Tag Archive | "Groomer’s Seafood"

GauchoGourmet Holidays! Book Signing, Toy Drive for the Kids

Gaucho Gourmet’s Saturday Market this week will feature a Texas-sized Holiday Book Signing, with six authors present and signing four great Texas food books.

This is a one-time chance to pick up gifts for the food-lovers on your holiday gift lists, and have them signed. The following authors will be on hand Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.:
Texas Hill Country Cookbook• Chef Terry Thompson-Anderson, veteran chef and culinary instructor, will be present to sign her cookbook “Texas on the Table: People, Places and Recipes Celebrating the Lone Star State,” destined to become the definitive book on Texas cooking.
• Chef Scott Cohen, former executive chef of Las Canarias at La Mansion del Rio Hotel and current instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Austin, is signing his “The Texas Hill Country Cookbook – A Taste of Provence” for the discriminating palate and lover of local products.
• Renowned Hill Country Chef Ross Burtwell and contributing author Julia Celeste Rosenfeld are signing their striking “Texas Hill Country Cuisine: Flavors from the Cabernet Grill Texas Wine Country Restaurant,” perfect for all Hill Country cuisine and Texas wine connoisseurs.
• Bonnie Walker and John Griffin will be signing their recently published “Barbecue Lover’s Texas – Restaurants, Markets, Recipes & Traditions” for the guys and gals who are meat lovers (especially barbecue!) on your Christmas list.

Toys for Tots Benefit now through Dec. 13 — win a giant Pannettone

GauchoGourmet is also accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys between Mon, Dec. 6 through Saturday Dec. 13 to benefit Toys for Tots and ultimately the less fortunate children in our community. This toy drive is in conjunction with Groomer’s Seafood.

panettone albertengoWith each donation dropped off at GauchoGourmet, the donor’s name will be entered into GauchoGourmet’s biggest and best giveaway yet. The winner will be announced Sept. 13 at 2 p.m. and will receipve a specially ordered 22 pound Panettone Christmas cake, made by artisanal producer Albertengo, from Italy.

Bring toys, sample some of the great holiday gourmet items at GauchoGourmet and pck up gifts — all this Saturday.


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GauchoGourmet Stepping Out! New and Local — Nov. 1

Gaucho Gourmet's imported salami and other cold cuts sandwich.

Gaucho Gourmet’s imported salami and other cold cuts sandwich.

Starting Saturday, Nov.  1,  one of San Antonio’s premier food imports store — with so much more — launches some great new offerings.  Features include an expanded daily takeout menu and a Saturday indoor market that supports local producers.

“This has been a long time coming, and we’ve worked hard to make “GauchoGourmet Reloaded” happen,” said Sylvia Ciociari, who with her husband, Luciano and co-proprietors Cuqui and Juan Ciociari, will be on hand to welcome guests at this launch.

For further information contact GauchoGourmet at 210-277-7930.  Gaucho Gourmet is at 935 Isom Road.

Here are some of the highlights of GauchoGourmet Reloaded:

New take-out menu

Easy and healthy grab ‘n’ go items are now available Monday through Saturday during lunch hours. GauchoGourmet offers artisanal sandwiches, hot specialty sausages featuring Berkshire hotdogs, duck sausage, chicken sausage and Argentine grillers. In addition, check out their great burrata, charcuterie appetizers and pasta salads all made in-house.

burrata gauchogourmet1

GauchoGourmet’s burrata cheese with charcuterie and fresh bread — on the deli menu!

It’s all about cheese! 

GauchoGourmet has expanded the deli counter to showcase their latest and largest selection of cut-to-order cheeses and cheese accompaniments from all over the world.  Everything needed to indulge in the ultimate cheese experience is now available, including cheese tools as well as serving utensils, plus an entire line of foie gras torchon, mousses and pates.

 Seasonal Saturday Market

GauchoGourmet has partnered with Groomer’s Seafood and a well-respected group of other local producers to feature a fine line of food products every Saturday throughout the holidays. GauchoGourmet and Groomer’s now make this a dual stop, the best one-stop shopping for chefs and foodies. Here’s what the lineup includes:

• Fine French wines by Alexander Vineyards in Fredericksburg, as well as other local wineries

Sandy Oaks olive oil

Sandy Oaks olive oil

• Groomer’s Seafood

• Fresh-pressed juices by Crave Market

• Fresh, artisan bread by The Bread Box

• Organic coffee beans by local roasters, Ferra Coffee

• Authentic Spanish chorizo from La Mancha Specialties

• Olive products from Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, Elmendorf

• All natural lamb from Hudspeth Farms



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Think Holidays! Johnson’s Backyard Comes to SA, Holiday Stroll, More

Holiday Stroll at Central Market is Thurs., Nov. 7

Come and get a glimpse into the array of treats available at Central Market for the holiday season. Sample some of these offerings as you walk through the store — plus, get ideas to dress up your table for the holidays.

Japanese sushi seafoodMore than 20 stations will be offering seasonal fruit in the produce area, sushi from holiday platters in seafood and taste a perfect pairing of pinot noir with all-natural hickory smoked turkey in the market. There will be ideas for stocking stuffers in healthy living and bites of coconut cake in the bakery. Beer and wine experts will be on hand to answer your questions about the art of pairing your beverage of choice with your holiday meals or party menus.

The Holiday Stroll costs $10 per person and includes a wine glass, a coupon for $5 off a purchase of $25 and a goodie bag. You’ll want to make your reservation for this event, which is Thursday, Nov. 7 from 5-8 p.m. at Central Market on Broadway. Reserve online at Then, check in at the main entrance to the store on Thursday.

Johnson’s Backyard comes to Gaucho Gourmet Saturdays

Johnson’s Backyard Garden, organic farm and CSA based in Austin, will begin bringing its produce to San Antonio this Saturday at Gaucho Gourmet, 935 Isom Road.

Johnsons Backyard Garden“We’re really excited about having them here every week,” said co-owner of Gaucho Gourmet, Luciano Ciorciari. “Their produce is awesome, and it will be a great addition to our Saturday market.”

The Saturday market is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and features cooking demonstrations, samples, a new cheese bar to browse through, an olives-and-more bar, imported pastas, sauces, charcuterie, freshly made sandwiches, spices, fine wines and many other imported items for the dedicated foodie to explore.

Johnson’s Backyard Garden is at 9515 Hergotz Lane in Austin. Contact them at (512) 386-5273 or visit their website at

The following Saturday, Nov. 16, Gaucho Gourmet will be holding a Duck & Foie Gras Feast, featuring a special on  2 ounce presliced foie gras at $4.95 each, 10 percent off on all duck products including duck salami, duck bacon, duck prosciutto etc. as well as a duck-dedicated sandwich menu onsite.

Gaucho Gourmet's imported salami and other cold cuts sandwich.

Gaucho Gourmet’s imported salami and other cold cuts sandwich.

San Antonio chef Steven Paprocki, will be doing a foie gras cooking demo and the menu will include Duck BLT with Foie Gras and Duck Sausage Sandwich. Alexander Vineyards of Fredericksburg will pour samples of French wines including Sauternes and Champagne and be selling the wines by the glass and bottle.

In addition to its Saturday hours, this warehouse-style gourmet shop is also open Mondays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For additional information, visit or call (210) 277-7930.


Fall Harvest Pig Roast at Sustenio Saturday

Sustenio at the Éilan Hotel, Resort & Spa hosts a Fall Harvest Pig Roast on this Saturday, Nov. 9. The evening will feature ishes crafted by celebrity chef Stephan Pyles, paired with tequila concoctions from author Lucinda Hutson. Hutson’s book, “Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures,” is a fun-filled journey through the world of tequila.

Leslie party John pic pigThe meal’s centerpiece will be a whole, roasted suckling pig from Loncito Cartwright of Twin Oaks Ranch. A true old-time Texas rancher of the first order, Cartwright breeds grass-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free pigs, lambs and cows at his family’s Twin Oaks Ranch just south of San Antonio in Dinero, Texas.

Sustenio’s Fall Harvest Pig Roast will begin with al fresco appetizers and a  Mexican Harvest Punch, a spicy gingered apple punch with pomegranate seeds and tequila reposado, served on Sustenio’s patio, then move indoors for an three-course meal complete with a whole hog from Loncito Cartwright paired with wine and spirits. The harvest dinner begins at 7 p.m. and is $75 per person. Contact Sustenio at 210-598-2950 today to reserve your place in this not-to-be-missed dinner event.

Groomers is Turducken Central

As Thanksgiving approaches, you might have been considering a Louisiana-style feast with Turducken as the centerpiece. Groomer’s has  joined with  La Boucherie Cajun Meats out of Louisiana for this offering to San Antonio residents for the holidays.

Turducken Cajun MeatsThis unique item is composed of de-boned turkey, duck and chicken, combined into one entree.  Only the wing bones on the turkey remain for aesthetic purposes. For a healthier product, the fat and skin are removed from the duck and chicken.  These three meats are then separated by layers of homemade stuffing and flavor is added with a seasoning blend.
Varieties of stuffing include Traditional Cornbread, Shrimp and Sausage, Wild Rice Pecan, and Jalapeño Cornbread and will be going for $75 dollars each. Each of these (three birds in one!) is 15-16 pounds and will feed about 14-18 people.
Groomer’s Seafood is at 9801 McCullough Ave, San Antonio, TX 78216; (210) 377-0951.

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Lobster Mania II, Two Bros. Heads to StarChefs, OctoBeer Feast and More

Smoky barbecue brisket at Two Bros. BBQ Market.

Smoky barbecue brisket at Two Bros. BBQ Market.

Dady Bros. head to Star Chefs in New York Sept. 28

On Sept. 28 in New York City, the 8th annual International Chefs Congress, hosted by is having its first-ever SMOKE@ICC competition. San Antonio restaurateur Jason Dady and his brother, Jake Dady, will represent San Antonio, one of 10 teams competing in a four-round smoking battle. Each round offers a different theme which competitors have to adhere to; including: New American, Regional, Asian, and People’s Choice.

The Dady’s Two Bros. BBQ Market has been showcased on the cover of Texas Monthly’s BBQ Editor Daniel Vaughn’s book, “The Prophets of Smoked Meat” as well as Texas Monthly’s Top 50 BBQ Joints in the nation.

Tickets to this event are $65 general admission $85 VIP. For more information and ticket purchasing, click here.

Also, you can sample Two Bros. barbecue at the Stock Show and Rodeo Cook-Off  Sept. 28 and 29. An array of samples from Two Bros. barbecue menu will be available, including their 32-hour smoked brisket. And all proceeds from this event go towards S.A.L.E. Scholarship Fund.

Use the lemon-tarragon butter on the lobster meat.

Use the lemon-tarragon butter on the lobster meat.

Lobster Mania — revisited!

Disappointed  lobster lovers will get another chance Sept. 20 and 21, as Groomer’s Seafood will do a retake of Lobster Mania.

During their last event, Groomers sold out of live Maine lobsters a little sooner than they expected after dropping prices in return for Facebook followers —  and bringing in droves of lobster maniacs.

Now, they’re looking for another 500 “likers” to push the price down to $7.95 per live lobster, and drop it another dollar as more people sign in. Check it out at Groomer’s Facebook page here.

For the love of gardens, health and conservation: Green Spaces Alliances Gala

On the evening of Oct. 17, Green Spaces Alliance will celebrate land conservation, urban spaces, and kids outdoors at the 2013 Green Spaces Alliance Fall Gala.  Tickets are $150 apiece.

This year’s gala will be held at the Steves Homestead Museum in the historic King William District and will feature delicious food, lively entertainment, signature drinks, and great company. The night will be highlighted with performances by dancers of the San Antonio Ballet, a silent auction, raffle, and featured local art by Dudley Harris.

For tickets, go to their website here.

Boardwalk on Bulverde’s 3rd annual OctoBeer Feast, Food and Beer Festival

Boardwalk on Bulverde will host their third annual OctoBeer Feast Friday Oct. 4 through Sunday Oct. 6. October is National Fire Prevention Month, and The San Antonio Fire Museum Society will participate in this event in celebration of their upcoming ribbon cutting on Oct. 9. The San Antonio Fire Museum (801 E. Houston St.) was founded to preserve the rich, historical culture of the department and to collect, preserve and archive the department records.

Kids love the play area at Boardwalk on Bulverde.

Kids love the play area at Boardwalk on Bulverde.

Food trucks featured during OctoBeer Feast include all of those that are staples at the venue such as Slice Brick Oven Pizza, Society Bakery, Dirty Dawgs, Crazy Carl’s, Gracie’s Kitchen, Totally Shredded, Winner Winner Chicken Dinner, Angus Somke Shop and Hippie Mommas.

Additional guest trucks featured are Spice Sea Gourmet, Fat Bellies, & The Fridge. Adults can enjoy ice cold Abita and Perdenales beverages from Glazer’s Distributors. Admission to this family-friendly festival is free.

Boardwalk on Bulverde is a food truck park that opened in January 2011 at 14732 Bulverde Road in San Antonio between Thousand Oaks Drive and Loop 1604.  The venue features two playscapes for kids, an arcade, washers and a basketball hoop. Live music on Friday and Saturday night from Crossfire will keep the crowd entertained, and the San Antonio Fire Museum Society will have their vintage fire truck on display Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon.

Hours are from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Oct. 4; noon to 11 p.m. Oct 5; and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday. More information about Boardwalk on Bulverde can be found online at or by calling 210-402-2829.




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After the Mania, Groomer’s Resumes Business as Usual

Thursday’s start to Groomer’s Seafood’s second annual Lobster Mania was fairly orderly, with patrons picking up 3,000 lobsters in the morning and filling out their orders with other seafood and items from the warehouse’s retail area.

Customers shop at Groomer's the day after Lobster Mania swamped the store.

Customers shop at Groomer’s the day after Lobster Mania swamped the store.

Friday could not have been any more different.

The crowds started early and quickly went through the 3,000 lobsters set aside for that day. But they didn’t leave. They wanted more.

So, Rick Groomer, his family and his crew made several runs to the airport to pick up newly arrived shipments.

When the trucks returned on one run, they couldn’t get into the parking lot, because so many cars had crammed in, blocking their access.

By about 12:25 p.m., 10,000 pounds of lobster, including all of the lobsters that were meant for Saturday’s sale, were gone. That’s about 8,000 lobsters, which had been priced at $6.95 apiece, regardless of their weight.

People were still waiting in line, disappointed to learn that they wouldn’t be steaming, boiling or grilling any of those tantalizing crustaceans that evening. Some stayed to get what was left over, including every last blue crab in the place.

A notice on the door let customers know there were no lobsters or blue crabs.

A notice on the door let customers know there were no lobsters or blue crabs.

Groomer, who started at 4 that morning, wouldn’t get out of his store until after 7 p.m. In addition to keeping things running as smoothly as possible, given the volume of shoppers, he and his staff took to social media to let people know that there would be no lobsters on Saturday. Emails went out to folks on their regular list as well as messages on Twitter and Facebook to let people know the situation, so they wouldn’t show up early, especially those customers who come in from out of town to get Groomer’s freshest.

The entire team, including Groomer, were back the next morning before the 9 a.m. opening to make sure that customers got what they needed. Signs were taped to the door announcing that there would be no lobster or blue crabs, and the message was repeated again inside on the specials chalkboard that hangs in back of the cash registers.

There were still a few visitors who hadn’t gotten the word ahead of time, and they waited in the parking lot until one of the staff came out to break the bad news.

“We can’t get any lobster from anywhere,” he told people who had been sitting in their car for more than a half hour. “It’s going to be a painful day.”

Wild-caught, never-frozen gulf shrimp were a Saturday special.

Wild-caught, never-frozen gulf shrimp were a Saturday special.

Somber might be a more apt description of the mood inside, where the scene appeared to be business as usual, though you could hear a few customers expressing their dismay at having to change their menus for the weekend. Most opted for the other seafood Groomer’s had to offer, including some frozen lobster tails as well as never-frozen, wild-caught gulf shrimp. the vast array of fresh fish arranged on ice-laden displays, the sashimi-grade cuts and other fresh shellfish, such as clams and mussels.

There Rick Groomer could be found adding already-shucked oysters to one of the ice trays.

He was still a little stunned by the Friday turnout, the second in the warehouse’s relatively short retail history. They’re going to try to figure out how to handle the scene better, he said. Last year, the store had taken reservations for many of the lobsters, but too many people just didn’t pick up their reservations, leaving them with a lot of unpaid-for lobsters.

Last year was a banner year for lobster. This year’s harvest is good but admittedly less robust, he said. Many of the lobsters are not surviving the trip from the Northeast, leaving seafood merchants like Groomer’s with dead lobsters on their hands, which no one wants.

But if conditions stay good, Groomer’s may try another Lobster Mania weekend next month, he said. So, stay tuned. That butter you clarified? It will keep.

No lobster, perhaps, but still plenty of fresh seafood at Groomer's.

No lobster, perhaps, but still plenty of fresh seafood at Groomer’s.


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Love Lobster? Rick Groomer Has Some Preparation Tips for You

steamed lobsters1As most of San Antonio’s many seafood fanatics are aware, Groomer’s Seafood, which sells its fresh fish and shellfish to restaurants, also has a retail outlet at their store at 9801 McCullough Ave.

The popular store will become lobster central on Thursday, which is the first day of the three-day Lobster Mania. This is the second annual event, and the sale goes on through Saturday (Aug. 3) of this weekend.

To prepare for Lobster Mania, Groomer’s did a promotion that lured lobster lovers to their Facebook page by offering to lower per-lobster prices when they got enough “likes” on their page. This was a charm that worked, and (at least as of this writing) lobsters will be selling for a very tempting $6.95 apiece.

“Last year’s Lobster Mania was a huge success,” said Groomer. “So this year we’ll have 3,500 lobsters for sale each day on Thursday and Friday (the crustaceans are flown in daily) and another 5,000 on Saturday. We’ll have to clear everything out off the floor (to accommodate the crowd), but things will move pretty fast.”

We asked for a few tips and tactics for picking and cooking a fresh lobster. This, Groomer said, is the best time of year and fresh, Maine cold-water lobsters are the best kind to buy. The season is at its peak and the supply is plentiful, he says.

“If you’re picking out a live lobster, you’ll want to select one that is lively, is moving its claws — the claws aren’t looking droopy or still,” he says.

lobster3Then, keep your new friend or friends as cool as possible. “You can do this with a damp newspaper or wet towel, and keep them at at least 40-50 degrees, or in the fridge. They’ll keep for 24-48 hours,” Groomer said.

Don’t become too attached to your lobsters in the meantime. “It’s best not to give them a name,” he said.

But, if you’re feeling a little squeamish about tossing them into the steamer or boiling them, one of the ways to ease your feelings is to put them in the freezer for 10 minutes or so before you cook them.

“They’ll go into a deep sleep. This is probably the most humane way to do it,” Groomer says.

Do lobsters have feelings? Groomer didn’t say yes or no, but he did say there have been “tests and more tests” showing that they probably don’t feel pain.

Groomer’s favorite way to cook and eat lobster: Keep it simple, he said. Steaming is the way he prefers with a little bit of flavoring in the water of the steamer — salt, dark ale, Old Bay Seasoning, lemons. When they have turned red, they’re done. (See directions for cooking below.)

“Honestly, the less you do the better,” he said. Along those same lines is his suggestion for serving — simply fresh drawn butter.

Groomer's Lobster Roll

Groomer’s Lobster Roll

And we see nothing wrong with that. However, Groomer’s also shared their Lobster Roll recipe, which you can find by clicking here.

Two ways to cook your lobsters

There are two popular ways for preparing your live lobster; steaming and boiling. Boiling is a bit quicker and the meat comes out of the shell more willingly than when steamed.

For recipes that call for fully cooked and picked lobster meat, boiling is the best and easier method. In contrast, steaming is gentler, yielding slightly more tender meat. It preserves a little more flavor and it’s more forgiving on the timing front making it harder to overcook.

We’ve included two simple guides below for cooking your live lobster for Lobster Mania to pair with a recipe of your own or just some simple clarified butter. Both of these recipes are for lobsters that weigh between 1 and 1 ¼ pounds.

To Boil: Begin by filling a large pot three-quarters full with salted water using 1 tablespoon of salt for each quart of water. Then bring the water to a rolling boil and place the lobsters in the pot, making sure they’re completely submerged. Cover the pot and begin timing, maintaining the boil, for about 8 minutes.

To Steam: Put about 2 inches of salted water in a large pot (use 1 tablespoon of salt for each quart of water). Put the lobsters in the pot, and cover tightly. Begin timing, and steam for 12 minutes. — From Groomer’s Seafood


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Notes & Quotes: Lobster-Mania, Ramen Shop and More

Francescas Lobster Salad croppedIf you love lobster, you’ll be happy that it’s almost time for Groomer’s Seafood’s 2nd annual Lobster-Mania. This celebration of deliciousness and how to get your hands on some for a great price happens Aug. 1-3, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“For those of you who are new to shopping with Groomer’s, Lobster-Mania is the time of the year where we bring in thousands of live Maine lobsters and sell them for as low as possible! The price however is all in the hands of our customers,” says Blake Groomer.

It works like this: The more people who like Groomer’s Facebook page — and that’s already a lot of us — the lower go their prices. If they can add another 500 likes to their page in the next week, they’ll be selling those crustaceans for $7.95 each. If 1,000 like them, that price goes down to $6.95. (Cut-off to add your name to their Facebook ‘likes’ is Monday.) That’s social media in action!  Groomer’s Seafood is at 9401 McCullough Ave.


Zaza Gallery

Entryway to Zaza Gardens, on South Flores.

Slow Food South Texas Farm Dinner: Featuring chef John Russ

Slow Food South Texas’ next farm dinner will be at Zaza Gardens in downtown San Antonio for a Celebration of Farms with chef John Russ. Russ is executive chef at Lüke, San Antonio.  The dinner is Sunday, Aug. 11, and goes from 5:30 – 9 p.m. at Zaza, 723 S. Flores St.

Participating Farmers include Rancho Ojo de Agua, Braune Farms, Kitchen Pride Mushrooms, Peeler Farms, South Texas Heritage Pork, Oak Hill Farms, and Gulf Oysters from Port Aransas. Featuring Texas beer and wine from Karbach Brewing Company and others.

Wander from station to station devouring the joint creations of chef Russ and our local farmers and ranchers. Sip beverages from Texas beer and wine makers and mingle with your fellow foodies. Click here to buy tickets.

The next Slow Food farm dinner is Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, Oct. 12, 2013 Traditional Family Style.


Kimura Ramen Shop to open Monday

Chef Michael Sohocki will be opening Kimura, next to Restaurant Gwendolyn, a 152 Pecan St., in the space vacated by Cakery Bakery.  Sohocki said a soft opening this week will give him some information to go on in the last few days as he irons out the menu’s offerings before opening on Monday, July 29.

Noodle eaters in "Tampopo" Japanese comedy filmed in 1985.

Noodle eaters in “Tampopo” Japanese comedy filmed in 1985.

To whet your appetite for this Japanese (by way of China) dish we’d suggest checking out one of our favorite foodie movies, “Tampopo.”

Ramen noodles, and the proper preparation thereof, was a focal point for the Japanese movie, filmed in 1985. The production and consumption of ramen was a large part of the 1985 Japanese comedy film. Truck drivers, Goro and Gun help a widow polish up her product and thus save her languishing ramen shop – though food of all sorts is touched on in this comedy. There are many types of ramen, and the movie leaves you with an appreciation for this simple – or not so simple, as it turns out – food.


Hat’s on!  San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Bar-B-Que Cook-off & Festival

smokin' joe's barbecueThe San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Bar-B-Que Cook-Off & Festival is coming up Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28. Spend Friday evening at the Ace in the Hole Casino Night (must be 21 and older) including great food, Las Vegas-style gaming, music and live and silent auctions.

Saturday is a full day of  family-friendly events and activities including Mutton Bustin’.  Enjoy live music throughout the day, shopping and plenty of Texas barbecue  to sample.

The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo Bar-B-Que Cook-Off is a championship event sanctioned by the Texas Gulf Coast Bar-B-Que Cookers Association.  The cook-off features over 300 teams of the world’s best barbecuers. For more information click on their page here.


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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.

Posted in Featured, RestaurantsComments Off on 2012 Was a Year of Eating Well

Griffin to Go: It’s Time to Clarify the Butter

On seven different yet glorious occasions, I have spent Labor Day week (or close to it) aboard the Victory Chimes off the coast of Maine. The three-masted schooner sails without an engine or motorized power and goes largely where the winds carry it.

It is a week of bliss, in which the breeze carries away with it every last care in the world and sets you free from the stresses that lurk ashore. Even when the threat of a natural disaster clouds the picture, the mere fact of being on board the boat is enough to make rejuvenate in a way that no other trip can. (And I say this having been on the boat during the threat of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike and the memory of having been aboard the week before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.)

My favorite night aboard the boat is lobster night. Heaping bowls of steamed lobster are set in the center of each of the three dining tables and the 30 or so guests, along with the captain, enjoy the freshest and finest crustaceans from the sea. It’s a kind of all-you-can-eat affair in which you draw lobster after lobster or ears of corn until you’ve had your fill.

I honestly don’t know the definition of too much on such occasions. I once had four lobsters and while I could have had more, I was gentleman enough to allow my friend Carol to have five that evening. (We had two vegetarians and three people who didn’t eat shellfish at our table, and we graciously allowed them all the corn they wanted. It’s called manners. It’s the way we were brought up.)

I didn’t get to sail this year, but I have learned that the season has been both a blessing and a curse when it comes to lobster. So many lobsters have been harvested that the prices are rock bottom, which may not be great news for the fishers, but it is for us diners. Even in San Antonio.

Groomer’s Seafood has been offering lobsters fresh from Maine at prices less than most of us would pay for beef. Check out their specials on Facebook or call (210) 377-0951.

Still, I had not cooked lobster on my own, and that conjured all sorts of flashbacks of “Annie Hall,” fears about cooking anything alive, and fears of cooking something different that was considered a luxury item. What if I messed up? Would the money be wasted?

I had planned on boiling the lobsters in salt water, but I changed my mind when I read the following about steamed lobster in the 1997 edition of “Joy of Cooking” (I know this is the maligned edition, but I actually prefer it to the others): “There is only one good reason to boil lobsters instead of steaming them: If you are cooking lobsters in batches — say, eight or more, so there is no way you can fit them all into the pot at once — each one flavors the broth for the ones that follow. But for the average meal, steaming is faster an easier (if you can steam broccoli, you can steam lobster). You can use this same procedure for king crab legs or Dungeness crab as well.”

Well, that had me convinced that steaming was the way to go.

It worked perfectly, too, with clarified butter and lime slices — not to mention a little coleslaw and a bottle of 2005 Chateau St. Jean Le Petite Etoile Vineyard Fumé Blanc.  But it wasn’t the end of the meal.

The shells went into the oven to dry out so I could make lobster butter and, in accordance with the guidance of a local chef known as Tatu Von Munster, it went into lobster stock, using the shells and the water in which the lobsters were boiled. He also suggested lobster mayo, but I didn’t have enough shells, though it did sound good.

The point is, lobster is now affordable, probably more so than monkfish, which used to be known as the poor man’s lobster. So, what are you waiting for?


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No-Fuss Cioppino, Courtesy of Groomer’s

This dish of chunks of fish, shrimp in a tomato-y sauce is a quick night’s meal.

I picked up a  jar of cioppino sauce on a trip to Groomer’s Seafood, 9801 McCullough Ave.,  a couple of months ago. Then, it sat on a pantry shelf, always looking tempting but me not pursuing the rest of the ingredients that make up this delicious dish.

Cioppino is a tomato-based fish and shellfish stew, seasoned with white wine, bay leaves, oregano, fennel, thinned with fish stock and so forth. It is said to have been the creation of Italian immigrants in San Francisco, early in the 20th century.

Recently, because  I had to take a cat to the vet, whose office is roughly in Groomer’s vicinity, I stopped in for fresh fish and shrimp on the way home. I was thinking about that jar of cioppino sauce finally being put to use for a quick, cheater’s version of cioppino for dinner. I had high hopes.

Because it was a busy day, we did little more than cut up our pound of cobia, a firm white fish that comes out of the waters of Colombia and add it to the simmering tomato sauce along with the shrimp. Ready in minutes.

The results were nothing spectacular. So, what did I expect?

Nevertheless, I’d give it a solid grade of a B, and really, I’d probably buy this cioppino sauce-in-a-jar again. But, I think I would just use it as a pasta sauce — it was thick enough, and would be fine for a red clam sauce or mushroom sauce, tossed with hot pasta and served with plenty of Parmesan cheese.

If I did decide to use again for cioppino, I’d chop up a little fresh fennel (with the leaves leaves) and saute with a clove or two of minced garlic. This, along with a pinch or two of red pepper flakes and a half-cup of white wine would give it more life.

The sauce was $6.99 for a 32-ounce jar. It is made by Norman Bishop Epicurean Foods and is called San Francisco-Style Cioppino Sauce. It’s fat free and the label also promises that it is “All Natural.”

If you want to do an easy, from-scratch version of cioppino, try this recipe from the Food Network, below. There are also many recipes that are far more time-consuming, such as ones in which you make your own fish fumet (stock) to use in the cioppino.  And, that’s probably time well spent — if you have it!

Cioppino Recipe




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