Archive | December, 2012

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Happy New Year, Everyone!


Happy New Year!

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Have a Happy, Productive New Year. SavorSA Wishes You the Best!

Have a Happy, Productive New Year. SavorSA Wishes You the Best!

Looking over the year as it makes its way out can be surprising — not so much at the ways in which one failed, but at the successes.

As we review our year at SavorSA, we thank the many friends who contributed in such positive ways,  whether it was by submitting freelance articles and columns, story ideas, news or events, informing SavorSA about, and inviting us to culinary happenings around the city — and just by staying in touch.

We thank those who have advertised, as well as those who have commented on our website and posts, whether positively or critically. Your words are never taken lightly.

We count among our successes the “Food Lovers’ Guide to San Antonio,” which we started late in 2011. It was published this fall and is now selling well. The fact that our publishers had to cut some of the text we so enthusiastically submitted meant that not every restaurant we reviewed and included in the manuscript made it into the final edition. In fact, a chapter we submitted that included the city’s wine and spirits stores and other wine-related material had to be cut almost entirely. We’ll be looking forward to remedying this in a possible second edition.

Readers, you are our ultimate success. We appreciate those who take the time to read, write, suggest and inform. To you, we also wish a new year full of health, happiness and promise!

Finally, we appreciate the accomplishments of so many in the city’s growing culinary scene. We congratulate and support you in your successes, and wish you a very happy, safe and successful new year. (To read a round-up of culinary milestones in 2012, by John Griffin, click here.)

John Griffin, Bonnie Walker



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Cowgirl Chef: Mom’s Black-eyed Peas

Cowgirl Chef: Mom’s Black-eyed Peas

Ellise Pierce, author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent,” offers her mother’s black-eyed pea recipe, which she recreated during her sojourn as a writer, then cooking teacher, then cookbook writer in Paris. Pierce relates that she can’t remember where she purchased her first sack of black-eyed peas in her adopted home. “It was either at one of the North African stores in Belleville, or at the Filipino grocer in my neighborhood — and when I found them in a hefty, 1-kilo bag, it was like I’d just found a piece of home.”

If the South, here in the USA is your home, or likely even if it’s not, black-eyed peas are a delicious staple on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. If you have the Cowgirl Chef’s recipe for Jalapeno Cornbread, it just gets better.

Happy New Year!

Mom’s Black-eyed Peas

Olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
1/2 of a green bell pepper, diced
About 8 ounces ham, preferably smoked ham but use whatever ham you like, cut into fat pieces
1 pound dried black-eyed peas soaked for 8 hours or overnight
About 6 cups water
A big pinch of cayenne pepper
A few drops of Tabasco sauce
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of a deep, large stockpot, add the onions and garlic and turn the heat to medium. Cook until the onions become translucent , just a few minutes. Add the red and green bell pepper and let this cook for a minute or two. Toss in the ham, drained black-eyed peas, water, cayenne and Tabasco. I also add a pinch of black pepper at this point, but not the salt. I add salt later. Let this come to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2 hours or until the  peas have that nice, perfect “bite” — a pop of the skin with soft insides.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From “Cowgirl Chef: Cooking with a Texas Accent” by Ellise Pierce

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Cowgirl Chef: Jalapeño Cornbread

Cowgirl Chef: Jalapeño Cornbread

A simple Southern meal, says cookbook author Ellise Pierce, is black-eyed peas with ham — and cornbread. In Texas, we add jalapeños. It’s just the way we do things. This bread is crusty on the outside, tender inside, and you can add just as much — or little — chopped jalapeño as you like.

Jalapeño Cornbread

4 tablespoons bacon grease or butter
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup canned corn, drained
3-4 pickled jalapeños, chopped, or to taste
2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. When it is hot put the bacon grease or butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and slide it into the oven. If you are using a baking dish, spread a tablespoonful of the butter or bacon grease around in the dish and set aside while you mix the batter.

Mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add milk and eggs and stir this all up. Fold in everything else — onion, garlic, corn, chopped jalapeños and grated cheese. If you’re using the skillet, pull it out of the oven, pour the grease or butter into the corn bread mixture and quickly mix it up. Then pour the mixture into the skillet. This is how you get that nice, crispy brown crust. Pop this back into the oven tor 40-45 minutes. It’s done when the cornbread is brown and top feels nice and firm.

If you are using a baking dish, melt the bacon grease or butter and put it in the cornbread mixture. Then, pour the batter into the baking dish and put in the oven, proceeding as above.When done and cooled for a few minutes, cut into wedges if you are using the skillet, or into squares if using a square baking pan.

Makes 1 (10-inch) skillet of cornbread.

Adapted from “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent” by Ellise Pierce

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2012 Was a Year of Eating Well

2012 Was a Year of Eating Well

The Pearl has become a food lover’s center for festivals as well as restaurants.

Bliss is aptly named.

As we approach the end of 2012, it’s time to look back on the many great flavors that we sampled. The list is lengthy, thanks to a decided upturn in culinary offerings across the city, both on the dining scene and for the food lover in general.

One of the biggest food stories of the year was the continued growth of the Pearl Brewery, which saw the opening of three praise-worthy eateries and a trendy bar. It also was the location of an increasing number of food festivals, meaning thousands from all over the city were showing up on a regular basis for cooking demonstrations at the Saturday farmers market, for paella, burgers and barbecue or tamales, and for the restaurants, all in the quest of good food.

A glimpse into the kitchen at the Granary.

The list of new restaurants includes the Granary ‘Cue and Brew, which restored beer making to the premises. Artisan barbecue, fine brews and an irresistible condiment known as ‘cue butter all made this a welcome addition. The Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden delivers on the belief that quality grilled meat is prerequisite in the Lone Star State, and the massive setting, covering two stories, is epic enough to complement chef James Moore’s ranch-style fare.

The most intriguing addition, though, is NAO, the Culinary Institute of America’s full-service restaurant, which has provided San Antonio with its broadest and most authentic taste of South and Central American cuisines to date. These exciting flavors, from seafood stews and roasted meats to an inviting cocktail program, have somehow not been able to secure a foothold before in a city that values its Tex-Mex above all; yet in just a few months, NAO has developed a local following, and its client base should grow as word continues to get out to the rest of the country that the school has a campus and a destination restaurant here. When the visiting chef series returns, with culinary stars from countries as diverse as Brazil, Peru and Argentina, you’d be wise to make your reservations as soon as possible.

The CIA’s flagship restaurant in San Antonio.

NAO is also built on the concept of small plates, which has also not been widely popular in San Antonio. Yet Bite in the Southtown area and a revitalized Nosh on Austin Highway are joining in the effort to break that mold.

Southtown continued to attract diners from across the city, as Mark Bliss returned with a new restaurant, the aptly named Bliss. The warmth of the place, the impressive setting and the comfort of the food, especially when enjoyed at the chef’s table in the kitchen, all help place it among the city’s best.

Johnny Hernandez opened two distinct venues in the Southtown area, if not Southtown proper. They include the Frutería at the Steel House Lofts, where you can get everything from market-fresh fruit for breakfast to an impressive array of, you got it, small plates for dinner, and Casa Hernán, an airy catering facility and brunch spot in his own home.

Another welcome addition to the Southtown scene was the Alamo Street Eat Bar, a food truck park that featured crazy good burgers from Cullum’s Attaboy, the Peacemaker combination of pork belly and fried oysters from Where Y’At and the DUK Truck’s duck confit tacos. Add Zum Sushi, The Institute of Chili, Wheelie Gourmet and a few other visitors, as well as a great beer lineup, and you’ve got some wonderful fresh treats. And what do food trucks provide but small plates, albeit from different plates, giving you the feel of being on a tapas trail?

An “Eat Street” crew films at the Point Park & Eats.

Another food truck park that opened up north in Leon Springs was the Point Park & Eat, which also offers a great beer selection and a wide array of foods from a lineup that has changed in the months that it’s been open. The culinary confections come from trucks such as Skinny Cat, Gourmet on the Fly, Blazin’ Burgers and Say-She-Ate.

Television continued to discover may of these culinary gems. Say-She-Ate was one of four food trucks filmed for the TV series, “Eat Street.” The others include Rickshaw Stop, Tapa Tapa and Society Bakery. Meanwhile, PBS celebrity chef Ming Tsai came to town to film segments of “Simply Ming” with Diana Barrios Treviño from Los Barrios, Elizabeth Johnson of the CIA, John Besh of Lüke (visiting from New Orleans) and Johnny Hernandez at La Gloria.

Sustenio, with Stephan Pyles’ blessing and David Gilbert’s gifts, made people realize the Eilan Hotel Resort and Spa off I-10 was not just a pretty façade. Its menu, with much of the dishes derived from local meats and produce, features an exciting array of ceviches that captured the freshness of the sea and a number of dishes using South Texas Heritage Pork products.

The $13 Burger at Knife & Fork.

The gastropub movement continued with the opening of Knife & Fork in the Stone Oak area. An outgrowth of the Bistro Six food truck, it offered a $13 Burger worth every cent, an extensive cocktail program and a laid-back atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the bistronomy craze — a hybrid of “bistro” and “gastronomy” — could be found in Laurent’s Modern Cuisine on McCullough Avenue. Next door to the still-vibrant and dependable Bistro Vatel, it proved that a segment of San Antonio does love its French food.

For those who enjoy a meal every now and then at home, the number of gourmet groceries grew, thanks to the addition of Trader Joe’s in the Quarry Extension and a second Whole Foods on Blanco Road, north of Loop 1604. The food warehouse Gaucho Gourmet expanded its hours to the public to six days a week, while Groomer’s Seafood reeled in even more seafood lovers, especially when lobsters hit a mouthwatering low of $5.95 apiece.

Classic cocktails have made a comeback.

San Antonio lifted it spirits high during the year. Distilled spirits, that is. Mixed drinks, both shaken and stirred, got a huge boost from the first annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference. But it didn’t stop there. The Blue Box in the Pearl and the downtown Brooklynite joined the likes of Bar 1919 in the Blue Star Complex and the bar at NAO as havens for hand-crafted classic cocktails. A rye sour shaken with traditional egg white, a real martini made with gin and a pisco sour bright with freshly squeezed citrus were all incentives that made exploring these nightspots fun.

Expect beer’s popularity to soar in the new year. Beyond the excellent brews at the Granary, we await Alamo Beer’s ambitious plans for a downtown complex that will feature a restaurant as well as a brewing facility as well as the launch of Branchline Brewery.

What else can we expect? The Pearl will continue to expand with the openings of Jesse Perez’s Arcade Midtown Kitchen and an as-yet-unnamed venture from Steven McHugh as well as the move of Green Vegetarian Cuisine, all of which will add to the draw of the campus. Culinaria has announced plans for a community garden center offering food and agricultural education for the city. Andrew Weissman is taking over the former Liberty Bar site on Josephine Street.

With these strides forward on so many fronts, the city’s culinary scene should continue to offer some enticing new flavors for anyone with a healthy appetite.

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Winery Hosts Two Black-eyed Pea Contests for Cooks and Eaters

Winery Hosts Two Black-eyed Pea Contests for Cooks and Eaters

William Chris Vineyards in Hye will be throwing a New Year’s Day party next Tuesday, featuring two events, one for cooks and the other for the competitive speed-eater.

Which do you do best? This is your chance to find out, have fun and win prizes — and you can also be a judge!

The party begins late morning, as competitors check in to William Chris Vineyards in Hye. If you’re not competing, you are welcome to join in the festivities, too, of course.

The Cooking Contest:  The Great Hye Black-eyed Pea Cook-off

Black-eyed Peas stand as the New Year’s party theme at William Chris Vineyards in Hye.

  • $313 grand prize, a trophy, and bragging rights all year to the winning entry.  Prizes for places 2-4, and a prize for “worst peas,” too.
  • Anyone can enter — no limit to the number of contestants. $25 per entry
  • Make sure you cook enough for 200 judges to taste.
  • Cooks:  Check in and set up between 11 a.m. and noon.
  • The winery supplies the electricity; you bring whatever is needed to cook, heat, and serve.
  • Download the official rules at this link
  • You can be a judge: 200 judging badges are available, first come, first served:
    • Hye Society Wine Club Member: $13 for judges badge (limit 5 badges)
    • Non-Members:  $20 for the judges badge
    • Judges receive custom bibs, an all-access pass, taste all entries, and can cast 3 votes for their favorites.
    • Judging opens at 1:13 p.m. and ends at 2:13 p.m.  Cooks check in at noon.
    • To register for the Cooking Contest, click here.

Eating Contest:  The Fastest Black-eyed Pea Eater in Texas

  • The winner gets a trophy, a bottle of William Chris Vineyards wine, $25, and bragging rights! All contestants are VIP judges for the cook-off too.
  • 13 contestants in a speed-eating, chow-down showdown on New Years Day,
  • $20.13 per entry.  First 13 entries accepted, first come, first served.
  •  Two minutes to eat as many black-eyed peas as you can, using either a small plastic spoon or a huge soup ladle.
  • Contestants check in between 11 a.m. and noon.  Contest begins at 12:30 p.m. and ends at 12:32 p.m.
  • To register for the Eating Contest, email

And there’s more:

Jason Stout returns with Wood Fired Pizza Truck in the Oak Grove.
Live music is from 1-4 p.m. from vocalist Jim Thomas. All tasting rooms are open for this special New Years Day celebration. Reach the winery tasting room at (830) 998-7654, or email


Winery Notes:

Open: Mon-Wed 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Thurs-Sat 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Sun 12 pm-5 pm and by appointment.
10352 U.S. 290
Hye, TX 78635 (830) 998-7654





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Best Burritos in America? Habanero’s Grill Makes the List

Best Burritos in America? Habanero’s Grill Makes the List

San Antonio can now call itself home to one of the 10 best burritos in the country. Habanero’s Grill has been named by USA Today as one of America’s favorites.

Click here for the complete story: America’s Best Burritos

Here’s what the newspaper had to say:

“6. Habanero’s Grill, San Antonio

“Skip the other burrito joints in San Antonio and make your way here for a real treat. You can make the tough decision yourself and build your own burrito from the ground up or leave yourself in the hands of the chef and choose from one of six burrito favorites with names like “Cheezy Beef” (white queso, cheddar and jack cheeses) and “Gringo-Rito” (featuring a ranch-like proprietary dressing).”

According to the restaurants’ parent company, “Habanero’s Grill made this elite list by making all of its ingredients from scratch. Homemade tortillas (wheat, flour, spinach or chipotle), different handcrafted salsas everyday, and only the freshest ingredients make up these award-winning burritos. In-house tortilla chips and roasted poblano queso are the perfect addition. San Antonians have enjoyed this hometown favorite since 1996.”

In addition to stuffed and rolled burritos, Habanero’s has loaded nachos, salads, tacos and quesadillas.

Since the article appeared, the response has been positive, owner Steve Kraft says. “We’ve been getting a few people a day that have never been in that say they read the article,” he says.

There are currently two Habanero’s Grill locations, 13444 West Avenue in the Embassy Oaks Shopping Center and 17711 I-10 West in The Rim Shopping Center.


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Green Chile Egg Puff Makes Great Holiday Breakfast

Green Chile Egg Puff Makes Great Holiday Breakfast

Last year I spent Christmas in Flagstaff, Ariz., and this dish was prepared for us at breakfast on Christmas Day by my sister-in-law, Kelly Walker, and her mom, Rhonda Anderson. It was so good most of us went back for seconds, even thirds. The recipe had been in the Anderson family for years, originally taken from Sunset magazine in the ’70s or ’80s.

Green Chile Egg Puff
10 eggs
1 pint small-curd cottage cheese
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2  (4-ounce cans) diced green chiles
Butter or Pam for baking dish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat eggs until light and lemony.

Mix cottage cheese, baking powder, flour and salt into the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add Jack cheese, whisk until smooth, then add green chiles.

Pour egg mixture into a well-buttered 9-by-13-inch pan and bake for about 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Last-Minute Food Gift Ideas for All Budgets

Last-Minute Food Gift Ideas for All Budgets

Bacon Candy Canes. Now that’s festive.

If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for a foodie on your list, here are a few suggestions of items from local businesses:

  • Finishing oils, pressed from a variety of sources, such as celery, nutmeg, carrot and even radish, can be found at Ali Baba International Food Market, 9307 Wurzbach Road. You’ll find then on an end-cap in the expanding market.
  • Spices from the East from either Himalayan Bazaar, 8466 Fredericksburg Road, or Mustapha Asian and Middle Eastern Grocery, 4081 Medical Drive, are also great for experimenting with a world of flavors.
  • Vinegar may seem an odd gift, until you check out the sweet, tangy vinegars at GauchoGourmet, 935 Isom Road, which come in a variety of shapes, sizes, ages and styles. Go for an aged balsamic from Italy or a spicy pecan vinegar from California. You’ll find plenty of other food favorites in both stocking stuffer sizes and jumbo jars.
  • Bacon Candy Canes — but, of course — are available at Leighelena at the Pearl, 202 Pearl Parkway. A six-pack is priced at $7. The neighboring Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocino has begun selling wine and cigars.
  • For the cocktail lover on your list, tickets to any or all of the events during the upcoming San Antonio Cocktail Conference would be just the ticket. The second annual event is set for Jan. 17-20 and features everything from an opening party at the Majestic Theater with drinks and live music from Grammy winner Arturo Sandoval to seminars on tequila, Texas spirits and making cocktails at home. Click here for more information.
  • Shake up some fun at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.

    Don’t forget your favorite three-letter grocery store. H-E-B has introduced its new Primo Picks products line, with treats such as Café Ole Holiday Blend coffee, Central Market Olive Oil Popcorn and Central Market Salted Truffle Brownie Mix. The items are specially marked Primo Picks on the shelves. Or ask for help.

  • The farmers markets this weekend are great places to find everything from specialized produce to South Texas Heritage Pork products. Two of the bigger markets are the Pearl Farmers Market, Saturday morning at the Pearl Brewery, and the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market, 255 E. Basse Road, on  Sunday.
  • Many of your favorite restaurants are offering gift cards. A few are even offering discounts. Luce Ristorante e Enoteca, 11255 Huebner Road, for example, is offering two $50 cards for a total of $79.99.
  • Camp Brisket is a two-day intensive for barbecue lovers that’s being sponsored by Foodways Texas. It’s set for Jan. 11-12. As the website for the event says, “Camp Brisket will specifically focus on that quintessential Texas smoked meat, the humble brisket, covering topics such as the debate over which grades/types of beef to use, types of smokers, wrapping or not wrapping the brisket, and much more.” For more information, including prices, click here.
  • The Culinary Institute of America’s Boot Camps run anywhere from two to five days and cover such topics as Comfort Foods, American Regional Cuisine, Hors d’Oeuvres and Hearth Breads. They are intensive programs for serious home cooks, or “enthusiasts,” as the CIA likes to call them. For more information, click here. The local classes are marked (TX).


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Sour Cream Coffee Cake a Great Addition to Breakfast

Sour Cream Coffee Cake a Great Addition to Breakfast

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

This is a great cake for a Christmas breakfast — or any time you need to want something ahead. That’s because the addition of sour cream makes the body of the cake so moist that it’ll keep for days.

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot to it, which is a hallmark of my mother’s better recipes. That means it’s fairly simple to make, and yet the way the topping and cake complement each other is rewarding.

I didn’t have enough pecans on hand, so I used crushed slivered almonds and added a slash of almond extract to the cake and it worked fine. But read the instructions closely. I didn’t put anything down under my cake rack and a decent amount of the topping crumbled off. Also, you’ll want to get this on a serving plate as quickly as possible so the somewhat fragile top doesn’t crack.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

2 cups cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) margarine or butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup crushed pecans
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3 teaspoons brown sugar

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line tube pan.

Mix flour and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla.

To make topping, mix pecans, cinnamon and brown sugar.

Put half of dough in tube pan. Then add just a little less than one-half of the topping. Spoon in the rest of the dough and top with the remaining topping.

Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick inserted past topping and into cake comes out clean.

Let cake rest 10 minutes before turning onto cake rack over waxed paper or something easy to clean up, because some of the topping will shake loose. Immediately remove wax paper and turn onto serving plate.

Makes 1 cake.

From Annaliese Griffin

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