Restaurant, movie, book, etc. reviews

Who Are You Spooning With?

Just in case you weren’t sure, food is important to us. And quality food is even more important. But the one thing take precedence over that is who you are with.

Our motto is …

It’s not always about where you spoon but who you are spooning with!

Last year, I reunited with a wonderful couple, Jessica and Clayton. They know how to make my heart smile and I really wanted to have Tiffany meet these wondrous people.

Clayton is a quadruplet and grew up in Copper Canyon, Texas. Jessica and I met when we were both waiting tables at Macaroni Grill in Grapevine. After work, we would regularly head to Chili’s and celebrate the day.

It seemed only proper that we meet there again for a reunion. You can say what you want about Chili’s but they have great comfort food. Their loaded French fries are just like I remember it.

We laughed, hugged and stayed far too long.

Sometimes, you just need to go back to your roots and remember where you came from. Sometimes, you need to hug the ones you love and make new memories. And if I need to travel to Dallas to see the people I miss, then you can find me at Chili’s having an El Presidente.

6251 Long Prairie Road
Flower Mound, TX 75028-6210

(972) 355-5826

Who you callin’ food snob?

On more than one occasion, our love of food has caused the Spooners to be called food snobs. This post should clear things up.

I love IKEA. It’s big, it has cool, cheap things and it’s from Sweden, which makes it unique coming out the gate. But my favorite thing about IKEA? The food! Seriously, I miss my days of being able to get two hot dogs and a drink for $1.50 (because I don’t eat hotdogs anymore—not because they stopped this wonderful deal). Now I’m stuck with a slice of pizza and a coke for $2, and I can live with that.

My friend Eric also loves IKEA food, although he goes a step up and eats at the sit-down cafeteria in the middle of IKEA (I find it a little difficult to find and why would I pay $7 when I could pay $2?).

So, when I saw that IKEA was having a Christmas buffet for $9.99 at the Round Rock location, we made a plan. I’d go during my lunch break to get tickets, since I worked the closest.

I should mention that Antonio was dubious of this plan, later asking, “are you guys serious about this?”

Um. Yes. IKEA has, like, the best food ever… He’s never eaten their meatballs or lingonberries, though, so I guess we’ll let it slide.

On Thursday, a week and a day before the event, I show up at IKEA, grab a slice of pizza and a Dr. Pepper and head over to the cafeteria, where I assume they’ll be selling the incredibly cheap tickets to the wonderful smorgasbord of food, including (but not limited to) smoked salmon with horseradish sauce, assorted herring, Christmas ham, liverwurst pate, assorted cheeses, meatballs and lingonberries (of course), glogg, gravad lax with mustard sauce, must I go on?

The lady approached me from the back of the cafeteria as I waited semi-patiently at the checkout stand anticipating my four tickets.

“Is this where I get tickets to the holiday buffet?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. We’re sold out,” she said with pity in her eyes.

“Can I ask when you sold out,” I asked, knowing that if it had been the day before I would be scorned!

“Last week, actually,” she replied.

Phew.. at least I wasn’t close—that would have been more tragic. We also did a longshot and searched craigslist in case any poor soul had bought tickets and then realized they no longer had taste buds, but alas, everyone knows the place to be Dec. 9 is IKEA’s 5 p.m. or 7 p.m. buffet line. Next year we’ll be prepared!

If you would still like to learn how to celebrate the holidays like the Swede, mosey on over to their site for a how-to guide:

Review: Ate. Cafe

ate. cafe menu

Recently out in the Lakeway area during the lunch hour, I had about an hour to spare when I saw ate. cafe at Lohman’s Crossing and RR 620, near The PJ Shop.

Seeing its European bistro feel with an outside patio, I decided to pop in to see if there was anything that looked tasty.

A quiche lorraine caught my eye, but since it was packed with ham, that was out. I asked the young man behind the counter if they had any other quiches and he pointed me toward the fugazzetta ($8), which looked much like a slice of pizza, but tasted more like a savory tarte filled with grilled onions, red bell peppers, asparagus, oregano and mozzarella cheese.

Although it was already prepared, the waitstaff heated the pastry-filled goodness along with a light side salad.

I thought I’d be starving afterward, given it was just a slice and a small side salad, but I was very fulfilled by the last bite.

Fugazzetta with a side salad1

There isn’t a lot of seating outside, but since the weather has been so balmy lately, the iron patio furniture out front is a nice place to meet a friend and pop into a few of the local shops within the shopping center. I enjoyed the friendly waitstaff, delicious food and relaxing atmosphere.

The menu consists mainly of sandwiches, salads, tarts, breakfast items, coffee, wine, beer and desserts.

Ate. cafe, owned by Rodolfo and Jesica Buonocore, serves breakfast lunch and dinner Tues.–Wed. 8 a.m.–5 p.m., Thurs.–Sat. 8 a.m.–8 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. and is closed Mondays.

ate. cafe
2127 Lohman’s Crossing, Ste. 310



Bacon Ain’t Playin’

Bacon - Home to Happiness


Dear Bacon:

Tonight, I can’t sleep. It’s not your fault  but I thought I would send you this note while I am working on pleasant things that will put me to sleep.

You see, I visited your fine establishment last week. And I truly enjoyed myself. From the moment, I heard that you were completely focused on my favorite cured food, I thought, “I hope this was done well.”  There is a fine line between art and crap, or funny and corny or classy and campy The same could have been the case with you, Bacon.

But Bacon, when my eyes first glanced at you, I noticed that someone had payed great attention to detail. Someone had done a great job. Then I found out that Sanctuary Printshop was involved. Well played. Everything seems to work well. The neon Bacon logo is warm and inviting. The one-color, silk-screen menus layout was delightful and easy to read. But my favorite part may have been the Bacon door handles.

Texas Toast, Bacon, Eggs and More!

Now, don’t get me wrong Bacon, the place is great but I don’t want the visuals in your establishment to overshadow the food. This is the real test. You had a wonderful special the day I went—Texas toast, apple-smoked bacon, organic arugula, fresh tomatoes topped with a sunny-side up egg and covered in a cheese sauce. Oh the joy! The best part was, I didn’t have that dirty feeling you get when you eat something dirty. In fact, my heart was happy and was ready for my afternoon run. Yup, it’s true!

So, if my heart could hug yours, it would.

And now, I hope to get some sleep and, hopefully, I will dream of Bacon!

Love your new friend,
Antonio + Team OhSpooning.

Bacon Restaurant
900 W. 10th St.
Austin, TX 78703

(512) 322-9777

Technique—Offering Fine Fining At A Small Price

As I’ve mentioned, my parents took Antonio and I to Technique in Austin for my birthday celebration.

This is a place my parents and I love going whenever they come to town. It’s the Le Cordon Bleu’s restaurant, where culinary students learn practical skills, such as serving and preparing food.

It’s a great place for a family dinner or to take a date. You’ll find white linens on tables, for a fine dining experience. This semester, we were told the culinary class is small for the restaurant, so instead of its usual choice of more than three courses you’ll be able to only choose three courses. The pro to this tiny con is that you’ll pay just $10 for that three-course meal prepared by chefs in training. The menu changes at times, but usually has a few staples, such as a fish, a nice steak and something a little braver in the meat selection.

Focaccia Bread

Bread with individual butters came to the table first. Unfortunately, some of the bread was still too doughy in the middle. Mine was cooked-through, so I gave it to my mom because she doesn’t even like doughy cookies—everything needs to be cooked through, thank you.

The caprese salad was by far the best thing I tried, with a perfect presentation and taste.

I started with the caprese salad, which the table agreed was excellent both in taste and presentation. The mozzarella was fried and, in addition to the typical red tomato, there was a hint of roasted red pepper mixed in.

That was followed by the halibut, served with corn and fava bean succotash, tomatoes and peas. It was good, but could not compute with the caprese salad. I only ate half of it, because I wanted to make sure and leave room for dessert (times two, since my mom made me a cake).

For dessert, I think the whole table ordered salted caramel pot de crème, with Chantilly cream and an almond sable cookie. While the consistency was excellent, we had a hard time recognizing the salted caramel taste at all. Not that the dessert was bland—it was quite tasty. It just lacked a strong salt or caramel flavor. Antonio not only finished his, but also mine as well, so he must have thought it was splendid. It was quite good, just not what any of us had anticipated from its description.

Salted caramel pot de creme

While I thought the service was good, Antonio, who has worked in the service industry was not as impressed. I tried to explain to him that they

were in training, but he didn’t seem to like that excuse since both times we’ve been there he’s seen issues. This time was much better than the last, though. And the instructor definitely had his serving skills perfected.

If you enjoy a glass of wine with your dinner, you’re in luck there as well. They have a wine list to choose from.

Overall, I think this is one of the restaurants that is often overlooked in Austin. Where else can you get such a nice meal at such a great price? Thanks mom and dad!

elBulli: Cooking In Progress

El Bulli Movie Poster

War of Art” was written by Steven Pressfield (“The Legend of Bagger Vance“).  In this book, Pressfield examines how we need to follow our hearts and move in a direction that God has created us to do.  This book is in no way theological. However, Stephan dives deep into the discussion about what stops us from following our heart, the essence of art and how we are built.

Often, movies do not showcase the struggle of creating art. When we watch an artist work, it is slow – even painful at times. But this is the landscape of where art is created.

Same is true for the movie “elBulli.” The film begins with the closure of a serving season. The focus of the story revolves about the creative mind of  Ferran Adrià, and his sous chefs, Oriol Castro, Mateu Casanas and Eduard Xatruch, leading the staff of elBulli through a creative adventure. He pushes his team hard and has high expectations. In a point of frustration, he tells his sous chef to “only bring me things that taste good.” Farran keeps words direct and focused but never raises his voice. He consistently gives recommendations on how to make each course better.

Previously, elBulli had run in six month cycles. The initial six months were allowed for Ferran, Oriol, Mateu and Eduard to create in their lab. During this time, the elBulli chefs worked to create the most interesting menu imaginable. Day by day, they experimented in a scientific fashion. Farran’s team painstakingly documents every minor change and critique their own work regularly. Digital close-ups are taken of the most mundane looking food, while notes are taken about texture and taste. Slowly, you see how the mundane evolve into edible splendor. Then again, the process repeats. More photos are taken, printed into slides and all notes are given a digital manicure for historical records. Before the creative season ends, the chefs stand before a wall covered with recipes and, with the best of their memory, they pin each recipe with a one, two or three star tag. This creative sabbatical pushes the chef to whittle literally 100’s of items into a 35 course adventure.

elBulli: Cooking In Progress

As the dining season approaches, Farran, Oriol, Mateu and Eduard begin a two week training with their new team. They tell the chefs-to-be not to worry as the menu has not been finalized and, things will change in a moments notice. True to his word, Farran consistantly asks his team to make changes on the fly for reproduction. In a training class to his chefs, Farran tackles the idea of creativity versus reproduction, a notion many artists struggle with. As the artist, he tells his students that he could easily spend his days creating and spend the afternoons on the beach, leaving reproduction to their interpretation. Yet his desire is to assist in every process of the experience. Farran yearns to awaken the diner with every dish and that the dining experience should be emotional and nontraditional.

On opening night, the kitchen staff begins to work as if they were working in any other restaurant. Courtesy is dropped and patience becomes short. The volume of the kitchen begins to rise. Quickly, Eduard steps in demanding silence to work. Progress a few weeks and you begin to see a well-rehearsed team working in a quiet, eager manner. The staff knows their place and which step is next in the sequence.

During the dining season, elBulli hosted a 50-person single seating, costing €250, and accommodates only 8,000 diners a year. With an arsenal of 40 chefs to help complete their four-hour dining opus, elBulli has been operating at a loss since 2000. This alone is amazing considering 2 million people petitioned for a seat during elBulli’s final 2011 season. Farran and elBulli helped offset costs through releasing books.

Beyond elBulli, Farran regularly embarks in public speaking events and has been deemed one the the “Fathers of Molecular Gastronomy.”

On July 30, 2011, elBulli shut its doors as a traditional restaurant. However, Farran has promised that elBulli will “reopen in 2014 under a totally new format, focused on the limits of creativity from an interdisciplinary view.” The new venture will be privately funded.

In a recent discussion with a colleague, we talked about elBulli. As an MBA student, my colleague felt that Farran was missing out. He quickly came up with a grand scheme about how Farran should have posted each night’s seating up for bid and let the highest 50 bidders take a seat. “People would pay thousands,” he muttered. I couldn’t agree more, people would pay thousands, but a 35-course dinner at  €250 allows for a larger percentage of the population to enjoy the art.

Listen to this . . .
"Were you put on this earth to be a painter, a scientist, an apostle of peace? In the end the question can only be answered by action.
Do it or don't do it.
It may help to think of it this way. If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don't do it, you only hurt yourself ... even destroy yourself. You hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet.
You shame the angels who watch over you and you spite the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts for the sole purpose of nudging you the human race one millimeter further along on the path back to God.
Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of an actor. It's a gift to the world and every being in it. Don't cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you've got.' - Steven Pressfield
Every once is a while, you get the opportunity to view greatness.  Farran, Oriol, Mateu and Eduard  each exemplify great art and I highly recommend this film, as an artist, foodie and big spoon!

Rolling With My Homies


My parents drove in today for my birthday and called me on the way to see where we were eating for lunch. When I asked them what they were in the mood for I was given “we’ve heard miso soup is good for you.”

OKkkkk… An odd challenge. I knew most sushi places had miso soup, but my parents say they don’t like sushi. I was pretty sure they just hadn’t experienced much sushi, so after a bit of browsing, I decided Maki’s How Do You Roll was a great choice. It’s sort of ‘sushi-light’ in my opinion. The normal menu intimidation is gone. You can just look at the ingredients and pick them, thus freeing yourself from ordering something that sounds safe, but really isn’t. Besides, you can even get teriyaki chicken on your roll.

How Do You Roll is a great place to take beginner sushi eaters. For starters, there are large posters giving directions on how it works. To make your own wrap, you choose the wrapper—soy or seaweed, then three vegetables and then a meat. And you don’t actually roll your own, as my mom was worried about—they put everything together for you as you point it out to them.

At the counter they also ask if it’s your first time to come in. If it is, they hit a big gong and say, “we have first timers!” or something like that. Then an employee walks you through the steps, giving suggestions as you go if you’re as slow as my family. I got a crab roll with avocado, cucumbers, green onion and sweet chili dribbled on top. I also ordered miso soup, which was very flavorful and hot.

Wraps are $3.95 for traditional and $4.95 for modern, with meats an additional cost for each. Miso soup is just 99 cents and will help you feel full after one roll.

My parents enjoyed everything we ordered and none of us were too full, which was good, because our dinner reservations were for just three hours later.

Bottom line? I think it’s a great casual place to eat. It’s fast, reasonable and the interior is bright green and fun. And I love fun!

Arbor Walk Shopping Center
10515 N. Mopac Expy. 165A
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 243-8298,
Mon.–Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m.







The Crown of The 2nd Street District

This weekend, I surprised Tiffany with tickets to see elBulli at the Violet Crown Cinema. Granted, we had seen a flick there a time or two before, but this was the first time we had the opportunity to enjoy the bar.

Milcampos Tempranillo is our new fave!

Conveniently, located in the Second Street District, the atmosphere at the Violet Crown is simple, yet chic. If you are worried about parking downtown, the Crown will validate your stub—up to 3 hours—for the AMLI parking garage directly behind the venue.

While we have other dine-in movie theatres in Austin, Violet Crown falls in an exclusive niche for independent, documentary and international films. Granted the ticket price is a couple of dollars more but, upon purchase, you reserve your specific seats in the theatre.

At first glance, the menu above the snack bar seems traditional—candy, popcorn and hummus and pita bread. However, the real gem lies in the bar menu. Here you will find an array of drinks, everything from ginger pork tapas to cake balls. I let Tiffany take the lead in ordering and we got the avacado spring rolls. The rolls were fresh, the penut sauce was delightful and the presentation was far more than I expected.

This particular evening, they were hosting a Spanish wine promotion to coincide with elBulli. We had the opportunity to try the 2009 Milcampos Tempranillo. Our hearts lept for joy, as this wine was remarkably easy to drink. This tempranillo drinks with dark fruit first followed by a smooth finish. The best part is, you can pick this up from most wine vendors for roughly $12 a bottle. A wonderful recommendation by the staff at the Crown.

Avacado Springs Rolls at the Royal Crown

While you can order food at the bar, keep in mind that the wait staff will not deliver your meal inside the theater. You can bring the food in the theater with you, where lecture-style table tops are attached to nice, leather seating. The tops are small, thus creating a balancing act if you have wine, water and food.

I do need to mention, the Violet Crown has amazing service. Everyone on staff seems excited to show you to your seat, pour a glass of wine or simply give you your ticket. It seems hard to come across great service in Austin and VC stands out from the pack.

Overall, each experience at the Violet Crown has been  pleasurable. The service is always great and has such a unique selection of films, I would highly recommend making a trip out!

Now I just need my friends at the Crown to pick up this film!

Royal Crown Cinema
434 W 2nd Street, Austin, TX
(512) 495-9600


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

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!

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

(757) 599-5800