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Try It. It’s Good for You. And It Tastes Great.


Chef John Brand and his son, Malachi, prepare amaranth-crusted avocado.

Fall announced its arrival Sunday with temperatures dropping to the 50s and a definite nip in the air.

Mela offers two types of Indian chicken.

Yet that didn’t stop hundreds of people from reaching the Pearl Brewery Sunday on bike, on foot and in their cars for the first Feastivál, a tribute to healthy eating that Culinaria presented with H-E-B.

While they sipped wine and sampled healthy snacks from area restaurants and food purveyors, they listened to Dan Evans, a country singer who lost 136 pounds on TV’s “The Biggest Loser” and worked up some warmth doing a few zumba steps. Cooking demonstrations and wine seminars were on the menu as well.

Some of the snacks included a lemon seafood salad from chef Jeffrey Balfour at Citrus in the Hotel Valencia, amaranth-crusted avocado from chef John Brand of Las Canarias and Ostra, chicken tikka and tandoori chicken from Mela, black beans and brown rice from EZ’s, and guacamole with mango salsa on a jicama base from Paloma Blanca. Mike Behrend’s Green Vegetarian Cuisine offered a mixed plate with a pea, baby lima, edamame and carrot salad tossed with a touch of truffle oil.

Citrus’ Jeffrey Balfour presents a lemony seafood salad.

Jesse Perez, whose Arcade is opening at the Pearl later this year, offered a warming cup of butternut squash soup with feta. Steven McHugh, whose restaurant at the Pearl will opening the spring, offered roasted beets with blood orange over an avocado-ricotta spread. The two bros., Jason and Jake Dady, were on hand with smoked turkey from their Two Bros. BBQ Market.

A group of students from the Culinary Institute of America lit the fire pit and drew diners with tea-smoked salmon over vegetable couscous.

H-E-B, Zeric’s, Brio Tuscan Grille, and Eoni, which makes Bazookie whole grain and fruit bars, also offered tasty treats.

“It was amazing and healthy,” said Culinaria CEO Suzanne Taranto Etheredge, adding that both sponsoring organizations were pleased with the turnout and the fact that word is getting out that healthful food can taste great.

A group of students from the CIA dishes up tea-smoked salmon at the fire pit.

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NAO at the CIA to Have Soft Opening May 23


Robert Fleming is opening a second Magnolia Pancake Haus this week.

NAO, the Latin restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America, will have its soft opening on May 23.

It will be in the Pearl Brewery, 200 E. Grayson St., and will feature dishes from throughout South America, Latin America and the islands.

NAO will be student-staffed and the menu will feature traditional dishes creatively reinterpreted for San Antonio diners.

Jesse Perez

In other Pearl Brewery news, chef Jesse Perez is opening his contemporary American restaurant, Arcade, this fall. It will be in the lab building near the stables on the property.

The streamlined industrial look of the space will be playful, Perez says.

We’re hoping the food will be as good as what we sampled from Perez during this year’s Culinaria.

In other restaurant news, Robert Fleming will be opening his second Magnolia Pancake Haus on Friday at 10333 Huebner Road.

Old favorites, such as the Apfelpfannekuchen and the pancakes as well as the house-made sausage and eggs to order, will be available. Call (210) 561-6117.

Robbie Nowlin, who left Jason Dady’s the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, to work at the prestigious French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., has returned to town. He will be working for Dady again, this time at Bin 555.

The Esquire Tavern

The Esquire Tavern, 155 E. Commerce St., has been named one of the top bars in America by Men’s Fitness magazine. The listing says that “Luckily despite its tourist-y location, this is a casual local favorite that just happens to boast the longest wooden bar in Texas. At 79 feet it’s the perfect spot to throw back a few Lone Stars (the “National Beer of Texas”), and hang with the locals. As for cocktails they’re fittingly big and boozy.”

The Grand Hyatt, 600 E. Market St., has a new executive chef. Lawrence Eells grew up moving around the world. As a young boy in a military family, he spent the majority of his childhood in places such as Okinawa, the Philippines, Shanghai, Hawaii, Albuquerque, San Diego, Minneapolis and Dallas.

After paying his way through college by working in the food industry, Eells took a job as chef de cuisine at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis in 1982. Since then, he has held a 30-year culinary career with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, working nearly every position in the kitchen at nine properties across the United States, opening four hotels and forging incredible, long-lasting relationships along the way. Most recently, Eells was the executive chef at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Hawaii, a position he held for the past six years.“I bring excitement and innovation with strong roots,” he said. “I hope to continue to use my background and experience to make myself valuable to Hyatt for years to come.”

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Burgers, BBQ and Beer — a Match Made in San Antonio Heaven


Michael Alvarez of the Grand Hyatt offers braised beef on a wheat bun.

Culinaria wound up five days of celebrating the finest in San Antonio food and spirits scene with an event that is tailored made for Texan tastes: Burgers, BBQ and Beer.

Sure, some wine and alcohol were thrown for good measure, but the highlights for the hundreds who thronged to the Pearl Brewery were treats such as the Wagyu beef burgers and lobster rolls that John Brand’s team from Las Canarias and Ostra served up.

Chef Jesse Perez of the upcoming Arcade restaurant offered up a chorizo burger, while Steve Warner of Two Step Restaurant served pulled pork with slaw on a buttery bun. Chef Michael Flores from Sur la Table offered pulled pork, too, but he complemented his with pulled shrimp.

John Brand is engulfed in smoke as he prepares burgers.

Jeff Balfour of Citrus won fans with a decidedly different rabbit burger with cheese and Dijon mustard; the bottles of Shiner Wild Hare Pale Ale that he and his staff used to fight off the heat were not chosen because of the meat, Balfour said with a laugh. Shere Henrici of the Rolling Pig had an Asian-influenced sweet and sour pork dish with peanuts adding crunch to the sauce.

Michael Alvarez was part of the Grand Hyatt team, which  served up three-day braised beef with house-made giardinara and a raspberry gelatin  shooter that had a touch of chocolate in it.

The array of burgers included patties made of sausage, venison and other meats came from the likes of Magnolia Pancake Haus, the Esquire Tavern and EZ’s, while barbecue came from Ben E. Keith and Q on the Riverwalk among others.

For those who partied a little too much the previous night at the Grand Tasting or wherever the party may have been, Jason Dady offered Bloody Mary’s with a smoky barbecue flavor.

Pet the possum? Sure, just not around the head.

Bakery Lorraine and Flour Power were among those offering sweets, with macarons in several flavors, brownies, cookies and cake bites drawing snackers of all ages.

For those in search of something a little different, Kameron Bean of Wild Times Edutainment brought a possum, a hedgehog and a non-fragrant skunk for people to pet. The shaded area drew plenty of interested visitors, as did the mister area, which helped take an edge off the warm day.

The sun made an icy beer all the more welcome, as Culinaria closed out its festival season on a high note.

 

 

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A Grand Tasting with Room to Spare


Chef Jesse Perez talks with patrons at the Grand Tasting.

Culinaria’s Grand Tasting, sponsored by Ambhar Tequila Saturday night, was a grand mix of glitz and glamor, side-by-side with  a casual ambience that gave the event more the feeling of a gathering of friends. Where last year’s event was something of a noisy mob scene, this year’s audience was scaled down, with plenty of space to mingle, taste and talk.

The food, while small in scale in terms of portion size offered diversity as well as a great variety of flavors, from tenderest breaded calamari with a sweet and sour sauce from Citrus to Jesse Perez’s scrumptious albondiga on an unexpected base of creamy white bean hummus; from molecular sorcery to whole-grain cookies. Within a few steps you could down a tiny, open-faced meatloaf slider from the JW Marriott, then sip a watermelon-based gazpacho with seafood from 20nine.

Culinaria CEO Suzanne Taranto Etheredge (left) and Jenny Niemann enjoy the Grand Tasting.

While strolling through the grotto area under the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, we found plenty of treats to love, including the strips of tender beef in a cognac cream sauce, served on a rich spoonful of mashed potatoes from Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse. The restaurant also offered dessert right at the next table — three delicious varieties of hand-rolled chocolate truffles — chile, tangerine and walnut.

Chef Steven McHugh, of Lüke San Antonio presented a colorful, updated chicken salad, sans mayonnaise, but bursting with flavors from tiny tomatoes, sprouts, mini-croutons and a light, spiky dressing.

Peeler Farms chicken in a salad from Luke San Antonio.

Chicken tinga tostadas from Paloma Blanca and Chile en Nogada from Picante Grill were among the Mexican flavors of the evening, while Jason Dady offered a tequila ice made in a smoky bowl of dry ice.  It was a fun feat of molecular cooking, though his Thai-infused treat of coconut, curry and various spices tasted even better.

Chef Jason Dady swirls some dry ice to cool off his drink.

Flour Power Cafe and Lux were among those offering sweets to finish off the tasting.

Numerous other restaurants and wineries kept patrons happy, while the lines moved quickly, whether they were after food or wine, tequila or beer. An icy glass of Kim Crawford Saugivnon Blanc from New Zealand, a chilled California Chardonnay from  J. Lohr and some Hogue Cabernet Sauvignon with winery founder Gary Hogue himself on hand were some of the wines on hand, while Ambhar offered tastes of silver, reposado and añejo tequilas and explanations to guide you through what makes each special.

And again the weather cooperated with the event, providing a gentle breeze.

Culinaria’s 2012 festival concludes Sunday with Burgers, BBQ and Beer at the Pearl Brewery. Click here for details.

Flour Power Cafe offer tastes of several varieties of cakes

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It’s Easy to Eat Well When It’s for a Good Cause


The SA Chef Coalition included Il Sogno sommelier Gabe Howe (front left) and David Gilbert of Sustenio, while the back row features, from right, John Brand, Michael Sohocki, Steven McHugh, Jason Dady, Chad Carey, Andrew Weissman and Jesse Perez.

The founding members of the SA Chef Coalition want what every chef wants: They want people to have a good meal and come back for more.

Braised beef cheeks with garlic, tomatoes and kale.

But they want something more.

They want that meal to showcase the best produce and meats of the immediate region, and they want the food prepared in way that reflects the finest San Antonio has to offer.

To that end, the group of chefs got together for a family-style dinner under the loquat and oak trees that line the patio of Tre Trattoria on Broadway. Guests had to bring their own plates, silverware and wine glasses, while God provided perfect weather. The food, meanwhile, came from farms such as Oak Hills and My Father’s Farm.

The chefs lineup included John Brand of Las Canarias and Ostra, Chad Carey of the Monterrey, Jason Dady of Tre Trattoria and Bin 555 among other ventures, David Gilbert of Sustenio, Steven McHugh of Lüke, San Antonio native Jesse Perez, Michael Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn and Andrew Weissman of Il Sogno and the Sandbar.

The evening began with Rebecca Creek whiskey sours and a series of appetizers that ranged from an array of charcuterie, a little bit of everything from oxtail terrine to calf’s liver sausage, to a carrot purée and grilled spring onions.

Salt and pepper breadsticks.

Two salads, one featuring fresh greens while the other boasted several types of beets, preceded a main course of chicken, braised beef cheeks and numerous side dishes, such as creamy polenta, grits and a farro dish. Dessert features strawberries and whipped cream with a colorful Pop Rocks-influenced topping.

The chefs are planning future events that will include more San Antonio chefs, Dady said.

Each of the dinners will benefit a local charity, with the proceeds from the first dinner going to help the culinary programs at three area high schools, Perez said.

For details on more Chef Coalition events, follow SAChefCoalition on Twitter.

Until then, “get off your asses and get out and eat,” Dady said.

(Photographs by John Griffin and Bonnie Walker.)

Patrons enjoy the perfect weather and a family-style feast of local food.

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Chefs and Cellars Pair Up the Best Food and Wine in Town


Johnny Hernandez's deconstructed chile en nogada featured aspic versions of the pomegranate seeds, the walnut sauce and the poblano, the three colors of the Mexican flag.

Chef Jason Dady talks with his diners at Chefs and Cellars.

Pigeon stuffed with foie gras and bacon. New York strip and shrimp with a roasted pepper stuffed with fresh vegetables. Chocolate mousse with brandied cherries and red velvet crumbles. 1981 Chateau Margaux.

These were some of the many treats that diners were exposed to during Culinaria’s annual Chefs and Cellars dinners at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio kitchens.

Five of the city’s best chefs — John Brand from Las Canarias and Ostra, Jason Dady from the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills and others, Johnny Hernandez from La Gloria and True Flavors catering, Jesse Perez from Alamo Cafe, and Andrew Weissman from Il Sogno and the Sandbar — teamed up with wine collectors from the area to present a feast of flavors.

Jesse Perez prepares a course for his diners.

Guests were seated with an individual chef, who presented the multi-course meal as if it were a chef’s table at a private restaurant. Bonnie Walker and I were lucky enough to be seated with Johnny Hernandez, who created a spectacular array of dishes to match wines chosen by local wine authority and educator Woody De Luna.

The end result offered course after course of spectacular Mexican food, from a salmon salpicon to a fig-topped Cajeta Pound Cake soaked in cream, each of which was paired with German Rieslings; perhaps California’s most sought-after Chardonnay, Stony Hill; a Sauvigny-les-Beaunes Burgundy that found a grateful home with both surf and turf; and a pair of lively Champagnes.

The lesson here was simple and clear: Great wines can work with great food, no matter where in the world each is from. Hernandez may have offered street food in the form of black bean-filled corn tortilla topped with fresh guacamole or cochinita pibil, but the dish was elevated to gastronomic heights when partnered with a 2003 Gunderloch Riesling Rothenberg Grosses Gewachs from Germany. I know first-hand from my family that the Germans wouldn’t know what to make of Mexican food, from low to high, but their wines proved a perfect  partner.

Everyone we spoke with during and after the dinner sang the praises of his or her individual chef, who not only prepared the food with his staff but also explained the dishes and the approach each took.

Jason Dady served pigeons stuffed with foie gras and served with miso-corn and candied bacon.

There were some excellent wines from local cellars to match the dishes, including aged Sauternes, fine Bordeaux and Burgundies, and spectacular Chardonnays, both from California and France.

The interior of the stretch limousine from Lonestar Limousines, which helped us drink and (not) drive safely.

Because of the great amount of great wine poured, Bonnie and I engaged the services of Lonestar Limousine, a luxury service that made sure we enjoyed every last drop of wine poured without driving home irresponsibly in the blessed rain.

 

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Bring a Healthy Appetite: Chefs & Cellars Set for Sept. 18


Jesse Perez

Culinaria presents several of the city’s best chefs at the exclusive event, Chefs & Cellars, which is set for Sept. 18.

Five chefs will be featured this year — John Brand, Jason Dady, Johnny Hernandez, Jesse Perez and Andrew Weissman. Each will be cooking a multi-course meal for 12 guests. Each course will be paired with fine wines donated from local residents’ private cellars.

The meal will be presented at the Culinary Institute of America. Tickets cost $300 a person. So, get your tickets before they’re gone. this event always sells out, and for good reason. Call 210-822-9555.

The food, wine and spirits festival has scheduled its Hole in One Golf Classic for noon Oct. 18 at the Quarry Golf Club. The event begins with registration and lunch, followed by a shotgun start at 1:30 p.m. Fine wine and food will be featured at a reception afterwards.

The cost is $125 a person. Corporate foursomes cost $1,000 and come with team recognition and other perks.

The ever-popular Totally Tejas returns to Rio Cibolo Ranch from 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 30.

A salsa cook-off and salsa dancing has been added to the festival this year, and salsa dancing will also be featured. Texas vendors, plenty of food and wine will also be on hand as well as ranch activities, live music and more. The cost is $35 for adults, $10 for those ages 6-21, and free for thsoe ages 5 and under.

And here’s a last reminder that Culinaria is presenting Rambling Rosé this Saturday at Becker Vineyards. Seminars are 2 and 4 p.m. Dr. Richard Becker, Westin La Cantera sommelier Steven Krueger and SavorSA’s Bonnie Walker and John Griffin will be among those on the panel this year.

For more information on Culinaria events, click here.

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Two Top Chefs Returning to San Antonio and More Dining News


A Bliss-ful return

Mark Bliss is headed back to San Antonio.

The chef who started Silo on Austin Highway confirmed a rumor that he is looking for a place, but in his usual terse style, he offered little other information except to say it should happen in about nine months.

Imagine the appetite we’ll have worked up by then.

Jesse Perez

Perez is back, too

Jesse Perez is back in town, working as a consultant for Alamo Cafe. We can only hope that he’ll also find his own place at sometime in the future.

Perez was once at Francesca’s at Sunset before leaving for Atlanta and Los Angeles. He was also named Best Latino Chef in the U.S. at the Flavors of Passion Awards. He recently served up his own barbecue at Culinaria’s Burgers, BBQ and Beer.

Celebrate Alamo anniversary in savory style

Chef Iliana de la Vega from the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus is offering a unique way to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo.

She suggests making Asado de Bodas, a dish typically served at weddings and other special occasions in this region during the early 1800s.

“In English the dish is known as ‘Wedding Stew,'” says de la Vega. “Traditionally it is served with Mexican rice. Today it is also popular served with pasta.”

To watch a video of her preparing the dish, click here.

There's more to Texas de Brazil than meat, as this colorful array of peppers attests.

Rising meat prices and a great deal for customers

“Lamb prices? We’ve seen over a 100 percent price increase since the beginning of the year,” says Evandro Caraegnato, culinary director for Texas de Brazil, which has a San Antonio restaurant at 313 E. Houston St. Beef prices have also skyrocketed.

Yet, the all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse is offering customers a deal. Through the end of June, diners will get the meats, salads, side dishes and desserts for $39.99. For reservations, call 210-299-1600.

A second Magnolia

A second Magnolia Pancake Haus will open later this year, if all goes according to schedule, owner Robert Fleming says.

It will be located on Huebner Road, west of Interstate 10.

Magnolia will also be featured on an upcoming episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” though the air date has not been set yet.

When host Guy Fieri was in town, he filmed the restaurant’s signature Apfelpfannekuchen, or apple pancake, as well as its house-made corned beef hash and bacon waffles.

The original is located at 606 Embassy Oak. Click here for more information.

Freetail Brewing Co. is opening a second location in Houston.

Freetail is growing

Freetail Brewing Co. has announced it’s opening a second location. This one will be in downtown Houston.

According to a release, “On Nov. 2, 2010, Freetail founder and CEO Scott Metzger announced the company’s search for a second location. After extensive research and analysis, bolstered by a robust social media campaign by thirty Houstonians, Metzger ultimately decided on approximately 20,000 square feet in a historic building in downtown Houston. Out of respect to the developer, the exact location cannot be named at this time.”

In the meantime, you can enjoy Freetail’s fine brews at its San Antonio location, 4035 N. Loop 1604 W.

This week marks the first San Antonio Beer Week, and Freetail is one of the participants. For a full schedule of events, click here.

Myron’s showcases Navarro Correas

Myron’s Prime Steakhouse, 136 N. Castell Ave., New Braunfels, will feature the wines of Navarro Correas’s Privada collection at a dinner at 7 p.m. Friday.

The menu will include a salad with shrimp, rhubarb, persimmon, beef and dikon in a chimichurri vinaigrette with  Privda Chardonnay; a roasted pepper duo of crêpes with Privada Malbec & Alegoria Malbec Gran Reserva; a duo of quail with blackberry and serrano gravy with Privada Cabernet Sauvignon;  and chili-spiced steak with the Ultra Red.

The cost is  $69 a person, plus tax and tip. For reservations, call  830-624-1024.

Taste some Slovinian wine

From 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, you can sample selections from Pullus, the oldest winery in Slovenia, at Deco Pizzeria, 1815 Fredericksburg Road.

How old is the winery? It was founded in  1239, more than 200 years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Wines in the collection include a Riesling, a Pinot Grigio, a Sauvignon Blanc and a pinot noir among others.

The tasting is free. Visit www.otracopa.co for more details regarding the wines of Slovenia.

If you have restaurant news, e-mail walker@savorsa.com or griffin@savorsa.com.

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Tasting the Tops in Tequila


A panel tastes tequilas for Culinaria.

Tequila experts and lovers gathered at Tre Trattoria Wednesday to judge the finals of Culinaria’s first tequila competition.

The top six finalists in each category — blanco/silver, reposado and añejo — were judged on aroma, initial taste, body, finish, smoothness and quality. The tequilas were judged blindly, so the panelists did not know which labels were being tasted.

Judges included chefs Jesse Perez and Johnny Hernanadez, sommelier Steven Krueger, TequilaMe’s Neal Williamson, and Bonnie Walker and John Griffin of SavorSA.

Tequilas set for judging.

The overall winners will be announced at Culinaria’s Best of Mexico, which is being held in La Villita Assembly Building, 401 Villita St., at 7:30 p.m. May 13. Tequilas will also be available for sampling at the event, and a People’s Choice Award will be presented that evening, along with the rest of the awards.

Best of Mexico features chefs from Mexico and San Antonio preparing the best cuisine that Mexico has to offer. In addition to tequila, beer and wine will also be available.

Tickets for Best of Mexico are priced at $35 in advance or $50 at the door. To purchase tickets, click here.

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A Cool Night for Hot Tastes


Crowds enjoy the food and wine at the Grand Tasting

A day of torrential rains may have affected the start of the Valero Texas Open, but not Culinaria’s Grand Tasting Friday night at the Grotto beneath the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center.

Hundreds of people showed up to sample foods from a host of restaurants in the area, including Biga on the Banks and Auden’s Kitchen, Peach Cafe in Boerne and Picante Grill as well as wines from California, Australia, Texas and around the world.

The evening was a healthy mixture of favorite flavors with some truly delightful, unexpected treats. Many of the restaurants drew long lines, as people eagerly devoured tastes from Jason Dady’s restaurants and El Jarro de Arturo. Kirby’s Steakhouse offered a scooped out half of a guava filled with goat cheese, wrapped in a strip of duck breast that was then covered in prosciutto before being roasted.

The Grill at Leon Springs treated guests to a Baja tempura shrimp wrapped in a tortilla and topped with guacamole. Eduard Peyer of the downtown Hyatt offered pulled pork belly sliders with a tangy slaw. Jesse Perez of Fuego in Los Angeles served up shrimp with a lotus root chip on top.

Tomme Johnson, chef at The Grill at Leon Springs, serves Baja Shrimp Tacos.

For those with a sweet tooth, Flour Power Cafe, which recently relocated to 2211 N.W. Military Hwy., served up three types of cake, including chocolate cherry, white cake with strawberry filling, and chocolate with Bavarian cream. Mahatma Rice, meanwhile, dished up a Coconut Lime Rice Pudding so delicious that we just had to share the recipe (click here).

The wine lineup featured old friends, such as the MacPherson Viognier, as well as the fruity Nine Vines Rosé. Big reds that impressed included pours from Roy Estate, Jordan and Brown Estate.

Jesse Perez, who is originally from San Antonio and was named Best Latino Chef in the U.S. at the Flavors of Passion awards, will be one of the chefs featured at Saturday’s Best of Mexico tasting, which is set for 6 p.m. at the JW Marriott. For more information on the festival, visit Culinaria’s website or check out the weekend calendar at SavorSA.

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