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Cool Off with Something Sweet, Salty and Icy

Cool Off with Something Sweet, Salty and Icy

While the thermometer is displaying far too much red these days, it’s nice to float away on something cool and refreshing. For me, that most often means ice cream.

mcconnell'sI’m not just talking about any ice cream here. I’m writing about McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams from Santa Barbara, California. They’ve been on the scene since 1949, but they are only now available in San Antonio at Central Market.

So, as we are continuing to move forward despite our Blue Bell withdrawals, let’s cool off with what McConnell’s has to offer, which is labeled organic with no stabilizers, no fillers, no additives. It also has a milk fat percentage of 18.5 percent, which means it’s voluptuous on the tongue.

How it feels on the tongue not quite as important, for most of us, as how it tastes, so let’s get down to the flavors: Churros con Leche, Salted Caramel Chip, Double Peanut Butter Chip and Sea Salt Cream & Cookies.

You see the word salt there. It’s front and center, as anyone who has ever made ice cream at home knows to be a key ingredient. There’s something magical about a bright burst of salty flavor mixed in with cream and the likes of chocolate, peanut butter and caramel. (Or with fresh peaches, strawberries or your favorite fruit when you’re whipping up a batch.)

McConnell's1So, know beforehand that the all-important salt will coax a smile with most every bite. Mix that with chocolate and peanut butter together, and you have something joyous on your spoon.

Bits of churros floating in a frozen sea of dulce de leche was certainly the most welcome surprise of the flavors, a combination of comfort and tongue-tingling surprise with its cinnamon and caramel flavors coalescing into a comforting whole.

I have to single out the Sea Salt Cream & Cookies as my favorite, thought all were almost equally fine. There was something about the way the folks at McConnell’s took this most tired of flavors, made all too often elsewhere with substandard ingredients, and suddenly made it fresh again with a boldness that too it to a whole new level. To quote Molly Bloom (or, more accurately, James Joyce), “… yes I said yes I will Yes.”

At $7.50 a pint, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams are expensive. But one taste should convince you that it’s money well spent.


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A Message for Donald Trump from San Antonio’s Master Distiller

A Message for Donald Trump from San Antonio’s Master Distiller

San Antonio’s Germán Gonzalez, the master distiller who created the super-premium tequila, Tears of Llorona, has offered his response to one of the more outlandish remarks that presidential candidate Donald Trump has made recently. Using social media, Gonzalez offered this message, which we’re happy to pass on to you:

Tequilero German Gonzalez

Tequilero German Gonzalez

Mr. Donald J. Trump

I think I have a little something that will change your mind about Mexico. I am the great-grandson of a former President of Mexico. I have sent you as a gift a bottle of Tears of Llorona, my most special, handmade tequila, aged extra añejo in three different barrels.

It’s more expensive than other tequilas, but you will taste why, and because you can afford it, you will buy more.

When you sip Tears, I think you’ll agree it was a good idea I got a green card.

Thank you for your time.

Master Distiller Germán Gonzalez

If you’re not familiar with Gonzalez or with Tears of Llorona, here’s a story we ran recently on both. Tears is well worth your time, if you have the dime, to seek it out.


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Pair Cauliflower with Kalamata Olives for an Easy Side Dish

Pair Cauliflower with Kalamata Olives for an Easy Side Dish

If you’re looking for an easy, low-carb side dish, try this unique and welcome pairing of cauliflower and Kalamata olives. The idea comes from

Roasted Cauliflower with Kalamata Olives

Roasted Cauliflower with Kalamata Olives

It’s a perfect side to a steak, a burger, chicken, fish, you name it. Or serve it as a main course of a vegan dinner.

Roasted Cauliflower with Kalamata Olives

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 generous tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fig balsamic vinegar or other balsamic vinegar
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss cauliflower, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper until thoroughly coated. Spread onto rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Remove sheet from oven and add kalamata olives. Stir until combined and roast 20 minutes more, or until cauliflower is browned, stirring halfway through. (Note this recipe produces cauliflower that is really brown — if you want it lighter, cut the cooking time.)

Return cauliflower and olives to large bowl and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from



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Morton’s Shows Off Its Renovations

Morton’s Shows Off Its Renovations

The main dining area at Morton's

The main dining area at Morton’s

Morton’s the Steakhouse, 300 E. Crockett St., has recently completed a renovation of its interior. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then let these images tell you stories of the new look the restaurant is sporting in its main dining area, secondary dining room and bar. Oh, and a photo of Morton’s Hot Chocolate Cake, just to remind you of a happy ending there.

The bar area at Morton's

The bar area at Morton’s

A dining area at Morton's

A dining area at Morton’s

Morton's Hot Chocolate Cake

Morton’s Hot Chocolate Cake

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Get Ready to Sink Your Teeth into Charc Week

Get Ready to Sink Your Teeth into Charc Week

Shark Week recently excited you with images of finned creatures of the deep from far and near. Now, it’s time to sink your teeth into something even meatier.

charc weekMichael Sohocki’s Restaurant Gwendolyn, 152 E. Pecan St., is sponsoring is annual Charc Week, a time to celebrate charcuterie in all its glory. (Charcuterie, for those who don’t know, is defined by Wikipedia as “the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork.” In other words, all the good stuff you love to eat.)

During July 20-26, you can find different charcuterie plates at a host of restaurants and bars around town, and eat chef brings a little something different to the table.

That’s why it’s fun to sample and compare plates from places such as Biga on the Banks, Boiler House Texas Grill, Cookhouse, Crossroads Kitchen at Faust, Cullum’s Attagirl, The Fig Tree, Granary ‘Cue and Brew, Kimura, The Last Word, Lüke, Mezcalaria Mixtli, NAO, Rosella Coffee, Tre Trattoria, TBA and more, in addition to Restaurant Gwendolyn. Little Gretel in Boerne and several restaurants in Austin are also getting in on the action.

There are rules the eateries have to follow, most important of which is that the charcuterie must be made in-house.

As the poster for the week says, “What comes from our hands tells the story of us.”

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Use Fresh Figs and Cherries in a Shortcake

Use Fresh Figs and Cherries in a Shortcake

Shortcake is a wonderful way of showcasing a host of fresh fruit, and not just strawberries.

Fig-Cherry Shortcake

Fig-Cherry Shortcake

With that in mind, I mixed together figs and cherries in this quick recipe that combined store-bought biscuits with macerated fruit and whipped cream.

Fig-Cherry Shortcakes

1 (5-pack) can of biscuits
Egg bath (1 egg white plus 1 tablespoon water)
1/2 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided use
1 generous cup chopped and pitted sweet cherries
1 generous cup chopped figs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 cup favorite liqueur, such as Grand Marnier, frangelico, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur or kirshwasser
Whipped cream

Open the can of biscuits and lay out on a baking sheet according to instructions. Brush the top with the egg wash and sprinkle the top with sugar, using no more than 1/2 teaspoon for the five biscuits. Bake the biscuits, according to the instructions on the label. Set aside.

While the biscuits are baking, mix the cherries and figs together in a non-reactive bowl. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar or less, to taste, over the top. Stir. Let sit for 10 minutes. Add the liqueur and let sit for another 20 minutes.

When ready to serve, take a biscuit and pull it apart. Spoon one-fifth of the fruit over the bottom half. Spoon a little of the liqueur over the fruit. Top with whipped cream. Angle the top of the biscuit at the back of the serving. Repeat.

Serve immediately.

Makes 5 servings.

From John Griffin


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D’oh! It’s About Time for a Duff

If you can’t “get enough of that wonderful Duff,” the beer that Homer Simpson drinks on “The Simpsons,” then you could soon be able to join Springfield’s best-fed resident in a pint or two.

duff beer1Duff Beer is going from fiction to fact, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

The beer will start in Chile first before coming elsewhere, perhaps to the United States and then perhaps to a keg party near you.

Thanks, Homer. Here’s hoping it’s worth a taste. The reference to a “caramel aromatic” makes us a little queasy, but we’ll try it at least once.


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Time to Stock Up for National Tequila Day

Time to Stock Up for National Tequila Day

July 24 is National Tequila Day. In San Antonio, it’s just another day to enjoy tequila, whether you prefer it in a margarita or to sip after dinner. But here are a few tips from Casa Herradura, along with a few recipes from Tequila Don Julio and more.

Bloody Maria made with tequila

Bloody Maria made with tequila

1. How to taste tequila:

          Sight: Look at the tequila you are drinking through the glass. Note the color.

The color suggests the amount of wood imparted by barreling, and hints of its complexity.

          Smell: The sense of smell is a vital part of the enjoyment of tequila.

Hold the glass an inch or so from the nose. There are three distinct places in the glass to sniff: bottom, center and top.

          Taste: is a limited sense, since it can only perceive five sensations: sweet, bitter, salty, sour and umami earthiness.

2. How to pick quality tequila:

The best tequilas are crafted using only the most mature blue agave and artisanal methods, such as slowly cooking the agave in traditional clay ovens and fermenting naturally with wild yeast.

3. How to differentiate the aging between expressions:

The flavor profiles of each expression are determined by the amount of time the liquid was aged:

          Silver or blanco: Aged less than 2 months. Best for mixing in cocktails.

          Reposado: Aged in oak for anywhere from 2 months to less than 1 year. Meant for sipping or cocktails.

          Anejo: Aged for at least one year in oak. Meant for sipping.

Here are some cocktail recipes to make your National Tequila Day more memorable:

Spicy Sangrita

Spicy Sangrita

Spicy Sangrita

5 ounces vegetable juice
1 cup clamato
3 limes, juiced
1 lime, sliced into wedges
1/3 cup tangerine juice
7 dashes Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco Spicy Salt
1 shot reposado, such as Tequila Don Julio Reposado

In a pitcher, combine vegetable juice, clamato, lime juice, tangerine juice, Tabasco Sauce; stir to combine. Place in refrigerator. In a shallow bowl, add Tabasco Salt. Rub a lime wedge along the rim of a shot glass and dip into salt. Fill glass with sangrita and pair with a shot of tequila.

Makes 1 pitcher.

From Tequila Don Julio/Presley’s Pantry

Bloody Maria

3 ounces reposado, such as Tequila Don Julio Reposado
3/4 teaspoon Tabasco Original Red Sauce
1/3 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Celery salt
Ground black better
2 teaspoons ground horseradish
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
16 ounces tomato juice
Celery for garnish

Rim two highball glasses with lemon juice and dip into black pepper. Add reposado, Tabasco, Worcester sauce, celery salt, tomato juice and ground horseradish; stir with bar spoon. Garnish with thin strips of celery.

Makes 2 drinks.

From Tequila Don Julio

The Desert Rose

This drink is “definitely not for the weak of heart,” write Cindy Wagner and Sandra Marquez in “Cooking Texas Style.” “When the Tabasco is carefully added, a delicate rose-shape forms in the glass. Of course, the more of these you drink, the easier it is to see the ‘rose.’ But beware — the ‘rose’ is the only thing that is delicate about this drink.

1 jigger tequila
1 or 2 drops Tabasco sauce
Shaker of salt
Wedge of lime

Gently add Tabasco sauce to tequila; watch as it forms a rose-shape in the glass. Then moisten the V between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. Sprinkle salt on the moistened area. Take a bite of the limp pulp, lick the salt and down the jigger of tequila in one gulp. Chase with another bite of lime, if desired.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From “Cooking Texas Style” by Candy Wagner and Sandra Marquez

The Martinez

In “Texas Cowboy Cooking,” Tom Perini, owner of Perini Ranch Steakhouse, includes this tequila classic: “This is a two-stage drink invented by my older brother, Vee, who takes great delight in this honor. This drink goes well with good conversation int he backyard or at the kitchen counter before dinner. Obviously this is another one that really packs a punch, both from the tequila and the pepper, and it’s always a good conversation starter. Vee says that your lips should actually tingle a little if it’s made properly, and I think they probably tingle a lot if it’s not. It definitely has bite.

2 jiggers Cuervo Gold Tequila
Splash of triple sec
1-2 teaspoons brine from pickled jalapeños, to taste
1/4 fresh lime
Whole pickled jalapeño
1 bottle Mexican beer, your favorite

Fill a large martini glass with ice cubes and a little water and let chill. In a shaker, combine the tequila, triple sec and jalapeño brine, and shake vigorously with ice. Then empty the glass, rub the rim with the lime, dip in salt. Then strain the mixture over whole jalapeño in glass. Drink some of the Martinez, then start adding your favorite beer. Repeat until both are empty. (You may also try a Martinez en Los Rocos, in a Collins glass filled with ice.)

Makes 1 cocktail.

From “Texas Cowboy Cooking” by Tom Perini

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This Watermelon and Cherry Salad Packs a Flavor Punch

This Watermelon and Cherry Salad Packs a Flavor Punch

We can’t get enough watermelon this summer. And the cherries have been incredible, too.

So, why not put the two together?

Watermelon and Cherry Salad

Watermelon and Cherry Salad

That was the thought behind this salad, which grew out of the need to bring a dish to a potluck and the desire to use ingredients I had on hand.

I found a recipe for Cherry and Watermelon Salad on Taste, an Australian website. It was a promising start, with its addition of pistachios to the mix. But I found myself wanting to change things up as soon as I read the recipe for the dressing.

Simple syrup just didn’t cut it, even with spices added. That’s when I thought of Los Cocineros chef Joel Herrara’s recipe for watermelon with bourbon, which he includes in his Pork Belly and Watermelon with Kimchi Mole.

The end result was a smooth, refreshing blend of flavors and textures that would be a welcome addition to any potluck.

Watermelon and Cherry Salad

1/2 small seedless watermelon
1 1/2 pounds sweet cherries, halved and seeded
1/2 cup bourbon
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 dashes cherry bitters (optional)
2 dashes rhubarb bitters (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 clove
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup pistachios
Sprig of mint for garnish (optional)

Cut watermelon into 6 wedges then remove flesh from skin. Discard skin. Cut each wedge into 1/4-inch thick triangular slices. Place watermelon into a heatproof bowl with halved cherries. Set aside

In a small saucepan, add bourbon, water, vanilla bean paste, sugar, salt, both bitters, cinnamon and clove. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes then pour mixture over fruit in bowl. Add lemon juice and toss gently to combine. Refrigerate until chilled

Meanwhile, place pistachios in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over to cover. Stand for 1 minute then drain. Using your fingers, rub skins from warm pistachios then pat dry. (If you don’t care about peeling the pistachios, you may want to toast them slightly over medium heat until they become fragrant, about 5 minutes.) To serve, stir pistachios into fruit salad then spoon into a large bowl. Garnish with a sprig of mint, if desired. Serve by itself, with crisp biscuits, or as an accompaniment to slices of butter cake, or spooned over scoops of vanilla bean ice-cream.

Makes 12 servings.

Adapted from



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The Johnsons to Retire, Sell Alamosa Wine Cellars

The Johnsons to Retire, Sell Alamosa Wine Cellars

It wasn’t the best of news for Texas wine lovers: Jim and Karen Johnson have announced that they’re selling Alamosa Wine Cellars, the winery they built in Bend, where they produced award-winners including El Guapo and Scissortail. But we wish them well in their retirement.
Jim Johnson (Photo courtesy

Jim Johnson (Photo courtesy

Here’s the release they sent out:

After nearly twenty years in the business, we have decided to sell Alamosa Wine Cellars. We will be operating the vineyard until the property is sold.  The tasting room will operate on a regular basis through the Labor Day Weekend and we want to see as many of our customers, friends and fans as we can before that day.  We have some fun events and great sales to let you stock up on your favorite Alamosa wines as long as they last.  Come soon for the best selections.  We will also be holding a special Library Tasting in August when you will be able to taste through several of our older, special vintages with other wine lovers guided by Jim and Karen.  Look for those announcements and tickets very soon.
We are looking forward to retirement but with a bit of a heavy heart as we leave a place that has occupied so much of our efforts and passion for many years.  Most of all we’ll miss the opportunity to see so many people who have made the journey so much fun.  Retirement will allow us to do a lot more of the travel we so love, and to spend more time with our family, especially our little grandsons.
Save these dates:
July 11th  Sales begin
Aug 1st, Library Tasting, tickets required, only 24 spaces. (info soon)
Aug  8th  Final Wine Club Party (afternoon)
Aug  22   Retirement Celebration and Sale
September 4-6 Final Weekend.
Special mention must be made of how Jim Johnson helped pioneer the use of new varietals of grapes on the state’s wine scene, grapes that were able to produce great flavors and still thrive in the heat. The list includes Northern Rhone varietals such as Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah among the reds as well as the whites Viognier, Verdelho, Roussanne and Marsanne.
The Johnsons were also instrumental in developing Way Out Wineries, a group that helped promote the Hill Country wineries beyond the Fredericksburg area.

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