FINO is only getting better; plus, Starlite's descendants and the Eastside Cafe's new marketing strategy.
Talked with local chef/restaurateurs Emmett and Lisa Fox when they returned from a two-week vacation in and around Barcelona, Spain. They had a great time enjoying the food, art, and architecture in that bustling metropolis and came back energized and eager to implement new dishes on the menu at FINO (2905 San Gabriel, 474-2905). Look for a week of meals inspired by their Spanish sojourn sometime in June. The Foxes are also excited about the new team on the range at FINO: Executive chef James Moore has returned to Austin after honing his cooking chops in Los Angeles and Santa Fe, while pastry chef Amanda Rockman comes to FINO after spending two years in the pastry kitchen of chef/cookbook author Gale Gand at Tru in Chicago... Brunch fans will be pleased to note that Starlite (407 Colorado, 374-9012) is now serving their popular brunch at the new downtown location from 11am-3pm every Sunday. Owner Michael Terrazas reports that their SoCo venture, the Woodland, is scheduled to open in August. Look for Salvation Pizza (607 W. 34th) to open in the former Starlite house sometime this month. Starlite employee Elizabeth Mahoney and husband Michael Dinsmore will pattern their cozy neighborhood family operation after the successful pizza parlor run by her parents in Connecticut. Look for Neopolitan-style thin-crust pizzas, salads, beer, and wine coming soon... Eastside Cafe (2113 Manor Rd., 476-5858) co-owner Dorsey Barger swears she's having the best time she's had in years manning the cafe's booth every Saturday morning at the Sunset Valley Farmers Market (Highway 290 West at the Toney Burger parking lot). The booth is stocked with Eastside's signature salad dressings and condiments as well as packaged entrées from among their most popular menu items. Each cold entrée comes with necessary sauces and garnishes plus a card with easy-to-follow reheating instructions. The portions are generous and the selections change from week to week. They've also got cold summer soups and vegetable side dishes. Entrée prices range from $7.75 to $9.75, and the soups are $3.75 a pint and $9.75 a quart. It's a clever marketing strategy that more than pays for itself, Barger assured us. "We get such a good response at the market and we're seeing a lot of the folks we've met out there coming into the restaurant now, too"... The Top Chef competition concluded last week with Harold Dieterle as the unanimous choice of the judges, the former contestants, and the viewing audience. Look for a feature about Harold in the upcoming issue of Food & Wine magazine, complete with recipes and some speculation about what he plans to do with his winnings. Bravo has announced that it has picked up the series for another season and is busy taking applications and holding casting calls. Go to www.bravotv.com for more information. No word yet on whether or not Food & Wine will be involved in the second season.
Chef instructor Jayson Reynolds and students from the fine dining restaurant Ventana at the Texas Culinary Academy (11400 Burnet Rd., www.txca.com) will prepare a four-course summer meal paired with handcrafted beers from Austin's own Independence Brewing Company (www.independencebrewing.com). The evening will begin with live music, appetizers, and drinks. Tickets are $40 per person and should be purchased in advance by calling 339-3850; Fri., June 2, 5:45-8:30pm.
Event Menu :: June 2-8
Fall Creek Vineyards (325/379-5361, www.fcv.com) invites guests to enjoy the Herb and Flower Fest. Browse the vineyards' grounds and purchase spring herbs and flowers in addition to sampling luscious pies from the legendary Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls, paired with Fall Creek's "Winaritas"; Fri.-Sun., June 2-4, 11am-5pm.
Kick off the summer grilling season at Spicewood Vineyards (830/693-5328; www.spicewoodvineyards.com) with their big annual Grilling in the Vineyard weekend of events. Things get started on Friday night with a wine dinner featuring grilled items for every course. Saturday and Sunday will be packed with delicious cooking demos and informative talks on pairing foods with Spicewood's award-winning, estate-bottled wines. Talented chefs and caterers from Austin and Marble Falls will be working the grill. Demonstrations are priced individually, and prices include a sample plate of the food prepared during the demo plus a glass of wine. Reservations are required for the wine dinner and the grilling demos. Check the Web site for more information on participating chefs and menus, and then make necessary reservation online; Fri., June 2, 7-9pm; Sat., June 3, 10am-5pm; Sun., June 4, noon-5pm.
The Garden Workshop series continues at Eastside Cafe (2113 Manor Rd., 476-5858) with Bugs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Learn about companion planting and the use of beneficial bugs to help control pests in the organic garden while enjoying a bug-inspired menu (mudbugs, ant-ipasta, grasshopper pie) paired with organic wines; $37 per person, and reservations are necessary; 494-1464; Tue.-Wed., June 6-7, 6:30-8pm.
Trivia Quiz: We had so many great responses to our restaurant trivia question, and everyone who responded had correct answers some even we didn't have on our list that we decided the only fair way to pick was to look at e-mail submission times: The winner came in a little after 1pm on Thursday, May 25. We also had a winner during the Friday morning drive-time radio broadcast on Majic 95. Congratulations to everyone who played our game. Judging from the enthusiastic and well-informed response, we'll have to offer more trivia quizzes in the future.