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It’s Easy to Eat Well When It’s for a Good Cause


The SA Chef Coalition included Il Sogno sommelier Gabe Howe (front left) and David Gilbert of Sustenio, while the back row features, from right, John Brand, Michael Sohocki, Steven McHugh, Jason Dady, Chad Carey, Andrew Weissman and Jesse Perez.

The founding members of the SA Chef Coalition want what every chef wants: They want people to have a good meal and come back for more.

Braised beef cheeks with garlic, tomatoes and kale.

But they want something more.

They want that meal to showcase the best produce and meats of the immediate region, and they want the food prepared in way that reflects the finest San Antonio has to offer.

To that end, the group of chefs got together for a family-style dinner under the loquat and oak trees that line the patio of Tre Trattoria on Broadway. Guests had to bring their own plates, silverware and wine glasses, while God provided perfect weather. The food, meanwhile, came from farms such as Oak Hills and My Father’s Farm.

The chefs lineup included John Brand of Las Canarias and Ostra, Chad Carey of the Monterrey, Jason Dady of Tre Trattoria and Bin 555 among other ventures, David Gilbert of Sustenio, Steven McHugh of Lüke, San Antonio native Jesse Perez, Michael Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn and Andrew Weissman of Il Sogno and the Sandbar.

The evening began with Rebecca Creek whiskey sours and a series of appetizers that ranged from an array of charcuterie, a little bit of everything from oxtail terrine to calf’s liver sausage, to a carrot purée and grilled spring onions.

Salt and pepper breadsticks.

Two salads, one featuring fresh greens while the other boasted several types of beets, preceded a main course of chicken, braised beef cheeks and numerous side dishes, such as creamy polenta, grits and a farro dish. Dessert features strawberries and whipped cream with a colorful Pop Rocks-influenced topping.

The chefs are planning future events that will include more San Antonio chefs, Dady said.

Each of the dinners will benefit a local charity, with the proceeds from the first dinner going to help the culinary programs at three area high schools, Perez said.

For details on more Chef Coalition events, follow SAChefCoalition on Twitter.

Until then, “get off your asses and get out and eat,” Dady said.

(Photographs by John Griffin and Bonnie Walker.)

Patrons enjoy the perfect weather and a family-style feast of local food.

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Ask a Foodie: Buy or Make Key Lime Pie?


Key Lime Pie

Q. My fiance wants a key lime pie. Should I buy him one or make it myself?

—HH

A. We can’t answer that for you, but we can certainly give you recommendations in both areas.

If you decide to buy, then look no further than the Sandbar at the Pearl Brewery, 200 E. Grayson St., where chef Chris Carlson serves up a key lime tart that is bright with flavor yet silky on the palate. It is second to none in the city’s restaurants. For more information, call (210) 222-2426.

If you want to make your own key lime pie, then you can follow a recipe my family has used for years. It comes from southern Florida, where people take their key lime pie seriously. To be more specific, it comes from the cookbook produced by the famous Miami restaurant, Joe’s Stone Crab. The owners of the restaurant refused to part with their recipe, but Richard Sax, who co-wrote the restaurant’s cookbook with owner Jo Ann Bass, could not envision the cookbook without it, so he came up with a version of the dessert, based on his attempts to copy the original as closely as possible.

A few suggestions when making the pie:

Whip the egg yolks on the highest speed your mixer will allow and keep whipping them for at least 5 minutes. And keep the mixer on high even while drizzling in the sweetened evaporated milk.

Take seriously the suggestion to get the pie as cold as possible by popping it into the freezer for at least 15 minutes before serving. The addition of ice crystals to the texture and the way it awakens the lime flavors make this even more irresistible.

Of course, you can used a store-bought graham cracker crust. Just don’t skimp on the fresh squeezed lime juice in favor of something from the store. There is a huge difference.

By the way, key lime pie is not green; it is yellow. It only has flecks of green from the lime zest. Some people add food color to make it green, which we don’t recommend except on St. Patrick’s Day.

Key Lime Pie

Graham cracker crust:
1 wax paper-wrapped package graham crackers (1/3 of a 1-pound box) or 1 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

Filling:
3 egg yolks
Grated zest of 2 limes (about 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk, such as Eagle Brand
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (use key limes if you can)

Topping:
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

You can use a store-bought crust or make your own.

For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch pie pan. Break up the graham crackers; place in a food processor and process to crumbs. (If you don’t have a food processor,, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin.) Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pie pan forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on.

For the filling: Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

For the topping: Whip the cream and the powdered sugar until nearly stiff. Cut the pie in wedges and serve very cold, topping each wedge with whipped cream.

Makes 1 pie.

From “Eat at Joe’s: The Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant Cookbook” by Jo Ann Bass and Richard Sax

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Andrew Weissman Wins Mentor Award


Andrew Weissman

Andrew Weissman of Il Sogno and the Sandbar, both at the Pearl Brewery, 200 E. Grayson St., won the Mentor Award this week from StarChefs.com during the website’s first Austin-San Antonio Rising Stars awards party.

Weissman, who originally owned Le Rêve, was cited for shaping a new generation of local talent. Some of the people who have worked for Weissman include Doug Horn of Dough, Chris Carlson of the Sandbar, Byron Bergeron of Fig Tree Restaurant, and Michael Sohocki, whose Restaurant Gwendolyn is in the former Le Rêve location at 152 E. Pecan St.

Sohocki was honored by StarChefs for Sustainability Chef. Jason Dady was one of two Restaurateurs of the Year, with Austin’s Tyson Cole. Jeret Pea of the Esquire Tavern and Quealy Watson of the Monterey were also among the San Antonians honored.

It’s been a busy week for Weissman, who also cooked Wednesday for 65 guest chefs and members of the Culinary Institute of America’s board. The list included Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Per Se, Roy Yamaguchi of Roy’s, and Charlie Palmer, all of whom were filled with praise for the dinner at Il Sogno.

Weissman hadn’t met Yamaguchi before and really enjoyed talking with the chef, known for showcasing the seafood of the Hawaiian islands in spectacular ways.

For more information on Il Sogno, call (210) 223-3900.

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Bagel Boxes to Be Available at Sandbar on Saturdays


Bagels boxes will be available on Saturdays.

Had a hankering for traditional bagels, gravlax and cream cheese? The Sandbar at the Pearl Brewery, 200 E. Grayson St., Suite 117, will be offering these during the farmers market each Saturday.

Orders for bagel boxes will be taken during the week, chef Andrew Weissman said. Then people can pick them up during the farmers market, which runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. This Saturday marks the beginning of the venture.

In the beginning, Weissman promises two to four varieties of bagel, white fish salad and chopped liver salad in addition to the gravlax and cream cheeses.

The menu will be available at the restaurant and on Sandbar’s Facebook page, he says.

The Saturday pickup will be available for the first six weeks. If there’s enough interest, home delivery on Sunday morning will be phased in, Weissman says.

The chef, who also owns Il Sogno, has long wanted to start a deli. Here’s hoping this is a first step toward that.

To place an order, call Sandbar at 210-222-2426.

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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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Rumor Has It: Weissman Going Into Defunct Valentino’s?


Andrew Weissman and his wife, Maureen.

Andrew Weissman, who can be seen these days hard at work at either of his two restaurants at the Pearl Brewery, says yes, the rumors are flying that he’s going into the recently closed Valentino’s di Olmos.

“It’s amazing,” he says. “I don’t think the word got around this much for any of the other restaurants I’ve opened.” The James Beard Award-nominated chef and restaurateur’s most recent ventures, at the Pearl, are Sandbar and Il Sogno.

Right now, he says that while he is ready to go, he doesn’t yet have the go-ahead to open a new restaurant in space at 4331 McCullough Ave. in Olmos Park.  Legal issues are still pending and though he’s in close touch with the principles, the deal isn’t quite locked up. At least, that was as of Thursday.

As for what kind of a restaurant he may be envisioning, Weissman’s not ready to go on the record. We think we can safely say, though, that it will not be a high-end destination, such as his former contemporary French restaurant, Le Rêve. Think affordable.

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Sandbar Opens Tuesday


The Sandbar will open at the Pearl Brewery off Grayson Street on Tuesday.

Chef and owner Andrew Weissman will feature various oysters from the Atlantic and Pacific as well the roasted lobster bisque and clam chowder that were hallmarks of the restaurant when it was at 152 E. Pecan St. and St. Mary’s Street.

In addition, the new space will also offer some dishes formerly at Weissman’s Le Reve, including the onion tart and the house salad as well as cooked seafood dishes and one beef dish.

The new , at the back of the Full Goods Building, is larger than the old space, he said. Up to 75 can dine there.

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Daily Dish: Openings and Closings


A new French restaurant will open next week downtown; a North Side Italian restaurant with a long history has closed. Here are a more changes on the San Antonio food scene:

  • Green Fields Market will open Sept. 29 in the Shops at Stone Oak. The shopping center is at 19239 Stone Oak Parkway
  • The  Sandbar will move to the Pearl Brewery during the third week of October.
  • La Scala, 2177 N.W. Military Hwy., has closed.
  • A second Gourmet Burger Grill will open soon. It will be at 11224 Huebner Road.
  • Martha’s Mexican Cuisine will open another restaurant at 13259 Blanco Road, the home of a number of restaurants over the years including El Callejon, Matisse and Gaucho’s.
  • Le Midi, a French bistro from the people behind Soleil Bistro and Wine Bar, opens Wednesday at 301 E. Houston St.

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