Archive | In Season

Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

I did my part at the recent Empty Bowls, and I’ve had soup on my mind ever since. So, I reached for that Irish standby, “Avoca Cafe Cookbook 2,” for some inspiration. That’s when I saw this recipe, which showcases a winter root vegetable I’ve only recently come to love: parsnips.

Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

“Parsnips are an integral part of winter eating,” the cookbook’s author, Hugo Arnold, writes, “their nutty, robust flavor making them as good with roast meats as they are on their own.”

What makes this soup especially appealing is the addition of sauteed onion, which adds its own kind of sweetness. Then you add tart apple crisps for an appealing contrast of textures.

A few words about garnishes, because this recipe has four options: All of these are optional, and that includes the apple crisps. The soup is the star here, creamy and rich and wonderful.

Somehow, I managed to have a can of chestnut puree in the pantry, so I could taste it as the recipe called for. Yes, it was a nice addition to the soup because of its sweet nuttiness. But, seriously, if you don’t have it, you won’t be missing out. And you won’t be faced with my dilemma, which is: What do I do with the rest of the can of chestnut puree?

You can also make this soup vegan easily by using vegetable stock and sauteing the onion in a little olive oil.

Roasted Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

1 Granny Smith or other tart apple (optional)
3 parsnips, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled finely chopped
1 potato, peeled and finely diced
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 1/2 cups light chicken stock
4 teaspoons creme fraiche or sour cream (optional)
4 teaspoons chestnut puree (optional)
1 tablespoons snipped chives (optional)

To make the apple crisps well ahead, preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Core the apple and thinly slice. Lay the slices out on a baking tray and place in the oven for 1 hour or until dried and crisp.

When ready to make the soup, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the diced parsnips in the olive oil, season well and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until well colored.

In a stockpot, gently saute the onion and potato in the butter over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the roasted parsnips and stock, and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft. Allow to cool slightly, then liquify, using a food processor or immersion blender. Reheat and check the seasoning. (If your stock is salty, you may not need to add more.)

Garnish each bowl with a teaspoon of creme fraiche or sour cream, a teaspoon of chestnut puree and the apple crisps, along with a few snipped chives.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from “Avoca Cafe Cookbook 2” by Hugo Arnold with Leylie Hayes

Posted in In Season, RecipesComments Off on Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

Broiled Bitter Grapefruit Is a Sweet Treat

Broiled Bitter Grapefruit Is a Sweet Treat

Grapefruit under the broiler.

Grapefruit under the broiler.

Grapefruits from the valley and San Antonio backyards are definitely in season. If you’re looking for a new way of enjoying these pink beauties, then give this easy recipe a try.

It comes from Brad Thomas Parsons’ “Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All with Cocktails, Recipes & Formulas” (Ten Speed Press, $24.99). “Adding bitters to the breakfast table … serves as a wink and a nudge to anyone who might be seeking a little hair of the dog,” he writes. “If you’re still suffering the effects from the previous  night, then you might not be in the mood to fire up the broiler, but you can accomplish the necessary caramelization with a kitchen torch — just don’t catch your robe on fire.”

It may seem odd to be adding bitters to a fruit that’s already considered sour by many, but the combination works. The butter mellows the tang of the fruit, while both the heat of the broiler and the sugar bring up its sweetness. The bitters do their part by adding a welcome richness to the dish that makes it really memorable.

Don’t go out of your way to find fancy, large-grain or raw sugar to use if you don’t have any on hand. I used coconut sugar, simply because it’s what I had. Brown sugar should also work. Try a few variations and see what you like best.

I also used Peychaud’s Bitters, instead of grapefruit bitters, which seemed to be too much of the same as the juice from the fruit.

And don’t just relegate this dish to the occasional breakfast or brunch menu. Make it for a quick dessert or even a snack.

Broiled Bitter Grapefruit

1 Rio Star or ruby red grapefruit
Angostura bitters, Peychaud’s Bitters or other aromatic bitters
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 tablespoons Demerara or turbinado sugar
Maraschino cherries for garnish (optional)

Preheat the broiler with the rack in the top spot. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Slice the grapefruit in half at the equator. Run the knife along the perimeter of each exposed half and along the membrane of each segment to loosen the segments. Dot each grapefruit with 2 or 3 dashes of bitters.

In a small bowl, mix together the melted butter, sugar and 6 healthy dashes of bitters to form a sugary paste. Cover each grapefruit half equally with the sugar-bitters mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet. Broil until the sugar starts to crisp up and bubble, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve at once.

Makes 1 or 2 servings.

From “Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All with Cocktails, Recipes & Formulas” by Brad Thomas Parsons


Posted in Featured, In Season, RecipesComments Off on Broiled Bitter Grapefruit Is a Sweet Treat

Simple, Easy Strawberry Cake for Valentine’s Day

Simple, Easy Strawberry Cake for Valentine’s Day

strawberries only basketMaking dinner for Valentine’s Day is certainly an option to making reservations — stay home, listen to your own music, enjoy your favorite wine and relax. Make this lovely cake ahead and just pile on some whipped cream and garnish with fresh strawberries to serve.

The recipe comes from “Brunetti’s Cookbook,” (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24.95) a wonderful compilation of Italian recipes by Roberta Pianaro and culinary stories by renowned mystery author Donna Leon. Her policeman hero, Guido Brunetti, solves mysteries in the heart of Venice while his wife, Paola, is known not only for her sharp mind (and wit) but the deftly executed dishes she serves every day at home.

This cake can be plain (as described in the recipe) or can be sliced horizontally into two layers, garnished with cream and topped with whole strawberries, for a more impressive presentation. Either way, you will enjoy the delicate flavor of the fruit and the richness of cream in this simple cake.


Strawberry Cake with Cream from ‘Brunetti’s Cookbook’

1 3/4 pound strawberries, plus 6-7 more whole strawberries to garnish (optional)

Strawberry cake with cream cropped6 medium eggs, separated

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups ladyfingers, crumbled

Butter and flour for the baking pan

1 cup fresh whipping cream

Wash, hull and dry strawberries. Cut them into small pieces, reserving other whole strawberries for garnish, if using.

Beat eggs yolks with sugar in bowl until frothy.  Add carefully crushed ladyfingers and the strawberries, mixing thoroughly to obtain a homogeneous blend.

In another bowl whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and fold gradually into the strawberry mixture. Pour into a buttered and floured springform baking tin, measuring 10 inches in diameter. Place in a preheated oven and bake for at least 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Whip cream in a bowl until quite firm (but don’t overbeat or it will turn to butter!).  Keep in the refrigerator until the cake is ready to be served. Serve cake while still warm, with the cold cream.

(If you are doing a layer cake, cool the cake before carefully using a long, serrated knife to cut horizontally to form two layers. Put cream between the layers and on top, and garnish with fresh strawberries to serve.)

From “Brunetti’s Cookbook” (with adaptation for layer cake)

Posted in Featured, In Season, RecipesComments Off on Simple, Easy Strawberry Cake for Valentine’s Day

January Locavore Dinner Has Been Canceled

January Locavore Dinner Has Been Canceled

This event has been canceled. Look for announcements of future events at Sandy  Oaks Olive Orchard.


ELMENDORF — “Delicious” has a whole new connotation.

Farm-to-table, locavore, eating local, sustainable and organic farming – all of these terms have been used increasingly in the past decade or more, indicating that what tastes good should also be good for you.

WarmOlives1The commitment by farmers and other food producers to high-quality, sustainable growing practices for food that is robust in nutrition and flavor, has been at the heart of the locavore movement and adding a defining touch to fine dining.

This is not a simple effort, but a far-reaching philosophy that’s put down roots in every aspect of food production in farms throughout the United States as well as internationally. From site preparation to planting, fertilizing to harvest, and finally to the dining table, the locavore movement is thriving.

One important tenant to the locavore philosophy is to try to limit the transportation of food for hundreds or thousands of miles to its final destination. The positive result of this is that the numbers of small farms in America, once dwindling, are now on the rebound.

At Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, sustainable practices have yielded an agricultural product that many said couldn’t be raised in Texas.

Sandy Oaks at harvest time, 2014.

Sandy Oaks at harvest time, 2014.

Not only is the ranch raising olives – many varieties of them – the quality of the olives, olive products and oil, is exceptional by industry standards. Sandy Oaks is certainly one of the best examples of how attention to best practices in agriculture yields great benefits – even under challenging conditions.

Founded by pioneering olive grower Saundra Winokur in the late 1990s, Sandy Oaks is an ideal place for initiating a new series of dining and learning experiences showcasing products from fruits, vegetables, breads and cheeses to wine grown and produced within a 100-mile radius.

The Locavore Dinner Series, beginning Jan. 16, will be dedicated to the farmers
in this area who will showcase their products and tell their stories. The series of
six dinners will be held outdoors in good weather or in a spacious and
well-appointed indoor dining area in inclement weather.

“In addition to our producing of a food product – olives from our olive orchard — which is very important, we also have a chef’s garden that uses the same organic principles and practices with growing herbs and vegetables,” says Winokur.

“Olives are our major crop, of course, but we are also trying other fruits as well, such as figs and pomegranates. We test what works best in our sandy soil out here, as well as in our microclimate.

“We constantly try to expand on our food presence here and that will eventually include grass-fed beef from animals we are raising now,” Winokur says.

Saundra Winokur photo cropped horiz

Saundra Winokur, founder of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard.

“In addition to what we practice as farmers, we’ve also created an on-site restaurant that supports local growers. We have a strong belief in farmers markets and support them – we take our products to the Pearl Farmers Market in San Antonio each week.

“We pay tribute in many ways to farmers – and artisans – how hard they do the difficult work of farming here in South Texas. And, this is what the new Locavore Dinner Series 2015 is all about,” says Winokur.

The founder’s philosophy is shared by executive chef Chris Cook and the other enthusiastic staffers at Sandy Oaks.

Cook’s vision of the Sandy Oaks Locavore Dinner Series is to focus as much on education as on the food he and his staff prepare for the meals. Also, noting Winokur’s emphasis on promoting individual farmers, Cook says their goal is to have most, if not all, food served during the series be locally sourced (within a 100-mile radius).

Those who sit down to the table will be able to talk to some of the farmers or vintners who produced the food and wine that is on each menu after listening to them describe their work.

Food and Beverage Director, Chef Chris Cook

Executive Chef Chris Cook

The fact that the meal will be served at a long, communal table to a limited number of guests is fitting for a farm-to-table style dinner – and also, says Cook, “I’m hoping at the end of the meal everyone who’s attending knows everyone else’s name.”

“It’s important to me that people not only have a good meal, but have also come away knowing more about where their food comes from, how it is produced and why they should eat locally.

“At Sandy Oaks, we hold this philosophy near and dear to our hearts – and we try not to make compromises,” says Cook.


Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard Locavore Dinner Series 2015                               

This is the first in a series of six dinners. SavorSA will post the dinners before they are scheduled. 

January 16, 2015. 6 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. dinner. $80 plus gratuity.

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, 25195 Elmendorf, Texas. Please purchase tickets online or by calling 210-621-0044. See Sandy Oaks’ website at for more information and directions to the ranch, which is about 25 minutes’ drive from downtown San Antonio.


Pontotoc Vineyards,

My Father’s Farm,

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard,


Tour of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard with olive oil tasting

Selection of Texas cheeses, pickled seasonal vegetables

Pontotoc Estate Tempranillo


Peeler Farms Chicken Cassoulet, My Father’s Farm beet and spinach

Pontotoc Smoothing Iron


Sandy Oaks Olive Oil-poached Gulf Shrimp, pomegranate and sweet potato

Pontotoc Valley Spring


My Father’s Farm Smoked Turnip and Cilantro Bisque, crispy kale and pickled radish

Pontotoc Spy Rock


Sandy Oaks Olive Oil Cake, pear and vanilla brulée, dried grapefruit

Pontotoc San Fernando Academy

Posted in Events, In Season, NewsComments Off on January Locavore Dinner Has Been Canceled

Christmas Cookies Create Memorable Holiday Traditions

Christmas Cookies Create Memorable Holiday Traditions

Cookies have always been an integral part of my Christmas. My mom, Annaliese Griffin, was a baker for more than 50 years, and her kitchen in December would be filled with hundreds of dozens of handmade treats that would perfume the house with vanilla, cinnamon and other inviting aromas.

Johns Cookies 4 croppedMom’s not actively baking now, but a collection of her recipes, “Cookies and Cakes You’ll Love,” has recently been published. (Email me at if you’re interested in getting a copy for $15 apiece plus handling.)

Many of the recipes are from her childhood in Germany, and they’re mixed with American favorites. I’ve never known a Christmas without a few of the treats included here — Zimsterne, Springerle and Cream Cheese Cookies. Here’s hoping they help you create your own Christmas memories.


These German favorites get their name from the way they spring up during baking. The anise-flavored cookies are made with a special rolling or board decorated with pictures, and you press the dough into them, much like Silly Putty. If you don’t have the roller or the board, roll out the dough and cut into rectangles about 1 inch wide and 2 inches deep. Use a small cookie cutter and make an indentation in the top.

Special equipment: Springerle rolling pin (optional)

4 extra large eggs
1 pound powdered sugar (4 cups)
2 teaspoons anise seed
1 teaspoon lemon zest
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Beat eggs with electric mixer on high until light. Add powdered sugar and continue beating on high for about 6 minutes. Add anise seed and lemon zest. Beat 2 more minutes. In a separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder; add very slowly with wooden spoon to egg mixture. Turn onto lightly floured board. Knead about 10 timed until smooth and satiny. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for about 2 hours. (If dough is refrigerated overnight, take dough out of refrigerator for 1 hour before baking.)

On floured board, with lightly floured rolling pin, roll half of the dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Dust Springerle rolling pin with flour, tapping to remove excess. Slowly roll Springerle rolling pin, firmly and evenly, over surface of dough to create a clear impression. With sharp knife, cut along lines in dough to make individual cookies. With spatula, transfer cookies, 1 inch apart, to greased cookie sheet. Let stand, uncovered, at room temperature, overnight to dry.

Repeat with other half of dough.

Before baking, adjust oven racks to upper and lower thirds of oven. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Place cookies on lower rack and cover upper rack with empty cookie sheet. Bake for 27 minutes. Transfer cookies to rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container where you can keep them for up to six months. They are at their best about three weeks after you make them. They’re perfect for dunking in coffee.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

From “Cookies and Cakes You’ll Love” by Annaliese Griffin

Cream Cheese Cookies

I make these at Christmas using the tree shape in the cookie press and decorate them with green and red sprinkles. But you can make them for any occasion, using the press of your choice and any color of candy sprinkles.

1 cup shortening
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 extra large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of salt
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 egg white beaten slightly with about 1 teaspoon water
Candy sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream shortening and cream cheese for at least 1 minute. Add sugar and cream again until thoroughly incorporated. Add egg and mix. Add vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon, and salt, and mix. Slowly add flour, making sure all is blended well, and dough is solid, easy to mold into a log that will fit inside cookie press. If dough is too moist, add 1/8 teaspoon baking powder and more flour, up to ¼ cup. You do not want dough to get too stiff.

Press onto greased cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Brush tops with egg white mixture. Sprinkle with candy sprinkles.

Bake 8-10 minutes until a light golden color. Remove immediately to cookie rack. Let cool.

From “Cookies and Cakes You’ll Love” by Annaliese Griffin

Jumbo Raisin Cookies

Most drop cookies are dropped by the teaspoonful. Not these big beauties. Get out a tablespoon and create some jumbo snacks for the people in your family who have big appetites.

2 cups raisins
1 cup water
1 cup shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
1 cup chopped pecans or almonds

Boil raisins and water for 3 minutes. Cool.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream shortening, then add sugar, followed by eggs and vanilla. Fold in flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Add nuts and raisins. Drop by tablespoonful about 2 ½ inches apart onto greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Makes 3 ½ dozen very large cookies.

From “Cookies and Cakes You’ll Love” by Annaliese Griffin


Chocolate Amaretto Balls

This is an easy chocolate truffle that people will love because of the unbeatable addition of amaretto and almonds. These will not stay fresh longer than a few days, but they probably won’t last that long once people taste them.

18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, such as Eagle Brand
3 tablespoons amaretto
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ cup slivered almonds
Almonds, ground into a fine powder

In a double boiler over low heat, melt chips and sweetened condensed milk together. Remove from heat. Stir in amaretto, almond extract and nuts. Chill at least 2 hours. Shape into ¾-inch balls and roll in ground almonds.

Makes 4 dozen balls.

From “Cookies and Cakes You’ll Love” by Annaliese Griffin

Chocolate Mint Wafers

These cookies are best if you make them over the course of two days. One the first, you make the dough, which rests overnight. The next day, you’ll be ready to roll out the dough, bake the cookies and then add the mint filling. It’s not hard, but it does require patience. But the end result is worth it, if you like the combination of chocolate and mint.

2/3 cup (1 ½ sticks) margarine or butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk

2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Cream butter, sugar and egg. Add flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder. Add milk to form dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to bake the next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out dough on floured board until ¼-inch thin. Cut with round cookie cutter and place on greased cookie sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

After cookies are cool, take one and spread filling on it. Place another cookie on top like a sandwich.

To make filling, mix powdered sugar, cream and peppermint extract. Filling can be left white or tinted with food coloring of your choice.

Amount will vary by size of cookie cutter.

From “Cookies and Cakes You’ll Love” by Annaliese Griffin

Zimsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
Dash of salt
3 tablespoons margarine or butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup finely ground hazelnuts or pecans
1 egg white
Sugar sprinkles

Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and salt. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream margarine and sugar well, until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolk. Add lemon juice and mix until fluffy. Add flour mixture and hazelnuts. Mix well. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Before baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll dough on floured board until 1/8-inch thick. Cut with star cookie cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Beat egg white with a fork until fluffy. Brush tops with egg white. Sprinkle with sugar sprinkles. If making around the holidays, use gold, red or green for stars.

Bake for 8 minutes.

Makes 8 dozen cookies.

From “Cookies and Cakes You’ll Love” by Annaliese Griffin

Posted in Featured, In Season, Recipes2 Comments

GauchoGourmet Holidays! Book Signing, Toy Drive for the Kids

GauchoGourmet Holidays! Book Signing, Toy Drive for the Kids

Gaucho Gourmet’s Saturday Market this week will feature a Texas-sized Holiday Book Signing, with six authors present and signing four great Texas food books.

This is a one-time chance to pick up gifts for the food-lovers on your holiday gift lists, and have them signed. The following authors will be on hand Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.:
Texas Hill Country Cookbook• Chef Terry Thompson-Anderson, veteran chef and culinary instructor, will be present to sign her cookbook “Texas on the Table: People, Places and Recipes Celebrating the Lone Star State,” destined to become the definitive book on Texas cooking.
• Chef Scott Cohen, former executive chef of Las Canarias at La Mansion del Rio Hotel and current instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Austin, is signing his “The Texas Hill Country Cookbook – A Taste of Provence” for the discriminating palate and lover of local products.
• Renowned Hill Country Chef Ross Burtwell and contributing author Julia Celeste Rosenfeld are signing their striking “Texas Hill Country Cuisine: Flavors from the Cabernet Grill Texas Wine Country Restaurant,” perfect for all Hill Country cuisine and Texas wine connoisseurs.
• Bonnie Walker and John Griffin will be signing their recently published “Barbecue Lover’s Texas – Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions” for the guys and gals who are meat lovers (especially barbecue!) on your Christmas list.

Toys for Tots Benefit now through Dec. 13 — win a giant Pannettone

GauchoGourmet is also accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys between Mon, Dec. 6 through Saturday Dec. 13 to benefit Toys for Tots and ultimately the less fortunate children in our community. This toy drive is in conjunction with Groomer’s Seafood.

panettone albertengoWith each donation dropped off at GauchoGourmet, the donor’s name will be entered into GauchoGourmet’s biggest and best giveaway yet. The winner will be announced Sept. 13 at 2 p.m. and will receipve a specially ordered 22 pound Panettone Christmas cake, made by artisanal producer Albertengo, from Italy.

Bring toys, sample some of the great holiday gourmet items at GauchoGourmet and pck up gifts — all this Saturday.


Posted in Cookbooks, Events, In Season, NewsComments Off on GauchoGourmet Holidays! Book Signing, Toy Drive for the Kids

Tamales at Pearl Celebrates 5th Anniversary

Tamales at Pearl Celebrates 5th Anniversary

The fifth annual Tamales! Holiday Festival returns to Pearl on Dec. 6, noon to 6 p.m.

Sponsored by Cadillac, C.H. Guenther, H-E-B, and Silver Eagle, the event offers guests an afternoon of savory tastes, great sounds, and sights of the holiday season.

Tamales at Pearl 2013 Tray“In its fifth year, the Tamales! Holiday Festival has evolved into a holiday celebration for the city of San Antonio and beyond,” said Pearl’s chief marketing officer Elizabeth Fauerso. “It’s so amazing to see people from all over Texas come together for a day full of entertainment, culture, and cuisine.”

Unlike in the past four years, this year’s festivities will not include the tamale-making competition.

“Due to a smaller footprint, and a lot of logistical complexity due to activity and construction on site and the opening of the hotel, we have put the contest on hold for this year,” said Shelley Grieshaber, culinary director of Pearl.

Guests will be able to explore a full range of tamales from more than 20 different tamales vendors, ranging from traditional San Antonio classics to South American and everything in between as culinary students, restaurants and chefs showcase a blend of innovative twists and classic techniques with tamales.

While savoring the treats on hand, guests will also be entertained by live music from the all-star Selena tribute band, Bidi Bidi Banda, and Grammy award-winning Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs at the Pearl amphitheater. For the little ones, there will be a crafts and activities area, presented by The Do Seum, where kids can create corn-husk dolls, participate in fun games and more.

The event is free and open to the public, no ticket necessary. Food and beverage prices range from $1 to $5 per vendor and there will be ATMs available on site.

Pearl is located at 303 Pearl Parkway in San Antonio, Texas. For more information about Tamales! Holiday Festival at Pearl please visit here.

Posted in Daily Dish, Events, In Season, NewsComments Off on Tamales at Pearl Celebrates 5th Anniversary

Mark Your Calendars: Nutcracker Sweets Returns!

Mark Your Calendars: Nutcracker Sweets Returns!

The popular Nutcracker Sweets holiday tasting event is back – bigger and more scrumptious than ever. The event venue is the cherry on top: the exquisite Tobin Center.Christmas nutcracker

Nearly 20 of the city’s top restaurants, bakeries, chefs and trucks will roll out an evening of holiday delights – from savory to sweet – on Monday, Dec. 8 (2014) from 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Battered Women and Children’s Shelter.

“Domestic violence has been making national headlines lately,” says Marta B. Peláez, BWCS president/CEO. “But it remains a local issue that knows no socio-economic boundaries – and no particular season.”

Nutcracker Sweets tickets are $50 for adults, $25 for 13 – 17-year-olds, and entrance is free for kids 12 and younger. Tickets are available online at or may be purchased by phone by contacting Brooke Bell at 210-930-3669.

In addition to festive bites and beverages from the city’s finest establishments, guests will be treated to live music and a performance by Ballet San Antonio, plus an upscale raffle.

The retail Nutcracker Sweets Shoppe also returns, filled with cookbooks, culinary specialties and holiday gifts that will make the season of giving even more delicious. Shoppe vendors will donate a percentage of their sales to FVPS.

Dine-around participants include: A La Mode Gelato, Arcade Midtown Kitchen, Biga on the Banks, Brindles Awesome Ice Cream, Citrus, Cordillera Ranch, Cured, Feast, Freddie Covo Truffles, Guerrilla Gourmet, HEB Alon Market, HEB Culinary Academy, Los Barrios, Mi Tierra, Nosh/Silo, Pullin Premium BBQ, Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, Tejas Rodeo Co., and Tim the Girl Catering. Major funding for the event is generously provided by HEB and Valero Energy Foundation.

The beneficiary: The Battered Women and Children’s Shelter provides life-saving services to victims of domestic violence to help them reach self-sufficiency away from abuse.

nutcracker cupcakes

Posted in Events, In Season, NewsComments Off on Mark Your Calendars: Nutcracker Sweets Returns!

GauchoGourmet Stepping Out!  New and Local — Nov. 1

GauchoGourmet Stepping Out! New and Local — Nov. 1

Gaucho Gourmet's imported salami and other cold cuts sandwich.

Gaucho Gourmet’s imported salami and other cold cuts sandwich.

Starting Saturday, Nov.  1,  one of San Antonio’s premier food imports store — with so much more — launches some great new offerings.  Features include an expanded daily takeout menu and a Saturday indoor market that supports local producers.

“This has been a long time coming, and we’ve worked hard to make “GauchoGourmet Reloaded” happen,” said Sylvia Ciociari, who with her husband, Luciano and co-proprietors Cuqui and Juan Ciociari, will be on hand to welcome guests at this launch.

For further information contact GauchoGourmet at 210-277-7930.  Gaucho Gourmet is at 935 Isom Road.

Here are some of the highlights of GauchoGourmet Reloaded:

New take-out menu

Easy and healthy grab ‘n’ go items are now available Monday through Saturday during lunch hours. GauchoGourmet offers artisanal sandwiches, hot specialty sausages featuring Berkshire hotdogs, duck sausage, chicken sausage and Argentine grillers. In addition, check out their great burrata, charcuterie appetizers and pasta salads all made in-house.

burrata gauchogourmet1

GauchoGourmet’s burrata cheese with charcuterie and fresh bread — on the deli menu!

It’s all about cheese! 

GauchoGourmet has expanded the deli counter to showcase their latest and largest selection of cut-to-order cheeses and cheese accompaniments from all over the world.  Everything needed to indulge in the ultimate cheese experience is now available, including cheese tools as well as serving utensils, plus an entire line of foie gras torchon, mousses and pates.

 Seasonal Saturday Market

GauchoGourmet has partnered with Groomer’s Seafood and a well-respected group of other local producers to feature a fine line of food products every Saturday throughout the holidays. GauchoGourmet and Groomer’s now make this a dual stop, the best one-stop shopping for chefs and foodies. Here’s what the lineup includes:

• Fine French wines by Alexander Vineyards in Fredericksburg, as well as other local wineries

Sandy Oaks olive oil

Sandy Oaks olive oil

• Groomer’s Seafood

• Fresh-pressed juices by Crave Market

• Fresh, artisan bread by The Bread Box

• Organic coffee beans by local roasters, Ferra Coffee

• Authentic Spanish chorizo from La Mancha Specialties

• Olive products from Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, Elmendorf

• All natural lamb from Hudspeth Farms



Posted in In Season, MarketsComments Off on GauchoGourmet Stepping Out! New and Local — Nov. 1

Sandy Oaks Celebrates Phenomenal 2014 Olive Harvest

Sandy Oaks Celebrates Phenomenal 2014 Olive Harvest

ELMENDORF — Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard is known industry-wide for its dedication to exceptional olive farming and harvesting  in South Texas.

This did not happen overnight. And, it’s not always been an easy road for owner Saundra Winokur. But this year is proving that hard work and an unswerving dedication to a dream can realize success in abundance.

Sandy Oaks Harvest Picker and Flowers

Photographs courtesy Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard.

This fall, the ranch, founded more than 15 years ago, had a breakout harvest. Just as important an achievement this year is what Winokur terms “amazing” results with the acidity levels and other objective standards used industry-wide to assess the quality of the oil that came from so generous a harvest.

The sheer number of tons harvested this year far outstripped any of the past — in fact this year’s production rolled in at 10 times that of last year’s good harvest, says Winokur.

The deep green oil, from olives milled in September, is now resting in large containers awaiting bottling.  Already tested, the oil has achieved marks that rank it among the top league of oils produced in the United States.

In fact, the oil from the 2014 harvest has far exceeded the California standards, which are even more stringent than the international benchmarks.

“They said it couldn’t work in South Texas,” said Winokur, who is recognized throughout the state a pioneering agricultural producer of olives.

“Not only is it working, but we are producing phenomenal olive oil. My dreams and hopes are coming to fruition,” she said this week.

Winokur’s success will take her to the White House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 20 where she will join a small group invited to discuss women’s leadership in agriculture, hosted by the White House Rural Council.

Sandy Oaks 2014 Harvest oil jarsThe acidity of this oil is so low compared to other U.S.-produced oils that the richness and buttery flavors are prompting our experts to call this the most complex harvest to come out of Sandy Oaks yet. — Saundra Winokur


The group will meet with the secretary and deputy secretary of agriculture to discuss ways in which the U.S. can “better support and mentor the next generation of women leaders in food and agriculture,” the invitation stated.

“Women today own 14 percent of the nation’s farms and ranches — an increase that has “significantly outpaced” the growth in the number of farmers overall, making women the most rapidly growing segment of the nation’s changing agricultural landscape,” according to the release.

The orchard at Sandy Oaks is planted with 38 different varieties of olive trees on 40 acres.  Some of the fruit will be pickled and sold in jars; other oils will go into the line of skin care and beauty products that are produced at the ranch and sold in the gift shop.

This year’s excitement of a huge harvest was shared by those who picked, milled, poured and stored the beautiful green harvest from the ranch’s more than 10,000 trees.

The public will have its turn on Nov. 15  when they can get a taste of the first-pressed new oil, or olio nuovo, at a festive event, Celebrate the Harvest, Share the Bounty (see details here).

Sandy Oaks 2014 Harvest pile of olivesThat olive oil will be bottled and sold at the Sandy Oaks gift shop where it has, over the past years, become a must-have finishing oil for chefs in San Antonio and beyond.

What chefs look for, of course, is quality and that lies not just in subjective taste but in hard numbers reflecting the acidity of oil that will be called “extra virgin.”

California has a benchmark standard of .05 percent acidity or less; the international standard for extra-virgin oil is a bit less stringent at .08 or less. Sandy Oaks oil has surpassed both numbers this year, says Winokur, by coming in at an average .022.

Also important is shelf life, and this oil will store (in a cool, low-light environment) for more than two years.  What determines shelf life (longer is better) is oil that has low levels of peroxide and a low ultraviolet rating.

Saundra Winokur

Saundra Winokur, founder and owner, Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard

“Once again, we came in well under California standards. That also means that our oil has lots of polyphenols, which are what make for the oil’s great health benefits as well,” Winokur says.

Blending two or more varieties is often desirable in reaching, or maintaining these levels of beneficial chemicals.

Winokur says this year the first-pressed new oil blend is from primarily from Arbequina variety. Some 7,000 Arbequina trees comprise a large part of the orchard. Winokur brought the Arbequinas from Spain and planted them in 1999. Two other varieties going into the proprietary blend of olio nuovo this year will be Koroneiki and  Picual.

As a pioneer grower of olive trees in South Texas, Winokur is certainly enjoying the fruits of her labor — and that of a dedicated permanent staff and enthusiastic harvesters this year. But her vision goes further.

“This kind of success also bodes very well for the industry in Texas as a whole,” she says.


Sandy Oaks 2014 Harvest bucket and pickerSandy Oaks Harvest 2014 trees and ladder











Posted in Featured, In Season, NewsComments Off on Sandy Oaks Celebrates Phenomenal 2014 Olive Harvest