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Four Seasons Hotel Austin's gingerbread house display, an annual Christmas highlight, is available for viewing. Executive Pastry Chef Judy Marts and her staff have crafted a fourteen-building Bavarian village entirely out of gingerbread, icing and candy- complete with chalets, shops and a functioning toy train winding its way through the town. The display can be viewed through January 2, 2007.
Kudos to Chef/Owner Mark Schmidt of Café 909 in Marble Falls, Texas. His pistachio parfait with burnt honey-caramel sauce has been named Best Restaurant Dessert of 2006 in Food and Wine Magazine's December issue.
Anthony Susi, chef/owner of North End's Sage and StarChefs.com Rising Star Chef Boston 2003, has bought Caffe Umbra (home of chef Laura Brennan since 2002) in South End. Word on the street is that another Sage is in the works.
Young and talented Ranbir Batra of Kendall College won S.Pellegrino's 2006 Almost Famous Chef Competition held at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, CA. Batra competed against 9 other regional finalists from FCI, California Culinary Institute and other top schools across Canada and the US. His winning recipes drew from his background in his father's restaurant in India. Pidor Kem of the California School of Culinary Arts walked away with the People's Choice Award for her regional signature dish of Prosciutto-wrapped Halibut. Recipes from the regional finalists and judges will be compiled into a cookbook to benefit Share Our Strength.

John Suley formerly of The Ritz Carlton South Beach Miami and currently as owner of Grand Crew Restaurant Group has left to open Cafe Joley a Modern European Brasierre in Boca Raton Florida. They plan to open Joley in South Beach in Fall of 2007
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LOS ANGELES
StarChef Nobu Matsuhisa and his partners have had a change in heart about closing his very first restaurant, Matsuhisa , in Beverly Hills after the new Nobu Los Angeles opens nearby next summer. The restaurant will remain open and Matsuhisa's wife, Yoko, will continue to manage the famed eatery.

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SEATTLE
Up the street at the Hyatt Regency, Dan Thiessen, who's positioning himself as Seattle's next Tom Douglas, is gambling $2.5 million that Bellevue needs both an upscale wine bar and a high-end grill. Where Equus and Chadfield's faltered, he is opening two adjoining concepts: 0/8 Seafood Grill and Twisted Cork Wine Bar. (Thiessen wedding anniversary is August 8th, hence the name.)

The question is whether he can pull off his concept of approachable fine-dining. One indication in his favor: the tea-smoked duck-breast with frisée salad and currant jelly on a chive pancake. With a 7,600-square-food, 300-seat emporium to fill, Thiessen is already planning to keep the grill open throughout the afternoons, an à-la-carte weekend brunch, live entertainment, and a selection of 20 bubblies by the glass in an elevated champagne lounge.

Basil's Kitchen, under New York-born executive chef Alan Kaufman, an alumnus of the Sheraton, describes itself as Mediterranean. It's in the atrium of the newly renovated Bellevue Hilton, formerly the Doubletree. "Casual yet sophisticated ... with a menu to suit all tastes."

The Belllevue Hilton's management company, Dow Hotels, are so thrilled with the concept that they're looking into franchising Basil's Kitchens beyond the six they've already opened in their various properties around the country. Says chairman Murray Dow, it's "a restaurant concept that not only would work in a hotel, but be transferable to other upscale hotels, regardless of brand." Basil's increases food service revenues by 40 percent, Dow claims.

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New Orleans
Chef Minh Bui is moving back to his old Mid-City neighborhood to open Cafe Minh, a French-Vietnamese fusion restaurant. The planned restaurant has a December opening date and will be located on Canal St. in the former Michael's Mid-City Grill.
Table One Brasserie (Chef Gerard Maras at the helm) has begun a charitable program called "Dine Out for Charity."
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