Hundreds of Mexican food fans, not to mention more than a few margarita lovers, poured into a corner of the Shops at La Cantera Friday evening for Culinaria’s annual Best of Mexico feast.
Chicken chilaquiles, a spicy fideo capped with some queso crumbles and seared tuna with watermelon cubes were among the delicacies that were served up by a host of restaurants, including Vida Mia, El Machito and La Fruteria.
The St. Anthony Hotel kept the comals heated and lines long as they offered five different types of mini tacos, including barbacoa made from rib-eye, al pastor loaded with pineapple, and bites of shrimp. Picante Grill served up bits of chiles en nogada, complete with the walnut cream and pomegranate seeds. A warm bowl of handmade soup is welcome, and Nicha’s tortilla soup with plenty of cheese melted on top was no exception. Lux Bakery offered tastes of empanadas both sweet and savory.
Other participants included La Fogata, Z’Tejas, La Gloria, Sabor Colombiano and Big Pimp’s Nacho Factory as well as H-E-B, which offered chile-spiked fruit, Mexican charcuterie and cheeses, guacamole and a series of Mexican-inspired salads.
It didn’t matter if the dish was not originally Mexican in origin. Leslie Horne of Aurelia’s Chorizo brought paella with everything from octopus to mussels — and chorizo, of course — was a hit with diners. Two large pans, prepared by chef Jeffrey Balfour emptied quickly.
Another treat that disappeared quickly was the whiskey bread that Bar Louie handed out; and when that disappeared, the bar offered bits of airy, salty pretzels with stone-ground mustard. All it needed was a cold beer from the beer tent.
Wine and beer lovers had a host of options to wet their thirst, while tequila and margarita lovers had a separate area where they could sample all they wanted.
Adding to the scene was a night of perfect weather in which to enjoy the food, libations and the Latin-flavored music of Colao. As the sun began to set, strings of lights overhead intertwined with colorful papeles picados that waved in the gentle breeze to add a romantic touch.
Culinaria’s Festival Week continues Saturday with afternoon seminars at Bar TBA and the Grand Tasting at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. For a full list of activities, click here.