Tag Archive | "Tamales! At Pearl"

Tamales at Pearl Celebrates 5th Anniversary

The fifth annual Tamales! Holiday Festival returns to Pearl on Dec. 6, noon to 6 p.m.

Sponsored by Cadillac, C.H. Guenther, H-E-B, and Silver Eagle, the event offers guests an afternoon of savory tastes, great sounds, and sights of the holiday season.

Tamales at Pearl 2013 Tray“In its fifth year, the Tamales! Holiday Festival has evolved into a holiday celebration for the city of San Antonio and beyond,” said Pearl’s chief marketing officer Elizabeth Fauerso. “It’s so amazing to see people from all over Texas come together for a day full of entertainment, culture, and cuisine.”

Unlike in the past four years, this year’s festivities will not include the tamale-making competition.

“Due to a smaller footprint, and a lot of logistical complexity due to activity and construction on site and the opening of the hotel, we have put the contest on hold for this year,” said Shelley Grieshaber, culinary director of Pearl.

Guests will be able to explore a full range of tamales from more than 20 different tamales vendors, ranging from traditional San Antonio classics to South American and everything in between as culinary students, restaurants and chefs showcase a blend of innovative twists and classic techniques with tamales.

While savoring the treats on hand, guests will also be entertained by live music from the all-star Selena tribute band, Bidi Bidi Banda, and Grammy award-winning Max Baca & Los Texmaniacs at the Pearl amphitheater. For the little ones, there will be a crafts and activities area, presented by The Do Seum, where kids can create corn-husk dolls, participate in fun games and more.

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.

Pearl is located at 303 Pearl Parkway in San Antonio, Texas. For more information about Tamales! Holiday Festival at Pearl please visit here.

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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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Griffin to Go: A Saturday Filled with Savory Aromas, Flavors

Tellez Tamales serves a hot tamal at the Pearl Brewery.

What’s better than one food-filled event? A day with three, of course.

A paella gift basket at GauchoGourmet.

Such was the case Saturday.

It began in the late morning with a trip to GauchoGourmet, 935 Isom Road, where Bonnie Walker and I were signing copies of “Food Lovers’ Guide to San Antonio” (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95) while managing to get in a little Christmas shopping at the same time.

The gourmet warehouse is a fun place to find everything from stocking stuffers to full-scale gifts, and the Ciorciari family will gladly package your items for you. They offer an assortment of gift baskets, too, which you can stock with everything from Spanish fig jam or a bottle of Cuisine Perel Spicy Pecan Vinegar. If you want to let them do the picking for you, you can get any number of themed baskets, such as the paella assortment, which comes with everything from rice to chorizo arranged in a pan to cook it in.

Dirk Troop

GauchoGourmet brings together food lovers from all backgrounds and offers them the chance to talk about their favorite topic. Philippe Wilhelm from the Westin La Cantera brought in the resort’s new executive chef, Dirk Troop. The chef, who is from Puerto Rico and who spoke at the Culinary Institute of America’s Latin Flavors, American Kitchens conferences a few years ago, mentioned that he wanted to meet the area’s farmers, so it was his good fortune that Heather Hunter and David Lent of the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market happened to be there as well and took the opportunity to talk.

Leslie Garcia of the Rockhill Cooking Academy dropped by, as did food writer Ron Bechtol and a number of people who mentioned how much they enjoy the pleasures of cooking at home. Out front was the Primo Passo Pizzeria truck, which was dishing out plenty of pies, many of which feature ingredients from the store.

What tamales are your favorite?

From there, it was on to the Pearl Brewery, where the third annual Tamales! Holiday Festival had taken over a large portion of the property. The lot in back was filled with tamales from the likes of Tellez on South General McMullen, Los Reyes from Castroville Road and Tejas Barbacoa of Bandera Road in Helotes.

Out by the Lab Building, there were more tamales from Tamahli on Wurzbach Road and Paloma Blanca on Broadway. For those who could only eat so many tamales, there were also dishes such as a fiery posole from Jesse T. Perez’s upcoming Arcade Midtown Kitchen, which should be open after the first of the year in the Pearl, and sopes from Citrus’ Jeff Balfour. He heaped the corn cake with shrimp and an achiote coleslaw. The aroma of the corn cakes frying in a paella pan at the back of booth provided its own intoxicating element.

At the tequila tasting.

Those in search of liquid intoxicants could be found in a lengthy line that curved out of the Stables, where a tequila tasting was being offered. El Milagro, 1800 and Tanteo Jalapeño were all part of the lineup.

Thousands of people packed the area, filling the walkways under strands of brightly colored papeles picados and giving the whole event the feeling of being an autumn version of A Night in Old San Antonio.

Coffee from around the world.

La Villita, the regular home of NIOSA, was busy hosting its own event, the San Antonio Coffee Festival, which you could smell long before you arrived on the scene. A number of coffee roasters were on hand to grind, brew and pour all manner of coffee to the energetic crowd. Seminars on everything from iced coffee to civet cat coffee were on the menu, but the tastings were what caught people’s fancy.

Discussions of certain brew’s acidity levels, aromas and aftertastes were reminiscent of the talk at wine tastings and were delivered with the same vigor. And even though temperatures were in the 80s during the afternoon, hot cups of joe made with beans from countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Kenya and Costa Rica were consumed by most everyone present.

It was a great way to finish off a day filled with fine flavors.

Fine brews fill the San Antonio Coffee Festival.

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Tamales! Celebrated at Pearl; Weather (Mostly) Cooperates

Festival-goers enjoy the River Walk, music at the ampitheater at the Pearl's Tamale! Festival

Saturday dawned wet and gray, but that didn’t stop the crowds from showing up at the Pearl’s Tamales! fest Saturday. An expanse of canopies set up in the parking lot behind the Full Goods building protected the stalls, nonetheless. We arrived to find lines two-and-three persons abreast, waiting for the corn-wrapped (or in some cases banana leaf-wrapped) tamales.

“It didn’t rain on us, but water had collected in the canopy above us when we got here. It was going drip, drip, drip here,” said Diana Barrios–Treviño, restaurateur and owner, with her family, of Los Barrios’ two Mexican restaurants. That situation was easily remedied by draining water off the canopy, and the rest of the day went smoothly.

Tamales weren’t the only things on the menu. The CIA Bakery set up a booth to sell savory scones, cookies, baguettes and other breads. Food trucks from La Gloria and El Bucanero were serving up non-tamale items at this, the second annual event.

Tellez Tamales had one of the busiest lines at the festival.

Among the most popular tamales were those from Tamalhi, a San Antonio restaurant selling gourmet, hand-wrapped tamales, and offering tamales wrapped in banana leaves. Also Paloma Blanca, Tellez Tamales, Raquel’s, and Gardener’s Feast, from Austin, were busy.

The highlight of the festival for some was the tamale competition.

At about 2:30 p.m., a panel of judges sat down in one of the CIA conference rooms to taste the tamales that had made their way through rigorous screening. We were to judge the 5 finalists in each of three categories: pork, chicken and a “wild card” meaning just about anything goes. Each category winner would win $1,000.

As a couple of the judges admitted, they were a little leery of what items this category might contain, be it venison or more exotic meats. But, the entries turned out to feature interesting ingredients, such as apples and apple pie spice, black-eyed peas with ham and Thai curry. The Thai curry, in fact, had spicy heat that outstripped any of the other tamales sampled that afternoon.

Points were added or taken of on the neatness of the corn husk wrappers.

Contest organizer Shelley Grieshaber spelled out the guidelines for the judges. These included Ron Bechtol, food writer and critic for The San Antonio Current;  Rachel Benavides, managing editor for San Antonio Magazine, Jesse Perez, executive chef for Alamo Cafe; David Kellaway, chef and managing director of the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio, Courtney Bond, writer for Texas Monthly and myself.

Tamales first of all had to look good on the outside. In other words, no frayed edges or filling oozing out, no discolored husks, a nice uniform look. They had to have a good ratio of filling to masa, be rolled well and easily unrolled.

“Taste is the most important factor of all,” Grieshaber said. Any of the entries would stand or fall on taste, and we certainly found out exactly what that meant. One of the  entries flavor would have been sensational — but for the fact that it was far too salty.

No tamale-making businesses were able to enter the contest – this was for amateurs. But, these practiced tamale makers turned out some excellent tamales, with tender masa wrapped around well-spiced meat with good texture. One entrant turned in beautifully wrapped tamales in banana leaf packets. Another tied the ends of her tamales at both ends with strips of husk.

The “wild card” category winner was apple pie tamale by Courtney Stone, with raisins and caramel.  (An earlier story said this winner was a black-eyed-pea and ham tamale, but that was in error.)

In the chicken category, the winner was Mayra Gonzalez, whose tamales had a robust chile seasoning, a perfect meat-to-masa ratio. The third grand prize, for the pork tamales, went to Maria Reyes, whose tamales’ pork filling outshone the others in texture and taste.

A total of 168 contest entries were received. Prizes of $100 will also go to the non-winning finalists.

“We were really happy about the turnout — and everyone should be brushing up their skills for next year’s festival, too,” said Grieshaber.

Note: this article corrects an earlier error.

The final proof of a good tamale is in the eating.





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Tamales at the Pearl: A Seasonal Celebration, Family Fun

Tamale-judging at last year's Pearl competition.

Tamales are the stars of the show at the Tamales! festival at the Pearl.

Tamales at Pearl  – A Holiday Family Festival will be Saturday at the Pearl Brewery.  The event is, as its name suggests, very family friendly. It will run from noon until 7 p.m.

During the holidays tamales, which are an everyday San Antonio treat, really come into their own. This celebration at the Pearl is fast on its way to becoming a tradition as well.

The event is free, and, just as last year, thousands of tamales will be brought to the market for sale — and thousands will disappear. Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria Ice House says last year’s favorites were the Oaxacan and Vera Cruz styles.

In addition to these corn-husk-wrapped Mexican delicacies (and sometimes banana-leaf-wrapped) the festival will feature booths from San Antonio restaurants, a tamal-making contest, music, dancing and family activities.

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Tamales! At Pearl: Contest Winners Announced

This chicken tamal was one of the finalists in the tamal-making contest at the Pearl on Saturday.

This chicken tamal was one of the finalists in the tamal-making contest at the Pearl on Saturday.

The field was crowded for this, the inaugural tamal-making contest at Tamales! At Pearl on Saturday.

Some 210 hopeful tamal makers had turned in their tamales for an initial judging before this day, and finalists were selected.  By the time judges took their seats on Saturday, the field had been narrowed to the five best tamales in each of three categories: chicken, pork and a unique, or wild card tamal.

The judges had their work cut out for them, but it was very tasty work, to be sure. Judging on taste as well as skill in preparation were David Kellaway, chef and head of the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio; Greg Fernandez, executive chef at La Gloria; Natalie Tejeda; Arantxa Loizaga; and myself, of SavorSA.

Each top winner will receive a $1,000 prize. The remaining four finalists in each category received a $100 gift card to H-E-B.

“This is really a proud moment for all of these finalists,” said Shelley Grieshaber, culinary director of the Pearl and contest organizer.

All tamales were brought to judges warm and ready to taste. (Photos by Bonnie Walker)

The winners, at the end of the day, were:

  • Chicken Tamales:  Cynthia Dovalina was the winner for her tender, nicely wrapped chicken tamales seasoned with green tomatillos.
  • Pork Tamales:  Miranda Key, for well-spiced and flavorful, but not greasy, tamales.
  • Unique/Wild Card:  Cindi Adcock, for her Pineapple Rum Tamales with Almond Masa. These tiny dessert tamales were wrapped in husks and tied, and were not overly sweet but definitely a dessert recipe.
  • A People’s Choice award for best vendors’ tamales went to Tellez Tamales and Barbacoa, 1737 South General McMullen Drive.

Crowds gathered to hear Mariachis Las Alteñas at the Pearl Saturday.

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