With great SPAM™ comes big changes, great and not great, in this week's "Food-o-File."

SPAM™ARAMA Turns 25 on TVFN!

The annual spring celebration of Austintatious foolishness and potted-pork products is definitely one of those events that falls into the "Keep Austin Weird" category. For more than 20 years, Austinites have gathered in various outdoor venues around the city to present their signature SPAM™ creations in competition and enjoy local music. Founded by David Arnsberger, forever after to be known as the Potentate of Potted-Pork Products, the early SPAM™ARAMAs were held at Soap Creek Saloon locations as close to April Fool's Day as possible. The annual parties eventually migrated to public venues and took on charity sponsorship. This year, SPAM™ARAMA will be held at Waterloo Park for the first time. The date is Saturday, March 29, from noon until 10pm. There will be plenty of parking available in nearby state lots, and the admission is $7 or $5 with a sponsor coupon. Children under 12 get in free. Proceeds will benefit Disability Assistance of Texas (834-1827). As always, the party will include the SPAM™ Cook-Off with Professional and Open divisions, the SPAM™ JAM with the Uranium Savages, the Austin Lounge Lizards, and others, and the thoroughly outrageous SPAM™ALYMPICS. Just by being there, you can certainly help keep Austin weird. The coolest SPAM™ARAMA scoop this year is that it's been discovered by the Television Food Network. According to founder Arnsberger, a local TV crew shot some footage at last year's party that made its way onto TVFN's Unwrapped program a few weeks back. Evidently, the powers that be at TVFN were so enamored with the potted-pork party footage that they are sending a crew of their own to film this year's fest for an hour-long special. The crew will arrive late next week and plans to follow some contestants around for a couple of days as they prepare their SPAM™ creations for the competition and then to spend Saturday, March 29, in the park shooting the actual party. If you are interested in participating in the annual SPAM™ARAMA Cook-Off, contact Norman Kieke at 834-1827 or David Arnsberger at 303/516-4040, or check out the Web site at


Sad to report, one of our favorite restaurants closed on Saturday, March 8. We experienced some great taste sensations at DemiEpicurious over the past year and really hate to see them go. Operators Don Rhode and chef Robert Barker are great folks who put a good meal on the table and took exemplary care of their customers. It's a shame that's not enough to make it in this economy... On the brighter side, former Gilligan's chef Fred Geesin has just opened his first restaurant with the financial backing of investors Rick Detrick and Heath Hofeton. Zin Bistro & Bar (1 Jefferson Square, 377-5252) opened quietly last week in the charming Kerbey Lane space formerly occupied by Ella's and the Galleria. Geesin describes his food as American regional and reports that the restaurant will have a full bar with a martini list and an impressive selection of reserve zinfandels by the glass. They'll be open for lunch during the week ($10 and under), dinners Monday through Saturday ($12-19), and eventually plan to offer a Sunday brunch... 34th Street Cafe (1005 W. 34th, 371-3400) owner Eddie Bernal announced last week that Sarah McDonald is the new chef at his popular neighborhood restaurant. McDonald worked at both Jeffrey's and Vespaio before her arrival at 34th Street, and Bernal reports that her new dishes are a big hit with his clientele... Another Jeffrey's alum, Jeff Martinez is the new chef de cuisine at Asti Trattoria & Wine Bar (43rd and Duval, 451-1218), replacing Kristie Sasser.

Sign up for the Chronicle Cooking newsletter

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

If you want to submit a recipe, send it to

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle