Tag Archive | "chef Chris Cook"

A Taste of Something Different: Owner’s Dinner at Sandy Oaks

Sandy Oaks 3Saundra Winokur, owner of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard and Ed and Susan Auler, owners of Texas renowned Fall Creek Vineyards, offer you a unique farm-to-table experience on Friday, Sept.19, at 7 p.m.

Join Winokur and the Aulers as they present a unique dining event featuring local and seasonal bounty prepared by Sandy Oaks Executive Chef Chris Cook, paired with Fall Creek wines — and all showcased in Winokur’s home that overlooks the fields and sprawling live oaks dotting this working ranch.

The cost is $90 per person plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are strongly suggested, as this is a limited-seating event. To reserve your place, call 210-621-0044. Read more about Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard here.


Gulf Snapper and Blue Crab Bouillabaisse
Fall Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, 2013
South Texas Black Heritage Pork – Floresville, TX
Apples and Mustard
Fall Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc, 2013
Home Sweet Farm Lamb – Brenham, TX
Tapenade and Tomato
Fall Creek Vineyards GSM, 2012
Broken Arrow Ranch Antelope – Ingram, TX
Quail Egg and Foie Gras
Fall Creek Vineyard Meritus, 2010
Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard Honey – Elmendorf, TX
Panna Cotta and Pecans
Twin Springs Moscato

Posted in Daily Dish, Events, In SeasonComments Off on A Taste of Something Different: Owner’s Dinner at Sandy Oaks

Chef Chris Cook Giving ‘Ranch’ Cuisine New Look at Sandy Oaks

Elmendorf, TX – Ranch cuisine has never looked this good!

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard has named San Antonio chef Chris Cook to a position as food and beverage director and executive chef. Cook will be overseeing all of the food and wine endeavors on the ranch’s culinary program, as well as overseeing The Kitchen at Sandy Oaks. Cook is also working with the ranch ownership to implement exciting plans for new culinary events and business ventures.

sandFor Cook, this is a new experience, a short step or two away from his most recent position at the venerable Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio. Or from Brasserie Pavil, where he was executive sous chef.

At Sandy Oaks, where he began working earlier in the year part time, Cook moves from traditional fine dining settings to a rural setting – and one that offers good dining, but quite a bit more.

Saundra Winokur founded Sandy Oaks in 1998, one of the pioneers in Texas to take on the agricultural endeavor of growing olive trees for production. Since purchasing that expanse of rolling terrain covering more than 260 acres, with sandy, red soil and plenty of sunshine, her 40-acre orchard of roughly 10,000 trees has thrived.

“We have really strived for excellence in our management of our olive orchard and production of high-quality olive oil at Sandy Oaks. Our mission is education, of course, for those who want to grow their own trees. But, we have also built a beautiful, cultivated retreat for those who love food and wine, appreciate a fresh and healthful approach to food and who want to take some of that experience home with them,” Winokur says.

Sandy Oaks cheese plateCook, says Winokur, has already shown himself as someone who gets it when it comes to Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard and the many facets of its business. These include not just the pursuit of great products and prepared food, but an overall dedication to quality that starts with the ranch crop and has permeated the entire environment making Sandy Oaks a place to visit – and spend time.

Cook wanted to be a part of it all, she said. He hit the ground running at the first event, where he was asked to step in to run the kitchen with just two days’ notice.

“It went very well, everything that had been put in place worked, the teamwork of the staff, the back of the house, kitchen,” said the chef. “I’ve experienced a lot coming up in the business, so what I had to do just came as second nature. And, you can accomplish anything if you’re organized.”

The chef has described himself as a “minimalist with a vision.” He likes to marry creativity with simplicity using seasonally fresh ingredients. Using textures, flavors and ingenuity coming from more than 20 years in the business, Cook likes to surprise patrons, bring inspiring combinations and balance to his dishes.

Since leaving Oro, at the Emily Morgan, the Johnson and Wales University-educated chef been involved in catering as part of the San Antonio Chef’s Cooperative — with some successes. But, as he noted, “Every chef wants a place they can put away their knives and not worry have to about them.”

Jazz on Sandy Oaks patio adds great musical ambiance to the a serene, country setting at Sandy Oaks.

Jazz on Sandy Oaks patio adds great musical ambiance to the a serene, country setting at Sandy Oaks.

Cook will be overseeing many aspects of ranch’s culinary endeavors, which include putting out a line of excellent skin care products made with olive oil and pantry items, such as Olive Leaf Jelly, jarred olives and of course, Sandy Oaks’ high-quality olive oil.

Cook also will be directing his energy toward building the ranch’s attractions as a destination. One of his new tasks will be to help guide a new venture at Sandy Oaks: This summer, the ranch begins offering its grounds for weddings, rehearsal dinners and other special events. He has instituted a new summer menu and, with the help of new front-of-the-house staffer, Ramon Florez, will be honing the food and service at The Kitchen at Sandy Oaks.

In the meantime, the chef has presided over several successful special events, such as the ranch’s popular Passport Series of dinners, where guests are transported to other countries for tastes of its wines, cheeses, olives and food, and learn some of the culinary traditions and history.

Summer Salad

Summer Salad

In taking Sandy Oaks’ culinary program to a new level, Cook thinks of the term “rural” as one would a renowned winery with vineyard-based restaurant in Napa-Sonoma wine country, or a Texas Hill Country venture of the same caliber. In addition to its farming and ranching implications, “rural” also encompasses elegant country living as a temporary or long-term getaway for city folks looking for a respite from city hubbub.

In the last decade or two, however, the country scene, especially with respect to agriculture, has taken on a new, far more significant meaning. Farm-to-table movements, sustainability, buying locally, eating and cooking healthfully, have all been encompassed in Sandy Oaks philosophy.

Building business at Sandy Oaks, Cook says, simply means to bring people in who are drawn by the kinds of things Winokur, and the ranch stand for.

“She’s a woman farmer, she operates on sustainable and organic principles, her products are excellent and she is an educator. The ranch has a richness of the kind that many people seek by going to wineries and resorts in the Hill Country – and Sandy Oaks has this much and more to offer,” says Cook.

Photos by Christabel Cook

Sandy Oaks nursery, with healthy baby olive trees.

Sandy Oaks nursery, with healthy baby olive trees.

Posted in News, RestaurantsComments Off on Chef Chris Cook Giving ‘Ranch’ Cuisine New Look at Sandy Oaks

Passport to Israel: Dinner in a Market Setting, Exotic Flavors

Sandy Oaks’ Olive Orchard’s  Israeli Passport Event offers a chance to immerse yourself in the flavors of Israel in a setting that resembles the vibrant souk, or Israeli market —  and all it requires is a short drive out of town.

The ranch, a 20-mile drive from downtown San Antonio, has become known for its Passport Adventure dining series and this one, on June 13,  offers something fun and different. There will be a series of dining stations for each course of the dinner.  You’ll stroll through the market,  sample olive oils from Israel, listen to live music and in the meantime, enjoy a five-course meal of carefully selected dishes that highlight the Israeli cuisine and Israeli wines.

Food and Beverage Director, Chef Chris Cook

Sandy Oaks Food and Beverage Director, Chef Chris Cook

Sandy Oaks’ new food and beverage director, chef Chris Cook, has planned dishes featuring some of the remarkable flavors of this cuisine: za’atar spice, preserved lemon, tahini and more, all lending flare to locally sourced meats and vegetables, from Hill Country raised goat and turkey to chicken and seasonal garden herbs.

Fine Israeli wines come with each course, carefully matched to the food. The dinner ends with Orange and Almond Cake with berries and Grilled Pear Baklava, served with sweet Israeli muscat wine. (See full menu below.)

If you’ve never been to Sandy Oaks, late spring is a great  time to visit. The 10,000-tree olive orchard is nestled within the 360 acres of the ranch, that also includes meadows and pasture land for cattle and other livestock. The grounds and business buildings, including barn, offices and a well-stocked gift shop, are beautifully maintained.


Za’atar seasoning, spice blend used in Middle East cooking.

Best of all, the setting for this Passport Series dinner will provide a sense of visiting an exotic market.

You may also visit Sandy Oaks’ gift shop, where items are selected for their beauty and usefulness. Buy olive oil and other foods based on olives and olive trees, and try out some of the fragrant skin care and beauty products also made at Sandy Oaks.

The Israeli Passport Event begins at 7 p.m. Friday, June 13.  The cost is $65 per person. Reservations can be made here.  Or call 210-821-0044.


MENU: Israeli Passport Event

Reception:      Israeli olive oil, cheeses, challah and traditional accompaniments

Italian_olive_oil_2007Station 1:        Whole Roasted Hill Country Goat with Israeli Garden Herb Cous Cous, Preserved Curried Lemon, Za’atar Spice, Cilantro Yogurt

Wine: 2011 Dalton Winery, Canaan Red, Galilee Region, Israel

Station 2:         Roasted Garlic and Olive Falafel, Mint Pinenut Pesto and Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice.

Wine:  2010 Kinneret Muscat Hamburg, Judean Hills, Israel

Station 3:         Grilled Turkey Shish Taouk and Schnitzel, Preserved Vegetable Garlic Paste, Tahini, Mint Lemonade Fresh-Squeezed Juice

Wine: 2010 Tishbi Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, Zichron Ya’Akov, Carmel Mountains, Israel

Station 4:         Smoked Chicken Dumplings and Seasonal Vegetables, Garden Tomato Sauce, Olives and Pickled Onions

Wine: 2011 Dalton Winery, Canaan Red, Galilee Region, Israel

Station 5:         Orange and Almond Cake and Grilled Pear Baklava, Seasonal berries, Chocolate Mint, Pear Coulis, Blintzes and Truffles

Wine:  2010 Kinneret Muscat Hamburg, Judean Hills, Israel



Posted in Daily Dish, Events, NewsComments Off on Passport to Israel: Dinner in a Market Setting, Exotic Flavors

Sandy Oaks Passport to South Africa: Chef Chris Cook

Beer and Olives 4 resizedSandy Oaks Olive Orchard on Friday April 11,  presents the next in its series of Passport Adventure Series dinners. This one take you to South Africa, where the cuisine and wines are attaining wide recognition.
While you might think wild animals and baobab trees, fabulous scenery and magnificent waterfalls, Africa doesn’t always suggest cuisine. Or olives. But in fact, olive trees were first planted in South Africa in 1661. It would be another 200 years before the actual fruit was recognized for the valuable food that it is.
Today, olive farming is rapidly increasing. Among popular olives for oil are Leccino, Frantoio and Coratino, Mission and Kalamata are popular table olives.
Sandy Oaks Passport dinner series Chef Chris Cook.

Sandy Oaks Passport dinner series Chef Chris Cook.

By popular demand, chef Chris Cook returns to Sandy Oaks to present this colorful, interesting dinner paired with olives, cheese and wines of South African cuisine. You will not want to miss out on this adventure, with one of the area’s excellent chefs at the helm in the kitchen and a lovely setting for guests at the ranch.

The reception begins at  7 p.m.; the dinner is $65 per person. Make reservations 210.621.0044. These events do sell out fast, so make that call soon! Future Passport adventures will explore the cuisine, wines and olive oils of Israel, Turkey, Tuscany and Uruguay. For more information on Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard and direction to the ranch, about 30 minutes drive south of San Antonio, visit their website here.


Selection on olives, olive oil and cheeses

First Course

Lamb and Spiced Vegetable Skewer with Sandy Oaks Curry

Second Course

Bobotie, the national dish of South Africa, Texas-style

Texas Game Meatloaf, Apricots and Pecan Chutney

Third Course

Green Chile Potato Noodles, Five Spice Castle Lager Broth

Fourth Course

Tandoori Shark, Pickled Seasonal Vegetable


Melktart – A South African delicacy

Masala Blueberry Chocolate

The dinner will be paired with wines unique to South Africa.    


Posted in EventsComments Off on Sandy Oaks Passport to South Africa: Chef Chris Cook

Passionate Cook Turns Hobby into ‘Taste Elevated’

Lori Krieger

Lori Krieger

Lori Krieger grew up in a busy family, helping her dad in his veterinarian clinic. Really, she says, she thought she’d become a vet herself, but the hours were long and midnight calls and occasional doses of porcupine quills were all in a day’s work.

Because both of her parents were busy, she always had to cook. “I had to do it, but I considered it a chore,” she says.

Along the way, however, she began watching the Food Network and chores suddenly transformed into creative challenges – then passion. “I just got this fever for cooking,” she said.

That fever turned into a business — but it happened over years, not overnight.

With her family at her side, Krieger launched Taste Elevated at the Emily Morgan Hotel’s Oro on Sept. 19.

As a crowd of well-wishers, friends, media, food professionals and associates picked up glasses of wine, they sampled  Krieger’s flavorful condiments with an array of hors d’oeuvres and charcuterie from Oro chef Chris Cook and his team.

This scene probably wasn’t anything Krieger anticipated after attending Texas A&M and receiving a political science degree — something her father, David Carter, was dubious about as far as her employment opportunities went. She  married Benny Krieger, lived for five years in Washington, D.C. and had three boys, now ages 1, 2 and 4.

But, her fervor for cooking had not relinquished its hold, and sent her on an unexpected path after she returned to Texas from Washington.

View More:

Taste Elevated’s Fig Chutney

After working with the plentiful figs that grew on trees on her parents’ property, she came up with a chutney so good that it inspired her to think of producing it commercially.

“People tasted it and really loved it — I got a real high out of that,” she said.

Thus began the rigorous task of developing not just the fig chutney, but eventually a line of high-end condiments that would sell under the Taste Elevated label.

“I spent endless hours in the kitchen trying to make a business … and learned a lot of hard lessons along the way,” she said. This dose of reality is faced by all good cooks who decide to take the next step — dealing with the FDA and health departments, addressing shelf life and other technical details.

Taste Elevated condiments with cheese and charcuterie

Taste Elevated condiments on crostini at Oro.

The first six products are versatile, but especially suited to the spicy, salty flavors of prepared, often cured meat products called charcuterie. These include salamis and pate, terrines, sausages, soppressata, pepperoni, confit and more. Cheeses, artisan breads and fresh seafood, such as salmon and shrimp are also natural partners with Taste Elevated condiments.

Taste Elevated’s introductory line includes: Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper, with red bell pepper, pine nuts and spices; Fig Chutney, with raisins and spices; Sweet and Spicy Mustard Seeds; Caramelized Onion Spread, with balsamic vinegar and a touch of the spicy Sriracha sauce; Spicy Candied Oranges; and a buttery Pear and Fennel Compote.

The idea for the name was to suggest that each of their products can take any dish to that next culinary level.

The Sweet and Spicy Mustard Seeds are like tiny, crunchy pickles that adorn a hot dog as deliciously as they do a slice of Spanish chorizo or manchego cheese. The Caramelized Onion Spread has a little heat from Sriracha, as well as a touch of flavor from ginger and a little garlic. The Spicy Candied Oranges works as topping for a triple cream cheese, or roasted salmon.

The original condiment, her Fig Chutney, is good just spread on a biscuit, says Krieger, but really shines with pork or a chicken panino. A buttery Pear and Fennel Compote went well atop duck confit canapes. The Roasted Eggplant Spread, also touched with spice, is a warm red color from the bell peppers and, says Krieger, works as a condiment, a spread or even spread on a homemade crust for a “really, really good pizza sauce.”

Taste Elevated condiments are produced and packed by state’s top gourmet food producer, Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods, Inc.  Fisher & Wieser ordinarily would not have produced Taste Elevated products, as the company doesn’t produce private labels, according to company founder and chairman, Mark B. Wieser.

Wieser stood at the far side of the room at Oro, looking on as Krieger welcomed guests and delivered a short talk about Taste Elevated. His niece, Jenny Wieser, the company’s CEO, was Kreiger’s taste critic and eventually champion at Fisher & Wieser, he said.

After sampling Krieger’s condiments several times and sending her back to the kitchen, the products won Jenny Wieser over, and the work of turning kitchen creations to high-end product began.

Taste Elevated board

The Kriegers also make mesquite serving boards, large and small, to sell as companion products for Taste Elevated.

Krieger’s dad offered moral support as well as financial. And, she thanked him and her mother, especially, at the launch party. She will now be seeking locations to place the products, looking particularly for specialty and gourmet shops rather than grocery stores.

Taste Elevated Mark Wieser

Mark Wieser

“They are excellent and high quality, Wieser said. “With her enthusiasm, I think she can make a go of it.”

“The  launch was a wonderful start to what will be a phenomenal company started by two entrepreneurs that I love very much,” said her mom, Jan Carter. Her dad, also there to see Lori off to a good start said, “It was very gratifying to see the interest by the people that attended, it was a nice crowd. It was obvious that they were all foodies,” he said.

View More:

Taste Elevated’s line of condiments, designed to be especially good with charcuterie

Taste Elevated products are (so far) carried at Das Peach Haus, Fredericksburg Winery and at Koch Ranch Gourmet Country Store. In San Antonio at Groomer’s Seafood and Bolner’s. The prices range from $8-$11. Look for Krieger and her Taste Elevated product tastings at stores in the near future, too. Visit her website by clicking here.


Taste Elevated party

Launch party at the Emily Morgan Hotel.




Posted in Featured, NewsComments Off on Passionate Cook Turns Hobby into ‘Taste Elevated’

A Special Presentation: LangeTwins Wines, Dinner at Oro

Wine LangeTwins 2011 Sauv. Blanc

Oro Restaurant and LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards, based in Lodi California, put wine and cuisine together for a five-course dinner on March 15 at Oro, in the Emily Morgan Hotel, 705 E. Houston St.

Come a little early for some fun — there will be caricature drawings at 5:45 p.m., with the reception beginning at 6:30 p.m., with chef Chris Cook’s offering of Gulf Shrimp Rangoon and Roasted, Anaheim, Caramelized Peaches. LangeTwins’ Viognier 2011 will be poured.

From the LangeTwins Family Winery: For nearly three decades, the Lange family has practiced the art of sustainable winegrowing. Unlike other farming practices, sustainable growing, vineyard and winemaking practice is all encompassing in its approach. Here, the health of the vineyard and its surrounding natural environment are carefully considered, encompassing the balance of environmental health, economic profitability and social equity.

The rest of the menu continues with Ruby Red Trout, Pickled Apple and Pineapple “Caviar” served with the winery’s Estate Chardonnay, 2010. The third course is Texas Wild Boar Spare Ribs with Caricature Red Blend 2010; Fourth course is Grilled Flat-Iron Steak with Stone-Ground Grits and Sun-Dried Cherries served with LangeTwins Midnight Reserve, 2009.  The meal concludes with Apricot and Peach Cobbler, Serrano and Orange with the winery’s Estate Moscato 2011.

Dinner is $74.95 (not including tax and gratuity).  Call the Emily Morgan Hotel to make reservations at 210-225-5100.

Posted in Daily DishComments Off on A Special Presentation: LangeTwins Wines, Dinner at Oro

Thumbs Up: Oro’s Chorizo Corndogs … Cherry Crème Brûlée

The weather almost stole the show during lunch at Oro.  Actual rain fell for 30-40 seconds downtown Thursday before 1 p.m., dousing the horses (which didn’t appear to mind) and wagons hitched up behind the Alamo and darkening the sky.

What this unusual weather event also did was draw a friend’s and my attention briefly away from the sizzling hot Chorizo Corndogs on our plates. The jicama slaw, the red pepper mojo, the crunchy batter… everything right with these morsels of lightly spicy, Spanish-style sausages.

There were definitely a lot of San Antonio diners who would have loved this Culinaria Restaurant Week appetizer, but few were in attendance to partake. Let’s just say —their loss. The service was good, the three prix fixe courses well designed to appeal.

The other distraction was the Oro Restaurant Week dinner menu.  Three courses for $35: the Oro Mac N Cheese with Truffle Oil and Blackened Breadcrumbs; Shiner Bock Braised Beef Short Ribs with Bacon-Scented Quinoa, peas, carrots and natural jus; and for dessert, House-Made Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Passion Fruit and Candied Jalapeños: all sounding outrageously good without trying too hard.

Mesquite Smoked Chicken Avocado Sandwich on Jalapeño Cheddar Bun.

The Mesquite-Smoked Chicken Avocado Sandwich was a high-stacked treat. The jalapeño-Cheddar bun was thick and rich, buttery and grilled to a crisp. It was scattered with some pickled onions which were anything but an afterthought. We were parceling them out so we could add their tangy crunch to each bite. The seasoned fries were just the way we like them, fried only until the lightly seasoned coating was light gold and just right.

Oro Cherry Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee.

Our Seasonal Cherry Tahitian Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée came with a satisfyingly brittle caramelized sugar crust over a pale pink filling. It didn’t have much of a cherry taste, but just for a little enhancement was a maraschino cherry on top, two fresh blackberries, a dollop of whipped cream on the side, a sliced strawberry and, for good measure, a couple of shortbread cookies.

Lunch at Oro was really a treat for just $15, and for that we thank chef Chris Cook. Remember the Alamo; remember Oro at the Emily Morgan. Just repeat to yourself a few times: chorizo corndogs, chorizo corndogs…


The Emily Morgan Hotel
705 E. Houston Street




Posted in Featured, RestaurantsComments Off on Thumbs Up: Oro’s Chorizo Corndogs … Cherry Crème Brûlée