Tag Archive | "comfort food"

Auden’s Kitchen Conjures Welcome Comparisons of Home

Marinated grape tomato and watermelon salad

Sampling the menus around the city for the past few days during Culinaria’s Restaurant Week has been a great way to taste the wide variety we have here. By Friday evening, I was hankering for a bit of comfort food, so I headed off for Auden’s Kitchen for three courses of food that reminded me of home.

The menu was perhaps a little bit fancier than Mom would have made, but the spirit in the approach of Bruce Auden’s staff was similar.

Take the salad that started the meal as a perfect example. It was made of marinated grape tomatoes and watermelon tossed with greens  (and reds, if you count the radicchio), feta cheese and bits of crisp pancetta. The greens  were so fresh that they reminded me of the lettuce we would pick from our backyard garden. The balsamic in the dressing added a sweet touch, which also echoed Mom’s. Several slices of ripe avocado on top added a creamy touch.

Smoked pork tenderloin with braised red cabbage

Two thickly cut slabs of pork tenderloin arrived atop a bed of braised red cabbage flavored with applewood-smoked bacon, providing an appealing pair of ways to enjoy pork. As good as the smoked pork was, tender and moist, with a demi-glace adding flavor, the cabbage was the real star of the plate, upstaging even the crispy potatoes, which were good, if not memorable. The size of the vegetable servings were also generous, prompting another memory of home.

A ginger peach cobbler arrived warm and showcasing a harvest of fresh peach slices. Dumplings swimming in a thick, sweet, buttery sauce held it all together. This dish was perhaps the closest to Mom’s, though I could have wished for a little more ginger in the mix. I doubt anyone would have even remembered the ginger, however, when spooning up that first taste of firm peach and silky sauce.

Ginger peach cobbler

A glass of house wine was included with the Restaurant Week price. I chose the Sauvignon Blanc and was rewarded with a New Zealand-style explosion of passion fruit flavor with a brightly acidic base. The food may have been a little sweet for the wine, but it was a treat on its own.

Auden’s Kitchen offered an extra bit of comfort Friday night by showing a movie in its courtyard. Those not afraid of the heat, and that included a few kids, enjoyed “Labyrinth.” The series continues next week just after dark.

“Labyrinth” on the patio screen.

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week, however, continues only through this evening. That leaves you with one last chance to try a multi-course lunch for $15 or dinner for $35. For a list of participating restaurants, click on the Culinaria ad above.

Auden’s Kitchen
700 E. Sonterra Blvd.
(210) 494-0070


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Fideo: Perfect for a Rainy Day

Just about now, on Tuesday afternoon, the swirling yellow mass on the radar image has passed over San Antonio and the scarier orange dot is upon us. More wind with the rain, even some big gusts.

With the rain whipping at my kitchen windows, I raided the cupboard and came up with some canned soups, a can or two of tuna, some sardines — the usual. But my search also turned up one brightly colored box of fideo. This skinny pasta, called vermicelli, has a long history in Texas. In fact, the familiar red and yellow box tells us the the brand has been around for 100 years.

Fry fideo noodles until they are lightly browned. Cook onion, tomato and garlic.

Its preparation is simple, but like any “simple” food there are many ways to prepare it.

It can be soupy or not soupy, it can have ground beef or even stewed chicken in it. Or not. At least a pinch of cumin is one of the requirements, I believe. And tomato is usually in there — be it sauce, chopped fresh tomato or even a squirt or two of ketchup, which I saw a cook do once.

After it’s ladled into bowls, toppings can include crumbled bacon, cotija cheese, minced fresh cilantro, cubed or sliced avocado or a scoop of tender, cooked pinto beans.  Or keep it simple for the kids with a pat of butter and some grated Parmesan.

Where I grew up, on the Arizona-Sonora border, there was a variation on fideo called macaroni soup. The dry macaroni was fried until it browned up a little, usually in bacon grease. Then onion and garlic were stirred in and it was fried some more. The macaroni went into a pot of boiling water and was cooked until it was good and tender, with a little tomato sauce to make the broth red. We were kids who grew up on Campbell’s soups, but when one of my mom’s housekeepers introduced us to macaroni soup, were were converts.

This is how I made today’s fideo.


Three slices bacon, fried and drained; reserve bacon fat
15-ounce box fideo (vermicelli) noodles
2 1/2 cups water or 1 (15-ounce) can chicken broth plus 1/2 cup water
2 medium cloves garlic, mashed and minced
2 tablespoons finely minced onion
2 fresh tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
2 pinches of ground cumin, or to taste
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste, optional
Garnishes (optional): Chopped avocado, crumbled bacon, grated cotija or Parmesan cheese, cooked (hot) pinto beans, minced cilantro

Chop up the cooked bacon and set aside. Put the liquid (water, or water and chicken broth) on and bring to a boil.

In large skillet put a tablespoon or so of the reserved bacon fat. Warm it up, the put in the dried fideo noodles. Let the pan get medium hot, and stir the noodles around in the fat until the begin to brown. You don’t have to get every single noodle brown, just a bunch of them.

Push the fried noodles over to a cooler side of the skillet and put in the garlic and onion to brown, using a little more fat if you need to. When these are browned, push them over to the noodles and then pour in the minced tomato and fry it. Add cumin and a little salt and pepper, if using.

Pour the ingredients from the skillet into the boiling water and turn the heat down a little so that the noodles don’t boil over.  Add half of the crumbled bacon to the pot as well. When the noodles are tender, season it to taste with salt. Garnish each bowl of noodles with the rest of the crumbled bacon and/or one of the suggested garnishes.

Makes 4 servings.

From Bonnie Walker

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Feel Right at Home at Radicke’s Bluebonnet Grill

Jalapeno Chicken Fried Steak

The bluebonnets are spectacular this spring, and so is the jalapeño chicken-fried chicken at Radicke’s Bluebonnet Grill. Why this dish hasn’t been copied at any number of other Texas restaurants, I’ll never know. It’s your traditional chicken-fried treat, with plenty of crisp breading outside and juicy meat inside. But then the kick of jalapeño is added, lightly permeating each bite so that your taste buds coax the rest of your mouth into a smile. (A grilled version is also available. But what’s the fun in that?)

Food: 3.5
Service: 3.5
Value: 3.5

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

There was a touch of uncooked flour flavor to the cream gravy, on the side, but it was perfectly adequate for those who like it.

The Bluebonnet Grill has long been a fixture on W.W. White, and I think it’s because of the way the folks there make you feel at home. One way is by offering myriad side dishes, which range from beans to macaroni and cheese. Having all those choices reminds me of when I was growing up, when there was always more to a meal than just meat.

The soups are also old-fashioned and comforting. The one we sampled as was made with ham, and it came as a pleasant surprise, smoky and rich, with plenty of meat to match the vegetables.

The one letdown was the Beefy Bluebonnet Special, a blackened roast beef sandwich with grilled onions and peppers that was just too dry to enjoy. Perhaps a cup of au jus would help resuscitate it.

One visit was not enough to taste everything that tempted me, including the Buckaroo Burger, an open-faced bean burger that includes onions and chile sauce in addition to refrieds, cheddar and picante sauce. The daily specials are also worth investigating as the Bluebonnet promises handmade chicken and dumplings once a week.

Beefy Bluebonnet Special

Peach Cobbler

Radike's Bluebonnet Grill Exterior

Radicke’s Bluebonnet Grill
237 N. W.W. White Road
Breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday.

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