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Archive | June, 2011

Ridiculously Good Food at Great Prices Await at Metro Basilica No. 2

Ridiculously Good Food at Great Prices Await at Metro Basilica No. 2

Underneath all that crisp lettuce is a huarache covered with equally crispy carnitas.

OK, so the name doesn’t exactly inspire too much confidence: Tacos y Burritos Metro Basilica No. 2. It apparently refers to a Mexico City metro stop, but how many San Antonians will know that before asking? (The No. 1 store seems to be in California, so don’t look for it.)

The look of the place doesn’t exactly win too many points either. Sure, it’s ultra clean, but it’s also sterile and nondescript in an equally unnoticeable plaza along Culebra Road. The boxy layout of the dining room tables makes you feel as if you were being herded through.

All of which could explain why only two other tables were occupied the other night when we slipped in for dinner.

But the food is so unbelievably good that it will win you over at first bite. This is Mexican street fare that you usually find around here only at a taco truck, only better. Forget the chips and salsa, and concentrate on huaraches, sopes and mulitas, all with the most divinely cinnamon-laced horchata in town.

The restaurant is on Culebra Road.

It’s a small menu, but everything is choice. And the prices, most under $5, are a steal.

We tried two sopes, which were visually indistinguishable until you dug a fork into them. Each arrived with a mountain of shredded lettuce topped with avocado, slivers of tomato, sour cream and queso fresco. Underneath was a smear of lardy beans and plenty of meat — we tried both the asada and the chicken, and found plenty to enjoy in each. Everything was situated atop a handmade base made from corn. Think of your favorite tostada, only on steroids in terms of size and flavor. A squirt or two of the fiery green salsa or the smoky roasted red just carried the freshness of the dish to a whole new level.

The same sumptuous mound of lettuce covered the carnitas huarache, which also had a thick-yet-tender, oblong corn tortilla on the bottom. The succulent strands of meat had been crisped on the edges, giving a variety of textures as well as its juicy pork flavor to the dish.

I was not familiar with the mulita, so I couldn’t wait to give it a try. Two corn tortillas were stuffed with the meat of your choice (I opted for what turned out to be a spectacularly well seasoned al pastor), ripe avocado and a salty cheese that sort of melted together with just a few welcome drops of grease, which you will want to sop up with any tortilla so you don’t miss a single bite. Individually, each ingredient shone; together, they eclipsed everything else on the table, which was no mean feat.

Salty cheese and al pastor meat pack the mulita.

I just wish that a few slivers of radish had been added to each of the dishes, as they would have offered a lively little kick and a complementary crunch. I hope they’re available with the pozole, which a flier on the wall said is now offered daily. I wish I had seen that first. Or maybe not. It gives me something to go back for. With a mulita on the side.

Tacos y Burritos Metro Basilica No. 2
7627 Culebra Road
(210) 680-1412
Open 8 a.m.-10 p.m. daily

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Who Can Say No to a Free Chocolate Chip Cookie?

Who Can Say No to a Free Chocolate Chip Cookie?

For the past 25 years, anyone who has checked into a DoubleTree by Hilton, such as the one in downtown San Antonio, has received a chocolate chip cookie as a welcome treat.

To celebrate that silver anniversary, DoubleTree by Hilton is embarking on a Cookie CAREavan and will be handing out free cookies from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. July 9 at various locations around the city. It’s part of a 10-week, 10,000-mile, 50-city tour.

Among the downtown locations will be Alamo Plaza. To confirm times and cities of the rest of the Cookie CAREavan, visit www.facebook.com/Doubletree. The downtown DoubleTree by Hilton is at 502 W. Durango Blvd.

 

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‘Top Chef’ in Town, The Luxury Settling In, and So Is Lana Duke

‘Top Chef’ in Town, The Luxury Settling In, and So Is Lana Duke

Rumors and spot news are making the rounds on the San Antonio dining scene.

“Top Chef” here

First, the word is out that “Top Chef” is here filming for the new season. (Not the little guys that visited the Alon Market recently – the big-name chefs this time.)

Emeril Lagasse, Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi were at Biga on the Banks last night, according to Biga. No forewarning to the kitchen staff at Biga, but some in the group of 12 did head in to greet them after dinner, handshakes all around. Then, some of the chefs moved on over to the Esquire Tavern to close out the night, we hear.

So, where are they staying, where are they filming, dining out, etc.? Those in the know are being pretty tight-lipped at this point. But keep your eyes and ears open, and don’t forget to send chef sightings to us at SavorSA!

Lana Duke of Ruth’s Chris fame gets Vidorra condo here

Lana Duke, shown here at downtown Ruth's Chris, will have a residence in San Antonio.

Meanwhile, it’s good to hear that a great lady, Lana Duke of New Orleans, owner of the local Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses, will have a second residence in San Antonio. She and her son, David, will be part-time residents at Vidorra, a high-rise condominium complex on North Center Street.

The Luxury

Can we look forward to rotisserie and roasted meats going on the menu?

Andrew Weissman says The Luxury has made some significant progress, the containers are in, the landscaping soon to be started. He won’t commit to an opening date yet, but says it’s “pretty darn close.”

As always the Weissman creativity is running full blast. He is thinking of putting in a huge rotisserie in order to roast pork and goat to sell by the pound. That’s always a luxury for the tired, hungry, homeward-bound downtown worker.

He says his trailer dining concept will be unique — even among trailer dining concepts. Wine on tap is always nice, and the river location, across the the San Antonio Museum of Art will be a good draw. We’ll let you know, as soon as we do, the answer to that “when” question.

If you have restaurant news, email walker@savorsa.com or griffin@savorsa.com.

 

 

 

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‘Don Strange of Texas’ Cookbook Wins Bronze Award

‘Don Strange of Texas’ Cookbook Wins Bronze Award

Published less than one year ago, “Don Strange of Texas: His Life and Recipes,” has been selected as the 2011 bronze medal winner of the Independent Publisher Book Award in the South- Best Regional Non-Fiction Category. The book was written by Strange’s wife, Frances Strange and co-written by Terry Thompson-Anderson. Photographs are by San Antonio food photographer Tracey Maurer.

Strange, who died in November of 2009, built his catering business around the wealth of foods available in Texas and served his fare in a down-home style that was well-received at both black-tie events and cookouts held anywhere from the White House lawn to his Hill Country ranch.

"Don Strange of Texas: His Life and Recipes" wins bronze award from The Independent Publisher Book Awards.

“Words cannot properly express how thrilled I am that our book is being recognized by this distinguished  group of professionals in the industry” says author Frances Strange.  “Just being considered for this award is such an achievement.”

Published by Shearer Publishing, the book is filled with the rich history of this high-profile Texas catering company. Anecdotes, more than 100 recipes and dozens of full color food and family photographs bring the story to life.

The Independent Publisher Book Awards, which was first launched in 1996, is intended to recognize excellence among books published by independent authors and publishers. The awards are open to all members of the independent publishing industry. It contains 69 national categories, followed by regional categories, such as the South, and the Best Regional Non-Fiction Award. Judging is based on design, production quality , content, and innovation.

The cookbook is part of the Don Strange of Texas brand which includes the Don Strange Marketplace e-commerce site, the Don Strange Ranch in Welfare, The Waring General Store, The Ropes Course, The Zip Line at Zinc Hill, The Buckhorn Saloon, Catering and Private Dining. The cookbooks are available at booksellers and online at www.donstrangemarket.com.

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Get Lost in a California Rosé

Get Lost in a California Rosé

Lost Summer California Rosé 2009

Fact: It’s a pink wine from California, which leads too many to think sickly sweet. But this dry little treasure is a surprise, especially at under $10 a bottle.

Summer is a key word that comes to mind when you take the first sniff of its youthful bouquet, with its touch of watermelon and strawberry. The color is that of a summer rose, pink in the sun and just irresistible.

Chill it down and enjoy its refreshing vigor with just about any picnic food you can imagine, from pork ribs right off the grill to buttered corn on the cob.

It’s also perfect for a picnic because it has a screw cap, so you don’t have to haul along a corkscrew in addition to everything else.

Feeling: Do just want to have something icy and pleasant after mowing the lawn or reading in a hammock under a shady tree? Then this rosé is a good bet to set you out on your lost summer afternoon or evening. It’s all about relaxation and enjoyment, though there’s a welcome depth of flavors, from tart fruit to a slight mineral quality that keeps things that much more interesting.

You can find Lost Summer in select H-E-B stores.

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The Cake Boss’ Pecan Wedges

The Cake Boss’ Pecan Wedges

Pecans

Buddy Valastro, also known as the Cake Boss to his legions of TV fans, is coming to San Antonio in November. He’s set to appear at the Lila Cockrell Theater at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12.

If you can’t wait until then to get a taste of his baking magic, try this recipe for Pecan Wedges, which appears in his new cookbook, which is not surprisingly titled “Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia” (Free Press, $25.99).

“These are decadent little treats,” he writes, “with a number of textures and flavors packed into fairly tight quarters: the pastry itself, a caramel-pecan mixture that’s pour into its center, and a chocolate shell.”

For tickets, which start at $96 apiece, click here.

Pecan Wedges

6 sticks (1 1/2 pounds) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided use
1 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
4 cups pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1 cup light-brown sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
3 cups whole pecans
2 cups finely chopped semisweet high-quality chocolate

To make the dough, put 4 sticks of the butter and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, and paddle on low-medium speed until thoroughly mixed, approximately 1 minute. Add the eggs all at once and paddle until incorporated, approximately 1 minute. Add the milk and the flour and mix until thoroughly blended, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill until stiff enough to be manipulated, about 30 minutes.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out each piece of dough into an 18-inch log, 1 1/2 to 2 inches high. Transfer to a baking tray and flatten the center of the log out so it looks like a ravine. It should be about 3 inches wide, fatter at the end than at the center. Crimp the edge on both sides. Repeat with all four pieces of dough, leaving about 2 inches between the logs (you  may need to do this in batches) and set aside.

To make the caramel mixture, put the remaining 2 sticks of butter, the brown sugar and cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately remove from the heat and stir in the pecans. Spoon the pecan-caramel mixture int hte ravine in the center of the logs. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Remove trays from the oven, transfer the bars to a cutting board, and cut each bar crosswise into 4 or 5 wedges.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a double-boiler set over medium-high heat. Dip half of each wedge into the chocolate and let cool and dry on a wire rack or parchment paper for 30 minutes. These are best enjoyed the same day, but can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 16 wedges.

From “Cake Boss” by Buddy Valastro

 

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Chefs’ Corner: Rossini’s Insalata al Tonno (Salad with Tuna)

Chefs’ Corner: Rossini’s Insalata al Tonno (Salad with Tuna)

Insalata al Tonno at Rossini Italian Bistro.

Looking for a light salad for a hot summer’s day that is substantial enough to work as a main course? You might want to try this delicious, rustic array from Rossini Italian Bistro. It goes together in minutes.

“This is how we eat at home,” says Maria De Rosa, whose husband, Ezio, is the chef.

The dish, like the best of all Italian food, is simplicity itself. That means you need the best ingredients you can find because you can taste just how perfect (or imperfect) each one is. At Rossini, the field greens are organic, the extra-virgin olive oil packs plenty of flavor, and the asiago cheese aged enough to make it crumbly on top of the salad.

You can also change the recipe to use what you have from your garden or what you’ve just picked up from the farmers market. Tomatoes would work beautifully, as would hard-boiled eggs, cold roasted chicken instead of the tuna, or strips of zucchini, whatever you wish.

Rossini Italian Bistro is at 2195 N.W. Military Hwy. at West Avenue. Call 210-615-7270.

Rossini’s Insalata al Tonno (Salad with Tuna)

Field greens
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Canned tuna, well-drained
Asiago cheese, shaved into thin slices
Capers

Fill a salad bowl with desired amount of greens. Lightly dress the salad with olive oil and vinegar, to taste, and place on chilled plates.

Top with shreds of tuna and asiago cheese. Sprinkle capers on top. Drizzle a little more olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste.

From Ezio De Rosa, Rossini Italian Bistro.

 

 

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Winners! Coco Champagne Dinner for Two Final Drawing

Winners! Coco Champagne Dinner for Two Final Drawing

The great Coco Champagne Dinner challenge comes to an end, and the winners of the final two certificates are Libby Abston and Sandy Tremaine. Congratulations to both of you!

Our thanks goes out to Coco Chocolate Lounge & Bistro for their generosity in making this possible. Don’t forget, in recognition of their third anniversary, Coco has specials for all their customers, plus a new chef.

Coco Chocolate Lounge & Bistro Knows its Customers, Offers a Unique, Female-Friendly Ambiance

Despite a struggling economy over the past three years, Coco Chocolate Lounge & Bistro is thriving. They’ve managed to expand their concept, make changes and expansions, and continue offering a signature appeal.

“The initial concept for Coco was a simple one: to provide a unique space in terms of decor, offer sophisticated but unpretentious and affordable French food and add intrigue through unique cocktails and desserts, says owner Emmanuelle Lebourg.  The restaurant has a clientele that is more than 75 percent female during the week. It has expanded its square footage and recently hired a new, classically trained French Four Star Executive Chef.

“As a foodie myself, I never knew where to go out late after a show or movie for a bite to eat, so we decided to offer our full menu until 11 p.m. during the week and even later on weekends. I wanted to create a space that would be inviting for women to come to alone or in groups to enjoy a drink, dinner, or just share a laugh in, says Lebourg.

In addition to the weekly promotion with SavorSA, on June 23-25, the restaurant will have a three-day celebration in both the bistro and XO nightclub, with three special signature cocktails created by the in-house French mixologist as well as three nightly dinner specials designed by chef Eyhab Hatab.

The restaurant and nightclub are located at the Shops at Legacy at Loop 1604 and U.S. 281. Opened in June, 2008, Coco Lounge & Bistro is independently woman owned and operated.

 

 


 

 

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Moroccan Spiced Preserved Lemons

Moroccan Spiced Preserved Lemons

Delicious to use in spicy Moroccan cuisine, preserved lemon can be made at home following these easy instructions from Aliza Green’s book, “Beans”.

Moroccan Spiced Preserved Lemons

Use organic lemons to make Moroccan Spiced Preserved Lemons

24 lemons, preferably organic
5 cups kosher salt
3 sticks canela (true cinnamon) lightly crushed
1 tablespoon whole cloves
6 tablespoons coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1/4 cup black peppercorns, lightly crushed
6 bay leaves, lightly crushed

Rinse lemons in hot water. Place in a pot of boiling water and boil 1 minute. Drain and cool. Quarter the lemons from the top to within 1/2 inch of the bottom, pack salt onto the exposed flesh, then reshape.

Combine the salt with the spices: Place a layer of the salt mixture on the bottom of a large container. Pack in the lemons and pushing them down, adding more salt-spice mixture between layers for a total of about 4 cups salt.

Press the lemons down to release their juices and to make room for more lemons. Add more salt as the juices form and the lemons shrink. Let the lemons ripen in a warm place, turning the container upside down each day to redistribute the salt and juice. Let ripen at room temperature for 30 days.

To use, rinse the lemons, as needed, under cold water, remove and discard the pulp. Scrape off the inside white pith and discard, so that you use only the yellow part of the lemon. Refrigerate after the lemons have fully ripened. The pickling juice can be saved and reused for the next batch of lemons.

Makes 2 dozen preserved lemons

From Aliza Green’s book, “Beans”

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Moroccan White Bean Salad with Nigella Seeds

Moroccan White Bean Salad with Nigella Seeds

Moroccan White Bean Salad is seasoned with nigella seeds.

Beans taste best, says Aliza Green, when made with highly flavored condiments and served while the beans are still warm. This paprika-colored salad includes bold accents from Morocco like hot paprika, preserved lemon, toasted cumin and jet-black nigella seeds.

Moroccan White Bean Salad with Nigella Seeds

2 tablespoons nigella seeds
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of two lemons
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons hot paprika
2 teaspoons ground toasted cumin seeds
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 preserved lemon, rind only, diced (click here for recipe to make your own Moroccan Spiced Preserved Lemons, or use purchased)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (about 1/4 of a bunch)
6 cups homemade cooked cannellini beans

In a heated, dry skillet, toast the nigella seeds, shaking constantly until their aroma is released. Remove from the heat and cool.

Using a hand-held or standard blender, blend the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and garlic. When smooth and creamy, blend in the sweet and hot paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.

Scrape off and discard the pulp and white pith from the preserved lemon; finely dice the rind. Pour the dressing over the beans and toss with most of the nigella seeds, most of the cilantro and most of the diced lemon. Serve the salad garnished with the remaining nigella seeds, cilantro and lemon.

Makes 8 servings.

From “Beans” by Aliza Green

 

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