Miracle began on Austinite’s trip to Indian orphanage

Unlike St. Paul, Caroline Boudreaux’s conversion came not on a road, but in the dormitory of an Indian orphanage.

Caroline Boudreaux with Indian orphans. Contributed by Jim Innes

In May 2000, the backpacking Austinite landed in Mumbai, India. It was hot, 110 degrees.

“A horrible time to visit India, ” says the former TV advertising representative, who had quit a lucrative job with the local Fox channel to travel the world.

While in India, her traveling companion, Christine Monheim-Poyner, wanted to look up a child she had sponsored. The Americans encountered multiple obstacles contacting the boy, Manus, in part because of language problems (the subcontinent is home to hundreds). Eventually they discovered he was in the state of Orissa, on the opposite coast of India.

When they discovered it would take $750 each to reach Orissa, Monheim-Poyner suggested: “Let’s just send the money to him.”

“No way, ” Boudreaux, now 40, remembers saying. “You dragged me here, and we are meeting this child.”

When they arrived at Manus’ village, the women received the “National Geographic welcome.” Men lined the streets; women took them among the mud huts. Drums played. A woman washed their feet and dried them with her dress.

Then there was Manus.

“There he was, this little boy, ” Boudreaux says. “He took us into his mud hut, which was surprisingly cool. There were two rooms for six people, no bathroom or kitchen. We thought we had met the poorest people in the world. We were wrong.”

Caroline Boudreaux at Sooch Village. Contributed by Lisa Dirks.

The Americans lingered in Orissa, doing volunteer work, making rope swings, reading English to the children, playing with them. On May 14, 2000 – Mother’s Day – Boudreaux called her mom back in the States, then attended dinner at the home of the Christian Children’s Fund’s director.

The Americans were not prepared for what they found there.

“There were 110 bald, filthy, empty-looking orphan children, ” she says. “They ate rice. We were given chicken.”

They sat through their children’s Hindu prayers. A girl, Sheebani, put her head on Boudreaux‘s knee. “They are so desperate for affection, they push their bodies into you, ” she says.

The girl fell asleep in her arms and urinated. Boudreaux went to put her to bed.

“The place smelled like hell, ” she says of the dormitory without a trace of comforts. “As I set her down, I heard her bones hitting the wood of the bed. I thought, ‘This just isn’t right.’ I had to do something.”

The dormitory shock continued to bother her. “I just couldn’t get right, ” she says. She sought out an Internet cafe and wrote down the experience: “It was cathartic. And I was able to capture the moment while it was fresh in my mind.”

Once out of shock, her first impulse was to purchase mattresses for every child in the orphanage. She and Monheim-Poyner e-mailed all their friends for donations. When they brought the offer to the orphanage’s director, he said, though mattresses were nice: “We don’t even have clean water.”

“This was my first introduction to real need, ” Boudreaux says.

It would lead to the creation of her Austin-based Miracle Foundation, which now operates four orphanages in India, two in Orissa and two in Jharkhand.

Some elements of Boudreaux‘s upbringing foreshadowed this conversion from the business sphere to charity. She was raised a devout Catholic among six brothers and sisters in Lake Charles, La. Her mother was a social worker, her father a pharmacist, working the family store, Boudreaux‘s New Drug Store. She attended Catholic schools, then studied at Louisiana Tech University before transferring to Louisiana State University-Shreveport with a degree in psychology. Her aim: to become a therapist.

After applying to graduate school at the University of Texas, she moved to Austin in 1992. Then came the unexpected rejection letter. “I was devastated, ” she says.

Other options awaited the cool brunette with crystal eyes. The self-described “quintessential Cajun girl” and “big hugger” radiates attentive calm and, at the same time, seems coiled for action. That served her well during nine years as a sales representative, as she built long-term relationships and picked up professional polish, business skills and crucial contacts among CEOs and entrepreneurs.

In business, she learned: “The harder you work, the more money you make. I outworked them. I put in some hours there, ” she says, but ultimately: “Money isn’t satisfying.”

She turned into a scrupulous saver, though, so she set off with Monheim-Poyner to visit Hawaii, South Africa, Egypt, Israel, India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. After the convulsion of India, she separated from her companion to hike and meditate in Nepal.

Boudreaux couldn’t stop thinking about Sheebani and the other Orissa orphans: “I was going to do something if it was the last thing I ever did. If I didn’t help them, nobody would.”

The Miracle Foundation, created as soon she returned to Austin, was first aimed at international adoptions. “I spent 2000-2003 working in that area before realizing it is sometimes corrupt and it is the children that don’t get adopted that need us most, ” she says.

Out of money and patience after three years, she consulted with Alan Graham, founder of Mobile Loaves & Fishes.

“Graham said, ‘Who do you think we help?’ I said the homeless. He said no, ‘Mobile Loaves & Fishes enables 9,000 people to give. Everybody wins. Your job is to be the bridge between the people who want to make a difference and the people who need a difference. Let the spiritually starving feed the nutritionally starving.”

Soon after that, Boudreaux discussed her plight in a prayer group of Catholic women. One of the women handed her a check for $10,000, on the condition she didn’t send it to India. It was for her to regroup. That helped reconfigure the foundation’s goals around managing orphanages, and then to raise $75,000 at its first donor event.

To live in Austin without savings, Boudreaux paid herself $35,000 a year. “It’s a far cry from the corporate world, ” she laughed.

Besides the orphanages – one on the coast that opened after the 2004 tsunami has turned independent – Miracle Foundation recently opened its first children’s home: one house mother and 10 children.

The amazing thing to many potential donors: It costs only $100 a month to sponsor a child for a year. (Smaller donations are accepted, too.)

“And we have an ambassador program that enables people to come to India to see our work firsthand, ” Boudreaux says. “This is what I would love any Austinite to do with me.”

NOTE: This story was first published July 13, 2010, but had fallen off the Internet.

Best Texas books: Start off with ‘The Nueces River’

We’ve learned more about the Nueces River, Texas birding, a standout West Texas Congressman, the King Ranch and Texas swimming holes.

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“The Nueces River: Rio Escondido.” Margie Crisp with artwork by William B. Montgomery. Texas A&M Press. Much admired Texas artist and naturalist Margie Crisp made quite a splash with her award-winning “River of Contrasts: The Texas Colorado,” a gorgeously written and illustrated look at the long, ever-changing waterway that runs through Austin. Now she turns her attention to the Nueces River, which she calls “Rio Escondido,” apt since this stream that falls off the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau goes underground during dry seasons until it reemerges at Choke Canyon Reservoir near Three Rivers.  A team project with William B. Montgomery, this book represents an ideal marriage of words and images. One only wishes that Crisp were given several lifetimes so she could do the same for 48 more Texas rivers.

MORE TEXAS TITLES: Best recent books on Texas rivers.

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“One More Warbler: A Life with Birds” Victor Emanuel with S. Kirk Walsh. University of Texas Press. To say that Victor Emanuel is a god among naturalists is almost an understatement. The owner and operator of one of the world’s most prominent nature tour groups grew up in Houston and has lived in Austin for decades. This memoir, written in close collaboration with S. Kirk Walsh, tells not just about birding adventures, but also looks deeply into the way that habitual observation of nature changes the way we perceive the world around us. Bonus: Emanuel employs a natural literary touch, which Walsh clearly amplifies. You might have read our own profile of Emanuel. We promise a big feature interview about this book before long.

MORE TEXAS TITLES: Best Texas books to read in November 2016.

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“The Swimming Holes of Texas.” Julie Wernersbach and Carolyn Tracy. University of Texas Press. Like our much more adventurous colleague, Pam LeBlanc, we love this guide book. We had to add our tributes. It’s crucial, first, because this information was previously not readily available in such a user-friendly, physical format. Arranged by region — the Austin area counts as its own region — it fully lists addresses, phone number, websites, hours, entrance fees, park rules, camping options, amenities, and swimming opportunities, along with sharp descriptions that could only be acquired through sustained personal reporting. Funny thing: Writing this capsule, my thumb led me to the entry for Choke Canyon Reservoir (see above). Oh no you don’t! Last time we were there, alligators floated just offshore. No swimming for us.  Pam, don’t take that as a challenge!

MORE TEXAS TITLES: Best Texas books to read in December 2016.

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“A Witness to History: George H. Mahon, West Texas Congressman.” Janet M. Neugebauer. Texas Tech University Press. We must admit up front we have not made a big dent into this biography that runs almost to 600 pages with notes and index. But what we’ve read so far has impressed us enough to place it here. Mahon, a country lawyer, went to Congress in 1935 and served on the House Committee on Appropriations almost he his entire tenure of 44 years. Along the way, he acquired enormous power, which, if this book is any evidence, he used judiciously. A specialist in defense spending, his career spanned World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, and almost the entire Cold War. We look forward to digging deeper into this crisp volume when we have more time. A lot more time.

MORE TEXAS TITLES: Best Texas books to read in October 2016.

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“Bob and Helen Kleberg of King Ranch.” Helen Kleberg Groves. Trinity University Press. Not as many books have been published about the King Ranch as have been about Texas football, rangers, tacos or politics. But it sometimes seems that the vast, daunting South Texas empire of cattle and thorn brush holds writers in an unbreakable spell. This time, the motivation is personal, since this volume was written by Helen King Kleberg Alexander-Groves. It constitutes the memoirs of the only child of the celebrated Bob and Helen Kleberg. At first, it feels like a picture book with historical and contemporary photographs that take you directly into the world of ranching past and present. Yet don’t overlook the words, because Bill Benson has helped Groves thoroughly research and confirm the history, genealogy and other aspects of this quintessentially Texas family tale.

MORE TEXAS TITLES: Best Texas books to read in September 2016.

We bow before these Austin honorees including Maria Cisne Farahani

The world honors Austinites. We report.

Maria Farahani and her niece, Fargol Farahani, at Fara Cafe in the Austin Bergstrom International Airport in 2007. Mark Matson for American-Statesman

Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. presented Maria Cisne Farahani its Rhodes College Distinguished Service Medal. Born in Nicaragua, Farahani attended the University of Texas and later settled in Austin with her family. She founded Fara Coffee’s philanthropic arm, the Fara Foundation, which operates clinics among the coffee workers in her home country.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott honored longtime community volunteerEvelyn Reininger, with the Yellow Rose of Texas Award for her dedication to the betterment of our state. Reininger, 89, was the first female engine manager at Bergstrom Air Force Base. She also worked alongside Lady Bird Johnson, Gov. Ann Richards and journalist Liz Carpenter on the Federal Women’s Program. After retiring, she worked on day care for need kids and teaching adults to read. We learned that she’s also more than a bit history-minded.

Impact Austin just gave out $403,000 in its latest raft of high-impact grants. Their new community parters for the giving group of more than 400 women deal with homeless youth, refugees, school-age kids, first-time mothers and families of incarcerated adults. Receiving $80,600 each were the Safe Alliance, the Contemporary Austin, Any Baby Can, Interfaith Action of Central Texas and Seedling Foundation. Acting executive director Lisa Apfelberg reminded folks that Impact Austin has given out more than $6 million since 2003.

Comings and goings: Erin Wiegert is the new development associate and major gifts officer for the Austin Symphony. … The collection of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros is giving 83 works of Spanish Colonial art to the Blanton Museum of Art.


Best Austin coffee shops near North Lamar Boulevard

If you toddling along North Lamar Boulevard, you’ve got a few choices for a coffee break and all that goes with it.

Houndstooth on North Lamar Boulevard. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Houndstooth. 4200 N. Lamar Blvd. houndstoothcoffee.com. Open 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Sat., 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Sun. Parking in a lot to the north, but limited. Good WiFi. Teas and chai. Decaf. Burbling music. Some seating outside on a terrace, but not ideal in the a.m.

This place might produce the very best coffee drinks in town. Their menu is actually pretty lean. Brewed coffee and espresso drinks. Teas and chai. Some pastries and nutrition bars. Bagged coffee beans and paraphernalia. This, the original location, is located in a upscale strip center underneath an office building that includes a Taco Deli and — nearby — Uchiko, two Austin faves. Several small tables wait outside, shaded a bit by a canopy. Inside are long and short tables with lots of customers at almost any time. In fact, it’s sometimes a chore to land a seat. Blonde wood, black modernist chairs, light brick and paint conspire to give the spot a streamlined feel at odds with the its tweedy name. Hipsters, students and folks in business drag sip shoulder to shoulder and can it get a little loud inside during peak traffic. I don’t know the secret for their great coffee, but I promise to keep asking.

MORE COFFEE: Best Austin coffee shops near South First Street.


MORE COFFEE: Best Austin coffee shops near South Congress Avenue.

Whole Foods on North Lamar Boulevard. Nick Wagner/American-Statesman
 Whole Foods Market. 525 N. Lamar Blvd. (512) 476-1206. wholefoodsmarket.com. 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Sun. Limited surface parking, much more in a busy underground garage. WiFi is free without a password, but your time is limited to 120 minutes. Decaf. Very noisy.

“Were you surprised by my simple order?” I asked the barista after several previous customers required elaborate help. I ordered a small decaf. “No,” he said. “I can’t hear you over this loud music.” He’s right: The music in Whole Foods food service area discourages conversation. The coffee bar is located to the right of the northwest entrance at a long, curved counter shared with the hopping juice bar. Despite the dozens of tables outside and in, it’s sometimes hard to find a place to sit. Brewed coffee? It’s behind you at a self-service counter. (Small decaf: $2. A deal!) Espresso drinks are constructed farther down the counter. Food? Are you kidding? It’s everywhere at the WF mother ship, recently acquired by tech giant Amazon. Nutrition bars are right there at the counter, but several usually packed cafes and a few acres of fresh and packaged food can be found down the busy aisles. Who is here? Who’s not? I recognized a couple of celebrities mixed in among folks in every manner of casual and business clothing.

MORE COFFEE: Best Austin coffee shops near Burnet Road.

Caffe Medici on West Lynn has not lost its original spell. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Caffe Medici. 1101 West Lynn. caffemedici.com. 6 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Fri., 6;30 a.m.-10 pm. Sat-Sun. Limited and clearly marked onsite parking, some side street parking. WiFi pops right up. Decaf Americano, teas and chai. Unobtrusive music. Many quiet work and chat spots.

My most recent visit to this old haunt might be the only time in coffee shop history when a barista referred to a ham and cheese croissant as “this bad boy right here.” One of the enduring charms of the Caffe Medici group, besides excellent espresso drinks, hearty pastries and snacks, and classy, but casual scenery, is the freedom it allows its baristas to lend the place some character. The crowd at this original location on the border between Clarksville and Old West Austin varies with the time and the day of the week and its long hours allow for the ebb and flow of types. Of course, neighbors make up a fair share of the mix and on lovely days they tend to gather out front on two levels of seating. Inside the U-shaped main room, dark woods and better-than-average local hanging art set the tone. It’s hard to imagine what the original house looked like, since everything has been reimagined, but the place retains a sense of its surroundings which go back to the 19th century. At peak times, it might be hard to nab a good table, but the place — which is as close to North Lamar as it is to any other major thoroughfare — has never lost its authentic spell.


Starbucks. 4440 N. Lamar Blvd. (512) 374-9784. starbucks.com. Despite the large, shared parking lot, it’s still hard to find a slot at certain hours. And don’t try the highly regulated street parking. Decaf (pour-over and Americano at noon). Teas and chai. Harmless music. Some outdoor seating with umbrellas.

Some readers might wonder why we sample representative Starbucks locales as part of this series. Because, despite corporate conventions — or perhaps because of them — each outlet is different, if only because the people are different. And their roles in each neighborhood’s texture evolves over time. One Starbucks at North Lamar Boulevard and West Fifth Street, for instance, is too small for today’s traffic. So we concentrated this report on the outlet at North Lamar just south of West 45th. It’s is quite large, but for good reason. To one side, you have fashionable midcentury modern districts, on the other, large state facilities bookended by big developments at the Triangle and Central Park. This spot offers plenty of tables inside and out, as well as the now required laptop counters and cocktail tables. When traffic is high, four or five baristas churn out the orders. Clerestory windows keep this shop light even as the color scheme and decor trend to the dark end. This day I overheard a businessman making a pitch, a couple whispering sweet nothings, a bearded man working through some problems through a an earpiece, and a foursome of well-bundled workmen who might have come from the Northeast or Upper Midwest. All are welcome.

MORE COFFEE: Best Austin coffee shops near Lower South Lamar Boulevard.

MORE COFFEE: Best Austin coffee shops near Upper South Lamar Boulevard.



WAY MORE COFFEE: In 2007, we published a series titled “10,000 Coffee Shops.” We found only 100 around Austin, but it felt like 10,000. Our point back then: That in the 1980s, there had only been three such coffee spots here! How our culture had changed! We’re sure to count more than 200 during this new coffee run, started casually in 2016.

Tributes rain down on outgoing UT VP Gregory Vincent

The community farewell for Gregory Vincent at the AT&T Center was something to behold.

Kim and Gregory Vincent at his Community Farewell. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Two University of Texas presidents, Gregory Fenves and Bill Powers, along with Austin Mayor Steve Adler and President and & CEO of the Austin Area Urban League, Teddy McDaniel III, were there to laud the outgoing UT vice-president for diversity and community engagement. So was Fine Arts College Dean Doug Dempster, Austin City Council Member Ora Houston, former State Rep. Wilhelmina Delco and several of my favorite judges. 

Suchitra Gururaj and Erica Saenz at Vincent Gregory Community Farewell. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

A long line of distinguished speakers lionized Vincent, who leaves to take the president’s job at his alma mater, Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York. (Take a winter coat!)

MORE: UT diversity czar Gregory Vincent leaving to lead alma mater.

Jeff Becker and Tatiana Artis at Gregory Vincent Community Farewell. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Representatives from four black alumni groups, five fraternities and sororities and five community organizations from outside UT praised his ability to bring African-American, Asian-American, Latino and LGBT groups into the heart of the university.

Among many other things, Gregory deftly handled the removal of controversial statues from the South Mall and he mended strained relationships with East Austin residents. Although we’ve socialized almost exclusively in public, he’s also been a dear friend. I’ll miss Gregory and his wife, Kim Wilson Vincent, very much.


Meanwhile we learned that, on the West Coast, the late William Charles Akins, a distinguished Austin educator after whom Akins High School is named, was given a Celestial Award of Excellence posthumously. Rev. Lee Yarbrough, pastor of Neighborhood Baptist Church, accepted the award in his behalf.
Late Austin educator Charles Akins. American-Statesman
He was in good company: Other honorees included Former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, actor Lou Gossett, Jr., Olympic gold medalist Edwin Moses and civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife of the slain leader Edgar Evers.
We also miss Akins, who always helped any reporter or historian who had questions about Austin at midcentury or later.

Take a look-see at this week’s Austin shows and parties.

Light week for Austin shows and parties. Still, we are pleased with the slimmed-down choice, including a salute for our dear friend, Gregory Vincent, who leaves the University of Texas to become president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Outgoing UT Vice-President Gregory Vincent. Contributed

June 13: Gregory J. Vincent, UT Vice President, Community Farewell. AT&T Center.

Front (Hi-Rez FINAL)

June 15: Michelle Schumann and Graham Reynolds CD release: “Late Show.” Blanton Museum of Art.


June 15-25: Austin Shakespeare’s Young Shakespeare presents “As You Like It.” Curtain Theatre


June 16: “New Editions: 2016-2017” opening reception“New Editions: 2016-2017” opening reception. Flatbed Press.


June 17: “Laura Lit: Where You End and I Begin” opening reception. Women & Their Work.

Paul Novak won First Prize in the Sarah and Ernest Butler Texas Young Composers Competition. Contributed by the Society of Composers.

June 17: Austin Symphony’s Texas Young Composers Concert. Long Center. EXTRA: Austin Symphony: Young Composers Rule!


June 18-Aug. 27: Revel Solstice Festival. Various locations


100 cheers for a South Austin centenarian

On Monday, June 19, folks will gather at Élan South Park Meadows to toast Reuel John Perdue Cron, who turns 100.

Reuel John Perdue Cron at his Élan South Park Meadows home where he is very much into exercise and physical fitness. Contributed

“Reuel says he enjoys meeting new people,” says Ann Kolacki, community relations counselor at the assisted living home, “because most people never get to meet someone 100 years old.”

Reuel John Purdue Cron as a younger man, probably the 1940s. Contributed

Cron lived in Austin from 1965-1971 and again 2001-present. Most of the rest of his life was spent in New Orleans. He served in the Army as a Master Sargeant in the Pacific Theater during World War II and is retired from the Internal Revenue Service. He also worked for the Jefferson Parish Water Board in New Orleans.

“He is very much into exercise and physical fitness,” Kolacki says, “and his favorite song is Willie Nelson‘s “ON the Road Again.”

The secret to his longevity: “Education, observation and moderation!”


“Richard Overton turns 111 with cigars, whiskey and a new street name”

Austin activist Shudde Fath at 100: A life well spent.

If you can’t go to Cron’s party, send him a card via:

Ann Kolacki/Reuel
Elan Southpark Meadows
9320 Alice Mae Lane
Austin, TX  78748

Enraptured by chamber music at the Blue Bash

Listen closer.

Chamber music demands it. You will be rewarded beyond measure.

I’ve been away from live chamber music for a while. I’m back. Never going away again.

The Blue Bash, which benefits the estimable Austin Chamber Music Center, took place this  year at the Rennaisance Austin Hotel. Not in the ballroom, but rather the smaller space with a forest view and high, arched ceilings. A little tinny for chat over dinner, but well suited for quiet music.

About 150 enraptured guests gathered to hear Michelle Schumann, the center’s artistic director and an immaculate pianist, play the arboreal “Walderauschen” by Franz Liszt. She was joined by gifted clarinetist Håkan Rosengren for a dynamic “Fantasiestucke” by Robert Schumann.

Leonila Saldana and Jodi Holland at the Blue Bash for Austin Chamber Music Center. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

LOOK WHO WON: The Austin Critics Table Awards.

After Robert Duke, the brainy University of Texas music professor from “Two Guys on Your Head” NPR radio show, spoke about the real merits of music eduction — hint: it doesn’t improve your academics as is so often claimed — Schumann and Rosengren were joined by a young clarinetist, Julius Calvert, whom the center has groomed and is headed to Indiana University. They played the frolicking Concert Piece No. 1 for Two Clarinets by Felix Mendelssohn.

It could not have been more gratifying.

I was surprised that more was not said from the stage about the upcoming Austin Chamber Music Festival, but I suppose everybody in the room already knows about it and plans to attend.

In that case, I thank the center folks for not overselling it. How many hours have been chewed up at Austin benefits explaining again and again what a nonprofit does to people mostly already in the know.


Note how the Molly Prize champions investigative reporting

The highest and best calling of journalism is investigative reporting. It’s absolutely essential to take the time, guts and resources to shine a bright light on great and systematic wrongs.

The American-Statesman does it well. For three of the past four years, it has been judged the best newspaper of it size in Texas, in large part because of our crack investigative team.

Among the other media in our state that does it well is the Texas Observer.

A collection of past issues of the Texas Observer lay on a couch in their offices in downtown Austin in this 2006 photo. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

While the Observer and other independent media set themselves up against traditional media, such as daily newspapers, our missions are actually complementary, as Slate political correspondent Jamelle Bouie graciously acknowledged as part of a keynote chat during the Molly National Journalism Prize dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Bouie shared the stage with Molly Prize winner Shane Bauer and Observer publisher Michael Kanin. They tried to untangle the role of the independent media in the Trump era. Since the guests at the sold-out event — a benefit for the nonprofit Observer — leaned conspicuously leftward, almost every mention of the president was met with audible gasps or chuckles.

Monica Peraza and Elliott Naishtat at the Molly National Journalism Prize dinner for the Texas Observer.

At the dinner, co-chairs Katie Cukerbaum and Abby Rappaport introduced Robert Frump as winner of the Bernard Rappaport Philanthropy Award, then Observer editor Forrest Wilder gave out the Molly Prizes, named of course for late firecracker Molly Ivins.

  1. Honorable Mention: Sarah Ryley, ProPublica/New York Daily News, for reporting on how the New York Police Department uses a nuisance abatement laws to close homes and businesses without due process. It was answered with significant action by City Council.
  2. Honorable Mention: Patricia Callahan and Michael J. Berens, Chicago Tribune, for a series on abuse and neglect of people with disabilities. (The American-Statesman did a similar bang-up job on the subject in Texas.)
  3. Winner: Shane Bauer, Mother Jones, who went undercover to report, “My Four Months a s a Private Prison Guard.” The magazine spent 18 months and $350,000 getting this story to the page.

Order a double dose of Mattie’s at Green Pastures

Matthew Odam just released his review of Mattie’s at Green Pastures, giving it a rating of 8 out of 10. He opens with a moving personal story about the slow decline of the previous restaurant before praising the current one.

Two excerpts:

“Things fall apart. But, if you’re lucky, they can be remade into something even greater. And if you’re really lucky, they do so under the animating force of developer Greg Porter and Jeff Trigger of La Corsha Hospitality Group, who acquired the Green Pastures property in 2015.”

Mattie’s at Green Pastures. Ralph Barrera/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“Yes, the birds are still there,” Odam continues. “And so is the milk punch. And it’s even punchier now. Crafted by La Corsha Hospitality Group beverage director Jason Stevens, the petite glass packs a wallop of aged bourbon, cognac and Jamaican rum, sloshing beneath a hood of nutmeg-dusted vanilla cream. The 1965 Milk Punch ($6) made me wobblier than my dad that night a few years ago and would’ve been lovely enough to dip my fluffy brioche French toast ($15) in if the candied-pecan-flecked triangles hadn’t come with their own powerful bourbon-maple syrup.”

As you know, the old house and former farm are crammed with history. Here’s my look back at Green Pastures, published a few months ago. Includes a video.

An excerpt:

Martha Koock Ward remembers the yeast rolls. “Rising, baking, baked and blanketed in a linen napkin lining a basket, revealed, ready for sweet cream butter,” says the Austinite who grew up in her mother’s childhood home, which Mary Faulk Koock turned into the hospitality legend Green Pastures. “The earthy smell of these rolls added another layer of satisfaction to a carefully prepared meal. And if all went well, I’d get a hot roll and homemade peach preserves for the best dessert ever.”

“She and other family members knew well that customers and guests came first at the South Austin eatery spread out over a Victorian farmhouse. “I often heard the words, ‘Don’t eat those!’” Ward recalls. “‘They’re counted!’”

“The unbroken spell of this oasis — it has served diners for more than 70 years — resonates in its name. Green Pastures sounds like a sweet, soothing, sacred place, something out of Psalms.”