The tangy aromas of smoke and meat were in the air, as the sun shone brightly on Burgers, BBQ and Beer, Culinaria’s last event of a highly popular 2011 festival.
How popular? Many events sold out and, at Saturday night’s Grand Tasting the Culinaria store was bought out. “No more T-shirts, nothing left. That’s amazing,” said Suzanne Taranto Etheredge, president and CEO of the festival.
By noon Sunday, the parking lot at the back of the Pearl Brewery was filling up with people drawn in by the scents of smoke, bacon frying and just-opened bottles of beer. As part of the ticket price, hundreds of festival-goers were able to pick up some of the city’s most innovative, chef-cooked burgers and not-your-everyday ‘cue. The perfect weather was thrown in at no added cost.
You could even shop. Melissa Guerra’s stand offered a few items from her store, including $69 leather huaraches in a startling shade of purple. Her Tienda de Cocina offers Mexican cooking supplies, ingredients, dishes, cookbooks and more.
Or, you could stop at Al’s Gourmet Nuts where author Travis Poling was signing his book on Texas brews, “Beer Across Texas.” The event also marked the beginning of the first ever San Antonio Beer Week. Click here for information on this series of events.
Stephen McHugh, chef at Lüke on East Houston Street, and his crew, served barbecued oysters on the half shell accompanied by an herb-buttered crouton. The bivalve, simmering in spicy juices, went down easily with sips of cold beer. The Two Bros. team of Jason Dady and Jake Dady offered their spicy pork deshabrada, or pulled pork. Ben E. Keith invited one and all to sample conventionally pit-smoked fajitas, bacon-wrapped jalapeños, beef tenderloin and chicken, with all the trimmings. Jesse Perez brought out his smoker and prepared meaty chicken drumsticks in what he called an “old school” barbecue with chipotle and a touch of habanero, another recipe that called for the clean, refreshing taste of an icy beer.
Patricia Wenckus, chef at Auden’s Kitchen in Stone Oak, and Perny Shea, catering and sales manager for chef Bruce Auden at Biga on the Bank, put up a good fight against smoke pouring off the grill. “It doesn’t matter where I go, it’s coming after me,” said Wenkus, laughing. Her offering of the day was a lamb burger with handmade potato chips on the side. Chef John Brand from Las Canarias at La Mansion del Rio was grilling Wagyu beef sliders, with toppings that ranged from yellow cheese and pickles to black truffle mayo and foie gras mousse.
Beef and lamb weren’t the red meats of choice for burgers at the event, however. Shrimp and pork burgers were passed out. Two of the most popular burgers were pork, including Jeff Balfour’s pork boudin sausage burger topped with pickled shrimp in a tangy coleslaw mix. Another grilled pork burger was topped with brisket bacon, a smoky-beefy-chewy and delicious creation from the JW Marriott.
Brian West of Las Ramblas in the Hotel Contessa served up a mixed seafood burger with crispy salmon skin.
Timbo’s, located next to the Pearl Brewery complex, is known for its big burgers. But that wasn’t on its menu Sunday. The restaurant offered its delectable Shypoke Eggs with tomato melted under the cheese.
Next to the parking lot, the amphitheater overlooking the Museum Extension of the River Walk was a comfortable resting place for weary moms and dads or anyone wanting to get out of the sun while sipping on an icy mix of locally made Dripping Springs vodka and cranberry juice. A few even got up to dance to the music of Ken Little and Rodeo Ho Ho, and even the pooches on leashes got a few tastes of some of the festival fare — if they were lucky.
Though the festival ended Sunday, more stand-alone Culinaria events will be happening later this year. For a look at what is coming up, go to www.culinariasa.com.
Photographs by Bonnie Walker