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Hotel Emma to Open at Pearl in ‘Early 2015’


The four-star boutique hotel at Pearl is slated to open sometime early in 2015, according to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. Located in the 119-year-old Pearl brewhouse, Hotel Emma will have 146 rooms as well as a restaurant, bar, catering and in-room dining service.

Drawing of the kitchen at Hotel Emma

Rendering of kitchen at Hotel Emma

The hotel will have an “authentic place” on the Pearl campus in the 119-year-old brewhouse. Its name was chosen in honor of the wife of Pearl Brewery founder Otto Koehler.

Emma Koehler is credited for keeping the brewery afloat during Prohibition after her husband’s death. She converted brewery operations to function as a dry cleaner, for making near-beer, ice cream and sodas, and managed to keep the entire staff at the brewery employed during these “dry” days.

When Prohibition ended in 1933, she was there to direct the staff as they rolled out cases and kegs of beer to an eager public awaiting their first glass of real beer.

Kimpton also named the new hotel’s general manager, Steven André. He is former general manager of Hutton Hotel in Nashville and Hotel Derek in Houston; and Director of Sales and Marketing Beth Smith, formerly of the Watermark Hotel & Spa, La Mansion del Rio Hotel, and Valencia Group in San Antonio.

John Brand was brought on to the Hotel Emma team as executive chef and culinary director. Formerly of The Mokara, Omni La Mansion and Broadmoor, Brand brings to Hotel Emma over 20 years of experience in the culinary industry.

According to material provided by the owners, Hotel Emma’s architecture and interiors, designed by Roman and Williams, “embrace the extravagance of the iconic 19th century brewhouse as well as the shirtsleeve industrial aesthetic of the brewery’s ‘back rooms.'”

Brewery building at Pearl will house Hotel Emma.

Brewery building at Pearl will house Hotel Emma.

 

 

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Las Canarias: Classy Setting, Distinctive Flavors


It isn’t downtown Tuesday or thank God it’s Friday. Monday is just a quiet weekday when most of us are clinging to the vestiges of a weekend that’s rapidly vanishing.

But this week is Restaurant Week — Culinaria’s annual bash of budget-priced menus at some of the city’s favorite restaurants and a very good reason to leave home.

Ahead of time, we’d mentally sampled a range of flavors evoked by words on web pages — the menus from participating restaurants are online here. These are specials for three-course lunches ($15) and dinners ($35) offered through Saturday (and in some cases longer).

Braised Beef Short Rib with Homestead Grist Mill Polenta, Grilled Scallion and Pickled Okra Relish

Braised Beef Short Rib with Homestead Grist Mill Polenta, Grilled Scallion and Pickled Okra Relish

Las Canarias at the Omni La Mansion del Rio has long been a special-night-out place for my husband and me. Executive chef John Brand has continued its tradition of well-crafted dishes, local sourcing and many happy surprises in the well-constructed offerings from his menus.

Our first choice for Restaurant Week, Las Canarias tempted us with a starter of with grilled Texas Shrimp with Chimichurri Sauce and roasted corn for an appetizer as well as another good choice: Crispy Masa Dedos with aged cotija cheese and lime espelette aioli.

Served in a glass, the grill-marked shrimp had all the fresh, natural sweetness we’d wanted and was a perfect mate to the sugar in the roasted corn. Then, those sweet tastes did a lively two-step with tangy —  the fresh herbs and chimichurri sauce.

I’d had the masa dedos at a CIA Latin Flavors class a couple of years ago,  and Las Canarias’ version were just as warm and tender: Think airy, tiny little corn pancakes rolled up into flutes, then dipped into the creamy aioli and seasoned with some salty cotija cheese with a little sprinkle of red pepper.  Sumptuous but just enough for a starter, interesting but not likely to dull the appetite.

Braised Beef Short Rib

Braised Beef Short Rib shreds easily with a fork.

While the Patagonia Salmon, crusted with spice and served with a local farmer caponata and a little lemon curd was tempting, we were on a carnivore’s quest: the Braised Beef Short Rib on Homestead Grist Mill Polenta with Grilled Scallion and a Pickled Okra Relish was what we’d come for — and a great choice it was.

The meat was served cut off the rib and shredded easily with a fork. The warm, strong beefy aroma was lavish but also fulfilled its promise with rich, full flavor that comes from braising.

The pickled okra relish had a lemony tartness that complemented the mellow beef, while the buttery polenta was not just comfort food but also cleared the palate for the next, tempting taste of complex flavors.

Duck Leg Confit at Las Canarias, with House-Made Bacon, Brussels Sprouts Hash

Duck Leg Confit at Las Canarias, with House-Made Bacon, Brussels Sprouts Hash

My companion shared his Duck Leg Confit with me (just a little), and it was all it should be, with glossy brown skin and fall-apart texture. The side dish that almost stole the show was the combo of house-made bacon with Brussels sprouts hash — a dish related to shredded cabbage, yes, but its rich and very well-appointed cousin. The sweet-tart cherry sauce was the third facet of this dish, a classic for duck but the tiny Montmorency cherries were the jewels that made the difference.

Our Restaurant Week meal at Las Canarias came to an end with plates of warm pudding (think about a just slightly underbaked, large sugary cookie — but better — topped with ice cream and served with the warm sauce served in a little pitcher. We poured the thick toffee sauce until it pooled around the bottom of the dish. And, then we poured some more. A sweet dish and good way to say goodnight to an excellent Restaurant Week meal.

Las Canarias is at the Omni La Mansion del Rio Hotel on the River Walk. 112 College St. 210-518-1063.

Las Canarias Sticky Toffee Pudding

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Sign on for ‘Epicurean Experiences’ at Las Canarias


John Brand, executive chef at Las Canarias and Pesca on the River, soon will be offering a three-day culinary event, Epicurean Experiences. These chef-guided weekends will be at Las Canarias, the restaurant at the Omni La Mansion del Rio. Brand will guide attendees as they create dishes with maximum flavor and artful composition, using fresh, local ingredients.

The weekend packages are available for up to eight participants and open to local residents and hotel guests.  In addition to learning to make Hill Country cuisine, they also may indulge in a spa treatment, such as a Spanish Rosemary Herbal Massage from Watermark Spa, if they choose.

Brand feels the program will get people to back into their kitchens. “I find that most of what keeps people from exploring in the kitchen is a general discomfort in approaching ingredients and how they work together.  People feel that they can only enjoy a good meal at a restaurant or by following a recipe verbatim.  I’m looking to change that.”

The first Epicurean Experiences event will be July 9-11. The weekend begins that Friday at 7 p.m. at a Las Canarias’ Chef’s Table reception.  Guests can relax with Champagne and canapés while conversing with the culinary staff and watching the kitchen’s behind-the-scenes action.

Saturday begins with breakfast and a trip to the Farmers Market led by Brand, who will discuss produce selection, pairing, and cooking options.  That afternoon, he will conduct a class in the auxiliary kitchen of the Omni La Mansión del Rio, using produce purchased that morning.  As the menu develops, participants will get hands-on experience with preparation techniques like chopping, simmering, and roasting.  Wine will be paired with the menu, and participants can enjoy the results of their labors for dinner.

On Sunday, the group attends the hotel’s Champagne Brunch and each participant will receive a chef’s apron, as well as recipes from the weekend.

For more information or reservations, call 210-367-6428.

Photo by Nicholas Mistry

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