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Celebrando Austin is one fiesta gigante

Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce gala takes maximalist approach.


Many speeches. Many videos. Many awards. Many thanks. Many entertainers. The Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce takes a maximalist approach to galas.

Celebrando Austin filled the large Hyatt Regency Zilker Ballroom to the max. The happy crowd — including just about every elected or appointed official within a 20-mile radius — took in the crossover mariachi of confident-beyond-his-years Sebastien de la Cruz ,as well as Austin originals Aztlan Dance Company.

Honorary co-chairs Christann Vasquez and Gregory Vincent represented the University of Texas and the new teaching hospital that will go along with UT’s new medical school.

Drum roll, please: Lifetime Achievement: Lupe and Joe Morin; Business: El Rey Network; Male Entrepreneur: Michael Torres; Female Entrepreneur: Juany Tellez; Ambassador: Leopoldo “Polo” Jaimes; Chair’s Award: Rosemary Banda; Corporation: Google; Distinguished Alumna: Olga Campos Benz; Volunteer: Luz Lopez-Guerrero.

Much to celebrate! Including President and CEO Mark Madrid’s poignant nod to his partner of 13 years.

The Big Give

Why the Big Give? Because we never do enough to thank folks who help other folks in our city. I Live Here I Give Here, which recently made Celeste Flores its executive director, is positioned to do just that. The group is better known these days for Amplify Austin, the event that raised more than $7 million for local nonprofits last year. Prior to that, the Big Give, which recognizes one person and one group for philanthropy, was its biggest deal.

It’s still big. At the Hyatt Regency, during a game-filled evening, legal services volunteer David B. Weaver won the Patsy Woods Martin Award, named after I Live Here’s founder. ACE: A Community for Education took the RetailMeNot Nonprofit Award. I spent a good deal of time talking to Rachel Wyatt and Laura Bosworth, supporters of SafePlace, not only about that group, but also about Bosworth’s El Paso background.

True Colors Shake the Hate

Once an Austin nonprofit reaches a certain stage of maturity, it suddenly grows young. Leaders in their 20s and 30s prop up their own umbrella. They stage their own benefits. They blossom. Just a few years ago, the Anti-Defamation League of Austin, which fights bigotry and bullying of all sorts, held its first True Colors cocktail party for 60 mostly young people at an ultra-modern home in South Austin.

Recently, True Colors uncoiled in the vast spaces of the Fair Market events venue on East Fifth Street. The night’s Shake the Hate theme meant all sorts of dancing from guests and entertainers. No final tally is in, but I heard that 650 people attended and that backers hoped to raise as much as $250,000.

Former ADL chair and now Mayor Steve Adler addressed the cheering masses. Two outstanding young philanthropists, Courtney Caplan and Jason Berkowitz, were honored. Co-chairs Julie Franklin and Ben Kogut kept everything upbeat and on point. Since folks like these will be running the show someday, I predict ADL’s — and Austin’s — future is bright.

South Congress Hotel

A new star has risen on South Congress Avenue. A cool retreat from the hot streets, the new South Congress Hotel turns inward to embrace dark courtyards, small gardens, a tall lobby, a spacious bar and four eateries — only one open so far. True, Café No Sé stretches out to welcome pedestrians on its corner sidewalk. And one can observe street life from the west-facing rooms.

Everything in this Michael Hsu creation is a rigorous yet relaxed mix of Japanese and midcentury modern forms and feels. I predict it will win national design awards. Even before the hotel officially opens, the second-floor rooftop pool has become a social magnet. We sampled inventively assembled dishes in a preview of Café No Sé, a bistro that sparked a fresh conversation with each bite and sip.

All this, and underground parking which should alleviate some of the four-wheeled crowding on the streets. Am I happy it’s two blocks from our house? You bet.

Texas Book Festival Author Lineup Party

Great to see some friends, such as Tiffany Yates Martin and Asher Price, among the authors lining up at the Texas Book Festival preview party. Of course, fest leaders didn’t read out loud the long list of 300 authors, but they did outline the activities the group does during the year.

That is, when they are not conducting Austin’s most substantive free festival. Every year, 40,000 readers show up to hear and maybe meet their favorite writers. Some of the top names, such as Margaret Atwood and Taye Diggs, will appear at the First Edition Literary Gala — this one costs — on Oct. 16.

Titans Dinner

There’s a media dinner party, then there’s this miraculous media dinner party. The fine folks at Austin Way magazine, led by publisher Louis Delone and editor Kathy Blackwell, brought together a room full of influencers at the new Lonesome Dove Bistro restaurant, captained by Fort Worth chef Tim Love.

The occasion for this Titans Dinner? Saluting the new Hotel Emma, located in the Pearl, a former brewery along the river in San Antonio. Among those present was the spot’s culinary concierge, a novel position held by dashing Hugh Daschbach. After I put him through his paces, he said I’d like Feast in the Alamo Street district.

Love previewed the dinner with pantenes of elk, turkey and rattlesnake paired with delectable wines. Then, we sat down to a five-course meal that included grilled langoustines, farro congee in an incredible broth, elk loin, beef tenderloin and ancho chile chocolate cake. My table mates, Samantha Davidson and Jada Williams, kept me completely engaged during this long, glorious meal.

You know, while covering Austin’s many scenes — high and low, near and far — for Out & About, I’m often invited to share food and conversation. Almost never is the experience this rewarding on all levels.


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