David Holben's position at FoodStar Restaurant Group (Mediterraneo, PoPoLos, Toscana) and The Riviera seemed as sure and unflappable as a stubborn rodent on a listing freighter. Yet he's jumping ship. His leap comes on the heels of exits from FoodStar by operations chief Michael Costa and chefs David Woodward, Paul Clark, and Gilbert Garza. He'll land at Richmont Corp., where, as executive chef, he'll stick his able fingers into Bistral Neighborhood Bistro & Bakery on McKinney Avenue and Wynnwood, the Richmont catering arm that operates Seventeen Seventeen. Commenting on the switch, Holben serves up a string of press release-type statements such as "I'm very excited" and "The Richmont people are first class," etc., etc. Still, it's weird to think of The Riviera without Holben.
Hot air for rent
Salim Asrawi has a suggestion for a raucously good time: Open a restaurant and have a city bureaucrat stick a regulatory proctoscope up your business plan. "You learn something new every day," he says. "It's the things you never think of." But city inspectors are always thinking. In odd ways. When Asrawi thought his second Texas de Brazil on Cedar Springs was poised to pass city inspection, he received one of those bureaucratic "by the ways" that makes your gullet rumble and your checkbook whimper. It seems city inspectors were annoyed that the restaurant's soon-to-be-blazing torches mounted high on the building's exterior poked over the sidewalk. By 12 inches. And the sidewalk is city property. So the inspectors demanded a $400 franchise fee to permit Asrawi to lease the violated air space above. Asrawi expects the total will come to about $600 annually. The things you never think of.
While Texas lawmakers did not pass legislation making direct wine shipments from producers to consumers a crime punishable by jail time, the world still isn't safe for wine lovers thirsting for scarce cult wines shipped directly from the winery. U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia tacked a measure onto the juvenile justice bill permitting states to use the federal court system to crack down on direct shippers. This gave Free the Grapes (www.freethegrapes.org), a coalition of wine geeks and winemakers, a red-wine migraine. They're urging consumers to protest laws restricting access to fine wines by popping a cork into an envelope and mailing it to Congress. Hell, screw the envelopes. Send truckloads. Think how much better off we'd be if Capitol Hill were buried in cork.
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