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

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


A double order of the dark meat at Popeyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Latin Music, Tapas and More at NAO, to Present Author Maricel Presilla

Latin Music, Tapas and More at NAO, to Present Author Maricel Presilla

Author Marisel E. Presilla

Author Marisel E. Presilla

Come and meet celebrity Latin cuisine expert and award-winning cookbook author Maricel Presilla at a jazzy and tasty event, including book signing, from 5-8 p.m. Oct. 6 at NAO, at Pearl.

In addition to meeting this impressive culinary historian, you’ll be able to enjoy Latin jazz from San Antonio Country Club Chef Nelson Milan along with his all-chef ensemble who will be joined by  celebrity artist Carla Veliz.

Geronimo Lopez-Monascal, executive chef at NAO, is planning an array of tapas to serve, and there will be cocktails as well from the drink masters at NAO — all inspired by Presilla’s book.

Gran Cocina LatinaPresilla is the winner of the 2013 Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year and the International Association of Culinary Professionals ( IACP) Best Cookbook awards. She specializes in the foods of Latin America and Spain and has contributed articles to Saveur, Food & Wine, Food Arts, and Gourmet magazines. Her award-winning book is “Gran Cocina Latina: The Foods of Latin America,” (W.W. Norton & Company, $31).

Presilla will be in San Antonio as part of the Latin Flavors, Americans Kitchens conference at the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio.

This event offers a limited number of tickets, which are $85 per person. Purchase tickets through Eventbrite by clicking here.

This event is sponsored by Les Dames d’Escoffier San Antonio and the Culinary Institute of America San Antonio. Proceeds will go toward culinary scholarship awards.


Nelson Milan chef

Nelson Milan is a talented musician as well as chef. Come hear his all-chef ensemble play at this event for Maricel Presilla.


NAO executive chef Geronimo Lopez will whip up tapas based on recipes from Presilla's book.

NAO executive chef Geronimo Lopez will whip up tapas based on recipes from Presilla’s book.


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What’s Hot? Ruby’s Rockets, Frozen, Healthy Pops, Kid-Approved

What’s Hot? Ruby’s Rockets, Frozen, Healthy Pops, Kid-Approved

We recently tried a treat that appeared in Central Market in July. Marketed to moms who want their kids to enjoy the taste of an icy popsicle that actually could be good for them was a great idea. But, we discovered that our own boxes of Ruby’s Rockets (in a childless household) disappeared just as quickly as if a 10-year-old had moved in.

RubysRocketsRuby’s Rockets have just 2 grams of sugar and less than 35 calories per pop. They are a blend of fruits, vegetables and probiotics with no added sugars or high fructose corn syrup and no artificial colors or flavorings. Each pop is also dairy-free, GMO-free, gluten-free, HFCS-free, egg-free, vegan and kosher.

The pops were created by Hollywood actress and mom, Wendy Makkena, and her 13-year-old daughter, Ruby, as a good tasting, nutritious way to get their daily servings of fruits and vegetables.  The idea came to them when one of Wendy’s delicious “green” smoothies knocked over and, reaching for a towel, they instead found a popsicle mold. That was the “aha!” moment and the birth of Ruby’s Rockets.

The development phase began. Then, “After months of spills and kitchen disasters, we finally got it right,” said Makkena. “A kid-approved fruit and veggie concoction was born.”

Now, Makkena and her daughter are on a mission to bring Ruby’s Rockets to families nationwide.  Ruby’s Rockets frozen pops retail for $5.99 for a box of six and are available in three flavors:
• Galaxy Green – kiwi, spinach, and avocado

• Rock-It Red – sweet potatoes, strawberries, carrots, and beets

• Orbit Orange – oranges, sweet potatoes, and carrots

But how do they taste?

RubysRocketsGreen.jpbWith no children around, we had to sample each of the three flavors ourselves — not a problem!  Our judgment was yes, we would buy these. In fact, we have. It was actually hard to pick a favorite flavor, but the green won out. The avocado seemed to provide smoothness, as one would expect, the kiwi added its tart edge and the spinach — well, we could hardly tell it was there.

The red was very good, and only slightly tasted of beet. Beets are very popular right now, and that little bit of earthy flavor that crept into the pop probably won’t be detected by a child.

The orange pop was also flavorful, and the three main ingredients were a good match. Our final judgement: Buy Ruby’s Rockets — and be sure to get enough for the adults in the house, too!

Visit Ruby’s Rockets here for more information.



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At Last, a Snack That’s Actually Good for You

At Last, a Snack That’s Actually Good for You

Want a snack for your kids — or yourself — that’s not overloaded with sugar or stuff that’s unhealthy? Bolthouse Farms has introduced Shakedowns, packets of baby carrots with two separate flavor packets that let you add a little spice to a helping of raw veggies.

carrots bolthousePlus, there’s a gimmick that everyone will like: Because adding the flavor during the packaging phase would likely leave the carrots mushy, the folks behind these snacks let you add the seasoning when you’re ready for a snack. You just pinch the flavor packet in the upper left of the package, which opens it to fall onto the carrots. Then you shake it all up, and dig in.

They’re perfect for lunchboxes or to have as an after-school pick-me-up.

Right now, there are two flavors, Chili-Lime and Ranch, both of which found fans among friends who tried them. They liked the ease of no having to do anything beforehand to get the snack together, and they enjoyed the flavor. As a long-term fan of raw food, I appreciated having a snack with some crunch to it that didn’t come from a fried potato or baked corn product with some ridiculously high carbohydrate count.

The lone negative comment came from a friend who found the Chili-Lime carrots too tart; but she doesn’t like much acid in her food and would not likely have tried Chili-Lime to begin with.

Each 2.25-ounce packet has 25 calories. The Ranch version has 7 grams of carbohydrate while the Chili-Lime has 6 grams.

Shakedowns are available at H-E-B and Walmart for about $1 a packet.

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Summer Wine: Roses and Rosé Strewn About

Summer Wine: Roses and Rosé Strewn About

By Cecil Flentge

Rose bottle rose 2I am as guilty as anyone of misquoting Shakespeare when writing about rosé wines.  You could try something about “Putting the rosé in your cheeks …” but that sounds too much like I am a lush and that is just out of style.

“It rosé to the occasion …” is rather obscure and Neil Diamond’s lawyers would be all over me if I used “Cracklin’ Rosie.”

But this one is simple, it has roses on the label, roses on the cork, roses imprinted in the name, the bottle is a rose, and there is a very nice French rosé inside the bottle.  So I have to be describing the new arrival at “my” H-E-B, Cote des Roses.

This is from the Gerard Bertrand family of wineries ($13) and is sourced from the Languedoc in southern France.

Fact:  The bottle is clear glass to show the copper tinged, pink of the wine.  A cantaloupe, peach, and über-ripe pineapple fragrance which is a departure from the cherry-watermelon of many rosé wines.  The aroma is echoed on the palate with a mineral finish that is reminiscent of pink sea salt (maybe a rosé de sel?).  Dry, fruity and flavorful throughout.

An imprint of a rose on the bottom of this rose is a wonderful signature.

An imprint of a rose on the bottom of this rosé bottle is a wonderful signature.


Feeling:  My companion’s immediate reaction to “What does this wine make you think of doing?” was “Drinking it while I admire the bottle.”

It is an unusual bottle with the base being a dramatic imprint of a rose and it did bring to mind giving it as a gift wrapped in green tissue, inverted, so that you could present a ‘rose.’

But to more immediate gratification, serve with scallops or shrimp, maybe wrapped in prosciutto, maybe just crumbled bacon on a seared scallop – ah, the salty-crispy bacon, the sweet, unctuous, scallop, all enrobed in the peach-melon of the wine … bon appétit!


Cecil Flentge is a San Antonio wine educator for professionals or novices and a restaurant/bar consultant. Restaurant events or home tastings. Questions? Email

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As Keen as Mustard for Whataburger’s Condiments

As Keen as Mustard for Whataburger’s Condiments

whataburger mustardThis past week, two different national media outlets complained about the fact that San Antonio’s Whataburger hasn’t gone national.

A writer for the Daily Meal listed it as one of five burger chains that she wished were nationwide: “With more than 700 locations over 10 states, it’s a shame that Whataburger hasn’t made its way up north. A Texas favorite and number six on the Daily Meal’s list of 10 Best Chain Burgers, Whataburger has classic fast-food options in addition to seasonal favorites like avocado and specialty burgers with jalapeños and cheese.” The others on her list were Milo’s Hamburgers, Burgerville, Dick’s Drive-In and, of course, In-N-Out, the Southwestern burger chain known for taking a slow food approach to fast food.

Meanwhile, a writer for the Huffington Post included it on a list of “Food Chains We Can’t Believe Aren’t National … Yet.” His list includes Shake Shack, Wawa, Cracker Barrel, Waffle House and In-N-Out.

So, folks here in San Antonio can rest content knowing that they can find a Whataburger nearby, no matter what corner of the city they live in.

Now they can also have what the company is calling “The true taste of a Whataburger” in their own homes: Bottles of its mustard and two types of ketchup have been placed in supermarkets everywhere in the area.

I picked up a bottle of Whataburger Original Mustard at H-E-B recently for $2.55 for a 16-ounce squeezebottle and was taken with its plain, old-fashioned mustard richness. There was a pleasant tang from the vinegar, a little lift from spices that include turmeric, garlic powder and, yes, mustard seed. There was also a touch of something sweet that cut through the acid and sent me back to the label to reassure myself that no sugar had been added. (Nope, no sugar in there.)

Water is listed as the main ingredient, so you are warned on the label to shake it before using. I didn’t remember that the second time I used the bottle and the tiniest amount of water did spurt out at first, but a second and third squirt showed that the water had largely stayed incorporated with the rest of the ingredients.

It’s classic ballpark mustard, perfect for hot dogs and burgers, but also deviled eggs, potato salad and even sauces. It’s not as complex as some fancier mustards out there, such as the jar with ground walnuts that I also keep in the refrigerator next to the stone ground and the Dijon mustards. But that simplicity is part of its appeal: It won’t overpower the rest of your ingredients. Instead, it will blend in, adding to the whole.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I can get fanatical about mustard of any sort. I even made jars of the stuff as Christmas presents one year.

Whataburger has also introduced Fancy Ketchup and Spicy Ketchup, both of which seem to come in the similar sizes and are sold at the same price. I’m sure there are people as devoted to ketchup as I am to mustard, so I’ll leave it to them to report on those offerings.


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For Life’s LIttle Emergencies, It’s Best to Carry Your Own Salt with You

For Life’s LIttle Emergencies, It’s Best to Carry Your Own Salt with You

maldon sea saltHave you ever been to a pretentious restaurant where you felt you had to harass the waiter in order to get some salt for your table? It’s only topped in the aggravation department by one of those faux Asian places where they hand you a bottle of low-sodium soy sauce and, with a straight face, said, “It’s Chinese salt.”

Well, there’s no need to have to put up with that kind of asinine, anti-customer service behavior.

My colleague, Bonnie Walker, has written about the collection of salt packets she carries with her, because she likes salt on her food. It is the way millions of us prefer to eat — including many chefs.

But those little white packets, found at fast food places everywhere, contain iodized salt, which has, well, the flavor of iodine.

So, let’s give thanks to the folks at Maldon Sea Salt for helping matters immeasurably with a new little item they have begun to market: tins filled with flakes of sea salt in them. Each one is smaller than a mint tin, so it’ll fit quite comfortably in your pocket, and it’s easy to refill from a larger bottle of the salt.

Sur la Table carries the tins at the counter. They sell for $2 apiece.

So, arm yourself before you head out to dine. You never know when you’ll need it.

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Make Your Own Chai in Minutes

Make Your Own Chai in Minutes

Make your own chai at home.

Make your own chai at home.

Chai is a Hindi word for tea, but in our culture, it more specifically refers to a version of the drink made with milky rich black tea and flavored with sweet spices.

This version, also known as masala chai, has gained quite a following in Indian restaurants as well as coffeehouses.

You can make it easily at home, if you have a well-stocked spice cabinet and a good spice grinder, as the recipe below from ably demonstrates. It’s a lot cheaper this way than the price you pay, plus you can make it the way you want, maybe with a little more ginger or a little less black pepper.

chai mixOr you could give a spice mix called Rani Brand Tea Masala a try. I found this at the Himalayan Bazar, 8466 Fredericksburg Road. The mix, which costs about $3.99 for a 3-ounce jar, has the spices already ground together. And that’s all it has. The ingredient label promises it’s made up of only the following: cardamom seeds, green cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, black pepper, dry ginger, cinnamon and anise seeds.

No sugar, no artificial sweetener, no preservatives. The recipe on the side calls for the black tea, the milk and the sugar added. I left out any sweetener altogether (I don’t drink sweet tea, either) and enjoyed the extra spiciness. Just remember to strain the chai as you pour it into the cup, because the spices, unlike the sugar, won’t dissolve.

Masala Chai

4 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
3 cups water
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons black tea (decaf is best)

In a mortar, crush the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon, or use a coffee grinder.

Transfer the crushed spices to a small saucepan, add the water, ginger and pepper and bring to a boil.

Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let steep for 5 minutes.

Add the milk and sugar to the pan and bring to a boil.

Remove from the heat and add the tea.

Cover and let steep for 3 minutes.

Stir the chai, then strain it into a warmed teapot or directly into teacups.

Makes 2-3 servings.


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Get Your Oink On at Melissa Guerra’s New Store

Get Your Oink On at Melissa Guerra’s New Store

The Oink Oink line at Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocina.

Sugar skull molds for Day of the Dead.

Melissa Guerra Tienda de Cocina has opened in its new home at the Pearl Brewery. The kitchen goods store is now in the new Lab Building, which is also the home of Adelante, LeeLee Shoes and Dos Carolinas and will soon house the Twig Book Shop.

Among the items for sale right now are some Day of the Dead themed sugar skull molds in various sizes, all for $9.95 apiece.

Plus, there are a number of pig-related items to decorate your kitchen with. There may be talk of a pork shortage, but these pink piggies, in the Oink Oink line, will probably not be out of sight much, whether you’re getting a porcine timer, tongues or a spatula. The line comes in various sizes. These would make perfect stocking stuffers for the foodie on your Christmas list.

For more information, call (210) 293-3983 or click here.

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What’s Hot: Stubb’s Green Chile Marinade

What’s Hot: Stubb’s Green Chile Marinade

Stubb’s has gained quite a reputation for its barbecue sauces, which are notable in a crowded market because, among their virtues, they’re low on sugar but not on flavor.

Now, the Austin-based brand has introduced a small-batch seasonal offering, Green Chile Marinade, which is billed as an “all natural blend of Hatch green chiles, garlic and lime.”

If that sounds like a winner, then wait until you taste it.

Shrimp baked in Stubb’s Green Chile Marinade.

The marinade is hot, but not too hot, and it has a nice fruity quality, from pineapple and lime juices. That balance makes it perfect for an array of meats. I tried it on separate occasions with chicken wings and shrimp, and neither could have been easier. Simply marinate your choice of meat — I think pork would be perfect — for at least an hour and then cook. You can use the leftover to baste the meat with.

While you can find the regular Stubb’s barbecue sauce lineup at most grocery stores, the Green Chile Marinade is only available at  Whole Foods. That’s because only 4,000 cases were made. So, if you’re a Hatch chile fan, grab a bottle before it’s gone.

A 12-ounce bottle is priced at $3.79.

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