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Archive | August, 2009

Daily Dish: Watermark Grill to Open in Old Reggiano’s Space

Daily Dish: Watermark Grill to Open in Old Reggiano’s Space

The Watermark Grill Prime Seafood, Steaks & Cocktails will open this fall in the space once occupied by Reggiano’s, 18470 Stone Oak Parkway at Loop 1604.

The restaurant will feature largely American fare, as the name suggests, according to Michael Bazar, vice president of operations for Watermark, which also owns and operates Brasserie Pavil.

Scott Cohen, corporate executive chef for Watermark Hotel Co. Inc., will oversee the restaurant and is working on the menu. A website is also in the works and should be running in a few weeks, prior to the launch of the restaurant, Bazar says.

The restaurant will feature two private areas for parties in addition to the main dining room and bar.

The new restaurant will also operate the bakery that Reggiano’s had started, which supplies fresh bread to many restaurants in town, he says.

“We’re excited by the concept and the location,” Bazar says.

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Wine Review: Centine Bianco

Wine Review: Centine Bianco

BanfiCentineBiancoBanfi Centine Bianco 2008

Centine (pronounced chen-tin-ay) has long been Banfi’s affordable red wine blend, a lively mix of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Now, a white version has appeared at a retail of about $13.

Fact: This blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay has just the right blend of citrus with notes of apricot and herbs. It also has a clean, bright finish that will have you reaching for more.

Feeling: The crispness of this wine makes it perfect pool juice — bright and uncomplicated — but it’s also good accompaniment to roast chicken or main course salads, something we’ve been eating a lot in this perpetual heat. You may not be whisked off to a tropical isle, but you might just find yourself relaxing in your own home a little more. In a word, refreshing.

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Griffin to Go: Open Mouth, Insert Wine

Griffin to Go: Open Mouth, Insert Wine

OpenMouthInsertWine2

If you’re ever invited to speak on a panel, make sure Chesley Sanders is on it with you.

Chesley is the former owner of Lone Stone Wines in Fort Worth, the first wine store in the state devoted strictly to Texas wines. He has the gift of gab and a true Texan’s knack for telling a story.

I could have listened to him for all of the 45 minutes that five of us had come together to present a discussion on “What’s New in Texas Wine: Trends and Developments.” The panel was the first of three sold-out seminars at the first DrinkLocalWine.com Conference held Aug. 15 at Dallas’ Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts.

Chesley is a hero to many in the Texas wine industry because he has hand-sold more people on the state’s wine than can be counted. When he opened shop, there were only 24 wineries in the state. When he retired earlier this year, the number had grown to more than 175. In the 13 intervening years, he spent his time trying to find out what people liked and what the state had to offer to fit those tastes.

But he always encountered a few skeptics who only wanted to mock Texas wines. For these people, he had a little test to see if he knew what they were talking about.

Because he had tasted every wine Texas produced on numerous occasions, Chesley kept a bottle of a 90+ rated Gigondas under the desk for him to enjoy as a change of pace.

To the skeptics, he’d say something to the effect, “Oh, I’ve got another special bottle that I keep behind the counter.” And he’d pour them a blind taste. Most would also reject the Gigondas as being, in their mind, another bad Texas wine, so he knew they were talking out of their hats.

OpenMouthInsertWine1Also on the panel were Wes Marshall, author of “The Wine Roads of Texas,” and Mary Kimbrough of the culinary tourism business Food Roots, as well as moderator and “Wine Curmudgeon” Jeff Siegel, who helped organize the event. Each offered a great picture of the state of Texas wines today and the positive direction in which the industry is headed.

I felt I opened a few cans of worms in my responses. Wes noted that although wine critics may taste Texas wines blindly, they still know that the wines are from Texas and seem to give demerits before tasting.

If that’s the case, I said, then the wrong food and wine writers seemed to be targeted. Instead of trying to get great scores from the likes of Wine Spectator, perhaps the better people to target are the nation’s top food writers. And I used as an example Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post, who asked in an online chat about 18 months ago: Does Texas have wines?

The point was not to slam Sietsema but to point out that one of the nation’s top food writers needs to be educated on this point as much as he needs to know where raspberries are cultivated or which cities offer the best Tex-Mex.

Yet that comment may not have been interpreted the right way. So, sorry, Tom; if you ever come to San Antonio, we’ll share a couple of great bottles on me.

Finding some bottles of Texas wine is not always easy. I mentioned how frustrating it can be to follow Texas wines and not be able to try some of the labels you read about. The same is true of lauded wines from all over the world. How many of us have had Screaming Eagle? Or enough Turley Zinfandels?

But I specifically mentioned the Fuqua Winery Tempranillo, which had won a double gold recently in the San Francisco Wine Competition. Not a bottle that I was aware of made it to the shelves of San Antonio’s finest wine shops. Was it really the best that the state has to offer these days?

That comment brought a most unexpected — and most welcome — response.

Ann Bartholomew of the North Texas Wine Enthusiasts Meetup was one of the people in attendance. She had a bottle, she said, and she shared it with us the following day at the TexSom conference. Inky black and rich with oak, it was perhaps a little too young to be drinking, like a young Tempranillo from Rioja might seem, yet it showed a richness of flavor that was impressive.

But was it a truly Texas wine? Some at the conference questioned the origin of its grapes, saying they were from outside the state. That may be true (the label said it was for sale in Texas only), but what qualifies as a Texas wine? Well, that’s a topic for another panel to take up.

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Lardo – Big Fat Dilemma

Lardo – Big Fat Dilemma

Lardo2 (1)By Chris Dunn
Special to SavorSA

Lardo.  Some restaurant-goers can’t get past the name.  Some can’t get past the idea.  But others never pass up the chance to order this Tuscan inspired pork delicacy.

That’s what’s happening at Andrew Weissman’s new Italian restaurant, Osteria Il Sogno, at the Pearl Brewery, where lardo is on the menu and proving to be a much discussed – and loved – item in the restaurant’s first few weeks of business.

As executive chef Luca Della Casa explains, “The greatest concentration of flavor is in the fat, and that’s what makes this dish so flavorful.”

To carry that thought further, what could be more flavorful than slices of pork fat served over a warm, puffy focaccia with just a whisper of flavored olive oil and rosemary dust?  The taste of this epitome of porcine perfection can best be described as a religious experience which, considering the fat and cholesterol, may be forebodingly apt.

But if you think there is a limited market for a dish whose name evokes, and with good reason, “lard,” particularly in a culture which is so outwardly obsessed with avoiding saturated fat, think again. After all, the fear of fat doesn’t seem to dissuade most of us from regularly taking a Supersized dose of fast food along with our Lipitor.

Lardo1 (1)

Il Sogno's Executive Chef Luca Della Casa

Truth be told, there is something kind of honorable and downright wholesome about a food that openly purports to be exactly what it is – in this case, pure fat. But this isn’t just any run of the mill grasso; lardo is pork fat that has been patiently, lovingly aged for months in sea salt, herbs, and spices; the end result is succulent and flavorful, a dish once appreciated by Italy’s poor, and now, by gourmets the world over.

One of the most famous versions of lardo, il Lardo di Colonnata, has been produced for more than 1,000 years in Colonnata, a town in northern Italy.  To make it, slabs of pork fat are stacked in Carerra marble basins (“conca“) that have been rubbed with garlic.  Each layer is topped with sea salt, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, bay leaves, sage, rosemary, and more garlic.  After a week, water is added to create a brine, the basin is covered, and the lardo is cave-aged for a minimum of 6 months.  The resulting delicacy is creamy, savory and unbelievably rich.

In a sense, eating lardo is like eating fugu, the occasionally lethal Japanese pufferfish.  It is said that “… only a fool would eat fugu; and only a fool would not eat fugu.”

Lardo presents that same dilemma, being so decadently bad and so irresistibly good.  But after all, Il Sogno’s lardo is like falling in love – worth risking your heart for.

Posted in Featured, Restaurants1 Comment

Fire and Ice: Wrapping Up Two Weeks of Extreme Eating

Fire and Ice: Wrapping Up Two Weeks of Extreme Eating

fireandice

After a week of cold stuff, it was a week of hot and hotter. We ran ice cream stories, recipes, dessert ideas and more one week. Then, we went for the chile peppers, salsas, hot green chile recipes in honor of the Hatch, N.M., harvest, finding the hottest chile in the world and serving up some spicy Indian vindaloo.

You don’t want to miss any of it. Here is a complete list of the articles.

Fire:

Ice:

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Cool ‘n’ Hot: Jalapeño-Lime Ice

Cool ‘n’ Hot: Jalapeño-Lime Ice

JalapenoJalapeño-Lime Ice

This dish is sweet and hot, cool and spicy at the same time. Enjoy after dinner or as a palate cleanser. Either way, your taste buds are in for a tongue-tingling treat. 

3 cups water
2 cups sugar
8 jalapeños, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
4 cups ice cubes
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Lime slices, for garnish

Place the water, sugar, jalapeños, mint and lime juice in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Strain the liquid, and place in a covered nonreactive container in the freezer for 6 hours or up to 2 days. (The mixture won’t freeze but will become slushy and icy.)

Using a cleaver or heavy object, slightly crush the ice cubes. Place ice cubes in a blender along with the jalapeño-lime mixture. Blend until the ice is finely crushed. Serve immediately, garnished with sprigs of fresh mint and lime slices.

Makes 6 servings.

From “Hot, Hotter, Hottest” by Janet Hazen

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The Hot List: If You’re Not Warm Enough Yet …

The Hot List: If You’re Not Warm Enough Yet …

PepperOnFire1Monday it’s a burger laced with the hottest chile pepper in the world,  Tuesday it’s Thai, Wednesday it’s a ridiculously popular (cooked in a hot oven) recipe —  and the list goes on.  Enough with the hot food, you say? We’d like to stop, we really would, but we’re on a (hot) roll.

1. The Four Horseman burger at Chunky’s Burgers & More, 4602 Callaghan, tops the list. Not only does this fiery burger contain jalapeños and serranos, it builds on the heat with habaneros. But it doesn’t stop there. The Scoville, or heat chart-topping ghost peppers are added for extra oomph. Though the burger is only a half pound, it isn’t the size but the heat level that counts here. The cost is $15.99, or it’s free if you can eat it all in accordance with house rules.

2. If you like spicy food, Thai food has to be high on your list. But not all heat levels are the same. The most tongue-searing temperatures we have found have been at Siam Cuisine, 6032 FM 3009, Schertz. When the server asks you how hot you want your dish, just say you want it “A.J. hot.” A.J. Kaewlium is the chef, and this is the incendiary level she likes her food. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

3. The hot foodie movie of this hot, hot summer was “Julie and Julia”.  After watching the film, foodies started making boeuf bourguignon in droves —whether they were making it again, after a long hiatus, or for the first time.  SavorSA ran the recipe and it is remains one of the top hits on our website. Click here.

4. At Garcia’s Mexican Food, 842 Fredericksburg Road, the habanero salsa comes in a plastic squeeze bottle and invariably with a warning from the server — “This is hot, you know?” We know and we like it that way. Some of us might dot it on our pork chop tacos, others might pour it all over their Wednesday special.  So many ways to enjoy this pretty orange salsa with a punch.

5. A greater variety of Indian food is making its way into San Antonio restaurants. One of the spiciest treats to arrive is mango chutney, a rich condiment made with green mangoes, lemons (including the peel) and a searing mixture of chiles, ginger paste and mustard seek. Though you can find this dish at many Indian places, the freshest version we have found is at Bombay Hall, 8783 Wurzbach Road.

6. In need of an extra-strength eye opener? Aldaco’s of Stone Oak, 20079 Stone Oak Parkway, has a mix-your-own Bloody Mary bar that it offers Saturday and Sunday during its brunch. Add as much hot sauce and black pepper as you like, and let the remains of the previous day wash away.

7. Heat can be measured in various ways. At several Italian places in town, the pizza ovens are hotter than you might ever want to cuddle up to. The ovens in at least three places — Dough Pizzeria Napoletana, 6989 Blanco Road, Il Sogno, 200 E. Grayson St. at the Pearl Brewery, and Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, 15900 La Cantera Parkway at the Shops at La Cantera — vary in temperature from 900 degrees to 1,200 degrees. What that means is, you’ll get a good charred crust on your pie. And if you want spicy heat on top, just reach for the pepper flakes.

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Burning to Cook for You

Burning to Cook for You

BigBobsBurgersIt was Harry S. Truman who coined the phrase, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” And he was right, especially this summer in San Antonio.

With temperatures topping 100 degrees for more than 55 days so far this year and August breezes offering blessed little relief, local chefs are turning to many solutions in order to keep their staffs as cool as possible in the heat. Some of their tips would work in your home just as well.

At Oloroso, 1024 S. Alamo St., temperatures over the stove can get much hotter than it is outdoors. And the heat has shown little affect on people’s tastes, chef and co-owner Josh Cross says.

There are still plenty of orders for braised short ribs and hot soup despite the temperature, though some have admittedly switched to the Andalusian gazpacho when the vegetables are at their freshest.

That means a large cooler in the kitchen is filled with Gatorade, and staff members go through several glasses over the course of each evening.

If you were to peak behind the kitchen door, you’d also likely see someone duck into the refrigerator for a brief respite. “There are no shortage of people willing to get in the walk-in,” Cross says with a laugh. He’s often walked in himself only to discover several others also at work.

olorosoThe summer heat has also affected the staff’s hair styles, as all of the men have cut theirs as short as possible.”We couldn’t take it,” Cross says.

One reason Big Bob’s Burgers, 2215 Harry Wurzbach Road, is popular is because its burgers are grilled over an open flame, which can make the open kitchen hotter than anything Mother Nature has cooked up for us.

“It is about 120-140 degrees over the grill, and, yes, it is really hot,” says owner Robert “Big Bob” Riddle.

But it’s not as bad as it seems. Or so he says. “To tell you the truth, you get used to it and don’t really notice it that much,” he says. “The trick is to not drink any soda, just water, or in my case, 6-8 sugar-free Red Bulls with lots of ice.  Sugar makes you sick in the heat.”

Grilling burgers and frying onion rings, tater tots or french fries in an open kitchen also doesn’t bother Riddle or his staff. “I don’t know what people think about being able to see us,” he says.  “We are so busy that we just keep cooking.  They do seem to like the huge flames when we flip the burgers.

“Cooking in front of guests has its good points and bad points.  It is cool to see lots of our regulars, but it is awkward if you drop something or mess something up.”

At his two Papouli’s Greek Grill restaurants, owner Nick Anthony tries to keep his kitchen staff cool with air conditioning, but he knows that isn’t always effective. Fans keep air circulating through the kitchen, and the dress code is as relaxed as the Department of Health will allow.

Anthony gives his employees bottled water to keep them hydrated. He also distributes cold neck wraps that they can wear to keep them as refreshed as possible. At home, a cold, damp towel might work as well.

And if all else fails, Anthony has a fool-proof way to keep his staff cool: “Everybody gets to have margaritas! OK, not really.”

Jason Dady’s foray into barbecue, Two Bros. BBQ Market at 12656 West Ave., is a lot more casual than his other restaurants, including the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, Bin 555 and Tre Trattoria. So, the rules are not as strict, especially since temperatures in and around the smoke pit cause the thermometer to rise drastically.

“We’ve swapped the button-down chef’s coat for short sleeve sweaters,” Dady says, adding that whether it’s 100 degrees or 50 degrees outside, the pit can feel like 200 degrees.

There is an escape for some kitchen workers. It’s a step out the back door for a moment. As Josh Cross says, the heat of the evening “is almost refreshing” compared with the heat in the kitchen.

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Color Your Salsa With Heat

Color Your Salsa With Heat

A trio of colorful salsas.

The next time you need salsa for chips or a main course, don’t stop at one. Try these three colorful creations, each one hotter than the last.

Fire-Roasted Red Salsa

3 to 6 chiles de arbol
2 large or 3 medium tomatoes
1 medium red onion, cut in quarters
1 clove garlic, cut in quarters
3 tablespoons cilantro leaves
Juice of 2 key limes
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Soak the chiles in warm water for 30 minutes or until they are rehydrated.

Cut the tomatoes in half. Roast over a medium heat on a gas grill, turning until all sides are grilled.

In a food processor, add tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, lime juice and chiles. Process until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.

From John Griffin

Fiery Green Salsa

Joanne Weir suggests serving this salsa in tacos with tequila lime chicken.

2 cups tomatillos, chopped (fresh or canned)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup minced red onion
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 serrano, seeded and minced
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

If you are using fresh tomatillos, peel them. Place them directly over the gas flame, on a charcoal grill, or in a heavy dry skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until blackened all over, 5 to 8 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the tomatillos, cilantro, red onion, lime juice, and serrano.

Season with salt and pepper.

Adapted from JoanneWeir.com.

Fire Yellow Salsa

This salsa is the hottest of the three because of the habanero pepper, but it also has a touch of sweetness from the mango and the agave nectar to balance the heat.

1 habanero pepper, seeded
1 large or 2 small mangoes, peeled and flesh removed from pit
2  tablespoons  finely chopped shallot
1 1/2  teaspoons  minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, cut into pieces
1  tablespoon olive oil
1  teaspoon coriander seeds
1  teaspoon agave nectar
Juice of 2 key limes
Salt, to taste

In a food processor, combine habanero, mango, shallot,  ginger and garlic. Pulse until smooth.

Warm oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add coriander and cook, stirring, until medium brown, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in agave nectar, lime juice and salt.

Pour warm spice mixture over mango mixture and pulse in processor until blended.

Note: This mixture will get hotter as it settles.

Adapted from myrecipes.com.

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Set Your Palate Ablaze With This Fiery Pork Stew

Set Your Palate Ablaze With This Fiery Pork Stew

HangingPeppersAfrican Fire Pork Stew

Two types of chiles, garlic and ginger add heat to this savory stew. Pork, peanuts, tomatoes and sweet potatoes add a variety of textures as well as flavors. The heat will intensify over night, making leftovers a real treat  for hot heads.

12 small dried red chiles, like chiles de arbol
3 pounds pork butt, trimmed of excess fat and tendon, cut in 1-inch pieces (about   3 cups chopped pork meat)
2 large onions, cut in large dice
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
6 jalapeños, seeded, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup peanut oil
2-inch piece ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
5 cups beef broth or stock
3 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes or 1 (28-ounce) can tomatoes
3/4 cup roasted peanuts
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Cover the dried chiles in boiling water and soak for 2 to 3 hours or until they are soft. Drain and coarsely chop. Set aside until needed.

Cook the pork, onions, garlic and jalapeños in the peanut oil over high heat for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring all the while. Add the ginger, paprika, nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar, and cook over moderate heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the beef broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the tomatoes, peanuts and reserved chiles, reduce the heat to moderate and cook for 1 hour, stirring from time to time.

Add the sweet potatoes and vinegar, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until the meat and potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley to taste.

Makes 6 servings.

From “Hot, Hotter, Hottest” by Janet Hazen

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