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Griffin to Go: A Saturday Filled with Savory Aromas, Flavors

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Tellez Tamales serves a hot tamal at the Pearl Brewery.

What’s better than one food-filled event? A day with three, of course.

A paella gift basket at GauchoGourmet.

Such was the case Saturday.

It began in the late morning with a trip to GauchoGourmet, 935 Isom Road, where Bonnie Walker and I were signing copies of “Food Lovers’ Guide to San Antonio” (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95) while managing to get in a little Christmas shopping at the same time.

The gourmet warehouse is a fun place to find everything from stocking stuffers to full-scale gifts, and the Ciorciari family will gladly package your items for you. They offer an assortment of gift baskets, too, which you can stock with everything from Spanish fig jam or a bottle of Cuisine Perel Spicy Pecan Vinegar. If you want to let them do the picking for you, you can get any number of themed baskets, such as the paella assortment, which comes with everything from rice to chorizo arranged in a pan to cook it in.

Dirk Troop

GauchoGourmet brings together food lovers from all backgrounds and offers them the chance to talk about their favorite topic. Philippe Wilhelm from the Westin La Cantera brought in the resort’s new executive chef, Dirk Troop. The chef, who is from Puerto Rico and who spoke at the Culinary Institute of America’s Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conferences a few years ago, mentioned that he wanted to meet the area’s farmers, so it was his good fortune that Heather Hunter and David Lent of the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market happened to be there as well and took the opportunity to talk.

Leslie Garcia of the Rockhill Cooking Academy dropped by, as did food writer Ron Bechtol and a number of people who mentioned how much they enjoy the pleasures of cooking at home. Out front was the Primo Passo Pizzeria truck, which was dishing out plenty of pies, many of which feature ingredients from the store.

What tamales are your favorite?

From there, it was on to the Pearl Brewery, where the third annual Tamales! Holiday Festival had taken over a large portion of the property. The lot in back was filled with tamales from the likes of Tellez on South General McMullen, Los Reyes from Castroville Road and Tejas Barbacoa of Bandera Road in Helotes.

Out by the Lab Building, there were more tamales from Tamahli on Wurzbach Road and Paloma Blanca on Broadway. For those who could only eat so many tamales, there were also dishes such as a fiery posole from Jesse T. Perez’s upcoming Arcade Midtown Kitchen, which should be open after the first of the year in the Pearl, and sopes from Citrus’ Jeff Balfour. He heaped the corn cake with shrimp and an achiote coleslaw. The aroma of the corn cakes frying in a paella pan at the back of booth provided its own intoxicating element.

At the tequila tasting.

Those in search of liquid intoxicants could be found in a lengthy line that curved out of the Stables, where a tequila tasting was being offered. El Milagro, 1800 and Tanteo JalapeƱo were all part of the lineup.

Thousands of people packed the area, filling the walkways under strands of brightly colored papeles picados and giving the whole event the feeling of being an autumn version of A Night in Old San Antonio.

Coffee from around the world.

La Villita, the regular home of NIOSA, was busy hosting its own event, the San Antonio Coffee Festival, which you could smell long before you arrived on the scene. A number of coffee roasters were on hand to grind, brew and pour all manner of coffee to the energetic crowd. Seminars on everything from iced coffee to civet cat coffee were on the menu, but the tastings were what caught people’s fancy.

Discussions of certain brew’s acidity levels, aromas and aftertastes were reminiscent of the talk at wine tastings and were delivered with the same vigor. And even though temperatures were in the 80s during the afternoon, hot cups of joe made with beans from countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Kenya and Costa Rica were consumed by most everyone present.

It was a great way to finish off a day filled with fine flavors.

Fine brews fill the San Antonio Coffee Festival.

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