Tag Archive | "San Antonio food"

Griffin to Go: A Journey from Duck Fat to Pork Belly

Saturday’s joyous weather called for a food trek through San Antonio, and the result was a trip of savory indulgences.

Scott Cohen demonstrates how to cook foie gras.

It started at Gaucho Gourmet, the exceptional food warehouse the Ciorciari family operates at 935 Isom Road. The space is only open to the public on Saturdays, and word has certainly gotten out about the place as several dozen people showed up to browse through rows of truffles, fine salami, rare cheeses and a few Asian items that have been added to the mix of European and Argentine favorites.

But the real draw this Saturday was a foie gras cooking demonstration given by Scott Cohen, who used to work with Gaucho Gourmet’s Luciano Ciorciari at Pesca on the River Walk, now Ostra, and the late Brasserie Pavil.

Foie gras

That winning combination was made even more winning when seared samples of the fatty duck liver were served up at the end of session.

Cohen, who is now an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu culinary academy in Austin, brought along his son, Daniel, who is now attending the school as well as two local chefs, Isaac Cantu of the Westin La Cantera and Stephen Paprocki of Eurest Compass Group. Both had worked with Cohen at Las Canarias.

When getting ready to prepare foie gras, make sure it is firm, Cohen said. If you press a finger into it, it should keep the indentation, not spread out.

Heat your skillet, but don’t let it get too hot. That could cause the expensive treat to burn. Instead, it should have a pleasant sizzle when you set the slices into the heat. Cohen used a touch of grapeseed oil in the pan beforehand, which has a high smoking point and doesn’t impart a flavor to mask the delicate nature of the foie gras.

Steve White enjoys a sample of foie gras.

The meat is ready when the exterior is seared but the center is warm and will practically melt on the tongue, Cohen said.

To finish of the treat, you could use a sauce made from flavors you enjoy. It could be a balsamic reduction straight from a can, a sauce of brandy-soaked cherries or a more complex creation with a demi-glace base, perhaps with a touch of Saba, a quince glaze.

Gaucho Gourmet sells Hudson Valley Foie Gras in packages of various sizes. It isn’t cheap, but for a special occasion — such as a Saturday morning, Cohen said with a laugh — it’s worth it.

Bonnie and I left Gaucho Gourmet with plans to meet up with several friends at YaYa’s Thai at 8085 Callaghan Road at I-10 for lunch. It was a chance to sample more duck, since the crispy version with red curry was the special. And it was a winner, with a crunchy exterior and moist bits of meat at the center.

YaYa's Fish Cakes

Neither Bonnie nor I wanted much sugar with our food, but we weren’t so lucky with our orders. A shrimp and avocado salad sounded more than good, but the sticky sweet dressing on top did the fresh ingredients in the salad no favors. A beef salad was not quite as bad, but the sugar was there. An order of fish cakes was best with tender egg and fish working together beautifully.

From there, it was on to Rainbow Gardens at 8516 Bandera Road. I had started the day in the garden clearing a spot for cucumbers, but I wanted to plant more. For her garden, Bonnie was looking for a heirloom tomatoes, a couple of okra plants, herbs, African daisies and so forth. Plenty of other gardeners in town had the same ideas, apparently, for the place was bustling.

The herb area at Rainbow Gardens.

Soon our cart was so filled with the likes of purslane, Greek oregano,and Cuban oregano in addition to soil and fertilizer that we had to get a second cart. That prompted even more buying, with zucchini plants, plumbago and more added to the mix. After stopping to pet the nursery’s silky black cat, we headed out and stuffed the trunk and back seat of a small Mazda 3 with purchases.

For me, a trip to that area of Bandera Road is not complete with a stop at Tim’s Oriental & Seafood Market, 7015 Bandera Road. Though most every sweet and starchy snack in the store seemed to call our names, from pastel-colored Piroline-style cookies that would be perfect for Easter to garlicky crackers, we managed to be good and avoid the call of the carbohydrates.

That pork hanging next to the ducks -- that's mine!

But Bonnie saw a thing of beauty at the butcher counter that was beyond resisting. It was roasted pork, actually pork belly, for $6.95 a pound. Hanging next to the marinated roast ducks, which are also a happy bet but perhaps a little too much after all the duck we had had, it sent out Circe’s seductive call. I couldn’t resist. I bought the entire piece, which was chopped up and boxed to go.

The car didn’t make it out of the parking lot before the first pieces of that fat find made it out of the box. The crackling on the outside could not have had more crunch, while the meat and fat, boasting a heady mix of garlic and salt, was practically intoxicating. It was the perfect bookend to the foie gras, and a great way to end the trip before resuming the gardening.

(Photos by Bonnie Walker and John Griffin)


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At New Quarry Market, You Can Have Your Goat Two Ways

Mark Rodriguez (right) talks with customers about his Alamo City Pepper Products.

Sunday marked the grand opening of the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market. And it was indeed grand, with Mayor Julián Castro dropping by to mark the official opening. But the main attraction for many, and not just the younger set, was the pen Springfield Farms set up with baby goats that were glad to be fed and petted. A pair of hens was also on display, but they couldn’t compete with the goats for attention.

Oh, yeah, there were also fresh peaches, heirloom and conventional tomatoes, Indian cucumbers, kohlrabi, beans, blackberries, leeks and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables from nearby farms as well as baked goods, including some gluten-free, locally harvest honey, fresh cheeses and granola. One of the market’s organizers, David Lent, was handing out samples of organic watermelon.

Mark Rodriguez of Alamo City Pepper Products was sampling his series of seasonings, which included a powdered version of the Indian ghost pepper. Even a touch on the tip of a toothpick was enough to set one’s tongue on fire. Far milder but no less flavorful were the Jalapeño Salt, Honey Chipotle and Hatch Green Chile Salt.

A baby goat waits for a treat.

Koch Ranches offered grass-fed kebabs, hot dogs and sliders, including some made from ground cabrito, which proved to be the big seller of the morning. Did anybody make the connection between the cabrito on the bun and cabritos in the pen? Did anybody care?

They were more interested in checking out the varieties of squash on display, including calabaza, zucchini, yellow and pattypan, which one vendor said she liked to fix simply by sautéing it with salt, pepper and a little olive oil.

The lineup of farmers, ranchers and culinary artisans included Cowgirl Granola, Edelen Farm, Engel Farms, From Deborah’s Garden, Good Gluten-Free Foods, Humble House Foods, Koch Ranches, Markley Family Farm, My Father’s Farm, Nature’s Select, Orange Blossom Farm, Patty’s Petals, Sol y Luna Baking Co., Springfield Farm, The Gardener’s Feast, The Lemonade Co. and Zamudio Farm.

The market runs each Sunday from 8 a.m. to noon.

Indian cucumbers

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

As the winter continues to blast the region with icy gusts of wind and below-freezing temperatures, the time has come for some hearty fare cooked slowly to add warmth to your home as well as your body.

And what could be more welcome than beef cooked until it falls apart with the touch of a fork? SavorSA offers two complementary yet different takes on braised beef with mushrooms. One is Pot Roast With Wild Mushrooms and Thyme, which is cooked in red wine. The other, Pasta With Braised Beef and Mushrooms, has wine with a hint of  cream.

We also include a recipe for Guinness Stew, an old favorite whose appeal extends far beyond Ireland.

No matter what you cook, just remember to stay warm this weekend.

Recipe: Pot Roast with Wild Mushrooms and Thyme

Recipe: Pasta With Braised Beef and Mushrooms

Recipe: Make Guinness Stew in a Slow Cooker

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Wines for the Big Feast


When you’re planning your big meal this holiday season, make sure you include wines as part of your menu.

Most wouldn’t serve the same wine with beef tenderloin that they would serve with turkey. A hearty, robust California Cabernet Sauvignon would overpower the turkey; a Sauvignon Blanc that would complement the turkey might get lost in all that beef.

So, the following are a few suggestions of wines to pair with a variety of main courses. Just remember: When in doubt, a brut sparkling wine, from Spanish Cava to French Champagne to Italian Prosecco, will go with just about everything but dessert. And it certainly is festive.

Beef tenderloin: This is the dish that’s perfect for your big California Cabs and Merlots as well as a Bordeaux, a Spanish Rioja or a Chateauneuf du Pape. From Italy, a Barolo, a Barbaresco or a Brunello di Montalcino would all suffice. But there are problems:

  • If you are serving this with a complex sauce, choose a wine that is less complex.
  • If you are blackening the beef or using a spicy rub, then forget the Cab or any big red wine and stick with something lighter and fruitier, such as a young Shiraz or Sangiovese. A sparkling Shiraz with spice would be fine, but this wine does not appeal to all, so don’t spring it on people unawares.
  • If you’re roasting beef, also consider a Malbec, a hearty, rustic red wine most famously made and consumed in Argentina — where the per-capita consumption of beef is one of the highest in the world.

Lamb: Syrah or Shiraz has enough fruit and acid to work well with lamb. If you’re cooking it on a rotisserie or grill outside, put some of the smoky flavor up against a good Argentinian Malbec or a South African Pinotage, a red wine with a robust character.

Pork roast: Pork might be light in color, but it is richly flavored, especially if you’ve put a spicy rub on it. We think a fruity Cru Beaujolais or a New World Pinot Noir, from California or Oregon, would be good. A few names: Rodney Strong, McMurray Ranch, Morgan Winery, Amici, or try the very good Ponzi, from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Turkey: If the turkey is blackened, we’d like it with a spicy Zinfandel. If it’s not, a Zin might still work, but lighter wines, such as a Gewürztraminer, would give you some acidic edge to cut through the fat and spice to complement the light flavor of the white meat.

Duck: Duck, simply roasted, is a perfect match for Pinot Noir. But few prepare it simply. So, follow these rules:

  • If you’re making a sweet-sticky sauce, such as orange or sweet cherry, or using a spicy rub, then go with a sweet wine. It could be a Riesling with some sweetness or it could be a Mavrodaphne Patras, a naturally sweet red from Greece. Moscato d’Asti or Muscat Canelli, with its tinge of orange flavor, is another good match.
  • If it’s spicy, think Zin again.

Goose: Goose is a fatty meat, like duck, so whatever you choose will need some heft, acidity, a little spice.  A Zinfandel that is not too heavy (ask the wineseller about this) would be a good choice, but also consider some of the white wines from the Alsace or Germany — dry or off-dry Riesling could work, too.

Shellfish: Champagne is made for lobster, whether you are serving it steamed or covered in a creamy sauce. Here again, choices must be made based on your recipe. If you are making a sweet thermidor sauce, you want an off-dry Champagne (the wine must always be sweeter than the food you serve it with). If the sauce is not sweet, then a brut Champagne or a California Chardonnay should be ideal. Sauvignon Blanc is perfect with oysters and scallops, but also consider a steely French Chablis. A Riesling with a touch of sweetness is excellent shrimp in a spicy sauce. Moving to the Old World, don’t forget the edgy Sancerre, or even a Sancerres rosé (usually made from Pinot Noir), if you’re lucky enough to put your hands on one.

Vegetarian feast: Take your tip from your main course. If it’s something earthy, like portobello mushrooms or potatoes, think Pinot Noir or French Burgundy.  If it’s lighter and sweeter, including onions or carrots, think about a German Riesling, a spicy Gewurztraminer or a sparkling wine labeled extra dry (which means it has some sweetness to it).

(Photos: Wong Mei Teng)

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Give Your Macaroni and Cheese a Makeover

MacaroniDan Lewis of the Plaza Club developed this version of macaroni and cheese while working at Ironstone Vineyards. You can make it in individual dishes or in a family-style casserole dish. This variation combines three cheeses and a few herbs in a way that makes “this every day dish really stand out,” he says in the “Discover Ironstone Vineyards” cookbook. “Any type of pasta can be used, so here is your opportunity to use that guitar-shaped pasta that seemed like a good idea when you bought it three years ago!”

Ironstone Macaroni and Cheese

2 cups whipping cream, divided use
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup finely diced pancetta or applewood-smoked bacon
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped shallot
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 cup crumbled blue cheese or roquefort
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
8 ounces pasta, cooked
1 tablespoon minced chives
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon minced parsley
2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
8 oregano sprigs

Whisk 1/4 cup of the cream with the cornstarch and set aside. Sauté the pancetta in the butter over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, shallot and oregano and cook for 1 minute. Add the blue cheese, goat cheese and the remaining whipping cream and bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and stir for 5 minutes, or until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the cooked pasta and chives.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pasta in 8 individual baking dishes. Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, Romano cheese, salt and pepper, and sprinkle over the pasta. Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned. (This can also be made family-style by putting it in one large casserole dish and baking for 30 to 40 minutes.) Top each serving with an oregano sprig and serve immediately.

Wine suggestion: Light and fruit or semisweet white wine

Makes 8 servings.

From “Discover Ironstone Vineyards” by Dan Lewis

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10 Cookbooks That Make Great Gifts


The past year has been a good one for cookbook lovers, with dozens of new titles covering every topic from opulent cocktails to special desserts. Here are 10 choices in no particular order that would make great gifts to various people on your holiday shopping list:

1. “La Cucina: The Regional Cooking of Italy” (Rizzoli, $45)  – Fifty years ago, a group of Italians known as the Accademia Italiana Della Cucina decided to collect recipes from throughout their home country. The recipes were gathered region by region, and the project was only completed in 2001. It took eight years, but this encyclopedic approach to the country’s culinary riches is finally available in English. The end result can be richly rewarding for those who are not slaves to a recipe, as some need finessing (too little water here, too much spice there). Yet the compilation is exhaustive, exhilarating and an exciting new way to view Italian cuisine.

2. “I Know How to Cook” by Ginette Mathiot (Phaidon, $45) – The success of “Julie & Julia” has turned the spotlight on Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” But don’t overlook this French volume, first printed in 1932 and now available in English for the first time. More than 6 million copies have sold in its home country, and it’s easy to see why. It’s clear and concise. Yes, editors have updated the work, making the 1,400 recipes more direct without losing their Gallic charm. Soon, you’ll be saying “Je suis cuisiner” (“I know how to cook”), too.

3. “Pastry Queen Parties: Entertaining Friends and Family, Texas Style” by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman (Random House, $32.50) – Who can resist a cookbook with a recipe for something called Peach Daiquiri Likkercicles? Fredericksburg pastry chef Rebecca Rather offers recipes for six Texas-style parties ranging from San Antonio Fiesta (of course) to Gulf Coast Beach Bash. Nothing pretentious here, and many of the recipes use home-grown recipes, such as Honey-Lavender Rack of Lamb.

4. “The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies and Other Sweets With Ideas for Inventing Your Own” by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox (Clarkson Potter, $35) – DeMasco, Tom Colicchio’s former pastry chef, uses seasonal ingredients to create an array of spectacular desserts. She also tells you how to adapt your recipe to what’s in season, so a Rhubarb Rose Cobbler becomes a Mixed Berry Cobbler as the seasons change. The list of must-bake recipes just keeps growing as you leaf past the likes of Pine Nut Tart With Rosemary Cream, Pumpkin Seed Brittle and Raspberry Granola Bars.

5. “America’s Most Wanted Recipes” by Ron Douglas (Simon and Schuster, $15) – Ever wanted to make Olive Garden’s salad dressing in your own home? Or Johnny Carino’s Five Cheese Chicken Fettuccine? Copycat versions of all your favorites are here, including Red Lobster’s Cheddar Biscuits and Luby’s Spaghetti Salad. There are no pictures in this affordable paperback. But who needs pictures? You’ve had the dishes enough at each of these chain restaurants to know what it looks like. The recipes are no presented in a no-nonsense way that makes each easy to replicate in your own home.

6. “The Conscious Cook” by Tal Ronnen (William Morrow, $29.99) – This vegan chef has taken a familial approach to his cookbook, inviting fellow vegan chefs to join him in creating a surprisingly varied array of dishes. He starts with the basics, including a section on cashew cream, which he swears “makes it easy to live without dairy.” He then moves on to small plates, salads, soups, sandwiches, entrées and desserts. Even meat-eaters could like Paella With “Sausage,” Nori-dusted Oyster Mushrooms and Wine-braised Artichoke Hearts or Cajun Portobello Sandwich with Avocado and Rémoulade.

7. “Ad Hoc at Home” by Thomas Keller (Artisan, $50) – The chef/owner of the French Laundry goes for more accessible fare at his home-style restaurant, Ad Hoc. By accessible, we mean Buttermilk Fried Chicken and chicken pot pie. Those who were put off by the tortured, laborious recipes Keller presented in his overwrought “French Laundry Cookbook” will be surprised by the warmth and down-home style here. “Ad Hoc at Home” is still a large, coffee table-sized book that won’t fit into many small kitchens easily, but the recipes will leave you hungry for more.

8.  “My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method” by Jim Leahy (W.W. Norton & Company, $29.95) – If you’ve always wanted to make bread but haven’t trusted yourself around yeast or the controversy about kneading (too much vs. too little), then this book is for you. Leahy mixes flour, yeast, salt and water together quickly, then leaves the mixture alone for 12 hours before baking it in a Dutch oven. That’s it. And people swear by the results. Once he finishes the basics, Leahy takes cooks on through a series of breads as well as pizza dough.

9. “Foods and Flavors of San Antonio” by Gloria Chadwick (Pelican Publishing, $19.95) – Want to send a taste of home to some friends who live far away? Check out this cookbook, which is a savory mix of traditional Alamo City classics presented alongside some colorful variations, such as Chipotle Salmon to Apple Enchiladas. Chadwick also offers some good information on the city’s cultural traditions and attractions, making it a keepsake for locals and tourists alike.

10. “The Pioneer Woman Cooks” by Ree Drummond (William Morrow, $27.50) – Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond ( welcomes you to her culinary frontier, where home cooking is prized by all. Recipes for Cowboy Calzone, Tomato-Basil Pizza and Edna Mae’s Sour Cream Pancakes are all accompanied by step-by-step photographs, so you can cook to your heart’s content with assurance. From Spicy Pulled Pork to Patsy’s Blackberry Cobbler, this is an Oklahoma answer to Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home.”

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Holiday Headquarters: Tips, Hotlines, Recipes and More


If you’re looking for a good recipe, how to slice a turkey or where to get your knives sharpened, SavorSA will help you.

We’ll link here to articles as they are published over the next few weeks, from interesting wines, appetizers and some different approaches to a holiday dinner and table settings.





Wines and beverages:

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Last-Minute Reminder: Aldaco on ‘Good Morning America’

Blanca Aldaco of Aldaco’s is set to be among a number of San Antonians on ABC’s “Good Morning America” at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.

She will be joined by Mayor Julian Castro, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and others for the unveiling of a Times Square window that honors the city. The window, part of the show’s Holiday Windows series, was designed by Jill Giles, who also created the recently opened Bohanan’s Bar at 219 E. Houston St.

The window’s theme is Pride, Passion and Piñatas.

On Tuesday evening, Aldaco spread some San Antonian cheer in the form of her signature margaritas at a Mexican bistro near the theater district called Toloache, which refers to “an herb for lovers,” she said.

“It was a fantastic evening,” Aldaco said in a message on Facebook. “The CVB hosted an amazing, tasty event reflecting the food of S.A., female mariachi and my margaritas.”

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Apple-Brandy Tart Adds Rustic Touch to End of Meal

ApplesServed with a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top, this is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, says Dan Lewis of San Antonio’s Plaza Club. Make the apples early in the day, but don’t bake the tart until after the big meal.

Apple-Brandy Tart

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
7 apples, peeled, cored and halved
2 tablespoons apple brandy or brandy
Pinch of salt
1 puff pastry sheet

Place the butter and sugar in a 9-inch oven-proof sauté pan and arrange the apple halves in the pan. Sauté the apples over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until the sugar is caramelized and the apples are brown. Add the apple brandy, salt and cinnamon to taste and turn the apples in the pan until the brandy is incorporated. Remove from heat and set aside. Arrange one apple in the center of the pan, core-side up, and place the others in circles around it.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut a 9-inch circle from the puff pastry. Cut the trimmed dough into 1/2-inch-wide strips and piece together a rim around the edge of the pastry. Place the pastry circle, rim side down, on top of the arranged apples and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the pan from oven and turn over onto a serving place. Cool slightly and cut into 8 pieces. Serve warm.

Beverage suggestion: Brandy

Makes 8 servings.

Adapted from “Discover Ironstone Vineyards” by Dan Lewis

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It’s a Smash!

Smashburger1Tom Ryan knows his burgers.

When he worked at McDonald’s, he developed the Dollar Menu and McGriddles.

Then he launched his own chain, SmashBurger, in 2007. From the initial Denver store that June, the chain has grown to more than 40 in little more than two years’ time.

The 41st opens Friday at 11309 Bandera Road at Loop 1604 in the Bandera Pointe Shopping Center. It’s the third to open in San Antonio this year under the direction of franchisee SB Alamo, which has the rights to South Texas as well as all of New Mexico. A fourth will open in early 2010 at State Highway 151 and Potranco Road. (Another recent SmashBurger opening to make the news was at the DFW airport, where Mark Columbo of the Dallas Cowboys opened a franchise store.)


Tom Ryan

Though he worked under the golden arches and developed the stuffed-crust pizza at Pizza Hut, Ryan didn’t want to offer fast food at his chain. Nor did he want to create a sit-down environment like you find at Fuddrucker’s or Red Robin. His goal was somewhere in between, he said during a brief visit in San Antonio. So, Smashburger became what in the trade is known as a “fast-casual” restaurant where you order at the counter and have someone serve your food to your table.

That food could be a SmashBurger made with ground Angus chuck, a milk shake made with Häagen-Dazs ice cream, or a jumbo wedge salad topped with real blue cheese crumbles and bacon. It could also be crispy thin fries, which Ryan admitted were fried with a touch of beef tallow (a style that harkens back to the 1970s), and seasoned with a touch of rosemary. Veggie frites are flash-fried green beans, carrots and asparagus spears.

Smashburger2The menu seems like a good fit for San Antonio, Ryan said. The folks here love their burgers, and on an index of what’s offered, “the space we fill was still pretty vacant,” he said.

Customers are finding the sauces served at SmashBurger to be another draw, whether they want to dip their fries into the chipotle mayo or the zesty petal sauce. Mixing and matching ingredients is something customers enjoy doing, Ryan says. “I think customers like to own a part of what they’re eating,” he said. “Here, you don’t have to go out of your way to get it your way.”

Sounds like the slogan of another burger chain.

Ryan’s dreams for SmashBurger are anything but modest, yet he’s willing to do what it takes as he strives for his goal: “We want to become everybody’s favorite burger.”


Chicago Style Hot Dog


Baja Smash Chicken

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