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It’s Shuck, Rattle and Roll at Oyster Bake


Sausage on a stick is a favorite at the Oyster Bake.

Stuck on you: Chicken on a stick. Any questions?

The annual Fiesta Oyster Bake kicked off Friday evening with a host of musicians, plenty of food on a stick, and beer and wine to wash it down with.

Oysters baking over hot coals.

The two-day event, traditionally one of the bigger parties during Fiesta, takes place on the grounds of St. Mary’s University.

This year’s event got off to a rousing start, thanks to perfect weather in the mid- to lower 70s, a gentle breeze and a clear sky for the triumphal fireworks that ended the evening.

Somewhere in that mix you can find oysters three ways: raw and served in shots, baked over hot coals, and deep fried.

But it could be possible that foods on a stick were stealing the briny bivavles’ thunder, or at least threatening to do so. There was sausage on a stick, chicken on a stick, steak on a stick and a pork chop on a stick.

Warming tortillas for chalupas.

On Friday night, plenty of people were stopping by the wine booth to sample some of Barefoot Bay’s line of wines, including Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and, for sweet wine lovers, Moscato. That was where you could find me for the first half of the evening, pouring wine for the customers and trying to get people a wine they would enjoy.

Barefoot Bay made that easy for customers by offering some suggested pairings, such as the Pinot Grigio with the oysters or the Merlot with the sausage. For a change, the wine booth will be open on Saturday this year, so, if you make it out to the second day of the Oyster Bake, give the pairings a try.

Time to sort the oysters.

Beer drinkers had the choice of several fine beers, including Stella Artois and Beck’s, which were $1 more than the Bud Light, yet the line was practically nonexistent. Take a tip: Get the Stella Artois. It loves the oysters, the habanero salsa on the pork chop, the butter on the roasted ears of corn.

Armadillo Eggs, anyone?

Music choices for the evening included Smash Mouth performing a little ska mixed with its big hits, including “Walk on the Sun,” and Kevin Fowler on the country music stage. Jazz with a little surf sounds and a swinging version of “These Boots Were Made for Walking” filled the third stage.

The fun ended with a dazzling fireworks display that impressed the crowd, prompting a few old-timers to say it was the most impressive they had seen in years.

Fiesta Oyster Bake continues Saturday. For more information, click here.

For a full schedule of Fiesta events, click here.

Friday's opener closes with fireworks.

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Lines, Food, Spirits, Fun and More Lines


Barbara Hunt serves up a Mediterranean-style sandwich from Boardwalk Bistro.

Culinaria’s Grand Tasting is always an occasion for sampling excellent fare from the area’s best restaurants, fine wines and other spirits. But Saturday’s sold-out gathering was also a chance to mix and mingle with thousands of others while enjoying the evening.

Often that was while waiting in line for the likes of Jeff Balfour’s braised oxtail tostada from Citrus and John Brand’s combination of oysters from Ostra and pork belly from Las Canarias.

Guest chef Susana Trilling (right) from Oaxaca talks with Culinaria's director of development, Ginger McAnear.

It was the first time Ben Dorris had ever tried an oyster, but he braved a briny bivalve with friends Joe Carreon and Vanessa Jauer. He was not impressed with the texture, but his friends, who have had a little more oyster-eating experience, were.

The evening’s sponsor, Ambhar Tequila, offered samples of their silver, reposado and añejo tequilas as well as cocktails for those who wanted something in addition to the vast array of wines on hand. These ranged from the crisp Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet to the silky elegance of the Chalone Pinot Noir. Bottles of Belgian beer Stella Artois disappeared quickly during the balmy evening.

Diane Wiltz is one of the volunteers pouring wine at the Grand Tasting.

The long lines meant some restaurants had to stretch the food they brought, though each of the chefs and their restaurants brought enough for 1,500 servings. Barbara Hunt of Boardwalk Bistro started out serving a Mediterranean-style sandwich with lamb. When the lamb ran out, it became a vegetarian sandwich with a roasted tomato and some tzatziki sauce adding such bold flavors that no one really missed the meat.

Shea Ash of the Peach Cafe in Boerne handed out several treats, including a mini-muffuletta with olive salad from her business partner Nancy Fitch’s restaurant, the Pomegranate in Artisans Alley.

Guest chefs included Nordic chef Trine Hahnemann as well as Susana Trilling of Oaxaca, who hopes to have her new line of culinary products, including mole enhancers and salt from her region of Mexico, in area stores soon.

Chocolate truffles from Kirby’s and cake from Flour Power Cafe were among the choice desserts for those with a sweet tooth.

Long lines greet chef Jason Dady each year.

The longest lines were those waiting to sample the multi-course mini-meal prepared by Jason Dady’s restaurant group. As he has done in the past, Dady offered samples of dishes that represent his restaurants, which include the Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills, Bin 555, Tre Trattoria, Two Bros. BBQ and the DUKTruck.

Shredded flank steak with a molasses-Shiner Bock barbecue sauce and a bright coriander-based pickle on top, a Mediterranean tossed salad, smoked deviled eggs with crab meat and cheesecake were among the various treats he served.

It took 22 members of his staff to keep the plates moving and to offer guests a personal explanation of what each dish was.

Lines were so long at Dady’s booth that the chef stayed more than an hour after the event ended to make sure everyone still waiting in line got to taste what he had to offer. We ran into Dady at The Monterey shortly before midnight where he was treating his staff to a late meal for the hard work they’d done.

Photographs by Bonnie Walker.

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An All-You-Can-Eat Buffet, Oysters al Fresco and More Restaurant News


Oysters at Brasserie Pavil.

The city’s dining scene is bustling with activity and great tastes to tempt all palates.

Oysters on the patio

During Fiesta, Brasserie Pavil, 1818 N. Loop 1604 W., celebrated with an oyster bake on the patio.

Guests seemed to really enjoy the event and, as a result, the restaurant is offering an oyster bake each Thursday.

The menu includes $2 grilled or raw oysters, $2 classic martinis and $2 beers.

Call 210-479-5000.

Start the weekend right

Tommy Moore’s Cafe, 915 S. Hackberry St., is having its monthly all-you-can-eat brunch buffet this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

If you haven’t been to Tommy Moore’s, it’s a haven of home cooking with the fried chicken earning the highest praise. If you have been, then you know what lies in store.

The price is $10.95 for adults and $5.95 for children. Call 210-531-9800 to let them know you’re coming.

Carpaccio at Fig Tree Restaurant.

A mid-week treat

Wanna know the best fine dining secret in town? It’s the Tuesday and Wednesday prix fixe special at Fig Tree Restaurant, 515 Villita St.

Chef Byron Bergeron and his staff prepare a three-course menu that changes weekly. The specials include two choices of appetizer, entrée and dessert for $39. Wine pairings are available for $49.

Recent appetizer options have included smoked duck breast, a summer roll with a peanut sauce or zucchini blossoms with goat cheese and an heirloom tomato coulis. Past entrées options: Steak au Poivre, an oven-roasted prawn, Veal Blanquette with jasmine rice or crispy skin striped bass. Desserts run the gamut from an almond and pear tart to Domino Cake, a creamy house specialty. On a recent Tuesday, it was strawberries flambé prepared tableside.

For reservations, call 210-224-1976. Let your server know you’re interested in the prix fixe.

On the move

Fishland Fish Market, 4941 Walzem Road, is moving. Not far, mind you, just next door. But the new space will be much larger, so more diners can enjoy the kitchen’s seafood specialties. The move should be complete by July.

If you aren’t familiar with this haven of fried seafood, with some of the best hush puppies you’ll ever taste, check out our review. Though it appeared in September 2009, recent visits have shown it to be as good as ever.

Pasha readies second location

Pasha Mediterranean Grill will open a second San Antonio location on Loop 1604 at Blanco Road in June. The restaurant’s original location is at 9339 Wurzbach Road.

Closing

San Antone Cafe and Concerts, formerly Casbeers at the Church, is closing. The owners, Steve Silbas and Barbara Wolfe, have cited personal health reasons and the economy. Whatever the reason, it’s a shame. The owners have helped raised plenty of money for charities over the years through the Gospel Brunch and other fundraisers, while bringing in some fine music.

Many will miss the one-of-a-kind Tex-Mex enchiladas as well as the bean burger, one of the best in the city.

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Oyster Artichoke Soup


On my first adult visit to New Orleans, I started things off with lunch at Galatoire’s, which remains among the city’s finest restaurants. I can still remember my first taste of Oyster Artichoke Soup, with its intoxicating mix of oyster brine, tangy artichoke and butter. You could make this recipe with unshucked oysters and fresh artichokes, as Galatoire’s does. I find myself to be lazier and prefer the ease of this version from “La Bouche Creole,” a souvenir I picked up on that trip.

Oyster Artichoke Soup

2 dozen oysters and their water
2 bunches shallots, chopped (about 6 large or 8 medium shallots)
1/2 pound butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts
2 bay leaves
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste

Poach the oysters in their own water. Strain, reserving water, and set aside.

Sauté the shallots in melted butter. When they are transparent, add the flour. Mix well, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. add oyster water and the juice from the artichoke hearts. Pour in additional water to make enough for eight to 10 diners. Add 2 bay leaves, and salt and white pepper, to taste. Slowly bring to a boil. Chop the oysters and artichoke hearts and add to the soup. Cook for a few more minutes and serve.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

From “La Bouche Creole” by Leon E. Soniat Jr.

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Garlic Grilled Oysters


Grilling oysters oven pecan adds a smoky flavor.

“It was Drago’s in Metarie, Louisiana, that made char-broiled oysters famous,” Robb Walsh writes “The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook” (Broadway Books, $18.99). “Jimmy G’s on Sam Houston Parkway in Houston does a great job with them, too. Gilhooley’s does them over a pecan wood fire that gives the oysters a wonderful smoky flavor. Also known as barbecued oysters, these are made by putting a fresh shucked oyster on a grill and spooning in some melted butter and garlic; you can add Parmesan if you like.”

Garlic Grilled Oysters

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 freshly shucked oysters
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Melt the butter in a pan, add the garlic and add salt and pepper to taste. Heat a grill. Put the shucked oysters over the hot part of the fire. When the shell gets hot, the oysters will quickly begin to sizzle. Divide the garlic butter among the oysters. Don’t be alarmed if the butter causes the fire to flare up; it ads a char-grilled flavor. Sprinkle Parmesan over the top after the butter, if desired. Serve immediately with crusty bread for dipping.

Makes 12 oysters.

From “The Tex-Mex Grill and Backyard Barbacoa Cookbook” by Robb Walsh

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Pesca on the River Becomes Ostra


Lobster in several forms is on the menu at the new Ostra.

Ostra opens today in the space once known as Pesca on the River. The restaurant is part of the Mokara, once known as the Watermark Hotel & Spa. The address is all that hasn’t changed: It is 212 W. Crockett St.

Ostra’s menu still emphasizes seafood. But chef John Brand’s approach is a bit different from its previous incarnation. There’s now a list of build-your-own entrées, such as Iceland Arctic char, Australian barramundi and grass-fed beef tenderloin, which you can top with your choice of sauces: béarnaise, veal jus, beurre rouge, lemon caper, sweet chili and horseradish cream.

Signature dishes include penne with Anaheim pepper and Parmesan; scallops with coconut, chili garlic, and Napa slaw; Texas redfish with Lamb’s Grist Mill Polenta; Hawaiian tuna with shiitake mushroom salsa; and grilled lobster bouillabaisse.

Plenty of local products are on the menu, in addition to the aforementioned Lamb’s Grist Mill Polenta. They include Bluebonnet Farms lettuces, Texas-raised chicken and seafood, and local heirloom tomatoes.

The oyster bar is still in place, but diners can have their choice presented bow-torched with tobikko aioli on top. Other starters include barbecued shrimp in a Shiner Bock sauce and tacos filled with your choice of blackened redfish, braised beef or lobster.

Dessert options include lemon chantilly cake, an apple tart with almond cream, cookies and milk, and “fancy chocolate mousse.”

The restaurant is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more information, call 210-396-5800 or click here.

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Groomer Seafood: Shrimp Prices Could Double


Rick Groomer says the oil spill in the Gulf has begun to affect local sales.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has wrecked havoc with fishing off the shores of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

What does that spell for one local seafood business? The price of shrimp could double and hoarding seems to have begun, according to Rick Groomer of Groomer Seafood.

The business has sold fish, shrimp and other seafood for going on four generations in San Antonio. Last Friday, says Groomer, customers were crowding the walk-in seafood store, at 9801 W. McCullough Ave., to buy shrimp. Prices went up 20 percent last week alone, he said.

That’s not stopping shrimp aficionados as well as restaurants. “I’d say the last week, week-and-a-half, our sales have quadrupled. On the restaurant end, they’re really starting to hoard shrimp,” he said.  Texas shrimping season is closed until July 15.

In Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama coastal waters the shrimping and fishing have come to a stop after a drilling rig explosion on April 20. Eleven people were killed and since then about 4 million gallons of oil have leaked into the Gulf.

Shrimp at Groomer Seafood won't go away, but the price is going up.

“I speak daily with (fishermen) all over the place. Today a guy in Louisiana told me his entire future right now is in the hands of the state health department, which is conducting water quality tests. Louisiana has a $2.5 billion a year fishing business and now it’s shut down,” Groomer said.

At restaurants and one local grocery store we called, shrimp prices were holding steady — so far.

“Shrimp prices haven’t gone up, it’s selling the same as we’ve sold it for the past few years,” said a Central Market fishmonger. At Sandbar, a restaurant at the Pearl specializing in fresh seafood, chef Chris Carlson had a similar response. “Things are holding steady right now,” he said.

Oysters are also of concern, since they can’t get up and move from a contaminated bed. There has been some discussion about relocating the beds, though.

Effects of the spill can mean higher prices, but, as Groomer noted, shrimp and oysters are “a worldwide product.”  So the supply can come from other sources, such as Asia and South America.

As for affecting the Texas fishing and shrimp industry?

“We’ve been lucky in Texas — so far,” said Groomer.

Photos by Bonnie Walker

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Making a Last-Minute Mardi Gras Party Fun


Add some zest to your Mardi Gras party with a few items from the store that are easy to prepare and full of flavor.

Beignets are more than just a New Orleans version of a doughnut. The fried dough, buried under a blanket of powdered sugar deeper than the snows in Washington, D.C., has a unique flavor and texture. Cafe du Monde, the temple of these crisp yet airy confections offers a mix at Central Market, 4821 Broadway, that will get your day off to a sweet start.

You’ll also be able to find Cafe du Monde’s chicory coffee in a regular and decaf version. (Scoff at the latter, if you will, but the flavor is surprisingly robust and full-bodied.)

Costco offers Cajun Hollar’s version of dirty rice made with andouille and boudin sausage. This heat-and-eat treat is marketed as a “rice, pork and chicken product.”

Many supermarkets offer Zatarain’s New Orleans-Style Dirty Rice Mix that calls for you to add your own meat “to make a complete meal.” The company also offers jambalaya, red beans and rice, and gumbo mixes as well.

The meat you add could be andouille sausage or boudin, both of which are often among the sausages at your neighborhood grocery.

Check the frozen meat section for crawfish tails that have already been peeled. These are great to toss in a gumbo or jambalaya at the last minute.

Check the condiments section for olive salad, if you have a hankering for a muffuletta. The deli section should have everything from the mortadella to the provolone cheese. You may have to make a special trip to Central Market, though, for the special round bread.

Oysters from the gulf are available at most fish departments, if Oysters Rockefeller, an oyster po’ boy or Oyster Artichoke Soup is on your agenda.

Pick up a king cake at your nearby H-E-B bakery. The soft cake with the white glaze and the multi-colored sprinkles on top are made fresh daily during the season. And if you get the slice with the baby, you host the party next year.

All of these shortcuts will help you let the good times roll. And that’s really what Mardi Gras is all about.

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Seduce Your Partner With a Super Supper


Recipe: Steak au Poivre With Pink Peppercorns

Are you planning an intimate dinner for two this Valentine’s Day? Then SavorSA has a few ideas for you.

We’ve assembled a menu that includes a number of aphrodisiacs to help you set the scene for some fun to continue after the meal.

Do aphrodisiacs work? There’s little in science to verify this, but the mind works in mysterious ways. You don’t need a degree to realize that people can react strongly to the swirl of aromas coming from a dish of pears poached in a syrup the mingles cardamon and honey in white wine.

People are also stimulated by the shapes of foods, which is why foods such as mushrooms, asparagus and, again, pears are considered in this category.

Long before Casanova, who reportedly ate 50 oysters a day to boost his libido, stars of the sea have been considered sources of potency. Think of Venus rising from the sea on her shell.

So, we suggest starting your meal with a crab cake or oysters on the half shell (make sure your fishmonger is reliable,  if you’re worried about the latter).

Steak by itself may not carry any aphrodisiacal  food, but it is a favorite. Dress it up with pink peppercorns in a sauce that’s guaranteed to make him or her swoon. Serve a mango-jícama salad on the side and your choice of vegetables.

For dessert, a poached pear earns points for its sensual texture as well as its aroma and visual appeal.

All of these dishes are easy to prepare, which is also a plus, because your mind is likely to be on other matters.

Enjoy your evening.

Recipe: Classic Crab Cakes

Recipe: Mango-Jícama Chopped Salad

Recipe: Poached Pears in Cardamon Syrup

Jansen, Svend wrote:

Hey John. Thanks for getting back to me. Hope all is well. I wanted to let you know about the Science Behind the Cocktail event coming to San Antonio in March. It's a very fun, entertaining event hosted at the McNay Art Museum. The press release is below. If you are interested in speaking to Tim Laird, our Chief Entertaining Officer and Steve Hughes, Master Blender/Spirits Scientist, I'd be glad to set that up for you. I have attached their bios along with an image of them. Or if you'd like to come out and do a story about the event and tour, I'd be glad to get you a few tickets. Just let me know. Look forward to hearing from you. -Svend

Thursday, February 11, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Svend Jansen
(502) 774-7825
svend_jansen@b-f.com

MISTOLOGY: THE ART AND SCIENCE BEHIND THE COCKTAIL COMING TO SAN ANTONIO
After-hours event at McNay Art Museum features hands-on demos, food and drink

WHAT:
Ever wonder if shaken or stirred is the best way to make a drink? Why bartenders always pour the alcohol in first and then the mixer? Does a garnish really influence the taste of your cocktail?

Mistology: The Science Behind the Cocktail, an after hours event hosted at McNay Art Museum, will explore the entertaining and educational side of cocktail creation.  The event, brought to you by Canadian Mist Whisky, begins at 6 p.m. with an interactive presentation from Canadian Mist's Chief Entertaining Officer (CEO) Tim Laird and Spirits Scientist Steve Hughes. 

Tim is the master at mixing cocktails while Steve, a member of Mist's Research and Development team, spends his day dissecting cocktails in a lab. Together, they will answer any and all of your bartending and science related questions. Not only the how, but also the why. 

After the presentation, attendees can apply what they learned with hands-on demos. If you prefer to kick back and let others do the work, there will be a bar staff on-site and plenty of appetizers to enjoy. The event is open to anyone 21 years of age and older with admission $8 per person for museum members and $10 per person for non-members. All proceeds will benefit McNay Art Museum.

WHO:
Tim Laird - Chief Entertaining Officer (CEO) for Brown-Forman Corp., a global marketer and producer of wine and spirits, including Canadian Mist. Tim is known for his making entertaining easy and has appeared on hundreds of television and radio interviews across the U.S.

Steve Hughes - Spirits Scientist for Brown-Forman Corp. Steve has been behind the development of several of Brown-Forman's award winning whiskies, including Canadian Mist, a Gold-Medal winning whisky made in Collingwood, Ontario.

WHEN:
Thursday, March 11, 2010
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

WHERE:
McNay Art Museum
6000 North New Braunfels
San Antonio, TX 78209

COST:
Tickets for the event are $8 for McNay Art Museum members and $10 for non-members. It is open to anyone 21 years of age and older.

RSVP:
Space is limited. RSVP by calling (210) 805-1763 or email reservations@mcnayart.org. 

For more information about the event, visit www.sciencebehindthecocktail.com. 

About Canadian Mist
Canadian Mist is an award-winning whisky distilled in Collingwood, Ontario with water from the pure Georgian Bay. Brown-Forman Corporation is a diversified producer and marketer of fine quality consumer products, including Jack Daniel's, Woodford Reserve, Canadian Mist, Southern Comfort, Old Forester, Early Times, Finlandia Vodka, Fetzer Wines and Korbel California Champagnes.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Enjoy Life. Drink Mist Responsibly.
Imported and Bottled by Brown-Forman Beverages, Canadian Whisky, A Blend, 40% Alc. by Volume, Louisville, KY
(c)2010 CANADIAN MIST is a registered trademark.

Svend Jansen
PR Manager - Woodford Reserve, Canadian Mist, Early Times & Old Forester
Brown-Forman
850 Dixie Highway
Louisville, KY 40210
Office, (502) 774-7825
Mobile, (502) 744-0462
svend_jansen@b-f.com

-----Original Message-----
From: John Griffin [mailto:griffin@savorsa.com]
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 2010 10:58 PM
To: Jansen, Svend
Subject: Good to hear from you

My e-mail is griffin@savorsa.com. Looking forward to hearing what you're
bringing to San Antonio.

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Seafood on Christmas Eve Saves Time


Rose colored fish with a lemon wine marinade

It’s Christmas Eve, and you haven’t a moment to spare. That’s why seafood for dinner makes so much sense.

In Italy, seafood dishes on Christmas Eve are a must. For Catholics, serving seafood was a way of avoiding red meat on a holy day.

There is a more practical reason to continue this tradition: Many seafood dishes are easy to prepare.

Oyster stew comes together in a matter of minutes and is best eaten as fresh as possible. Every time I make it, I’m surprised at how quick this treat is. Though oyster crackers are a popular choice for sprinkling over the stew, I prefer a rustic bread, like a crusty sourdough rye, slathered in butter. Rich and hearty don’t begin to describe its wonders.

Salmon is a healthy fish that is best served simply, such as a sauté with cucumber. Cooked cucumber may seem strange to some, but it is a true partner to the fish. Rice or pasta with garlic butter on the side finish off the meal.

Tuna is a fish that shouldn’t be overcooked, so pan-searing it about 3-4 minutes on each side will get you dinner on the table quickly. Tuna Steak au Poivre, a French term referring to the pepper used on the outer skin,  Serve this dish with a salad of mixed greens or arugula.

So, if you’re in a rush to make a candlelight service or get some last-minute packages wrapped, then try a simple seafood dish. You’ll give your family something hearty and get have more time to enjoy the holiday.

Tuna Steak au Poivre Comes Together Quickly

Tuna Steak au Poivre Comes Together Quickly

Oysters

Serving Oyster Stew Is an Easy Tradition to Follow

Rose colored fish with a lemon wine marinade

Rose colored fish with a lemon wine marinade

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