Tag Archive | "NAO"

Nao Spotlights Icons of the Andes

Nao, the Culinary Institute of America’s restaurant at the Pearl Brewery, will host an Icons of the Andes wine tasting dinner Friday.

wine1aIt will feature numerous wines paired with an amuse bouche and a four-course dinner. The reception begins at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m.

“Dinners and tastings like this allow the CIA and Nao restaurant to fulfill one of our core value missions,” said CIA Senior Director of Special Projects Waldy Malouf. “We are able to invite the community to fun, unusual and enlightening events.”

Chef Geronimo Lopez will prepare a four-course dinner with each course accompanied by two perfectly paired wine selections.

The menu will begin with a Conch, Mussel and Shrimp Cocktail paired with Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc and Santa Ema Chardonnay Reserve. The dinner will continue with Chifa Style Rice “Saltado” paired with Guarachi Pinot Noir and Resalte Crianza. The third course will be a Fire Roasted Aged Rib-eye paired with Norton Privada and Pascual Tosso Alta Syrah Reserve. The dinner will conclude with a Chocolate Pot de Crème paired with Achaval Ferrer Quimera Malbec and Kaiken Ultra Malbec.

The reception will feature eight wines with labels that include Pascual Toso Sparkling Brut, Guarachi Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay, Resalte Vendimia Seleccion, Santa Ema Amplus One, Montes Alpha Syrah, Perdriel Malbec, Kaiken Corte Malbec and Achaval Ferrer Malbec.

Guests will have the opportunity to mix and mingle with South American and Spanish winemakers and brand ambassadors who will be in attendance. This will include Montes winemaker Alberto Eckholt, Kaiken Brand Manager Salome Miller, Santa Ema winemaker Andres Sanhueza, Achaval Ferrer U.S, and Canada export director Eclio Dumon, Bodega Norton brand manager Eduardo Swinnen, Guarachi Family Wines Luxury brand manager Perry D’Agostino, Pascual Toso regional export manager Juan Pablo Gonzalez and Bodegas Resalte export manager Laurence Colson.

Tickets are $100 a person plus tax and a 17 percent tip. For pre-paid reservations, call (210) 554-6484.

Nao is located at the Pearl at 312 Pearl Parkway.



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NAO Celebrates Mexican Independence Day

New patio chairs at NAO.

New patio chairs at NAO.

NAO, the New World restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus, is celebrating Dies y Seis de Septiembre with a special three-course menu that you can sample Saturday and Monday.

Red Brick Mole with Beef Tenderloin

Red Brick Mole with Beef Tenderloin

The Mexican Independence menu begins with Tuna Brûlée with Mole Negro and jícama slaw, followed by a Red Pozole of Shrimp and Pressed Pork Belly with a traditional hominy and guajillo broth, onion, serrano, cabbage, radish, cilantro, oregano and tostadas. The meal closes out with Cazual de Chocolate y Caramel with whipped cream and a sweet corn cokie. The price of the meal is $35 a person.

A special cocktail, the Paloma, features tequila, lime and grapefruit and is offered for $9 apiece.

From now through Oct. 23, NAO will also offer special Oaxacan dishes developed with celebriy chef Susan Trilling. You can try items such as Ceviche Costeno with shrimp in a lightly spiced coconut marinade and Red Brick Mole with Beef Tenderloin. A special Oaxacan tasting menu featuring spiced nuts; a choice of ceviche or Caldo de Piedra, Shrimp Stone Soup; a choice between the beef tenderloin or Herbal Mole Verde with Chicken; and Oaxacan chocolate torte is priced at $39.

NAO is a 312 Pearl Parkway in the Pearl Brewery complex. For reservations, call (210) 554-6484.

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Oaxacan Menu Now in Place at NAO

NAO_InteriorIn the spirit of new world flavors, NAO introduces its Celebration of Flavors, inspired by a Latin American country every six weeks beginning with Oaxaca. The series will also feature Peru, Spanish Caribbean, Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela.

During the upcoming celebration, NAO Executive Chef Geronimo Lopez be the guide through this inspired culinary territory.

The Oaxacan menu will run from Aug. 20 to Oct. 23 and will feature items such as Compressed Watermelon Agua Chile Tiradito with Serrano, red onion, cucumber, Serrano-lime water and tajín seasoning; Red Snapper Sofrito with chayote and plantain salad; and Smoke Roasted Skirt Steak with roasted baby potatoes, Patagonian oregano, onion and ash confit.

“I’m thrilled to share the celebration of cuisines program with the community,” said Lopez-Monascal. “This program allows us to pursue our continued goal of education, but in a fun and exciting way.”

Nuts, onions, dried tortillas and more are added to mole for flavor as well as texture.

Nuts, onions, dried tortillas and more are added to mole for flavor as well as texture.

New to the menu, is a small plates section that includes Duck Rillette, Jicama Tacos and Shishito Peppers Toreado. NAO’s Oaxacan menu also includes a tasting menu that features Oaxacan Spiced Nuts; a choice between Chile de Agua with Snapper Ceviche or “Caldo de Piedra” Shrimp Stone Soup; a choice between Mole Negro with Beef Tenderloin or Herbal Mole Verde with Chicken; and a Oaxacan petite sweets sampler for $39. Hand-selected by Mixologist Steven Raoul Martin, additions to the cocktail menu will include Mezcaltini, Montejo Beer and house made Tepache, Oaxacan pineapple beer.


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Burgers, Children’s Plates, Fine Spirits and More on the Menu

Culinaria’s fourth annual Restaurant Week has begun and many of us are getting our appetites into overdrive.

This year’s line still includes multi-course lunches for $15 and dinners for $35 at restaurants around town. But there’s also a food truck event on Aug. 20.

For a full list of participants, click here.

But that’s not the only restaurant news in town.

Fattboy expands

Fattboy Burgers is opening a second location.

Fattboy Burgers is opening a second location.

Fattboy Burgers, 2345 Vance Jackson Road, is expanding.

The burger joint is opening a second location in a few weeks. It will be at 11224 Huebner Road, just off I-10, in the same space that Fat Burger — not to mention a number of other restaurants — once occupied.

Don’t confuse the two.

Fattboy offers a juicy burger with your choice from an extensive array of toppings, including mushrooms, grilled onions, grilled jalapeños and grilled bell pepper. Hebrew National hot dogs, fried pickles, onion rings, fried mushrooms and freshly cut fries fill out the menu.

Fat Burger offered an uncooked malnourished burger with unremarkable fries, which was one explanation as to why it went out of business quickly.

Fattboy should be open in early September if all goes according to schedule.

Beat Street introduces a new menu

Beat Street Coffee Co. and Bistro, 2512 N. Main Ave., has changed up a few items on its menu.

New dishes include a small plate of shrimp a la plancha with caponata and large plates of Mussels/Migas and Olive-Crusted Tuna.

Plus, the hangar steak is now being served with caramelized cauliflower, sherry raisins, olives and salsa verde.

Call (210) 320-2099.

News from NAO

NAO, the restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus, has two new projects in the works.

On Saturdays, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., they are staging a pop-up taco stand at the fire pit at the center of the Pearl campus. The stand is offering the likes of suckling pig and roasted pork tacos as well as aguas frescas for customers to enjoy while they go to the Pearl Farmers Market.

Plus, the restaurant is now offering a Fire & Ice happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays featuring $3 small plates as well as specials on beer, wine, sangria and aguas frescas.

NAO is at 312 Pearl Parkway. Call (210) 554-6484.

Myron’s hosts Patrón dinner

patronMyron’s Prime Steakhouse, 10003 N.W. Military Hwy., is hosting a Patrón Family Spirits dinner at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 22.

The first course pairs a salad of cold water lobster, jumbo lump crab, golden dorado and shrimp with a Pyrat Rum Mojito. It is followed by  Inside Out Lettuce Wraps with seared Kansas City strip, mango pico, and watermelon with an Ultimat Vodka Mule.

A filet slider with chimichurri, cilantro, pickled onions and queso fresco with Patrón Añejo & Grand Platinum. Closing out the evening is a  chocolate caramel shooter with a Patrón Cocoa Martini.

The cost of the dinner is  $85.95 plus tax and tip. Call (210) 493-3031 for reservations.

Luce adds children’s menu

Luce Ristorante e Enoteca, 11255 Huebner Road, has added a children’s menu.

The dishes include Linguine and Meatball, Cheese Ravioli, Fettuccine Alfredo, and Chicken Tenders and Fries. Each plate comes with a soft drink. The price of each is $4.99.

For information, call (210) 561-9700.

Vacation time

  • Rossini Italian Bistro, 2195 N.W. Military Hwy., has reopened after a brief vacation. Call (210) 615-7270 for information.
  • Saveurs 209, 209 Broadway, will be closed Aug. 20-Sept. 3, so that the owners, the Nykiels, can take a vacation. Call (210) 639-3165.
Ruth's Chris's Filet Mignon

Ruth’s Chris’s Filet Mignon

Ruth’s Chris job fair

Ruth’s Chris Steak House, which is moving to the Grand Hyatt, 600 E. Market St., is having a job fair Aug. 19-22 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The location is the its now-closed Sunset Station location,  1170 E. Commerce St.

If you have restaurant news, email or


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Tips for Making Your Best Chili Ever

How do you make your chili?

How do you make your chili?

Chili is a San Antonio staple. But what kind of chili? Is it made with beef or a mix of game, sausage or even a touch of bacon? Does it have beans? Does its redness come strictly from ground chiles or do you add tomatoes to the stock? Does vegetarian chili count? Can you use corn kernels, garbanzo beans or tofu and still call it chili? What about white chili with chicken meat and green chiles?

Chili is a personal dish, with no right or wrong answers. It’s all a matter of your tastes, including the tricky issue of beans. Yes, beans are not used in Texas chili, but we probably have as many bean-loving immigrants from the Midwest as we do from south of the border, and they’ve never heard of chili without beans, so that’s how they make it.

Even though there are countless ways of making chili, some rules do apply across the board. That’s what we heard from three local chili experts, who offered tips for making your chili even better, whether you’re making a large pot for a party or for dinner during the next cold snap. Here’s what they had to say:

Robert Riddle, the “Big Bob” of Big Bob’s Burgers, 447 W. Hildebrand, offers his own chili on the Big Filthy, a burger jacked up with refrieds, jalapeños and cheese. It’s also in his Frito pie as well as his chili cheese fries and tots.

The most important thing you can do to make a great chili is to cook the chili powder. We do this two different ways. First we add the chili powder to the meat that has been cooked with the garlic and onions. We continue cooking the chili powder into the meat until the color starts to darken. We then add roasted poblano chiles and tomatoes and cook everything down until it thickens. While it is cooking we usually have to add more chili powder, so we place it in a dry skillet and roast it until the color darkens. The last advice I can give you is to simmer the chili for a couple of hours until all of the flavors blend completely. Chili is difficult because it is such a simple dish. Practice, practice, practice.

How do you serve your chili? Covered in cheese? Onions? Bacon?

How do you serve your chili? Covered in cheese? Onions? Bacon?

Garrett Stephens, pitmaster at The County Line, 10101 I-10 W. and cooking instructor, knows his way around chili in the same way he knows his smokers.

For chili, I think that it is best to use fresh spices. Instead of chili powder, I use fresh ancho chiles and make a purée out of them. I grind my cumin from seeds, and use fresh garlic clove instead of granulated garlic. I use marrow bones with onions and cilantro to make a rich broth in lieu of using water in a recipe. I would also suggest using a round steak, cut in a 1/4-inch cube, instead of ground beef. The trick would be to stop the cooking process once the meat has tendered, so that it doesn’t break down and flake apart.

Geronimo Lopez, executive chef at NAO, the Culinary Institute of America’s restaurant in the Pearl Brewery, 312 Pearl Parkway, knows chili con carne from his home country of Venezuela. It’s different from chili in Texas, but he knows that some rules apply, no matter the recipe.

There are a lot of differences in recipes, and you can use a lot of different types of meat, whether it’s game or different cuts of beef. But one thing you have to do is that the way you cut the meat must be the same. The meat must be the same size, so you can get the same mount of tenderness and so it cooks all at the same time. People need to choose their chiles carefully, so you get the right amount of heat and not too much. Balance is important with all of your flavors. Once the heat is in there, it’s kinda hard to take it out. But you can try. The one thing I know is that you can take a toasted baguette and stand it up in your pot. That can take out some of the heat, but not all. If it’s still too much, you could try to divert some of the spiciness with some sweetness, if you want.

If you haven’t developed your own chili recipe, we offer the following suggestions:


There's room for all kinds of chili.

There’s room for all kinds of chili.

Red Chili, Texas Style

Sizzling Pork Green Chile

Jamie’s Chili from Scott Cohen

Cincinnati Chili

Haymarket Chili

Vegetarian Chili with Cheese and Scallions








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NAO Expands Its Hours and Its Culinary Offerings

nao signNAO, the Culinary Institute of America’s restaurant at the Pearl Brewery, has expanded its hours.

Lunch is now being offered from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The menu is less formal than the dinner menu, chef Geronomio Lopez promises. One offering is the piled high Domenican burger, which marries Texas’ love of burgers with the New World flavors the restaurant is known for. These lunches are in addition to the Thursday five-course lunches that include cooking demonstrations.

And the restaurant at 312 Pearl Parkway is now open after hours on Saturday, from 10 p.m. to 1 or 1:30 a.m. The late hours are largely a SIN, or service industry night, says Lopez, referring to a time that waitstaff at other restaurants can enjoy going out themselves after their shifts have ended.

Lopez and his sous chef Zach Garza have planned a rotating menu of dishes such as Fire-Roasted Brussels, Chili and Waffles, Turkey King Ranch Casserole and that Burger, while the bartenders are coming up with some late-night specials. The intriguing Chili and Waffles dish features a chili that takes 24 hours to make. Lopez describes it as completely unique, with a touch of Mexican mole as well as Texas chili mixed in. It’s served over a sweet corn waffle and topped with a fried egg before serving.

“It’s street foods American style,” he says. Or think of it as “a food truck that doesn’t move.”

Reservations are not accepted for either the new lunches or for the late-night hours.

For more information, click here or call (210) 554-6484.

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Get Ready for a New World Flavors Tour at NAO

Geronimo Lopez

NAO, the Culinary Institute of America’s restaurant at the Pearl Brewery, 312 Pearl Parkway, is offering a series of lunches focusing on the flavors of the New World.

Each includes a cooking demonstration led by the restaurant’s executive chef, Geronimo Lopez.

The series begins Jan. 17 and ends Feb. 7. The lunch classes will only be offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays and will include five courses as well as wine, tax and tip for $100 a person.

The schedule is as follows:

Jan. 17 — An Insider’s Tour of the True Mexican Kitchen

Jan. 23-24 — Argentine Treasures

Jan. 30-31 — Peru: From the Pacific to the Andes

Feb. 6-7 — Brazilian Cuisine: The Cutting Edge.

The lunches begin with a reception at 11:30 a.m., followed by the meal from noon to 1:30 p.m. Only 20 guests will be seated for each special lunch, so prepaid reservations are necessary. Call (210) 554-6484.


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2012 Was a Year of Eating Well

The Pearl has become a food lover’s center for festivals as well as restaurants.

Bliss is aptly named.

As we approach the end of 2012, it’s time to look back on the many great flavors that we sampled. The list is lengthy, thanks to a decided upturn in culinary offerings across the city, both on the dining scene and for the food lover in general.

One of the biggest food stories of the year was the continued growth of the Pearl Brewery, which saw the opening of three praise-worthy eateries and a trendy bar. It also was the location of an increasing number of food festivals, meaning thousands from all over the city were showing up on a regular basis for cooking demonstrations at the Saturday farmers market, for paella, burgers and barbecue or tamales, and for the restaurants, all in the quest of good food.

A glimpse into the kitchen at the Granary.

The list of new restaurants includes the Granary ‘Cue and Brew, which restored beer making to the premises. Artisan barbecue, fine brews and an irresistible condiment known as ‘cue butter all made this a welcome addition. The Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden delivers on the belief that quality grilled meat is prerequisite in the Lone Star State, and the massive setting, covering two stories, is epic enough to complement chef James Moore’s ranch-style fare.

The most intriguing addition, though, is NAO, the Culinary Institute of America’s full-service restaurant, which has provided San Antonio with its broadest and most authentic taste of South and Central American cuisines to date. These exciting flavors, from seafood stews and roasted meats to an inviting cocktail program, have somehow not been able to secure a foothold before in a city that values its Tex-Mex above all; yet in just a few months, NAO has developed a local following, and its client base should grow as word continues to get out to the rest of the country that the school has a campus and a destination restaurant here. When the visiting chef series returns, with culinary stars from countries as diverse as Brazil, Peru and Argentina, you’d be wise to make your reservations as soon as possible.

The CIA’s flagship restaurant in San Antonio.

NAO is also built on the concept of small plates, which has also not been widely popular in San Antonio. Yet Bite in the Southtown area and a revitalized Nosh on Austin Highway are joining in the effort to break that mold.

Southtown continued to attract diners from across the city, as Mark Bliss returned with a new restaurant, the aptly named Bliss. The warmth of the place, the impressive setting and the comfort of the food, especially when enjoyed at the chef’s table in the kitchen, all help place it among the city’s best.

Johnny Hernandez opened two distinct venues in the Southtown area, if not Southtown proper. They include the Frutería at the Steel House Lofts, where you can get everything from market-fresh fruit for breakfast to an impressive array of, you got it, small plates for dinner, and Casa Hernán, an airy catering facility and brunch spot in his own home.

Another welcome addition to the Southtown scene was the Alamo Street Eat Bar, a food truck park that featured crazy good burgers from Cullum’s Attaboy, the Peacemaker combination of pork belly and fried oysters from Where Y’At and the DUK Truck’s duck confit tacos. Add Zum Sushi, The Institute of Chili, Wheelie Gourmet and a few other visitors, as well as a great beer lineup, and you’ve got some wonderful fresh treats. And what do food trucks provide but small plates, albeit from different plates, giving you the feel of being on a tapas trail?

An “Eat Street” crew films at the Point Park & Eats.

Another food truck park that opened up north in Leon Springs was the Point Park & Eat, which also offers a great beer selection and a wide array of foods from a lineup that has changed in the months that it’s been open. The culinary confections come from trucks such as Skinny Cat, Gourmet on the Fly, Blazin’ Burgers and Say-She-Ate.

Television continued to discover may of these culinary gems. Say-She-Ate was one of four food trucks filmed for the TV series, “Eat Street.” The others include Rickshaw Stop, Tapa Tapa and Society Bakery. Meanwhile, PBS celebrity chef Ming Tsai came to town to film segments of “Simply Ming” with Diana Barrios Treviño from Los Barrios, Elizabeth Johnson of the CIA, John Besh of Lüke (visiting from New Orleans) and Johnny Hernandez at La Gloria.

Sustenio, with Stephan Pyles’ blessing and David Gilbert’s gifts, made people realize the Eilan Hotel Resort and Spa off I-10 was not just a pretty façade. Its menu, with much of the dishes derived from local meats and produce, features an exciting array of ceviches that captured the freshness of the sea and a number of dishes using South Texas Heritage Pork products.

The $13 Burger at Knife & Fork.

The gastropub movement continued with the opening of Knife & Fork in the Stone Oak area. An outgrowth of the Bistro Six food truck, it offered a $13 Burger worth every cent, an extensive cocktail program and a laid-back atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the bistronomy craze — a hybrid of “bistro” and “gastronomy” — could be found in Laurent’s Modern Cuisine on McCullough Avenue. Next door to the still-vibrant and dependable Bistro Vatel, it proved that a segment of San Antonio does love its French food.

For those who enjoy a meal every now and then at home, the number of gourmet groceries grew, thanks to the addition of Trader Joe’s in the Quarry Extension and a second Whole Foods on Blanco Road, north of Loop 1604. The food warehouse Gaucho Gourmet expanded its hours to the public to six days a week, while Groomer’s Seafood reeled in even more seafood lovers, especially when lobsters hit a mouthwatering low of $5.95 apiece.

Classic cocktails have made a comeback.

San Antonio lifted it spirits high during the year. Distilled spirits, that is. Mixed drinks, both shaken and stirred, got a huge boost from the first annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference. But it didn’t stop there. The Blue Box in the Pearl and the downtown Brooklynite joined the likes of Bar 1919 in the Blue Star Complex and the bar at NAO as havens for hand-crafted classic cocktails. A rye sour shaken with traditional egg white, a real martini made with gin and a pisco sour bright with freshly squeezed citrus were all incentives that made exploring these nightspots fun.

Expect beer’s popularity to soar in the new year. Beyond the excellent brews at the Granary, we await Alamo Beer’s ambitious plans for a downtown complex that will feature a restaurant as well as a brewing facility as well as the launch of Branchline Brewery.

What else can we expect? The Pearl will continue to expand with the openings of Jesse Perez’s Arcade Midtown Kitchen and an as-yet-unnamed venture from Steven McHugh as well as the move of Green Vegetarian Cuisine, all of which will add to the draw of the campus. Culinaria has announced plans for a community garden center offering food and agricultural education for the city. Andrew Weissman is taking over the former Liberty Bar site on Josephine Street.

With these strides forward on so many fronts, the city’s culinary scene should continue to offer some enticing new flavors for anyone with a healthy appetite.

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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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Chef Hubert O’Farrell’s Argentine Beef Tenderloin Empanadas

A pocket pie

Argentine chef Hubert O’Farrell is visiting San Antonio this week to cook at NAO, the restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America. On his special menu are some down-home favorites, including these empandas, which showcase one of his country’s greatest culinary treasures, grass-fed beef.

The recipe calls for a salmuera, which is a brine, as well as a brunoise of the beef and the onion. What’s that? According to, “Brunoise is nothing more than a very small dice. Chefs just like to call it brunoise because we love adjectives and nouns that make things seem more complex than they really are.

NAO is at 312 Pearl Parkway. Call (210) 554-6484 for information.

Argentine Beef Tenderloin Empanadas (Empanadas de Lomo Cortado a Cuchillo)

1 tablespoon salt
4 cups water

3 ¼ pounds organic all-purpose flour
10 1/2 ounces melted pig fat

2 1/4 pounds grass-fed beef tenderloin, trimmed
3 1/4 pounds white onion
1 pound butter or “cow fat”
1 tablespoon sea salt flakes
3 tablespoons Spanish sweet pimentòn
2 tablespoons cumin
2 tablespoons coarse sun-dried aji chile powder
3/4 cup boiling water
1 pound scallions (cebolla de verdeo)

For the salmuera: Add salt to water.

For the dough: Place the flour in a mixer with a dough hook and pour the warm pig fat. Start in slow motion and slowly add the salmuera as much as the dough “needs” it. Once the dough is silky and smooth, you can turn it off and reserve for about an hour wrapped in film and refrigerate. Flatten the dough until it is thin enough without breaking. Cut in circles 2.5 inches in diameter.

For the filling: Freeze the meat for 1 hour so it is easier to cut. With a sharp knife, cut the tenderloin and the onions brunoise, separately. Toast all the dry condiments and add them to the boiling water with the salt. Cook the onions in the butter or cow fat until transparent and add the meat. Mix with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Turn the burner off and add the liquid and the scallions. Stir. Chill the filling in a baking sheet to stop the cooking process. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Assemble the empanadas using the preparation as cold as possible so that the juices will stay in the mixture and be more flavorful. Place the circle of dough in the palm of your left hand, place a spoonful of the filling and close quickly making a “repulgue,” a rope-like edge. Place each empanada on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until the dough is browned, about 12 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen empanadas.

From chef Hubert O’Farrell

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