Food Fight In Austin

UPDATE: The auction raised $13,518 to benefit local culinary scholarships and farm-to-table initiatives. Way to go Les Dames d’Escoffier Austin and friends!

Monday, Oct. 17 marked the beginning of Food Fight Austin, an online auction running Oct. 17–28, 2011.

Why the Food Fight?

Les Dames d’Escoffier Austin is a group of professional women leaders within the food, fine beverage and hospitality industries. This year is the 3rd anniversary of Food Fight Austin, as the group is hoping to raise $10,000 for culinary scholarships and garden-to-table initiatives.

Last night, Austin chefs and food celebrities–Josh Watkins of The Carillon, Sonya Cote of East Side Showroom, Alma Alcocer-Thomas of El Alma’s, David Garrido of Garrido’s and Mason Arnold of Greenling engaged in a pie-throwing battle with Austin Food Bloggers, including Natanya AndersonKathryn Hutchison, Virginia Belle, Michelle Fandrich and Jennie Chen.

The media event took place on the rooftop of Whole Foods in Downtown Austin. What a great way to “throw” this event into the public and raise new funds for a good cause!

Bid now and bid often!

Free Drink Parties and the FDP


Post-ACL this year, I had to fly from Austin to Richmond. I arrived early to the airport, boarded the plane and found my assigned seat. I sat next to a young lady who was recovering from ACL. She was from Philly and worked for a drug marketing company. I asked her how her time in Austin was.

“I love this city!” she exclaimed.

She chatted about how friendly everyone was and how the music scene is great.

FDP-ing it up!

But the one thing that stood out in her mind was, “Y’all serve free drinks in Austin!”

My new friend had spent ACL eve on a plane. Her and her girlfriends landed and wanted to take on the town. They started their trek up 6th Street. Before they knew it, they were coerced into a bar that was running a promotion. She went on and on about how stuff like this doesn’t happen in Philly. But drinks were flying. Soon after, they left the first bar to take a taxi home. They had met their limit at their first stop.

I guess the promotional company got what they wanted—she had a glass full of stories revolving around her drink and she got a few free drinks from the occasion.

My friends and I have a term for these kinds of gatherings. Previously, we called them “Free Drink Parties,” but the phrase quickly got tiresome. Therefore, we whittled it down to a three letter acronym. In fact, you can now find it in the Urban Dictionary.

FDP
abbreviation for 
Free Drink Party; a gathering in which free beverages are served, often alcoholic in nature.

All I have to say is, we at OhSpooning love Austin!  We love what it stands for: great friends, wonderful music and the best food you can eat!

From time to time, we will be at an FDP and we’d love to meet you face to face!

So don’t be a stranger.  We are going to make our digital friends become analog!  :]

 

Circa 1918 – Newport News, VA


When I am in a new city, I ask the locals, “Where is the best place to eat?  What should I have? Why do you like it?”

When I go somewhere new to eat, I always ask the server what is their favorite item on the menu.  Generally, I take their recommendation and order without question.

Gin and Tonic at Circa 1918

You might think this makes me lazy.  You might think I ask a ton of questions. You might even think I try too hard to write in a narrative format. But who better to ask than someone who eats there on a regular basis?

Word of mouth advertising is cheap and honest.

While sitting at a bar in Virginia, I got to know a few of the regulars. We got to chatting about quality food. From everyone engaged in our conversation, they had the same recommendation.

“You have to try Circa 1918!”  Everyone in our circle chimed in about making a reservation even if I was going to sit at the bar. They went on and on about the atmosphere and how great the food was.

Taking the barflies advice, the following evening I made my way to Circa 1918. The place was small, dimly lit, yet warm. At the door, I was greeted by Kara. After a quick introduction, I found out that her husband was the chef. She was warm and inviting.

Mussels with Chorizo, God loves his people!

Turned out, 1918 had mussels for $5 on Wednesdays. But this wasn’t your average array of mussels. 1918 boasts homemade chorizo atop their mussels. I thought to myself, “I have got to try this!”

The mussels were splendid. Possibly the best that have ever graced these lips. The mussels were tossed with sauteed onions, red peppers, homemade chorizo, butter and white wine. It’s moments like this when I know God loves his people!

Sauteed shrimp on a bed of polenta.

I finished my time at Circa 1918 with their shrimp appetizer. Given the theme of the evening, I figured I would enjoy the shrimp, sauteed in chorizo and served on a bed of polenta. Let me tell you, this did not disappoint.

Now, it may not be local, but if you happen to be driving through Hampton Roads, do not hesitate to stop by Circa 1918. The food and service should make other restaurants raise the bar.

Circa 1918
10367 Warwick Boulevard
Newport News, VA 23601-3702

(757) 599-1918

Rainforest Alliance

This is the symbol to look for if you want to help save the world!

I love a good cup of coffee. I can’t tell you which countries have which flavors, but I certainly would love to.

I’m going to be exploring some different beans and other coffee, for lack of a better word, stuff and I hope others will share their experiences with me, too.

I just finished a 16 oz. bag of Fara Coffee, signature roast. Made in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, and roasted in Austin, this bag is Rainforest Alliance Certified. Like many people, I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant (although it sounded good), so I looked it up.

The Rainforest Alliance certifies businesses that meet its standards, allowing the business to use its stamp of approval on its products—in this case, a coffee bag—but there are more than 100 crops that can be designated as Rainforest Alliance certified.

Part of the standards means being environmentally and socially friendly.

While the Rainforest  Alliance is concerned with sustainability, it’s not the same thing as being organic. Though farms could be both, the Rainforest Alliance allows some forms of agrochemicals.

The complete set of standards, developed by the Sustainable Agriculture Network, can be downloaded here or I’ve summarized its main points below.

Fara Coffee is roasted in Austin, TX.

Part 1 ensures the farm and its workers are behind the goals of sustainability and are organized about carrying its goals out.

Part 2 ensures the farms are working with its current ecosystem, so that it is not destroyed in the farms processes.

Part 3 ensures wildlife protection of the animals that may live on the farm or nearby and allow for them to roam free.

Part 4 lays out water conservation measures.

Part 5 ensures fair treatment and good working conditions for workers, including equal hiring opportunity, safe and clean housing for those who house farmers and a variety of other working and living conditions that must be met.

Part 6 continues the treat ment of workers and includes an occupational health and safety program and training.

Part 7 tells a farm how it should cooperate with the community it resides, including protecting and conserving natural resources and prioritizing hiring from the local community.

Part 8 specifies the types of pesticides a farm may use and how much to ensure harm isn’t done to the workers or wildlife.

Part 9 ensures forests are not cut down for growing crops.

Part 10 ensures the farm is clean and that waste is disposed of properly.

If you care about preserving rainforests, how workers are treated and other social and ecological matters, look for the stamp of approval next time you’re at the store.

Definition via Sustainable Agriculture Network

Agrochemical: A chemical substance used in agricultural production systems to
maintain soil fertility (compost or fertilizer), control weeds (herbicide), combat pests
(insecticides, fungicides, nematicides, rodenticides, etc.) or stimulate growth.

Pinterests of Interest


Pinterest is all the rage these days. (If you haven’t heard of it or need an invite to get started, leave your e-mail in the comments section and I’ll hook you up.)

I love getting ideas on new recipes and how to plate different items by sifting through the beautiful pics. Today I decided I’d browse some of the users for suggestions on who to follow for some of the best food ideas on the web.

Here’s my list:

Michelle DuPuis has a unique Frozen deliciousness board—showing a variety of frozen treats— as well as Well Poured, HAPPY meals and a wide variety of recipes divided by individual holidays.

Vanessa Lynch‘s Pinterest Foodapalooza board has many appetizers and bite-sized desserts for any occasion.

Sarah Crim‘s I <3 Food board has lots of colorful items and leans a bit toward Southern cooking/hospitality.

Erin Treadway‘s Recipe board has lots of fun treats for kids birthdays. Looking for owl cupcakes? Whooo isn’t? 😉

Krisa Burnaugh Bryant‘s Yum… Yum… Yum-o! board includes a little bit of everything. One of the best things I saw on her board was crescent roll s’mores. I need to try that!

Lindsey Pritchard-Peterson has a mostly gluten-free food board called How to get my man healthy … without him knowing.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Leave any other ‘to follow’ suggestions in the comments, and of course, feel free to follow me, Tiffany Young, on Pinterest.

 

Fin – Newport News, VA


Tasty Seafood Puff

I truly enjoy stumbling across new places to eat. And this was literally the case.

Recently, I had been traveling through the greater part of Virginia for work. Being conscience about my weight, I decided to hunt down a smoothie for lunch. I bought said smoothie and began to walk across the street back to my car. In doing so, I picked up my phone to find my next appointment, when suddenly I ran into a sidewalk sign for a restaurant called Fin, “3 Tapas Dinner with wine pairing – $25.”

Organic, Herb Roasted Pork Shank

Was this God’s way of telling me, “Here is where to have dinner, my son?”

I am not sure, but who am I to give up such a great opportunity!

That evening, I sat at the bar and began my adventure in food.

The first course began with a 3 oz. pour of the  2010 A to Z Pinot Gris.  This Pinot Gris is simple, brilliant and elegant.  The apple and pear overtones were delicate—a perfect compliment for the seafood puff, a pastry puff layered with brussels sprouts, octopus and topped with lobster.  A splendid beginning.

Next came the organic, herb-roasted pork shank, served on a bed of polenta, a side of sauteed spinach and plated with an orange ju. This course was accompanied by a Kenwood Old Vines. Sadly, I did not get the varietal or the year. However, I can tell you that was, by far, the best Kenwood I have had. Maybe, I will just try a few bottles from their collection to reassure my findings.

Beef Wellington

My night came to a close with a beautiful beef wellington.  The beef was presented at medium rare and served with creamy mash potatoes, organic baby carrots and finished with a red wine demi-glace. However, the A to Z Night and Day would not be outdone by the wellington. With an arsenal of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, sangiovese and syrah, this bottle may become my new party wine.  At a $15 market price, I feel that it may be likely to find this gem for as little as $12. And let me tell you, this bottle drinks at a greater value that that. So drink up before A to Z realizes they can get more dough for this one!

After my time at the bar, I got to know Scott, the bartender.  He mentioned that the 3-course tapas feature only happens on Tuesday nights.

What were the chances that I would stumble upon such a great meal, at a great price on a Tuesday evening? Who knows?

Whether it was God’s intervention or not, I was pleased with stumbling upon this great find!

Fin
3150 William Styron Sq N
Newport News, VA 23606-2691

(757) 599-5800

Vegetarian Awareness Month


Did you know it is World Vegetarian Awareness Month?

I didn’t either until Facebook reminded me.

But I thought, I would let you know what my top 3 ideas for the month might be!

  1. Be aware vegetarians do exist!
  2. Have a vegetarian side with every meal!
  3. Let your vegetarian friends know you love them!

Pinot Noir and more

After doing some research, Robert found out that Manchengo is wonderful compliment to Pinot Noir.

Antonio and I went to a wine tasting yesterday consisting only of pinot noir. Our friend Robert is holding wine tastings for $15 per person so he can learn more about wines. We had some from the French region (which I seemed to be the only one to like), a very interesting one from Chile and a few from the states.

Fresh Berries

He had a variety of cheeses, fruit, crackers and some chocolate wafers. He also decided to pick up some rotisserie chicken, since he realized he scheduled the wine tasting around dinner time for most people—5:30 p.m.

Everyone (excluding me) loved the J from J Vineyards and Winery, a vineyard in California. It seemed very pepperry to me, although everyone else said it was the most fruity.

Our arsenal of Pinot Noir for the evening

While there were two that I tried that I wouldn’t mind having again, I don’t believe pinot noir seem to be my favorite type of wine. I will have to go to his next wine tasting now just to see if it’s something that suits me better. I think in all we had eight heads, which I think is a perfect number for a wine tasting—anything more than that and it’s really just a party. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I love a good party. I just realize I shouldn’t call it a wine tasting since I don’t focus on the wine at all and usually end up drinking too much to tell the difference between one or the other.

Srirachi, can’t live withoutchi


A quick meal that looks and tastes fancier than it is.

I had the best dinner I’ve had in a long time tonight—and I didn’t have to leave my place to get it.

Tonight Antonio and I both decided we had a lot of projects we needed to work on, so we decided we’d do our own thing, which worked out because I ended up needing to make a visit to a friend and, also, I bought some groceries last week that still needed to be eaten.

I pulled up a recipe from RealSimple.com that I had already preplanned. I checked out the comments, because it only had received 3 stars. The comments were not great, which put me in a ‘mood’ while I was cooking. “Why am I cooking this?” I thought. “Someone already said it was bland.”

But I had all the ingredients, so what was I supposed to do?

I am so glad I made this despite a few negative comments! There was nothing bland, in my opinion, of the salmon with gingery green beans and bok choy. I forgot the bok choy at the store, so really it was salmon with gingery green beans and carrots.

The salmon perfectly complemented the cooked carrots, which tasted sweet with the added ginger. Being out of fresh ginger and garlic, I substituted from my spice rack. Green beans, which I can usually do without, tasted wonderfully with the green onions. It was a very quick recipe, with just a little pre-chopping and maybe 10–12 minutes of cooking on a skillet.

But the best part of it was the srirachi. I bought srirachi about a year or two ago after reading a wonderful article in the New York times about it. I wasn’t really even sure what to expect, but I bought it anyway—and loved it! I can’t say there’s cause for me to break it out often, but when I do, watch out! It’s a splendidly fantastic, sweet burning taste on your tongue. And it’s addictive! Try it in soups, on chili, anything that needs a real kick to it.

Try it. Love it. Let me know what you think.

Austin Restaurant Week – Fall 2011


Austin Restaurant Week helps Meals on Wheels!

Austin Restaurant Week is upon us! This is almost like a holiday in Austin.

Now, you might be wondering, “What is Restaurant Week, Antonio?”

In Austin, we celebrate Restaurant Week for 8 days over 2 weeks. This event boasts a 3 course, pre-set menu that the chef has created for the event at a reduced rate. This allows potential patrons to take a chance on a new spot. Lord knows, I don’t want to spend my hard-earned cash on place with bad service and mediocre, high-priced food!

The best part is Austin Restaurant Week benefits Meals on Wheels. In the end, when you eat, you help someone else enjoy a meal. And that is food for the soul!

For a full listing of eateries, you can go to the Restaurant Week website.

Hopefully, they will have the 509  [Bandwidth Limit Exceeded] error fixed. If not, you could begin your hunt for a good date for Restaurant Week!