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Arcade Midtown Kitchen to Close on Sunday


Arcade Midtown Kitchen in the Historic Pearl, 303 Pearl Parkway, is closing Sunday.

Jesse Perez at Arcade Midtown Kitchen in the Historic Pearl.

Jesse Perez has opened Arcade Midtown Kitchen at the Pearl.

After over two successful years at the Historic Pearl in San Antonio, chef Jesse Perez has decided to close the restaurant to focus on culinary expansions including his newest endeavor, Oxido, which is in New York City.

“I’m incredibly thankful for all of the support Arcade Midtown Kitchen has received over the past couple of years. We’ve experienced great successes as a restaurant and I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family and diving into new business endeavors and adventures,” he says. “After 20 years of focusing my energies in the kitchen, I am interested in more entrepreneurial freedom to explore different concepts.”

Perez will continue to be a strong ambassador not only for the San Antonio Culinary Community, but also for Texas. In addition to his other endeavors, he remains committed to the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Culinary Taskforce, which is working to bring recognition to San Antonio’s culinary scene, as well as Culinaria. He will also continue as an active partner in Oxido, a fast casual Mexican restaurant with modern influences, as they plan future expansion. 

“We at Oxido are excited and fully supportive for Chef Jesse for embracing new business ventures and opportunities to forge full steam ahead with his brilliant career,” says Daihwan Choi, CEO and co-founder of Oxido. “We congratulate Chef for all the success that he created and achieved with Arcade, and look forward to our continued partnership with Oxido here in New York City and beyond. “

Jesse Perez is closing Arcade Midtown Kitchen.

Jesse Perez is closing Arcade Midtown Kitchen.

The restaurant’s last day of operation is Sunday, and the meals leading up to the end will be filled with celebrations, including Arcade classics such as chile and lime calamari, chorizo mussels and lobster soft tacos. The Arcade burger will return for lunch and dinner. Drink specials will include barrel-aged cocktails as well as flight tastings Arcade’s bar menu. Wine specials by the glass or bottle will be available all week long.

Perez has spent more than 20 years in the kitchen. Prior to opening Arcade Midtown Kitchen in 2013, he earned numerous culinary accolades, including Top Latino Chef in 2009 by the Flavors of Passion Awards. Arcade Midtown Kitchen became one of Eater’s Top 40 new restaurants of 2013 San Antonio’s Best New Restaurant.

For more information on Oxido, Perez’s New AYork fast casual restaurant, which serves traditional Mexican food blended with modern influences, visit www.oxido.nyc.

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Hot: Burgers, BBQ Sizzle for Crowd at Culinaria Finale


Culinaria 2014 Girls in line BBBThe sizzle of burgers, pits smoking, and the merciful existence of ice cold beer, water and lemonade gratified the hundreds of folks, who turned out for Culinaria’s Burgers, BBQ & Beer on Sunday.

Set with the backdrop of the historic Pearl Brewery building, the final event for Culinaria festival week showcased the works of cooks, chefs, helpers and beverage pourers and offered everything from spicy chicken wings and spicy  crawfish to grilled sliced Spam on burgers, brisket burgers and brisket quesadillas.

Chef Jason Dady and his crew from Two Bros. BBQ Market were serving up portions of brisket — and it was classic, with salty, peppery crust and luscious, tender meaty interior. No sauce for me, thanks — the beefy flavor on that ever-more-pricy cut of meat should not be muffled in any way!

Jesse chorizo burger Culinaria 2014

Arcade Midtown Kitchen’s triple-heat Green Chile and Chorizo Burger.

One really hot burger, courtesy of chef Jesse Perez from Arcade Midtown Kitchen was the chorizo burger topped with green chiles, dressed with a spicy sauce and salty crumbles of cotija cheese. I’d have eaten two, yes, but there was quite a bit more to come.

I was impressed with Green Vegetarian’s Earth Burger — my first taste. Once upon a time, a veggie burger was made with cooked, mashed soybeans, topped with slivers of onion and carrot and alfalfa sprouts. They were edible.  The Earth Burger has a good springy (I won’t say meaty) texture and flavor, and are a major leap above those we “enjoyed” back in the day.

Kiolbassa, it ain’t burger, but sausage is quite a classic barbecue item here in Texas. Far be it from me to pass up a bite or two of their good jalapeño or garlic sausage.

Brisket Burgers

Brisket Burgers

The Grand Hyatt put out brisket burgers, a using the flavorful brisket (85 percent) with a leaner cut (like strip loin) ground together after a little while in the smoker, then shaped and slapped on the grill over more smoke. I thought it was one of the most flavorful bites to be had.

Alamo Cafe brought brisket, for which we thank them. Not a purist’s version of Texas ‘cue, but a nice pair-up with Tex-Mex.  They served brisket quesadillas, cut into wedges and served with a refreshing spoonful of sour cream. They get two solid  “noms” for that dish.

 

After the event ended, the winners were in for popular votes for barbecue and burgers: Magnolia Pancake Haus and Jesse Perez for his Chorizo and Green Chile Burger. It was a great ending for an event that director Suzanne Taranto Etheredge said was the “best ever.”

Spicy crawfish from Luke sizzled with flavor.

Spicy crawfish from Luke sizzled with flavor.

 

 

 

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Arcade Midtown Kitchen Offers Great Start to 2014


Jesse Perez has opened Arcade Midtown Kitchen at the Pearl.

Jesse Perez, chef at Arcade Midtown Kitchen.

Arcade special offer for January

Start the new year off right at Arcade Midtown Kitchen.

Chef/owner Jesse Perez says the restaurant at the heart of the Pearl will be offering specially priced three-course lunch and dinner specials between Jan. 3-31. The lunch menu will be $14 per person; the dinner menu will be $34 per person.

To contact Arcade, call 210-369-9664 or visit them at arcademk.com.

Arcade is at 303 Pearl Parkway.

 

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Brunch, Burgers Please Palates at Arcade Midtown Kitchen


Back in the 1980s, when I wrote my first restaurant review for a daily newspaper in Flagstaff, Ariz., finding worthy restaurants to review was nothing like our current dining scene in San Antonio.

Burgers and steaks were the general fare along with pizza parlors that didn’t range far from the basics — sausage and pepperoni. We had massive hotel Sunday brunches, all the rage at the time, and various mom-and-pop places that could turn out good ethnic meals.

Arcade Midtown Kitchen's Chicken and Waffles

Arcade Midtown Kitchen’s Chicken and Waffles

For more complex fare, we’d head to Sedona, a scenic 30-minute drive away. Restaurants in this now-raging tourist mecca stretched their culinary wings not so much to gratify Flagstaff diners but to lure in well-heeled snowbirds, down for the winter to soak up the beautiful scenery and climate.

The real high-rollers would fly into the tiny local airport at the top of a red-rock mesa from cities as far-flung as New York and Chicago. They would stay a few days for sight-seeing, seeking out “gourmet” meals. (This was pre-harmonic-convergence Sedona, before the crystal wearers came to town and the word “Sedona” turned into a hot branding term used to sell anything from socks to SUVs.)

I thought about these, my younger days, as I sat with at a table with a couple of dozen other dedicated foodies Saturday morning at chef/owner Jesse Perez’s Arcade Midtown Kitchen. Some were staff writers, others freelancers, bloggers, magazine owners as well as the indefatigable social media foodies taking the city by storm. Many of them were in their 20s and 30s and they are in a new world where chefs take on the fame of rock stars and diners had better know their stuff when it comes to profiling the complex flavors in a dish.

These folks ably deconstructed the dishes and weren’t shy about mentioning their personal likes and dislikes. They also seemed able to put those aside to make a reasonable and serious judgment of dishes on their own merits.

Happy Daddy, Arcade's approach to Huevos Rancheros -- with petite filet of beef.

Happy Daddy, Arcade’s approach to Huevos Rancheros — with petite filet of beef.

Perez had invited us in to sample brunch as he looks toward adding Saturday brunch in the near future. Sunday brunch is already a standby at the restaurant that opened earlier this year.

We shared dishes ranging from the traditional eggs Benedict with a couple of custom touches to Happy Daddy, a petite beef filet rubbed with chile along with potato hash and chorizo coins for a spicy take on huevos rancheros.  (The dish got its name as a particular favorite on Father’s Day.)

The Arcade burger, which is rapidly becoming one of the city’s favorites, was also brought out, inspiring as much comment as did Perez’s take on Chicken and Waffles (boned chicken, pounded out ‘Milanesa’ style and then breaded) or the luscious, multilayered red velvet cake.

Burgers are beloved. That was true long before I began my food-writing career.

While we don’t want burgers for every meal, we’re still excited to find one that is exceptional and inspires questions ranging from what is the meat used in the grind, fat-to-lean ratio, and of course, what’s in the ‘secret sauce.’

But our demands have changed over the years. Secret sauce better have some pretty good secrets in there – and in Perez’s burger, the only secret he would divulge was the dash of blood orange vinegar. His sauce also has a bite – Sriracha? He wouldn’t tell.

Arcade's burger is getting a reputation -- and it's a good one.

Arcade’s burger is getting a reputation — and it’s a good one.

In the old days, I don’t recall that we discussed the provenance of the beef, or what cuts were used in the grind other than the occasional reference to a “sirloin burger” on a menu.  Perez uses ground chuck and brisket, a combination that I’ve found to be one of the tastiest – and he uses a lean-to-fat ratio of about 70-to-30. Generous on the flavor, but not greasy.

The cheese is American – and I’d guess that is a nod to the country’s tradition, but a good natural cheese such as cheddar would make me happier. But the browned “soft” onions, as the menu describes them, seem to melt right into the beef and they just about cancel out the sticky cheese.

So, as things change, things remain the same. That cliché does apply to our appetite for burgers — as well as for Saturday and Sunday brunches, for finding food with the best flavor and always looking for an element of discovery.  And, may it always be so.

Arcade Midtown Kitchen
303 Pearl Pkwy.
(210) 369-9664
arcadesatx.com

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Big Apple Gets Some Texas-Sized Flavor


By Emily Stringer

Two of San Antonio’s local top chefs, Jason Dady of Jason Dady Restaurant Group and Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen, gathered with friends in New York recently to show how off their culinary skills, Texas style.

Jesse Perez, San Antonio chef and owner of Arcade, prepares for featured dinner at The Beard House in New York City.

Jesse Perez, San Antonio chef and owner of Arcade Midtown Kitchen, prepares for featured dinner at The Beard House in New York City.

Perez, whose restaurant is in the Pearl Brewery, debuted his culinary talents at the city’s prestigious James Beard House.

Perez is an award-winning chef known for his Latin-influenced cuisine, and he took pride in showcasing a fan favorite, his Lobster Tacos. Succulent, chunks of lobster were dressed with ají amarillo and sweet potatoes, then finished with a raja-corn relish and poblano crema.

Diners at The Beard House also welcomed Perez’s Crusted Akaushi Beef with creamy potato-turnip purée, caramelized brussels sprouts and a decadent pasilla chile-fig mole. The fig mole was the hit of the dinner: Diners commented on the flavor balance melding perfectly with the Akaushi beef.

Perez closed out his meal with a toast and a thank you to all the San Antonio diners who had traveled to New York to support him. His Latin style and honest food philosophy was surely the talk of the city that evening.

The following evening, Jason Dady showed a whimsical side to his culinary talents at New York’s City Grit, which bills itself as “a culinary salon.”

City Grit is brain child of Sarah Simmons, recently named one of America’s greatest new cooks by Food & Wine magazine. The salon describes itself as a place where an “inspiring chef” hosts a dinner showcasing his or her talents so that new flavors can be integrated into the New York culinary scene.

Dady’s dinner was a fusion of dishes from his restaurants. He showcased a bone marrow mousse and luxardo cherry jam macaron as an amuse bouche. This savory take on a dessert had a decadent, melt-in your-mouth texture and represented something one would see on the BIN 555 menu.

Bahn Mi for City Grit by Jason Dady.

Bahn Mi for City Grit by Jason Dady.

Dady’s Bahn Mi brought together giant shrimp, crisp pork belly,  buttered toast rounds, cucumber and carrot daikon pearls, before being finished off with a touch of Red Boat fish sauce vinaigrette.  Dady’s fourth course represented a bite from Tre Trattoria  and Two Bros. BBQ Market  — a tasting of eggplant with figs and some crisp Brisket Bark coming together for a true taste of Texas.

Dady and Perez attracted national attention with their meals in New York in June —  but you can try out their culinary talents here in San Antonio. Arcade Midtown Kitchen is at the Pearl, 303 Pearl Parkway. Dady’s restaurants are Tre Trattoria Downtown and Tre Trattoria Alamo Heights, Two Bros. BBQ Market and Bin 555.

Emily Stringer is a San Antonio blogger and freelance writer. Contact her at emily@definingdelicious.com

 

 

 

 

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Arcade Midtown Kitchen Brings a Touch of Comfort to the Pearl


Jesse Perez has opened Arcade Midtown Kitchen at the Pearl.

Jesse Perez has opened Arcade Midtown Kitchen at the Pearl.

Jesse Perez has brought a touch of comfort food the Pearl Brewery, 312 Pearl Parkway. His Arcade Midtown Kitchen opened this week.

Pork Belly Ragu with Ricotta

Pork Belly Ragu with Ricotta

At a preview party on Tuesday evening, Perez, once named best Latin chef in the country, served a host of local celebrities, including Mayor Julián Castro and fellow chefs Bruce Auden, John Brand and Jason Dady, as well as friends and family.

Dishes included several of his signature creations, including lobster soft tacos served with a poblano cream on top. P.E.I. mussels with chorizo in an orange-habanero broth, pork belly ragú with ricotta, and chile and lime calamari were among the other snacks offered that can be found on the menu. Others include P&B Meatballs (pork and beef, of course), Grilled Octopus and Arugula Salad, and Salt & Pepper Beets with Goat Cheese.

P.E.I. Mussels with Chorizo

P.E.I. Mussels with Chorizo

A flatbread topped with shrimp and pineapple was followed by slices of filet with garlic spinach as well as spiced lamb chops with lemon sweet potatoes and pasilla fig mole. Other entrees include Lemon & Pepper Peeler Farm’s Chicken, Ancho Chile Glazed Salmon with rock shrimp hash, a 12-ounce, house-aged rib-eye and Wild Mushroom Linguine.

Also featured were several of Arcade’s signature cocktails, including the Boulevardier, a Negroni variation made with bourbon.

Much of the decor reflects its historical part of the Pearl location with chandeliers made from old beer crates and door handles from made from salvaged pieces.

Dessert pastry features banana cream and cajeta.

Dessert pastry features banana cream and cajeta.

Another feature of the restaurant is the Zoltan Fortune Teller that stands near the restrooms. It does tell fortunes for 50 cents, and the proceeds raised will benefit a local charity.

Perez, a San Antonio native, has headed up the kitchen at Francesca’s at Sunset among other restaurants around town. He has also worked in Los Angeles and Atlanta before returning home. He recently shared a love letter for his hometown on The Huffington Post.

For more information on Arcade Midtown Kitchen, click here or call (210) 369-9664.

Photos from Phillip Kent and John Griffin.

Jesse Perez runs the open kitchen at Arcade Midtown Kitchen.

Jesse Perez runs the open kitchen at Arcade Midtown Kitchen.

 

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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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This Christmas, Treat Yourself to Some Homemade Eggnog


Raise a toast to friends and family with a punch bowl full of homemade eggnog.

Shortly after the beginning of “The Ref,” my all-time favorite Christmas movie, a customer is heard grumbling to a sales clerk, “I have 25 relatives coming in one hour and you have one bottle of eggnog. What am I going to do? … I promised them I’d have eggnog.”

When the clerk suggests that she make eggnog, the customer’s incredulity and rage boil over. “I can’t make it,” she screams. “You make it!”

Well, this year, you can make the eggnog. From scratch. And it’ll blow your mind how good the real stuff is.

The recipe we offer comes from Christopher Ware, the elixir magician responsible for the cocktails at Jesse Perez’s upcoming restaurant, Arcade Midtown Kitchen at the Pearl Brewery. We sampled a few of his concoctions recently, including a barrel-aged cocktail, and asked him to provide us with a punch that was perfect for Christmas.

But first, a few words about punch.

The following background comes from the 1937 classic, “Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em” from Stanley Clisby Arthur:

“Punch is the ideal beverage to serve at large gatherings and many are the kinds from which to choose when you are preparing to entertain in a big way.

“The Punch Bowl, or Bowl O’Punch, as our English cousins call it, has long been a feature of Christmas and holiday festivities. The word punch comes from India, and is derived from the Hindu panch, meaning five, the original beverage being composed of five ingredients, viz.: spirits, water or milk, lemon, sugar, spice or cordial. The punch field is covered by arrak, brandy, claret, gin, milk, rum, tea, whiskey, wine, and fruit punch. The drink is usually qualified by the name of the principal ingredient, as, for example, whiskey punch. ”

Or eggnog.

You can find various conjectures as to the origin of the “nog” part of the name (does it refer to “noggin” or “grog” or what?), but what is important is what goes in it.

Ware’s recipe calls for an Italian walnut liquor called Nocino that you can find in town and a specific rum that has a special quality.

“The actual recipe for the egg nog on its own is 2 ounces rum, .5 ounce Nocino, .5 ounce heavy cream, .5 ounce simple syrup and 1 whole egg,” he says. “I used Smith & Cross Rum in the actual batch, which is one of the last readily available rums still produced that would seem to mimic rums from a hundred years ago. The customer should be wary that this is naval proof, or 57% ABV, so good things shall come from this concoction!”

Christopher Ware’s Eggnog

To transform the recipe from a serving for one to a punch happened as follows:

“To start, I took a 750-milliliter bottle of Smith & Cross and steeped a bouquet garni of allspice berries, clove, nutmeg and cinnamon for 24 hours to bring the spice level to Christmas ideals,” Ware says. “After 24 hours of infusion, add an additional 250 milliliters of water to bring the alcohol content down and remove the spices from the liquid. Take the rum and strain through a coffee filter to remove any additional particulates that may have escaped the bouquet garni.

“Now mind you, we are making a punch, so measuring is important, but so is flavor and balance,” he continues. “We have 1,000 milliliters of rum mixture, which is equal to 33.8 ounces, or for our purposes 34 ounces. This is enough product for 17 to 25 servings of nog, depending on the gluttonous behavior that no doubt will ensue once one or two of these are consumed. Our recipe list should include 17 eggs, 8.5 ounces of heavy cream, 8.5 ounces of simple syrup (to make simple syrup combine equal ratios of granular sugar to hot water), 8.5 oounces of Nocino (Nocino is a traditional Italian Walnut liqueur; commercially I like Nux Alpina Nocino — I got mine at Joe Saglimbeni’s, but it’s also available at Spec’s).”

So, what do you do with it?

“Before combining all of the ingredients, take your 17 eggs and beat them with a whisk till emulsified completely. Next, add your cream, simple syrup, Nocino and rum to the mix while continuing to stir. Once thoroughly mixed, put in the fridge and allow to sit for at least 2 hours, so all of the nog’s flavor will bind to each other and mellow. This batch will keep for upwards of 1 week.”

Unless you know you’ll be drinking plenty of this, you may want to keep the ice in each individual serving, instead of the punch bowl. That way, the ice won’t melt and dilute the entire bowl of eggnog.

Ware suggests that you pour about 3.5 ounces into a glass, then add ice and grate fresh cinnamon over the top, if you like. Only one step remains. “Sit back and enjoy the festivities,” he says.

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


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 Jalapeño 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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