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Tag Archive | "Diana Barrios Treviño"

5 Easy Watermelon Treats for a Family 4th


“The hot Texas sun brings on a thirst that can only be quenched by delving into a delicious Texas watermelon,” write the authors of “Lone Star to Five Star: Culinary Creations for Every Occasion” (Favorite Recipes Press, 2004), who are also members of the Junior League of Plano.

How true.

watermelon1They go on to tell you how to pick out the best melon there is, whether you’re at the market or a roadside stand: “At the peak of ripeness a watermelon should be firm, symmetrical and heavy. Another sign of perfection is a creamy yellow spot on the underside of the melon indicating that it was sun-ripened. Watermelons are produced in almost every county in Texas and are harvested and sold throughout the world 11 months of the year.”

Since most of us Texans can’t spend a summer without a few melons, it would seem that cookbooks covering the state’s culinary gifts would be filled with ideas of what to do with this juicy fruit. But that’s not the case. I looked through more than 50 cookbooks, but only a handful of ideas showed up. Here are five simple treats, ranging from aguas frescas and salsa to salad and sorbet, that celebrate Texas at its boldest and most refreshing.

Minty Melon Pops

“Whenever you have melon, you rarely have just a little. You have lots of it,” writes Denise Gee in “Sweet on Texas” (Chronicle Books, $24.95, 2012). “This is a great way to use that leftover melon. Think of it as agua fresca on a stick. (And you know how we love our sticks o’ anything.)”

Mint-Lime Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup losely packed fresh mint
1/2 cup fresh lime juice

Popsicles:
1 cup pureed watermelon (black seeds removed)
1 cup pureed honeydew melon
1 cup pureed cantaloupe

To make the syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and heat to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Add the mint and set aside; let cool to room temperature. Pour the mint syrup through a strainer into a clean container, add the lime juice and stir to combine. Refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

To make the popsicles: Using three medium bowls, keep the pureed melons separate.

Pour equal amounts of mint-lime syrup into each melon bowl and stir well.

Fill popsicle molds three-fourths full (leaving room for expansion) with individual melon mixes or a combination of them (see note). Set the lids in place and insert sticks through the holes. If you don’t have popsicle molds, fill small freezer-proof cups about three-fours full’; stretch plastic wrap across the top and affix with rubber bands. Make 1/2-inch slits in the center and insert sticks.

Freeze the popsicles until firmly set (3 to 4 hours).

Remove the popsicles by squeezing the sides of the molds or cups and twist slightly to disengage. If necessary, briefly rinse the outside of the molds or cups under hot water.

Note: For a layered, rainbow effect, freeze each mold, fitted with a stick, about third full and keep frozen for about 1 hour or more before adding the second layer of a different juice. Let it freeze for about 1 hour more before adding a third layer of a different juice, then freeze until completely firm.

Makes 16 servings.

From “Sweet on Texas” by Denise Gee

Watermelon Sorbet

This simple sorbet recipe, from Peg Hein’s “More Tastes and Tales from Texas … with Love” (1987), doesn’t require an ice cream maker or any special equipment.

4 cups watermelon chunks
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
2 egg whites
Additional sugar, if needed

Place watermelon chunks in a food processor or blender bowl. Puree until smooth. Remove seeds with a slotted spoon. You should have about 3 cups watermelon puree.

Add orange juice and sugar. Mix thoroughly and pour into a large flat bowl. Freeze until solid around edges but still slushy in the center. Stir until smooth. Beat egg whites until stiff, adding a little more sugar if needed. Fold into sorbet. Freeze for 1 to 1 1/2 hours without stirring. Serve in individual sherbet dishes or in small dessert bowls.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From “More Tastes and Tales from Texas … with Love” by Peg Hein

Refreshing Watermelon Delight (Refresco de Sandia)

“This fruit-flavored water, or aguas frescas, is especially delicious, and it looks beautiful served in a clear glass pitcher,” writes Diana Barrios Treviño in “Los Barrios Family Cookbook” (Villard, $18.95, 2002).

2 pounds watermelon (see note)
3 1/2 quarters Water
2 cups sugar
Remove the seeds from the watermelon, slice the flesh from the rind, and cut it into chunks. Transfer to a blender, in batches, if necessary, and blend for a few seconds; there should still be some small chunks of watermelon.

Combine the water and sugar in a large pitcher, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the watermelon puree, blending thoroughly. Refrigerate until chilled before serving.

Note: You can substitute cantaloupe for watermelon.

Makes 1 gallon.

Watermelon Salsa

This

2 cups coarsely chopped watermelon
1 cup roasted corn kernels
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 large jalapeño, seeded and chopped
Juice of 1 lime

Combine the watermelon, corn, onions, jalapeño and lime juice in a bowl and mix gently. Chill until serving time.

Serve with tortilla chips, over salads or with grilled chicken or fish.

Makes 6 servings.

From “Lone Star to Five Star: Culinary Creations for Every Occasion” by the Junior League of Plano

Watermelon and Basil Salad with Goat Feta Cheese

“This is a unique summertime salad, especially when the Hempstead watermelons are at the ripe and flavorful best,” writes Terry Thompson-Anderson in “Texas on the Table” (University of Texas Press, $45, 2014). “It’s such a simple, easy-to-make salad, but the combination of flavors and textures is the real essence of a Texas summer.”

6 cups (1-inch) cubes of seedless Texas watermelon, grown in Hempstead, if possible
10 ounces crumbed Texas goat feta cheese
1/2 small red onion, sliced paper thin
1 cup fresh basil, cut in julienned strips
Texas extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Combine the watermelon chunks, goat feta and red onion in a bowl and toss to blend. Just before serving, cut the basil leaves and add to the salad. Add just enough olive oil to moisten the ingredients and salt to taste. Toss to blend in the basil and salt. Serve at once before the basil strips turn dark.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “Texas on the Table” by Terry Thompson-Anderson

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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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2012 Was a Year of Eating Well


The Pearl has become a food lover’s center for festivals as well as restaurants.

Bliss is aptly named.

As we approach the end of 2012, it’s time to look back on the many great flavors that we sampled. The list is lengthy, thanks to a decided upturn in culinary offerings across the city, both on the dining scene and for the food lover in general.

One of the biggest food stories of the year was the continued growth of the Pearl Brewery, which saw the opening of three praise-worthy eateries and a trendy bar. It also was the location of an increasing number of food festivals, meaning thousands from all over the city were showing up on a regular basis for cooking demonstrations at the Saturday farmers market, for paella, burgers and barbecue or tamales, and for the restaurants, all in the quest of good food.

A glimpse into the kitchen at the Granary.

The list of new restaurants includes the Granary ‘Cue and Brew, which restored beer making to the premises. Artisan barbecue, fine brews and an irresistible condiment known as ‘cue butter all made this a welcome addition. The Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden delivers on the belief that quality grilled meat is prerequisite in the Lone Star State, and the massive setting, covering two stories, is epic enough to complement chef James Moore’s ranch-style fare.

The most intriguing addition, though, is NAO, the Culinary Institute of America’s full-service restaurant, which has provided San Antonio with its broadest and most authentic taste of South and Central American cuisines to date. These exciting flavors, from seafood stews and roasted meats to an inviting cocktail program, have somehow not been able to secure a foothold before in a city that values its Tex-Mex above all; yet in just a few months, NAO has developed a local following, and its client base should grow as word continues to get out to the rest of the country that the school has a campus and a destination restaurant here. When the visiting chef series returns, with culinary stars from countries as diverse as Brazil, Peru and Argentina, you’d be wise to make your reservations as soon as possible.

The CIA’s flagship restaurant in San Antonio.

NAO is also built on the concept of small plates, which has also not been widely popular in San Antonio. Yet Bite in the Southtown area and a revitalized Nosh on Austin Highway are joining in the effort to break that mold.

Southtown continued to attract diners from across the city, as Mark Bliss returned with a new restaurant, the aptly named Bliss. The warmth of the place, the impressive setting and the comfort of the food, especially when enjoyed at the chef’s table in the kitchen, all help place it among the city’s best.

Johnny Hernandez opened two distinct venues in the Southtown area, if not Southtown proper. They include the Frutería at the Steel House Lofts, where you can get everything from market-fresh fruit for breakfast to an impressive array of, you got it, small plates for dinner, and Casa Hernán, an airy catering facility and brunch spot in his own home.

Another welcome addition to the Southtown scene was the Alamo Street Eat Bar, a food truck park that featured crazy good burgers from Cullum’s Attaboy, the Peacemaker combination of pork belly and fried oysters from Where Y’At and the DUK Truck’s duck confit tacos. Add Zum Sushi, The Institute of Chili, Wheelie Gourmet and a few other visitors, as well as a great beer lineup, and you’ve got some wonderful fresh treats. And what do food trucks provide but small plates, albeit from different plates, giving you the feel of being on a tapas trail?

An “Eat Street” crew films at the Point Park & Eats.

Another food truck park that opened up north in Leon Springs was the Point Park & Eat, which also offers a great beer selection and a wide array of foods from a lineup that has changed in the months that it’s been open. The culinary confections come from trucks such as Skinny Cat, Gourmet on the Fly, Blazin’ Burgers and Say-She-Ate.

Television continued to discover may of these culinary gems. Say-She-Ate was one of four food trucks filmed for the TV series, “Eat Street.” The others include Rickshaw Stop, Tapa Tapa and Society Bakery. Meanwhile, PBS celebrity chef Ming Tsai came to town to film segments of “Simply Ming” with Diana Barrios Treviño from Los Barrios, Elizabeth Johnson of the CIA, John Besh of Lüke (visiting from New Orleans) and Johnny Hernandez at La Gloria.

Sustenio, with Stephan Pyles’ blessing and David Gilbert’s gifts, made people realize the Eilan Hotel Resort and Spa off I-10 was not just a pretty façade. Its menu, with much of the dishes derived from local meats and produce, features an exciting array of ceviches that captured the freshness of the sea and a number of dishes using South Texas Heritage Pork products.

The $13 Burger at Knife & Fork.

The gastropub movement continued with the opening of Knife & Fork in the Stone Oak area. An outgrowth of the Bistro Six food truck, it offered a $13 Burger worth every cent, an extensive cocktail program and a laid-back atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the bistronomy craze — a hybrid of “bistro” and “gastronomy” — could be found in Laurent’s Modern Cuisine on McCullough Avenue. Next door to the still-vibrant and dependable Bistro Vatel, it proved that a segment of San Antonio does love its French food.

For those who enjoy a meal every now and then at home, the number of gourmet groceries grew, thanks to the addition of Trader Joe’s in the Quarry Extension and a second Whole Foods on Blanco Road, north of Loop 1604. The food warehouse Gaucho Gourmet expanded its hours to the public to six days a week, while Groomer’s Seafood reeled in even more seafood lovers, especially when lobsters hit a mouthwatering low of $5.95 apiece.

Classic cocktails have made a comeback.

San Antonio lifted it spirits high during the year. Distilled spirits, that is. Mixed drinks, both shaken and stirred, got a huge boost from the first annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference. But it didn’t stop there. The Blue Box in the Pearl and the downtown Brooklynite joined the likes of Bar 1919 in the Blue Star Complex and the bar at NAO as havens for hand-crafted classic cocktails. A rye sour shaken with traditional egg white, a real martini made with gin and a pisco sour bright with freshly squeezed citrus were all incentives that made exploring these nightspots fun.

Expect beer’s popularity to soar in the new year. Beyond the excellent brews at the Granary, we await Alamo Beer’s ambitious plans for a downtown complex that will feature a restaurant as well as a brewing facility as well as the launch of Branchline Brewery.

What else can we expect? The Pearl will continue to expand with the openings of Jesse Perez’s Arcade Midtown Kitchen and an as-yet-unnamed venture from Steven McHugh as well as the move of Green Vegetarian Cuisine, all of which will add to the draw of the campus. Culinaria has announced plans for a community garden center offering food and agricultural education for the city. Andrew Weissman is taking over the former Liberty Bar site on Josephine Street.

With these strides forward on so many fronts, the city’s culinary scene should continue to offer some enticing new flavors for anyone with a healthy appetite.

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Matters of the Heart and the SA Dining Scene


Viola Barrios

You gotta get Got Heart. That’s the message coming from Diana Barrios Treviño, who is offering a sweet deal to tempt people.

“It’s July and time to celebrate my mom, Viola, during her birth month!” Diana Barrios Treviño says. “Stop in at Los Barrios or La Hacienda de Los Barrios and enjoy a slice of Pastel con Flan and get a limited edition Got Heart T-shirt for $14.99!”

All of the proceeds go directly to Viola’s Huge Heart Foundation.

“It’s tax deductible, delicious and incredibly stylish!” she says.

Los Barrios is at 4223 Blanco Road. La Hacienda de los Barrios is at 18747 Redland Road.

Whataburger CEO Preston Atkinson presents JoNeen Serna of MDA San Antonio with a check.

Big heart for the MDA

Whataburger apparently has a big heart when it comes to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

The San Antonio-based burger chain recently presented the local MDA chapter with a check for $100,000, which the staff of the various restaurants raised in a day.

Whataburger also threw a party for 10 local children who are headed off to MDA summer camp as well as their families.

Whataburger is also showing some concern for the heart by introducing a new menu of items under 550 calories. They include:

  • Whataburger Jr. with Bacon & Cheese, 400 calories
  • Double Meat Whataburger Jr. with Cheese, 470 calories
  • New Grilled Chicken Melt, 460 calories
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich, 510 calories
  • Chicken Fajita Taco, 420 calories
  • Whatacatch Sandwich, 450 calories

Whataburger breakfast choices under 550 calories include:

  • Cinnamon Roll, 390 calories
  • Bacon & Egg Taquito, 380 calories
  • Bacon or Sausage Biscuit, 350 to 540 calories
  • Egg & Cheese Biscuit, 450 calories
  • Biscuit & Jelly, 340 calories
  • Egg Sandwich, 310 calories

The baked goods at Little Aussie Bakery are all gluten-free.

Gluten-free goodness

A growing number of restaurants in San Antonio are offering gluten-free offerings to meet the growing number of people living with celiac disease.

And Little Aussie Bakery, 3610 Avenue B, is helping a few of them.

The bakery is now making the following gluten-free items for local restaurants:

  • Whole flax buns for the various Babes Burgers
  • Focaccia for All Aboard Deli, 5255 McCullough Ave.
  • Buns for the Cove, 606 W. Cypress
  • Pizza crust for Gallo Pizzeria, 164 Castroville Road
  • Buns for various Rome’s Pizza places

Little Aussie has its own great gluten-free products, dishes and a dazzling array of baked goods, including mouthwatering cakes, that are worth checking out, too. Call (210) 826-7787.

Perry’s Steakhouse

4 for $4 at Perry’s

Perry’s Steakhouse in the Shops at La Cantera, 15900 La Cantera Parkway, has a thing for the number 4.

During the month of July, if you visit Perry’s on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday (except July 4), $4 gets you  your choice of an 8-ounce version of the famous pork chop; the house-made Polish sausage appetizer; the Candy Bar dessert, reminiscent of a Reese’s Cup; and the Perry-tini, a take on a lemon drop martini. Or you could have all four for $16.

On a visit this week, plenty of $4 pork chops were being served to the folks in the bar, which is where those of us without reservations sat and enjoyed the live piano as well as the various treats we tried.

For reservations, call (210) 558-6161.

If you have restaurant news, email griffin@savorsa.com or walker@savorsa.com.

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Viola’s Ventanas Eyes an October Opening


Diana Barrios-Treviño

The Barrios family is planning a new restaurant, Viola’s Ventanas, which they hope to open in October. It will be located on Westover Hills Boulevard near SeaWorld and State Highway 151.

The family also has Los Barrios, 4223 Blanco Road, and La Hacienda de los Barrios, 18747 Redland Road.

The new restaurant’s name refers to Viola Barrios, the family matriarch who started the first restaurant.

Her daughter, Diana Barrios-Treviño, said the menu at Viola’s Ventanas (Spanish for windows) will be similar to the other two restaurants, which means plenty of Mexican comfort food favorites.

The site is currently being cleared, with a groundbreaking sometime in the near future, she said.

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Ask a Foodie: Where Would You Go for Tex-Mex?


The chips and salsa at Rosario's.

Q. We have family visiting this weekend. They want to eat Tex-Mex. Can you recommend one such restaurant downtown and one out in the I-10 or 1604 area?

— Rick

A. In a city known for its Mexican and Tex-Mex, you have plenty of options. Here are a few of our favorites, both downtown and on the north side.

Rosario’s, 910 S. Alamo, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, which is a milestone for any restaurant. But there’s a reason the place is still going strong: Owner Lisa Wong makes sure that the food coming out of her kitchen is as good as it gets. Bonnie Walker and I stopped in on a recent Saturday afternoon for lunch, and by the time we left, there was a line of people waiting for tables.

The salsa is still that smoky, spiky treat with plenty of jalapeño and tomato flavor. A bowl of fideo, filled with beans and noodles, was pure comfort on a cloudy afternoon, while shrimp nachos were loaded with richness from both the cheese and the seafood. The carnitas were perfect as always, with sizzling bites of pork complemented by a cup of beans in a porky broth.

And, of course, Rosario’s is known for its tangy array of margaritas as well as its tequila selection. The salsa music on weekends adds to the lively vibe that flows through the place.

Wong’s other place downtown, Ácenar, 146 E. Houston St., is great if you want to dine on the River Walk. The food is slightly different, with a few more upscale items, including buttermilk fried oysters and duck chalupas, well worth investigating. You can also arrange a barge dinner, if there’s enough time, and enjoy the likes of pasilla-rubbed roasted chicken or grilled adobo pork loin while gliding down the river.

Aldaco's tres leches cake is a treat for anyone with a sweet tooth.

In the I-10 or Loop 1604 area, Aldaco’s at Stone Oak, 20079 Stone Oak Parkway, is always great for a party that never stops. The margaritas flow freely, including a unique one made with avocado, and sipping one on the patio while the sun sets is a great San Antonio pleasure. Plus, Blanca Aldaco makes sure you get food you enjoy, even if you are a gluten-free diet. The weekend brunch, with a great breakfast relleno, is also a good bet.

La Hacienda de los Barrios, 18747 Redland Road, is another place to remember, especially if you have a large party. This is a wonderful place to introduce people to the local favorite, the puffy taco, which Diana Barrios Treviño makes better than most. (She even topped Bobby Flay when he appeared at the restaurant for one of his throwdowns.

Another place not to miss is El Mirasol Alta Cocina, 13489 Blanco Road. Owner Jesse Calvillo and his staff treat you right, whether you’re just dropping by for a margarita and a plate of queso flameado or you want enchiladas with a choice of sauces.

Readers, what other places would you recommend for guests visiting from out of town who had a hankering for San Antonio’s authentic brand of Tex-Mex?  Post your suggestions below.

If you have a food question, email walker@savorsa.com or griffin@savorsa.com.

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A Few Delicious Ideas for Foodie Gifts


Bean pot, a traditional item that is usally in stock at Tienda de Cocina.

From Mexican dishes, cookware and table decor to olive oil-based lotions and soaps, there are ideas aplenty in and around San Antonio to surprise the foodie on your Christmas list.  (We mean surprise in a good way!) While we hate to use that phrase “last-minute gifts,” the one-week countdown is here, and that last minute is getting closer all the time!

Diana Barrios Treviño’s popular book, “The Barrios Family Cookbook,” has been selling well and for good reason. The recipes are not complex, but the results taste like genuine San Antonio Mexican food. The book can be purchased at most bookstores or at the Los Barrios restaurants. These are Los Barrios Mexican Food at 4223 Blanco Road, or La Hacienda de los Barrios at 18747 Redland Road.

'Los Barrios Family Cookbook', plus a tortilla warmer and Corkcicle, is a basket suggestion from Diana Barrios Trevino.

Treviño suggests adding a tortilla warming pad to the basket. Place tortillas into this cloth folder, pop it into the microwave and tortillas will come out soft and warm, with not dried edges. “I use this all the time at home — you have to separate the tortillas, not just take them from the package to the warmer, but it works really, really well,” she says.

Along with the tortilla warmer and book, put another handy item into the basket — a Corksicle. This is something to keep in the freezer for those times you need to cool a bottle of wine down fast. A long plunger, with a cork on top, dips right into the bottle and brings on a good cellar temperature in just a few minutes.

Anyone who has gone into Melissa Guerra’s Tienda de Cocina, in the Full Goods building at the Pearl Brewery,  knows that it’s easier to walk in than it is to leave. The array of colorful dishware, traditional and contemporary cookware, books, tablecloths, embroidered purses, glassware and so much more is fascinating, and a great way to spend part of an afternoon.

We’d suggest an earthenware bean pot, a package of organic beans sold at the store, near the cookbook section, and one of Guerra’s cookbooks as a good place to start.  Then, tuck a colorful cooking utensil, such as a stirring spoon or garlic press into the package as well.

Dishes with olive motifs, olive wood cheese boards, rolling pins and more at Sandy Oaks.

If you have time, take a pretty drive south of town on I-37 to Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard.  Along the way the trees are shades of bronze, muted orange and sometimes bright yellow. It doesn’t take long to get to this peaceful and lovely working olive plantation — less than 30 minutes from downtown, in fact. (Take the Hardy Road exit, turn east and follow the signs, turning left on Mathis Road.)

The property has an orchard of more than 11,000 olive trees, as well as a large barn, housing meeting areas, two kitchens and the commercial olive press. There is a spacious gift shop in a new, two-story building next to the barn. Here, you’ll find a kitchen bar area where visitors are invited to sample olive oils, balsamic vinegars, granola made on premises and more.  During these cool days there will be a fire in the fireplace and a pretty view into a large nursery that houses quite a few varieties of olive trees.

It's easy to fill up your own basket with gift items, such as mine, above, but Sandy Oaks will also put together pretty gift baskets for you.

Sandy Oaks offers a number of different gift basket ideas, but you’re also welcome to choose your own ‘ingredients” from the many items on sale. Excellent skin lotions, healing salve and soaps, all made with olive oil, are fragrant and gentle on the skin. The healing salve ($10) is good for cuts and scratches, minor burns and insect bites. Olive leaf tea, aroma oil made from olive oil, olivewood cheese boards and beautiful French pottery with an olive motif, are just a few more ideas.

I put together a basket for a chef (my brother) that has the healing salve for kitchen scrapes and burns, a Chef’s Cinnamon scrub soap, and a bottle of Sandy Oaks Extra Virgin Olive Oil, that makes a very good finishing oil. A similar basket for another friend will contain the same items, with the addition of a potholder with an olive design, and a bag of fair trade organic coffee. Visit Sandy Oaks on the web by clicking here.

Interior at Sandy Oaks new gift shop is spacious and fragrant, with a working fireplace and a kitchen area for olive oil tasting and more. It's also a unique place to shop for gifts.

Here are just a few more thoughts on  gifts that will entertain or educate your favorite food aficionado.

• Cooking classes: Central Market, the Culinary Institute of America and Sandy Oaks have classes with a wide range of appeal and cost.

• Buy a basket, a pretty Christmas-themed towel (or whatever is appropriate) and fill it with artisan cheeses, a package of good crackers and a mixture of olives. This is something we’ve found appeals to guys as much as, or more so, than our female friends.

• Choose a cookbook (there are many lists on the Internet now naming the “best of” 2011).  We like John Besh’s newest book, “My Family Table,” and Anne Burrell’s “Cook Like a Rock Star.” Find a recipe that has some unusual ingredients in it, then put those into the gift bag with the book.

Happy shopping!

 

 

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Tortilla Soup: From ‘Los Barrios Family Cookbook’


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Cheese, or even sour cream can top a satisfying bowl of tortilla soup.

Diana Barrios-Treviño notes in her book, “Los Barrios Family Cookbook,” that there are many ways to make tortilla soup. You can make it with a rich, clear chicken broth or make it with a tomato base, as she does here. Either way, build up the flavor and heartiness with chicken, cheese and diced avocado. Strips of crisp tortillas and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro top it off perfectly.

 

Tortilla Soup Los Barrios

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, sliced
Two bay leaves
10 peppercorns
9 tomatoes, cut in half
2 heads garlic
4 quarts water
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 drops Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
Salt, to taste
Garnish:
3 cups diced, cooked chicken
2 Hass avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 cups crumbled queso añejo cheese (crumbly white Mexican cheese) or feta
Fried tortilla strips
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Heat vegetable oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, bay leaves and peppercorns and saute until onion is softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, garlic and water and bring to a boil. Boil until the tomatoes are starting to fall apart, about 30 minutes.

Add the bouillon cube and cook for 20 minutes. Strain the soup into a large pot, pushing down the solids with a potato masher to force out all the juices; discard solids.

Bring broth to a simmer over medium heat. Add the Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces and season with salt. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the chicken, avocados, cheese, fried tortilla strips and cilantro.

Makes 10-12 servings.

From Diana Barrios-Treviño, “Los Barrios Family Cookbook”

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Restaurant Notes and Quotes


It's back to being Boehler's.

New Boehler’s at old Liberty Bar location
We haven’t yet explored the new restaurant at 328 E. Josephine St., inside the building that still leans but no longer houses the Liberty Bar. The business might be new, but the Boehler’s name is straight out of the building’s history, predating even the Liberty Bar. We checked out the menu and noticed the likes of Green Chile Meatloaf, Grilled Chicken Paillard and Pecan-crusted Pork. Sounds promising. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner.

Remodeling work continues at Rosario's.

Rosario’s new look
The remodeling is still in the works at Rosario’s Café y Cantina on Alamo Street. The new look includes latticed dividers to add a sense of privacy here and there and to (we can hope) help baffle some of the noise. At left is a quick look at what’s happening so far.

Not just another Brazilian steakhouse
Texas de Brazil plans to open on Dec. 28 in the Kress Building at 313 E. Houston St., according to the restaurant’s website.

The restaurant is a churrascaria, the Brazilian-style steakhouse, which is proving to be popular in these carnivorous climes. The difference here is that San Antonio will be home to the state’s first aerial wine artists. If you want to get a sneak peek of an aerialist at work, click here. We predict this will sell plenty of wine to go with all that meat.

Also, check out their Grand Opening special: $74 per couple includes two regular dinners, two desserts, non-alcoholic beverages (ice tea, soda or coffee) and either a bottle of champagne or wine. Tax and gratuity additional. This special is valid from the opening date through  Jan. 31.  Just mention this special offer when making reservation. Not valid with any other offers.

Thanksgiving Eve Dinner and Weekend Brunches at Insignia
If you’re saving your cooking energy for Thursday and want a night out tonight (Thanksgiving Eve), Restaurant Insignia, 410 S. Alamo St. at the Fairmount Hotel is offering a prix fixe dinner for $35 per person. Appetizer is Seasonal Squash Bisque or a Mixed Field Greens “Greek Salad”; the entrée course choices are Pan-roasted Chicken Breast with Barley “Risotto”, Melted Onions, Lardons, and Chicken Sage Jus, Wood Oven Roasted Salmon or Cast Iron Beef Tenderloin, and Root Vegetables two ways. Desserts: Nutella Cake, Banana Brulée, Banana Cream, Peanut Butter Pumpkin Crumb Cake, Candied Walnut Nougat, Salted Caramel “Mousse” or Key Lime Pie Parfait. 210-223-0401. Insignia is also offering brunch on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

‘Throwdown!’ on the page
Several years ago (though it seems like yesterday), Bobby Flay returned to San Antonio where he challenged Diana Barrios Treviño to see who could make the best puffy tacos.

The scene was La Hacienda de los Barrios, 18747 Redland Road. Barrios Treviño had shown Flay how to make the local favorite the first time he came to town, so it was a classic case of master v. student. The winner? Barrios Treviño, of course.

Flay pays tribute to Barrios Treviño, her mother, the late Viola Barrios, and to the puffy taco in his latest cookbook, “Bobby Flay’s Throwdown!” (Clarkson Potter, $27.50).

Barrios Treviño returns the favor. “What can we say!” the local chef says. “We’re still enjoying the fun that this show brought and also so grateful for the opportunity! We are selling the book at both Los Barrios and La Hacienda. Bobby did a great job talking about our ‘Throwdown!’ and also about his experience with my mom. We could not be happier!”

The new look at the Cove.

Elbow room at The Cove
We enjoyed a lunch of fish and shrimp tacos, salad and a beanburger at The Cove, 606 W. Cypress. Also our first look at the newly remodeled and enlarged space in the ordering area. Now, nobody really wants the Cove to be too spiffed up, as it would stray from it purely funky roots. But more moving-around space has really helped the stand-up-and-order situation. Not that we’re complaining about that — nor did we have any complaints at all about the tasty SOL food (sustainable, organic, local) — the beef in the burgers and the good array of flavors in the tacos and salad dressings remind us why we need to dock more often at the Cove, not just spin around that curve on our way to someplace else.

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Save Some Time: Get Desserts Ready Ahead of Time


PumpkinPie

What happened to the whipped cream?

Deciding what to serve for Thanksgiving dessert can be fraught with as many emotional landmines as preparing the menu for the rest of the meal.

Some people only want pumpkin pie or pecan pie. Others want anything but.

But most everyone agrees on one thing: Dessert is as important as the turkey and all the trimmings.

I always enjoy a slice of pumpkin pie or sweet potato pie with whipped cream on top (OK, I can enjoy almost anything with whipped cream on top, but that’s another story). I also enjoy trying something new, yet with respect to tradition. So, this year, I’m going to try an Apple-Brandy Tart from Plaza Club chef Dan Lewis’ cookbook, “Discover Ironstone Vineyards.” And I’ll hope that one of the other guests brings along the pumpkin pie.

Cheesecake1

Diana Barrios Treviño's Family Favorite Cheesecake

Many of the desserts you’ll find make great use of the season’s bounty: apples, pumpkin, pecans. But the format can be different, such as Pumpkin-Spice Layer Cake.

Or the dish can something you love year-round, such as cheesecake, which has become a tradition in Diana Barrios Treviño’s family.

Whatever you try, remember that dessert, though it comes at the end of the meal, can usually be made the day before. So, save yourself some time and make your favorite pie or a whole array of desserts the day before. You’ll be glad to have one less thing to worry about.

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