Hundreds of health-seekers and food aficionados streamed through the gate at the San Antonio Botanical Garden Saturday to enjoy a beautiful day in a natural setting, and to celebrate one of nature’s most healthful foods, the olive.
Olives Olé, the International Olive Festival of Texas, organized by the San Antonio chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier, featured an enormous olive bar that offered samples of olives, food and beverage concessions, including Spanish paella made on site, as well as presentations on how the Mediterranean fruit contributes not only to healthy, delicious food but also offers many health benefits as an ingredient in skin care products and more.
A stand of olive trees from the nursery at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard drew customers interested in growing the many varieties of trees that thrive in the warm, South Texas climate. Becker Vineyards shared samples of its wines as well as its harvest of lavender, both its winery in Stonewall while the San Antonio Herb Society was on hand to sell fresh herbs and other items.
“This is a wonderful event, I am really glad I had a chance to be here,” said Craig Hanks, a philosophy professor at Texas State University in San Marcos. Hanks spent part of his time at the event as a volunteer, working in the grilled veggie pita sandwich booth.
Olives Olé is a fundraiser for Les Dames d’Escoffier. The international organization of women in the food professions supports women who want to pursue culinary careers. The membership comprises women in health-oriented fields, as well as restaurateurs and caterers, authors and journalists, food historians and photographers, and many more.
In 2009 and 2010, the festival was held at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard near Elmendorf. In addition to the change in location, the Les Dames group this year also called upon the skills of volunteers from the culinary program at St. Philip’s College. Chef and program director William Thornton’s students did much of the preparation for recipes developed by Les Dames members and presented Saturday at Olives Olé. The students also manned a booth at the Botanical Gardens and helped in the booths worked by the members.
The second floor of the Campus Center, where the culinary program has its kitchens, was abuzz with activity on Friday. Students dug into the work required to prepare gourmet dishes for hundreds of festival-goers.
Glistening bowls of diced vegetables for Leslie Horn’s Spanish Paella booth were massed on stainless steel work tables, while scents of chocolate poured from ovens baking large pans of Chipotle Brownies.
The students also made relatively quick work of the 200-plus pounds of vegetables required in the grilled veggie pita booth. Here, they sliced lemons, cut colorful bell peppers into strips, peeled onions, prepared mounds of sliced zucchini and crookneck squash and more.
For hundreds of festival-goers, the weather cooperated as well. While morning skies were cloudy, the sun came out in the afternoon. Perfect weather for growing olives, and a great day for an event in their honor.
For more information on Les Dames d’Escoffier, as well as recipes from the event, click here.