. 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Very little onsite parking. Street parking backs up quickly. Decaf, teas, chai. Generally quiet.
I always plan to arrive early when I meet a friend at Thunderbird Cafe, the longstanding stop on Manor Road close by a half dozen established eateries and walking distance from the University of Texas campus. So popular is this Greater Cherrywood outfit, there’s rarely two seats open together at the high tables, low tables, small tables or picnic tables. Laptoppers rule this domain. Happily, the baristas are accomplished so the line at the central counter near the south door is rarely long. Snacks, some light, some substantial, are available there. The coffee is good and the beer is welcome, especially on hot days when the western sun beats down on the well-worn patio. The feel is very local and the owners have opened a second location in the Crestview/Brentwood area. Does anyone else have trouble with their website?
Flat Track Coffee. 1619 Cesar Chavez St. 512-540-6040. flattrackcoffee.com. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week. Limited onsite parking. Decaf. Quiet spots.
Three makes a trend. First there was Lance Armstrong’s breakthrough Juan Pelota Cafe downtown. Then Nelo’s Cycles & Coffee in Northwest Hills. Flat Track Coffee, which has been hidden from my scrutiny since it opened some three years ago (according to my barista), makes it a trend to put a coffee shop into your cycling spot. (There could be more in town. We’ll report.) Here, the customer really feels like a part of the action because the repairs are done right in front of you while you take in the wonderful aroma of tires and oils. Wonderful to me at least. There’s a generous upfront patio outside, then mostly counter space near the windows, and more tables in the back, all kind of chic without trying too hard to be so. The coffee is good, too, and my barista was particularly helpful with the decaf options. The menu is minimalist, which seems to be another Austin trend. Anyway, now that I’ve found it, I’ll return to Fast Track soon.
Bennu Coffee. 2002 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 512-478-4700. bennucoffee.com. Open 24 hours seven days a week. Decaf, teas, chai. Onsite and nearby street parking. Strong Wifi. Plenty of quiet spots.
We got to know this coffee group when it took over the venerable Dominican Joe spot at South Congress Avenue and Riverside Drive. We were impressed with the concept. It takes just a few variations to make an Austin coffee shop feel special. Open 24 hours a day? That’s clearly a winning strategy. Pack the place with a lot of mismatched old furniture? Also a natural choice for Austin. Both locations can get quite crowded, mostly with sprawling, intensely focused laptoppers. Yet the East Austin spot benefits from its long, low-ish, somewhat dark space in an older commercial structure as well as its extra-large counter area, where one can find snacks as well as beverages. Does anyone know the previous history of the space?
Figure 8 Coffee Purveyors. 1111 Chicon St. 512-953-1061. figure8coffeepurveyors.com. 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sun. Wifi. Side street parking. Fairly quiet. There’s a tiny patio out back that is shady most of the day.
This small shop is smart. It focuses on freshly roasted coffee in a demure location across Chicon Street from Huston-Tillotson University. The furniture, arranged in a variety of manner, looks like postindustrial art. The interactions between baristas and regulars seem warm and genuine. The afternoon sun could be a problem for this west-facing spot, but the chairs are generally placed to avoid direct light and heat. Did we like the coffee? Very much. But we liked the relaxed atmosphere even more on our second visit. It’s going to become a regular meeting spot.
One of Austin’s most coveted honors, the Austin Under 40 Awards, are back, and we’ve got the names of the 2018 finalists.
The AU40 Awards are a joint effort of two veteran volunteer groups, Young Women’s Alliance and the Young Men’s Business League. They honor notable community figures and rising stars in 16 career fields.
One can relax during the Feed the Peace Awards for the Nobelity Project at the Four Seasons Austin Hotel. You know why? Because even when the AV system crashes or a stray joke bombs, Turk and Christy Pipkin are going to smile, glide back on stage and make it all better.
The highlight of the most recent event was a speech by honoree Dan Rather who gave an oration about today’s crises so timely and rousing that every statesman wishes he or she had written and delivered it. He’s truly a treasure. I didn’t stay long enough to witness the plaudits for the Flatlanders, but they surely deserved the recognition.
Nina and Frank Seely are candidates for the best party hosts in town. Their afternoon spread for a perfectly poised Valentine’s soiree was what every guest hopes will greet them from a party buffet. The crowd fit the room and the room the crowd. Can we talk about the social star power? Carla McDonald, Venus Strawn, Wendi Kushner, George Elliman,Eva Womack, Larry Connelly, Donna Stockton Hicks, Margo Sawyer, Lance Avery Morgan, Rob Giardinelli, Nona Niland, Patty Hoffpauir, Greg Easley, JamesBryant,Richard Hartgrove and Gary Cooper were just some of the highlights.
Two opening receptions made me very happy about my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin. There’s growing excitement about the maturing cultural attractions on or near campus. One week apart, we attended “Vaudeville” at the Ransom Center and “Form into Spirit: Ellsworth Kelly‘s Austin” at the Blanton Museum of Art. Both were mobbed with fans. Within fairly easy walking distance are the LBJ Presidential Library, Briscoe Center for American History, Bullock Texas State HistoryMuseum, the UT Visual Arts Center and more than a dozen public art projects from the Landmarks program, all worthy of sustained attention. Good times.
Although traditional story ballets and evening-length concept concerts are always welcome, I’m partial to short abstract pieces, such as the three on display during “Masters of Dance” from Ballet Austin at the Long Center. Reserve time for dance at its purest: music and movement aided by minimal design elements. Loved the furling and unfurling, folding and unfolding to Philip Glass‘s music in Justin Peck’s “In Creases.” Enjoyed the beskirted, stuttering angularity of Pam Tanowitz’s “Shade.” David L. Lang‘s music for it? Not so much, despite conductor Peter Bay‘s valiant efforts. The third slot was reserved for a revival of Stephen Mills‘s rhythmically mesmerizing “Kai” set to the percussion of composer John Cage. I’d see this again and again for as long as dancers dance.