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Chef James Moore Strikes Out on His Own

Chef James Moore (center) is opening his own place in April.

Chef James Moore (center) is opening his own place in April.

Chef James Moore, who opened Max’s Wine Dive and Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden in San Antonio, is going out on his own. He’s planning on opening a bar with small plates in early April.

The location will be on North St. Mary’s Street, but the name of the new place hasn’t been chosen yet.

“I’ve wanted to do a bar for, like, the last 10 years,” he says.

Moore’s hoping the place will help spark a revitalization of an area that has seen better days. He remembers a time in years past when North St. Mary’s was a lively confluence of restaurants, bars and boutiques that drew people from Trinity University, Monte Vista and all around town.

He’s planning on offering a menu quite unlike Boiler House’s mix of grilled meats and wine. Instead, he wants to offer handmade cocktails, but without any fuss around the preparation or any prejudice about any of the ingredients. In other words, you’ll find vodka on the menu, without any excuses attached.

“I love vodka,” he says. “It’s my favorite.”

As for the food, it will include bar snacks and tapas, though he’s quick to point that they won’t necessarily be traditionally Spanish. The menu will be limited, because the kitchen will consist largely of a convection oven and an electric burner, he says.

Given the notorious delays that have hindered restaurant openings in the past — the Boiler House had been announced for last April, to cite one example, — what makes Moore think that his new place will be ready in a little more than a month?

“We’re remodeling right now,” he says, and the project looks to be on schedule.

Moore’s last day at the Boiler House is March 9. The owners of that restaurant haven’t named his successor yet, but they have wished him well, he says.

If the chef’s dreams work out, the bar will be the first of a number of concepts, including restaurants, that he’d like to open in San Antonio. Having opened two for others, he’s ready to try on his own.

“I want to work for me,” he says.

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The Granary, Boiler House Texas Grill Open at the Pearl

The taps are flowing at the Granary.

Two days, two new restaurants in the lineup at the Pearl Brewery.

That’s all it took.

A Granary flight

The Granary ‘Cue and Brew opened Tuesday at 604 Avenue A in an area that is still a bit under construction. But who cares what the drive is like when the beer’s fine? And the Granary, under the attention of brewmaster Alex Rattray, has some fine initial offerings on tap including the in-house Blonde, Rye Saison (which will make you yearn for a Reuben), and India Pale Ale, with a Brown Ale due any day now.

Other local taps include Live Oak’s Pils and Hefeweizen, Ranger Creek’s Lucky ‘Ol Sun, and Rogness Rattler Pale Ale and Beardy Garde. Ask what’s available on cask or try a flight in order to sample the house offerings.

A view of the Granary kitchen.

There’s ‘cue to go with the brew, and the Granary menu includes a rasher of interesting apps: Texas Toast with barbecue butter, Grit Fritters with country ham “salt” and red-eye mayonnaise, Smoked Tofu with curried pumpkin, and Smoked Beef Tongue with a caper-raisin vinaigrette.

Main course offerings include Pork Belly with a salsa negra and masa spoon bread, Szechuan Duck Leg with a poached egg, Beef Clod (the shoulder) with coffee quinoa crunch, Moroccan Lamb Shoulder with cous cous; and Jerk Chicken with red beans. And there’s Old School ‘Cue, served family style, while supplies last.

Texas cheeses, buttermilk chess pie, and Chocolate Blackout Cake are among the desserts, though the Soft Serve Twist with beer and pretzels flavor sounds the most intriguing.

The restaurant is situated in the former cooper’s house for the former Pearl Brewery and features some intriguing features, from the obviously antique glass windows to a board near the entrance to the restrooms that proudly declares “There’s a reason.” For what? You figure it out. Another beer can help such heady contemplation.

For more on the Granary ‘Cue and Brew, click here.

Nearby, at 312 Pearl Parkway, the Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden opens today with chef James Moore in the kitchen overseeing the flame-cooked meals and vegetables.

Lamb polpettes

The restaurant, from the owners of Max’s Wine Dive, is indeed in the brewery’s old boiler house, which makes for a rustic, eclectic setting that’s comfortable, whether you’re seated at the bar so you can watch the kitchen staff at work or outside at one of the picnic tables.

Pork belly with soy-pineapple glaze.

Moore has said that Texas flavors, made with the best Texas ingredients, would be the focus on his menu.”When we began talking about Boiler House, we knew we wanted to honor the history at Pearl and the unique aspect of the building,” he said. “We started with the concept of grilling, something that plays a huge role in Texas cuisine. Pair that with flavors that reflect Texas and the concept just grew.”

Items that are attracting attention include starters of grilled breads with bone marrow, shrimp bacon brochettes, lamb polpettes (or meatballs), and tender Texas quail. Entrees include antelope, steaks, seafood and pork belly, the latter was served with a soy-pineapple glaze at a preview, but signs show that the sauces may change. There will be vegetarian options, too.

Texas quail at Boiler House.

There are also plenty of wines and a selection of Texas beers, from Ranger Creek Mission Trail Ale to South Austin Brewery Belgian Saison, to slake your thirst. Plus, the wines are also available to go, if you sample something that really speaks to you.

Desserts include Texas Pear Crumble as well as a big old brownie with a bourbon bacon anglaise that will thrill any dark chocolate fan.

For more information on Boiler House, click here.

Though both restaurants are open to the public, their hours or dining space are limited at the moment. Lunch at the Granary won’t start this week, for example, while live music at the Boiler House will come in the future.

The Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden opens Friday.





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Griffin to Go: Mac and Cheese Me, Please

What comfort macaroni and cheese brings.

The second annual San Antonio Cellar Classic drew hundreds to the Pearl Brewery Stables Saturday to sample a wide variety of wines that they could then take home at a discounted rate.

Taking tastes at the San Antonio Cellar Classic.

Shoppers looking to shore up their cellars with some age-worthy bottles or those just wanting to get an early start on holiday treats lined up before the doors opened and then lined up at the end to collect their purchases.

In between, there were dozens of wines poured alongside some small plates available from a series of restaurants, both established and soon to be on the dining scene, offering proof once again that fine wine loves great food.

A floral Terrazas Torrontés 2001 offered a nice balance to Feast chef Stefan Bowers shrimp ceviche, while Bending Branch’s new Cabernet Sauvignon and the Col Solare, Washington state’s answer to Italy’s Super Tuscans, both went well with sous vide flank steak from Jesse Perez’s upcoming Arcade. The tangy Ripa delle More 2008 from Castello Vicchiomaggio and veal polpette from chef James Moore’s soon-to-open Boiler House Texas Grill. Clint Connaway of Max’s Wine Dive offered a strata that was made for the Ruinart Rosé Champagne.

Jesse Perez plates his dish.

Urban Taco, NAO, the Bright Shawl, H-E-B and Ms. Chocolatier also offered treats ranging from flautas and gazpacho to salted caramel cake balls and red velvet cupcakes.

Cake balls.

While the guests were sipping and snacking to their hearts’ content, the real work was taking place in a corner under the staircase. Five of us had to judge seven different macaroni and cheese dishes from the participating restaurants. TV and web personality Tanji Patton, food writer Chris Dunn, Suzanne Taranto Etheredge of Culinaria, Lenny Friedman of Los #3 Dinners, which provided the great background music, and I were all set for the difficult task, while food writer Julia Celeste Rosenfeld served as tie-breaker, if one were needed.

How  do you judge macaroni and cheese, we asked ourselves. Quality of the pasta counts, of course. So does the nature of the cheese. Is it creamy and velvety? Does the cheese complement the rest of the ingredients? How well do the rest of the ingredients, whatever they may be, fit in with macaroni and cheese?

A judge reaches for a sample of macaroni and cheese.

The choices we were faced with ran the gamut from two made with bacon to one that featured duck confit and spinach. One was more like a casserole, in that that the meat took over, leaving the cheese in the dust. Some had breadcrumbs on top, others arrived under the protection of a crispy shield of cheese.

In the end, we were almost unanimous in our agreement that Feast’s Stefan Bowers had come up with a winner with his smoky, spicy mac and cheese with shishito peppers folded in. The smokiness carried over into the cheese. Not that the others were slouches by any means, but in Bower’s version, everything played together to provide that pure comfort that comes from a top-notch macaroni and cheese.

And the not-too-hot spice in the dish would have been perfect with the fruity Tortoise Creek Grenache Rosé d’Une Nuit 2011, a French rosé with a very New World label and approach.

Hard work, folks. Just be glad there are folks willing to sacrifice time and taste buds for a good cause.

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‘Wine and Food – Something We Can All Enjoy’

This Friday and Saturday brings  the second annual San Antonio Cellar Classic, sponsored by Max’s Wine Dive and the upcoming Boiler House Texas Grill.

More than 80 wineswill be poured during the event, which brings together additional restaurants, all in an effort to showcase how well wine pairs with food.

Max’s executive chef, James Moore, sat down recently with chef de cuisine Clint Connaway, wine sales manager David Hood and online wine director Greg Steiner to discuss the event.

Q: What wines will be featured at Cellar Classic?

Hood: We have one of the most carefully constructed wine lists in the city, with more than 150 varieties from around the world, and we’re always adding more wines to that list, some of which we’ll be debuting at Cellar Classic. We’re working with more Texas wines, like Bending Branch — we’re the only San Antonio restaurant where you can find them. There’s a lot going on with Texas wines. We’re seeing a departure from conventional varietals and more experimentation with reds and whites like Picpoul Blanc, Tannat and Petite Sirah. Texas wineries are looking at other parts of the world, matching soils and climate to what we have here and venturing into those areas. It’s not just Chardonnays or Cabernets — they’re playing it less safe and we’ve got some interesting things to feature for Cellar Classic.

We’re also adding more Spanish wines to our portfolio, and we’ll be featuring those at Cellar Classic. But people shouldn’t come to Cellar Classic just to taste one wine or because we’re featuring a certain winemaker — they should come because we’re featuring so many wines and winemakers, names they don’t know but will want to once they taste them.

Q: How do you select the wines for Cellar Classic?

Steiner: Our staff works with wineries, importers and distributors to see what’s available, what’s hot and what we like, and we select from there. We leverage our buying power to come across opportunities that others can’t offer and ultimately, the deals are terrific. Our volume drives great prices, so if someone tastes something they like at Cellar Classic, they can take it home for a great deal.

Our buying power also means that we have the chance to work with wineries to make specific requests — for instance, maybe we ask them to leave the wine in oak for a little longer, or they create labels specifically for us. At times, we’ll even buy out an entire vintage, so there’s no where else you can get that wine other than from us. We work so closely with them — our relationship with them is truly a partnership that can create unique wine finds for our guests.

And of course, we like to feature things that are unique and cool: we’ll be including a Vicius Albariño that’s been aged at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. The movement of the ocean actually helps the aging process and there is an ever so slight impartation of ocean salt water flavor that finds its way into the cork and therefore in the wine which gives the wine an amazingly addictive salinity. The result is maybe the greatest bottle of Albariño wine you will find. That’s something you won’t see at a typical wine tasting! It’s also one of the reasons that Cellar Classic is great place to discover new wines to add to your collection or the perfect spot to start a collection of your own.

Q: Why does Cellar Classic feature food alongside the wine tasting?

Moore: Food and wine are the perfect marriage because they enhance each other so well. Characteristics in wine change the flavors and dynamic of food while you’re eating and food can bring out nuances in wine. Wine that might taste flat in one note changes when paired with the right food. The right pairing can make the wine more full-bodied and more dynamic. We wouldn’t think of doing a wine event without including food.

Q: What makes Cellar Classic so great?

Moore: Cellar Classic is helping establish and nurture a culture in San Antonio that hasn’t existed before — featuring food and wine in one event. Being such a wine-centric company, hosting an event of this nature allows us to share our exploration and appreciation of wines and how they accompany food.

Connaway: It’s far from the typical wine tasting. I’d say it’s the antithesis of the typical wine tasting. And it’s a window into what we do and what we’re about. Cellar Classic gets people out sampling wines in a cool atmosphere, outside of a restaurant setting in a fun, free-flowing event. Food, wine and music — it doesn’t get better than that. And you can take home the wines you like.

Hood: We’re in a unique position: we order and sell a lot of wine. In fact, we are one of the largest purchasers of wine in Texas, so we have the opportunity to feature wines that you wouldn’t see in other places. You can explore different grapes, different makers, and wines from different parts of the world all in one building. Cellar Classic lets us feature the unexpected and wines people haven’t had the chance to experience. And our team will walk you through what you taste and what to look for in the wines we’re featuring. It’s sampling wine and great food with very knowledgeable wine friends and even though it’s only the second year to hold it here in San Antonio, we know it’s already become a tradition.

Q: What are the rules of wine today?

Connaway: The idea of whites with fish and pork, reds with beef—all of that is gone. A really nice light red could go with salad or fish . . . the way we’re cooking these days, its more variety. At Max’s Wine Dive we have big, bold flavors, so you need wines that can stand up to that.

Of course, you can’t serve dessert wines with dinner, but as far as reds and whites, you could have a fish dish that’s blackened that goes well with red. There are Sauvignon Blancs that hold up to a steak dinner or a burger.

Moore: You have to pair based on the components and structures of the dishes, not because someone thinks you should. But you need to drink what you like: there are so many different wines and grapes; it’s about your preference and personal tastes.

Q: What’s the Cellar Classic Reserve Dinner?

Moore: The dinner is an opportunity to expand what we do every day — pair great food and wine — and raise it to a different level. With five courses, we can explore more pairings and flavors. It’s not just each course, but how the courses all work together.

Connaway: With five courses, it’s more expansive than what we normally do at Max’s, but it’s going to be fun to do that within the Max’s environment. It’s going to be something unexpected from us—we’re really looking forward to it. I like to heat things up with spices and then cool them down building up to the entrée. We may even toss in a palette cleanser with a surprise sixth dish. I like to mess around with the senses. Sweet and savory, hot and cold . . . it’s another play on juxtapositions which is what Max’s Wine Dive is all about.

Q: The Grand Tasting includes other restaurants rather than just featuring MAX’s and the new Boiler House Texas Grill. Why?

Moore: Events like this help expose more people to better restaurants, different cuisines, chefs they haven’t experienced, so we want to share this opportunity with other chefs and restaurants. This event is not about us, it’s about the culinary scene in San Antonio. An event like this can expose you to a wider audience. By including other establishments, it helps them gain exposure and talk about what other wines they have as well and maybe reach a different audience than what they may usually see.

Connaway: It’s a way we can work together to build more interest, support and appreciation of wine and food — something we can all enjoy. It’s also fun to get out of the kitchen, walk around the “yard,” visit with the other chefs, see what they are doing, and talk with our guests. Cellar Classic is a celebration of food and wine for the staff as well, we enjoy it just as much as our guests. San Antonio is a cool city and we need a food scene that matches that — Cellar Classic helps better define us as a destination for great food and wine.

San Antonio Cellar Classic’s reserve dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Max’s Wine Dive, 340 E. Basse Road. The price is $125 per person or $225 per couple and is limited to 40 guests. Saturday’s grand tasting is at the stable at the Pearl Brewery from 1 – 4 p.m. Wine, food and music will be available. Tickets are $40 per person for general admission or $90 per person for VIP. For more information, click here.


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An Evening of Chefs, Cellars and Camaraderie

A member of the NAO team prepares bowls for Chefs and Cellars.

Chef Jesse T. Perez (right) plates one of his dishes.

It’s a fairly simple recipe. Culinaria’s annual Chefs and Cellars brings together a few of the city’s best chefs with some finely aged wines from private cellars. Nothing complicated, right? Yet the end result is a gustatory delight that always gains an alchemical element that comes from the camaraderie that occurs whenever people share common — or in this case, uncommon and exceptional — food and wine.

Kampachi, Uni and Yuzu Kosho from chef John Brand.

Sunday night’s dinner, held in the kitchens at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, featured five teams going all out to create a memorable evening, which may explain why the event was sold out months in advance.

Chef Jason Dady and his crew presented an evening of tapas inspired by a recent visit to Spain and elBulli. Among the more than two dozen small plates he offered were salt-roasted prawns, boquerones, pan tomate, bone marrow tartare, corn pudding on a lime wedge, foie gras-eel croissant and garbanzo bean stew with lobster. Wine merchant Woody de Luna offered a series of Spanish wines including a 1978 Gran Reserva CUNE Viña Real and 2009 Raventos i Blanc de Nit Rose Cava.

Chef Johnny Hernandez plates a dish.

John Brand from Las Canarias and Ostra paired several types of sashimi-style seafood (Kampachi, Uni and Yuzu Kosho) and smoked roe with at 2001 Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir Jean Paul Droin from Scott Duncan’s collection. He playfully presented a Monterey Bay sardine inside a decorative tin while Oregon sturgeon and American caviar were served in a salt cod box. Red deer striploin and foie gras with maitake mushrooms were paired with 1996 Chateau Cantemerle Haut-Medoc Bordeaux.

Jason Dady (left) slices Jose Andrews’ Jamon Iberico.

Lobster al Pastor was the starting dish from chef Johnny Hernandez, who followed it up with a chile relleno with cochinita pibil, a beef short rib with mole, and a grilled New York strip with plantain tamarind demi and a huitlacoche tlacoyo.

Chefs Jesse T. Perez and James Moore were partnered to showcase two talents who are opening restaurants in the Pearl Brewery this fall. Perez showed off plans for Arcade Midtown Kitchen, which specializes in American fare, while Moore, known for his work at Max’s Wine Dive, will be in charge of the Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden. Among the dishes they served were a fresh lobster soft taco with sweet potato, shrimp and grits, Heritage pork belly with Granny Smith compote, red beet sorbetto, and smoked lamb chop and mushroom. Phil Seelig and Hien Nguyen offered the wines, including Pol Roger Brut Rosé 2002, two vintages of Sassicaia and 1975 Croft Port.

Chef John Brand’s team prepares a dish.

New to the event this year was the team from the CIA’s NAO under the direction of chef Geronimo Lopez. New World flavors and cocktails included honey-sous vide sweetbreads, pan-seared squab, cherry-smoked xuxu salad and wood-roasted wild boar chop. The pair of cocktails included La Entrada, made with cachaça, maraschino and Crème Yvette, and Interludio, a mix of grapefruit, Aperol, Campari and Pisco. Richard and Bunny Becker offered the wines to go with the meal.

It didn’t take much time before the guests started comparing plates and even sharing a few bites or sips — and the real reason this evening is a success each year became readily apparent.

For more information on upcoming Culinaria events, click on the ad at the top of the page. The next event is Feastivàl on Oct. 7.

Red deer striploin with foie gras, spice bread, a parsnip puree and maitake mushrooms from chef John Brand.

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