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Restaurant Week Lunches Offer Excellent Food, Bargains

Restaurant Week Lunches Offer Excellent Food, Bargains

Chez Vatel's chicken with pasta (Photo by Bonnie Walker)

Chez Vatel’s chicken with pasta (Photo by Bonnie Walker)

Two recent lunches during Culinaria’s Restaurant Week illustrate what bargains can be had during this week-long celebration. Think about it: You get a three-course meal for $15. When was the last time you paid that for fine food?

Zinc's Meatloaf

Zinc’s Meatloaf

At Zinc Bistro & Bar, some friends and I settled in among the attorneys and downtown professionals having their power lunches to enjoy a three-course menu that will largely vary by the day on which you visit.

You can choose a cup of the day’s soup or the house salad. Either should be a good choice, if you have the luck we had. The soup that day was a curried tomato with plenty of spice and a complex series of spices bolstering the fresh tomato flavor. The Zinc Salad featured a lively mix of greens, grape tomatoes, nuts, pears and goat cheese tossed in a bright orange sherry vinaigrette.

As good as both of these dishes were, they couldn’t hold a candle to the day’s special, which was meatloaf with a mushroom-laden sauce. If you’ve had Zinc’s burger, known as the “crack burger” to its addicted following, then you might consider this the meatloaf equivalent. It was that rewarding. Credit also goes to a healthy array of vegetables and starches on the side, including pan-fried potatoes with blue cheese crumbles, roasted red pepper, cooked red onion and sauteed yellow squash. If Zinc ever features this again as a special, don’t think twice; just order two helpings and have at them both with gusto.

Dessert was listed as a peach cobbler, but it was more like a rustic cupcake with peaches baked in. The batter was suffused with warm spices that offered the promise of cooler fall temperatures to come, and it left a smile filled with the pleasure that comes from something made with love.

Chez Vatel's seafood chowder

Chez Vatel’s seafood chowder (Photo by Bonnie Walker)

Chez Vatel & Bistro had a chalkboard full of options and, since we were early, a couple of unadvertised specials. So, before the restaurant filled up, we started with a comforting bowl of seafood chowder, a refreshing vichyssoise and a salad tossed in a basil vinaigrette that let the herb, not the vinegar, dress the greens in flavor.

From the main course options, we feasted on skate that practically melted on the tongue, braised pork butt that was tender, and chicken served up with a welcome helping of house-made pasta. The big surprise was how good the vegetables were. Once again, there was a generous array that included snow peas, carrots, broccoli, broiled tomatoes and french fries that approached perfection. The vegetables varied from plate to plate, but all were fresh in a way that really satisfied. So much so, in fact, that this diehard carnivore will give chef Damien Watel’s vegetarian plate serious consideration the next time I’m there.

Dessert was the French classic, Far Breton, a prune flan-style cake that arrived with a gorgeous splash of color on the side , thanks to berries, creme anglaise and a coulis. Beautiful as it was, it was no match for our forks. No trace of it was left behind.

It was yet another reminder why fans of the restaurant have voted Chez Vatel & Bistro the No. 1 restaurant in San Antonio in the recent Zagat guide.

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week continues through Saturday. Several restaurants have announced extensions, including Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse, Arcade Midtown Kitchen, the Boiler House, Tre Trattoria Alamo Heights and Umai Mi.

Zinc Bistro & Bar
207 North Presa St.
(210) 224-2900

Chez Vatel & Bistro
218 E. Olmos
(210) 828-3141

Chez Vatel's skate

Chez Vatel’s skate

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Analyzing Restaurant Week Strategy Over Seared Halibut at Bolo’s

Analyzing Restaurant Week Strategy Over Seared Halibut at Bolo’s

Sink your teeth into Bolo's Cubano.

Sink your teeth into Bolo’s Cubano.

A record number of San Antonio restaurants are taking part in Culinaria’s Restaurant Week this year, and the approach differs from place to place.

Seared halibut with Peruvian potatoes

Seared halibut with Peruvian potatoes

Some load up on options, so you and your dinner companions can have your choice of courses offered. Others, like Bolo’s at the Omni in the Colonnade, have a single choice on the menu, one appetizer, one main course and one dessert, for $35.

Which works best?

That’s what Bonnie Walker and I pondered as we had dinner at Bolo’s.

We could appreciate being able to try a place new to us that offered an array of choices, because who knows when we’d be able to return. So, we might have a lingering taste of several small plates, several entrees and who knows how many desserts.

But when you have only one choice on your menu, someone in your party can branch out and sample the regular menu — and who knows what surprises that might yield.

In this case, smiles abounded with most every bite, no matter which menu the dish came from. We could also limit the amount of food somewhat because, to be honest, a week of three-course meals can take their toll, even on old pros like us.

Texas morel and hazelnut crusted scallops

Texas morel and hazelnut crusted scallops

We started the evening by sharing the Restaurant Week appetizer, a pair of Texas morel and hazelnut crusted scallops served over melted leeks. The scallops were firm, pleasantly on the rare side, with a crumble of mushroom and nut sprinkled over the top of each. The leeks had been melted, as promised, and every last bit of solid food disappeared. Neither of us cared for the sweet sauce that accompanied the dish, which undercut the sweetness of the leeks, but it was easy to eat around.

Our entrees may have seemed like a study in contrasts, but each worked well. The Restaurant Week menu promised seared halibut over purple Peruvian potatoes and a saffron sauce. Little did I realize that the dish would be a riot of color that included microgreens on the fish, a light purple from the potatoes, the buttery yellow of the sauce and more. Helping it were the inclusion of roasted carrots and asparagus spears wrapped in some type of ham or prosciutto, both of which offered added textures and, of course, flavor. The centerpiece, a beautiful slab of halibut, had been cooked through, so that it flaked easily with a fork and yielded a solid sense of the sea.

Bolo's Chocolate Bombe

Bolo’s Chocolate Bombe

Bonnie had been craving a Cubano ever since she saw the movie “Chef” earlier this summer, and the pressed sandwich is a staple of Bolo’s menu. After making sure the roast pork had been freshly made in house, she ordered the traditional favorite, which arrived with plenty of ham, Swiss cheese and pickle all melted together with the roast pork. The bread was ciabatta, not the traditional Cuban bread. It was a little crustier than expected, but not a bad substitution.

For dessert, Bonnie ordered a peach cobbler, which more like a crumble with oats, dried fruit and brown sugar over slices of caramelized peaches that practically melted on your tongue. Of course, there was some butter permeating the warm serving, while a scoop of vanilla ice did its best to melt in.

My Restaurant Week offering was a called a Chocolate Bombe, and it was “da bomb,” to use some slang from a few years back. It wasn’t a traditional bombe, but was it ever tasty. Instead of chocolate mousse encased in a chocolate shell, this was a dome-shaped, dense chocolate cake, frosted and covered with Texas pecans. A little mousse had been piped around the outside of the cake and in a nest on the other side of the plate, which served as the home of a truffle. It passed the welcome excess test, and what I couldn’t eat made for a nice breakfast the following morning.

The restaurant wasn’t overly busy, so our chef came out to greet us after dinner and ask how the special menu was. That’s always welcome when you’ve had food that’s satisfying. And it makes me want to head back to Bolo’s again and try a few more items on the menu. Isn’t that what Restaurant Week is supposed to do?

Bolo’s at the Omni Colonnade
9321 Colonnade Blvd.
(210) 691-8888

Peach cobbler

Peach cobbler

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Hot Joy Makes Bon Appetit Top 10 List

Hot Joy Makes Bon Appetit Top 10 List

Congrats to one of San Antonio’s newer restaurants, the all-over-the-plate inventive Hot Joy at 1014 S. Alamo St.

Hot Joy logoBon Appetit released its Top 10 Best New Restaurants — and right at No. 7 is Hot Joy.  It edges out an Austin food truck called Thai-Kun, at No. 8. (This is something we’d like to see become a trend!)

Described by writer Andrew Knowlton as a pan-Asian stoner-food temple in San Antonio, the slide show starts with Hot Joy chicken wings and meanders through the menu by chef Quealy Watson. Chad Carey is one of the restaurant owners.

Watson may not have ever been to Asia, but the food of this restaurant is described as a “new sub-genre” which, “when executed with passion and skill, rewards the pleasure center of the brain just as much as some preciously foraged $100 tasting menu.”

Before choosing their top 10 best, Bon Appetit also placed San Antonio’s Cured, at the Pearl and owned by chef Steven McHugh, to the top 50 best new restaurants in the country.

The other 10 restaurants can be seen here, with slideshows, at this link.


Hot reds and cool stone welcome guests to San Antonio's Hot Joy.

Hot reds and cool stone welcome guests to San Antonio’s Hot Joy.



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Morton’s Thrives on Fine Flavors

Morton’s Thrives on Fine Flavors

Morton's Double-Cut Pork Chop

Morton’s Double-Cut Pork Chop with Creamed Corn

Let’s face it, $35 doesn’t often get you into the door at Morton’s the Steakhouse. So, the Restaurant Week prix fixe menu was especially welcome.

The question, though, was which entree would I get? The double-cut pork chop or the 6-ounce filet mignon?

Morton's Salad

Morton’s Salad

My friend was asking the same thing, so we ended up sharing a bit of each, which made us both happy. Those were but two of the four choices you can order during Culinaria’s Restaurant Week, which runs through Saturday. The other two are Honey Chile Glazed Salmon and Chicken Bianco, which features artichokes, capers and a white wine sauce.

The generous portion of pork was moist and tender, presented medium, as ordered. It may have taken a little pressure from the hefty steak knives to cut through each bite, but there was a natural sweetness to the meat that made the effort well worth it. Alongside the chops was a serving of creamed corn with plenty of bacon and a dusting of nutmeg, which added a brightness to the plate.

Sure, the pork dwarfed the filet in terms of size, but not flavor. A little salt and pepper on the outside of that slab of meat was all that was need to bring up the natural beef richness of the cut, which was perfectly complemented by an order of Lyonnaise potatoes, pan-fried slices tossed with onions and a sprinkling of garlic.

A bottle of 2010 Greg Norman Cabernet-Merlot had a bright cherry quality that went well with both meats.

Morton's Lemon Souffle

Morton’s Lemon Souffle

To start our dinner, we had a Morton’s Salad with plenty of hard-boiled egg crumbles over a bed of romaine and iceberg that had been tossed with a creamy blue cheese dressing. A lone anchovy graced the top, adding a voluptuous umami quality that only made me want more. But then again, I always want more anchovies. A five-onion soup was a little too sweet for either of our tastes; plus the appearance was not terribly appetizing in a white cup that it made the soup look like brackish dishwater.

My friend and I had our hearts set on different desserts, and we each got exactly what we wanted. She ordered the key lime pie, which was dense, lightly sweet and pleasantly tangy, just what she wanted on a hot summer’s day. I went for the lemon soufflé with a lemon zabaglione for the center. I love the dichotomy of the dish, which is airy and light yet boasts a substantial egg richness marked by the bright addition of lemon in the soufflé as well as the sauce. It made me very happy.

You can get other soufflé flavors, including chocolate and Grand Marnier, or you could opt for chocolate mousse or cheesecake. The depth of choices in each course makes Morton’s well worth considering as Restaurant Week continues.

Morton’s the Steakhouse
300 E. Crockett St.
(210) 228-0700

Morton's 6-ounce filet mignon

Morton’s 6-ounce filet mignon

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Tiu Steppi’s Steps Up for Restaurant Week

Tiu Steppi’s Steps Up for Restaurant Week

Who doesn’t love a bowl of handmade noodles, all eggy and rich, covered with a sauce made out of mushrooms or plenty of cream and cheese?

tiu steppis

The patio at Tiu Steppi’s

Steve Warner knows their appeal. His Restaurant Week menu for Tiu Steppi’s Osteria features several entree options, which you can get served over handmade fettucine, if you like. Mashed Yukon gold potatoes is another option, if you prefer.

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad

Those noodles were a welcome nest for Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Florentine. At the center of the chicken breast meat, kept moist by the prosciutto, was a scoop of warm sauteed spinach, all of which melted together over in a cheesy sauce made with Parmesan, asiago and mozzarella. But even better were the oven-dried tomatoes that added a bright touch that cut through all that velvety sauciness.

Yellow and green pasta were the base chosen for the 8-ounce beef tenderloin, which was topped with gorgonzola, garlic and chives. The meat could have used a little more marbling for flavor, but it worked well with the rest of the ingredients in the dish, including a porcini mushroom sauce. That sauce had full mushroom flavor, but we wondered if powdered porcini had been used to achieve that, because the slices in the sauce looked more like cremini or button cap.

If you’ve ever been to Tiu Steppi’s on a Saturday night, Restaurant Week notwithstanding, you likely have faced a wait. When my colleague Bonnie Walker and I arrived, we were informed that it would be 30 minutes before we got an inside seat, but we were also told that we could start our meal on the patio. Thanks to a giant fan that kept the air moving, sitting on the patio wasn’t unpleasant, but we actually got our table before our first course arrived.

Smoked Salmon Carpaccio

Smoked Salmon Carpaccio

So we settled down in the air conditioned comfort of the cozy dining room just as our order of smoked salmon carpaccio arrived with plenty of welcome, salty capers on top.  It disappeared so quickly that it might not seem possible for us to have noticed how carefully layered the flavors were, but we did enjoy the tang of the lemon dressing along with the peppery arugula and bitter radicchio.

Our other start was a lively Caesar salad with plenty of anchovy flavor — thanks go to our waitress for pointing that out — along with fresh garlic, tangy grape tomatoes and salty Parmesan cheese.

Dessert brought the lone misstep of the evening. A dish listed as Coffee and Doughnuts featured cappuccino semi-freddo and house-made doughnuts dusted in cinnamon sugar. It certainly looked impressive when it arrived, but the semi-freddo, which is supposed to be soft, had frozen rock hard, and that forced the texture off balance, leaving each bite slick and overly unctuous. The doughnuts may have been made in house, but they had also been made a long time before they were served and had partially dried out.

The dark chocolate torte was an unqualified success, silky and rich yet light enough after that filling dinner.

A fine meal, pleasant service and steady air conditioning, so bracing after a day of manual labor, certainly made for an enjoyable  evening. But the intimacy of Tiu Steppi’s carried our fun Saturday one step further. The people around us were really enjoying themselves. A family next to us were visiting for the first time, and they raved about their meat-laden pizza, while enjoying the looks of the dishes that arrived at ours. That easy-going give-and-take made us really feel at home.

Tiu Steppi’s Osteria
9910 West Loop 1604 North #123

Coffee and Doughnuts

Coffee and Doughnuts

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Lick It! Ice Cream Comes to the Pearl

Lick It! Ice Cream Comes to the Pearl

Goat cheese, honey and thyme. Smoky melon and sea salt. Carrot and tarragon. Dark chocolate with olive oil and sea salt.

What flavor will it be?

What flavor will it be?

Which ice cream flavor will you try first?

That’s the question people will have to decide once they get inside Lick Ice Creams, which has opened at the Pearl Brewery in the space formerly occupied by the CIA’s Bakery and Cafe.

This is the first San Antonio location for the Austin-based ice cream maker, which has gained a national reputation for using the finest, freshest local dairy as well as its unique flavor combinations.

There’s Texas Sheet Cake, rich with nuts and just enough batter to remind you of its namesake cake. Too Hot Chocolate has a great burn on the finish from a winning combination of chiles. Roasted beets with fresh mint gets a natural sweetness from the beets, which is tempered by the cool mint.

Sure, there’s a Hill Country Honey and Vanilla as well as a Milk Chocolate for purists, but why stick with tradition when you can have Texas au lait, featured roasted coffee with plenty of milk and cream to smooth it out.

lick1The dairy comes from Mill-King Market & Creamery in McGregor, Texas, which has built its reputation on raising dairy cows that aren’t fed GMO-corn or soy. Plus, it’s low-temperature pasteurized.

Lick was founded by Anthony Sobotik and Chad Palmatier in 2011. In addition to gaining a natural reputation for their “honest ice creams,” as they call their product, Lick was also chosen as one of the foods Rachael Ray served at her South by Southwest house party in 2013.

So, what are you waiting for? You know you want to try one of the seasonal flavors, such as Fromage & Fig or PB&J, before they’re gone.

Lick Ice Creams, 312 Pearl Parkway, is open 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday as well as Tuesday-Thursday and 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. It is closed Monday.


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Culinaria’s Restaurant Week Steps Up Its Game!

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week Steps Up Its Game!

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week is fast approaching, and this year’s event, Aug 16-23,  not only highlights many of the best local chefs and restaurants but now also food trucks. They’ll be offering their fare at a designated location at Travis Park on Aug. 19.

As an all-encompassing citywide event, all participating restaurants will donate partial proceeds to benefit Culinaria and its continued outreach initiatives.

Participating restaurants will offer an array of prix-fixe menus— encompassing both three-course lunch menus and four-course dinner menus within three different pricing tiers.

* Tier 1 establishments will offer $15 for a three-course lunch menu, and $35 for a four-course dinner menu.

* Tier 2 establishments will off $10 for a three-course lunch menu, and $25 for a four-course for dinner menu.

An island bar will be a first for Perry's.

The Island Bar at Perry’s Steakhouse, one of the participants in this year’s Restaurant Week.

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week benefits all of Culinaria’s community outreach programs, making each dining experience a charitable one.

This culinary adventure leads you to try new restaurants and also lets you support many of your local favorites.

With each meal ordered specifically for San Antonio Restaurant Week, participating restaurants will donate $1 from each lunch menu and $2 from each dinner menu ordered to benefit Culinaria.

San Antonio Restaurant Week highlights a wide array of dining establishments. Places such as Arcade Midtown Kitchen, Biga on The Banks, Bite, Bliss, Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden, Boudro’s, BRIO, The Esquire Tavern, La Gloria, The Fruteria, Liberty Bar, Luke San Antonio, MAX’s Wine Dive, NAO, Palm Restaurant, Stella Public House,  and many more. Reservations are encouraged and you can contact each establishment directly. See the complete list here!

Restaurant Week on the Move!

This year’s  Restaurant Week on The Move will showcase the city’s best food trucks and mobile kitchens with the special pricing of $8 for a lunch special and $15 for a dinner special. You can find them in Travis Park, at a designated location, on Aug. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.


Culinaria is an independent, not-for-profit organization committed to promoting San Antonio as a premier wine and food destination while fostering community growth and enrichment. Read more about Culinaria here


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Griffin to Go: Are Too Many Diners Expecting the Moon These Days?

Griffin to Go: Are Too Many Diners Expecting the Moon These Days?

Diners, beware. Open season has been declared on those of you who eat out. And the complaints aren’t just coming from wait staff.

Do you see this person as friend or foe?

Do you see this person as friend or foe?

Chefs, managers, critics and even some actors are getting into the mix.

Oh, sure, there are still a few people who go out to eat, politely order their food, eat and enjoy themselves, tip their server between 15 and 20 percent, maybe thank the chef and then leave. But if you’re one of those people, you need to realize that you’re part a dying breed.

Today’s diners are far less gracious. Don’t think that I’m merely talking about the hipster crowd or Millennials, because the rampant bad behavior seems to belong to no single age group. There are grumblers, old and young, who are never satisfied with what they’re served and make no bones that anything less than perfection is unacceptable.

Take tables, for example. Anywhere they’re seated is not good enough. Too close to the kitchen. Too far from the bar. Too noisy. Too close to another table. Too lacking in feng shui. After playing Goldilocks with the chairs a half-dozen times, they still haven’t found a place that’s “just right,” and they blame the restaurant for it.

Or maybe the table is filled with diners who spend 20 minutes taking pictures of their food and then complain that the meal is not hot enough. Really, folks? How long does it take to take a picture? I have often joked that food photography has become the 21st century’s way of saying grace, because, in a way, it’s a form of being grateful for the food that has been set before you. But if it takes longer to get your picture than it does to say the common table prayer, then you have no right to complain about the temperature of your food — or much of any else.

And let’s not get started on the issue of tipping.

Sure, service needs to evolve to meet the new standards, demands and eccentricities of today’s entitled diners. But where is the line drawn between reasonable and ridiculous? The gripes and sniping have gained in volume, as if some people think they’ll get a free meal if they scream loud enough; their puerile behavior leaves the rest of us wondering what we did wrong because we were enjoying our meal. Some of the restauranteurs who failed to cave in to these diners’ demands have later discovered online reviews from those same upset people who have lashed out in their outrage. These reports pile grievance on top of grievance until it seems as if their dinner had been served in a prison instead of a neighborhood bistro.

Too often, though, these posts come across as outrageous and unintentionally funny, and they have led to the hysterical Real Actors Read Yelp series on YouTube. There are more than 20 of these short videos, and each one is sadder and more laughable than the one that came before it. For a particularly apt example, click here. At the end, you can choose any of the others until you’ve had your fill.

In recent weeks, various stories have appeared about a supposed report that a New York restaurant has done comparing its service from 10 years ago to its service today. Why are so many more complaints are generated nowadays about the service? Videos from both years show that, of course, the diners are the problem and not the restaurant. That is why I say “supposed,” because the restaurant’s identity has not been revealed, so there have been claims that it’s a hoax.

Whether it’s false or true, you may want to read one account of the story (click here) because it offers a lot to chew on, in San Antonio as well as New York. Pay attention to the comments at the end of the piece, too. The vitriol from the readers, who come from all backgrounds and not just the restaurant business, equals the petulance of some diners.

This standoff is likely to get worse before it gets better. But all you prickly, picky diners who expect support from food critics, think again. Your behavior is turning off those who eat out for a living. In a recent online chat, Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post had this to say after being asked what a restaurant was supposed to do after a person slipped and fell in the dining room: “More than any other business I know, people expect restaurants to be and do everything. Can you imagine asking your hair dresser to give you a free trim because it was your birthday? Or expecting half-off on a root canal if your dentist kept you waiting more than 15 minutes?”

So, the next time you go out, leave your attitude at home. You’ll find yourself enjoying the experience more. So will the people around you. If you can’t do that, then kindly limit yourselves to restaurant drive-thru windows. You may not realize it now, but it never pays to bite the hand that feeds you.

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It’s Down to the Final Four on ‘Food Network Star’

It’s Down to the Final Four on ‘Food Network Star’

Did San Antonio’s Luca Della Casa survive Rachael Ray, a pair of notoriously finicky eaters and a live camera setup to make it to the final four on “Food Network Star”?

Luca Della Casa

Luca Della Casa

Sunday’s episode of the culinary competition brought a number of challenges to the executive chef of Nosh and Silo as well as the other four contestants who have cooked and charmed their way through Las Vegas before moving on to New York.


The first part of the competition had the chefs presenting live spots at various food stands within Chelsea Market. Della Casa was at The Lobster Place where he talked about what summertime favorite he would make with the seafood at hand. His choice was a lobster salad, but he managed to say you could “downgrade” to shrimp, if lobster simply weren’t available. It was a nice display of humor and he managed to stay engaged with his audience of judges.

The other Texan on the show was not so lucky. Sarah Penrod didn’t wear an ear piece, so she didn’t know when she was supposed to start talking. It led to an embarrassing silence that didn’t stop until she just rushed into a spiel about exotic fruits that are available in the summertime. She hadn’t tasted the melon she chose in her hand before, so when one of the judges questioned her about its, she ended up sticking her face into the melon half and taking a bite. It was a genuinely funny moment and probably saved her in this round.

But Nicole Gaffney showed the most poise and ease before the camera, which gave her the advantage going into the next round.

The chefs were headed for Rachael Ray’s talk show, where they would have to address a problem that a series of families was facing. Each would have 3 1/2 minutes to solve the problem while selling themselves to Ray, their assigned family, the audience and the judges.

Gaffney got to pick which chef would tackle which problem. Della Casa had to make a vegetable dish that two picky children would eat. He thought that was easy, because his sister and he gave their mother the same problem. She solved it by making a “risotto” out of cauliflower and topped it with a Bolognese sauce. But the task wasn’t as simple as preparing the dish. The children were on hand, watching the entire demonstration, so they knew exactly what they were being served and they wouldn’t take a bite of it. The judges also wished he had said “meat sauce” instead of Bolognese.

That may have seemed bad, but Gaffney’s dilemma was worse. Her family was looking for a dish that wasn’t the same old meat and potatoes. She prepared a shrimp dish, but the family’s 3-year-old spit it out in horror. And, of course, that clip was repeated several times.

Fan favorite Lenny McNab, with his oversized cowboy personality, won the round by engaging everyone in a budget-conscious dish of chicken thighs. During his presentation, he faced a wardrobe malfunction: His jeans split down the middle, which was mortifying to him, but no one else noticed.

Della Casa was also declared safe, leaving just the three women: Penrod, Gaffney and self-proclaimed “Butcher Babe” Loreal Gavin. Each had her moments, but the judges decided against Gavin, who failed to use her knowledge in her first segment, when she was asked to describe a cut of meat, and didn’t meet the challenged on Ray’s show. She’d been asked to provide a simple meal for a couple, who were eating out too much, but her dish was so elaborate that even she had trouble making it in her demonstration. The couple liked the stuffed chicken breast she made, but you could see that it wasn’t the easy answer they were looking for.

So next week, Della Casa finds himself up against McNab, Gaffney and Penrod, as “Food Network Star” heads into the quarterfinal. How far can he go?

Food Network Star airs at 8 p.m. CT on the Food Network.


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Robbie Nowlin New Exec. Chef at Hotel Valencia’s Citrus

Robbie Nowlin New Exec. Chef at Hotel Valencia’s Citrus

Chef Robbie NowlinAfter stints with The Lodge Restaurant of Castle Hills and Las Canarias at Omni La Mansión del Rio, San Antonio chef Robbie Nowlin has been named to the executive chef position at Citrus, at the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, Nowlin also worked at famed The French Laundry in California.

As of Aug. 1, the Valencia Group announced, signature dishes such as spring lamb shank with piperade, pickled eggplant, frisée and a mustard seed glaze and “Foie Gras Mille Crepe” with compressed strawberry, celery, banana, Tellicherry black pepper crème fraiche and candied hazelnut. will be holding their rightful place on the Citrus menu. Look for flavors that follow the seasons as one of the hallmarks of the new chef.

Stephen Bilby, director of sales & marketing for the Hotel Valencia, says Nowlin works hard at his craft and “possesses a certain charismatic flair that fits perfectly with our brand.”

Nowlin’s culinary career began early.  At 14 years old, with no formal training, Nowlin took a weekend job as a cook to earn some extra dough for skateboards. Soon, he was swapping wheels for sauté pans and Japanese knives. Now, 16 years later, the chef’s resume links him with noted local names such as Jason Dady, Damien Watel and John Brand — and on the national level, with celebrity chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry.

Local foodies will remember that Nowlin won the Chaîne des Rôtissuers competition for best young chef three years in a row.

“I have always liked a good challenge,” Nowlin says.  “I just felt it was time and that I was ready to be an executive chef of a four-diamond hotel, especially one as sleek, modern and sexy as Valencia.”

The Hotel Valencia River Walk is at 150 E. Houston St.

Houston-based Valencia Group is a fully integrated hospitality company that provides management, development, branding and repositioning services for independent, full-service hotels owned by the company, in addition to third parties.

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