The Christiane Chronicles: I am a spoon freak. Don’t give me the wrong size.

Plus: praise for Alon's Bakery's cheese counter

The Christiane Chronicles: spoons

Illustration by Zohar Lazar

Spoon Me, Baby
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a thing for spoons. Their shape, their size, their depth, the roundness of their bowls—all of it matters to me.

When I order rice at Taqueria del Sol, I’m thrilled to eat it out of a small cup with a properly rounded metal spoon. On Buford Highway, long-handled, flattish Korean spoons, normally sitting on the table in a hygienic paper sleeve, are ideal for savoring the soft tofu stews known as sundubu-jjigae.

But far too often, I am given the wrong kind of spoon—if I get one at all. Cursed be the restaurant that serves me a stew or saucy dish and fails to provide a spoon alongside it.

At dessert, I don’t know what is worse: being handed something as big as a soup spoon, as tiny as an espresso spoon, or as crazily awkward as an iced tea spoon. None of those is suitable for eating creme brulee or sticky toffee pudding.

I can’t understand why, when a restaurant specializes in “small plates to share,” there is no serving spoon to divide the bounty. Am I supposed to root around in someone else’s half-eaten plate? I am not fussy about germs, but the idea of passing around a soup, with everybody using the same spoon to taste, completely creeps me out. And while I have no love in my heart for convoluted modern-design flatware, I expect better than a flimsy spoon that looks straight out of the dollar store, such as the ones found, perhaps ironically, at Bon Ton.

At home, I have a fine collection of nonreactive spoons ranging from sleek bamboo (for boiled eggs) to mother of pearl (in case of caviar) to heavy multi-use plastic (to eat plain yogurt right out of the jar). In other words, I am a spoon freak.

Alon’s Cheese Counter
I remember meeting Alon Balshan in 1987, when he was making croissants for the original, divey location of Murphy’s in a Virginia-Highland alley. A classically trained Israeli chef of formidable height who baked like an angel, Balshan left in 1992 to open a small bakery next to a dry cleaner in neighboring Morningside. His tiny European cookies became the talk of the town. He made the best danishes money could buy, and people stopped by daily for his crusty loaves.

Balshan opened a second location in Dunwoody and, in 2003, expanded the original Alon’s—which is when its superbly stocked and managed cheese counter started gaining renown. Mary Ingersoll-Weeks, a certified cheese professional who eight years ago became the fifth in Alon’s line of gifted cheesemongers, currently presides over a significant inventory of cheeses from Southern, national, and international creameries. She will happily let you taste rarities such as a nutty Alpine-style Challerhocher from Switzerland, a delicate Camembert-style cow’s milk from Vermont, a properly stinky St. Nectaire from France, and an intriguing green-rinded mixed-milk Menage from Wisconsin. She can spin you a tale about the Oma washed-rind, tomme-style cheese made by the von Trapp family or describe what makes the $33, 12-ounce, raw cow’s milk Rush Creek Reserve worth its price.

Ingersoll-Weeks and her boss gravitate toward flamboyant cheeses with big flavor. “Scary” cheeses such as mold-ripened Spanish Cabrales or fresh Epoisse from France are only occasionally available, but logs of hazy-blue Monte Enebro, wedges of Stilton-style Shropshire tinted with annatto, and other treasures can be discussed and tasted at length.

The way they’re wrapped and sealed—with a detailed label featuring elegiac tasting notes—is as impressive as the cheeses themselves. Grab a few along with a fresh baguette and a bottle of bone-dry Alsatian riesling (one of my favorites with cheese), and feel free to skip dinner.

This article appears in our March 2019 issue.