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At Gwendolyn, You’ll Taste the Right Reasons for Eating Local


Purple hull peas with bacon

The hype surrounding restaurants that serve local, organic and sustainable foods has reached such a shrill cry that some of us would gladly patronize a place that stressed its authenticity by flying in all of its ingredients from around the world.

But from the moment you take one bite at Restaurant Gwendolyn, the downtown temple to local fare, you realize there is really something wonderful to be had in your own backyard.

Our visit Tuesday as part of Culinaria’s Restaurant Week began with a simple amuse bouche that consisted of a purple hull pea purée on a slender rectangle of toast with house-cured bacon. Simple, yes, but the freshness of the peas, from Cora Lamar’s Oak Hill Farm, sparked with just the right amount of salt was a real eye-opener. And the crumbles of crispy bacon provided the right contrast of texture while complementing the flavor.

Arugula with Blackened Tomato Vinaigrette

From the three-course prix fixe menu, two of us selected an arugula salad with house-made andouille, rings of red onion and blackened tomato vinaigrette. The leaves were so fresh and beautifully piquant — not to mention perfect in shape — that they pleased both eye and taste. Everything on the plate had its own bold seasoning, whether it was the sausage or the lively, spicy tomato dressing. An equally vibrant 2011 Willm Pinot Blanc added a citric punch that just made the salad extra special. (It was so good, in fact, that I couldn’t tell you what the other salad was, other than my friend finished it off.)

Braised pork shoulder

Our enjoyment continued to grow with the arrival of the entrées. Both friends had braised pork shoulder with house-made pappardelle, which they loved, though a small bite or two of the pork was chewier than the majority, which was fork-tender and perfect with the Spanish Tempranillo we shared. I had incredibly moist chicken from Peeler Farms, served over a bed of vegetables that tasted as if they had been picked that afternoon.

Dessert, a plate of chocolate for them and fresh fruit for me, was followed by a cheese plate that was the genuine highlight of the evening. An array of Texas cheeses, include a goat cheese and hard cow’s milk cheeses, arrived with Christmas figs (dried figs seasoned with clove and winter spices), dried apricots, fried almonds with honey and crazy good buttered crostini. But it was the Brazos Valley Eden, a raw milk brie wrapped in fig leaves with a thread of vegetable ash running through the center, that was the real mindblower.  It oozed an intense swirl of flavors with each bite and was gone all too soon.

Restaurant Gwendolyn’s cheese plate

So, from the purple hull peas to that last taste of brie, Michael Sohocki makes the strongest case for eating local that you can make: You’ll love it.

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week continues through Sunday with a variety of eateries across town taking part. Multi-course lunches are priced at $15 while dinners are $35. For a full list of participants, click on the Culinaria ad at the top of the page, and then go out for a special dinner.

Restaurant Gwendolyn
152 E. Pecan St.
(210) 222-1849
restaurantgwendolyn.com

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Hyatt Hill Country Is Doing It All — And Sharing It on Menus


Troy Knapp

Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.

That’s the name of a new global program Hyatt Hotels has launched to focus on sourcing local food and beverage options.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that our ingredients are sourced from the most humane and responsible companies and that we are preparing them with as little manipulation and additives as possible,” said Gino Caliendo, general manager of the Hyatt Hill Country Resort, 9800 Hyatt Resort Drive. “This new philosophy will be at the core of every food and beverage decision that we make. We are evolving the way we purchase and serve food. We believe it’s what our guests deserve and what our planet needs.”

This means different things to the people who eat at the Hyatt Hill Country. One is that executive chef Troy Knapp and his staff are sourcing local ingredients, including seafood and cage-free eggs as well as meats, vegetables and fruit. Another is reducing the amount of sodium and additives, while using natural sweeteners, such as agave nectar, instead of artificial ones.

The program is built on three points:

  • Healthy people, which is based on providing portion controlled offerings made with natural ingredients and healthful cooking techniques. Examples include reducing the hamburger size from 8 ounces to 7 ounces, mandating gluten free and vegetarian options on all menus, offering Stay Fit Cuisine menu items, and providing natural bacon, organic produce and hormone-free milk as menu options.
  • Healthy planet, which ensures sustainable purchasing and operational practices. At the Hyatt Hill Country, that means sourcing sustainable seafood, purchasing local game, utilizing an on-site chef’s garden and recycling programs that include turning wet waste to feed for local farmers.
  • Healthy communities, which is based on supporting local farmers markets and sharing knowledge at schools and community events.

Hyatt has also joined forces with Partnership for Healthier America, with a goal of improving the nutritional profile of its children’s menus.

The Hyatt Hill Country Resort has been involved with community efforts for years now, which helped it earn the first Excellence in Doing It All honor, which it shared with the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo in Brazil. The recognition was part of the Hyatt Thrive Leadership Awards.

The local resort was honored because it demonstrates a commitment to reducing its environmental impact and leads a community outreach program that works with organizations such as United Way, Habitat for Humanity and the San Antonio Food Bank, according to the award.

“Hyatt Regency Hill Country’s programs include a 19-year partnership with John Jay High School and Hands On Education, an on-site hospitality training program for adults with disabilities that resulted in many full time positions at the hotel,” it says. “Being part of a military town, the hotel has embraced all branches of the military with Operation Inspiration, an initiative that gives guests the opportunity to send messages of hope and appreciation to instillations across the world, Operation Caffeination, an outreach where the hotel collected premium coffee and shipped it to our men and women in uniform.

“Operation Paperback has been the most successful program to date, with more than 3,000 gently read books being donated by both employees and guests, then sorted, packed and shipped to all parts of the world, including the USS Carl Vinson. The Festival of Trees enables 10 local schools to compete for cash prizes, each school is given a pre-lit 9-foor tree and a $150 gift card with which to decorate the tree, votes are made in the form of canned food items, all which goes to the San Antonio Food Bank, the three schools who collect the most win cash for existing programs.

“Environmentally, the hotel has a clear action plan in place and has several impactful initiatives such as the upgrade of an irrigation control system that reduced energy and water consumption by more than 10 percent and ozone treatment in laundry, which is saving more than 20 percent in water and sewer costs, 30 percent in natural gas, and is reducing chemical use by more than 20 percent.”

 

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Pearl Throws a Party for Its Third Anniversary


Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard has been a long-time feature at the Pearl Farmers Market.

Cora Lamar helps a customer at her produce and flower booth.

As revitalization of the Pearl Brewery began several years ago, the owners of the property, Silver Ventures, knew that a farmers market would be a great way of bringing local people to the site while developing a greater sense of community. Three years ago this weekend, the Pearl Farmers Market began with vendors selling everything from fresh vegetables and meats to olive oil, baked goods, lavender products, and flowers.

The lineup of vendors has grown and changed somewhat in that time. Many of the vendors have become old friends over time — Beaune Farms, Biga on the Banks for their breads, Sandy Oaks Olive Orchards, Al’s Gourmet Nuts, Thunder Heart Bison and Peeler Farms chickens, to name a few — and new ones have been added, including Restaurant Gwendolyn, which offers handmade sausages and bacon. The market has also become more at home in its space at the back of the Pearl Brewery, with hundreds of people milling about and many a dog sniffing out the scene.

On Saturday, the spring harvest after the recent rains brought an abundance of items, including breakfast radishes, kale, arugula, cabbage, onions, spring garlic, fennel, green beans, herbs, leeks, brussels sprouts, new potatoes, beets, varieties of squashes, carrots, cucumbers, shallots, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms and more. Fredericksburg peaches were going quickly, as were blackberries and a few strawberries.

Chef John Brand serves marketgoers a savory treat.

Cora Lamar of Oak Hill Farm drew customers with the vivid lavender-colored artichoke blossoms that she had. She also had a few artichokes with her, but they sold quickly, she said.

Artichoke blossoms

For those who bought an artichoke blossom for the first time, she explained that they should not be placed in water or they’ll rot. Instead, the flowering plant, which is in the same family as the thistle, should be set up without water. As the plant begins to dry, the green leaves should turn brown, but the flower would retain its color, Lamar said.

The morning sun drew a line to the handcrafted ice cream booth, where flavors included Strawberry Basil, Salty Caramel, Orange Lavender, Blackberry Lemon and Peach Pecan Amaretto.

Fennel bulbs

The anniversary celebration also brought out some of the city’s chefs who provided samples of dishes that used ingredients you could find in the market.

.Fresh-picked carrots

Chad Carey of the Monterey was there with his new chef, Coleman Foster, to hand out chicken meatballs with a peach kimchi. John Brand of Las Canarias and Ostra offered braised lamb’s neck, while Ocho chef Jason Garcia served a quinoa salad with seasonal vegetables  and a tamarind vinaigrette.

It’s always fun to stop by Melissa Guerra’s Tienda de Cocina in the neighboring Full Goods building on the brewery campus. In addition to the great kitchen items that the store always features, Guerra was offering a hula hoop demonstration and she was spinning right along to the DJ’s funkadelic sounds.

Customers shop the market for the freshest produce.

 

 

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Celebrate the Holidays with a Free Glass of Texas Wine at Antlers


Enjoy a glass of Texas wine at Antlers.

As the days dwindle down to Christmas, it’s time to take a few moments off to enjoy a good dinner and a relaxing glass of wine.

The folks at Antlers in the Hyatt Hill Country, 9800 Hyatt Resort Drive, are helping you do just. From Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 22-24, the restaurant is offering a free glass of Texas wine as part of a promotion to show you how they are using the best local and sustainable ingredients available. And what better to enjoy with local foods than a glass of local wine?

Just print out this story and bring it with you to the restaurant for your free glass. Limit one per adult.

For more information, call the restaurant at 210-520-4001 or visit opentable.com for reservations.

 

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RoMo’s Cafe Opens on Culebra Road


RoMo’s Cafe has opened at 7627 Culebra Road, Suite 107. If the address seems familiar, it’s because the restaurant is located in the same plaza as Metro Basilica No. 2, which was reviewed on SavorSA recently.

But RoMo’s is not Mexican food.

The menu includes a host of dishes from a variety of places that the chef and owner, Rob Yoas, has lived in.

“The inspiration for the menu here at RoMo’s is mainly derived from his upbringing,” says the restaurant’s website. “As a child he moved nearly every year.” That gave him “a very keen sense of casual and contemporary American cuisine.”

So, expect the likes of slow roasted prime rib, French Cajun risotto, herb-poached sea bass and a daily frittata. Hand-cut fries with white truffle oil or fried in duck fat are among the sides. There’s also a Golden Ticket burger, which the menu says is made from three cuts of prime beef. Starters include a wedge salad with chicken breast, a soup based on New Englad boiled dinner, and arancini, or rice balls.

Nutella s’mores and boracho bread pudding are among the desserts.

The food at RoMo’s “is sourced locally and fresh to the best of our ability and availability,” the site says. “RoMo’s is a small business and supports local growers and producers. We pride ourselves in preparing everything in-house and producing with no outsourcing.”

As you might have guessed, the Ro stands for Rob, while the Mo refers to his wife, Monica Yoas, who is the restaurant’s business manager.

RoMo’s is open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday; and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.

Call 210-521-ROMO (7666) for information or click here for more information.

 

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