Italy

Author Archives | John

Growing Something Special at the Hot Wells Ruins

Growing Something Special at the Hot Wells Ruins

Planning this year's Hot Wells Harvest Feast.

Planning this year’s Hot Wells Harvest Feast.

Resurrecting the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa may seem a little crazy to some, after two fires in 1997 and 2011 destroyed much of the fabled resort. But that is somehow in keeping with the history of the place.

The "Gents" pool at the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa.

The “Gents” pool at the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa.

Its story begins in 1892, when the Southwestern Lunatic Asylum drilled a well in order to have enough water to operate, according to a history on the Edwards Aquifer website. Sulfurous waters

And it continues today as a project of the Hot Wells Conservancy, which was formed in 2013 “to preserve the vestiges of the historic hotel and provide educational, cultural, and environmental programming,” the site says.

But enough of history. What’s happening on the grounds of the spa these days?

Heirloom tomatoes known as blueberries.

Heirloom tomatoes known as blueberries.

You can take a yoga class regularly in the old ruins, if you’d like. Or you can join with hundreds of other food lovers on June 3 for Hot Wells Harvest Feast, a event in which you can tour the grounds while eating food grown on the property and sipping your choice of cocktails, wine and beer.

This is a fundraiser to benefit the conservancy that was created by Robbie Nowlin, executive chef of the Hotel Valencia, and artist Justin Parr, who lives on the grounds.

The concept is simple: The participating chefs, including the mixologists, have to include ingredients grown on the property in their dishes. That could mean one or more of several dozen heirloom tomatoes, peaches from the heavily laden trees, any of the many hot pepper varieties, hoja santa leaves, lovage, fennel pollen, garlic blossoms — you name it. Some of the booths will be set up inside the ruins, while the remainder will line the exterior, all under strands of Italian lights.

A few of the gardens at Hot Wells.

A few of the gardens at Hot Wells.

This year, Nowlin has more than 30 chefs lined up, and he had to turn away many more. He knows it has caused some hurt feelings, but he hopes they understand that there’s just not room to accommodate everyone at this point.

“I’m a chef,” he says, “not an event planner. But I’m an event planner.”

In the end, it’s the cause that’s important, and if you’d like to see this once-grandiose site restored or if you just want to have some fine food in a wholly unique setting, you can visit the Hot Wells Conservancy website for details. For a list of the participating chefs, click here.

A few tips if you’re making the trip to Hot Wells, 5503 S. Presa St., Wednesday or any time in the foreseeable future:

–Dress casually and for warm weather.

–Leave your high heels at home.

–Wear plenty of bug spray.

–Have a designated driver.

–Enjoy yourself.

Robbie Nowlin stands in the Hot Wells ruin.

Robbie Nowlin stands in the Hot Wells ruin.

The ruins of the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa.

The ruins of the Hot Wells Hotel and Spa.

Fennel grows by the ruins.

Fennel grows by the ruins.

Peppers grow amid the flowers.

Peppers grow amid the flowers.

 

 

Posted in Featured0 Comments

Despite Rumors, Blue Bell Isn’t Headed to H-E-B Right Now

Despite Rumors, Blue Bell Isn’t Headed to H-E-B Right Now

There have been stories going around that our beloved Blue Bell Ice Cream was headed back to the freezer cases at H-E-B.

blue bell1But that’s not the case, according to a statement from the supermarket company:

“H-E-B is not restocking Blue Bell at this time. Food and safety recalls are something that we take very seriously. We will independently assess whether to carry the brand again once its products are deemed safe. For the most current information on Blue Bell’s recall and status visit www.bluebell.com.”

Soon, we hope.

Posted in News0 Comments

Stir Up Some Fun During Negroni Week

Stir Up Some Fun During Negroni Week

Cocktail lovers know that there are few pleasures that match a well-made Negroni. It is also one of the simplest drinks to mix: Stir equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth with ice. Garnish with orange peel.

For Jeret Peña of the Last Word and the Brooklynite, the end result is magic. “The Negroni is my favorite cocktail, hands down,” he says. I couldn’t agree more.

That’s why Peña and many of the rest of us are ready to celebrate Negroni Week, which runs June 1-7 this year.

A Negroni

A Negroni

The fact that this event, sponsored by Imbibe magazine and Campari, raises money for charity only makes the week more inviting.

The rules couldn’t be much easier: You buy a Negroni from the participating bar of your choice, and the bar, in turn, donates $1 to the charity of its choice.

According to the event’s website, “From 2013 to 2014, Negroni Week grew from more than 100 participating bars to more than 1,300 participating bars around the world and more than $120,000 raised for charities.”

This year’s list is growing, with the following San Antonio bars taking part and the charities that they’re raising money for:

Alchemy Kombucha & Culture
1123 N. Flores
NowCastSA

Arcade Midtown Kitchen
303 Pearl Pkwy.
WINGS

Bar Du Mon Ami
4901 Broadway, Suite 130
Pets Alive

Barbaro
2720 McCullough Ave.
Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Blue Box
312 Pearl Pkwy.
Wounded Warriors

Esquire Tavern
155 E. Commerce St.
The Children’s Shelter

George’s Keep
17101 La Cantera Pkwy.
Wounded Warriors

Piatti
555 E. Basse Road
Texas Science and Engineering Fair

Piatti at The Eilan
17803 La Cantera Terrace
Texas Science & Engineering Fair

Silo Oyster Terrance
22211 I-10 W.
Wounded Warriors

The Green Lantern
20626 Stone Oak Pkwy.
Humane Society

The Hoppy Monk
1010 N. Loop 1604 E.
Eco Life

The Last Word
229 E. Houston St.
GBS | CIDP Foundation International

Once again, this list is growing. So, if you don’t see your favorite bar on the list, ask for a Negroni anyway. You’ll enjoy the drink and you might be helping a charity.

Posted in Drinks, Featured, Video0 Comments

The Cookhouse Is Serving Up a Better Burger

The Cookhouse Is Serving Up a Better Burger

I can safely say that most of us would vote yes when it comes to burgers.

The Cookhouse's Better Burger

The Cookhouse’s Better Burger

But Pieter Sypesteyn of the Cookhouse, 720 E. Mistletoe Ave., is offering something beyond your average burger.

During his lunch hours, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, the chef is offering a Better Burger, as part of the James Beard Foundation’s efforts to come up with a “tastier, healthier, more sustainable burger,” he says. “This beauty is blended with 30 percent mushrooms to create a big umami bomb, and give you something healthier, to boot.”

Your job isn’t over when you bite into that beauty. The Cookhouse needs your vote. You need to post a photo of the burger to Instagram with the hashtag #betterburgerproject. Then tag the photo and write what’s better about it.

The winning chef will get invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York.

The Cookhouse is only one of two restaurants in Texas taking part in this project. The other is RC Grille at the Austin Marriott.

For more details, click here.

 

Posted in News0 Comments

A Daring Rescue at Tejas Rodeo

A Daring Rescue at Tejas Rodeo

A story is going around on Facebook about what happened when the floods and storm struck Tejas Rodeo Company, 401 Obst Road, Bulverde, on Saturday night:

Tejas Rodeo Company, when it's not wet.

Tejas Rodeo Company, when it’s not wet.

Last night we witnessed true heroism. An elderly couple’s car was swept off the road leading into Tejas Rodeo by the swollen and rushing Cibolo creek. The couple climbed out of their car and held onto the roof until they were forced to abandon it altogether and found themselves literally clinging for life to a corner post of a fence. Luckily, The women’s yells were heard by some people a couple of hundred yards away, standing outside watching the parking lot disappear under the rising waters. That itself was a miracle as the rush of the water, the sound of rolling thunder from the passing storm as well as the next approaching one and the pelting of the rain drowned out most all other sounds. A group of cowboys that had earlier competed in the rodeo, some staff from Tejas and the owner himself sprang into action. 911 was called but it would be too long before they could arrive. Navigating their way through the dark churning waters they made there way down the narrow water cover road towards the sound of the woman’s yells. The water was already several feet high and was rising rapidly. From across the parking lot, which looked more like a lake, we could see the beam of light from a flashlight crisscrossing the trees and shrubs searching for the source of the cries for help. They spotted the couple and new yells from the team of cowboys could be heard requesting additional help from the others that were gathered on the edge of the flooded road. A couple of more Cowboys went into action with the only tools they had at their disposal…a horse, a rope and selfless courage.

For about two hours, but what seemed to be an eternity, this team of brave individuals put themselves in harms way, risking their own lives for the sake of two strangers. From where we were we could offer only prayers, but could witness and hear the intense struggle…shouts of “PULL” or “HOLD ON” or “GET MORE ROPE”. Thanks to their tireless effort, extreme courage and the grace of God, all survived the effort, two lives were saved.

Later that night we spoke to the owner of Tejas and he said that after an hour or so of struggle to retrieve the couple, he could see them tiring and giving up hope, almost resigning themselves to their fate. But the team of cowboys would not give up, and would not let the couple give up either. Many times he said they thought, “what in the world did we get ourselves in to…but we knew we had to do what we had to do”.
I don’t know any of their names, but as for me and the rest of us there last night…we will just call them heroes. My heroes have not always been cowboys, but last night they definitely were.

Shelby Martin, whose father Trey Martin is an owner of Tejas Rodeo, confirmed that Saturday night was full of drama, as all roads leading to and from the compound had washed out, and the couple were indeed in peril. With no access to the place, rescue teams would not have been able to get there, either, she said. So, the men who were there did their best to make sure the couple and all who tried to help made it on to high ground were safe, if wet.

The people who had shown up for the rodeo or a dinner at the Tejas Steakhouse had to stay put until one of the roads was passable, which wasn’t until 10 a.m. Sunday. That meant most had to sleep in their cars. The first road that opened was the one that the stranded couple had tried to leave on.

Not all of the roads to Tejas are open yet, but plans are on for more steaks and rodeo to be served up this weekend. Check the Tejas Rodeo website for more.

Posted in News0 Comments

The Berry Blue Cheese Spread Is Berry Good

The Berry Blue Cheese Spread Is Berry Good

A quick cheese spread is always welcome, no matter the time of year. That ease and the winning combination of flavors are what make this recipe from “Anne Byrn Saves the Day Cookbook” (Workman Publishing Co., $18.95) so welcome.

byrnThe author of the “The Cake Mix Doctor” offers the following background story: “Isn’t it funny how one quirky recipe gets everyone’s attention and makes the rounds at parties? Katie Maloy of Nashville brought this appetizer to a beach vacation in Destin, Florida, a few years ago, and since then it has been popping up at parties from Florida on north. She says she originally got the recipe online from Better Homes and Gardens, and it calls for dried blueberries, which are found on the same aisle as raisins and other dried fruit. It is the sweetness of those berries that contrasts beautifully with the saltiness of the blue cheese. Be careful to fold in the blueberries with a spoon — no electric mixer or the dip will turn blue. And Katie says it is best served the next day when the blueberry flavor is more pronounced.”

Though Byrn offers this as a dish to whip up when you know company’s coming, don’t hold off for a special occasion. You can enjoy this spread every day and include in your lunch or as an afternoon snack.

That said, the final result had a slight drawback: Even for a spread, it was too hard, and it took forever to warm up to room temperature (more than two hours). So, in the future, I might add 1/8 cup of heavy cream to keep it a little looser.

Berry Blue Cheese Spread before adding pecans.

Berry Blue Cheese Spread before adding pecans.

The Berry Blue Cheese Spread

1/2 cup dried blueberries
1 cup boiling water
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
6 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (1 generous cup)
2 scallions, both white and green parts, trimmed and chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
Whole wheat crackers and celery sticks, for serving

Place the dried blueberries in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let the blueberries stand for about 1 minute, then drain them and set aside.

Place the cream cheese and blue cheese in a large bowl and, using an electric mixer, blend then on low speed until nearly smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Scrape the cream cheese mixture off of the beaters and into the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold the scallions and garlic into the cheese mixture. Carefully fold in the drained blueberries until just combined; don’t overmix.

Berry Blue Cheese Spread with nuts.

Berry Blue Cheese Spread with nuts.

Transfer the cheese spread to a pretty serving bowl and top it with the pecans. Serve the spread with whole wheat crackers and celery sticks.

Do ahead: You can make the spread 2 days in advance. Refrigerate it, covered. Let it come to room temperature before serving.

Razzle-dazzle: Make the cheese spread the centerpiece of a festive cheese tray. Surround the serving bowl with sliced apple, grapes and fig halves. Add a soft cheese, such as a Brie, and a firm and nutty Pecorino or Manchego on the side.

Makes 12 servings.

From “Anne Byrn Saves the Day Cookbook” by Anne Byrn

Posted in Recipes0 Comments

Lone Star Spirit: Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka

Lone Star Spirit: Deep Eddy Lemon Vodka

The following is part of a series on Texas spirits, including wines, beers and liquors.

Deep Eddy Vodka, distilled in Dripping Springs, has given us several distinctive flavors, including sweet tea and ruby red grapefruit. Now comes Deep Eddy Lemon, a perfect antidote to the summer heat.

Deep Eddy Shandy

Deep Eddy Shandy

It’s made with natural lemon flavors as well as Texas water for a smooth, clean vodka that can be sipped by itself though I preferred tasting it in cocktails, such as those listed below, or simply mixed with Perrier Lime and ice.

You can find Deep Eddy Lemon at area liquor stores. A 750 milliliter bottle is price in the neighborhood of $16.

Lemon Splash

2 ounces Deep Eddy Lemon
Sparkling water
Slice of lemon

Add vodka to an ice-filled glass. Stir. Top with sparkling water. Garnish with a slice of lemon.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Deep Eddy

Deep Shandy

12 ounces wheat beer, your choice
1 ounce Deep Eddy Lemon

Stir vodka into a glass of wheat beer. Serve with a heel of lemon, if desired.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Deep Eddy

Lemon Basil Martini

2 basil leaves
1/4 ounce simple syrup
2 ounces Deep Eddy Lemon

Muddle basil in simple syrup. Add ice. Add vodka. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an additional basil leaf, if desired.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From Deep Eddy

Posted in Drinks0 Comments

Soak Your Brats in a Buttery Beer Hot Tub

Soak Your Brats in a Buttery Beer Hot Tub

Memorial Day isn’t about barbecues or grilling outdoors. It’s about remembering the many men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms. But, let’s face it, there are going to be many of us celebrating our freedom over an open fire.

Johnsonville Brat Hot Tub (Courtesy Johnsonville Brats)

Johnsonville Brat Hot Tub (Courtesy Johnsonville Brats)

So, here’s a fun recipe for bratwurst from the makers of Johnsonville Brats, a favorite brand that’s known for its consistently flavorful sausages. Keeping the brats warm in the buttery beer bath adds a flavor your whole party will enjoy.

Brat Hot Tub

1 (11-by-9-by-2 3/8-inch) aluminum foil baking pan
2 to 3 (12-ounce) cans beer
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow or white onion, sliced
Johnsonville Brats

Put the pan right on the grill, being careful not to singe your knuckle hair. Pour in the beer, and add the butter and onions.

Grill your Johnsonville Brats to a juicy, golden-brown.

Serve immediately to your hungry guests and place any remaining brats into the steaming hot tub.

When folks are ready for seconds or thirds — or when stragglers show up late — grab a brat out of the hot tub.

Makes as many brats as you want to grill.

From Johnsonville Brats

Posted in Recipes0 Comments

Give Your Coconut Cream Pie a Makeover

Give Your Coconut Cream Pie a Makeover

I love to read food magazines, but I rarely find myself making recipes from them. I don’t exactly know why. Maybe it’s because too many of them call for an ingredient like freeze-dried strawberries or buckwheat flour, which are never found in my pantry – and not likely to make a guest appearance there for one single recipe.

Coconut Cream Pie

Coconut Cream Pie with Macaroon Press-In Crust

But when I saw the recipe for Coconut Cream Pie with Macaroon Press-In Crust from Tandem Coffee + Bakery in the latest issue of Bon Appétit, I knew I was destined to make it. That is, without the optional pandan leaf that the recipe calls for.

The primary appeal for this largely gluten-free recipe is the crust, made from chocolate-covered coconut. So, yes, you can have your own version of a homemade Mounds or Almond Joy bar and still have coconut pudding on top of it. (The largely gluten-free is because of the iffy nature of cornstarch. If you’re avoiding gluten, you can find modified cornstarch that will work.)

I was too busy reading the recipe to note that there were step-by-step photos on how to make this pie, which might have helped with the chocolate you use. I needed more to line the entire crust, so I just covered the bottom. Plus, I had a slight problem with the pieces you need to make for the garnish. My first attempt wasn’t thin enough to make as much as I needed, so my suggestion would be to double that part of the recipe. If you have leftovers, just eat them like candy.

In the meantime, I’m entertaining thoughts about other pies to use with that macaroon crust. Chocolate pudding would work of course, as would pistachio. No-bake fruit pies, such as strawberry or cherry, would also be great. Any other suggestions?

Coconut Cream Pie with Macaroon Press-In Crust

Coconut crust

Coconut crust

Crust:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 large egg white
1 ¾ cups unsweetened shredded coconut (see note)
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted, slightly cooled

Custard and Assembly:
2 wide strips lime zest
1 pandan leaf (optional)
1 ¾ cups whole milk
¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk (do not use low-fat)
¼ cup raw skin-on almonds, coarsely chopped (pecans also work)
2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted slightly cooled
3 large egg yolks
¼ cup cornstarch

Chocolate-lined crust

Chocolate-lined crust

¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 ½ cups heavy cream

Note: You can find unsweetened coconut at H-E-B in the produce section with the other dried fruits and snacks.

Crust: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat a 9-inch pie pan with nonstick spray. Mix egg white, coconut, sugar, butter and salt with a rubber spatula in a large bowl until evenly combines and the consistency of a stiff paste. Using your hands, press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie pan. Bake until edges are golden brown and bottom is set and just barely golden, 15-20 minutes. Transfer pie pan to a wire rack (leave oven on to toast almonds and coconut) and let crust cool. Brush crust with melted chocolate.

Custard and Assembly: Bring lime zest, pandan leaf, if using, milk and coconut milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Cover and let sit off heat 30 minutes.

Press the plastic over the filling.

Press the plastic over the filling.

Meanwhile, toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until slightly darkened and fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Let cool. Toast coconut on same baking sheet, tossing once, until edges are golden, about 4 minutes.

Stir almonds into melted chocolate in a small bowl. Spread in an even layer on a sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle toasted coconut over chocolate almonds and chill until firm, 8-10 minutes. Coarsely chop, then cover and chill.

Pluck out lime zest and pandan leaf from milk mixture; discard. Return milk mixture to a simmer. Whisk egg yolks, cornstarch, salt and ½ cup sugar in a medium bowl to combine. Whisking constantly, gradually add ½ cup milk mixture to egg mixture. Whisking constantly, add egg mixture to milk mixture in saucepan and cook over medium heat until mixture is thickened and bubbling (it will look like thick pudding). Remove from heat and whisk in butter and lime juice.

Scrape custard into crust and press a piece of plastic wrap against surface. Chill until set, about 2 hours.

Just before serving, whip cream and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a small bowl to medium-still peaks. Spoon over custard, leaving about a 1-inch border, and swirl decoratively. Scatter chocolate-almond mixture around perimeter.

Do Ahead: Pie (without whipped cream) can be made 3 days ahead; keep chilled.

Makes 1 (9-inch) pie.

From Tandem Coffee + Bakery/Bon Appétit

Coconut Cream Pie with Macaroon Press-In Crust

Coconut Cream Pie with Macaroon Press-In Crust

Posted in Featured, Recipes0 Comments

Food & Wine Grills the Granary’s Chef About St. Louis-Style Ribs

Food & Wine Grills the Granary’s Chef About St. Louis-Style Ribs

Pick up the June issue of Food & Wine magazine and you’ll find a familiar name.

Tim Rattray

Tim Rattray

Tim Rattray, chef at the Granary ‘Cue and Brew in the Pearl complex, offers up a recipe for St. Louis-style ribs on the grill.

That’s right, these aren’t smoked in the usual Texas barbecue fashion, but that doesn’t mean you can’t serve them up at your next party, for Memorial Day or any other occasion.

What the magazine prizes in Rattray’s recipe is the bark, that “thin crust … that shatters when you bit into it,” Ben Mims writes.

Rattray’s recipe starts with a rub that includes brown sugar, cinnamon and coffee. “The spices are like bass notes for the meat, amplifying its flavor,” the chef is quotes as saying.

The Granary’s has been written up a lot lately. It landed at No. 4 of Johnny Fugitt’s “The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America.” It was also featured in Bonnie Walker’s and my volume, “Barbecue Lover’s Texas,” and includes Rattray’s recipe for Banana Pudding, certainly the finest example of this barbecue favorite that we tasted in the entire state.

 

Posted in News, Restaurants0 Comments