It’s a fairly simple recipe. Culinaria’s annual Chefs and Cellars brings together a few of the city’s best chefs with some finely aged wines from private cellars. Nothing complicated, right? Yet the end result is a gustatory delight that always gains an alchemical element that comes from the camaraderie that occurs whenever people share common — or in this case, uncommon and exceptional — food and wine.
Sunday night’s dinner, held in the kitchens at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, featured five teams going all out to create a memorable evening, which may explain why the event was sold out months in advance.
Chef Jason Dady and his crew presented an evening of tapas inspired by a recent visit to Spain and elBulli. Among the more than two dozen small plates he offered were salt-roasted prawns, boquerones, pan tomate, bone marrow tartare, corn pudding on a lime wedge, foie gras-eel croissant and garbanzo bean stew with lobster. Wine merchant Woody de Luna offered a series of Spanish wines including a 1978 Gran Reserva CUNE Viña Real and 2009 Raventos i Blanc de Nit Rose Cava.
John Brand from Las Canarias and Ostra paired several types of sashimi-style seafood (Kampachi, Uni and Yuzu Kosho) and smoked roe with at 2001 Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir Jean Paul Droin from Scott Duncan’s collection. He playfully presented a Monterey Bay sardine inside a decorative tin while Oregon sturgeon and American caviar were served in a salt cod box. Red deer striploin and foie gras with maitake mushrooms were paired with 1996 Chateau Cantemerle Haut-Medoc Bordeaux.
Lobster al Pastor was the starting dish from chef Johnny Hernandez, who followed it up with a chile relleno with cochinita pibil, a beef short rib with mole, and a grilled New York strip with plantain tamarind demi and a huitlacoche tlacoyo.
Chefs Jesse T. Perez and James Moore were partnered to showcase two talents who are opening restaurants in the Pearl Brewery this fall. Perez showed off plans for Arcade Midtown Kitchen, which specializes in American fare, while Moore, known for his work at Max’s Wine Dive, will be in charge of the Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden. Among the dishes they served were a fresh lobster soft taco with sweet potato, shrimp and grits, Heritage pork belly with Granny Smith compote, red beet sorbetto, and smoked lamb chop and mushroom. Phil Seelig and Hien Nguyen offered the wines, including Pol Roger Brut Rosé 2002, two vintages of Sassicaia and 1975 Croft Port.
New to the event this year was the team from the CIA’s NAO under the direction of chef Geronimo Lopez. New World flavors and cocktails included honey-sous vide sweetbreads, pan-seared squab, cherry-smoked xuxu salad and wood-roasted wild boar chop. The pair of cocktails included La Entrada, made with cachaça, maraschino and Crème Yvette, and Interludio, a mix of grapefruit, Aperol, Campari and Pisco. Richard and Bunny Becker offered the wines to go with the meal.
It didn’t take much time before the guests started comparing plates and even sharing a few bites or sips — and the real reason this evening is a success each year became readily apparent.
For more information on upcoming Culinaria events, click on the ad at the top of the page. The next event is Feastivàl on Oct. 7.