Tag Archive | "Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard"

Tasty Events: Wine, Chocolate, KLRN’s TV Celebrity Chef

Passport to Greece at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard’s Passport Adventure Series is a bimonthly dinner series that focuses on areas of the world that produce olive oil and table olives.

Each dinner features an authentic menu featuring olives and oil from the country being highlighted as well as pairing the cuisine with wine from that region.

The next dinner is a culinary trip to Greece, and happens on Feb. 13. The reception is at 6:30 and dinner is at 7.  Greek wines will be paired with each course.

The price is $75 per persoon, with an 18 percent tip. You can call Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, which is on 25195 Mathis road in Elmendorf, a 25-minute drive from downtown San Antonio. Or, check the website here to make reservations. The menu is below.

Sandy Oaks passport to Greece logo1st Course: Greek Olives
Greek cheese, homemade pita bread,
Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)

2nd Course:
  Greek Stuffed Tomato
Stuffed with orzo, herbs, citrus, and feta over warm greens

3rd Course: Moussaka
Made with ground beef, eggplant, tomatoes, with a Greek cheese bechamel and fresh garden greens

4th Course: Grilled Lamb Steak
With roasted red potatoes and roasted zucchini; Classic tzatziki sauce

5th Course: Ouzo Spiced Pear Tartlet
With a Chocolate honey sauce
Olive mint sorbet

Mary Ann Esposito chefMary Ann Esposito of “Ciao Italia” appears in San Antonio in March

Join KLRN and Luce Ristorante e Enoteca for a multi-course Italian dinner, wine and fun with Mary Ann Esposito, host of “Ciao Italia,” the longest-running cooking program in America. You’ll also receive an autographed cookbook.

Esposito will be the featured chef at KLRN’s Chef Series on March 22.  Since 1989, PBS Chef Mary Ann Esposito has entertained and enlightened while offering valuable cooking tips. She crafts classic creations that food fans can easily recreate at home.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Dinner starts at 7 p.m. The cost is $150 per person. Luce Ristorante e Enoteca is at 11255 Huebner Road.  For tickets, which are limited, click here.

 Little Gretel’s Denise Mazel named 2014 Businesswoman of the Year

The Boerne Chamber’s 2014 Businesswoman of the Year has been announced as Denise Mazel, chef and owner of Boerne’s Little Gretel restaurant. Mazel’s vision began more than 30 years ago when she spotted a little house for sale on River Road that became her first business in Boerne and the first commercial business established on River Road.

Denise Mazel and daughter Veronica Mazel-Brown

Chef Denise Mazel and daughter Veronica Mazel-Brown

When she first opened her shop, she offered knitting and needlepoint classes and sold yarn. Her long-time dream of owning a restaurant that would depict Boerne’s heritage came true six years ago when she opened Little Gretel.

She was recently nominated as a member of “Best Chefs America” and the only woman awarded that recognition in the San Antonio area.  In 2014, she was invited to compete in the Food Network television program “Beat Bobby Flay.”  She was also featured in an article titled Lone Star Kolaches published in Cook’s Country, a national publication, where her kolaches were praised as the best and most traditional.

During her travels back to her native Czech Republic, she was awarded the Honorary Certificate of Nobility for preparing and serving food to the heads of state. Mazel also is dedicated to linking youth to her profession by offering apprenticeships and sharing her knowledge and skills with Boerne ISD culinary arts students.

Little Gretel Restaurant is at 518 River Road in Boerne. It is open every day for breakfast and lunch, and open Wednesday through Saturday for dinner.   (830) 331-1368

Becker Vineyards Offers Wine, Music and Book Signing

From romantic wine and chocolate tastings to book signings and the annual Bluebonnets, Bluegrass and BBQ, Becker Vineyards in Stonewall provides lots of reasons to make them a destination. For more information on these and other happenings at Becker, please visit their website here.

Red_wine_closeup_in_glassFeb. 7, 8, 14, & 15 Annual Merlot & Chocolate Tasting (Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sundays, Noon – 6 p.m.)  Delysia Chocolatiers will have samples of ganache and bark as well as product for sale.  Al’s Gourmet Nuts will have gourmet nuts (spicy, savory, or sweet), too.  And Chef Ross Burtwell of The Cabernet Grill will have a cookbook signing (“Texas Hill Country Cuisine, Flavors from The Cabernet Grill”) on Feb. 7 only.

Feb. 21 Fredericksburg Wine Road 290 “Ragin’ Cajun & Texas Shrimp  Visitors will go at their own pace to the wineries on the wine road to sample a Cajun Shrimp concoction to pair with a wine.  Complimentary event; no reservations required.  Time:  11:30 a.m. until out.

March 14 & 15 Annual Bluebonnets, Bluegrass, & BBQ.  Dr. Becker’s brother Robert Becker and the Woodstreet Bloodhounds will play Bluegrass music.  No cover charge.  Chef Jayson Cox will be making BBQ to serve and sell to the public.  BBQ from 11:30 a.m. until out.  Music:  1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

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January Locavore Dinner Has Been Canceled

This event has been canceled. Look for announcements of future events at Sandy  Oaks Olive Orchard.


ELMENDORF — “Delicious” has a whole new connotation.

Farm-to-table, locavore, eating local, sustainable and organic farming – all of these terms have been used increasingly in the past decade or more, indicating that what tastes good should also be good for you.

WarmOlives1The commitment by farmers and other food producers to high-quality, sustainable growing practices for food that is robust in nutrition and flavor, has been at the heart of the locavore movement and adding a defining touch to fine dining.

This is not a simple effort, but a far-reaching philosophy that’s put down roots in every aspect of food production in farms throughout the United States as well as internationally. From site preparation to planting, fertilizing to harvest, and finally to the dining table, the locavore movement is thriving.

One important tenant to the locavore philosophy is to try to limit the transportation of food for hundreds or thousands of miles to its final destination. The positive result of this is that the numbers of small farms in America, once dwindling, are now on the rebound.

At Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, sustainable practices have yielded an agricultural product that many said couldn’t be raised in Texas.

Sandy Oaks at harvest time, 2014.

Sandy Oaks at harvest time, 2014.

Not only is the ranch raising olives – many varieties of them – the quality of the olives, olive products and oil, is exceptional by industry standards. Sandy Oaks is certainly one of the best examples of how attention to best practices in agriculture yields great benefits – even under challenging conditions.

Founded by pioneering olive grower Saundra Winokur in the late 1990s, Sandy Oaks is an ideal place for initiating a new series of dining and learning experiences showcasing products from fruits, vegetables, breads and cheeses to wine grown and produced within a 100-mile radius.

The Locavore Dinner Series, beginning Jan. 16, will be dedicated to the farmers
in this area who will showcase their products and tell their stories. The series of
six dinners will be held outdoors in good weather or in a spacious and
well-appointed indoor dining area in inclement weather.

“In addition to our producing of a food product – olives from our olive orchard — which is very important, we also have a chef’s garden that uses the same organic principles and practices with growing herbs and vegetables,” says Winokur.

“Olives are our major crop, of course, but we are also trying other fruits as well, such as figs and pomegranates. We test what works best in our sandy soil out here, as well as in our microclimate.

“We constantly try to expand on our food presence here and that will eventually include grass-fed beef from animals we are raising now,” Winokur says.

Saundra Winokur photo cropped horiz

Saundra Winokur, founder of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard.

“In addition to what we practice as farmers, we’ve also created an on-site restaurant that supports local growers. We have a strong belief in farmers markets and support them – we take our products to the Pearl Farmers Market in San Antonio each week.

“We pay tribute in many ways to farmers – and artisans – how hard they do the difficult work of farming here in South Texas. And, this is what the new Locavore Dinner Series 2015 is all about,” says Winokur.

The founder’s philosophy is shared by executive chef Chris Cook and the other enthusiastic staffers at Sandy Oaks.

Cook’s vision of the Sandy Oaks Locavore Dinner Series is to focus as much on education as on the food he and his staff prepare for the meals. Also, noting Winokur’s emphasis on promoting individual farmers, Cook says their goal is to have most, if not all, food served during the series be locally sourced (within a 100-mile radius).

Those who sit down to the table will be able to talk to some of the farmers or vintners who produced the food and wine that is on each menu after listening to them describe their work.

Food and Beverage Director, Chef Chris Cook

Executive Chef Chris Cook

The fact that the meal will be served at a long, communal table to a limited number of guests is fitting for a farm-to-table style dinner – and also, says Cook, “I’m hoping at the end of the meal everyone who’s attending knows everyone else’s name.”

“It’s important to me that people not only have a good meal, but have also come away knowing more about where their food comes from, how it is produced and why they should eat locally.

“At Sandy Oaks, we hold this philosophy near and dear to our hearts – and we try not to make compromises,” says Cook.


Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard Locavore Dinner Series 2015                               

This is the first in a series of six dinners. SavorSA will post the dinners before they are scheduled. 

January 16, 2015. 6 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. dinner. $80 plus gratuity.

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, 25195 Elmendorf, Texas. Please purchase tickets online or by calling 210-621-0044. See Sandy Oaks’ website at for more information and directions to the ranch, which is about 25 minutes’ drive from downtown San Antonio.


Pontotoc Vineyards,

My Father’s Farm,

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard,


Tour of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard with olive oil tasting

Selection of Texas cheeses, pickled seasonal vegetables

Pontotoc Estate Tempranillo


Peeler Farms Chicken Cassoulet, My Father’s Farm beet and spinach

Pontotoc Smoothing Iron


Sandy Oaks Olive Oil-poached Gulf Shrimp, pomegranate and sweet potato

Pontotoc Valley Spring


My Father’s Farm Smoked Turnip and Cilantro Bisque, crispy kale and pickled radish

Pontotoc Spy Rock


Sandy Oaks Olive Oil Cake, pear and vanilla brulée, dried grapefruit

Pontotoc San Fernando Academy

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Frogmore Stew: A Seafood ‘Caldo’ to Warm Your Heart

ELMENDORF — On a cool morning in November, with a light haze of rain in the air, Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard set the stage for its first-ever Celebrate the Harvest, Share the Bounty.

It was not the best weather one might have asked for such a festive event. Nevertheless, many braved the elements, headed down to the olive ranch and enjoyed its first — of which should be many to come — harvest celebration.

Sandy Oaks Frogmore Stew croppedPeople crowded into the olive oil seminars, went on tours, sampled a lunch buffet at the Kitchen at Sandy Oaks and tasted the high-quality olio nuovo  produced at the ranch this season. Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard is one of the pioneering olive-growing ranches in the state.

Chimeneas burned brightly against the misty green backdrop of the orchard and olive tree nursery and beckoned to passersby, tempting them to warm their hands at the fire.

But, another warming event at the celebration also lured a steady stream of customers — the Frogmore Stew station.

Here, under a canopy, Sandy Oaks cook Maria Mendoza chopped red potatoes, sliced corn into short cobs and added shrimp to a steaming, large pot of savory seafood broth. The stew was fragrant, perfectly seasoned and a new experience to most, thanks to a recipe from Sandy Oaks’ Chef Chris Cook. Mendoza prepared several potfuls of Frogmore Stew that day.

Frogmore Stew’s origins, according to John Mariani’s “Dictionary of American Food and Drink” is Southern — and it’s “sometimes called Buford stew, possibly after Buford, Georgia.” He says the Southern dish (in some references it’s said to be Low Country) that’s similar to a New England clambake or Maryland crab boil.

There are no frogs in Frogmore Stew. But, there were plenty of pink, steamy shrimp to flavor the stew, which also contains sausage, potato and onion — and, according to the “Dictionary,” it can be served with red beans and rice.

Coming Up: Visit Sandy Oaks’ website here. There’s a Champagne Tasting this Saturday, Dec. 6; an 11 a.m. tour every Saturday and a Garden Brunch in the Kitchen at Sandy Oaks every Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Sandy Oaks Chimanea croppedFrogmore Stew

1 yellow onion
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
2 large ribs celery
2 large cloves garlic
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped, along with some of the leaves
4 tomatoes, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 bunch fresh thyme (bundle, tied with string)
1 6-inch long sprig fresh rosemary
1/2 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
6 black peppercorns, roughly chopped
4 quarts chicken stock
4 quarts seafood stock (or, use more chicken broth but add a couple of bottles of clam juice, if desired)
Sea salt, to taste
2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
6-8 cobs corn, cut into 2-inch pieces cobbettes.
2 pounds gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 pounds andouille sausage, sliced
1 pound chorizo sausage, sliced

Sweat onions, carrots, celery, garlic, fennel, tomatoes until softened. Deglaze with white wine and reduce (let most of the wine cook off.)  Add stocks, bay leaves, herbs, Old Bay Seasoning and simmer for 30 minutes. Season stock with sea salt. Add the potatoes and sausage and cook until the potatoes are almost tender. Put in shrimp and let cook a few minutes until pink and firm, before serving.  Take out the bay leaf, sprig of rosemary and bunch of thyme stems before serving. Taste for salt and, if you like, add more Old Bay Seasoning.

Serves a crowd.

From Chris Cook, executive chef at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard


Sandy Oaks 2014 Olio Nuovo cropped   Photographs by Bonnie Walker

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Olive Fest! Celebrate the Harvest, Share the Bounty

In August and September, Texas olive growers are full of expectation as they harvest their crops.

In October and November, it’s time to relax and share some of the treasures the harvest brought.

This year, the harvest at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, just south of San Antonio, has been nothing less than amazing — the ranch’s best year ever, according to founder and proprietor Saundra Winokur.

Sandy Oaks 2014 Harvest Olives on TarpSo, the team at Sandy Oaks is putting together a day-long, walkaround event that will allow guests to eat, taste, have a glass of wine and educate themselves while enjoying the bounty of local Texas olives.

Celebrate the Harvest, Share the Bounty will be Nov. 15 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

At that time, the public has its first chance to taste Sandy Oaks  oil, or the olio nuovo, that has been milled and is now being stored and allowed to settle for a time. (Read about not just the quantity of oil from this year’s harvest but also its remarkable qualitative aspects by clicking here.)

Celebrate the Harvest, Share the Bounty will include a special menu using local ingredients — many of which will come from the orchard’s garden — and locally crafted beer and wine in Sandy Oaks’ brand new wine tasting room.

How can you say no to cage-free smoked whole chicken with truffle risotto and preserved lemon and wines from local vineyards?

There will also be opportunities to take a step back from the food and drink and really educate yourself on the olive growing and harvesting process. Education stations will be set up with actives centering around planting and cultivation techniques, tutorials and cooking demonstrations.

Live jazz provided by the Sandy Oaks Jazztet will be floating along the air as you wander around the nursery and find a tree to take home and plant —  and all the information you need to pick a delicious variety that will grow well.

Jazz on Sandy Oaks patio part of the serene, country atmosphere.

Jazz on Sandy Oaks patio part of the serene, country atmosphere.

Activities and games for the kids are planned, making this an extremely family-friendly event in the cool fall weather on the beautiful, well-tended grounds of this working ranch.

This year’s harvest has produced what the experts are saying will be the most flavorful and complex olive oil ever produced at Sandy Oaks — the public will be able to appreciate not only the culinary value of Texas olive oil, but also stock up on products such as olive jelly, olive butter, olive leaf tea, olivewood dishes and servingware and a full line of skin care, soaps and beauty products made from the olives and oil at the ranch.

PRICE: $30 per adult;  $15 for children 12 and under

WHERE: Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, 25195 Mathis Road, Elmendorf, Texas 78112

Find out more by clicking here.


Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard is located on 40 acres in Elmendorf, TX just 20 minutes south of San Antonio. Sandy Oaks is best known for its olive trees, olive oil, and olive leaf based skin and beauty products.  With over 40 acres of olive trees and a nursery that can contain up to 10,000 or more olive seedlings at any given time, Sandy Oaks offers exceptional hospitality and educational services based around the various uses of olive oil.



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Grow A Mediterranean Garden; Seminar at Sandy Oaks

It’s prime time in Texas to prepare to start a fall garden, but common pests and climate-related problems may have you hanging up your gardening gloves for the season.

Don’t fret! Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard and horticulturist Robbi Will come to the rescue with information on how to deal with these challenges and much more, this Saturday, beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Sandy Oaks Garden SeminarWill is going to lead a discussion on growing a Texas-style Mediterranean garden and will provide tips and tricks on how to successfully grow and harvest fall herbs and vegetables from your own space.

Also at the demo, Sandy Oaks’ Executive Chef Chris Cook will present a cooking demo with fall herbs and vegetables discussed in the seminar, fresh-picked from the Sandy Oaks garden.

If you’re still unsure if you’re ready to absorb all of this information and venture out on your own, don’t worry; herbs will also be available for purchase in the Sandy Oaks shop. You’ll want to pick some up so you can , so you can practice Chef Cook’s lessons at home right away.

There is no charge for the demonstration or the samples. Please call ahead to register for the event at 210.621.0044. Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard is at  25195 Mathis Road, about a 20 minute drive from downtown San Antonio.  Visit the website by clicking here.

About Robbi Will

Robbi Will grew up in central Texas and has been playing in the dirt, smelling the flowers, and exploring the outdoors as long as she can remember. Loving plants, she earned a degree in Horticulture from Texas A&M University. She currently works as a sales representative for the Antique Rose Emporium. In the past, she has managed the award-winning retail store for the same company in San Antonio, Texas. Robbi has been in the Green Industry for over 30 years, working with native plant production, buying for a plant brokerage, overseeing landscape construction, and lecturing on a wide variety of plant related topics. Occasionally she eats roses for breakfast.

About Sandy Oaks

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard is located on 40 acres in Elmendorf, TX just 20 minutes south of San Antonio. Sandy Oaks is best known for its olive trees, olive oil, and olive leaf based skin and beauty products.  With over 1,000 olive trees and a nursery that can contain up to 10,000 or more olive seedlings at any given time, Sandy Oaks offers exceptional hospitality and educational services based around the various uses of olive oil.



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A Taste of Something Different: Owner’s Dinner at Sandy Oaks

Sandy Oaks 3Saundra Winokur, owner of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard and Ed and Susan Auler, owners of Texas renowned Fall Creek Vineyards, offer you a unique farm-to-table experience on Friday, Sept.19, at 7 p.m.

Join Winokur and the Aulers as they present a unique dining event featuring local and seasonal bounty prepared by Sandy Oaks Executive Chef Chris Cook, paired with Fall Creek wines — and all showcased in Winokur’s home that overlooks the fields and sprawling live oaks dotting this working ranch.

The cost is $90 per person plus tax and gratuity. Reservations are strongly suggested, as this is a limited-seating event. To reserve your place, call 210-621-0044. Read more about Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard here.


Gulf Snapper and Blue Crab Bouillabaisse
Fall Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, 2013
South Texas Black Heritage Pork – Floresville, TX
Apples and Mustard
Fall Creek Vineyards Chenin Blanc, 2013
Home Sweet Farm Lamb – Brenham, TX
Tapenade and Tomato
Fall Creek Vineyards GSM, 2012
Broken Arrow Ranch Antelope – Ingram, TX
Quail Egg and Foie Gras
Fall Creek Vineyard Meritus, 2010
Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard Honey – Elmendorf, TX
Panna Cotta and Pecans
Twin Springs Moscato

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Head to Turkey for Dinner by Way of Sandy Oaks

turkey sandy oaksELMENDORF — Turkey once ruled a large part of the world as the Ottoman Empire encompassed many of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. The country’s flavorful cuisine influenced much of the conquered world and so what was once unique to Turkey has become the cuisine we now associate with the countries Turkey once occupied.

You can sample the exciting dishes of this Middle Eastern country on Friday, Aug. 8, as Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, 25195 Mathis Road, Elmendorf, continues its Passport dinner series with a culinary trip to Turkey.

Turkish olive oil is celebrated for its wonderful flavor. Historically, Turkey produced delicious wines, but in recent times, winemaking has been limited to only a small region of the country. Though small in production, Turkish wines are as flavorful as the food.

Chef Chris Cook has prepared a menu that combines the ingredients typical of Turkey with his own creative take on the food of the region. He has paired several Turkish wines with the fare.

The evening begins at 7 p.m. with traditional cheeses, olives, olive oil and accompaniments, followed by Grilled Swordfish with Lemon Olive Hummus and Texas Peaches paired with Likya Chardonnay 2012. The Tempura Zucchini Blossom with Spiced Shrimp will be paired with Cacik Likya Sauvignon Blanc 2012 while Lahmacun “Pizza” with Veal, Caramelized Onion, Garden Tomato, Quail Egg is served with Likya Malbec 2011. Manti with Lamb, Olive, Parsley, Truffle “Ravioli” and Almond Broth will be served alongside Likya Malbec 2011. The meal closes with Sutlac, Rice Pudding with Allspice and Preserved Lemon and the Likya Rose 2012.

The price for the meal is $65 a person, tax and tip not included. To make reservations, call (210) 621-0044.

Also new to Sandy Oaks is Sunday brunch complete with live jazz music and an all-you-can-eat buffet and complimentary mimosas. It is available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The price is $25 for adults and $10 for children under 12.

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Wine Dinners: Bliss Sparkles, Sandy Oaks Does White Wines

Mark Bliss

Mark Bliss

Chef Mark Bliss will present an elegant five-course dinner paired with champagne and sparkling wine from around the world on Wednesday, July 30 at Bliss, 926 S. Presa St.

Wine experts will join guests on a culinary-inspired exploration of the versatility and luxury these special wines impart. Some of the wine selections will be available for purchase as well. The cost is $165 per person, all-inclusive. For reservations, please call 210-225-2547.  To see the menu, check this link.


An evening of sipping and dining at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard

One of the best ways to endure a hot, humid, Texas summer evening is to sip a cool, refreshing glass of white wine. Better yet, pair that glass of crisp, white wine with delicious food and you have ingredients for a memorable evening.

Sandy Oaks Chef Chris Cook has put together a meal pairing each course with a selection of white wines from some of the best Texas has to offer, including Pedernales, William Chris and Hye Meadow Wineries.

The event is Friday, July 25. There is a 7 p.m. reception and 7:30 p.m. dinner. Cost is $50 per person plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, call 210-621-0044. For more information on Sandy Oaks, visit them at the link here.

Sandy Oaks Olive Oil Ice creamMenu:

Reception:  Lump Crab Croquette with Grilled Strawberry Sauce and Sandy Oaks Fig Vinegar Reduction/ Pedernales Rosé 2011.  Second:  Fresh House-pulled Mozzarella and Compressed Cantaloupe, Fresh Honey and Garden Basil/William Chris, Mary Ruth 2012;  Third: Local Chicken Ballotine with House-made Pancetta and Garden Doughnut Peaches/Hye Meadow, Viognier 2012. Fourth: Crispy Skin Redfish with Apple Mint Orzo, Radish and Herbs/Pedernales, Cinco 2013; Fifth: Smoked Almond Country Bread Pudding with House Olive Oil Ice Cream and Vanilla Blackberries/Hye Meadow Trebbiano 2013.


Sampling the wines of Spain, at Crumpets

Crumpets, at 3920 Harry Wurzbach Road, will be celebrating some of the excellent wines of Spain at this wine dinner on Aug. 8,  beginning at 7 p.m.  The cost is $70 per person, not including tax and gratuity. Call for reservations at 210-821-5600.

On the menu:   Gazpacho, served with Ostatu Rosada; Paella de Rioja/Ostatu Blanco; Jamon Serrano/Ugarte Cosecha; Pierna de Cordero Asado (roast leg of lamb)/Tres Ojos OV Garnacha; Helado de Avellana (ice cream)/El Maestro Sierra Pedro Ximenez



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Chef Chris Cook Giving ‘Ranch’ Cuisine New Look at Sandy Oaks

Elmendorf, TX – Ranch cuisine has never looked this good!

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard has named San Antonio chef Chris Cook to a position as food and beverage director and executive chef. Cook will be overseeing all of the food and wine endeavors on the ranch’s culinary program, as well as overseeing The Kitchen at Sandy Oaks. Cook is also working with the ranch ownership to implement exciting plans for new culinary events and business ventures.

sandFor Cook, this is a new experience, a short step or two away from his most recent position at the venerable Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio. Or from Brasserie Pavil, where he was executive sous chef.

At Sandy Oaks, where he began working earlier in the year part time, Cook moves from traditional fine dining settings to a rural setting – and one that offers good dining, but quite a bit more.

Saundra Winokur founded Sandy Oaks in 1998, one of the pioneers in Texas to take on the agricultural endeavor of growing olive trees for production. Since purchasing that expanse of rolling terrain covering more than 260 acres, with sandy, red soil and plenty of sunshine, her 40-acre orchard of roughly 10,000 trees has thrived.

“We have really strived for excellence in our management of our olive orchard and production of high-quality olive oil at Sandy Oaks. Our mission is education, of course, for those who want to grow their own trees. But, we have also built a beautiful, cultivated retreat for those who love food and wine, appreciate a fresh and healthful approach to food and who want to take some of that experience home with them,” Winokur says.

Sandy Oaks cheese plateCook, says Winokur, has already shown himself as someone who gets it when it comes to Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard and the many facets of its business. These include not just the pursuit of great products and prepared food, but an overall dedication to quality that starts with the ranch crop and has permeated the entire environment making Sandy Oaks a place to visit – and spend time.

Cook wanted to be a part of it all, she said. He hit the ground running at the first event, where he was asked to step in to run the kitchen with just two days’ notice.

“It went very well, everything that had been put in place worked, the teamwork of the staff, the back of the house, kitchen,” said the chef. “I’ve experienced a lot coming up in the business, so what I had to do just came as second nature. And, you can accomplish anything if you’re organized.”

The chef has described himself as a “minimalist with a vision.” He likes to marry creativity with simplicity using seasonally fresh ingredients. Using textures, flavors and ingenuity coming from more than 20 years in the business, Cook likes to surprise patrons, bring inspiring combinations and balance to his dishes.

Since leaving Oro, at the Emily Morgan, the Johnson and Wales University-educated chef been involved in catering as part of the San Antonio Chef’s Cooperative — with some successes. But, as he noted, “Every chef wants a place they can put away their knives and not worry have to about them.”

Jazz on Sandy Oaks patio adds great musical ambiance to the a serene, country setting at Sandy Oaks.

Jazz on Sandy Oaks patio adds great musical ambiance to the a serene, country setting at Sandy Oaks.

Cook will be overseeing many aspects of ranch’s culinary endeavors, which include putting out a line of excellent skin care products made with olive oil and pantry items, such as Olive Leaf Jelly, jarred olives and of course, Sandy Oaks’ high-quality olive oil.

Cook also will be directing his energy toward building the ranch’s attractions as a destination. One of his new tasks will be to help guide a new venture at Sandy Oaks: This summer, the ranch begins offering its grounds for weddings, rehearsal dinners and other special events. He has instituted a new summer menu and, with the help of new front-of-the-house staffer, Ramon Florez, will be honing the food and service at The Kitchen at Sandy Oaks.

In the meantime, the chef has presided over several successful special events, such as the ranch’s popular Passport Series of dinners, where guests are transported to other countries for tastes of its wines, cheeses, olives and food, and learn some of the culinary traditions and history.

Summer Salad

Summer Salad

In taking Sandy Oaks’ culinary program to a new level, Cook thinks of the term “rural” as one would a renowned winery with vineyard-based restaurant in Napa-Sonoma wine country, or a Texas Hill Country venture of the same caliber. In addition to its farming and ranching implications, “rural” also encompasses elegant country living as a temporary or long-term getaway for city folks looking for a respite from city hubbub.

In the last decade or two, however, the country scene, especially with respect to agriculture, has taken on a new, far more significant meaning. Farm-to-table movements, sustainability, buying locally, eating and cooking healthfully, have all been encompassed in Sandy Oaks philosophy.

Building business at Sandy Oaks, Cook says, simply means to bring people in who are drawn by the kinds of things Winokur, and the ranch stand for.

“She’s a woman farmer, she operates on sustainable and organic principles, her products are excellent and she is an educator. The ranch has a richness of the kind that many people seek by going to wineries and resorts in the Hill Country – and Sandy Oaks has this much and more to offer,” says Cook.

Photos by Christabel Cook

Sandy Oaks nursery, with healthy baby olive trees.

Sandy Oaks nursery, with healthy baby olive trees.

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Good Press, Causes for Local Women in Culinary Arts

Saundra Winokur, Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, featured in New York Times

Saundra WinokurAn article by David Wallis in the Your Money: Retiring section of the New York Times on June 20, featured Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, owner Saundra Winokur’s ranch south of San Antonio near Elmendorf.

A Texas pioneer in growing olive trees as an agricultural crop, Winokur’s ranch, which she founded in 1997, is shown as a success for those starting second (or third) careers at a time most people would be retiring.

Wallis writes, “Ms. Winokur, a native Texan who worked as an elementary-school teacher and earned a doctorate in developmental psychology, traveled extensively to research olive production. She noticed that renowned olive-producing regions — southern Spain, southern Italy and Egypt — “looked a lot like Texas.” In 1997, she bought 276 acres of sandy land, which she describes as “oceanfront property without the ocean.”

Wallis describes some of the bumps in the road to success, but the orchard now thrives, pressing its own olive oil in the fall, welcoming guests to lush olive orchard for tours, or to The Kitchen at Sandy Oaks restaurant for lunch — and much more for visitors which come from all over the country and beyond. Read Wallis’ article here.

Ferra Coffee LogoCoffee roaster and importer, Susan Jaime, takes spotlight in this month’s San Antonio Magazine

Read Julia Rosenfeld’s article in the most recent issue of San Antonio Magazine. Susan Jaime, whose business is Ferra Coffee, in Boerne. She does much more than roast beans and sell coffee — she goes directly to the growers in several countries to source the beans and pass along some of her expertise to growers, as well.

From San Antonio Magazine: It’s a lot to think about when drinking your first cup of the day, but the coffee we crave each morning is often traced back to impoverished farmers being paid less than one dollar per pound of beans. When Susan Jaime thought about it, she couldn’t stop. And a business and a movement was born.

Food lovers. curious cooks: Learn the science behind some of your favorite foods

This summer, Landa Library’s adult summer reading program will feature science-based talks will be held every week in June and July with a variety of speakers and activities. The next one is Monday, June 30, from 4-5:30 p.m. at the library, 233 Bushnell Avenue. There is “no fee” to attend. Gather in the “Meeting Room.” For more information, call 210.207.9090.

From Di-Anna Arias, vice president of sales and culinary vision for Don Strange of Texas, you’ll learn some fascinating facts about cooking as she shares her favorite recipes and her “secret” formulas. Along with sharing some of her favorite kitchen “experiments,” Arias will be delving into some of her favorite cookbooks, teaching the science involved and sharing her secret “formula” for cooking for a crowd.

The Barrios family restaurants honor Viola Barrios’ birth month in July

Violas Ventanas croppedIn July, the Barrios family restaurants will celebrate founder Viola Barrios’ birth month with a cake special at all three restaurant. Viola’s Heart Cake is a chocolate or vanilla cake with creamy flan and sells for $5.99 a slice or $49.99 for the whole cake. The sales go directly to Viola’s Huge Heart Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization that gives out full school scholarships to girls. For more information on the foundation, visit

The restaurants and addresses are: Los Barrios, 4223 Blanco Road; La Hacienda de los Barrios, 18747 Redland Road, and Viola’s Ventanas at 9660 Westover Hills Boulevard.


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