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Dear Friends,

Like I mentioned in my last email, our restaurant usually has a relatively quiet SXSW experience as we're situated away from the festival's primary tourist corridors. The bakery, on the other hand, catches a full-on dose of SXSW insanity, sending out pastries, breads, muffins, buns, you name it, not only to our regular wholesale accounts, but to caterers and out of town operations to feed the industry and convention hoards that flood downtown this time each year.

As such, it seems like an ideal moment to pull back the curtain and introduce one of the folks who is largely unseen at TFB but whose critical work keeps our wheels on, so to speak: Dennis Day, referred to around the shop as Fleet Commander of Texas French Bread.

Dennis has been known to wear driving gloves, crocodile leather boots, and vintage Star Wars tees. His superhero-like stealth allows him to dart around the bakery between the hours of midnight and nine am, organizing and packing bread products. In the very early hours of the morning, with recognizable style and sharp wits...

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Dear Friends,

Every year about this time I send out the same email. SXSW WOO HOO! (Giant eye roll.)

Look people, hang tough. We can get through this.

For those of you staying in town and braving the barbarian hordes over the next couple of weeks - yes, we are open. We have plenty of parking. You don't have to go downtown. You don't have to deal with the even-more-inane-than-usual traffic.

Really. You can just come hang out with us. We'll prepare a lovely meal for you. Think of this email as a personal invitation, along with a hug and a soothing mental margarita (we don't sell margaritas, but mental merlot didn't really have quite the ring). The point is - we've got you covered.

Speaking of adult beverages, I'm overdue in making a couple of suggestions about what to drink next time you're at TFB. Ok, admittedly that mostly involves me writing down the three or four things that wine director Betty Cole has gotten me really excited about lately. With that in mind, here are some wines that I think are showing exceptionally well and that you...

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Dear Friends,

I need to talk about our new Chef. Yep. You heard that here first - new Chef. You know him, you love him - his name is Josh Williams.

A few months ago, in the wake of Chef Kenny's departure for greener pastures, Josh Williams stalwartly volunteered to step up, not specifically as Chef at the time, but rather as kitchen manager - a title generally reserved for some sweaty dude in a dirty apron. This thankless job typically involves ordering produce, posting work schedules, cleaning the walk-in cooler, and getting bitched at for anything and everything that goes wrong - you know, keeping tabs on the dirty details while the creative types with the tweezers poking out of their starched chef's coats take all the credit.

Previously, Josh served as the jack-of-all-trades mainstay on our management team. He was instrumental in building our coffee program, and he's been money when it comes to making sure we avoid shortcuts, and stay focused on bringing in the best of everything - ingredients, equipment, people, you name it.

When Josh...

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Dear Friends,

Last week was an emotional overload for me and many folks I know. But in truth, the entire year has felt rather stunningly charged and I've found it very difficult to write at all. The riff that I usually employ for this column involves weaving current events in with the comings and goings at Texas French Bread in a way that I hope comes across as lighthearted or even a bit silly, but that eventually winds its way around to a message illustrating our core values of inclusiveness and community. This year, it seems that everything has taken on a kind of political third rail quality that doesn't have much to offer in the lighthearted silliness department.

I've always believed that politics are about the art of the possible. As adults in a free country, we have little choice other than to face up to difficult challenges, choosing among wildly imperfect options with no guarantees of success. Anyone talking about simple and obvious right answers to such hard questions has either never held a position of leadership and responsibility, or they're...

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Dear Friends,

I'm writing today to provide some additional details regarding our upcoming prix fixe dinner with Jester King Brewery, which is this Monday, October 24, at 6:30 pm.

But as I sit here today pondering the connections between bread and beer - brewing and bakery fermentation - it occurs to me that I really say far too little in these emails about our bakery and the folks on our overnight crew who produce a staggering variety of high quality bread and pastries. They do amazing work at crazy hours of the night, 365 nights a year.

Please forgive the non sequitur. Anyway - where was I again? Oh yeah, next Monday night we're overjoyed to be doing a special dinner featuring...

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Dear Friends,

Late July. I borrow the beat up brown Suburban from Laurence, load up The Tessa and her friend Dottie the Labradoodle (instagram's dottielange), and Ilana and I head northeast. Ilana and Dottie are bound for Northampton, MA, where they grew up. Tess and I are making for the coast of Maine where Laurence and Judy have summered in recent years.

Two weeks in, the bright colors, daily venue changes, and fresh experiences of the trip begin to seem almost normal - not the break from routine realities of daily life that they actually are. And a host of fresh, sensory memories try to arrange themselves into something of a pattern...

Long hours on the road. Tessa snores away, wedged between my bicycle, the two cases of wine Betty chose for my trip, the galvanized garbage pail filled...

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photograph above from Domaine de la Tournelle website

Dear Friends,

If you came by to see us last week you may have noticed that someone's missing - that's right y'all, Murph Willcott actually took a vacation.

The day before he left, as I packed up a box (okay, two boxes) of wine for him to bring along, Murph reminded me that his last proper vacation was over three years ago, when he went to France for a writer's retreat. He was sort of wide-eyed, disbelieving, as if the notion that he could actually leave town again for a while was a surreal proposition. I reminded him, it's only a few weeks. He's on the road now, headed up to meet his family on the East coast with Tessa in tow, stopping off at adorable farm-to-table restaurants with interesting wine lists and dog friendly patios (... sounds familiar) along the way.

To ease our current woe in missing the big guy, we're eagerly anticipating the return of our beloved manager/handyman/barista/grill cook Josh, who's been wining and dining in Jura and cycling through the forests of Alsace...

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photograph above by Chelsea Laine Francis

Dear Friends,

As I mentioned in my previous email, I recently had the great pleasure of once again speaking with Mark Rashap on his wine focused radio show, Another Bottle Down, which airs on KOOP radio (91.7 FM) at 1pm on Tuesday afternoons. If you missed it and you're interested in listening to our conversation, you can access a podcast of the show here.

Mark and I had what for me was a fascinating exchange regarding the overlap between wine making, bread baking and cooking. We began by focusing on sourcing pristine ingredients as the prerequisite for pretty much everything that follows. We then moved into a discussion regarding the degree of...

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Dear Friends,

The heat of summer is upon us. It's July again. And you know what that means -Bastille Day is coming.

OH DEAR GOD, that has a sort of Stark-like "Winter is coming" ring to it, I fear. I know I've written about last summer's Bastille Day festivities a couple of times already, but seriously - that particular evening's service seemed, at the time, almost as traumatic for your faithful scribe (me) as I imagine the original Bastille Day might have been for those who suffered through it.

Around this time last year, Whitney had recently signed on as our in-house media director and dutifully set up a Facebook event page a few days prior announcing that we would feature $7 rosé, $7 mussels, and $7 frites on the big night.

Seemed like a safe enough plan,...

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Dear Friends,

Graduation weekend is behind us, but I've been meaning to give a shout out to one of our most interesting new wholesale partners.

This spring we had an opportunity to make hot dog buns as a pilot program for Austin ISD schools. We started a couple of months ago, delivering what I think are some pretty tasty (and nutritious) whole wheat buns to AISD's high schools. They serve them with a nitrite/anitbiotic free turkey dog.

Sounds better than anything we had back in my days at Austin High. In fairness, I was only there a semester and I don't really remember that much about it. I may not have ever set foot in the cafeteria (I was kind of a food snob, who'd have thought).

I definitely remember my years as a border at St. Stephens though - the awfulness of the food served there in the 1970s is the stuff of legend - definitely no nitrite free turkey dogs on freshly, locally baked whole wheat buns.

I mention this because it's been great work. Making real, healthy food for the kids in our public school system strikes all of us over...

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