Tag Archive | "Pearl Brewery"

Cured to Open at Pearl Before Christmas

Kit Goldsbury and Stephen McHugh cropped 2

Kit Goldsbury of Silver Ventures and chef Steve McHugh at preview of Cured, the Pearl restaurant to open soon.

Chef Steve McHugh’s new restaurant, Cured, will open before Christmas, a restaurant spokeswoman said today.

McHugh, the farm-raised chef who has worked in several legendary New Orleans kitchens and also served as the chef de cuisine of Lüke San Antonio, says his new restaurant will feature house-made bitters for the bar, vinegars for pickling, and cured meats for charcuterie.

The dishes at Cured will make use of the purest regional ingredients, paired with the organic methods that McHugh credits, in part, for his own renewed health as he was diagnosed with and recovered from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. McHugh’s menu is built on a foundation of lovingly hand crafted, time-consuming, cured foods, from charcuterie to pickles.

The pickles — essentially cured vegetables — are everywhere, from the Masa Fried Oysters with Tarragon and Pickled Tapioca; to the Cabrito Sliders with Chayote Pickle and Onion Sprout; even the Brewery Frank boasts an accompaniment of Nopalito Relish and House Made Ketchup.  Eleven different cured meats grace the Charcuterie list, from South Texas Heritage Pork Coppa to Hogshead Cheese to Bacon and Frog Leg Rillettes — order selections of three, six, or nine choices to sample a good range of McHugh’s passion.

One dollar from the price of each charcuterie board is donated to a different charity rotating on a quarterly basis.

The restaurant’s renovated historical building, built in 1904 as Pearl’s Administration Building which included the president’s office, will embody the perfect blend of a contemporary and historical atmosphere.

Cured is located at 306 Pearl Parkway, Suite 101, San Antonio, Texas 78215. For more information, please visit Cured’s website here.

Pearl, located north of downtown San Antonio, provides a unique experience as a top culinary and cultural destination. The mixed-use space features retail, dining, picturesque green spaces and paseos, a riverside amphitheater, and the third campus of the Culinary Institute of America.  As a former brewery operating from 1883 to 2001, Pearl reflects a vivid past while embracing the future with LEED-certified complexes mixed with historic architecture. 

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At Pearl: Chilly Day, Hot Tamales!

Tamales at Pearl Cold Crowd cropped

A robust crowd, intent on sampling a generous supply of not only tamales but pupusas, menudo, tacos and more, came out on a frigid Saturday for Tamales! at Pearl.

By frigid, we mean temperatures in the mid-30s in San Antonio.

The holiday spirit was alive, there were lots of good things to eat, music and even a pair of walking “tamales” to keep the bundled up crowd moving from booth to booth.

“This is my third trip to the hot cocoa booth,” said a man pushing a stroller with a 2-year-old girl bundled up in a pink blanket. The booth, in fact, was a lemonade stand, but we’d bet most of the people standing in that long line weren’t ordering anything served on ice.

Tamales at Pearl 2013 TrayMeanwhile, a panel of judges were sequestered in a room at the Culinary Institute of America, having tamales of many shapes, sizes and flavors brought to them on platters.

Shelley Grieshaber, the Pearl’s organizer of the event, welcomed judges Charles Gonzales of KSAT-TV, chef Johnny Hernandez, food writer Edmund Tijerina, CIA San Antonio Director David Kellaway and myself. It was going to be a tough task, but made a little easier — Grieshaber had already done the screening by culling through 240 different entries.

The winners who each took home $1,000 for the top tamales were Maria Martinez for her chicken tamal; Maria Shaw in the pork tamales category and Courtney Stone for her pumpkin praline sweet tamal in the wild card category.

What came to the judges were five  finalists in each of three categories — pork, chicken and the “wild card.”

“(The wild card category) could be the most difficult category to judge — there are very different styles, but you need to judge each on its own merits,” Grieshaber said.

When all was said and done, many good tamales tasted and the difficult task of choosing the very best had been met, it was time to head back outside. And we were pretty sure it was even colder than we came in.

But, as Grieshaber mentioned earlier, “We couldn’t cancel. There wouldn’t have been a good date coming up (in December).

“It never really let up until 5:30 — many of our vendors sold out. I had so many emails from vendors thanking us for not canceling, thanking us for everything,” said Grieshaber, who estimated attendance at between 12,000 to 15,000.

And, it was a good time for the attendees as well. We asked a number of people if they were glad they came and answers were always “yes.” Featuring some of the city’s best chefs, caterers and favorite restaurants, Tamales! was a great way to open the holiday season.





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Make Corn, Poblano and Crab Tamales at Home

Because Christmas is coming up, lots of San Antonians will be following their family tradition — making tamales, or just being sure they order from their favorite suppliers well in advance.

This is an unusual recipe, but one that has won Lisa Wong’s Rosario’s Mexican Cafe 7 Cantina admiring recognition. They aren’t any harder to make than the more traditional variety — and take our word for it, they’re delicious!

Rosario’s is at 910 S. Alamo St.

Maurer Rosarios Poblano Corn Crab resizedRosario’s Corn, Poblano and Crab Tamales

7 ears of corn

Pepper Mixture:

5 poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, deveined and diced
1 red bell pepper, roasted, peel, deveined and diced
1 cup yellow onion, finely diced
2 cups roma tomatoes, small diced
½ teaspoon fresh garlic puree
2 tablespoons lard
2 tablespoons chicken stock


5 pounds prepared masa


10 ears of corn; boiled, grilled, kernels taken of cob
2 cups heavy cream
2 pounds lump crabmeat
2 cups queso fresco, shredded
½ cup cilantro, chopped
Zest of 2 oranges

For Corn Mixture:

Boil 7 ears of corn for 5 minutes. Remove kernels from cob. In a food processor, pulse just until chunky.

Pepper Mixture:

Sauté garlic and onion lard. Add tomato, poblano, red bell pepper and stock; simmer 10 minutes.


In a large sauté pan, bring cream to a boil and add corn. Add salt to taste. Simmer until cream has thickened. Add crab, queso fresco, cilantro and orange zest.

In a large bowl, mix masa, baking powder and salt. Slowly add melted lard. Add Corn Mixture then Pepper Mixture. Add the cheese. Knead until masa is firm.

Forming Tamales:

Lay each husk tapered end towards you. Spread ¼ cup of masa onto husk, leave a small border around the edge. Spoon 1 tablespoon of filling down the center. Fold one side over the filling then fold the other side over that. Fold the pointed edge under. Repeat.


Use a large steamer or tamale pot. Line the bottom with a few extra husks. Place finished tamales folded-end down in a spiral formation starting on the outer edge of the pot. Do not pack tamales; they need room to steam. Cover the tamales with several extra husks. Fill pot with water until right below tamales. Cover and steam tamales on medium about 1 ¼ hours. If necessary, refill water in pot with boiling water. Let tamales stand in the steamer off the heat for 15 minutes to firm up.


Makes 6 dozen tamales.

Recipe courtesy Lisa Wong, owner of Rosario’s

Cover photo of wrapped tamales courtesy Tracey Maurer Photography. Tamales from Johnny Hernandez, La Gloria and styling is by Mary Ellen Rose.

Photo of Corn, Poblano and Crab Tamales by Tracey Maurer Photography.

About this photo: Local members of Les Dames de Escoffier from Rosarios ( Lisa Wong, owner, and Nancy Fitch, chef ) asked for a couple of tamale recipes to shoot during our Texas Tamale shoot and we also showcased these tamales at an LDEI conference ( we had a tasting along with our food photography presentation ).  We created a series of 7 tamale recipe cards for the presentation with recipes from Dames across Texas and handed these out to dames who attended. (T.M.)

The credits for these images:
Photography by Tracey Maurer
Food Styling by Julie Hettiger and Carla Buerkle ( from Houston )
Assisted by Casey Howell and Gidget White
Special thanks to CIA and their students


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Tamales! at Pearl: Put This Holiday Favorite on Your Calendar

tamales in huskThe 4th Annual Tamales! Holiday Festival returns to Pearl on Saturday, December 7, from noon to 6 p.m.

“We’re so excited to invite all of San Antonio to come celebrate the holidays at our fourth annual Tamales! Festival,” said Pearl’s Chief Marketing Officer Elizabeth Fauerso.

“This event has become a real San Antonio tradition and it’s so great to see people from near and far get together to enjoy great food, music and to honor our San Antonio culinary traditions.”

Tamales! is a celebration of family, food and fun that so many San Antonians associate with the holidays. With more than 40 different tamale vendors, guests can explore the full range of tamales from traditional San Antonio classics to South American to sweet, vegetarian and many more.

Regional amateurs, culinary students, popular restaurants and esteemed chefs will showcase a blend of innovation, experimentation and classic tamales. The event is free and open to the public, no ticket necessary. Food and beverage prices range from $1 to $5 per vendor and there will be ATMs available on site.

The Pearl Farmers market will celebrate the holidays during their normal hours in a temporary location in the West Parking lot of the Full Goods building. Pearl shops along Pearl Parkway will offer special selections, trunk shows and holiday ready gifts, apparel, food and fashions for you and your home. Pearl is located at 303 Pearl Parkway in San Antonio, Texas. For more information about events at Pearl please visit the website here.


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They’re Raising the Dead at Nao This Weekend

Nao at the Pearl, 312 Pearl Parkway, is celebrating Dia de los Muertos this weekend with a special cocktail called Raising the Dead. It’s a potent combination of tequila, herbal Lillet Blanc and citrus that’s practically guaranteed to raise your spirits. It will be served at the restaurant’s bar through the weekend, or you can make your own at home.
Raising the Dead

Raising the Dead

Raising the Dead

3/4 ounce reposado tequila
3/4 ounce Lillet Blanc
1/2 ounce Pierre Ferrand Orange liqueur
3/4 ounce orange juice
1/4 ounce lime juice
Maraschino cherries, for garnish
Add tequila, Lillet, orange liqueur, orange juice and lime juice to a shaker. Add ice, shake and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Top the cocktail with 3 to 4 drops of absinthe. Garnish with two maraschino cherries on a bamboo skewer.
Makes 1 cocktail.
From Steven Martin/Nao

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Meatopia! And, New Chef at MAX’s

Salt and pepper are all you need to season that steak, Jason Dady says.

Meatopia: This weekend: Don’t miss the meat extravaganza

Just a reminder!

The spectacular meat-centric culinary event, Meatopia proper, is an immense, exciting, celebration of meat and meat cookery, featuring 32 chefs from Texas and around the country, cooking beef, pork, veal, chicken, duck, quail, bison and many other animals, from snout to tail, nearly all of which come from dozens of independent farms throughout Texas and the U.S.

This Sunday, Meatopia at the Pearl begins with the VIP opening from noon – 1 p.m. The Festival gets underway at 1 p.m. and serves its world of meat until 5 p.m.  The Pearl is at 303 Pearl Parkway.  Tickets are available at $75 general admission and $125 for the VIP opening. Go to

New chef at MAX’s Wine Dive

MAX’s Wine Dive San Antonio announced their new executive chef, Justin Johnson.  He was born in Longview, Texas and raised in Corpus Christi, later moving to Austin. He now calls San Antonio home.

Johnson’s culinary journey began after receiving his first big break working in an administrative capacity for a brand new restaurant concept in Corpus Christi. In this role, he fostered his knowledge of the restaurant industry. Then, he moved to Austin where he found his true calling in the kitchen at MAX’s Wine Dive.

Justin Johnson MAX's

Justin Johnson

While working at MAX’s,  Johnson studied under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Erica Beneke.  He drew inspiration from her skills and knowledge of culinary arts, and quickly rose from line cook to events coordinator.  After bringing the events side of the restaurant to a height it hadn’t seen before, he was offered the position of sous chef where he truly began to shine.

Some of the dishes Johnson plans to introduce include: Chicken Wrapped Quail Legs, fried quail legs, cayenne hot sauce, bleu cheese vinaigrette and blueberry coulis as well as Porkettes 12, braised pork, smoked apple charred corn relish and brandy molasses on a toasted baguette. Johnson also brings his own version of a “winner, winner chicken dinner” with his take on Cracklin’ Chicken, rosemary marinated chicken, smoked apple bacon stuffing, and cranberry glacé. The new menu is available now.

MAX’s Wine Dive is at 340 E Basse Road, Suite 101.


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Green Up! Pearl Hosts the San Antonio Herb Market

On Oct. 19,  the San Antonio Herb Market welcomes fall again at the Historic Pearl Brewery, with ways to learn about, cook with and just enjoy herbs.

The market, now in its 22nd year, will be on Pearl Parkway and Avenue A. Hours are from 9 a,n, – 3 p.m. with free admission, free seminars and free parking. Pearl Parkway will be closed to traffic, as the Herb Market takes over.


Elder, which has both flowers and berries, is the herb of the year at this fall’s Herb Market.

This year it is time to “Respect Your Elders,” as the herbal theme is elder (Sambucus) or elderberry. Known as one of the herb world’s most useful plants, elder has culinary uses in both foods and beverages, and also is used to heal and protect.

The program for the Herb Market includes seminars such as the History and Uses of Elder, a Growing and Care for Elder segment presented by Ronnie Grell of Rainbow Garden, and a special Cooking with Elderberry demonstration by local Chef Steven McHugh.

Also on the agenda is a seminar on Herbal Blends From Around the World, a how-to on Container Gardening, and everything you wanted to know about Drip Irrigation. The Ask the Experts booth will be staffed by local professionals and specialists to answer your herb and gardening questions throughout the day.

Herb fans and growers can shop here for herbs both familiar and exotic, and celebrate this year’s “Herb of the Year.” Food items, herbal blends, candles and other herbal items will also be available.

The San Antonio Herb Market was started as an educational venue putting growers and public together to learn about herbs.

Over the years, it has evolved into an event that brings “herbivores” and herbal experts to one place to gain knowledge of growing, up and coming herbs, trends, culinary uses and more. The nutritional and dietary information is shared with Herb Market visitors, as well as other educational venues throughout San Antonio and the surrounding area during the year.

Organized by the San Antonio Herb Market Association, the presenting sponsor is the San Antonio Water System. Other sponsors include, Fanick’s Nursery, Natures Herb Farm, Big Grass Living, Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, Lady Bug Products, The San Antonio Herb Society, Bexar County Master Gardeners, Gardening Volunteers of South Texas, Rainbow Gardens, and Shayne Sauce Foods, LLC.

For more information on events and scheduling, visit the website at

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Meatopia Texas: Menus from Mega ‘Live Fire’ Event

Meat on the grill, family close, is sometimes just what Dad want's for Father's Day.

Meat, live fire: Meatopia.

Meatopia Texas, presented by HEB, will be the first time the meat extravaganza, hailed as “epic” (Time Out New York),  “a bacchanal of pork, beef, lamb, chicken, duck, turkey and quail” (New York Times) and “a glorious city of meat” (Huffington Post), comes to Texas. It features a wide-ranging, mouthwatering menu of meaty masterpieces, cooked over live fire.

“Meatopia was meant to be the world’s greatest meat event, a celebration of humane farming, genius cookery, and the natural of love of human beings for meat,” said founder Josh Ozersky. “We try to cook as many parts of as many animals, from as many independent meat producers, as possible, and let the brilliance of our chefs do the rest. I’m thrilled at the chance to work with so many great Texas chefs for the first time, in what I believe to be the carnivorous capital of the world. And, as always, there will be no propane allowed!”

With a backdrop of the top culinary and cultural destination in San Antonio, Meatopia Texas is an event filled with curated chef specialties, premium wine, spirits and craft brews, and live music. Tickets (see prices below) are expected to sell out and are available: click here.

Meatopia Texas will provide a stellar lineup of live music, featuring bluegrass, South Texas jazz and Tejano music from some of San Antonio’s favorite musicians.

The menu for Meatopia Texas promises the finest meat offerings from 32 chefs from Texas and around the country cooking beef, pork, veal, chicken, duck, quail, bison and many other animals, from snout to tail. Nearly all of the meat will come from dozens of small farms throughout Texas and the United States. The full Meatopia menu includes:

Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen (San Antonio, TX)

One of San Antonio’s most acclaimed chefs, Perez will serve Broken Arrow Ranch short ribs with mole rub, smoked butternut squash mousse and huckleberry gravy.

Paul Qui of Qui (Austin, TX)

One of the most celebrated young chefs in America, Qui, winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef,” and an Austin superstar, will prepare the pork-centric Philipino classic, sizzling sisig.

Tim Byres of Smoke (Dallas, TX)

Food and Wine magazine’s People’s Choice as “Best New Chef,” Tim Byres, the wood-fire guru from Smoke restaurant in Dallas, will serve Flannery Beef’s ultra-prime rib eye with chimichurri.

Chris Shepherd of Underbelly (Houston, TX)

Houston’s newest hotspot is helmed by Shepherd, who will demonstrate the restaurant’s passion for using the whole animal with a roasted spitted whole boar.

Joey Campanaro of the little owl (New York, NY)

One of New York’s most beloved chefs, the man behind the famous little owl will be serving the meatball sliders that are the chef’s signature dish.

Justin Smillie of Il Buco Alimentari (New York, NY)

The star dish of Smillie’s three-star Italian restaurant is Smilie’s mind-blowing, slow-roasted short rib dish that has been called “revolutionary” by Esquire magazine.

Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria (San Antonio, TX)

A master of Mexican street food and one of San Antonio’s most well-known restaurateurs, Hernandez will create cabritos asados de lena for Meatopia.

Geronimo Lopez of NAO (San Antonio, TX)

Influential Venezuelan chef Geronimo Lopez will prepare wood-roasted whole leg of veal with Argentinian grilled sweetbreads topped with spicy chimichurri chorizo and grilled peppers.

Jason Dady of Jason Dady Restaurant Group (San Antonio, TX)

Finalist for 2012 James Beard Award for Best Restaurateur: Southwest, Dady will prepare porchetta and fire-roasted clams with charred sourdough.

Mike Toscano of Perla (New York, NY)

Semi-finalist for 2013 James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef and 2013 Star Chef New York Rising Star winner, Toscano will create beef cheek and tongue with blistered shishito peppers and bock beer vinegar sauce.

Tim Rattray of The Granary (San Antonio, TX)

Hailed in the Wall Street Journal as the nation’s only modernist BBQ chef, and one of five best pitmasters in Texas by Texas Monthly, The Granary’s Tim Rattray will prepare a Cuban pulled pork sandwich with mojo sauce and mustard infused jicama. For VIP, Rattray will serve a smoked duck ballotine.

John Tesar of Spoon (Dallas, TX)

Known for his stylish, modern American cuisine prepared with classic European techniques, Tesar will create sea salt and herb-ubbed prime rib of bison with béarnaise and tallow fried potatoes.

Rene Ortiz (Austin, TX)

Finalist for 2013 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest, Ortiz will serve charcoal grilled chicken with pixie chili paste, palm sugar, black vinegar and cumin.

Laura Sawicki (Austin, TX)

Finalist for 2013 James Beard nominee for Outstanding Pastry Chef and 2013 CultureMap’s Tastemaker Award winner for Best Pastry Chef, Sawicki will feature one of her specialty desserts.

Ned Elliott of Foreign & Domestic (Austin, TX)

Finalist of Food & Wine magazine’s “The People’s Best New Chef: 2012 Southwest,” Elliott, a major force in the world of cutting-edge meat cookery, will prepare a dish with crispy grilled lamb ribs.

Riverscape in background, StarChef hosts BBQ competition.

Riverscape in background, StarChef hosts BBQ competition.

Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due (Austin, TX)

Winner of Edible Communities 2012 Local Hero/Food Artisan Award and 2013 James Beard book award nominee for single-subject with Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish, Griffiths will prepare doves for the VIP section.

Jeff White of Boiler House (San Antonio, TX)

Winner of People’s Choice Award for the Taste of Elegance, White will create hot paprika beef heart and melted beef cheek with charred haricot vert salad, goat cheese and cardamom cashews.

Steven McHugh of Cured (San Antonio, TX)

Chef of the eagerly anticipated Cured restaurant at Pearl, McHugh will serve whole hog gumbo.

John Fink of The Whole Beast (Oakland, CA)

Trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa, Canada, Fink strives to create transformational dining experiences that can be seen in his Meatopia dish of lamb gyros made with chermoula spiced lamb necks served with harrisa, a chermoula yogurt sauce and cucumber onion salad on a whole wheat lavash.

Anthony Goncalves of 42 (White Plains, NY)

Travelling from to Meatopia Texas all the way from New York, Goncalves, a pioneer of “the new Iberian cuisine,” will bring one of the most-loved Meatopia dishes of recent years, a pork-belly paella with farm eggs, to Texas.

Ford Fry of No. 246 (Decatur, GA)

Semi-finalist for 2013 James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurateur, and one of the leading chefs of the South, Fry will serve grass roots farm pastured breast, shoulders, knees and toes of chicken.

Chad Carey of The Monterey (San Antonio, TX)

Named number six on Texas Monthly’s “Where to Eat Now” 2012 list, The Monterey owner and chef will prepare grilled lamb heart anticuchos, smoked chili.

Jeff Balfour of Citrus (San Antonio, TX)

Known as one of San Antonio’s most innovative chefs at a fine dining restaurant, Balfour’s dish will be orange-lambic brulee’d chicken with thyme and arugula.

Jennifer Dobbertin of Hot Mess Food (San Antonio, TX)

Owner of Hot Mess, Dobbertin will create marinated Thai baby back ribs with sticky rice & ‘Naam Jim Jaew’ hot sauce.

Nelson Millan of San Antonio Country Club (San Antonio, TX)

Millan will serve lechon and trunchetta, essentially a whole, boned roasted Duroc hog cooked in La Caja China double-decker grill boxes, accompanied with mojo picked onions.

Bruce Auden of Biga (San Antonio, TX)

James Beard Award finalist chef, Auden will prepare Broken Arrow Ranch venison chili topped with grilled Bandera Quail, cornbread and all the “fixin’s.”

Josh Watkins of The Carillon (Austin, TX)

2012 Star Chef Austin-San Antonio Rising Star winner, Watkins will be serving one of the event’s most refined dishes, grilled olive oil poached beef tenderloin with potato puree, sweet smoked syrup and paprika.

Andrew Weissman of Il Sogno Osteria & The Sandbar Fish House (San Antonio, TX)

Weissman will create braised stuffed breast of veal with potatoes mousseline sauce madere.

Ben Runkle & Bryan Butler of Salt & Time (Austin, TX)

Named one of the top 10 Best New School Butcher Shops in America by First We Feast, Salt & Time will offer a selection of house made sausages, salumi and charcuterie to VIP guests.

Jordan Mackey of Las Ramblas (San Antonio, TX)

CIA graduate and chef at Hotel Contessa and Las Ramblas’ signature restaurant on the famed River Walk, Mackey will serve fire roasted whole lamb in the Riojan style.

Jeff Foresman of Zocca Cuisine D’Italia  (San Antonio, TX)

With extensive experience in the hotel restaurant industry, Foresman will prepare grilled Italian piadina topped with seared bison tenderloin carpaccio, wild arugula, Hill Country olive oil and shaved horseradish pecan cheddar.

Mike Behrend of Green Vegetarian Cuisine (San Antonio, TX)

Known as owning San Antonio’s only 100 percent vegetarian and kosher restaurant, Behrend will create salt-crusted new potatoes with braised kale.

Meatopia VIP will treat guests to early entrance to the event and access to the VIP Stable area featuring specialty cocktails from George Dickel Tennessee Whisky and Crown Royal, Guinness on draft, live music, and once-in-a-lifetime dining experiences from Dai Due Austin, Tim Rattray and Salt & Time.

Meatopia will also feature a one-of-a-kind beer garden created by Corona Modelo.

Tickets for Meatopia are $75 for general admission and $125 for VIP. For the full information on tickets and more, click here.

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Brunch, Burgers Please Palates at Arcade Midtown Kitchen

Back in the 1980s, when I wrote my first restaurant review for a daily newspaper in Flagstaff, Ariz., finding worthy restaurants to review was nothing like our current dining scene in San Antonio.

Burgers and steaks were the general fare along with pizza parlors that didn’t range far from the basics — sausage and pepperoni. We had massive hotel Sunday brunches, all the rage at the time, and various mom-and-pop places that could turn out good ethnic meals.

Arcade Midtown Kitchen's Chicken and Waffles

Arcade Midtown Kitchen’s Chicken and Waffles

For more complex fare, we’d head to Sedona, a scenic 30-minute drive away. Restaurants in this now-raging tourist mecca stretched their culinary wings not so much to gratify Flagstaff diners but to lure in well-heeled snowbirds, down for the winter to soak up the beautiful scenery and climate.

The real high-rollers would fly into the tiny local airport at the top of a red-rock mesa from cities as far-flung as New York and Chicago. They would stay a few days for sight-seeing, seeking out “gourmet” meals. (This was pre-harmonic-convergence Sedona, before the crystal wearers came to town and the word “Sedona” turned into a hot branding term used to sell anything from socks to SUVs.)

I thought about these, my younger days, as I sat with at a table with a couple of dozen other dedicated foodies Saturday morning at chef/owner Jesse Perez’s Arcade Midtown Kitchen. Some were staff writers, others freelancers, bloggers, magazine owners as well as the indefatigable social media foodies taking the city by storm. Many of them were in their 20s and 30s and they are in a new world where chefs take on the fame of rock stars and diners had better know their stuff when it comes to profiling the complex flavors in a dish.

These folks ably deconstructed the dishes and weren’t shy about mentioning their personal likes and dislikes. They also seemed able to put those aside to make a reasonable and serious judgment of dishes on their own merits.

Happy Daddy, Arcade's approach to Huevos Rancheros -- with petite filet of beef.

Happy Daddy, Arcade’s approach to Huevos Rancheros — with petite filet of beef.

Perez had invited us in to sample brunch as he looks toward adding Saturday brunch in the near future. Sunday brunch is already a standby at the restaurant that opened earlier this year.

We shared dishes ranging from the traditional eggs Benedict with a couple of custom touches to Happy Daddy, a petite beef filet rubbed with chile along with potato hash and chorizo coins for a spicy take on huevos rancheros.  (The dish got its name as a particular favorite on Father’s Day.)

The Arcade burger, which is rapidly becoming one of the city’s favorites, was also brought out, inspiring as much comment as did Perez’s take on Chicken and Waffles (boned chicken, pounded out ‘Milanesa’ style and then breaded) or the luscious, multilayered red velvet cake.

Burgers are beloved. That was true long before I began my food-writing career.

While we don’t want burgers for every meal, we’re still excited to find one that is exceptional and inspires questions ranging from what is the meat used in the grind, fat-to-lean ratio, and of course, what’s in the ‘secret sauce.’

But our demands have changed over the years. Secret sauce better have some pretty good secrets in there – and in Perez’s burger, the only secret he would divulge was the dash of blood orange vinegar. His sauce also has a bite – Sriracha? He wouldn’t tell.

Arcade's burger is getting a reputation -- and it's a good one.

Arcade’s burger is getting a reputation — and it’s a good one.

In the old days, I don’t recall that we discussed the provenance of the beef, or what cuts were used in the grind other than the occasional reference to a “sirloin burger” on a menu.  Perez uses ground chuck and brisket, a combination that I’ve found to be one of the tastiest – and he uses a lean-to-fat ratio of about 70-to-30. Generous on the flavor, but not greasy.

The cheese is American – and I’d guess that is a nod to the country’s tradition, but a good natural cheese such as cheddar would make me happier. But the browned “soft” onions, as the menu describes them, seem to melt right into the beef and they just about cancel out the sticky cheese.

So, as things change, things remain the same. That cliché does apply to our appetite for burgers — as well as for Saturday and Sunday brunches, for finding food with the best flavor and always looking for an element of discovery.  And, may it always be so.

Arcade Midtown Kitchen
303 Pearl Pkwy.
(210) 369-9664

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Boiler House Turns Up the Heat on Summer

The Boiler House kitchen crew brave the heat during Summer WineFest.

The Boiler House kitchen crew brave the heat during Summer WineFest.

The folks at Boiler House Texas Grill know how to throw a picnic.

The bartenders keep the wine glasses filled.

The bartenders keep the wine glasses filled.

All it takes is five roast suckling pigs, legs of lamb, sausages made from all kinds of meat, shrimp and lardon salad, plenty of bacon-wrapped quails’ legs, two cases of corn on the cob, a few pitchers of sangria and plenty of cases of wine. Oh yeah, and plenty of hungry people.

The people showed up in droves Sunday for the Boiler House’s first Summer WineFest.

Sangrias and aguas frescas.

Sangrias and aguas frescas.

Rains that morning kept temperatures a little cooler than usual, but executive chef Jeff White and his crew probably didn’t notice. White and several of his assistants were busy most of the afternoon at the outdoor fire pit where they tended to everything from the pork to the corn.

People wandered in and out of the air conditioned restaurant in the Pearl Brewery complex, where several buffets were set up, so they could eat their fill.

Inside, teams bustled about keeping serving tables filled with plenty of dishes including plenty of sauces, relishes and pickles that could be used with any of the meats or the corn. And behind the bars, servers kept wine glasses filled with the likes of Amici Chardonnay, MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir, Chateau Sancerre and Last Judgment Red. Or they poured cups of colorful aguas frescas as well as a red sangria and a white version that featured pineapple and serrano chiles.

Didn’t make WineFest? You can still borrow some of the Boiler House’s ideas for adding pizazz to your own summer party, whether it’s having a variety of meats to make your guests want to try a little of everything or dressing up your dishes with plenty of sauces that go beyond salsa, sauces that are not only good with the meat but also with the grilled corn and any other vegetables you may have. Then add a little wine, maybe some Texas beers and just have some fun.

Executive chef Jeff White and his team work at the outdoor grill area.

Executive chef Jeff White and his team work at the outdoor grill area.


Enjoying a picnic at Boiler House.

Enjoying a picnic at Boiler House.

The star of the show: One of the five suckling roast pigs.

The star of the show: One of the five suckling roast pigs.




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