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Tag Archive | "Culinary Institute of America San Antonio"

Mixtli Chef Tells CIA Grads to Take Care of Each Other


Diego Galicia, chef and co-owner of Restaurant Mixtli and Mezcalería Mixtli in San Antonio, challenged graduates of The Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus to take care of each other — and themselves.

The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio campus, graduating class of Dec. 18, 2015.

The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio campus, graduating class of Dec. 18, 2015.

“You are now part of a very select and exclusive group. You’ve been given the tools, the knowledge, and the discipline to cook,” said Galicia, a 2010 alumnus of the CIA’s San Antonio campus. “I want you to look at each other — in your whites, as proud as any West Point grad. This is all you have, the person next to you. Don’t ever let each other down.”

Galicia reminded the graduates that they are entering a life of service and commitment to others. He advised them to take care of their own health, as well as their feet and their knives, and to continue to polish their craft.

“You were led here by your heart, your will to create, and your desire to learn,” he said. “Don’t ever lose your passion.”

While completing his studies in Latin Cuisines from the CIA, the native of Toluca, Mexico, was named chef de partie for the opening of Restaurant Lüke in San Antonio, working with CIA alumni John Besh, ’92, and Steven McHugh, ’97. He was corporate chef for the Taco Cabana chain before making a major change from the quick-service segment with the opening of Mixtli in 2013.

Mixtli is at 5251 McCullough Ave., inside the Yard. Mezcalería Mixtli is at 5313 McCullough.

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Use Healthy Chia Seeds in Coconut Chia Pudding


Looking for one of the next big superfoods? Think chia.

Coconut Chia Pudding

Coconut Chia Pudding

That’s right. The stuff your parents used to grow on ceramic pets, heads and other sculptures has become today’s trendy superfood.

Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and are also considered a good source of calcium, manganese and phosphorus. People have begun adding them to water, smoothies and yogurt. They’re sprinkling the seeds on breakfast cereal, salads or energy bars and even just eating them by themselves.

Chia seeds can also be gelatinous, depending on how they”re used, which you’ll find if you do add them to water or in this recipe for Coconut Chia Pudding, which comes from Fernando Aciar, owner of New York’s FeelFood, an organic juice bar and food shop. He presented it during the recent Latin Flavors, American Kitchens symposium at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus.

It doesn’t take much to make it, but the end result is like a coconut-laced rice pudding, only without sugar or starch.

So, let’s see: It’s a dessert that’s actually good for you. Even better, it tastes great. What else do you need to know?

Coconut Chia Pudding

1 quart coconut milk
1 cup coconut water
6 ounces chia seeds
1/8 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
1 generous ounce maple syrup
Zest of 1 oranges
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl. combine coconut milk, coconut water and chia seeds. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

In a separate bowl, thoroughly combine salt, maple syrup, zest and cinnamon.

Add chia mixture to maple syrup mixture and combine well.

Makes 12 (4-ounce) portions.

From Fernando Aciar/Latin Flavors, American Kitchens

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NAO Visits the Yucatan; Ocho Celebrates Hemingway’s Birthday


Ocho, Library Foundation to celebrate Hemingway’s birthday with food, drink

Ocho and the San Antonio Public Library Foundation’s First Edition Society will be celebrating the the birthday of beloved author, occasional Cuban resident and renowned cocktail enthusiast Ernest Hemingway with a special event on July 19, from 7-11:30 p.m.

PrintThe event is free to attend and will provide appropriately themed food and drink specials to celebrate the occasion along with live music from Tiburon.

VIP tickets are available for $30 with a portion of proceeds benefiting the SAPLF and San Antonio libraries. VIP guests will enjoy complimentary drinks and hors d’oeurves, and will be able to enjoy VIP terrace access.

Ocho is at the Hotel Havana, 1015 Navarro Street.

VIP tickets are $30 and can be purchased at SAPLF.org by clicking on the events calendar. VIP tickets may also be purchased by calling 210-225-4728, ext. 10.

Nao Presents:  A taste of the Yucatan now at Nao

SAN ANTONIO — Nao has begun its Yucatan menu, a part of the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio  restaurant’s exploration of Latin America cuisines.

Nao diners have explored the flavors of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Oaxaca, Peru, Venezuela, and the Spanish Caribbean through the restaurant’s Celebration of Cuisines program, and they will now step deep into the heart of southern Mexico. This Yucatan-inspired menu offers three courses for $42 and will run until Monday, Sept. 8.

Chef Geronimo Lopez and the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio students will bring this region’s most celebrated flavors from the Yucatan, where spicy Mexican chiles meld with cool Caribbean flavors often ending in a celebration of Mexican cacao.

Many of Mexico’s most important dishes, techniques, and flavor combinations were born in the Yucatan, and Nao will commemorate this culinary hot-spot by transforming the restaurant through food and culture.

Geronimo Lopez

Geronimo Lopez

“This menu is truly representative of the Yucatan and you can taste the rich Mayan influence that remains intact in every dish,” says Lopez. “Our goal is to give you a glimpse of that beautiful ancestral heritage through this dining experience.”

The special Yucatan tasting menu features an appetizer, main course and dessert for $42. The dinner begins with a choice between venison “tzic,” a crispy corn tostada with pickled onions, radishes, cilantro, and avocado; or a traditional pickled salad of lima beans, chayote and pearl onion “escabeche.”

The menu continues with two main course options, the seafood “pibxcatic,” featuring stuffed chiles with crab meat, lobster knuckles, shrimp, tomato and “hojasanta” sauce; or roasted pork tenderloin served with black “recado” sauce, black bean relish, sweet plantain puree, goat cheese, and corn dumplings. For dessert, diners can enjoy a cacao nib “nicoatole,” a cacao-corn pudding served with sapote fruit ice cream and anise sauce.

Nao’s beverage manager, Tim Bryand, will craft a Yucatan-inspired cocktail, the Ix Chel, to accompany this menu. The cocktail is made with Blanco Tequila, Yucatan Tangerine Liqueur, lime, orange, and Xtabentun spray.

Nao is a restaurant and CIA classroom dedicated to the exploration, preservation and celebration of the authentic cuisines, cultures and bounty of Latin America. Nao is open for dinner on Tuesday to Thursday from 5-9 p.m.  and on Friday and Saturday from 5-10 p.m. Nao also offers a pop-up taco stand at the farmers’ market on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and happy hour on Tuesday to Thursday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m, and on Friday and Saturday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Gaucho Gourmet offers can sugars — now with natural flavors

Gaucho Gourmet Flavored sugarsGaucho Gourmet announces its organic, fair-trade certified pure cane evaporated sugar — but with an added zing. These sugars have natural flavors added to bring out the best taste possible without adding anything extra.  Use these sugars for sprinkling, baking, on hot or cold drinks, and anywhere else you need a pop of flavor.

Get these bulk sugars that you can now buy in home-sized quantities, but also with bulk sizes and pricing to stay stocked! Some examples include Raspberry Cane Sugar, Coconut Cane Sugar and Lemon Cane Sugar.

Other suggestions now are caciocavallo, a stringy, semi-hard Italian cheese that’s great for sandwiches and more of the popular imported burrata DOP.

 

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Summer Fun: CIA Baking Class; Soccer & Beer at Yard House


Catch the match at Yard House

Whether you call it football or soccer, enjoy one of the world’s most popular sporting events at Yard House this summer, June 12 – July 13, 15900 La Cantera Parkway.

Yard-House-BeersFrom the first round to the final, Yard House will show every match from Brazil live on flat screen televisions visible from nearly every seat in the restaurant. Choose from more than 100 beers on tap and a host of shareable snacks while you cheer on your favorite team. Or try one of Yard House’s new Brazilian-inspired cocktails to celebrate.

– Citrus Agave Caipirinha: A refreshing Brazilian cocktail featuring housemade citrus agave and cachaça
– Brazilian Mai Tai: A tropical-style Mai Tai made with cachaça and Zaya dark rum
– Rio de Janeiro Mule: A South American twist on the classic mule with cachaça, housemade citrus agave, lime, ginger ale and fresh mint.

 

Desserts, Baking Boot Camps at CIA San Antonio this summer

Panna Cotta Cottage CheeseBrownies, cookies, artisan breads, pies, cream puffs, and cupcakes—sounds like yummy treats you’d have to buy at a bakery, right?

Not anymore!

Learn to make all these delicious treats and more at the CIA this summer. Join us for Dessert Boot Camp which will be from July 21-23 or Baking Boot Camp from Aug. 19-22, where you’ll spend a few days creating your own bakery list to impress friends and family!

As added bonus! Enroll now and receive 10 percent off the price of your class and a copy of the CIA’s Baking at Home cookbook. Use code “B&PSA” to register. Enroll online or by phone at 1-888-206-8425.

(To see the recipe for the Cottage Cheese Panna Cotta with Salted Caramel and Chocolate-Almond Ganache, above, click on this link here.)

 

The badges have it, with free burgers June 14

HardRockCafelogoPolice, firefighters and emergency medical technicians might want to hurry to Hard Rock Cafe San Antonio.

On Saturday, June 14 beginning at 11 a.m. Hard Rock will celebrate its birthday with the Burger Badge Bash, those who serve the San Antonio’s community with a Hard Rock Legendary Burger for just the flash of a badge and 71 cents — which commemorates the year Hard Rock Cafe was founded.

Hard Rock Café San Antonio is at 111 W. Crockett St.

To receive a special-priced Legendary Burger on June 14, civil servants must present proper identification and badge stating their eligible status.  The offer is valid only for dining-in at participating Hard Rock Cafe locations, limited to one item per person and restrictions apply.  Visit www.hardrock.com to find a local participating cafe.

hard rock burger

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Dean Fearing Here May 8, Promos ‘Texas Food Bible’


Renowned Texas chef and restaurateur, Dean Fearing, will be in San Antonio, appearing at two places open to the public on May 8 for book signings.
Chef Dean Fearing Book OnlyFearing’s new book is “The Texas Food Bible: From Legendary Dishes to New Classics” (Grand Central Life & Style, $30).

He will be at Neiman Marcus, at the Shops of La Cantera, for a book signing event from 1-3 p.m.  This appearance is hosted by Diana Barrios Trevino and Johnny Hernandez in the Gift Galleries on Level 2. The price of the book is $30.

“The Texas Food Bible” features a collection of traditional and contemporary recipes from Texas. Fearing takes readers through Texas culinary heritage, the classic preparations involved, and the expansion and fusion of the food that have combined to develop an original Southwestern cuisine.

That evening, there will be a reception and book signing, as well as a three-course meal at Nao at the Pearl in partnership with The Twig bookshop.

Chef Dean Fearing

Chef Dean Fearing

Fearing, a James Beard Award-nominated chef and owner of Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas, will sign books at a reception in the Nao Lounge is from 5:30 to 7  p.m. Guests will have the opportunity to meet and talk with Fearing during the reception, and will be able to enjoy wine and passed hors d’oeuvres including Mango, Poblano, and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas with cilantro-lime sour cream, and Smoked Chicken Nachos from Fearing’s cookbook.

Dinner will start at 7,  and the menu will begin with Dean’s Tortilla Soup with south-of-the-border flavors. The dinner will continue with Grilled Lamb Chops with baked chuck wagon black beans and sweet potato rajas. Guests will end their night on a sweet note with Caramelized Apple Buckle.

Tickets are $80 per person, and all dinner proceeds go to The Culinary Institute of America. Ticket price includes a signed copy of The Texas Food Bible, hors d’oeuvre reception, meet and greet with the author, and the three-course dinner. For ticketing information and to purchase tickets, please call 210.554.6484.

 

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NAO: A Peruvian Menu Continues ‘Celebration of Cuisines’


Nao’s new Peruvian menu launched Tuesday. Peru is the second in the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio’s Celebration of Cuisines program.

Nao is exploring new world flavors throughout the program, and executive chef Geronimo Lopez’s Peruvian-inspired menu will run six weeks until December 2.

Nao’s Peruvian menu is inspired by the history of Peru and fuses the traditional flavors of Peruvian cuisine with a modern presentation by Lopez.

Guests will be surrounded by and immersed in the music and art of the Peruvian culture while they dine on Nao’s modern interpretation of authentic cuisine and enjoy traditional beverages.

“In Peru we find the crossroads of many cultures that have collided to inspire a culinary-driven society,” said Lopez. “This entitles Peru’s culinary past to a great respect, and I feel honored to take guests on this culinary journey.”

Cocona Ceviche

One style of Peruvian Ceviche

The special Peruvian prix fixe menu features an appetizer, main course and dessert for $39. The dinner begins with a choice between Chupe Seco de Pollo y Quinoa, a traditional Peruvian casserole with corn, quinoa, ajies, peas; or Crab Cause with an aji Amarillo-lime emulsion, purple potato, avocado with amaranth sprouts.

The prix fixe continues with a choice between Arroz de Pato, roasted Duck Magret glazed with aji limo, siyau and honey with Chifa rice; or Mahi Mahi “Sudado” with Peruvian aji broth, yucca and plantain mash, crispy chorizo and heart of palm salad. The evening will end on a sweet note with Lucuma Glace o Tres Leches Sellado.

Hand-crafted by mixologist Steven Raoul Martin, Nao will feature the national cocktail of Peru throughout this installment of the Celebration of Cuisines program. Nao will craft the Pisco Sour made with pisco, lime, sugar, egg white and angostura bitters.

In the spirit of New World flavors, Nao will continue to introduce a new menu inspired by a Latin American country every six weeks. Coming up, Nao will feature Spanish Caribbean, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela. Lopez will guide guests through their exploration of cuisines with a culturally inspired culinary tour for each installment.

Nao is a restaurant and CIA classroom dedicated to the exploration, preservation and celebration of the authentic cuisines, cultures and bounty of Latin America. Nao is open for dinner on Monday to Saturday from 5:30 to 10  p.m. Nao also offers a farmers’ market lunch on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Late Night at Nao on Saturday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Pop-up Taco Stand at the farmers market on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and Fire & Ice Happy Hours on Friday and Saturday from 5-7 p.m.

Nao is located at the Pearl at 312 Pearl Parkway. For more information, please visit www.NaoRestaurant.com. Follow Nao on Facebook @NaoRestaurant and on Twitter @NaoRestaurant.

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A Winning Combination: Chefs & Cellars


Chefs and Cellars wine glass

San Antonio chefs paired up with cellar masters Sunday night for an event staged by Culinaria every year near the beginning of the fall season.

This winning combination invites wine collectors to bring out rare and wonderful bottles to share while chefs and their crews do some pretty fancy footwork marrying food to wine.

This event, at $300 per ticket, is one of Culinaria’s most sought-after and usually sells out early. Surprisingly, it doesn’t call for dressing up — business casual is the stated attire. But there’s nothing casual about the expectations of the guests who gathered in the skills kitchen of the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio.

Our table had high expectations of (as well as confidence in) our cellar master, wine expert and Vintages 2.0 owner Fernando “Woody” de Luna, a longtime wine writer and certified wine educator as well as wine retailer who recently marked 35 years in the wine business in central Texas.

Ceviche of Clams and Mexican Bay Scallops

Ceviche of Clams and Mexican Bay Scallops

De Luna is respected especially for his great knowledge and appreciation of Old World wines, especially the Rieslings of Germany, Alsace and Austria, the wines of France — especially Burgundy and  Champagne — as well as Spanish Rioja and Sherry and Italy’s Tuscany and Piedmont.

Our chef, Jesse Perez, is the chef and owner of Arcade Midtown Kitchen at the Pearl. His menu reflected his love of Southwest and interior Mexican flavors and spices, locally sourced ingredients, such as Bandera quail, Mexican sea scallops, lamb and more. His starter was a Ceviche of Clams and Mexican Bay Scallops, a cool but crisply flavored mélange of tender, marinated scallops with a chamomile and green-apple sauce, brioche crouton and citrus.

While one might expect that the chef and cellar master had put their heads together over many tastings and discussions to come up with the pairings, Perez simply asked for the wine list, brief explanations of what de Luna planned to bring — then did some footwork on his own.

“There are two ways to pair wines with food — you can contrast the flavors or match them,” Perez said at the beginning of the meal. His decision was to match them. Hence, the chamomile and green-apple flavors in the ceviche, which echoed the bright, crisp flavors of the Pierre Gimonnet Brut NV Blanc de Blancs Cuis 1er Cru Magnum.

Lineup of wine from Woody del Luna of Vingates 2.0

Lineup of wine from Woody de Luna of Vintages 2.0. Photo courtesy Vintages 2.0

De Luna’s first offering for the evening and was not one of the big-name brands of the Champagne region. Rather it was a grower Champagne, which means it is a product of the men and women on their own estates, growing their own grapes, as de Luna described. This was a beautiful, balanced sparkler well-suited as an aperitif all by itself, as well as a worthy companion to the bright colors and fresh seafood in the appetizer.

Fernando "Woody" de Luna

Fernando “Woody” de Luna

The courses continued with similar success. Bandera Texas Quail with Smoked Chile was served with a spectacular and rare 2010 Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Tradition Kamtal Magnum, from Austria. The wine was dry, yet the fruit gave an impression of sweetness that was a good foil for the dark chile sauce as well as the spicy bite of a white bean hummus.  The food was well thought out — and a delicate little chicken-fried quail leg-quarter was a table favorite. But in this case, the wine was the wonder: Its complexity of flavor, acidity, vinous characteristics and more cascaded over the palate and unfolded “like a waterfall” as de Luna described it. “I love the purity of wines in the Old World,” he said. It was sheer gold in a glass.

Butter Poached Cold Water Lobster and Prawns

Butter Poached Cold Water Lobster and Prawns

In the next course, Perez came back with a lovely Butter Poached Cold Water Lobster and Prawns, an excellent choice for the 2006 Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir Domaine Billaud Simon Chablis, France Magnum.

Chablis is a wine that, for me and most other Old World wine enthusiasts, is one of the best expressions of the Chardonnay grape. (The other being blanc de blancs Champagne.) The elegance of this Grand Cru wine, dry yet so full in character, vibrant minerality and other expressions of the famous terroir, showed that a Chardonnay doesn’t have to sparkle to be a classic accompaniment lobster.

Also, as de Luna pointed out, this wine, which comes from vineyards at the northern limit of the region, is one of only seven vineyards allowed to carry the Grand Cru designation.

While the lobster in this dish was sweet and tender, even this classy crustacean was nearly upstaged by Perez’s inspiring (as in, let’s go home and make some now) Gazpacho Blanco and Toasted Almonds that provide the brothy foundation for the dish. The “untraditional garnishes” included some unusual grapes that Perez had picked up at Central Market that day, called ‘witches fingers.” Dark and purple they were — and elongated. But their witchy presence was an artful addition to the white gazpacho.

Perez chose lamb — barbacoa, chop, loin and belly — for his third course. The rich meat was surrounded with an array of grilled and roasted vegetables that added color and tamed the fattiness of the course. The tender and flavorful barbacoa seemed to be a table favorite — “I’d buy a couple of pounds of this and take it home for breakfast tacos,” said one approving guest.

Chef Jesse Perez

Chef Jesse Perez

Spain was the Old World region from which De Luna chose his wine. A 1998 Gran Reserva 904 La Rioja Alta, Haro, Spain, Magnum was the kind of red wine that lamb wants — as the Spaniards know so well. The wine was a sleek version of this famed Spanish red, robust and smooth and was compatible with each of the versions of lamb on the plate.

We ended this culinary cruise with a cheese board, Sweet and Savory, which ranged from an excellent ricotta cheesecake brownie to the chef’s selection of cheeses, fruits and nuts. A fun surprise was to find a bit of dark, fragrant honey in the comb that was provided by one of our table mates, Robert H. Holliday. His longtime hobby of beekeeping added an intensely sweet ending to this meal.

With the cheese board came de Luna’s second Riesling of the evening, the 2001 Erdener Pralat Riesling Auslese Gold Kapsule Weingut Monchoff, Mosel, Germany. The “Auslese’ in the name lets you know that this is one of the sweeter styles of the wine, and with the rich cheeses and nuts, it was a fine match.

As the evening drew to an end, the various tables, set up throughout the kitchen and dining areas, each  custom  decorated by the hosts, gave out with loud cheers for their wines, chefs and crews. It was praise well-deserved.

Other chef/cellar master teams included chef/restaurateur Jason Dady with Phil Seelig and Hien Nguyen; John Brand, chef of Omni Hotels restaurants Las Canarias and Ostra with Gabriel Guajardo; chefs James Moore and Jeff White with Dr. Richard Becker of Becker Vineyards and Geronimo Lopez-Monascal, executive chef at NAO, with Dr. Joe Becker, Becker Vineyards.

Tipperary Cocktail, from Arcade Midtown Kitchen, a barrel-aged concoction with a supersized, hand-hewn ice cube.

Tipperary Cocktail, from Arcade Midtown Kitchen, a barrel-aged concoction with a supersized, hand-hewn ice cube.

To reach Fernando de Luna at Vintages 2.0, call 210-410-0296.

 

Photos by Bonnie Walker

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Last-Minute Food Gift Ideas for All Budgets


Bacon Candy Canes. Now that’s festive.

If you’re looking for a stocking stuffer for a foodie on your list, here are a few suggestions of items from local businesses:

  • Finishing oils, pressed from a variety of sources, such as celery, nutmeg, carrot and even radish, can be found at Ali Baba International Food Market, 9307 Wurzbach Road. You’ll find then on an end-cap in the expanding market.
  • Spices from the East from either Himalayan Bazaar, 8466 Fredericksburg Road, or Mustapha Asian and Middle Eastern Grocery, 4081 Medical Drive, are also great for experimenting with a world of flavors.
  • Vinegar may seem an odd gift, until you check out the sweet, tangy vinegars at GauchoGourmet, 935 Isom Road, which come in a variety of shapes, sizes, ages and styles. Go for an aged balsamic from Italy or a spicy pecan vinegar from California. You’ll find plenty of other food favorites in both stocking stuffer sizes and jumbo jars.
  • Bacon Candy Canes — but, of course — are available at Leighelena at the Pearl, 202 Pearl Parkway. A six-pack is priced at $7. The neighboring Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocino has begun selling wine and cigars.
  • For the cocktail lover on your list, tickets to any or all of the events during the upcoming San Antonio Cocktail Conference would be just the ticket. The second annual event is set for Jan. 17-20 and features everything from an opening party at the Majestic Theater with drinks and live music from Grammy winner Arturo Sandoval to seminars on tequila, Texas spirits and making cocktails at home. Click here for more information.
  • Shake up some fun at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference.

    Don’t forget your favorite three-letter grocery store. H-E-B has introduced its new Primo Picks products line, with treats such as Café Ole Holiday Blend coffee, Central Market Olive Oil Popcorn and Central Market Salted Truffle Brownie Mix. The items are specially marked Primo Picks on the shelves. Or ask for help.

  • The farmers markets this weekend are great places to find everything from specialized produce to South Texas Heritage Pork products. Two of the bigger markets are the Pearl Farmers Market, Saturday morning at the Pearl Brewery, and the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market, 255 E. Basse Road, on  Sunday.
  • Many of your favorite restaurants are offering gift cards. A few are even offering discounts. Luce Ristorante e Enoteca, 11255 Huebner Road, for example, is offering two $50 cards for a total of $79.99.
  • Camp Brisket is a two-day intensive for barbecue lovers that’s being sponsored by Foodways Texas. It’s set for Jan. 11-12. As the website for the event says, “Camp Brisket will specifically focus on that quintessential Texas smoked meat, the humble brisket, covering topics such as the debate over which grades/types of beef to use, types of smokers, wrapping or not wrapping the brisket, and much more.” For more information, including prices, click here.
  • The Culinary Institute of America’s Boot Camps run anywhere from two to five days and cover such topics as Comfort Foods, American Regional Cuisine, Hors d’Oeuvres and Hearth Breads. They are intensive programs for serious home cooks, or “enthusiasts,” as the CIA likes to call them. For more information, click here. The local classes are marked (TX).

 

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Hungry for New Tastes? Rick Bayless Offers Chefs Some Advice


Rick Bayless

After a day of sampling and hearing discussions about Latin foods such as matalí, chaya leaves, siriguela and umbu, celebrity chef Rick Bayless had only one question: “Why are we not using some of that stuff?”

The answer, of course, is that most of these foods are not readily available in the United States, no matter how good they taste. Some are too perishable to travel in large quantities, others lack a built-in market or demand for them.

So, it’s up to chefs and food purveyors, like those who have come to the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus for the annual Latin Flavors, American Kitchens symposium, to help create a demand for them, the owner of Chicago’s Frontera Grill and Topolobampo said. Feature Brazilian cashew fruit on a menu, and people will love it enough to ask for it.

Don’t believe that? “Five years ago, nobody talked about coconut water,” he said. “But now we can get it all day long.”

The same could happen with yerba mate, which could be the new green tea, if it’s introduced to the public properly. Bayless admits he hated the taste the first time he tried it, but he felt the same about green tea, too. And he has grown to enjoy both.

Rick Bayless

“I’m  always, always, always challenged by the lesser-used cuts of meat,” Bayless said, adding that he loves the growth he’s seen in the use of anything far from the center. He included tripe in that list, though we in San Antonio have always known its appeal.

The secret to success with these new-to-American ingredients goes beyond using them, the Chicago chef said. Anyone can do that. The dishes have to be delicious. You have to leave them wanting more.

Iliana de la Vega, who teaches at the CIA, is working on a similar mission, which is to make the pasilla pepper from Oaxaca more popular in the States.

“There’s a pendulum quality to diners,” Bayless said. “What we need to do is figure out where the pendulum is already going.”

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The CIA Launches NAO, a Journey into New World Flavors


Kit Goldsbury (right) and Tim Ryan prepare to burn the NAO sign to mark the opening of the restaurant.

The Culinary Institute of America opened its newest restaurant, NAO (pronounced “nay-oh”), Thursday night with a grand-opening splash. It is the international culinary academy’s ninth restaurant and its first in San Antonio.

Celebrity chef Sara Moulton

Celebrity chef Sara Moulton was on hand, as was Kit Goldsbury, whose efforts to revitalize the Pearl Brewery played the primary role in attracting the renowned culinary school to San Antonio. Also in attendance were several chefs and food figures, including Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks, Jesse Perez of the upcoming Arcade at the Pearl Brewery, Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria Ice House, cookbook author and kitchenware merchant Melissa Guerra, and Leslie Horne of Aurelia’s Chorizo.

Focused on the diverse cuisines of Latin America, NAO offers a menu filled with New World flavors rooted in tradition and creatively reinterpreted with modern, relevant perspectives and techniques using indigenous ingredients. Derived from the Latin root “neo,” meaning to weave or intertwine, as well as the English root meaning something new, NAO celebrates tradition and innovation.

“The CIA opened our San Antonio campus to help elevate the cuisines of Latin America to their rightful place among the great cuisines of the world,” said Dr. Tim Ryan, president of The Culinary Institute of America. “The opening of NAO is a true milestone for culinary education, and for how we as chefs think about the cuisines of Latin America. The flavors of the new world are calling to be discovered, and the CIA is proud to showcase them to our guests in the dining room at NAO.”

Guests enjoy a sample of NAO’s New World flavors.

Ryan also took a moment to inform the guests of Moulton’s presence and remarked that she had graduated from the CIA as part of the greatest class in the school’s history. Naturally, it was the class in which Ryan also graduated.

Several students then unveiled the new sign outside of the restaurant. Ryan reminded the audience that most chefs love fire.  It brings out their inner pyromaniac, he said. So, instead of having a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Goldsbury and Ryan took blazing tiki torches and set fire to a paper sign in front of a doorway to the restaurant.

Celebrating the cuisines of all of Latin America, NAO offers a unique opportunity to experience the flavors of regions both familiar and unexplored, ranging from the Rio Grande valley to the southern-most tip of Tierra del Fuego.

The NAO banner burns.

The menu includes dishes like Causitas, a sushi-style Peruvian dish made of purple potato puree, crabmeat and Botija olives; as well as a Oaxacan Stone Soup, a flavorful seafood broth with shrimp, serrano chilies and herbs. Cooked right in the guests’ bowl with wood-fired hot river rocks, NAO modernizes an ancient method of cooking developed at a time when metal pots were rare and gourds served as the “stock pot” of the day.

Jicama tacos with mango and cilantro

Another exciting aspect of the restaurant is the Visiting Chef Series; featuring guest chefs from Latin America who share their culinary expertise as instructors in residence during the college’s Latin Cuisines Certificate Program. Additionally, they offer NAO dining guests an opportunity to experience the culinary talents of Latin America’s most celebrated chefs in what will serve as a virtual ‘conservatory’ of Latin Cuisine. With a line-up including Peru’s Pedro Miguel Schiaffino, Brazil’s Yara Roberts, Argentina’s Hubert O’Farrell, and Bolivia’s Eric Calderon, NAO offers a diverse range of culinary experiences.

NAO

NAO’s Executive Chef Geronimo Lopez-Monascal is a Venezuelan native with more than 20 years of culinary experience in six countries, who has spent much of his career exploring the various ingredients, techniques, and traditions of Latin America. He brings his talents to NAO not only as chef, but also as instructor in the CIA’s Latin Cuisines Certificate and Associate Degree programs. During their course of studies at the college’s San Antonio campus, students will work in both the dining room and kitchen operations at NAO.

Heading up the front of the house operations is Robert Rodriguez, a 1997 CIA graduate who recently returned to his alma matter as NAO general manager. Rodriguez’s hospitality and restaurant experience spans more than 15 years and includes restaurants in New York City as well as San Antonio.

NAO is open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Reservations are available online via OpenTable.com, or they can be made by calling the restaurant directly at 210-554-6484. For more information,  visit NAORestaurant.com.

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