Culinaria’s Grand Tasting is always an occasion for sampling excellent fare from the area’s best restaurants, fine wines and other spirits. But Saturday’s sold-out gathering was also a chance to mix and mingle with thousands of others while enjoying the evening.
Often that was while waiting in line for the likes of Jeff Balfour’s braised oxtail tostada from Citrus and John Brand’s combination of oysters from Ostra and pork belly from Las Canarias.
It was the first time Ben Dorris had ever tried an oyster, but he braved a briny bivalve with friends Joe Carreon and Vanessa Jauer. He was not impressed with the texture, but his friends, who have had a little more oyster-eating experience, were.
The evening’s sponsor, Ambhar Tequila, offered samples of their silver, reposado and añejo tequilas as well as cocktails for those who wanted something in addition to the vast array of wines on hand. These ranged from the crisp Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet to the silky elegance of the Chalone Pinot Noir. Bottles of Belgian beer Stella Artois disappeared quickly during the balmy evening.
The long lines meant some restaurants had to stretch the food they brought, though each of the chefs and their restaurants brought enough for 1,500 servings. Barbara Hunt of Boardwalk Bistro started out serving a Mediterranean-style sandwich with lamb. When the lamb ran out, it became a vegetarian sandwich with a roasted tomato and some tzatziki sauce adding such bold flavors that no one really missed the meat.
Shea Ash of the Peach Cafe in Boerne handed out several treats, including a mini-muffuletta with olive salad from her business partner Nancy Fitch’s restaurant, the Pomegranate in Artisans Alley.
Guest chefs included Nordic chef Trine Hahnemann as well as Susana Trilling of Oaxaca, who hopes to have her new line of culinary products, including mole enhancers and salt from her region of Mexico, in area stores soon.
Chocolate truffles from Kirby’s and cake from Flour Power Cafe were among the choice desserts for those with a sweet tooth.
The longest lines were those waiting to sample the multi-course mini-meal prepared by Jason Dady’s restaurant group. As he has done in the past, Dady offered samples of dishes that represent his restaurants, which include the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, Bin 555, Tre Trattoria, Two Bros. BBQ and the DUKTruck.
Shredded flank steak with a molasses-Shiner Bock barbecue sauce and a bright coriander-based pickle on top, a Mediterranean tossed salad, smoked deviled eggs with crab meat and cheesecake were among the various treats he served.
It took 22 members of his staff to keep the plates moving and to offer guests a personal explanation of what each dish was.
Lines were so long at Dady’s booth that the chef stayed more than an hour after the event ended to make sure everyone still waiting in line got to taste what he had to offer. We ran into Dady at The Monterey shortly before midnight where he was treating his staff to a late meal for the hard work they’d done.
Photographs by Bonnie Walker.