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Cool Off with Something Sweet, Salty and Icy

Cool Off with Something Sweet, Salty and Icy

While the thermometer is displaying far too much red these days, it’s nice to float away on something cool and refreshing. For me, that most often means ice cream.

mcconnell'sI’m not just talking about any ice cream here. I’m writing about McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams from Santa Barbara, California. They’ve been on the scene since 1949, but they are only now available in San Antonio at Central Market.

So, as we are continuing to move forward despite our Blue Bell withdrawals, let’s cool off with what McConnell’s has to offer, which is labeled organic with no stabilizers, no fillers, no additives. It also has a milk fat percentage of 18.5 percent, which means it’s voluptuous on the tongue.

How it feels on the tongue not quite as important, for most of us, as how it tastes, so let’s get down to the flavors: Churros con Leche, Salted Caramel Chip, Double Peanut Butter Chip and Sea Salt Cream & Cookies.

You see the word salt there. It’s front and center, as anyone who has ever made ice cream at home knows to be a key ingredient. There’s something magical about a bright burst of salty flavor mixed in with cream and the likes of chocolate, peanut butter and caramel. (Or with fresh peaches, strawberries or your favorite fruit when you’re whipping up a batch.)

McConnell's1So, know beforehand that the all-important salt will coax a smile with most every bite. Mix that with chocolate and peanut butter together, and you have something joyous on your spoon.

Bits of churros floating in a frozen sea of dulce de leche was certainly the most welcome surprise of the flavors, a combination of comfort and tongue-tingling surprise with its cinnamon and caramel flavors coalescing into a comforting whole.

I have to single out the Sea Salt Cream & Cookies as my favorite, thought all were almost equally fine. There was something about the way the folks at McConnell’s took this most tired of flavors, made all too often elsewhere with substandard ingredients, and suddenly made it fresh again with a boldness that too it to a whole new level. To quote Molly Bloom (or, more accurately, James Joyce), “… yes I said yes I will Yes.”

At $7.50 a pint, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams are expensive. But one taste should convince you that it’s money well spent.


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Whataburger Beefs Up Its Lineup

Whataburger Beefs Up Its Lineup

Whataburger has been on a roll lately — with fries on the side.

Whataburger's Chicken Strip Monterey Melt

Whataburger’s Chicken Strip Monterey Melt sang its praises in the list, “30 Reasons Why Whataburger Is the Best Thing Ever.” And recently declared Texas to be the best state in the nation for fast food in part because of the patty paradise Whataburger.

Now, the burger chain, which is headquartered in SA, has introduced the Chicken Strip Monterey Melt, a sandwich stacked high with three chicken strips, two slices of Monterey Jack cheese, grilled onions, poblano and bell peppers, and topped off with Jalapeño Ranch sauce.

It’s a carb-heavy treat that’s just perfect with a side of onion rings.

The sandwich was inspired by Whataburger’s Monterey Melt and will be available for a limited time. So get yours while it lasts.

You can get Whataburger’s Jalapeño Ranch as well as Honey BBQ and Bold BBQ sauces in H-E-B now. These join Fancy Ketchup, Spicy Ketchup, Original Mayo and Original Mustard as well as Creamy Pepper, Peppercorn Ranch and Honey Mustard sauces and condiments available under the Whataburger label.

In other Whataburger news, eight local stores will be among the 121 to compete in this year’s WhataGames competition, a unique and spirited contest designed to test the skills of Whataburger team members in three categories: operations, corporate history and customer service.

The teams, who beat out their competitors among Whataburger’s more than 760 restaurants in 10 states, will continue to prove their skills through a series of elimination rounds to earn one of the 24 coveted spots at the WhataGames Finals in Dallas in April 2015. Finalists will compete in three days of high-intensity competition for the Gold Medal and the esteemed title of WhataGames 2015 Champion. Whataburger will also award $165,000 in cash prizes to all members of the Gold, Silver and Bronze winning teams, which includes both team members who participated as well as those who stayed back to operate and manage their stores.

“Every two years, this unique competition and training event provides us the opportunity to further improve the ways we serve each other and our customers,” said Rob Rodriguez, senior vice president of operations Whataburger Restaurants LLC. “At Whataburger, our team members take pride in their work and love serving customers, which is why this event is a perfect opportunity to allow them to shine and reward them for their great work.”

The local teams are:

  • Unit 112, 7007 S. Zarzamora St., San Antonio
  • Unit 315, 3202 Wurzbach Road, San Antonio
  • Unit 790, 5760 W. Loop 1604 N., San Antonio
  • Unit 699, 6391 Babcock Road, San Antonio
  • Unit 352, 5075 Rigsby Ave., San Antonio
  • Unit 919, 4125 S. Loop 1604 E., San Antonio
  • Unit 949, 12510 SW Loop 410, San Antonio
  • Unit 1017, 123 Creekside Crossing, New Braunfels

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Chef Hopes Black Garlic Will Strike Gold

Chef Hopes Black Garlic Will Strike Gold

In Texas, black gold has long referred to oil, but one local chef launched his own edible version of black gold.

texas black goldStephen Paprocki, executive chef at NuStar and an active member of the Chefs Cooperatives initiative, has introduced Texas Black Gold Garlic to the public.

What exactly is black garlic? The company’s website offers the following explanation:

While the origin of Black Garlic remains an enigma, in Asia, the naturally caramelized form of the bulb is a culinary delicacy that has also been used as an ingredient in Asian medicine for years. Black Garlic is growing steadily in popularity in the U.S. for its opulently layered flavor profile and for its potential health benefits.

Studies have shown black garlic is high in antioxidents as well as anti-inflammatory agents.

As for Paprocki’s history with it, the chef explains it this way: “I’ve been making it for about 8 months now for institutional use here at NuStar. Chef friends have been asking me to make it for them (Chris Cook, Jeff White and Tyler Horstmann), and they finally talked me into starting a company on the side to sell it.” 

Planting garlic beds for Texas Black Gold Garlic.

Planting garlic beds for Texas Black Gold Garlic.

How is it made? Texas Black Gold Garlic’s website offers the following explanation:

Once harvested, locally grown garlic bulbs are heated or “fermented” from one to two months at a constant warm temperature that causes certain enzymes and sugars in the cloves to break down naturally – nothing is added. The cloves inside the paper-thin white skins first turn a deep brown and once the process is complete, a soft black. The texture of the cloves changes, too – from shiny, firm, white meat to black, soft, sweet, spreadable cloves. The process also causes the strong flavor of the raw white garlic to melt into a mellow, sweet and addictive essence, ready to be used straight from the bulb or cooked into other dishes.

In order to live up to the Texas name, all of the garlic used comes from the Lone Star State. That means a somewhat limited quantity, Paprocki says, but he has Mesquite Field Farms growing bulbs especially for him and he’s in talks with other local farmers to bolster his supply.

In the meantime, he’s had to get all the legal paperwork for launching a business settled, get his website ready to take orders and get businesses to sell the product. On Black Friday weekend, you’ll be able to pick up Texas Black Gold Garlic at GauchoGourmet, 935 Isom Road.

So, perhaps the most important question is: What do you do with black garlic?

The website suggests using it in everything from salads to appetizers, entrees to desserts. “I use it in sauces, deserts, marinades, jam, spreads and, hands down, best black garlic butter wings!” Paprocki says.

Texas Black Gold Garlic is vegan and gluten-free. A serving of 5 to 6 cloves has about 40 calories and 9 grams of carbohydrates, but no cholesterol or sodium. Prices start at $4.95 for 2 ounces. To order, click here.

Five percent of sales will go to support Chefs Cooperatives efforts.

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The Food at San Antonio’s Airport Gets a Nod

The Food at San Antonio’s Airport Gets a Nod

On a Thrillist ranking of the top 50 best airports for food and drink, San Antonio International Airport has landed at a decent No. 21, ahead of Houston Hobby but behind airports in Austin and Dallas.

airport1Problem is, the writers, Kevin Alexander and Liz Childers, seems to have hit only one terminal, because they left off any mention of Rosario’s or La Fruteria. But they did have this to say:

Sure, you can dance with “Macho style” burritos from Las Palapas or a craft beer at Alamo City Microbrewery, but why do any of those things when you could just go to Iceman Gervin’s Sports Bar, which has amazingly hilarious basketball-based names of pub foods, like a Slam Dunk turkey sandwich, Base Line nachos, and a Nothing but Net club sandwich. Though I’m still patiently waiting for their Danny Green Eggs and Ham.

Austin-Bergstrom International landed at No. 13 as much for its live music as for its Salt Lick barbecue, but the big surprise, to the writers as well as most readers, is that Dallas/Fort Worth International landed at No. 1. The reason seemed to be largely the wealth of barbecue and craft beer options, which is enough to keep most of us going no matter how long the layover is.

For the full article, click here.


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Griffin to Go: Can’t Say No to the Price. Or the Flavor.

Griffin to Go: Can’t Say No to the Price. Or the Flavor.


A double order of the dark meat at Popeyes.

I don’t really care for standing in a long line to order food to go. Even waiting in the car behind a dozen or so cars isn’t my idea of fun.

popeyesBut there’s always an exception to every rule, and mine is Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

I have long loved the fried chicken here, largely because the spicy version packs a mouthful of flavor in each bit. The skin is largely crisp, and the meat, when it’s hot, is moist and tender. Even when served cold, any leftovers are still a treat. What other fast-food place can you say the same for?

And where else at a drive-thru window can you get Cajun rice — or dirty rice, as most of us call it — as well as meaty green beans, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, coleslaw and, of course, those buttery biscuits that are simultaneously flaky at the center yet substantial overall.

Tuesday nights brings us Popeyes lovers out of the woodwork. That’s because they charge only 99 cents for two pieces of dark meat, a thigh and a drumstick, two pieces that pack the most flavor. Or you can get those same two pieces with a 22-ounce soda, a biscuit and a side dish for $3.99. (The regular price for two pieces of dark meat is $3.55, though that order usually comes with a biscuit.)

The word has gotten out about this special. The Popeyes near my house has great lines both inside and out on Tuesdays, and the staff in back seem to be getting that chicken ready as fast as they can. And nobody seems to be in a bad mood if they have to wait a few minutes for their meal, either. They’re just as happy to get a great bargain as well as Popeyes’ irresistible fried chicken.

I’ve had this special at several Popeyes in town, but I don’t know how many stores are participating. You may want to check on the one nearest you before you, too, join the line.

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Latin Music, Tapas and More at NAO, to Present Author Maricel Presilla

Latin Music, Tapas and More at NAO, to Present Author Maricel Presilla

Author Marisel E. Presilla

Author Marisel E. Presilla

Come and meet celebrity Latin cuisine expert and award-winning cookbook author Maricel Presilla at a jazzy and tasty event, including book signing, from 5-8 p.m. Oct. 6 at NAO, at Pearl.

In addition to meeting this impressive culinary historian, you’ll be able to enjoy Latin jazz from San Antonio Country Club Chef Nelson Milan along with his all-chef ensemble who will be joined by  celebrity artist Carla Veliz.

Geronimo Lopez-Monascal, executive chef at NAO, is planning an array of tapas to serve, and there will be cocktails as well from the drink masters at NAO — all inspired by Presilla’s book.

Gran Cocina LatinaPresilla is the winner of the 2013 Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year and the International Association of Culinary Professionals ( IACP) Best Cookbook awards. She specializes in the foods of Latin America and Spain and has contributed articles to Saveur, Food & Wine, Food Arts, and Gourmet magazines. Her award-winning book is “Gran Cocina Latina: The Foods of Latin America,” (W.W. Norton & Company, $31).

Presilla will be in San Antonio as part of the Latin Flavors, Americans Kitchens conference at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio.

This event offers a limited number of tickets, which are $85 per person. Purchase tickets through Eventbrite by clicking here.

This event is sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier San Antonio and the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio. Proceeds will go toward culinary scholarship awards.


Nelson Milan chef

Nelson Milan is a talented musician as well as chef. Come hear his all-chef ensemble play at this event for Maricel Presilla.


NAO executive chef Geronimo Lopez will whip up tapas based on recipes from Presilla's book.

NAO executive chef Geronimo Lopez will whip up tapas based on recipes from Presilla’s book.


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What’s Hot? Ruby’s Rockets, Frozen, Healthy Pops, Kid-Approved

What’s Hot? Ruby’s Rockets, Frozen, Healthy Pops, Kid-Approved

We recently tried a treat that appeared in Central Market in July. Marketed to moms who want their kids to enjoy the taste of an icy popsicle that actually could be good for them was a great idea. But, we discovered that our own boxes of Ruby’s Rockets (in a childless household) disappeared just as quickly as if a 10-year-old had moved in.

RubysRocketsRuby’s Rockets have just 2 grams of sugar and less than 35 calories per pop. They are a blend of fruits, vegetables and probiotics with no added sugars or high fructose corn syrup and no artificial colors or flavorings. Each pop is also dairy-free, GMO-free, gluten-free, HFCS-free, egg-free, vegan and kosher.

The pops were created by Hollywood actress and mom, Wendy Makkena, and her 13-year-old daughter, Ruby, as a good tasting, nutritious way to get their daily servings of fruits and vegetables.  The idea came to them when one of Wendy’s delicious “green” smoothies knocked over and, reaching for a towel, they instead found a popsicle mold. That was the “aha!” moment and the birth of Ruby’s Rockets.

The development phase began. Then, “After months of spills and kitchen disasters, we finally got it right,” said Makkena. “A kid-approved fruit and veggie concoction was born.”

Now, Makkena and her daughter are on a mission to bring Ruby’s Rockets to families nationwide.  Ruby’s Rockets frozen pops retail for $5.99 for a box of six and are available in three flavors:
• Galaxy Green – kiwi, spinach, and avocado

• Rock-It Red – sweet potatoes, strawberries, carrots, and beets

• Orbit Orange – oranges, sweet potatoes, and carrots

But how do they taste?

RubysRocketsGreen.jpbWith no children around, we had to sample each of the three flavors ourselves — not a problem!  Our judgment was yes, we would buy these. In fact, we have. It was actually hard to pick a favorite flavor, but the green won out. The avocado seemed to provide smoothness, as one would expect, the kiwi added its tart edge and the spinach — well, we could hardly tell it was there.

The red was very good, and only slightly tasted of beet. Beets are very popular right now, and that little bit of earthy flavor that crept into the pop probably won’t be detected by a child.

The orange pop was also flavorful, and the three main ingredients were a good match. Our final judgement: Buy Ruby’s Rockets — and be sure to get enough for the adults in the house, too!

Visit Ruby’s Rockets here for more information.



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At Last, a Snack That’s Actually Good for You

At Last, a Snack That’s Actually Good for You

Want a snack for your kids — or yourself — that’s not overloaded with sugar or stuff that’s unhealthy? Bolthouse Farms has introduced Shakedowns, packets of baby carrots with two separate flavor packets that let you add a little spice to a helping of raw veggies.

carrots bolthousePlus, there’s a gimmick that everyone will like: Because adding the flavor during the packaging phase would likely leave the carrots mushy, the folks behind these snacks let you add the seasoning when you’re ready for a snack. You just pinch the flavor packet in the upper left of the package, which opens it to fall onto the carrots. Then you shake it all up, and dig in.

They’re perfect for lunchboxes or to have as an after-school pick-me-up.

Right now, there are two flavors, Chili-Lime and Ranch, both of which found fans among friends who tried them. They liked the ease of no having to do anything beforehand to get the snack together, and they enjoyed the flavor. As a long-term fan of raw food, I appreciated having a snack with some crunch to it that didn’t come from a fried potato or baked corn product with some ridiculously high carbohydrate count.

The lone negative comment came from a friend who found the Chili-Lime carrots too tart; but she doesn’t like much acid in her food and would not likely have tried Chili-Lime to begin with.

Each 2.25-ounce packet has 25 calories. The Ranch version has 7 grams of carbohydrate while the Chili-Lime has 6 grams.

Shakedowns are available at H-E-B and Walmart for about $1 a packet.

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Summer Wine: Roses and Rosé Strewn About

Summer Wine: Roses and Rosé Strewn About

By Cecil Flentge

Rose bottle rose 2I am as guilty as anyone of misquoting Shakespeare when writing about rosé wines.  You could try something about “Putting the rosé in your cheeks …” but that sounds too much like I am a lush and that is just out of style.

“It rosé to the occasion …” is rather obscure and Neil Diamond’s lawyers would be all over me if I used “Cracklin’ Rosie.”

But this one is simple, it has roses on the label, roses on the cork, roses imprinted in the name, the bottle is a rose, and there is a very nice French rosé inside the bottle.  So I have to be describing the new arrival at “my” H-E-B, Cote des Roses.

This is from the Gerard Bertrand family of wineries ($13) and is sourced from the Languedoc in southern France.

Fact:  The bottle is clear glass to show the copper tinged, pink of the wine.  A cantaloupe, peach, and über-ripe pineapple fragrance which is a departure from the cherry-watermelon of many rosé wines.  The aroma is echoed on the palate with a mineral finish that is reminiscent of pink sea salt (maybe a rosé de sel?).  Dry, fruity and flavorful throughout.

An imprint of a rose on the bottom of this rose is a wonderful signature.

An imprint of a rose on the bottom of this rosé bottle is a wonderful signature.


Feeling:  My companion’s immediate reaction to “What does this wine make you think of doing?” was “Drinking it while I admire the bottle.”

It is an unusual bottle with the base being a dramatic imprint of a rose and it did bring to mind giving it as a gift wrapped in green tissue, inverted, so that you could present a ‘rose.’

But to more immediate gratification, serve with scallops or shrimp, maybe wrapped in prosciutto, maybe just crumbled bacon on a seared scallop – ah, the salty-crispy bacon, the sweet, unctuous, scallop, all enrobed in the peach-melon of the wine … bon appétit!


Cecil Flentge is a San Antonio wine educator for professionals or novices and a restaurant/bar consultant. Restaurant events or home tastings. Questions? Email

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As Keen as Mustard for Whataburger’s Condiments

As Keen as Mustard for Whataburger’s Condiments

whataburger mustardThis past week, two different national media outlets complained about the fact that San Antonio’s Whataburger hasn’t gone national.

A writer for the Daily Meal listed it as one of five burger chains that she wished were nationwide: “With more than 700 locations over 10 states, it’s a shame that Whataburger hasn’t made its way up north. A Texas favorite and number six on the Daily Meal’s list of 10 Best Chain Burgers, Whataburger has classic fast-food options in addition to seasonal favorites like avocado and specialty burgers with jalapeños and cheese.” The others on her list were Milo’s Hamburgers, Burgerville, Dick’s Drive-In and, of course, In-N-Out, the Southwestern burger chain known for taking a slow food approach to fast food.

Meanwhile, a writer for the Huffington Post included it on a list of “Food Chains We Can’t Believe Aren’t National … Yet.” His list includes Shake Shack, Wawa, Cracker Barrel, Waffle House and In-N-Out.

So, folks here in San Antonio can rest content knowing that they can find a Whataburger nearby, no matter what corner of the city they live in.

Now they can also have what the company is calling “The true taste of a Whataburger” in their own homes: Bottles of its mustard and two types of ketchup have been placed in supermarkets everywhere in the area.

I picked up a bottle of Whataburger Original Mustard at H-E-B recently for $2.55 for a 16-ounce squeezebottle and was taken with its plain, old-fashioned mustard richness. There was a pleasant tang from the vinegar, a little lift from spices that include turmeric, garlic powder and, yes, mustard seed. There was also a touch of something sweet that cut through the acid and sent me back to the label to reassure myself that no sugar had been added. (Nope, no sugar in there.)

Water is listed as the main ingredient, so you are warned on the label to shake it before using. I didn’t remember that the second time I used the bottle and the tiniest amount of water did spurt out at first, but a second and third squirt showed that the water had largely stayed incorporated with the rest of the ingredients.

It’s classic ballpark mustard, perfect for hot dogs and burgers, but also deviled eggs, potato salad and even sauces. It’s not as complex as some fancier mustards out there, such as the jar with ground walnuts that I also keep in the refrigerator next to the stone ground and the Dijon mustards. But that simplicity is part of its appeal: It won’t overpower the rest of your ingredients. Instead, it will blend in, adding to the whole.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I can get fanatical about mustard of any sort. I even made jars of the stuff as Christmas presents one year.

Whataburger has also introduced Fancy Ketchup and Spicy Ketchup, both of which seem to come in the similar sizes and are sold at the same price. I’m sure there are people as devoted to ketchup as I am to mustard, so I’ll leave it to them to report on those offerings.


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