Beat the holiday rush at these rousing Austin parties

It’s all holidays from here on out for the Austin social scene. Here are some of the top party picks for the coming weeks. See you there!


Dec. 2: Lights of Love for Ronald McDonald House of Central Texas. Browning Hangar in Mueller.

Dec. 2: A Very Special Celebration for Special Olympics Texas. 1804 Rutherford Lane.


Dec. 2: Gusto Studio’s Concert & Well Aware Benefit. 2309 Thornton Road.

Dec. 3: Sims Foundation Heart of the City. Emos.


Dec. 3: Humanities Texas Holiday Book Fair. Byrne-Reed House.

Dec. 4: Dancing with the Stars Austin for Center for Child Protection. Hilton Austin.

Dec. 5: Conspirare Christmas. Long Center.

Dec. 6: Austin Food and Wine Alliance Culinary Grant Awards. The Carillon.


Dec. 6: Messiah: An Austin Symphony Christmas Tradition. Hyde Park Baptist Church.


Dec. 8: Honoring Bettie Meshack Mann. Russell Lee Elementary.

Dec. 8: Wexel Art One Night Pop Up Show: Gareth Maguire and Bob Schneider. 11715 Bee Cave Road.

Dec. 8: Holiday Party, Opening Reception & Art Sale. Mexic-Arte Museum.

Dec. 9: Trail of Lights Preview Party. Zilker Park.


Dec. 11: Austin Film Awards Holiday Party. The Backyard.

Dec. 12: UT Community Leadership Awards Ceremony. Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Dec. 10: Black Ball for Black Fret. Paramount Theatre.

Dec. 20: 130th Anniversary Celebration. Driskill Hotel.

Texas Monthly names new editor in chief and new chief creative officer

Tim Taliaferro, most recently editor of the Alcalde magazine and vice president for communications and digital strategy for Texas Exes, has been named the new editor in chief of Texas Monthly, where he once served as an intern.

Tim Taliaferro, formerly of Alcalde magazine, has been named editor in chief of Texas Monthly.

Scott Brown, previously president and chief executive officer of the Company and Others, a Houston marking and research firm, took the position of the magazine’s chief creative officer.

They were selected by Paul Hobby, Texas Monthly’s chairman and CEO, a scion of the distinguished Texas family that produced late Texas Gov. William P. Hobby, his wife, Oveta Culp Hobby, who ran Women’s Army Corps then served as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, as well as Bill Hobby, who was Texas Lieutenant Governor from 1973 to 1991.

They also published the Houston Post, once one of that city’s two major newspapers.

“I am thrilled to announce the appointment of both Tim and Scott,” says Hobby, whose private equity firm, Genesis Park, purchased Texas Monthly, earlier this year for $25 million. “I believe they are the perfect individuals to lead our brand forward, particularly in the areas of digital journalism and live events.”

While at Alcalde, Taliaferro sometimes beat the venerable publication to stories about the state and its culture. He didn’t shy away from controversy at that Texas Exes magazine.

“We want to host a discussion,” Taliaferro said in 2013. “You’ve got 20-year-olds and 100-years-olds reading it. The one thing they have in common is a college degree. They can grapple with issues and have an adult discussion. We don’t talk down to them, and we don’t presume their interest.”

What our Austin party spies report

We can’t make every major Austin party. Especially since they often occur simultaneously. So we depend on reliable party spies to give us insight into the events that we missed. At times, we offer a few reports from them.

Disclosure: Our party spies sometimes also back — or represent — the groups celebrated. We still trust them with the facts.

Ingrid Spencer and Michael Hsu at the Gateway Awards. Contributed by Alan Pogue.

Gateway Awards for American Gateways. “Guests from Austin and Central Texas gathered at the University of Texas’ Etter-Harbin Alumni Center to honor the contributions of the immigrant community to our city, state and country at the sold-out inaugural Gateway Awards ceremony hosted by American Gateways. The Awards raised over $75,000 for one of the largest human rights advocates and nonprofit immigration legal services providers in Texas. Gina Hinojosa, civil rights attorney and candidate for Texas State Representative (she later won the seat), served as the master of ceremonies, while Qi Dada of Riders Against the Storm began the evening with a blessing and a song. The event also featured the music of Polish immigrant Peter Stopschinski. A special VIP cocktail hour preceded the ceremony, which began at 8:30 p.m. with the honoring of Elizabeth Avellan, Michael Hsu and Dr. Alejandro Moreno.” — Will Mills

John Cavallo, Luis Valadez and Jonathan Louis Melendez at Midtown Independence Title’s 10th Anniversary Party.

Midtown Independence Title 10th Anniversary Party. “In a city as quickly changing in Austin, it’s always great to see something that combines old and new . Over the past 10 years, co-founders of Midtown Independence Title Ed Ishmael and Douglas Plummer have remained business partners, an anomaly in todays fast moving Austin market, creating a thriving business that keeps the old Austin personal touch aesthetic that has attracted both long standing local clients as well as the new “Net 110” (150 moving in, 40 moving out) of Austin each day. It seems only fitting Midtown Independence Title celebrated this incredible milestone with a 10th anniversary bash at Palazzo Lavaca, located at 1614 Lavaca Street, an event venue that happens to be in a structure built in the 1890s — the perfect way to celebrate a business that has also given to many locally based non profits over the years including AIDS Services of Austin, Austin Children’s Shelter and Emancipet.” — Rob Giardinelli

Diane Riehs, Ron Oliveira and Sarah French at Beer, Wine and Swine for Manos de Cristo.

Beer, Wine & Swine for Manos de Cristo. “Almost 200 guests gathered at Mercury Hall to sample craft brews, delicious wines, culinary treats from RQ SmokeMasters and dance to the sounds of Sons of the Salt Fork. More than $30,000 was donated by Manos de Cristo’s generous supporters with proceeds from the event benefiting over 25,000 local children, adults, and seniors with access to low-cost dental care, adult education classes, and emergency food and clothing relief. A squealing good time was had by all!” — Lily Lombardi

Don Tate and Sara Hickman at Illumine for Austin Public Library Friends Foundation.

Illumine for Austin Public Library Friends Foundation. “Many of the heavy hitters in Austin’s literary and cultural crowd gathered at the W Hotel for the Illumine fundraiser supporting the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation. Cultural figures like Bill Wittliff, Stephen Harrigan, Elizabeth Crook, Brittani Sonnenberg, Liz Garton Scanlon, Sara Hickman and Becky Beaver were chatting with award winners Amy Gentry, for First Book (‘Good as Gone’); Don Tate, for Children’s Literature; and National Book Award winner Tim O’Brien for Fiction. High tech was part of the crowded and energetic scene, too. Executives from Google and Google Fiber were on hand to accept their Luminary Award for supporting the Library’s digital inclusion programs. Author Owen Egerton proved once again that he is a fine emcee, maintaining a fast pace for the program and delivering plenty of witty remarks.

“When O’Brien accepted his award, he shared a story about the importance of libraries. He said that he was inspired to write his first novel after he checked out ‘Larry of Little League’ in his small-town library. (By the way, that book was written by legendary Austin author Curtis Bishop.) After sitting there and reading the book straight through, he went up to the librarian, asked for a pencil and some sheets of paper and in less than an hour had written his first novel. A middling ballplayer in real life, in his fledgling tome he was the star who was responsible for a crazy number of runs. He talked about how when authors win awards, they don’t always allude to the first great works they read as children. ‘Thumbelina’ and ‘The Boxcar Children’ were two of his favorites and the mention of those books elicited sighs of fond remembrance from the audience. He thanked public libraries for being public.

“The parents of the two winners of the Forrest Preece Young Author Awards were over the moon about their children’s success. Eighth-grader Jason Luo’s mother said that he told her he has decided he wants to be a writer after winning for his poem ‘Fearless.’ Fifth-grader Nitya Ganesh’s family got a special surprise when the Foundation’s executive director Tim Staley quoted a line from her poem ‘Joy’ during his opening remarks. Staley said that when the envelope-pushing new Central Library overlooking Lady Bird Lake finally opens, it will be ‘like a cupcake behind plates and plates of broccoli.’” — Forrest Preece

1921-2016: Farmer, leader Rubert Ceder dies

Farmer. Auctioneer. Tax collector. County leader. Park land banker.

Rubert Ceder, who died Nov. 23, was many things to Austin and Travis County. His Swedish family worked the land east of the city continuously since the 1870s. His parents spoke Swedish at home and his father read Swedish-language periodicals.

Rubert Ceder died Nov. 23. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

His memory was seared by the droughts of the 1930s and 1950s. Yet in 2013, during yet another Texas drought, his fields inside the city of Austin burst with corn and wheat.

“No hungry person in Austin ever got turned away from our house,” he once said. “We didn’t have much but my mom never turned any hungry visitor away. Everyone at least got a biscuit.”


He represented northeast Travis County on the commissioners court from 1960 to 1972, back when most of the region was agricultural.

More recently, he banked his family’s land for future parks. Junie Plummer helped work out the deals for the city to purchased hundreds of acres for a big metropolitan park. Already some of that land has been developed into recreational facilities.

“We fell so in love with Rubert, we kept up the relationship,” Plummer said in 2013. “The Ceders hadn’t sold off any of the land since 1876. So Rubert went about selling it in a very thought-out way.”

He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Lillie Belle Ceder, and his son, Dennis.

There will be a visitation at Cook-Walden Funeral home 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Nov. 29 and a funeral service in the Colonial Chapel at Cook-Walden 10 a.m. Nov. 30.

UPDATE: Rubert Ceder’s first name was misspelled in earlier versions of this post.

Austinite wins national butterfly photo contest

A dainty picture of a butterfly netted $500 for Austin’s Julie Shaw, who says she will buy another camera lens for herself, or maybe a camera for her husband with her winnings.

Callophrys gryneus Juniper Hairstreak
“Juniper Hairstreak on Milkweed,” by Julie Shaw, 2016 Rio Grande Prix winner of the North American Butterfly Photo Contest. Contributed by Julie Shaw.

“He is not really into butterflies,” Shaw says. “He prefers hiking, but I like to poke around in the bushes and this slows him down. Maybe now I can convince him to join me!”

Selected from among hundreds of images, Shaw’s “Juniper Hairstreak on Milkweed” was named the Rio Grande Prix winner in the North American Butterfly Photo Contest at the Texas Butterfly Festival recently at the National Butterfly Center in Mission.

It so happens that Shaw is a volunteer at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Her job put her in contact with caterpillars raised for public viewing. She began photographing butterflies with her iPhone so she could identify them in her field guide at home.

“I’ve learned so much,” Shaw says. “In the beginning, I took photos just to help me get to know the butterflies. I took so many pictures, I eventually killed our little point ‘n’ shoot camera, which I replaced with a digital single-lens reflex camera three years ago.”

Her prize-winning photo was taken in the spring at the Wildflower Center, when milkweed was in bloom.

“Milkweed has such pretty and interesting little flowers,” Shaw says. “And the plant seems to be the focus of stories in the news, now, to help the monarchs. Many of the larger butterflies don’t stay still; they flutter and fly away, but this tiny hairstreak was cooperative.”

Marianna Treviño Wright, executive director of the National Butterfly Center, says Shaw’s progression from gardener to butterfly enthusiast is a familiar one.

“The act of gardening slows people down enough to notice insects and ignite curiosity, Wright says. “It never takes long for people to start asking, ‘What is that?’ and ‘Why this plant?’”

Largely self-taught, Shaw has taken only one photography class.

“Our instructor was very knowledgeable, but he wanted us to use a light diffuser and tripod,” she says. “I just don’t want to carry all that equipment around; that would take all the fun out of it for me.”

UPDATE: In a previous version of this post, some of the material was duplicated.

Best Austin coffee shops near South Lamar Boulevard

The blend of coffee spots on or near South Lamar Boulevard  includes some of the city’s oldest and some of its newest offerings. (We’ve melded two posts to make this one to match the many offerings along the way.)

Catahoula Mama’s. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Catahoula Mama’s. 1305 W. Oltorf St. 512-921-6167. Tues.-Fri. 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. Lots of onsite parking. Wi-Fi: ABGB_Guest. Decaf (Americano), teas, chai. Moderate outdoor music. Otherwise quiet.

An adorable little coffee boat recently anchored under a pecan tree in the parking lot of the very popular Austin Beer Garden Brewing, aka ABGB. Tina Rose, longtime of Jo’s Coffee and other shops, pulled up her vessel to this stretch of road that needed exactly this sort of soothing respite. On a fine day, it’s blissfully relaxing at the few tables and chairs huddled next to the trailer, or a few short steps away at ABGB’s shaded picnic tables. Espresso-based drinks come first, including those made the Catahoula Mama’s House blend. With other mindful business allies, Rose and company employ ingredients “locally sourced as much as possible, organic, fair trade, humanely and sustainably produced.” The name at this dog-friendly spot, by the way, came from Rose’s late canine companion. In a sign of the times, they offer soy, coconut and almond milk. Among the imaginative offerings: Brooklyn Boxer, an iced coffee drink — “Shaken. Never stirred” — and a Nectar Fizz that combines organic nectar with the bubbly stuff. Since it is, after all, mobile, will it ever move? Rose: “We’re here for the rest of our lives!”

Barista at Patika. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Patika Wine and Coffee. 2159 South Lamar Boulevard. Fri.-Tues. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Wed.-Thurs. 7 a.m.-midnight. A fair amount of onsite parking, plus extra slots behind a nearby boutique. WiFi: “coffeeandwine”. Decaf (American), teas, chai. Burbling music and a fairly quiet crowd.

Pale ledge-stone facing gives this uncomplicated coffee shop, at one time parked inside a highly regarded downtown trailer, a dash of mod style. One must quickly identify its low-lying silhouette along busy South Lamar Boulevard just south of Oltorf Street. A laptop counter faces the big picture windows. A dozen tables wait off to the side and another dozen out back on the required Austin patio, where a trailer serves more substantial cafe cuisine at certain hours. At other times, pastries and snacks will do. Espresso-based drinks dominate the menu, but there’s also a nice selection of wines and beers, plus juice and pour-over coffees. When I visited — or revisited, since I loved the downtown location where the JW Marriott now rises — most of the customers, primarily in the 20s and 30s, were glued to their devices. There’s a little echo from the hard surfaces and metal chairs. Patika is home to some of Austin’s most meticulous baristas who make superb drinks. UPDATE: Breakfast and lunch now served Thursdays-Sundays.

The bar at Opa. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Opa Coffee & Wine Bar. 2050 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-326-8742. Mon.-Fri. 8:30 a.m.-midnight, Sat. 9 a.m.-1 a.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-midnight. Decaf (Americano), teas, chai. Wi-Fi: “spiros,” password “kalimera.” Moody music and fairly quiet.

Opa was among the first in town to advertise coffee and wine in the same breath. But it’s also a Greek cafe with a full bar. As proof that it’s still a coffee shop, though, half the patrons on a recent visit were buried deep in their laptops. The building is somewhat camouflaged by the large trees that shade its roomy front patio. Another much smaller patio waits out back near the limited onsite parking (if the lot is full, drivers may park at Bead It next door after 7 p.m.). Inside, one orders at the counter, then retreats to various well-worn stools, tables, chairs and sofas. One can easily visualize this cafe transported to an old university district. All sorts of espresso-based drinks complement more than 40 wine selections. Entrees include traditional Mediterranean dishes such as souvlaki, gyros, falafel and spanakopita. “Light bites” range from breakfast items and pizzas to appetizers such as baked feta, spinach-and-cheese pies and dolmas. Images of Greek tourist sites adorn the walls. Every age group is represented among Opa’s clients, including families with children.

Noah Marion at Work. Michael Barnes/American-Stateman

Work Coffee Co. 2053 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-917-4628. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. A few onsite parkling slots. No decaf at this time. Teas, chai. Wi-Fi password: “bigdaddio1951.” Music loud enough that people don’t sit on the laptops the whole time.

Undoubtedly one of the most singular coffee spots in Austin. Noah Marion, who started his young work life as a barista, then trained as a sculptor, became a leather worker extraordinaire. Inside his working shop/studio attached to the Hoiden apparel boutique, he lovingly prepares beans roasted at Cafe Brasil specifically for avid espresso lovers. In addition, he offers four espresso-based drinks, iced cold brew, iced black tea, herbal teas and Topo Chico. Marion and his crew work their leather the whole time, but the they make the drinks with great care. Marion: “We’re the slowest coffee shop in town.”As for the shop’s name, Marion says he wanted to take back the word “work” with a positive connotation. He makes that easy with unforced conversation. Minimal seating available: One long table with four seats and a counter with four seats in an open, light-filled space, with one smaller table outside.  A two-month membership gets you half price espresso. Despite the current lack of decaf coffee, I fell in love with this charming and very local spot. I even purchased a hand-tooled wallet.

Irie Bean Coffee Bar. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Irie Bean Coffee Bar. 2310 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-326-4636. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Spacious parking lot, which is good because nearby shopping centers and residential streets don’t welcome spillover. Use “Irie Bean Coffee Bar” Wi-Fi with password “irielife.” Decaf (Americano), teas and chai. Music is fairly loud by unhurried. Back patio often quieter

With a smile and a shrug, this Jamaican inspired coffee shop has clung onto its laid-back space on rapidly changing South Lamar. Launched in 2006 to promote “positive vibes,” it now counts as one of the oldest coffee shop in South Central Austin. The front of the brick-and-cinder-block building — a remnant of the boulevard’s former highway culture — hugs the curb next to a tattoo shop. Inside, the light is warm and mellow and the crowded U-shaped coffee bar buzzes with espresso and brewed coffee drinks, along with a few regular guests chatting with the barista. Smoothies, Italian sodas, iced tea and other refreshments join bottled and canned beer along with a small section of wines and broths, as well as a few snacks. The funky, whimsical patio out back with its roll-top bar creates its own magic. Lots of laptoppers on a Sunday afternoon, but I know it gets livelier in the evening. Worn wooden tables, counters, benches, stools, chairs — a few of them upholstered — give customers lots of places to settle in.

Stonehouse Coffee and Bar. 1105 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-879-9429. 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-midnight, Fri.-Sat. Onsite parking and overflow parking shared with nearby establishments. WiFi. Decaf, teas and chai. Loud music on our first visit. Plenty of options outside and in.

“This feels a lot like Seventh Flag,” I said to the baristas when I first encountered this Dawson family stone house that has been resurrected with almost Scandinavian purity and lightness inside. “I used to work there!” said one barista. Another similarity: The social options are numerous, with different sized tables, bars and outdoor seating, mostly shaded. The care with espresso drinks is similar, but in this case, Stonehouse is more expansive, whereas Seventh Flag on South First is minimal. The offer of decaf is an obvious example, but they also serve draft beers, wines in half and full bottles, plus other potable and edible options, including locally sourced gelato. The baristas are attentive and skilled. The crowd is a mix of furrow-browed laptoppers and more social folks. Once abandoned, this cleverly branded place, built around 1900 in what back then would have been the countryside, was a once a Tarot card palace and at other times offices for a title company. It has officially found its soul again. The punk music aside — one must chat after all — I like this place a lot. It could easily become one of my new haunts.


Caffe Medici. 1100 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-445-7212. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thurs., 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Lots of free parking in Lamar Union garages. Lively Wi-Fi, password: “coolbeans.” Decaf (French press and Americano), teas and chai. Mild music. Quiet inside and out.

No students. That’s a shocker for a Central Austin coffee shop. The crowd this day ranged from their late 20s to their mid 60s. Not to record that’s always the case, but it says something about the clientele of the megalithic Lamar Union development. One of several coffee shops by this name to focus on excellent coffee as well as handsome, grown-up design, this Caffe Medici  — brown, white and black color scheme — feels best matched to the group’s luxe downtown location in the Austonian. A dozen outside tables invite guests on cooler days and will be even more tempting once the trees grown in. Another dozen tables, plus some laptop counter stools, wait inside. Besides the fine espresso drinks, coffee, cafe au lait, iced coffee and teas as part of a fairly simple menu, the place also offers a limited array of pastries and snacks. Single-origin coffee beans are on offer, too. And here’s unexpected news: Several good beers on tap. The staff is well-practiced and helpful. Although Lamar Union can seem a little intimidating at first, this place has already attracted regulars.

RELATED: Savor Austin coffee shops near South First Street


Austin Java. 1608 Barton Springs Road. 512-482-9450. 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. 1 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri., 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun. Parking in garage to the rear. Fast Wi-Fi. Decaf, teas, chai. Moderate music. Although busy, relaxed.

More of a full-service restaurant than a mere coffee shop, this local stand-by gives one the choice of sitting at a short bar near the entrance, or being escorted to ready seating in the front and the back. A full bar accompanies a paradise of coffee and other drinks, many of them made with locally roasted Arabica beans. Coffees can be straightforward  — drip or espresso-based — or come with themed names such as Morning Glory or Fog Cutter. Signature drinks include Caramel Knowledge and Sugar Daddy. Need something a little headier? How about spiked coffees, beer, wine or cocktail? The breakfast side of the menu is dominated by egg dishes, while lunch and dinner on the flip side includes rib-stickers such as pasta, burgers, sandwiches, tacos and especially good soups. The staff stays pretty animated, or so one can hear from the large kitchen. Not many laptops here among an array of guests. This edition of the local group that started on North Lamar Boulevard thrives without much competition in its market niche on Barton Springs Road.


Picnik.  1700 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-293-6188. 7 a.m.-4 p.m. daily. Shared parking lot and street parking. Wi-Fi password: “bodybybutter.” Decaf, tea. No chai. Fairly loud music, but it’s outside. Set back from traffic, so peaceful.

This mod cafe/coffee shop, built inside a recycled cargo container, continues to shine on low, green rise along South Lamar Boulevard. It’s earned a trendy, imported neighbor in Snooze, which focuses on breakfast dishes. Picnik’s streamlined menu more than holds its own. They serve “famous coffee” drinks, such as Golden Milk Matcha and Mayan Mocha, but also very good “plain and simple” coffee. No espresso, which is rare these days. They’ll make you shakes or teas (although the latter offering is a bit confusing on the menu). Decaf in two forms: black coffee or butter coffee, which includes grass-fed butter and MCT oil. Soul-warming on cold days are three types of bone broth. Of the six food offerings, they were out of the breakfast tacos by noon, but a helpful barista recommended a filling chicken club wrap with bacon and a kale exterior. Just right. Because South Lamar isn’t (yet) pedestrian friendly, this is more of a destination spot than a impulse stop. Metal tables and chairs are scattered under a canopy or in the sun. A sign of the times: Three fat sriracha sauce dispensers next to the counter.



Starbucks. 1509 S. Lamar Blvd. 512-912-7919. 5 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. Shared parking at Lamar Plaza, plus drive-through service. Wi-Fi before you even ask. Decaf, teas, chai. Soft music. Fairly quiet inside and out.

This Starbucks is almost too popular. Squeezed narrowly and deeply into the Lamar Plaza shopping center — which offers a mix of local and chain outlets — this coffee shop deals in familiarity and consistency for a crowd of mixed ages and backgrounds. The products don’t differ much — or at all — from store to store: Espresso-based drinks, coffees, teas, and a long list of trademarked “frappuccinos.” The drive-through remains busy all day. You are instantly recognized by its Wi-Fi signal when you engage your device. Like other chains, Strbucks fights absolute conformity by localizing the decor and supplying a neighborhood flyer board. A few outside tables under umbrellas attracted no one on this warm day, but customers flocked to the short counter space and no more than a dozen tables inside. Some people sometime complain when this ubiquitous chain duplicates shops in the same area, at times right across the street from the next. But as Austin grows more dense, there’s a ready argument for it. Not every Starbucks regular on South Lamar can fit in here.

An Austin museum loses a leader, the rodeo gala gains two headliners and Andy Roddick rocks

Victoria Ramirez, leaving her post at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Contributed

Victoria Ramirez leaves the history museum. The Bullock Texas State History Museum is losing a classy leader. “After much consideration, I have resigned from my position at the Bullock Museum to be the new director of the El Paso Museum of Art,” Ramirez announced in an email. “I have enjoyed my nearly four years here at the Bullock and am looking forward to this next chapter in El Paso.” In a follow-up message, she endorsed the interim director, Margaret Koch, who will take the reins Jan. 1. During her tenure, Ramirez opened the doors of the museum wider to more voices and oversaw some exceptional shows, some of them staged in the nifty upstairs rotunda gallery. Each of the current special exhibits, “American Flags” and “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda,” not only pack a powerful punch, they utilize artifacts from local collections.

“The museum has seen tremendous strides under the leadership of Ramirez, including an increase in revenue and attendance, the launch of an award-winning website, and the milestone arrival and display of the shipwreck La Belle,” says Bob Barnes, president of the museum foundation’s board of trustees. “She brought an innovative vision and perspective to the museum that resulted in some of our most successful exhibitions and programs since opening. We are very sorry to see go, but are confident that she set us on a strong course and  the museum will continue to flourish.”

Musician Randy Houser will headline the Rodeo Austin Gala. Contributed

Rodeo reveals headliners for gala. In terms of attendance, the Rodeo Austin Gala is among the biggest, if not the biggest such fandango in town. On Feb. 4, the mingling crowds at the Palmer Events Center will tap their boots to the tunes of Randy Houser along with special guest Ronnie Milsap. With a string of No. 1 hits and millions in singles sales, Houser is just the sort of talent that helps drive this, the second largest fundraiser for the group after the fair and rodeo in March. Milsap is quite the crossover star himself, having compiled more than 40 No. 1 country hits over the course of a long career. The Rodeo is beginning to burst out of its customary cultural bubble with a new leader, businessman Rob Golding, who we’ll profile in these page in the coming weeks. He’s got plans aplenty.

Abigail and Andy Lapidas at Andy Roddick Foundation Gala. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Andy Roddick’s era of good feeling. It’s hard not to be crazy about tennis star, media celebrity and philanthropist Andy Roddick and his wife, equally talented, open and giving Brooklyn Decker. Along with his family — and visionary leaders such as Jeff Lau and Richard Tagle — they have built an Austin charity that is making a noticeable community impact through after-school, spring break and summer programs for needy students. The foundation’s gala is now a fond tradition, not only for local do-gooders, but also for random guests attracted by mega-stars such as John Legend and Elton John performing in the sublime setting of ACL Live. This year, I arrived late after a wedding rehearsal cruise on Lady Bird Lake just in time for the dinner and auction and met, of course, some sharp folks while learning more about the foundation’s work.

Susanne McDonald named new superintendent at LBJ National Historical Park.

A new leader in LBJ Land. We tipped our hand a few weeks back when we met Susanne McDonald at an LBJ Ranch barbecue and subsequently revealed she would become the new superintendent at the LBJ National Historical Park come January. That means she’ll also oversee the Waco Mammoth National Monument. She takes the place of revered leader John “Russ” Whitlock, who will retire in January after 37 years of federal service. “Susanne’s diverse experience in park leadership, operations and partner development are a solid fit for the community-focused management of the Lyndon B. Johnson and Waco Mammoth parks,” says Sue Masica, National Park Service Intermountain Region director. During her 21 years with the Park Service,  McDonald has run various operations in Vermont, North Carolina, Colorado and Wyoming. She moves to Texas with a son, Sam, age 5, as well as three dogs and a cat.

Texas Cowboys. Contributed by Alcalde magazine.

Cowboy for a day. The Texas Cowboys contingent at the University of Texas are perhaps best known for shooting off Smokey the Cannon during football games while wearing leather chaps, red bandanas and black cowboy hats. Yet this social reporter knows that they also serve as volunteers at countless charity events. Since 1954, they have made a special effort to help the ARC of the Capital Area, which helps folks with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Well, one of the ARC’s clients will be honored as the first ever “Cowboy for a Day” at the UT/TCU game on Nov. 25. He’ll wear the Cowboy regalia and will root from the sidelines during the pregame festivities and the first quarter. For these purposes, his name is rendered only as “Stephen R.,” a student in the ARC’s art education program, who has gone from being severely withdrawn to being dubbed “The Ambassador” for this effervescent personality.

Wrapping up Austin’s fall social season with a few more affairs

Only a few weeks left in the Austin fall social season before everything drifts into a winter slumber. Not that Austinites stop socializing altogether. They just focus on family and friends rather than public events like the ones listed below. Did we miss any? Email us at and we’ll rectify that.

Nov. 18: Andy Roddick Foundation Gala. ACL Live.

Nov. 18: Hearts of Gold for Volunteer Healthcare Clinic. AT&T Center.

Nov. 18Key to the Cure Gala for Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Brazos Hall.

Nov. 18: FuturoFiesta for FuturoFund. St. David’s Foundation Building, 1303 San Antonio St.


Nov. 19: Spirt of Compassion Celebration and Awards benefiting Foundation for the Homeless. Archer Hotel at Domain Northside.

Nov. 19: Night at the Tropicana for Seton Fund. Four Seasons Hotel.

Nov. 20: Cochon 555 Heritage BBQ ATX. Four Seasons Hotel.

Nov. 20: Wine & Swine for Austin Food and Wine Alliance. Star Hill Ranch.


Nov. 25: Blue Genie Art Bazaar Premiere. 6100 Airport Blvd.

Nov. 19: BBQ Auction and Concert for Rodeo Austin. ACL Live.

Dec. 2: Lights of Love for Ronald McDonald House of Central Texas. Browning Hangar in Mueller.

Dec. 2: A Very Special Celebration for Special Olympics Texas. 1804 Rutherford Lane.

BBQ logo

Dec. 3: Sims Foundation Heart of the City. Emos.

Dec. 4: Dancing with the Stars Austin for Center for Child Protection. Hilton Austin.

Dec. 6: Messiah: An Austin Symphony Christmas Tradition. Hyde Park Baptist Church.

Dec. 10: Black Ball for Black Fret. Paramount Theatre.

Dec. 20: 130th Anniversary Celebration. Driskill Hotel.

Nifty coffee shop Apanas opens at a key spot on South Congress Avenue

Now that we scout the Austin coffee trail almost every day for ongoing series of guides (see below), we can report on happy openings, too. This one has been active on my usual walking path for two months, but I just noticed out of the corner of my eye for the first time today.

Scott Jones at Apanas Coffee & Beer on South Congress Avenue.

Apanas Coffee & Beer. 1007 S. Congress Ave. 512-387-3340. 7 a.m.-11p.m. Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Sat., 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun. Street parking. Wi-Fi “apanas guest” password “apanas.” Decaf (Americano), teas, chai. Lively music. Quiet corners.

What great timing. And a great location. This southern colony of a shop that opened in the Domain in January fills the old Kiwi sports medicine slot on South Congress. It sits on the sidewalk level of a large apartment complex. Premiered a few weeks ago by owner Aamil Sarfani, originally from San Antonio, it’s large. Very large. The L-shaped interior is brightened by light wood panels and buttery hues. An extra-long counter winks at guests with espresso-based drinks, drip coffees, teas, juices, pastries, hearty sandwiches and pub grub. More than a dozen beers can be had on tap. One can choose, too, from multiple outdoor tables set next to the busy avenue. A couple of imports from the world of bars: different happy hours each day and (muted) TVs above the seating areas near the counter. But there are plenty of places to focus here. The sharp staff is ready to serve, inspired by Sarfani, who stayed at a coffee farm in Nicaragua during college — the shop is named after a lake there — and figured out how to offer the farmers “double fair trade” for their distinctive beans.

We’ll add Apanas to the South Congress guide below.





Best Texas books: Picture the Rio Grande

This week in “Texas Titles,” we follow a riverine journey, a myth busting gang, the career of a Texas historian, a ship named “Texas” and a Texas modern artist finally receiving her due.


“Río: A Photographic Journey down the Old Río Grande.” Edited by Melissa Savage. University of New Mexico Press. This slender, exquisite paperback volume collects silvery gray images of the Río Grande from the 19th and 20th centuries. Editor Savage arranges them by themes, such as crossings, trade, cultivation, flooding, etc. This is no mere picture book, however, and each page reveals a lot about particular places and people. William deBuys, Rina Swentzell and Juan Estevan Arellano are among those who contributed the accompanying essays. One can find any number of books about this great river, including Paul Horgan’s two-volume masterpiece, “Great River.” Yet few are as beautiful or as evocative as this one.



“Texan Identities: Moving beyond Myth, Memory and Fallacy in Texas History.” Edited by Light Townsend Cummins and Mary L. Scheer. University of North Texas Press. Texas is awash with mythology. This collection of academic essays attempts to sift through them to review the state’s shifting and enduring identities. The Alamo and the Texas Rangers, for instance, are ready targets for myth busters. The editors, professors at Austin College and Lamar University, have already produced multiple books on on the statae’s history that have examined the roles of women and others who have often been ignored by the keepers of our shared memory. Mary L. Scheer, Kay Goldman and Jody Edward Ginn are among the contributors, while distinguished Texas State University professor Jesús de la Teja provides the trenchant foreword.



“Archie P. McDonald: A Life in Texas History.” Edited by Dan K. Utley. Texas A&M University Press. McDonald specialized in East Texas. Molded from oral interviews, this biography, edited by Texas State History historian Utley  attempts to recover the career of the late teacher and leader who died in 2012. For decades, McDonald headed the East Texas Historical Association and edited the East Texas Historical Journal. His hand touched many other statewide groups, including the Texas Historical Commission. This book might seem like “inside baseball” — and to a certain extent, it is — but too often this kind of institutional remembrance is lost in the shuffle.



“The Battleship Texas.” Mark Lardas. Images of America. We love the “Images of America” series from Arcadia Publishing. Compiled in template form, these small books offer scores of singular historical images, along with tightly composed captions and chewy introductory essays. (Since these books are not rigorously edited, always check the facts.) This one covers the 1914 dreadnought battleship that served the U.S. Navy in World Wars I and II. Throughout my lifetime — I grew up not far away from its final berth near the San Jacinto Monument — the ship-turned-museum has been under enormous physical stress. Lardas, who writes about maritime and Texas history, pulls from numerous sources to produce black-and-white pictures of the U.S.S. Texas in peace and war, including the charismatic jacket shot of the crew assembled on deck for a USO show starring — it would seem to me — Rita Hayworth, or someone who looks a lot like her.


“The Color of Being/El Color del Ser: Dorothy Hood, 1918-2000.” Susie Kalil. Texas A&M University Press. Texas Monthly has already done a terrific job of telling the almost forgotten story of Dorothy Hood, a respected and distinctive abstract painter who has finally received the kind of treatment she deserves, including a vast retrospective at the Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi. After 1941, the Houston native spent most of 22 years in Mexico City working alongside the greats of the day. Following time in New York City, she returned to Houston and, despite her promise and prolific output, never became famous. She died in 2000. The Corpus Christi museum ended up with her archives and now curator Kalil has righted an artistic injustice by making Hood’s case to the world. Makes you want to take a road trip to Sparkling City by the Sea.