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The Cocineros Strike Back! ‘Star Wars’ Dinner in the Works

The Cocineros Strike Back! ‘Star Wars’ Dinner in the Works

Are you ready for the latest “Star Wars” movie? The Cocineros are, and they’re cooking up something special to celebrate.

Tatu Herrera is one of the chefs in the Cocineros.

Tatu Herrera is one of the chefs in the Cocineros.

The local chefs group is having a “Star Wars”-themed dinner on Oct. 24 at Amaya’s Tacos, 1502 E. Commerce St.

If the last dinner the Cocineros had was any indication, then this should be a don’t-miss meal.

The menu begins with an amuse in honor of Yoda. It includes snow pea sorbet with smoked salt.

It’s followed by a first course of Luke and Han Solo, which features offal sausage with vegetable lattice on soubise.

The second course is your choice of the following:

*Darth Vader — beef shank with Scarlett Runner Beans, a poached egg and herb pistou.
*Princess Leia and Jabba the Hut — beef tongue with pumpkin confit, honey-cured egg yolk and winter citrus Lardo.
*Boba Fett and Sarlacc — vegetable pasta with charred octopus and a chorizo polonaise.

cocinerosThe third course is a dessert called Death Star!!!!

Service will be from 5 to 10 p.m. The price is $50 for three courses. You can also bring your bottle, though beer and wine will be available.

You can reserve your seat by pre-paying for your ticket online. Click here for more.

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Taste Elevated Gets Some Loving from Food & Wine

Taste Elevated Gets Some Loving from Food & Wine

Taste Elevated, the Castroville-based gourmet food producer, has had some good news lately. Its Sweet-n-Tangy Mustard Seeds have been featured in the October issue of Food & Wine magazine.

taste elevate mustard“Sure, our mustard seeds have been nominated for awards and are one of our best-selling creations,” the company said in a press release, “but that certainly didn’t diminish our surprise and excitement when we were told they were spotlighted as one of Food & Wine Magazine editor’s pick in the ’10 Objects of our Obsession’ on their October issue!”

Tina Ujaki wrote: “Taste Elevated Sweet-n-Tangy Mustard Seeds have been replacing the Dijon on my hot dogs. The little pearls have tons of flavor and a crunchy pop.”

It’s nice to see the world catch up with what the rest of us have known since we first had our taste buds elevated with these little mustard seeds.

In other Taste Elevated news, the company has released two new flavors, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto, which comes in a regular version and a vegan version.

For more on Taste Elevated, visit the store at 405 U.S. 90 W., Castroville, or click here.

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Butter and Veggies Add to the Texas Peanut Crunch Slaw

Butter and Veggies Add to the Texas Peanut Crunch Slaw

You’ve gotta love a slaw recipe that includes butter but no sugar, right? This salad, from the 1960s section of “60 Years of Home Cooking: Texas Co-op Power,” gets extra flavor from celery, green onions, green pepper and cucumber as well as those buttery peanuts and Parmesan cheese.

spicy cabbage slawPeanut Crunch Slaw

4 cups shredded slaw
1 cup finely cut celery
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Toss cabbage and celery together. Chill. Mix sour cream, mayonnaise, salt, onions, green pepper and cucumber; chill. In a small skillet, melt butter; add peanuts and heat until lightly browned. Immediately stir in cheese. Just before serving, toss chilled vegetables with dressing. Sprinkles peanuts on top.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From “60 Years of Home Cooking: Texas Co-op Power”

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Cauliflower Slaw Is a Refreshing Texas Treat Without Sugar

Cauliflower Slaw Is a Refreshing Texas Treat Without Sugar

Far too many slaw recipes call for excessive amounts of sugar in the dressing (all of it unnecessary in my book), so this easy recipe from the San Antonio Symphony League’s 1976 compilation, “San Antonio Cookbook II,” is welcome relief, especially when you want to keep your cool.

Cauliflower Slaw

Cauliflower3 cups cauliflower, coarsely shredded
1 cup radishes, coarsely shredded plus a few slivers for garnish
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed plus a pinch extra for garnish
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of white pepper
Lawry’s seasoned salt

Combine cauliflower and radishes and season with Lawry’s seasoned salt, to taste. Combine mayonnaise, milk, lemon juice, dill weed, salt and pepper. Pour over vegetable mixture, toss and chill. Garnish with slivers of radish and a pinch of dill weed sprinkled on top.

Makes 6 servings.

From Gay Eastwood/”San Antonio Cookbook II” from the San Antonio Symphony League

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Cool Off with a Farmers Market Pasta Salad

Cool Off with a Farmers Market Pasta Salad

The following recipe comes from the New Braunfels Farmers Market and is made with ingredients sold there on Saturdays.

Farmers Market Pasta Salad

Farmers Market Pasta Salad

“Shop on produce row for  these raw veggies and add to your preference,” they advise.

If you do try it out, then snap a picture and send it on to the market. They want to see how the various versions turn out. Just email

Best of all, this is a light and refreshing way to enjoy the fruits of the season.

Farmers Market Pasta Salad

1 pound Gourmet Texas Pasta fusilli or linguine.

Your choice:
Corn kernels (cut from the cob)
Diced zucchini or squash
Shredded carrots
Green onion tops.

Italian Vinaigrette:
1 part Texas Olive Ranch Orange-Infused White Balsamic Vinegar
1 part Texas Olive Ranch Roasted Garlic-Infused Olive Oil
1 teaspoon mustard
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Boil the pasta until al dente and rinse to cool.

Toss with your choice of raw vegetables, to taste.

Add Italian Vinaigrette and serve.

To make vinaigrette, mix vinegar, oil, mustard, salt and pepper in a jar or cruet. Shake until blended.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From the New Braunfels Farmers Market

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Griffin to Go: Scenes from Restaurant Week

Griffin to Go: Scenes from Restaurant Week

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week continues, so what better reason do you need to go out and eat?

Smoke's Shrimp & Swine

Smoke’s Shrimp & Swine

Nothing, in my book, which is why I headed out to several lunches and a dinner in the past week.

The trips started with a visit to Brian West’s Smoke: The Restaurant and a $10 lunch that was largely wonderful.

It began with a warm pork jowl and shrimp salad, also known as Shrimp & Swine, in which the meats were tossed with cabbage and bacon. One bite convinced us that it was a masterful blending of flavors and textures, and it left us with an appetite for the meaty pleasures to come.

The main course is a three-meat plate. I don’t know if the lineup changes, but we were pleased with our trio of turkey, pork and brisket. A delicate touch of smoke laced the juicy slab of turkey while letting the real flavor of the meat shine through. The brisket was tender, but the salty crust was even more impressive; the thick-cut serving also tasted good with the house chimichurri sauce, thanks to its bright garlicky base. Strands of moist pulled pork filled out the tray and provided a great vehicle to try the six pack of sauces that arrived at the table; I preferred the tangy tomatillo sauce, while you might prefer the sweeter honey mustard. Give them all a shot.

Bolo's Monte Cristo

Bolo’s Monte Cristo

Dessert was a welcome serving of banana pudding that featured firm yet flavorful slices of fruit floating in a creamy base with a vanilla wafer offering a crunchy contrast. I had a hankering for this homespun favorite before the first morsel of food arrived, thanks to a waiter who bore a tray of servings past our table shortly arrived I arrived.

The food in and unto itself made for a great lunch, especially at $10, and we were lucky to have an attentive server even though the restaurant was slammed with diners. Unfortunately, the background music was so loud that it was hard to hear my companions that day. They had asked for the music to be turned down before I arrived a little late, and while their wish was granted, that seemed to last for only a song. By turning the music back up, Smoke lost one of my friends who decided he had no need to return, no matter how good the food is. I’ll opt for the outdoors when the weather isn’t so hot.

Bolo's lemon sorbet with stone fruit

Bolo’s lemon sorbet with stone fruit

My second lunch visit was to Bolo’s Rotisserie Grill at the Omni Colonnade, a short trip from my day job.

The special menu, at $15 for lunch, began with a grilled Caesar made with smoky romaine that had been wilted and slightly charred on the grill. A light taste of oil from the roasted poblano dressing added to the fresh of the lettuce while pearl tomatoes, grown on the hotel’s rooftop garden, added a bright touch. A couple of anchovies would have been even more welcome, but I welcome anchovies with most any dish.

The main course was a Monte Cristo sandwich filled with generous slices of honey-roasted turkey and Hill Country ham as well as plenty of Swiss to help melt it all together. The French toast that surrounded the meats and cheese arrived sizzling to the touch and went from hot and crisp to a welcome warm soft state before the last bite disappeared.

Biga's snapper with pappardelle and bacon

Biga’s snapper with pappardelle and bacon

Dessert that day was a lemon sorbet instead of the advertised mango, and that was perfectly fine with me as it arrived over a medley of plums and peaches in a passion fruit and honey sauce (the honey was also harvested from that rooftop garden). It sent me back to work with a sweet smile.

By Saturday night, I was ready for more, and Biga on the Banks happily delivered.

My friend and I were able to split most of the Restaurant Week options even without quibbling over who would try what.

She wanted the advertised soup choice, a chilled bowl of potato cilantro soup, which was refreshing after a hot day even as it excited with a drizzle of chile oil on top. I opted for a special that evening, a warm soup with roasted mushrooms and cauliflower, which proved earthy and bold; one spoon convinced me it would be hard to top, no matter how good the rest of the meal proved to be.

Biga's mousse bar

Biga’s mousse bar

And it turned out to be quite good indeed.

A Kobe beef burger (with a slab of foie gras for a $15 supplement) was practically perfect, thanks to a juicy slab of meat matched by a bun loaded with the flavor of caramelized onion. The bread overwhelmed the foie, so we merely removed it and enjoyed it by itself. The burger and fries were bolsterd by a robust Simi Cabernet Sauvignon.

I’ve been trying somewhat to increase my seafood intake, so I ordered the seared snapper over pappardelle pasta. The fish was firm and fresh, complemented by the dill in the sauce, and truly satisfying. I just won’t tell my doctor about the bacon that also appeared in the sauce, sending the dish into a whole new realm of texture and flavor.

We finished off the evening with a chocolate-raspberry mousse bar topped with melted orange marshmallow, which was dense and rich, but somehow couldn’t eclipse the brilliance of lemon custard with blueberries and coconut ice cream.

Add in Biga’s always excellent service and inviting ambience, and you have the perfect illustration of why Restaurant Week is such a favorite of diners. I hope your adventures are proving to be as rewarding.

Biga's lemon custard with blueberries and coconut ice cream

Biga’s lemon custard with blueberries and coconut ice cream

Smoke: The Restaurant
700 E Sonterra Blvd.

Omni Colonnade – Bolo’s Rotisserie Grille
9821 Colonnade Blvd

Biga on the Banks
203 S. St. Mary’s St., Suite 100

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In Praise of ‘The Negroni’ and Variations on a Classic

In Praise of ‘The Negroni’ and Variations on a Classic

If I had to narrow the ever-expanding cocktail world down to a single mixed drink that would last me the rest of my imbibing days, I would have to go with a tried-and-true classic: the Negroni.

negroni bookI love the heady swirl of botanicals that comes from equal parts of gin, sweet vermouth and the bracingly bitter Campari, all stirred together with ice and served with an orange twist. (A lemon twist is a common substitute, but I find it lacks the brightness that a sliver of bruised orange or tangelo peel brings to the glass.)

So, imagine my joy at finding Gary Regan’s “The Negroni” at the library. For days, I poured over the cocktail’s colorful history as well as dozens of recipe variations, from classics such as the Boulevardier, which uses bourbon instead of gin and which inspired the name of a San Antonio group of mixologists, to newfangled types that sounded too tortured to be tried. Sure, if I were sitting in your bar, I might even let you make me a variation that contained pisco, Solera Sherry, rum, cachaca or whatever else you offered, as long as it didn’t sound too sweet. I say this because I have had Negroni variations made by bartenders who fail to understand that the bitterness is the appeal of the drink; without it, you end up with some wretched mess that’s fit only for a cosmopolitan lover. (It’s like putting simple syrup or agave syrup in a margarita: Don’t go there.)

Here’s Regan’s take on this classic, which was indeed named after an Italian count named Negroni:

I honestly don’t remember my first Negroni, but I know that the Milanese theory that one must drink Campari three times before starting to like it certainly never applied to me. Campari was a love-at-first-sip sort of thing for me. I’ve a passion for all things bitter — save for the odd ex-girlfriend.

The incredible aspect of the Negroni that not everyone understands—or agrees with—is that it works every time, no matter what brand of gin or sweet vermouth you use. And you can slap my wrist and call me Deborah if it doesn’t also work no matter what ratios you use.

Seriously, try it. Go up on the gin, the Campari, or the vermouth. These three ingredients are soul mates, and they support each other no matter how you try to fool them.

You can even mix a bottle of each together in a large glass container and let it set for a time, thereby creating your own aged cocktail. I haven’t tried that yet, but will likely do so as the holidays are approaching.

campariIn the meantime, here are three Negroni variations from Regan’s book, ranging from the simple Boulevardier to the more complex Knickroni, which is a perfect way to test the skills of any budding mixologist.


1 ounce bourbon
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce Campari
Garnish: 1 orange slice, lemon twist or cherry

Stir bourbon, vermouth and Campari long and well with ice in a mixing glass, the strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish as desired.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Harry McElhone/”The Negroni” by Gary Regan


Kevin Burke, head barman at Colt & Gray in Denver, says, “When we created the Bottecchia cocktail, we wanted it to be a Negroni variation, but in the spirit of Spinal Tap we wanted to turn it up to 11. Fernet-Branca replaced the gin, and Cynar was swapped in for the sweet vermouth. The salt tempers the bitterness of the amaro and adds a distinct savory element. We named the drink after Ottavio Bottecchia, a young professional cyclist who won the Tour de France in 1924 and wore the yellow jersey for the entire race (15 consecutive days). His life was cut short when he was found dead in 1927 of unknown causes. He was a known Socialist, and his politics put him in unpopular company.”

cynar1 ounce Fernet-Branca
1 ounce Cynar
1 ounce Campari
Small pinch of kosher salt
Garnish: 1 fat grapefruit twist

Stir all the ingredients in a mixing glass without ice until the salt is dissolved. Add ice and stir, then strain into a chilled coupe. Squeeze the grapefruit twist over the drink, then discard.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Kevin Burke, Colt & Gray/”The Negroni” by Gary Regan


Frederic Yarm, author of the Cocktail Virgin Slut blog, explains the history of this variation: “Ever since John Gertsen, who was at No. 9 Park in Boston at the time, told me about his intrigue with the Knickebein, Leo Engel’s nineteenth-century pousse-cafe with an unbroken egg yolk in the middle, I have taken to the drink as a good rite of passage. With the autumnal leaf change coming on, I was thinking about red and yellow drinks, and the vision of a strange merge of a Negroni and a Knickebein occurred. The idea of changing around Leo’s recipe was spawned a while ago from the fact that his version’s liqueur choices don’t hold up to the modern palate, but the Negroni seemed fitting for the fall color theme. I was quite pleased with the results.”

1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
1/2 ounce Campari
1 small or medium egg, separated, with the yolk unbroken
1/2 ounce gin
Garnish: 1 dash Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6

Stir the vermouth and Campari together in a 2-ounce sherry glass. Gently layer the unbroken egg yolk on top, then carefully layer the gin atop the yolk. Beat the egg white until stiff with a whisk, then cover the gin layer with the egg white. Garnish with the bitters.

Warning: Dishes containing raw eggs should not be served to those vulnerable people at greater risk from food poisoning such as small children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems. Pregnant women and small children shouldn’t be consuming alcohol here, but that’s another story.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Frederic Yarm, Cocktail Virgin Slut blog/”The Negroni” by Gary Regan


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This Refreshing Black Bean and Corn Salad Is a Breeze to Make

This Refreshing Black Bean and Corn Salad Is a Breeze to Make

“The San Antonio Herb Society Cookbook, Vol. II,” released back in 2003, is a go-to treasure for simple yet flavorful recipes that will add to your dinner table.

Black BeansThis Black Bean and Corn Salad is said to serve six, but that’s as a side dish. You could easily make it a vegan main dish lunch for two or three. In the dog days of summer, you could also make it ahead and serve it cold. Add a little crusty bread, some seasoned olive oil for dipping and a few slices of avocado, and you’re all set.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

3 ears fresh corn
1 1/2 cups canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup red or sweet onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil

Cook corn in boiling water until crisp-tender, 5 minutes. Drain and cool. Cut kernels off the cob. Combine corn, beans, onion, bell pepper, parsley and cilantro, if using, in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk vinegar and lemon juice together. Gradually whisk in oil. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Can be made a day in advance.

Makes 6 servings.

From Diane Lewis/”The San Antonio Herb Society Cookbook, Vol. II”

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Life’s Handing You Lemons

Life’s Handing You Lemons

Thursday is National Lemonade Day, as good a time as any to sip and savor the summertime favorite.

LemonadeA good lemonade takes time and a little effort to make, so don’t guzzle it the way Harrison Ford did in “Witness.” Just relax and enjoy the sweet-tart treat using any of the recipes below.

The first, for Texas Strawberry Lemonade, comes from the Omni hotels, including La Mansion Del Rio, 112 College St. Chef Benjamin Knack and his culinary team are celebrating the day by providing an array of treats to pair with their lemonade, including lemon sandies, lemon bars and even Lemonheads.

 Texas Strawberry Lemonade

 1.5 ounces Belvedere vodka (optional)
.75 ounce strawberry puree
4 ounces Sun Orchard Lemonade
Garnish: half strawberry + mint sprig
Italian soda

Fill a 14-ounce glass with ice. Add the vodka, if using, strawberry puree and Sun Orchard Lemonade. Pour contents into a shaker and roll contents. Pour back into glass, top off with Italian soda and garnish with a half strawberry and mint sprig.

Makes 1 drink.

From Kim Haasarud/Omni

Bon Appetit’s Best Lemonade

½ cup sugar
3 lemons, zest removed in wide strips

¾ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)
3 cups water
Lemon slices (for serving)

Bring sugar and ½ cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Let cool 5 minutes. Add lemon zest and let sit 30 minutes to steep.

Strain lemon syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a pitcher; discard zest. Add lemon juice and 3 cups water and stir to combine. Serve lemonade over ice garnished with lemon slices.

From Rick Martinez/

Cruzan Blue Velvet small

Cruzan Blue Velvet

Rosemary Lemonade

Several sprigs rosemary
1 cup boiling water
1 (7.5-ounce) container frozen lemon juice, thawed
3/4 to 1 cup sugar, to taste
3 cups water

Steep rosemary in boiling water. In a pitcher, combine thawed lemon juice, sugar, 3 cups water and rosemary tea to taste. Add additional water, if needed. Blend well and add ice cubes.

Makes 6 servings.

From “The San Antonio Herb Society Cookbook Vol. II.”/Marcella Scalf, 2002 Herbal Forum at Round Top

Cruzan Blue Velvet

1 part Cruzan Blueberry Lemonade Rum
1 part Cruzan Raspberry Rum
1/2 part sour mix
3 parts cranberry juice

Build in a glass over ice. Top with cranberry juice and stir. Garnish with a lemon wedge and/or blueberries.

Makes 1 drink.

From Cruzan Rum

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Griffin to Go: Restaurant Week Brings a Welcome Mix of Old and New

Griffin to Go: Restaurant Week Brings a Welcome Mix of Old and New

Kirby's Angus New York strip

Kirby’s Angus New York strip

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week, which is actually two weeks this summer, offers the chance to see what some old friends are up to while introducing us to new places on the city’s dining scene.

Kirby's braised lamb shank

Kirby’s braised lamb shank

And so it was with visits to the new Alberico Fine Wine and the reliable Kirby’s Steakhouse on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Let’s start with Kirby’s, which has long gotten into the spirit of Restaurant Week by offering a varied menu and by being the first to extend the special an additional week.

This year’s special menu, available for $35, begins with an extra appetizer, available for $7 — and it’s worth every penny. It’s a chorizo-stuffed quail atop a bed of smoky jalapeno coleslaw, both of which are as fine as you can imagine. The spicy sausage offered a nice contrast to the moist fowl while the slaw had the right balance of heat and creaminess to make each of want more.

The menu begins with starters that included your choice of two bacon-wrapped scallops with spinach, fried artichokes or a baked Caprese, a kind of Napoleon of tomato slices topped with a Boursin-stuffed portobello mushroom. All disappeared quickly.

Kirby's baked Caprese

Kirby’s baked Caprese

Then arrived the real star of the evening: a rustic braised lamb shank in a meaty rosemary thyme au jus that was pure comfort food, tender perfection in every bite. A 10-ounce Angus New York strip lacked the velvety nature of prime, but the beef flavor won out. Glazed salmon topped with pecans was a little sweet for my tastes, but one of my friends enjoyed it as well as the red bell pepper risotto that came with it. There’s also a prosciutto-wrapped filet that might call us back for a second visit.

Dessert options included butterscotch chocoflan, which was a little on the dry side, and a strawberry mojito sundae that hit all the right buttons on a sweltering August evening, thanks to a lively combination of berries, whipped cream, mint and a touch of rum.

We forgot that Sunday was half-off wine night at Kirby’s, so imagine our surprise when we got the bill and noticed that our bottle of 2008 Ridge Lytton Springs was listed at $27.50, instead of the usual $55. It was just the right note to end the evening on.

Special mention must be made of the excellent service, which made the visit all the more special.

Alberico Fine Wine's tuna

Alberico Fine Wine’s tuna

We were looking forward to our first visit to Alberico Fine Wine, and we were impressed with the wine program as well as the help we received from the sommelier. The restaurant and wine bar, located in the Yard next to Olmos Perk, offers all of its wines by the glass and at a good price. Plus, you can enjoy it in your choice of environs: a light and cozy bar area; a cool, spacious dining area; or in the inviting wine room.

It’s too bad that the food largely failed to match the wine experience. Dad’s Salad was a single leaf of romaine lettuce topped with diced unripe tomato, a few paltry cubes of avocado and strands of red onion. The watermelon and feta salad with arugula was far better, in fact the refreshing combination was the best dish of the evening.

Duck medallions were served in a sauce that was far too sweet, throwing off the pleasantness of the dry Barolo we’d ordered. Just-seared tuna with grilled vegetables were good, but they were served atop a mound of risotto that was gummy and cold.

Alberico's watermelon and feta salad

Alberico’s watermelon and feta salad

A salt grilled peach struck the right note, but it was atop a nearly flavorless sorbet while a pair of creme brulees were a little too gritty when they should have been silken and creamy.

It didn’t help matters that our waiter was indifferent to his job duties and seemed to avoid our table, one of only three or four occupied in the place.

In the end, it was all a part of what makes Restaurant Week special. Here’s to more adventures in eating.

Kirby’s Steakhouse
123 N. Loop 1604 E.
(210) 404-2221

Alberico Fine Wine
5221 McCullough Ave.
(210) 320-VINO (8466)


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