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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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San Antonio’s Restaurant Scene Is Busy Dishing Up New Flavors

San Antonio’s restaurant scene is growing on all levels. Here are a few places that have opened recently or are opening in the near future.

La Tequilera del Patron has opened at 17776 Blanco Road.

The restaurant bills itself as “the real Mexican cantina” and offers a varied menu that includes Chicharron de Rib-eye, marinated and fried chunks of rib-eye; grilled Artichoke Tequilera with caper aioli; Chicharron el Borracho, fried pork with a molcajete and beer sauce; and grilled short ribs. Other dishes include ceviche, beef tripe, paprika-fried chicken, tacos, soups and salads, and, on weekends, a series of cures for those suffering from a hangover.

The kitchen is open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday;  11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Tuesday; 11 a.m.-midnight Wednesday-Saturday. The bar stays open later. Call 210-479-1210 for information or click here.

Bite, 1012 S. Presa St., is a new Southtown destination opened by chef Lisa Astorga-Watel, wife of Damien Watel, who is known for his own culinary ventures.

According to the restaurant’s website, “Bite’s menu is never made of tiny hors d’oeuvres and cheap ingredients … but real dinner food! Imagine, instead of half a duck, it’s a quarter duck, instead of three lamb chops, it’s one really juicy nice one! It’s a full lobster tail in your spring roll! You probably expect to pay $40 bucks or more for your lamb chops, so doesn’t $18 for our lamb chop delight you in more ways than one?!!”

For more information, call 210-532-2551.

Restaurants at the Pearl Brewery will soon be opening in quick succession. First up is The Granary ‘Cue and Brew, followed by the Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden, a standalone and a new concept from the owners of Max’s Wine Dive.

Jesse T. Perez will follow with his tribute to American favorites with Arcade. Early next year, look for a new venture from Steven McHugh as well as Green Vegetarian Cuisine, which is moving from North Flores.

A guac-topped favorite at Old West Burgers

Old West Burgers has moved from Evers Road to 4553 N. Loop 1604 W.

As the name implies, burgers are what dominate here with everything from a traditional burger to the wonderfully named Chalupacabra Burger. There are also burgers made with bison, chicken, turkey and vegetables.

For more information, call  210-267-1774 or click here.

Papa Nacho’s is opening soon at 203 N. Loop 1604 W., the site of the former El Papalote.

If you have information on restaurant openings or closings, email or


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Food Revolutions Popping Up In, Around SA

Sandy Winokur (from left), Susan Jaime, Mike Behrend and Troy Knapp are part of the food revolutions occurring in SA.

On  Tuesday, a group of SA food innovators got together to discuss the ongoing growth and changes going on in the San Antonio area when it comes to what is going on our plates. Farmers, ranchers, food merchants and chefs joined for 5-Minute Food Revolutions.

The forum, with about 100 in attendance, was presented at Aldaco’s Sunset Station. The panel was selected for their unconventional and/or pioneering approach to food, be it growing gardens or crops, raising chickens and hogs or running a restaurant.

Tim McDiarmid, of Tim the Girl Catering and Special Projects Social, describes her approach to food and her pop-up dinners.

Mike Behrend, for example, was a dedicated meat eater until about seven years ago. The chef and owner of Green Vegetarian Cuisine described his changeover in restaurant terms: “What I used to think of as a pain-in-the-ass customer? I became that customer.” Green is the top go-to restaurant for vegetarians and popular with many who don’t want to eat meat at every meal, too.

Kelley Escobedo, who with her husband Mark, founded South Texas Heritage Pork, described how her farm “lets the animals have a life” while they strive to reduce their carbon footprint and move from feeding their heritage hogs peanuts instead of corn. “This is not an easy life. We do it because we have passion,” said Escobedo.

To watch a video of the 90-minute presentation, click here.

Participants included Chad Carey of The Monterey, Marianna Peeler of Peeler Farms, Sameer Siddiqui of Rickshaw Stop, Saundra Winokur of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, Mike Behrend of Green Vegetarian Cuisine, Susan Jaime of Ferra Coffee, Tim McDiarmid of Tim the Girl/Special Projects Social pop-up events, Blair Condon of Green Spaces Alliance, Kelley Escobedo of South Texas Heritage Pork and Troy Knapp of the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort.

The event was co-sponsored by SavorSA, Plaza de Armas and NOWCastSA, who videotaped it.

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Green Vegetarian Cuisine Opens Second Location

Green Vegetarian Cuisine & Coffee will open a second location, Green at Alon. Sunday, Oct. 2, at 10003 N.W. Military Drive, corner of Wurzbach Parkway and N.W. Military Highway.  Hours will be 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.,  Sundays through Thursdays, closed at 8 p.m. Fridays and closed on Saturdays.  The original location of Green is at 1017 North Flores St. The restaurant is kosher as well as “100 percent” vegetarian.


An earlier report said Green would be open Oct. 1; the above is the corrected date. Our apologies.

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¡Viva la Vegetable! The Cooking Show at Jump-Start is July 2

It’s a celebration of veggies on The Cooking Show, with Karimi y Comrades here on July 2. And, the audience gets to eat, too!

Described as “a globally flavored recipe that packs some punch lines,” The Cooking Show will be happening at  The Sterling Houston Theater at Jump-Start in the Blue Star Arts Complex, at the corner of South Alamo and Probandt streets.

You’ll get recipes as you enjoy special guest Jesse Borrego. The Cooking Show is hosted by nationally known Iranian-Guatemalan cook, Mero Cocinero Karimi.

In addition to this live and interactive entertainment, the whole audience gets to come to the table. The meal is sponsored by Whole Foods, Central Market and Green Vegetarian Cuisine.

Jump-Start also is hosting a First Friday Preview Test Kitchen, brought to you by the Diabetes of Democracy Project, July 1 beginning at 8 p.m.  Donations are encouraged.

The show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50 and $25. To purchase tickets for The Cooking Show, call 210- 227-5867 or visit Jump Start for more information.













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How Many Cupcakes Can You Eat?

GreenBlockPartyGreen Vegetarian Cuisine, 1017 N. Flores, is hosting a cupcake eating contest Sunday as part of its World Vegetarian Month Block Party.

The party runs from 4 to 8 p.m. and features artists, vendors, face painting, chalk art and more in addition to the contest.

There is no cover, but people are asked to bring vegetarian non-perishables for Food Not Bombs.

To enter the cupcake eating contest, e-mail

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Vegetarian Month Brings Some Meat-free Surprises


Raw Tomato Lasagna

There’s an old New Yorker cartoon depicting two women talking over the dinner table. “I started my vegetarianism for health reasons,” one says to the other, “then it became a moral choice, and now it’s just to annoy people.”

Obviously written by a carnivore. Yet, no matter how hard some of us cling to our meat-eating habits, many of us will admit that going meat-free every now and then is one way to add variety to our diets.

It’s also not much of a sacrifice, if you try the right recipes. Think of a thick, juicy grilled cheese sandwich with tomato, basil and garlic adding flavor. Think raw lasagna with zucchini noodles and a sun-dried tomato sauce. Or spicy strips of portobello mushroom with a creamy touch of rémoulade. Or a salad that mixes avocado and mango.

Chefs across the country are creating a host of decadent vegetarian options that make meat-free dining choices more rewarding. San Antonio is no exception.

At Brasserie Pavil, 1818 N. Loop 1604 W., chef Scott Cohen offers a vegetarian cassoulet made with artichokes, wild mushrooms and carrots in addition to white beans that tastes every bit as good as it sounds. At Thai Dee, 5307 Blanco Road, you can order any dish vegan or vegetarian. Many of the city’s Indian restaurants also offer numerous vegetarian options, such as the buttery lentils at Star of India, 2267 N.W. Military Hwy., or the okra dish, bhindi masala, at Bombay Hall, 8783 Wurzbach Road.

There’s also the city’s only vegetarian restaurant, Green Vegetarian Cuisine & Coffee, 1017 N. Flores St., where chef Mike Behrend offers everything from chicken-fried wheat-meat to mushroom stroganoff.

Why all this talk of vegetarianism? October is National Vegetarian Month. So, enjoy a meat-free dish this month, even if it’s a slice of chocolate cake.

Recipes can be seen at the links below:


Upgrade Your Grilled Cheese Sandwich


Mango and Avocado Salad: Not for Vegetarians Only


Raw Tomato Lasagna Makes for a Colorful Centerpiece


Spice Up a Portobello Sandwich

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Vegan Dining Options?

Fresh eggplant at the market.

Fresh eggplant

Q: I have a client coming in tonight at 8:30 p.m. who is vegan. Do you have any suggestions? My only suggestion is Star of India, which closes at 10. The place doesn’t have to be solely vegan, but it needs to have vegan options. Any ideas?

A: Indian restaurants like Star of India, 2267 N.W. Military Hwy., have plenty of vegan as well as vegetarian options.

San Antonio’s only completely vegetarian restaurant, Green Vegetarian Cuisine, 1017 N. Flores St., has plenty of vegan options, but it closes at 9 p.m.

You could also try one of the area’s growing number of Thai restaurants, such as Thai Dee, 5307 Blanco Road, and Bangkok Cuisine, 8214 Pat Booker Road, Universal City. Another is Rock San Sushi and Thai Restaurant, 5238 DeZavala Road, which does not have regular vegan options; but if you ask, the kitchen will happily make a vegan dish for you.

Shiraz, 4230 McCullough Ave., prides itself on offering meals catered to people’s dietary needs. The restaurant is open until 10 p.m.

Beto’s Comida Latina, 7325 Broadway, will modify its recipes to make them vegan friendly. Hours vary, but the restaurant is open until 10 p.m. Thursdays and midnight Fridays and Saturdays.

P.F. Chang’s also has a variety of dishes that can be modified to be vegan at both their Quarry location, 255 E. Basse, and Rim location, 15900 LaCantera Parkway Bldg. #1.  Steamed Buddha’s Feast would be a great option as well as Stir-Fried Spinach with tofu added.

If you have dining questions, e-mail

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