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Hippity Hoppity! Special Easter Meals to Please All Tastes

Hippity Hoppity! Special Easter Meals to Please All Tastes

Easter lands on April 5 this year, and many area restaurants are gearing up with special brunches and dinners showcasing spring flavors.

All of the places listed require advance reservations, unless otherwise noted. Prices do not include tax and tip.

easteraAldaco’s, 22211 I-10, (210) 698-9700; 20079 Stone Oak Parkway, (210) 494-0561 Easter hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Brunch patrons can choose from the regular menu as well as the make-your-own Bloody Mary bar.

Backyard Bistro, 167 Panther Ridge, Pipe Creek, (830) 535-4094 — Brunch is served 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Biga on the Banks, 203 S. St. Mary’s St., (210) 255-0722 — Brunch will be served 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entrees like Roasted Ribeye of Beef, green chili tomatillo pork stew with queso fresco, and warm Scottish salmon crepes with egg vinaigrette share the spot light with more breakfast-style offerings including a Maine Lobster Frittata and a Biga take on Eggs Benedict. Then you can help yourself to an array of appetizers, salads, muffins, sushi, antipasto and a host of different desserts. There is also a kids’ dessert table. Prices are $59 for adults and $27 for children.

Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden, 312 Pearl Parkway, (210) 354-4644 — Easter brunch begins at 100 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m. Specials include rabbit and dumplings with English peas; house corned beef “hash” with chorizo tator tots; shrimp and cheesey grits with house Boudine and local arugula; popcorn crusted soft shell crab benedict; and brisket biscuits and gravy withcheddar, house-made pickles and bacon gravy.

Citrus at the Hotel Valencia, 150 E. Houston St., (210) 230-8412 — Easter brunch will be served 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The menu is filled with an array of artisanal charcuterie, oysters, lobster bisque, salads, pan-seared red fish Vera Cruz, sous vide leg of lamb and spiral cut ham, all ending with French macarons, caramelized white chocolate custard and much more. Prices:$59.95 for adults; $29.95 for children ages 6-12; free for children 5 and younger.

Crumpets, 3920 Harry Wurzbach, (210) 821-5454 — The Easter brunch menu will include a variety of fish, chicken, lamb and beef options. Highlights include Shrimp Salad on Avocado, Eggs Benedict and Chicken Breast with Champagne Sauce ($29.50 each);  Split Rack of Lamb Provencal, Grilled Fresh Salmon Fillet with Lemon Butter and Capers, Prime Beef Ribeye Green Peppercorn Sauce or Boardeaux Mushroom Sauce and Shrimp Lyonnaise over Wild Rice Blend ($39.50) and the Trilogy of Tenderloin of Beef with Rossini Sauce, Lobster Tail with Lemon Butter, and Rack of Lamb Provencal ($49.50). All dishes come with appetizer, house salad, fresh vegetable, assorted breads, dessert, coffee or iced tea and wine or champagne. A children’s plate of Tortellini or Chicken Breast is priced at $12.50.

easterbFleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar, 255 E. Basse Road, (210) 824-9463 — Fleming’s will serve an Easter brunch for $40 per guest. It begins with a choice of appetizer, including Lobster Bisque, Modern Caesar or Fresh Seasonal Fruits and continues with a choice of entrée including the Fleming’s Signature Eggs Benedict, Prime Rib with a Trio of Sauces, Blue Crab Omelet, Porcini-Crusted Filet Mignon or Baked Brioche French. The meal finishes sweetly with a choice of dessert that includes the White Chocolate Bread Pudding, Cheesecake or Walnut Turtle Pie. In addition, each party will receive a $25 dining card valid for a future visit. Call for hours.

Frederick’s Restaurant: 7701 Broadway, 210-828-9050; Frederick’s Bistro: 14439 NW Military Highway, 210-888-1500 — The Easter brunch will include numerous appetizer choices: Manhattan-style Mussel Chowder ($8), assorted seafood platter ($18), and Frederick’s Oyster Casino ($11). Main course choices: Parmesan Crusted Flounder & Avocado Relish  ($19), Salmon with Mussels & Champagne Veloute ($17), Lamb Chops ($19), Peppered New York Strip & Béarnaise Sauce  ($25), Sea Scallops with Tomato Sauce, Fresh Herbs & Capers  ($18), Chicken Breast with Sundried Tomato & Artichoke Hearts ($16), Frederick’s Eggs: Half Benedict & Half Norfolk  ($18), and Grilled Quail Five Spices Honey  Soy Sauce  ($17). Child Menu: Grilled Fish or Grilled Chicken Breast ($14). Call for times.

Hyatt Hill Country, 9800 Hyatt Resort Drive, (210) 767-7999 — The Easter brunch will be served from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Among the array of displays will be eggs and breakfast dishes, salads, artisan breads and desserts as well as the following seafood items: Crab Claws, Shucked Oysters, Chilled Shrimp, Smoked or Cured Salmon and an Asian Station with Assorted Sushi and Nigiri, Fried Rice, Steamed Jasmine Rice, Dim Sum, Asian Style Chicken and Asian Style Beef. The Carver will have Slow Roasted Beef Prime Ribs with Au Jus, Maple Glazed Ham and Smoked BBQ Spiced Turkey Breast. Entrées and Sides include Oven Roasted Gulf Catch, Grouper with Herb Beurre Blanc, Griddled New Potatoes with fresh herbs, Spring Baby Vegetables, Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes and Seared Chicken Breast with Red Wine Reduction. Prices are $63 for Adults, $49 for Seniors (60+), $26 for Children 6-12, and free for children 5 and younger.

easter brunch1JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, 23808 Resort Parkway, (210) 483-6622 —The special brunch buffet will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It will feature a variety of signature dishes including: made-to-order eggs, warm pastries and breads, pancakes, an array of salads, house-smoked salmon, oyster shooters, a selection of artisan pastas, apple pie “shine” glazed ham, oven roasted prime rib, a delicious selection of sweets and more. Prices: $65 for adults; $55 for seniors; $30 for children ages 4 to 12; free for children 3 and younger.

Las Canarias at the Omni La Mansion del Rio, 112 College St., (210) 518-1063 — Easter brunch will be served 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The extensive buffet will include eggs, omelets and waffles made to order as well as cold seafood (shrimp, lobster tails, salmon and crab Louis), salads, artisan cheese, cured meats and desserts. Also featured will be Texas Redfish Vera Cruz, Shellfish Paella, Asparagus with Wild Rice, Potato Gratin with Black Truffle, Strozzapretti Pasta with Red Onion and Grilled Artichokes, and Blackened Breast of Chicken with Anaheim Peppers. Chef-carved items: Smoked Prime Prime Rib of Beef, Cider Cured Ham and Achiote Marinated Turkey Breast.  Prices: $72 for adults and $36 for children ages 6-12.

Las Ramblas at the Hotel Contessa, 306 W. Market St., (210) 298-8040 — Seatings will be at 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. Easter favorites highlight the menu including carving stations of prime rib and roasted leg of lamb, an extensive seafood station of Gulf shrimp, oysters and Blue Crab claws in addition to a selection of grilled salmon, free range chicken and roasted pork loin.  A delectable assortment of fresh salads, grilled vegetables, artisan cheeses and cured meats will also be featured.  Belgian waffles and omelets made to order will be available along with a bevy of breakfast specialties and a dazzling dessert and pastry display.  A children’s buffet will feature macaroni and cheese, mini corn dogs, chicken tenders and pizza. Prices: Adults, $62; children ages 6-12, $22; children 5 and younger, free.

eastercLiberty Bar, 1111 S. Alamo St., (210) 227-1187  — Easter brunch with specials in addition to the regular menu will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Regular service will continue until midnight.

Little Gretel, 518 River Road, Boerne, (830) 331-1368 — Easter Sunday brings the regular brunch with first-come, first-served service. On April 2, Little Gretel will offer a grilled lamb special including the meat plus Southern Czech Coleslaw, Cucumber Salad, Carrot Cabbage Coleslaw, Potato Pancakes with Sauerkraut, Spinach Mashed Potatoes, Assortment of Czech Bread, Housemade Mint Jelly, Lamb Patty Tapas and Pickles. The price is $39.99 per person. The dinner is served 5 to 9 p.m. and reservations are needed for that dinner.

Luce Ristorante e Enoteca, 11255 Huebner Road, (210) 561-9700 — Brunch will be noon to 6 p.m. A three-course special will be available for $37.95. The menu begins with a choice of Zuppa di Zucca (Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Soup, Braised Escarole, Pancetta), Caesar Salad or Caprese, followed by a choice of Costolette D’ Angello (Parsley and Garlic Brined Grilled Lamb Chops, Rosemary Yukon Gold Potatoes, Toasted Garlic Spinach, Texas “Pesto”) or Pesce alla Luce (Pan-Seared Fresh Halibut Fillet, Shrimp and Asparagus Fregola, Toasted Garlic Vegetables). Dessert choices: Ricotta Cheesecake, Tiramisu, Crème Brûlée and Chocolate Lava Torta with Vanilla Gelato. An a la carte menu will also be available.

Easter EggsMike’s in the Village, 2355-3 Bulverde Road, Bulverde, (830) 438-2747 — Easter brunch hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The special menu begins with first course choices of House Salad, Caesar Salad or Baby Spinach Salad with Bacon and Boiled Egg, followed by a choice of Grilled Fresh Wild Caught Salmon with Lemon and Capers, Cajun Seasoned Prime Rib, Shrimp with a Tomato and Andouille Sausage Broth, or Eggs Benedict with Applewood Bacon. Dessert choices include Blueberry Bread Pudding with Lemon Chantilly Sauce, Strawberry Crepes with Chocolate Drizzle and Bananas Foster over a scoop of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Price: Adults, $28.95. Kid meals available for $7.95.

Morton’s the Steakhouse, 300 E. Crockett St., (210) 228-0700 — Morton’s will be openfrom 3 to 9 p.m. on Easter with its regular menu, including a steak and lobster special for $55.

The Omni San Antonio Colonnade, 9821 Colonnade Blvd., (210) 691-8888 — The Easter brunch is from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. with seatings every 30 minutes. Easter favorites on the buffet include Homegrown Grain and Herb Crusted Pork Loin with Mustard Jus,  Black Tar Honey Smoked Salmon with Mushroom Ragout, Rosemary Sage Chicken Sous-Vide with Local Heirloom Tomato Jam, Bacon Infused green beans, Dark Ale and Smoked Cheddar Cheese Soup,  Mashed Potatoes with Rooftop Chive and Asadero and Wild Rice with Honey Toasted Texas Pecans.  Chef Carved-to-Order items include Garlic and Thyme Studded Baron of Beef with Raspberry Merlot, Mustard Crusted Leg of Lamb with Mint Jelly, Hickory Smoked Bone- In Ham with Mustards and Mayonnaise and Local Artisan Breads and Rolls. Appetizers, breakfast items, salads, a seafood display, a cowboy campfire, an omelet station and desserts also on the buffet. Prices: Adults, $53; Seniors (65+), $46; Children (ages 5-11), $24; and children 4 and under, free.

Silo, 1133 Austin Hwy. (210) 824-8686; 434 N. Loop 1604 W., (210) 482-8989 — Brunch begins at 11 a.m. A three-course champagne brunch will be served for $38 a person. First course options: Lobster Bisque, Smoked Salmon “Tostada,” Ancho Braised Pork Ragout, Little Gem Caesar, Chicken-Fried Oysters, Butter Lettuce Salad and Mixed Green Salad. Second course options include Farmer’s Omelet, Maine Lobster Roll, Pan-seared Sea Scallops, Eggs Benedict, Pan-Roasted Chicken, Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Grilled Texas Redfish. Third course choices: Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, Dark Chocolate Truffle Mousse and Toasted Coconut Mousse Pie. The children’s menu is priced at $11 each and includes angel hair pasta with butter and garlic, chicken tenders and a chocolate sundae.

easterdStone Werks, various locations — A special brunch and drink menu will be available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Drink specials include $2.75 Mimosas, Sangria and Bloody Marys. Decorative Easter eggs will be available for the kids, while supplies last.

Sustenio at the Eilan Hotel Resort and Spa, 18603 La Cantera Terrace, (210) 598-2950 — Sustenio will host a special Easter Brunch from 10 a.m.  to 2 p.m. The brunch will include traditional favorites including Easter Lamb, Prime Rib, an Omelet Station, an Assortment of Salads and Flatbreads, a dessert station and more. Price is $45 for adults and $25 for children.

Texas de Brazil, 313 E. Houston St., (210) 229-1600  — Easter hours begin at 11 a.m. The regular array of meats will be offered as well as the salad bar. A dessert and non-alcoholic drinks are included in the holiday price.

Two Step Restaurant and Cantina, 9840 W. Loop 1604 N., (210) 688-2686 — The restaurant will open early at 10 a.m. with an omelet station and breakfast bar on the patio for $8.95 a person. A bottomless fresh fruit mimosa bar will be offered for $15 apiece.

If you’d like to add your restaurant to this list, email griffin@savorsa.com.

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Use Your Kale in This Slow-Cooking Lentil Dish

Use Your Kale in This Slow-Cooking Lentil Dish

I still have plenty of kale growing in the backyard, so I’m always on the lookout for new ideas of what to do with it.

Lentils with Kale and Shallots

Lentils with Kale and Shallots

This recipe, from Jody Williams’ “Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food” (Bookish, $30), fit the bill. It combined kale with another favorite, lentils, plus a healthy dose of garlic, chile peppers and sweet shallots. It didn’t require a lot of work, but it did need time to cook.

As Williams writes, “This hearty lentil dish is all about patience and slow cooking. You want the kale to really cook to the point where it just about loses its physical integrity and all of its freshness is dissolved into the lentils. The effect becomes rich and comforting. And while this is completely vegetarian, I am not. Really, I am just opportunistic and I believe in the freedom of what works well. Which is to say, this would be great with bacon!”

That led me to use pork stock instead of water.  I also used a good glug of olive oil on the top, so it may appear brothy — a no-no, according to Williams, who runs Buvette restaurants in New York and Paris — it is simply rich and delicious. If you do a vegetarian version, this could be a main course for two or three people. It would make a great meal with a simple salad and some rustic bread.

Lentils with Kale and Shallots

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and diced
5 garlic cloves, peeled and trimmed
2 dried red chiles or 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 bunch kale, finely chopped
1 cup dark lentils
Coarse salt
4 cups water
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Crème Fraiche, for serving
Some really high quality extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

Heat the ¼ cup olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, garlic, chile, and kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the lentils, a healthy pinch of salt and the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently until the lentils and kale are not just cooked through, but really soft and lovely, a good hour, maybe even two; it will depend on the age and type of lentil you choose. Splash the mixture with additional water as it cooks, if it is threatening to dry out; you want the final product to be moist, but not at all brothy. Just before serving, stir in the nutmeg and season the mixture with salt.

Serve hot or at room temperature with generous spoonfuls of cold crème fraiche and a healthy drizzle of the raw, high-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

From “Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food” by Jody Williams

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Hill Country Cookbook Author Earns a James Beard Nomination

Hill Country Cookbook Author Earns a James Beard Nomination

Hill Country writer Terry Thompson-Anderson spent three years working on her latest cookbook, “Texas on the Table: People, Places and Recipes Celebrating the Flavors of the Lone Star State” (University of Texas Press, $45).

texas on the table1The hard work has paid off.

This week, Thompson-Anderson found out that she has been nominated for a James Beard Award in the category of American Cooking.

She is up against Sean Brock for “Heritage” and Erin Byers Murray and Jeremy Sewall for “The New England Kitchen: Fresh Takes on Seasonal Recipes.”

Thompson-Anderson has written a number of Texas-themed and regional cookbooks including “Texas on the Plate,” “The Texas Hill Country: A Food and Wine Lover’s Paradise,” and “Don Strange of Texas: His Life and Recipes,” the latter of which she co-authored with Frances Strange.

The photography for her latest book was provided by her sister, Sandy Wilson.

Terry Thompson-Anderson

Terry Thompson-Anderson

The winners will be announced April 24.

Other Texas names to make the list of finalists are four chefs from Austin and Houston competing for best chef of the Southwest. The whole list in that category includes:

  • Kevin Binkley, Binkley’s, Cave Creek, Arizona
  • Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, Austin
  • Bryce Gilmore, Barley Swine, Austin
  • Hugo Ortega, Hugo’s, Houston
  • Martín Rios, Restaurant Martín, Santa Fe
  • Justin Yu, Oxheart, Houston

Thompson-Anderson will appear at the San Antonio Book Festival April 11. For more information, click here.

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San Antonio Beer Week Turns 5

San Antonio Beer Week Turns 5

San Antonio Beer Week is celebrating its fifth anniversary with plenty of liquid excitement on tap.

Yard-House-BeersThe week-long schedule is packed with events in all areas of the region, culminating in a large walk-around party at the Pearl Brewery.

There are too many events to list here, but here are three highlights and a link to the full schedule.

7 p.m. Wednesday – Join the brewers from Ranger Creek and The Granary while enjoying a four-course menu prepared by The Granary’s Tim Rattray. Each course will be paired with Ranger Creek beers including their newest release: Red Headed Stranger. Dinner will be served on the patio at The Granary, 602 Avenue A, so you can enjoy the spring weather while chatting with brewers. Each diner will receive a beer glass to take home. Reservations are required and can be made at www.thegranarysa.com. Cost: $60.

6 t0 9 p.m. Friday – 5 Stones Artisan Brewing, 850 Schneider, Cibolo, is hosting a beer garden. For your $10 reservation, you get a sample glass and five drink tickets. There will be 10-12 beers to choose from plus a special cask of Fracking Blackstrap. A food truck will be on site as well. Call (210) 380-8215.

3 to 7 p.m. Sunday – This year’s closing ceremonies will be at the Pearl Brewery,  312 Pearl Parkway, with breweries from around the area tapping into their best. The admission price will get you six 4-ounce sample tickets, plus a commemorative SABW 2015 tasting cup. A limited number of VIP tickets will also be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. VIP attendees will be hosted at Southerleigh Fine Food & Brewery and receive a special VIP commemorative tasting glass. You will get early access to the festival at 2 p.m. and have special beers tapped, plus VIP snacks provided by Southerleigh. VIPs will also have access to Southerleigh’s restrooms and be able to attend an educational panel discussion about craft beer that features brewers and owners from your local breweries. Presale tickets are $30 and will increase to $35 at the door. Register at eventbrite.

For the full list of events, click here.

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Get a Sneak Peek of Southerleigh

Get a Sneak Peek of Southerleigh

Chef Jeff Balfour shows some of the beers at Southerleigh that are being barrel-aged.

Chef Jeff Balfour shows some of the beers at Southerleigh are being barrel-aged.

The beers are aging in their tanks and barrels. The brick oven has been set up in the kitchen, and test runs are in progress. The serving dishes have been delivered. The final steps are being put in place before Southerleigh opens at the Pearl Brewery.

southerleigh8The latest restaurant and brewery in the complex will be a showplace for Texas and Southern comfort food with a coastal influence, says chef Jeff Balfour, a Galveston native and fan of what the gulf has to offer. Plus, you can expect some foods, from mussels to pretzels, designed to pair with the beers on tap.

The exact opening date still isn’t certain, but Balfour is hopeful to have the certificate of occupancy by the beginning of the April. A preview party is being held March 29 as part of the closing festivities of San Antonio Beer Week.

In the meantime, the chef has been putting the finishing touches on his menu, while head brewer Les Locke gets his beers ready for the taps. In addition to the series of copper and stainless tanks, Locke is also aging some of his beers in pinot noir barrels from A to Z Wineworks, the winery in which Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is a partner; others are in old bourbon or rum barrels.

Dishes for mussels and fries

Dishes for mussels and fries

There’s still plenty of work to be done, but major steps are being taken each day.

Out front, workers are making sure the garden space is ready for the first Sunday Pearl Farmers Market, which begins this weekend.

Inside Southerleigh, workers were just as busy. On Thursday, they hung a new chandelier made from pieces found in the original Pearl Brewery.

The designer didn’t want to overdo the old pieces but wanted to make sure that those used would stand out. They include a Pearl clock at the host’s stand by the door, roller conveyors over the open kitchen and the facades of the old brew tanks. They also include the original pillars, which are not being painted but being shown in their aged glory.

When it’s finished, Southerleigh’s main dining area will seat about 140, while extra space can be had in front of the open kitchen, in the bar and out on the patio. A private dining room for up to 15 will be housed in the silo out front.

For more information, click here.

A view of the Southerleigh dining area from above

A view of the Southerleigh dining area from above

Tanks in the afternoon light

Tanks in the afternoon light

New tanks behind the facade of the old

New tanks behind the facade of the old

Beer waiting to be tapped

Beer waiting to be tapped

The new chandelier

The new chandelier at Southerleigh

 

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Ask a Foodie: Can You Eat Mountain Laurel?  (No!)

Ask a Foodie: Can You Eat Mountain Laurel? (No!)

Q: Mountain laurel smells like Grape Kool-Aid, but is it any relation to bay laurel? Can you eat it?

Mountain Laurel1— James

A: Do not eat mountain laurel, no matter how food-like it may smell, and it does smell like artificial grape candy, gum or Kool-Aid. It is highly poisonous. Make sure your dogs don’t eat it either.

Also, the leaves of the mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) may look like a bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), but they are not related.

So, just enjoy the gorgeous purple flowers of the mountain laurel while it’s in season, and leave the seasoning of your next stew to bay leaves.

For more information on The Dangers of Mountain Laurel Flowers, click here.

Another factor to bear in mind: The aroma of the mountain laurel may seem intoxicating, but don’t get too close to get a better sniff. Bees love their fragrance, too, and can often be found swarming the flowers.

If you have an Ask a Foodie question, email walker@savorsa.com or griffin@savorsa.com.

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The Gunter Bakery’s Putting on the Dog

The Gunter Bakery’s Putting on the Dog

SheratonMarketonHoustonBar_mini

The Sheraton Gunter’s Market on Houston

The Gunter Bakery, the latest addition to the ongoing renovations at the Sheraton Gunter Hotel, is opening Tuesday.

The pet-friendly hotel at 205 E. Houston St. is celebrating with an ongoing fundraiser for the San Antonio Humane Society.

Twenty percent of all sales of Gunter’s Homemade Dog Treats and retail items for dogs will go to the SAHS.

But the hotel isn’t stopping there. From 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, the hotel is hosting a Puppy Hour. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20 apiece, with 50 percent of the proceeds going to SAHS. Patrons will get happy hour food and drinks while having the chance to meet and play with adoptable pets. Guests can bring dogs on a leash and enter through the hotel as well as through the East Houston Street entrance.

Free valet parking is available, and the city garages are free after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The Gunter Barkery will be open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and feature an array of baked goods as well as Gunter’s Homemade Dog Treats, which are priced at $3 each. Baked fresh by Market on Houston Executive Chef Rudy Martinez, the Gunter Barkery will offer four mainstay biscuits: Plain, Bacon, Beef and Chicken, all made with whole wheat flour, peanut butter, oats, banana, eggs and a flavored puree.

Other changes at the Sheraton Gunter include Market on Houston, which has a pet-friendly outdoor patio as well as the Bakery. Drinks can also be had at the hotel’s Bar 414.

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Scenes from the Paella Challenge

Scenes from the Paella Challenge

Jesse Perez's paella from Arcade Midtown Kitchen

Jesse Perez’s paella from Arcade Midtown Kitchen

Do you like your paella loaded with lobster, shrimp, clams and mussels? Or maybe you’d prefer one with several types of pork? Chocolate mushrooms and fiddlehead ferns?

Breckinridge High students make paella.

Breckinridge High students make paella.

Whatever your taste in paella, it was probably available at the sixth annual Paella Challenge, which drew chefs from all over San Antonio, the region and a few other states. It also drew more than 1,000 people to the back of the Pearl Brewery on a Sunday afternoon to eat their fill while enjoying a glass of wine or a beer or two.

Goro Pitchford of Godai Sushi Bar spent his first visit to the Paella Challenge making a classic version of the dish, while Tim McCarty, visiting for the sixth time from Rochester, Minnesota, made a Bloody Mary paella. James Moore of TBA made a breakfast taco paella with barbacoa, carnitas, bacon, eggs, tortilla strips and two types of salsa. Lorenzo Morales of the Experiment used orzo instead of the more traditional rice and added a host of colorful cauliflower.

In addition to sampling all of the various paellas, interested home cooks could also watch the chefs put their versions together. Jesse Castellon of Spork in McAllen was using pork lard rendered from South Texas Heritage Pork, while his assistant, multiple Paella Challenger winner James Canter, seasoned the paella pan as it heated with a handful of fresh thyme. Brian West of Smoke used the meat from a pig’s head, the skull of which he displayed at his booth. Moore layered the flavors of his, starting with the bacon before adding the onion and poblano pepper, following by barbacoa, which he deglazed with mezcal.

Seasons of My Heart chef Susana Trilling's paella

Seasons of the Heart chef Susana Trilling’s paella

More high schools than ever got into the spirit of the event as well, turning out beautiful paellas in a chance to bring home some glory.

Organizer Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria, True Flavors Catering and other restaurants, had originally scheduled the event on the first Sunday in March, but after two years of bad weather that weekend, he chose to move it to this weekend. Compare last weekend’s cold, wet, depressing weather with Sunday’s sun-warmed spring day, and you’ll see what a good choice he made.

The attendees, of course, were the ultimate winners of the day, getting the chance to try all of these great variations. But in the actual categories, the winners of this year’s Paella Challenge are:

Tom C. Clark High's paella

Tom C. Clark High’s paella

Contemporary Paella

First – David Gilbert, Tuk Tuk Tap Room
Second – Flor Vergara, True Flavors
Third – Jesse Perez, Arcade

Classical Paella

First – Juan Sanchez, Groomer’s Seafood
Second – Angie Bridges, Copa Wine Bar
Third – James Foote, Victoria Country Club

People’s Choice

Lorenzo Morales, The Experiment

H-E-B High School Paella Challenge

First – Byron P. Steele
Second – William Howard Taft
Third – Robert E. Lee

Diego Fernandez of Starfish uses lobster in his paella.

Diego Fernandez of Starfish uses lobster in his paella.

Acadiana Cafe offered crawdad races.

Acadiana Cafe offered crawdad races.

Lorenzo G. Morales of The Experiment uses colorful cauliflower.

Lorenzo G. Morales of The Experiment uses colorful cauliflower.

Memorial High's paella

Memorial High’s paella

Goro Pitchford (left) of Godai Sushi makes a classic paella.

Goro Pitchford (left) of Godai Sushi makes a classic paella.

Sam Houston High's paella

Sam Houston High’s paella

James Moore of TBA makes breakfast taco paella.

James Moore of TBA makes breakfast taco paella.

Tatu Herrara of Los Cocineros makes a scallop treat.

Tatu Herrara of Los Cocineros makes a scallop treat.

Zocca's team makes paella.

Zocca’s team makes paella.

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Pi Day Calls for Pie

Pi Day Calls for Pie

pi day pieToday is Pi Day, celebrated on every 3.14 of the year in honor of the number that relates a circle’s circumference to its diameter. This year, is extra-special for all you math lovers out there because it’s 3.14.15, which is actually the first five digits in the eternal number.

And in case you need them, here are the first 100 or so numbers in pi, according to answers.yahoo.com: 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679.

And more importantly, here are 10 pie recipes, good for Pi Day or any day of the year. There’s never really a bad time for pie.

Best-Ever Lemon Pie

Chocolate-Pecan Pie

Coconut Custard Pie

Key Lime Pie

Loquat Pie

Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie

Osgood Pie

Panna Cotta Pie

Rhubarb Pie

Sour Cream Apple Pie

 

 

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Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

I did my part at the recent Empty Bowls, and I’ve had soup on my mind ever since. So, I reached for that Irish standby, “Avoca Cafe Cookbook 2,” for some inspiration. That’s when I saw this recipe, which showcases a winter root vegetable I’ve only recently come to love: parsnips.

Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

“Parsnips are an integral part of winter eating,” the cookbook’s author, Hugo Arnold, writes, “their nutty, robust flavor making them as good with roast meats as they are on their own.”

What makes this soup especially appealing is the addition of sauteed onion, which adds its own kind of sweetness. Then you add tart apple crisps for an appealing contrast of textures.

A few words about garnishes, because this recipe has four options: All of these are optional, and that includes the apple crisps. The soup is the star here, creamy and rich and wonderful.

Somehow, I managed to have a can of chestnut puree in the pantry, so I could taste it as the recipe called for. Yes, it was a nice addition to the soup because of its sweet nuttiness. But, seriously, if you don’t have it, you won’t be missing out. And you won’t be faced with my dilemma, which is: What do I do with the rest of the can of chestnut puree?

You can also make this soup vegan easily by using vegetable stock and sauteing the onion in a little olive oil.

Roasted Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

1 Granny Smith or other tart apple (optional)
3 parsnips, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled finely chopped
1 potato, peeled and finely diced
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 1/2 cups light chicken stock
4 teaspoons creme fraiche or sour cream (optional)
4 teaspoons chestnut puree (optional)
1 tablespoons snipped chives (optional)

To make the apple crisps well ahead, preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Core the apple and thinly slice. Lay the slices out on a baking tray and place in the oven for 1 hour or until dried and crisp.

When ready to make the soup, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the diced parsnips in the olive oil, season well and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until well colored.

In a stockpot, gently saute the onion and potato in the butter over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the roasted parsnips and stock, and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft. Allow to cool slightly, then liquify, using a food processor or immersion blender. Reheat and check the seasoning. (If your stock is salty, you may not need to add more.)

Garnish each bowl with a teaspoon of creme fraiche or sour cream, a teaspoon of chestnut puree and the apple crisps, along with a few snipped chives.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from “Avoca Cafe Cookbook 2″ by Hugo Arnold with Leylie Hayes

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