One of the reliable “best” events at Culinaria was Friday’s Best of Mexico, an indoor-outdoor festival of flavor from some of San Antonio’s most savvy chefs and cooks and a few from Mexico at La Villita. As it has been for the rest of the festival so far, the weather was one of the most welcome guests of all, clear and breezy, and turning cool as the sun set on the outdoor patio.
As its name suggests, the fare was concentrated on regional Mexican specialties — ceviches and shredded pork topped with a spicy green pipian, a homey tortilla soup with a sturdy chicken broth and plenty of cilantro, barbacoa tacos and shrimp tacos, a citrus-y dish of beef salpicon, and citrus-marinated pork belly as well as horchata cake for a sweet finish. The fresh garnishes, a must-have when it comes to this style of casual Mexican food, were part of the glory of the dishes, offering the crunch of cabbage, sliced radishes, lime wedges, and handmade salsas.
While a stage band offered a lively mix of tunes, from salsa to U2, sips of wine, including Mexican wine, sips of tequila or vodka, margaritas, Mexican beer and even iced-down water quenched the thirst some of the spicier dishes offered.
A few restaurants offered cooking demonstrations by preparing their food on site. These included Jeff Balfour and his team from Citrus in the Hotel Valencia, which had a huge pan of paella cooking while they handed out samples, and Teka Molina, which fried their dough so it was crispy and hot when stuffed with guacamole.
Chef Gabriel Villavicencio of Presidente Intercontinental Ixtapa offered a seafood cocktail loaded with octopus, shrimp, scallops, abalone and more.
Jaime Gonzales, sous chef at Las Canarias at La Mansion del Rio, took over for executive chef John Brand in organizing and preparing the food for the evening. A dish of his was a favorite of ours — a warm patty of tender, shredded pork, topped with a green, pipian (pumpkin seed) sauce that was warmly spicy. Fresh garnishes included crunchy jicama, radishes and cilantro sprouts.
Some of the other participating restaurants and food providers included Ostra, Paloma Blanca, Los Barrios and La Hacienda de los Barrios, chef Jesse Perez, Urban Taco, Ocho, Mariscos el Bucanero, the San Antonio Food Bank, True Flavors Catering, and Flour Power Cafe.
Only those with tickets could enter. So, a pair of ducks took up a station near the exit, begging for treats from anyone leaving the party.
Culinaria continues with a day full of activities on Saturday, including the Grand Tasting under the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Click here for a schedule of events.