Archive | August 22nd, 2011

Culinary Institute’s New Associate Degree Program Begins

Culinary Institute’s New Associate Degree Program Begins

The CIA today welcomes its first class of 24 students who begin studies toward their associate degrees in culinary arts at the college’s San Antonio campus. Until today, CIA San Antonio students would earn a certificate in culinary arts, then transfer to the college’s Hyde Park, NY campus to complete their degree.

The new associate degree in San Antonio is based on the same unmatched curriculum the college has been teaching at Hyde Park for decades. Designed to prepare students for a successful career in the dynamic food service and hospitality world, a CIA education provides graduates with a command of both classic and contemporary culinary methods and professional practices.

Luke San Antonio chef Steve McHugh a CIA grad.

San Antonio chefs Steve McHugh, Johnny Hernandez, Doug Horn, Michael Sohocki and Andrew Weissman all earned their associate degrees from the CIA.

Students beginning their studies today will earn their degrees in March 2013. Applications are now being accepted for the next class, which begins November 14, 2011. Prospective students are eligible for significant scholarships to enroll in the associate degree program at the CIA San Antonio.

After receiving their associate degrees, students from the San Antonio campus can earn their bachelor’s degrees after 17 more months of study in Hyde Park.

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Filet Mignon, Roast Chicken and More During Restaurant Week at Antlers Lodge

Filet Mignon, Roast Chicken and More During Restaurant Week at Antlers Lodge

The open kitchen at Antlers Lodge at the Hyatt Hill Country.

Our first venture into Restaurant Week got off to a rousing start Sunday evening with a trip to Antlers Lodge at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort.

We were seated close to the magnificent chandelier of antlers that dominates the air above the elegantly understated dining area. So, we could enjoy a view of it out of the corner of one eye, while also watching the staff work in the open kitchen that’s marked by a burnished array of gleaming copper cookware that we wanted to take home for our own kitchens. (If a pot’s missing, we didn’t take it. Honest.)

After drooling over chef Troy Knapp’s regular menu for a few moments — that bison tenderloin is calling me back for a return visit soon — we each found what we wanted on the special Culinaria Restaurant Week menu, which is a three-course prix fixe for $35 a person. The special offering runs through Saturday.

Two of us started with the Poblano Tomatillo Soup, a regular menu item that captured my attention because it promised roasted chicken, avocado and cilantro in addition. It was spicy and tangy, with just the right touch of creaminess to blend all of the rich flavors together, before ending with a pleasant chile burn on the finish. I had ordered a glass of the Gruet Brut Rosé, and the bracing acidity of the wine cleansed the palate, making me want to spoon more and more soup.

Organic, free-range chicken with a touch of rosemary.

The third person in my party ordered the traditional Caesar, which a winning combination of crisp romaine, salty Parmesan as well as the salty, mouth filling richness of anchovy in it. It was fresh and a welcoming respite from the summer heat; yet despite the high temperatures, I still could have eaten a gallon of that soup.

Each of us was more than happy with our respective entrée choices. Moist, briny Gulf red fish was presented with a lively spice blend on the crust, while a petite prime filet mignon arrived with spicy poblano butter on it. The beef was velvety, tender and a perfect sponge for the butter. Half of an organic, free-range chicken had been roasted in rosemary-tinged butter, which left the meat perfectly moist. The skin was delicate with a few choice crispy parts, while the meat practically fell off the bone without it having been overcooked. (The chicken and red fish are also on the regular menu in addition to several steak selections.)

On the side of each were smoked Cheddar mashed potatoes, with an emphasis on the appealing smoke flavor that perfumed the potato, and fresh spears of asparagus that had been prepared to the point of being soft but without losing some crunch when you bit into them.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Roasted Strawberries

The breads were definitely not an after-thought, as you’ll find true in too many other restaurants. Pastry chef Lou Venditti’s choices included jalapeño corn biscuits and black pepper-cumin lavosh, and both disappeared quickly, though we were glad the kitchen brought us some regular butter to replace the sweet pecan butter they were served with. (Those of us who don’t want sweet except at dessert are becoming more of a minority every day, I know. And I also realize we are probably the first table to make such a request this year, if not longer.)

Dessert was a sweet, as it should be. It was buttermilk panna cotta, dense and delicious, with a roasted strawberry syrup on top. The roasted berries provided the one controversy of the evening. One friend didn’t care for the carbon flavor that the charred exterior of the berries provided. The other two didn’t mind the texture or flavor it contributed. We all agreed, however, that the almond cookies on the side, loaded with almond extract or marzipan or what have you to give it extra almond flavor, were spectacular. Light and airy, they provided a great contrast to the creaminess of the panna cotta while complementing the richness of the dish.

Here’s hoping the rest of our Restaurant Week adventures are as satisfying as this one was.

Antlers Lodge
Hyatt Hill Country Resort
9800 Hyatt Resort Drive

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Dear Bon Blue Bell Ice Cream a ‘Cult’ Favorite?

Dear Bon Blue Bell Ice Cream a ‘Cult’ Favorite?

Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean Ice Cream beat out a panel of contenders at a Bon taste test. The results were published Sunday on Yahoo’s home page and Blue Bell was described as a “cult” favorite. Bon mentioned where it was distributed, but not that it originated in Texas, in Brenham, where it has been produced for more than a century. We thought we’d point that out.


Dear Bon editors, Julia Bainbridge and Supermarket Standoff participants:

I write to you with some amusement and just a bit of chiding.

In a recent article entitled Supermarket Standoff, you sampled 10 vanilla ice creams.Your taste test winner (and in fact No. 3 in relative healthfulness) was Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

We applaud the results. But, here’s a fact that you left out:  Blue Bell Ice Cream originated, and still is made, in Texas. (Only in the 1990s did the company open additional production facilities in Broken Arrow, Okla., and Sylacauga, Ala.)

It has been a favorite here in its home state for more than 100 years. It is still produced in its original location in Brenham, a little town northwest of Houston. It is delicious (as you discovered), and it is sold in grocery stores all over the state at a reasonable price and in plenty of flavors.

How would this make it a “cult” ice cream?

This is not homerism. I believe you’ve misused the word. You do mention, in fact, that it is available in some 20 states. To me, “cult” is a word I’d use for a product that was not readily available to the general public — perhaps it is hard to find, or it is hard to afford. I think of the term “cult” wines and my first thought is that I probably can’t get them in my favorite wine shop, and if I could, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford them.

I also wonder about your sentence: “We included it because it is such a cult favorite …” Why the dismissive (or even grudging) note here? Did you, perhaps, use the word “cult” because it was preferable to using the word “Texas”?

Blue Bell has a venerable history. The ice creamery was established by a cooperative of farmers to make good use of their excess milk and cream back in the early 1900s. It has long been the everyday, go-to ice cream for Texas ice cream lovers and families. Oh, and probably lots of families in those 19 other states you mention.

When I moved to Texas from Arizona years ago, I would joke to my husband that Blue Bell Ice Cream and ZZ Top were the main reasons I moved here. (Actually, I moved here to marry him.)  Not only was the flavor and texture of Blue Bell excellent, I loved the fact that they rotated flavors by season. For instance, when summertime comes, they take advantage of the bounteous crop of peaches grown in the Texas Hill Country and elsewhere to make one of their rotational ice creams.

Texas (as did other agriculturally rich,  food-producing states) actually had that “seasonal, local” thing going many years ago — maybe even before it was recognized as a hip restaurant concept “originating” in that politically correct state, California.

I am really glad that you did choose Blue Bell to test, and that your taste test discovered what we’ve known for years. You might even want to send a writer out to Brenham — it’s a great topic for an article.


Bonnie Walker,

Editor, SavorSA


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