Tag Archive | "Bruce Auden"

Best Chef in Southwest Asia Perhaps?

The James Beard Foundation handed out its annual awards earlier this week, and, no, a San Antonio chef was not named best in the Southwest.

Bruce Auden, chef/owner of Biga on the Banks and one of the chefs who helped popularize Southwestern cuisine, was nominated for the sixth time. But the award was actually split between Tyson Cole of Uchi in Austin and Saipin Chutima from Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. (Perhaps the voters read the category wrong and voted for best chef of Southwest Asian cuisine?)

Cole wasn’t the only Texan to pick up an award. Robb Walsh of Houston shared an award with Rick Bragg and Francine Maroukian for best Food Culture and Travel piece. They co-authored “The Southerner’s Guide to Oysters” for Garden & Gun, a publication that describes itself as being “a Southern lifestyle magazine that’s all about the magic of the new South.”

In other Beard Award news, the cookbook of the year was “Oaxaca al Gusto: An Infinite Gastronomy” by Diana Kennedy, who is either the most loved or most reviled cookbook author to deal with Mexican food. (For some of the latter, read what Walsh has to say about her in his “The Tex-Mex Cookbook.”)

Publication of the year was Edible Communities, which produces Edible Austin among other regional magazines.

The Beard Awards are the culinary equivalent of the Oscars. For a full list of the winners, click here.

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Bruce Auden Earns Another James Beard Nomination

Bruce Auden

Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St. Mary’s St., is among the five finalists for best chef in the Southwest, according to the James Beard Foundation.

Auden has been nominated several times in the past for the award, which is the culinary field’s equivalent of the Oscars.

Auden is up against several Texas competitors, including Bryan Caswell of Reef in Houston and Tyson Cole of Uchi in Austin. Saipin Chutima of Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas and Ryan Hardy of Montagna at the Little Nell in Aspen, Colo., are the other nominees.

Another Texan to make the list is Robb Walsh of Houston, who is nominated in the journalism division for Food Culture and Travel writing. He shares the nomination with Rick Bragg and Francine Maroukian for a piece in Garden & Sun titled “The Southerner’s Guide to Oysters.” They are up against Bill Addison for a piece in Atlanta Magazine on “BBQ 2010” and Matt Gross for an article in Saveur on “Tapei, Family Style.”

The journalism awards will be announced May 6. The restaurant awards will be announced May 9. For the full list of nominees, click here.

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Jason Dady Extends Restaurant Week at His Eateries

Didn’t get to visit enough restaurants during Restaurant Week? Then check out one of Jason Dady’s places.

The chef and owner of the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills and Bin 555 among others, has announced that he’s continuing his specials through the end of September.

The menus will change weekly, he says, but three-course lunches will be offered for $15 and three-course dinners for $35. The specials will be available at the Lodge, 1746 Lockhill-Selma; Bin 555 at Artisans Alley, 555 W. Bitters Road; Tre Trattoria, 4003 Broadway; and Restaurant Insignia in the Fairmount, 401 S. Alamo St.

For more information, call 210-349-8466.

Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St Mary’s St., also reminded us that his restaurant has a three-course dinner special every evening for $37.

The official Restaurant Week concludes tonight. For more information, click here.

In other restaurant news, Freebirds World Burrito has opened a new location. It’s at 125 N.W. Loop 410 in the Plaza del Norte center.

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A Treat for Avocado Lovers at Biga

Cuzco Salad at Biga on the Banks.

The ongoing Restaurant Week has been a great opportunity to sample the culinary riches of San Antonio at an affordable price. The latest we’ve tried was the avocado-friendly menu at Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St. Mary’s St.

The first course was a choice between an avocado soup and a Peruvian-influence Cuzco Salad. Both were well worth trying.

The soup was velvety, with plenty of avocado flavor. Offering a delightful contrast to the smoothness was some pico made from orange, jicama and shrimp that added immeasurably to an already-wonderful dish. It was also beautifully presented in a martini glass.

Halibut with cilantro rice at Biga on the Banks.

The salad, meanwhile, was a zesty assortment of marinated red onion, avocado, sweet potato, posole and more tucked into butter lettuce leaves.

For the main course, I couldn’t resist achiote pork tenderloin in a lively cinnamon-laced tomato sauce. Guacamole was perched atop the slices of moist meat, while roasted fresh summer corn and plantains rounded out the plate. Again, the presentation, this time on a banana leaf, added to the enjoyment.

Another option was tortilla-crusted halibut – which chef Bruce Auden and his staff provided without the tortilla – topped with an avocado purée and served with chayote squash and an excellent cilantro rice that had everyone raving.

A third option is quail atop multi-colored, house-made fettuccine in a lemon cream sauce. No avocado, but the dish was just fine with the pasta being a standout.

You can continue the avocado fix into dessert, if you choose. There’s a delicate avocado mousse with a lime lift that arrived with a scoop of coconut ice on top and an array of fresh fruit, including perfectly ripe cubes of pineapple, on the plate. For those who don’t eat sweet avocado on a regular basis, the flavor will be exotic, but the creaminess of the mousse is pure comfort.

Chocolate cake at Biga on the Banks.

Chocolate lovers, though, will find it hard to resist the dense, rich cake, which gives you a feeling that you’re eating both fudge and cake. A generous slice with a touch of chocolate whipped cream was gone almost before I had a taste.

The cost of the three-course meal is $35 during Restaurant Week. Many of the dishes are offered on the regular menu.

For more on Restaurant Week and the participating restaurants, click here.

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Auden’s Kitchen Among Country’s Best New Places

Auden’s Kitchen, Bruce Auden’s haven of home cooking at 700 E. Sonterra Blvd., has been named one of the top 10 new restaurants in the county by, a website that describes itself as “the guide to the good life.”

Auden and his team, including head chef Patricia Wenckus, offer diners a host of comfort foods from buttermilk fried chicken and fish of the day with chips to duck two ways and a bone-in pork chop with bubble and squeak.

The rest of the list include places in Chicago, Las Vegas, Washington, Los Angles, Philadephia, Boston and New York. Not another restaurant included was from Texas.

“Auden’s Kitchen, its wire shelf dividers lined with wines and crockery, is homey with more than a hint of haute,” the online review reads.

For another view of Auden’s Kitchen, from SavorSA’s Bonnie Walker, click here.

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10th Anniversary: Biga Brings Back Memorable Dishes

Biga on the Bank’s 10th anniversary means a blast from the past (tastes, that is) for the faithful.

Beginning  Monday, April 19, the night of The Cavaliers River Parade, Biga will feature dishes that the restaurant was built on. These include Shiner Bock onion rings with habanero ketchup, “expensive” mushrooms sizzling with garlic, and duck confit on a potato rösti with Granny Smith apples and cider sauce, dishes that were on the menu at the original Locust Street location..

These items will be on the menu until Oct. 10.

Biga on the Banks is at 203 S. St. Mary’s St. on the River Walk.  (210) 225-0722.

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Drop in on Auden’s Kitchen

Wood Roasted Chicken

Auden’s Kitchen is just what chef Bruce Auden wanted it to be, a comfortable neighborhood drop-in kind of place. You’ll see your neighbors, or maybe your best friend in having lunch or coffee.

Right away, I fell for the visual elements that pulled together a subtle but well-done statement.  San Antonio designer Jill Giles did not have a whopping budget to make the place come alive, Auden told us, yet she pulled it off. The creative touches are decisive and coherent, taking the interior beyond homey yet still present a feeling of welcome.

Food: 4.0
Value: 4.0

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

I marveled at the paper table toppers stamped with a spare, blue-ink design; the deckle-edged, black and white photos of old table utensils framed in simple black.  ] I loved the table ‘napkins’ ─ simple white cotton dishtowels with blue lines.

Potted Chicken and Duck

The bar is comfortable and inviting, if small. The racks with wine bottles running the length of the restaurant are cool, but we hoped the original contents had been consumed, before the bottles were filled and set in the sun. One happy note to add: Auden’s corkage fee (bring your own bottle, they’ll open it and serve) is a relatively affordable $15.

At the window to the open kitchen, above a slim community table (we used to call it a counter in the olden days) is a long row of ultra-shiny, polished steel (or is it aluminum?) pans hanging by their handles. Great touch ─ one of those you want to work into your own kitchen decor.

Fish of the Day and Chips

I won’t be damning Auden’s Kitchen with faint praise for the food and great praise for design, however. I liked the food. Everyone I know who has eaten there likes the food.

Auden likes the food and gives much of the credit to his young female chef, Patricia Wenckus.  We give Auden huge credit, applause and kudos putting a female at the head of the kitchen.

I’m going to start with dessert in my discussion of the menu. Years ago (10 years ago, I believe) Auden’s pastry chef at Biga on the Banks, Katharine Tuason, introduced us to Sticky Toffee Pudding. It was one of his biggest hits, a revelation for us non-Brits, and now is on Auden’s Kitchen’s menu.

I’ll try it next time, because a similar dessert, a very sticky bread pudding was offered that day. It was a little like the toffee pudding, melting with gooey syrup-soaked bread and totally delicious. I think a little dish of crème Anglaise that came to the table was meant to be a topper, but I actually consider crème Anglaise a stand-alone dessert. Like dessert soup. I ate them separately.

We also loved another “crème,” the crème brulée ice cream. As a companion said, “I’ve had crème brulée ice cream before, but this one really does taste like crème brulée.”

Salami, asparagus and tomato pizza

Full disclosure: Auden and Perny Shea, his marketing director, were at our table off and on for one of the visits. That meant exquisite service, though we think the crew was up to snuff on the other visits as well.

The Guadalupe Peak Lemon Pie was another knock-’em-dead ─ or at least into sugar shock ─ dessert.

I’ll jump back to our appetizers now. We ordered the Potted Chicken and Duck, a mixture of chicken mousse and duck rillette, or meat and fat pounded to a mellow, paté-like consistency and used as a spread. It was flavorful, with an especially appealing presentation in a little glass crock. The allspice in the pickled vegetables, served with the spread, was a pleasant foil for the spread.

Auden's Kitchen's version of Mac-and-cheese

On another visit, the Scotch eggs were traditional, the hard-cooked egg wrapped in a well seasoned sausage (with plenty of parsley) and then fried. Some aioli on the side worked, too. Cooked pasta with cheese, baked with (heaven) buttered crumbs on top, was another impossible-to-resist treat.

Pizzas are a daily special as well as mainstay on the menu. We ordered one with salami and tomatoes. The crust was thin and chewy, browned on the bottom with a good, yeasty taste. The sliced salami was rolled into a small tube instead of spread flat over the cheese. Nice touch, that.

A Cheddar Burger on a flat, toasted bun, with fried onions, was good and cooked to medium. My friend’s chicken, baked to a toasty brown, seasoned with thyme and onion, was accompanied by roasted Brussels sprouts. These are a winter favorite of ours, especially when they are this tender and flavorful. (You may also order them as a side dish.)

Guadalupe Peak Lemon Pie

Auden is a classically trained chef, but in this casual corner up in the Stone Oak area, he shows his British roots as well. The fish-and-chips, served up big slabs of freshly battered fillets of fish, comes with fries in a paper cone. No complaints, especially with the bottle of malt vinegar handy.

On an earlier visit, a friend tried the kitchen’s best seller, the buttermilk fried chicken. Crackly on the outside, moist and tender on the inside – perfect.  Green beans on the side were cooked with just a bit of crunch.

As so many have already discovered, Auden’s Kitchen is worth the visit with an affordable, varied and appealing menu of well-executed dishes. The food isn’t fancy, but it’s a cut or two above your basic comfort food, and that’s just fine with us.

Photos: Nicholas Mistry

Bread Pudding

Cheddar Burger

Crème Brulée Ice Cream

Auden’s Kitchen
The Plaza at Concord
700 E. Sonterra Blvd
(210) 494-0070
Mon. – Thurs. 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Fri. – Sat. 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sun. 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. with special menu brunch items

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Griffin to Go: Welcome to the Era of the Taco Truck

Fine dining is dead.

That’s what celebrated chef Mark Miller declared last October at the Culinary Institute of America’s Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conference at the Pearl Brewery.

In the foodie world, that was akin to the New York Times saying God was dead. But God survived, and so will fine dining.

Yet Miller had his point. A growing number of diners are tired of waiting through a three-hour meal while the chef serves up an array of food designed to dazzle all of our senses, not just our taste buds. San Antonio’s own temple of haute cuisine, Le Rêve, closed its doors the same month as Miller’s grand statement, a fact we still mourn.

We still want the connection to the chef that we got at Le Rêve, where we could see Andrew Weissman supervise every morsel that appeared from the kitchen. Yet we want it quickly, so we can rush back home to our video games, our DVRs and our other time wasters.

That’s why Miller hailed taco trucks as the next big thing. The trend has grown from California and New York to cities across the country, including San Antonio, where the number of mobile eateries is on the rise. Why? Because we can walk up to a taco truck, have a conversation with the cook behind the screen, and then sit down to a freshly made plate of food. No fuss, not much wait, generally great food. And we know the person who made it. We know he or she left off the onions or grilled the carnitas a little crispier than average, just as we wanted. We know that what we are eating was made especially for us.

I feel that way whenever I visit one of my favorites, Erick’s Tacos, which I will use as an illustration. This modest little converted garage on Nacogdoches has mini-tacos so good, I sometimes have to drop what I’m doing and drive over for a plate of four covered in carne asada, then crowned with onion and cilantro. Bowls of lime slices are at most of the tables, as are squeeze bottles of the habanero salsa to finish off the treats with an extra charge of flavor. The iciest Mexican Fresca or Coca-Cola substitutes for the fine French Champagne that once bubbled in our glasses. There’s no air conditioning in summer or heat, in the winter, but neither condition seems to stop people from pouring in for more. And at the end of the evening, you have enough to think about another meal.

To me, that last sentence is at the root of the matter. Our eating cycles parallel the width of our wallets. With the country experiencing economic turmoil, a great many of us turn to comfort foods. So when we eat out, we go to a neighborhood joint where we can get a burger, a slice of pizza or a plate of mini-tacos.

That’s the approach behind Johnny Hernandez’s upcoming La Gloria on the Pearl Brewery campus. It will celebrate the type of Mexican street food you find south of the border. The people behind the Pearl project have also tapped Shelley Grieshaber to lasso a few of the mobile units in town to the Pearl for a corral of treats that complements the current Saturday fixture, Saweet Cupcakes.

But is fine dining dead? No. Some of us love to treat ourselves to a regular feast or merely dine out on a special occasion. We just love to have the choice. That’s why Bruce Auden’s new venture, Auden’s Kitchen, features prices that are far less than they are at his Biga on the Banks. Yet Biga remains a beloved fixture on the scene, as do Jason Dady’s Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills and Weissman’s Sandbar, with its Le Rêve-inspired dishes among a host of other high-end restaurants.

Making room for more flavors at all ends of the price scale is something to celebrate, with Mexican Coke or Veuve Clicquot. I’m off to Erick’s.

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Two Restaurant Openings Set

Two new restaurants will open in the coming weeks, offering diners new tastes from two of the city’s finest chefs.

• Damian Watel of Bistro Vatel, Ciao Lavanderia and others will be opening Cafe des Artistes at the San Antonio Museum of Art, 200 W. Jones Ave., on Feb. 15.

The restaurant will be open for lunch in the beginning, Watel says, with hours until 9 p.m. on Tuesdays when the museum is also open late.

The menu will include pressed sandwiches, salads and more. The space, which opens up onto the new extension of the River Walk, can seat up to 100 and is available for catered events, including weddings, brunches and more.

• Chef Bruce Auden says his new restaurant, Auden’s Kitchen in the Stone Oak area, will open Monday, Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. for dinner. It will be closed Feb. 7, then reopen Feb. 8 at 11 a.m., for lunch and dinner.

The restaurant, located in the Plaza at Concord Park, 700 Sonterra Blvd. at Sigma Drive, will be contemporary in concept, with an open kitchen, and moderate in price, according to Perney Shea, sales and catering manager for Biga on the Banks, Auden’s restaurant on the River Walk. “It has a great look, (local artist) Jill Giles did our design.”

Lunches, featuring entrees such as fish and chips, burgers, pizza, chicken pot pie and so forth, will be in the $12-$15 range, and dinners at around $25.

“It will be comfortable and casual, just as if you were sitting in the kitchen at a friend’s,” Shea said.

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Auden’s Kitchen to Open First Week in February

Chef Bruce Auden’s new restaurant, Auden’s Kitchen, will open during the first week in February, says Perny Shea, banquet and catering manager.

“We don’t have an exact day yet, but it will be announced on the new website next week,” she said. No soft opening or preview parties are planned, says Shea — the doors to the restaurant will simply be opened when they are ready to go.

The restaurant, which will be located in the Plaza at Concord Park, 700 Sonterra Blvd. at Sigma Drive, will be contemporary in concept, with an open kitchen, and moderate in price, according to Shea. “It has a great look, (local artist) Jill Giles did our design.”

“It will be comfortable and casual, just as if you were sitting in the kitchen at a friend’s,” said Shea. Lunches, featuring entrees such as fish and chips, burgers, pizza, chicken pot pie and so forth, will be in the $12-$15 range, and dinners at around $25.

The new wood-burning oven has now been installed and a Valentine’s Day brunch is in the planning stages, said Shea. The restaurant will be serving beer and wine, and taking reservations only for seven or more people when it opens.

Moving to this area at this time, says Shea, “just felt as though it was the right thing at the right time,” said Shea. Auden, she says, will be dividing his time between Biga on the Banks, downtown, and his new restaurant. Patricia Wenckus will be the chef at Auden’s Kitchen, while Martin Stembera will continue as chef at Biga on the Banks.

The phone number for Auden’s Kitchen is (210) 494-0074.

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