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Drink Up National Tequila Day with Your Choice of Cocktails

Drink Up National Tequila Day with Your Choice of Cocktails

Cucumber Mint Margarita

Cucumber Mint Margarita

July 24 is National Tequila Day. To help you celebrate this august occasion, we’re offering four recipes of tequila cocktails that range from the simple, single cocktail to a pitcher-sized party mix.

Some are from Texas. Others are just spiced as if they’re from here. And all are worth a sip or three.

Cucumber Mint Margarita

A lively dose of Tabasco Sauce gives this cool, refreshing margarita a little kick. Enjoy the ride.

1/2 cup chopped cucumber, peeled and seeded
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup key lime juice
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/3 cup tequila reposado
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
6 ice cubes
Salt to rim glasses
2 cucumber slices for garnish

Blend ingredients in a blender for 1 minute. Divide between two 6-ounce salt-rimmed glasses. Garnish each glass with a cucumber slice.

Makes 2 cocktails.

Raspberry Picante Paloma Pitchers

Guy on FireThis recipe comes from Guy Fieri’s latest cookbook, “Guy on Fire” (William Morrow, $29.99). As Fieri says, “Oh yeah! This is one they won’t forget. I can hear it now — “Yeah! The drink had raspberries and jalapeños, and it as so the bomb!”

12  fresh raspberries
4 thin slices jalapeño pepper
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) tequila, preferably 100 percent blue agave tequila blanco
1 1/2 cups fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 1/4 cups club soda or lemon-lime soda

Grapefruit Salt:
1/4 cup kosher salt
Grated zest of 1 grapefruit
Lime wedges, for garnish

In a glass pitcher, muddle the raspberries and jalapeño, then fill halfway with ice. Add the tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice and agave. Take a second pitcher (the same size) and pour one into the other repeatedly to mix the drink together. Top it off with club soda or lemon-lime soda.

To make the grapefruit salt, crush the salt and grapefruit zest together with a mortar and pestle, then spread on a plate. Run a lime wedge around the rim of each glass, then dip the glasses in the grapefruit salt. Fill with the cocktails.

Prep-ahead tip: Make the base recipe (minus the club soda) in big battches, up to a day ahead, and hold it in the fridge, so when the party is on, all you need to do is pour (rather than stand behind the bar making drinks all night). Just top off each glass with club soda while you’re serving so the drinks stay nice and effervescent.

Makes 6-8 servings.

From “Guy on Fire” by Guy Fieri with Ann Volkwein

Matt’s Old Fashioned

Tipsy TexanThis twist on a classic cocktail comes from David Alan’s “Tipsy Texan: Spirits and Cocktails from the Lone Star State” (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $19.99). It was inspired by a Texas classic, he writes: “For generations of Austinites, dining at Matt’s El Rancho has been a tradition that has often begun in utero. This tequila Old Fashioned variation is a tribute to that venerable temple of Tex-Mex.”

2 ounces añejo tequila
1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Dash of orange bitters

Using a swivel-handled vegetable peeler, remove a strip of lemon peel and a strip of orange peel from the respective fruits over an Old Fashioned glass, allowing the peels to fall into the glass and capturing as much essential oil as possible. Add the tequila, elderflower liqueur and both bitters. Fill the glass with ice, preferably in large chunks. Stir using a bar spoon to integrate and dilute.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From “The Tipsy Texan” by David Alan

Juan’s Tequila Sour

You’ll have to hunt through used bookstores probably to find a copy of the 1978 edition of “Fiesta,” the Junior League of Corpus Christi’s cookbook. It’s worth the hunt. Until you find a copy, here’s a taste of Juan’s Tequila Sour, as contributed by Mrs. John W. Creveling Jr. (Judy Hoepfner).

2 ounces tequila
2 ounces simple syrup
2 ounces fresh lime juice

Mix the tequila, syrup and lime juice. The proportions may be varied to suite individual tastes. Serve over cracked ice.

Makes 1 serving.

From “Fiesta” by the Junior League of Corpus Christi

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‘Food Network Star’ Heads to New York

‘Food Network Star’ Heads to New York

“Food Network Star” continued to luxuriate in the wretched excess of Las Vegas for one more week. Sunday night’s episode was all about going over the top, which is as far from the unadorned beauty of Italian food  that local contestant Luca Della Casa specializes in.

Luca Della Casa

Luca Della Casa

Would the executive chef of Silo and Nosh make the final cut?


It was in doubt from the beginning of the show, at least judging by the way in which the episode was edited. For the first half of the competition, the six remaining contestants had to visit a restaurant with an extravagant signature dish, such as a $1,000 ice cream sundae or a $777 burger. Most of the selections were featured prominently, though Della Casa’s trip to a handmade noodle shop, a natural fit for him, didn’t earn much air time.

Then Sarah Penrod and Emma Frisch were named team captions for a cook-off that would feature the chefs of their choosing. Della Casa was chosen last, which placed him on Penrod’s team. Each team had to create their own meal that was supposed to be as lavish as the one they had eaten.

From this viewer’s perspective, neither team accomplished that, with the nadir being an ugly variation on an ambrosia salad that might not even be served at a church potluck.

Penrod came closest to the target with a Wagyu steak and lobster creamed corn, though you can get a similar meal here in town: the Akaushi beef and lobster creamed corn, at Bohanan’s Prime Steaks and Seafood on East Houston Street.

Della Casa made an earthy dish of Muscovy Duck with a sauce inspired by one that his grandmother made. His nerves were on full display and he seemed to have a hard time of serving it. But he did well in sharing his story behind the sauce.

Though a few judges faulted the sauce, his team was declared safe, which meant, of course, that he’d be back another week.

That meant one member of Frisch’s team, which included fan favorite Lenny McNab and Loreal Gavin would be eliminated. In the end, Frisch was let go.

Meanwhile, the chefs move on to New York, where it appears that they’ll take part in a Rachael Ray show. Ray spends a lot of time in Austin each year during South by Southwest. Maybe Della Casa can inspire her to take a drive south the next time she’s in the area.

“Food Network Star” continues next Sunday at 8 p.m.


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Sunday Night Has Been Saved: La Fonda Alamo Heights Reopens

Sunday Night Has Been Saved: La Fonda Alamo Heights Reopens

The crowds have returned to La Fonda Alamo Heights.

The crowds have returned to La Fonda Alamo Heights.

If you’re one of the Alamo Heights residents who’s wondered what to do with your Sunday evenings since La Fonda Alamo Heights on North New Braunfels Avenue closed more than three months ago, then your empty nights are over.

Juan Romero is back at the bar at La Fonda Alamo Heights.

Juan Romero is back at the bar at La Fonda Alamo Heights.

A new La Fonda Alamo Heights has opened at 8633 Crownhill Blvd. in a space that once housed Raffles. It may not technically be within Alamo Heights city limits, but the crowd on Wednesday evening couldn’t have cared less.

Queso Flameado

Queso Flameado

They were more interested in seeing that everyone on staff, including bartender Juan Romero, was back and that the margaritas were as wonderful as ever. Yes, on both accounts.

Romero, who started at La Fonda when it was on Broadway, is still mixing up some of the brightest margaritas in the city. And he was beaming to be back for the new incarnation. He has been working at La Fonda, no matter the location, since March 9, 1973.  By the way, when you visit, wish Romero a happy birthday; as the regulars know, it’s always his birthday.

They were also interested in seeing everyone else who usually shows up at this version of La Fonda, not related to the one on Main or the one in Oakhills, and to try out the new menu, which has been slightly redone since the new owners, the Hasslocher family of Jim’s Restaurants and more, took over.

Margaritas, chips and salsa.

Margaritas, chips and salsa.

The always-welcome fresh tomato salsa may have a slightly greater kick, while the queso flameado and fish tacos both earned approval from those who tasted it. Other dishes include Enchilada Fiesta with three colorful enchiladas, chile rellenos, carne guisada, soups and salads, ceviche and favorite combination plates.

For those whose families have been frequenting La Fonda Alamo Heights for more than 50 years, it was a welcome return to the dining scene that will be repeated on Sundays and more in the future.

La Fonda Alamo Heights, 8633 Crownhill Blvd., is open daily for lunch and dinner. Call 210-824-4231 or click here for more information.

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Luca Della Casa Returns in a Big Way

Luca Della Casa Returns in a Big Way

Luca Della Casa survived “Star Salvation” and headed back to “Food Star Network” on Sunday night.

Luca Della Casa

Luca Della Casa

The executive chef of Silo and Nosh on Austin Highway returned to the main competition just as the show was relocating from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

“I’m not going to be an easy contestant to go against,” he promised.

Della Casa proved true to his word. He won his competition, tying for top spot with Lenny McNab. Of the chefs that remain, McNab and Della Casa have received the most votes in the show’s fan poll. (To cast your vote, click here.)

Chris Kyler was sent home this week.

The competition continues Sunday evening, July 20.

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Texas Barbecue Week Runs Through July 19

Texas Barbecue Week Runs Through July 19

Texas Monthly and Shiner Beers have teamed up to sponsor Texas Barbecue Week, which runs from now through July 19.

The weeklong celebration is a fundraiser for Foodways Texas, an organization that helps record and honor Texas’s food culture.

Barbecue from Killen's in Pearland.

Barbecue from Killen’s in Pearland.

Two local barbecue joints, the Granary ‘Cue and Brew at the Pearl and Two Bros. BBQ Market on West Ave., are taking part. So are plenty of great barbecue joints across the state, including Snow’s BBQ in Lexington, Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue in Tyler, Killen’s Barbecue in Pearland and La Barbecue in Austin. If you’re not familiar with these places, they are among the best barbecue that Bonnie Walker and I tasted while researching our upcoming book, “Barbecue Lover’s Texas,” which is due out in a few weeks.

For a full list of participants, click here.

Texas Monthly offers the following background: “Some cities have Restaurant Week. We have Barbecue Week. This July, TMBBQ will be hosting the second annual Texas Barbecue Week. During this week-long celebration of our culinary heritage, Texans everywhere can visit participating barbecue joints to enjoy a featured ‘Texas Barbecue Week plate.’ It’s a way to support the folks who are working hard to preserve the barbecue tradition—and to eat some of the state’s best smoked meat.

“Last year more than 50 BBQ joints took part in the first ever state-wide Texas Barbecue Week presented by TMBBQ and Shiner Beers. During this week-long celebration of our culinary heritage, Texans everywhere were invited to visit the participating joints featured in our June issue to enjoy an exclusive Texas Barbecue Week Plate. Over $10,000 was raised to benefit Foodways Texas, which preserves the diverse food traditions of Texas.”

So, go eat some ‘cue for a good cause. Your tummy will thank you for it.

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Feeding the Man at the Top: Jason Dady Cooks for the President

Feeding the Man at the Top: Jason Dady Cooks for the President

Organic carrots roast over a Caja China filled with a pig from South Texas Heritage Pork.

Organic carrots roast over a Caja China filled with a pig from South Texas Heritage Pork.

Chef Jason Dady of Umai Mi, Tre, Two Bros. BBQ Market and more SA restaurants got a rare chance to cook for the president of the United States Monday evening.

Jason Dady, his family and crew got to serve President Obama.

Jason Dady, his family and crew got to serve President Obama.

“Our catering company was humbled and honored to cook last night for the POTUS party at the Pemberton Castle owned by Robert Rodriguez,” he said in released statement. “It was such an amazing opportunity and I was so proud of our team for their hard work and dedication to making sure that the evening was a success.”

President Obama had been in Austin for meetings on the immigration issue and how it has affected Texas. After the meetings, the president and his staff were served Dady’s dinner. 

“We prepared South Texas Heritage Pork in La Caja China, pizzas from Tre Trattoria, Texas blue crab cakes, and an assortment of JBG (Johnson’s Backyard Garden) Organic vegetables,” Dady said. “We utilized only local, fresh and seasonal products to really showcase what South Texas has to offer: Charred Carrots with Miso, Mixed Melon and Mint Salad, Caponata and a Cherry Tomato-Texas Peach-Cucumber Salad. “

Needless to say, the chance to cook for the president was a thrill for the chef, who couldn’t say why he was chosen for the honor except to say that he has cooked for the Democratic National Committee before. “I’m simply thankful for the opportunity,”  he said. “It was a special night and I’m so thrilled that I got to share it with my wife, brother, mother and staff.”


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Ask a Foodie: What Do You Do with Bok Choy?

Ask a Foodie: What Do You Do with Bok Choy?

Q. Suggestions for what to do with bok choy? Do I eat the the stalk, leaf, or both?

— Valerie

Bok choy

Bok choy

A. Bok choy, occasionally spelled choi, is an Asian member of the cabbage family. According to, “Its white stalks resemble celery without the stringiness, while the dark green, crinkly leaves of the most common variety is similar to Romaine lettuce. The Chinese commonly refer to bok choy as pak choi or ‘white vegetable.’ Another common name is white cabbage.”

You can use it like cabbage in a stir-fry with water chestnuts, snow peas, carrots, celery and onions, not to mention your choice of meats or tofu. It would go well with pork, beef, chicken or shrimp. Add some basil and chile oil for a Thai-style dish that can be served over rice or with your choice of noodles added.

Even more simple would be to sauté it in your choice of butter, olive oil, coconut oil or bacon drippings. Treat it like brussels sprouts and toss in some bacon and a touch of orange zest for added flavor.

If you didn’t want to cook it, you could use it raw in a coleslaw. Bok choy is also good cut in half lengthwise, lightly oiled and seasoned and cooked, cut side down on the grill. And, you can juice it as well.

To get you started, here’s an easy recipe from “Joy of Cooking.” It calls for baby bok choy. If yours are a little larger, the cooking time will be longer.

Baby Bok Choy with Soy Ginger Sauce

4 baby bok choy
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon slivered peeled fresh ginger

Rinse the bok choy, then cut lengthwise in half.

Steam cut side down over boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a pair of tongs to a platter.

In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, vinegar, water and ginger. Spoon the sauce over the bok choy and serve. Allow 1 to 2 whole baby bok choy per person.

Makes 2 to 4 servings.

From “Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker


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Griffin to Go: Can’t Say No to the Price. Or the Flavor.

Griffin to Go: Can’t Say No to the Price. Or the Flavor.


A double order of the dark meat at Popeyes.

I don’t really care for standing in a long line to order food to go. Even waiting in the car behind a dozen or so cars isn’t my idea of fun.

popeyesBut there’s always an exception to every rule, and mine is Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.

I have long loved the fried chicken here, largely because the spicy version packs a mouthful of flavor in each bit. The skin is largely crisp, and the meat, when it’s hot, is moist and tender. Even when served cold, any leftovers are still a treat. What other fast-food place can you say the same for?

And where else at a drive-thru window can you get Cajun rice — or dirty rice, as most of us call it — as well as meaty green beans, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, coleslaw and, of course, those buttery biscuits that are simultaneously flaky at the center yet substantial overall.

Tuesday nights brings us Popeyes lovers out of the woodwork. That’s because they charge only 99 cents for two pieces of dark meat, a thigh and a drumstick, two pieces that pack the most flavor. Or you can get those same two pieces with a 22-ounce soda, a biscuit and a side dish for $3.99. (The regular price for two pieces of dark meat is $3.55, though that order usually comes with a biscuit.)

The word has gotten out about this special. The Popeyes near my house has great lines both inside and out on Tuesdays, and the staff in back seem to be getting that chicken ready as fast as they can. And nobody seems to be in a bad mood if they have to wait a few minutes for their meal, either. They’re just as happy to get a great bargain as well as Popeyes’ irresistible fried chicken.

I’ve had this special at several Popeyes in town, but I don’t know how many stores are participating. You may want to check on the one nearest you before you, too, join the line.

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Get a Taste of Germany on the North Side

Get a Taste of Germany on the North Side

The wurst platter at Bavarian Brauhaus

The wurst platter at Bavarian Brauhaus

Bavarian Brauhaus has opened at 300 W. Bitters Road at West Avenue.



The menu, of course, features a host of German dishes, including some we haven’t seen on area menus in some time. There are also a few Texas touches, blended in for good measure. The appetizer serving of Kroketten, for example, features fried mashed potatoes stuffed with bacon, chives, cheddar and jalapeños. It’s a winning combination, and the serving of four arrived with a sweet-spicy mayonnaise sauce for dipping.



On a recent visit, we also tried the wurst sampler platter, which featured two housemade sausages. We opted for the jalapeño sausage and the currywurst, both of which were stuffed solidly in their skins and filled with that subtle veal flavor with some lively spices. The plate arrived with a touch of sauerkraut and a soft roll with plenty of coarse salt and caraway seed on top.

For dinner, we tried the Rinderrouladen, which is thinly sliced beef filled with onions, bacon, Dijon mustard and a pickle before being rolled up and cooked in a beefy brown gravy. My mother makes this dish on special occasions, and her version will always be the best I’ll ever have. That said, Bavarian Brauhaus offered a welcome version that had a pleasantly tart flavor from the pickle.



The Wienerschnitzel is made with your choice of veal or pork. We tried the pork version and liked the way the meat had been pounded tender while the breading stayed attached to the meat. Maultaschen, a Swabian specialty, featured beef, onion and spinach in pockets of pasta that were pan fried to a tender, toothsome state.

The side dishes include the expected red cabbage, sauerkraut and spätzle as well as potatoes in a number of ways, including cold German potato salad, pan-fried potatoes and onions, mashed potatoes, croquettes of fried mashed potatoes and fries. But there’s also cauliflower in a light herb cream sauce and broccoli in hazelnut butter, both of which are worth investigating.

Bavarian brauhausAs the name of the restaurant implies, beer is a big part of the dining experience. We enjoy Busted Sandal’s El Robusto Porter and the Hofbrau Original, both on draft, as well as a bottle of Bitburger. And we didn’t put a dent in the fine array of German and Eastern European offerings. (The wine list could use a little help. There’s also a full bar.)

In all, it was a promising first visit that will have us wanting to return to try the soups, the salads and the desserts, not to mention the Schweinshaxe, a 20-ounce pork shank that looked great as it passed us by to another table.

For more information on Bavarian Brauhaus, click here. Hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 210-396-7170.

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‘Star Salvation’ Comes to an End

‘Star Salvation’ Comes to an End

Luca Della Casa, executive chef at Silo and Nosh, faced his last battle on Food Network’s “Star Salvation” Sunday in an attempt to earn his way back to the main competition of “Food Network Star.”

Luca Della Casa

Luca Della Casa

In the first part of the competition, Della Casa was joined by Chad Rosenthal and fan favorite Reuben Ruiz to taste and then describe an omelet that host Geoffrey Zakarian had made. Della Casa won the round, while Ruiz pulled out second place while Rosenthal was sent home.

The second part was a burger battle. Della Casa made a burger with a touch of tomato paste in the meat and toppings that included mushrooms, fontina cheese and avocado. He dubbed it a combination of flavors from his hometown of Italy and his current hometown of San Antonio. Ruiz, meanwhile, made a Miami burger reflecting his hometown in that it had everything from cumin mixed in the meat to fried plantains and a pineapple salsa.

Who won?


We don’t know. The finale ended with a cliffhanger and the promise that the winner would be in Las Vegas next week with the other finalists who are still part of “Food Network Star.” So, we’ll be back on Sunday to find out more.

To watch the two-part “Star Salvation” finale, click here.

In the meantime, you can still vote for Luca Della Casa by clicking here.

If you’d like to learn a bit of Italian from Della Casa while waiting for the results, click here. He’ll teach you how to say, Che figata! It means “That’s cool!” in English.


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