Archive | February 5th, 2012

Boerne Wine Company Offers a Sparkling Tasting

Boerne Wine Company Offers a Sparkling Tasting

The Boerne Wine Company is hosting a Champagne tasting.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day: The Boerne Wine Company, 302 S. Main St., Boerne, is offering a special 14 percent discount on any Champagne or sparkling wine bottle purchase in the shop Feb. 7-14.

The wine bar will also be offering a special Champagne tasting on Feb. 7 featuring the House of Moët & Chandon, Clicquot, Ruinart and Tattinger. This tasting is limited to the first 30 responders, and is priced at $40 a person.

For reservations or more information, call 830-331-9424.


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Bliss Opens Thursday in Southtown

Bliss Opens Thursday in Southtown

Bliss, at 926 S. Presa St., will open Thursday for dinner.

Mark Bliss might be one of the most positive people we know, not to mention one of the best — and most beloved — chefs San Antonio has followed for decades. When we heard that he was returning here from Nevada, where he’s been operating a catering business, to open a restaurant on South Presa Street, it was very good news.

Main dining room in Bliss a blend of new and old.

But was he really opening his restaurant, Bliss, at the site of an old filling station? That’s a San Antonio tradition. Once upon a time, ice houses moved into these vacated properties, then barbecue joints or taquerias. So, why not a chic restaurant by a talented chef?

“Chic” might be a bit of an outdated word, so let’s just say that Bliss, arising from the ruins of an old service station, is simply a stunner.

The main building wasn’t large enough to be an entire restaurant, but it is still the heart of Bliss. It serves as the main dining room. An entryway has been built on, with a small wine bar to welcome guests. The original painted brick walls of the main room has been preserved and provides a colorful backdrop for dining tables. Each of these, with decorative inlaid-wood detail, is different. All are constructed of reclaimed longleaf pine from a 200-year-old cotton mill in Alabama; they glow with a golden sheen, the wood carefully coaxed back to life by woodworker John O’Brien.

“I figured, I could have a $20,000-a-year bill for cleaning table linens or I could spend more on the tables themselves and not cover them up,” said Bliss.

Architect Candid Rogers’ design incorporates stainless steel both inside and outside the building.

In the kitchen, it’s a chef’s dream come true. “I never thought I’d get to have stainless steel walls in a kitchen,” said Bliss, pointing out the gleaming expanses of metal. These walls, plus the white subway tile that surround the alcove where the chef’s table adjoins the kitchen, are touches that make the kitchen, that Bliss himself designed, easy to clean.

Lisa and Mark Bliss, proprietors of the new restaurant on South Presa Street.

While Bliss and his wife, Lisa, are the sole owners and partners in Bliss, the landlord, Jack Lewis and his business, Mission Restaurant Supply, will have a role in the restaurant’s daily schedule.  While Bliss will be open for dinner, by day it will be a test kitchen for Mission’s customers. The kitchen is equipped with top-of-the-line stoves, refrigerated drawers, a salamander, a plancha (flat-top grill) and a deep well-burner for sauces.

In addition to the dining room and kitchen, there is an area that will be devoted to charcuterie, a wine room that doubles as a private party area or overflow room. A paved patio with a firepit, surrounded by landscaped beds will have more tables, while an herb garden on the south side of the property is already home to a half-dozen deep-green rosemary plants.

A panel of etched glass looks into the chef’s table area. The etching designs are originals from local businessman and artist Harold Wood, a personal friend of the Blisses. His original artwork will adorn the walls of the restaurant.

Though Mark Bliss first came to San Antonio from his native California, he is something of a native son to this city. He worked with Bruce Auden at Polo’s, then the restaurant at the Fairmount Hotel, and after that at Auden’s first Restaurant Biga, on Locust Street. He went on to open Silo on Austin Highway in the 1990s and had a stint as chef at the Tower of the Americas restaurant before moving into the catering business.

Etched glass panel at Bliss, looking into the kitchen and chef's table.

The cuisine at Bliss will be some of the Southwest-influenced fare the chef is known for, plus plenty of fresh ideas. We liked his description of buttery lobster tucked into soft potato rolls, served with celeriac (celery root) salad, as well the promise of a robust charcuterie offering.

“I keep doing this,” Bliss said, pinching his cheek, as though to assure himself it was all real. “This is where I’ll stay.”

 Bliss, at 926 S. Presa St., will open Thursday for dinner. Make reservations at  210-225-2547.  Or visit the website



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San Antonio’s Dining Scene Is Getting Tastier

San Antonio’s Dining Scene Is Getting Tastier

A view of the wine bar at Bliss, which opens Thursday.

Expect some savory new sensations in the near future, as San Antonio’s dining scene greets to two high-profile new restaurants on opposite ends of town.

Stephan Pyles is opening Sustenio on La Cantera Parkway.

On the northwest side, near Fiesta Texas, celebrity chef Stephan Pyles has opened Sustenio at the new Éilan Hotel Resort & Spa. Meanwhile, local favorite Mark Bliss, formerly of Silo, is putting the finishing touches on his new restaurant, Bliss, which is in Southtown.

Mark Bliss

At Sustenio, you can expect to find upscale Texas-style comfort food, ranging from crisp pork belly with vanilla-scented grits to Texas venison lion with yucca-huitlacoche hash.

At Bliss, the emphasis is on the chef’s selection of the finest and freshest ingredients, which he plans to present in simple yet artful layerings that show off the depth of flavors of each. Seasonal changes will apply, but expect dishes such as a lobster roll, duck and

For views of both restaurants, click on the stories below:


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Stephan Pyles Brings His Brand of Southwestern Cuisine to San Antonio

Stephan Pyles Brings His Brand of Southwestern Cuisine to San Antonio

Stephan Pyles

Stephan Pyles is known as one of the progenitors of the Southwestern cuisine movement, which introduced all corners of the nation to a host of beloved dishes, including the cowboy rib-eye and a variation on the caesar salad that includes a welcome kick of chili powder and a jalapeño polenta crouton. Together with Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks, Dean Fearing and Robert Del Grande, he made sure people came to love a new balance in their food, through the lively addition of heat and other regional ingredients, thereby broadening their palates.

Now, he’s bringing those flavors to San Antonio in Sustenio, a new restaurant that anchors the Éilan Hotel and development off I-10, near Fiesta Texas.

Sustenio isn’t about blazing new culinary trails in a city known for its Tex-Mex and Texas cuisine, Pyles insists.

“I would never say that I was bringing (Tex-Mex) to San Antonio,” he says. “Here you have a wonderfully rich Hispanic culture. I think, at Sustenio, the food I’ll be doing will have some unexpected twists, but it will be food San Antonio is comfortable with.”

That includes a parade of his greatest hits, including tamale tart with Gulf Coast crab and that Southwestern Caesar.

Diners will also get to sample various styles of ceviches from the raw bar that’s part of the restaurant’s big open kitchen.

Passion fruit margaritas at Sustenio

“I like to do ceviche with a lot of different flavors and colors, like a tasting tray of eight different ceviches that looks like a rainbow of color,” he says.

He starts each variation with sashimi-grade seafood. Then he takes a fish, such as Texas flounder, and pairs it with avocado and tomatillo for a soothing green color, while ahi tuna could be paired with chile and golden tomato for a sunburst yellow flecked with red and Ecuadorian rock shrimp are marinated with orange and popcorn.

Each is refreshing and welcome on a hot day, while sitting on the restaurant’s spacious patio or at the community table near the raw bar. Both  overlook the kitchen, with its brick oven, which is used for pizzas. The rest of the menu includes poblano-asiago soup with golden pepper foam, a tamal made with seared foie gras and corn pudding, coriander-cured rack of lamb with Ecuadorian potato cake, bacon-wrapped Devine wild boar loin and Texas beef tenderloin with modern chiles en nogada.

Meanwhile, there’s a colorful bar area where the staff will be creating a vast array of liquid favorites, including several of Pyles’ signature cocktails. One is the Piña Diablo, which mixes three types of rum, fresh pineapple, piloncillo, mint, serrano chile and vanilla; another is a passion fruit margarita with both sugar and a serrano pepper on the rim on the glass.

Pyles, known to many from his PBS series, “New Tastes from Texas,” was born in Big Spring, to the west of Dallas. He made his start in the restaurant business in the 1980s before opening Star Canyon in 1994. The restaurant put him on the nation’s culinary map and earned him accolades from many in the national media.

The wine tower at Sustenio

His focus these days has been on his eponymous restaurant in Dallas as well as Samar by Stephan Pyles. His food has also evolved, incorporating flavors from his global travels into its decidedly Texas base. Many of these dishes are, after all, taken from what he grew up and provide a level of comfort that can’t be beat.

Though he has a host of commitments from his other restaurants and his charity work, Pyles plans on spending every weekend in San Antonio at the beginning, then cutting back to every other weekend. The rest of the time, Sustenio will be under the operation of executive chef David Gilbert, who has been working at Pyles’ side for several years. Local favorite Philippe Placé is general manager.

When Pyles is not working, he’s often found working for charity, such as Share Our Strength and UNICEF, both of which were given generous checks raised at Saturday night’s grand opening. His efforts for these non-profits mean a great deal to him. That includes the annual awarding of the Stephan Pyles Scholarship, a $15,000 gift that is given to a top culinary school student. Mention the effort and his usually easy-going speech suddenly takes on a greater excitement at the thought of the number of chefs in the making he’s been able to help.

One of the big fundraisers benefiting the scholarship fund is a dinner in which the previous year’s winner joins a lineup of elite chefs, including San Antonio’s Jason Dady, to prepare a multi-course dinner. Last year’s winner was a student at the San Antonio campus of the Culinary Institute of America.

A chef at Sustenio makes shrimp ceviche.

In the meantime, Pyles’ attention is on launching Sustenio successfully. It’s been more demanding than creating a gorgeous restaurant, from the private dining room in the glassed-in wine cave to the tower of bottles that dominates one end of the dining area. Living up to the name has meant forging relationships with area farmers, ranchers and other food producers, so that the kitchen offers a high level of sustainable foods, from bison to honey.

The region has a greater wealth of foods to choose from when compared with Dallas, he says, which makes it especially attractive to food lovers, whether they chefs or merely eaters.

“I’m thrilled to be in San Antonio,” he says.

Sustenio at the Éilan Hotel, 17103 La Cantera Parkway is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For reservations, call (210) 598-2950.

Chefs work their food stations at the Sustenio grand opening.

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