Tag Archive | "Johnny Hernandez"

Dean Fearing Here May 8, Promos ‘Texas Food Bible’

Renowned Texas chef and restaurateur, Dean Fearing, will be in San Antonio, appearing at two places open to the public on May 8 for book signings.
Chef Dean Fearing Book OnlyFearing’s new book is “The Texas Food Bible: From Legendary Dishes to New Classics” (Grand Central Life & Style, $30).

He will be at Neiman Marcus, at the Shops of La Cantera, for a book signing event from 1-3 p.m.  This appearance is hosted by Diana Barrios Trevino and Johnny Hernandez in the Gift Galleries on Level 2. The price of the book is $30.

“The Texas Food Bible” features a collection of traditional and contemporary recipes from Texas. Fearing takes readers through Texas culinary heritage, the classic preparations involved, and the expansion and fusion of the food that have combined to develop an original Southwestern cuisine.

That evening, there will be a reception and book signing, as well as a three-course meal at Nao at the Pearl in partnership with The Twig bookshop.

Chef Dean Fearing

Chef Dean Fearing

Fearing, a James Beard Award-nominated chef and owner of Fearing’s Restaurant in Dallas, will sign books at a reception in the Nao Lounge is from 5:30 to 7  p.m. Guests will have the opportunity to meet and talk with Fearing during the reception, and will be able to enjoy wine and passed hors d’oeuvres including Mango, Poblano, and Caramelized Onion Quesadillas with cilantro-lime sour cream, and Smoked Chicken Nachos from Fearing’s cookbook.

Dinner will start at 7,  and the menu will begin with Dean’s Tortilla Soup with south-of-the-border flavors. The dinner will continue with Grilled Lamb Chops with baked chuck wagon black beans and sweet potato rajas. Guests will end their night on a sweet note with Caramelized Apple Buckle.

Tickets are $80 per person, and all dinner proceeds go to The Culinary Institute of America. Ticket price includes a signed copy of The Texas Food Bible, hors d’oeuvre reception, meet and greet with the author, and the three-course dinner. For ticketing information and to purchase tickets, please call 210.554.6484.


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The Weather’s No Challenge for This Year’s Paella Challenge

Don Pullum, recently seen on "The Taste," and his assistant assemble their paella.

Don Pullum, recently seen on “The Taste,” and his assistant assemble their paella.

A last blast of winter didn’t stop hundreds of hungry people from turning out Sunday to the fifth annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery Sunday. But the gray skies and perpetual threat of rain did force the chefs and the sellout crowd under the 281 overpass for some protection.

Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen is the people's choice winner.

Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen is the people’s choice winner.

The new location  may have put a crimp into the parking, but people really enjoyed the more intimate space in which chefs from cross the city and across the country competed against each other to create the best and the most unique variations on paella, the classic Spanish dish that generally starts with some olive oil and garlic and finishes with a hefty dose of culinary magic. And on a cold, damp Sunday afternoon, what could be more welcome than a plate of steaming hot food laden with everything from scallops to roasted pig to clams and mussels?

David Gilbert of Tuk Tuk Taproom

David Gilbert of Tuk Tuk Taproom

Quite a few people stopped by Don Pullum’s table to talk with the man who recently finished a season on ABC’s “The Taste.” His final dish on that cooking show had been paella — and he didn’t survive the round intact — so the Mason chef and winemaker was looking for a chance to redeem himself. People loved his combination of lobster, crawfish, shrimp, and more over rice seasoned with plenty of saffron and other seasonings, as they did creations from a host of chefs, including Susanna Trilling, Robbie Nowlin, Stefan Bowers, Angie Bridges, Zach Lutton, Steven McHugh and Jason Dady. Chef James Canter of Victoria County Club, who has taken top prize several years in a row, became a judge this year, but he also managed to have a booth out of the competition.

The end result was a tasty way of raising money for scholarships, which will go to local culinary students, organizer Johnny Hernandez reminded the crowd before handing out the awards to the following winners:

Cesar Cervantes of El Bucanero joined Jeff Balfour to create a winning paella.

Cesar Cervantes of El Bucanero joined Jeff Balfour to create a winning paella.

High school:

  1. Robert E. Lee
  2. Brennan
  3. Sam Houston


  1. Tim Rattray, the Granary
  2. Michael Sohoki, Restaurant Gwendolyn
  3. Michael Skibitcky, H-E-B


  1. The winning team from Robert E. Lee High School.

    The winning team from Robert E. Lee High School.

    David Gilbert, Tuk Tuk Taproom

  2. Jeff Balfour, an upcoming Pearl restaurant, and Cesar Cervantes of El Bucanero
  3. Jordan Mackey, Las Ramblas, Hotel Contessa

People’s choice:

  1. Jesse Perez, Arcade Midtown Kitchen

By winning their division, the students from Robert E. Lee High School will be traveling to New York City and on to the Culinary Institute of America main campus at Hyde Park, N.C.

Susana Trilling makes paella with her team.

Susana Trilling makes paella with her team.

Paella from Stefan Bowers of Feast.

Paella from Stefan Bowers of Feast.

Members of the Memorial High School team prepare their paella.

Members of the Memorial High School team prepare their paella.

Paella from Tim McCarty of Rochester, Minn.

Paella from Tim McCarty of Rochester, Minn.

The folks from Acadiana Cafe stage crawfish races.

The folks from Acadiana Cafe stage crawfish races.

Paella from chef David Delgado of the San Antonio Food Bank.

Paella from chef David Delgado of the San Antonio Food Bank.


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Six Chefs Gather for Nao-USA Today Dinner

Six of San Antonio’s chefs will be appearing together in a dinner March 13 that’s being sponsored by Nao Restaurant and USA Today.

Geronimo Lopez

Geronimo Lopez

The chefs include:

  • Geronimo Lopez: Nao Restaurant
  • Alain Dubernard: Nao Restaurant
  • Johnny Hernandez: La Gloria
  • Andrew Weissman: Il Sogno
  • Steve McHugh: Cured
  • Michael Sohocki: Restaurant Gwendolyn

The event will be at Nao in the Pearl Brewery, 312 Pearl Parkway. It begins at 6 p.m. with a reception and chefs demonstrations, followed by dinner at 7 p.m.

Johnny Hernandez

Johnny Hernandez

The meal will include a six-course dinner with wine pairings, live entertainment and chef commentary of the dishes. The price is  $100 per person plus tax and 17 percent tip.

For pre-paid reservations, call 210-554-6484.

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Events: Luke and Mardi Gras; NAO Chefs and More

Featuring six of San Antonio’s most well-known chefs, Nao and USA Today are excited to present “Experience Food & Wine in Texas” on Thursday, March 13 from 6 – 11 p.m.
Chef Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria

Chef Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria

While focused on ingredients that come from the Lone Star State, this event is an opportunity to taste the cuisine of chefs including Geronimo Lopez and Alain Dubernard of Nao, Steve McHugh of Cured, Johnny Hernandez of La Gloria and Michael Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn and Andrew Weissman of Il Sogno,in one spectacular meal. To start up the evening, guests will have the chance to join the visiting chefs, all of whom are CIA alumni, as they come back to cook at their alma mater.

The six-course dinner will begin at 7 p.m. and will feature wine pairings with each course. There also will be live music. Tickets are now on sale for $100 per person and can be reserved by calling Nao at 210-554-6484.
Party like it’s New Orleans!

Luke San Antonio is bringing the flavor of New Orleans straight to Texas with a special Mardi Gras party on Fat Tuesday,  March 4,  from 3 p.m.- 8 p.m.

The event takes place during Luke’s weekly extended happy hour. Featured drinks include a signature Hurricane cocktail and Abita Beers on tap, including Amber, Purple Haze, Turbodog, Restoration Pale Ale and Mardi Gras Bock. For those who want to start Mardi Gras festivities early, we’ve attached our Hurricane recipe below.

crawfish1Luke San Antonio will be giving away T-shirts and there will be opportunities to win John Besh’s Mardi Gras-themed Besh Boxes. see more at beshbox.com.

Chef John Russ will be serving New Orleans party fare, listed below, at happy hour rates:

$2 King Cake with chances to win Besh Box
Hot Boiled Crawfish
$5 Gulf Shrimp Étouffée
$3 Andouille Jambalaya
$4 Peeler Farms Fried Chicken Wings
Hurricane glassIf you want to make your own Hurricanes for Mardi Gras, here’s a recipe from Besh Restaurants.
Hurricane Recipe
1 ounce tangerine-infused rum
1 ounce bourbon barrel-aged dark rum
2 ounces pineapple juice
2 ounces orange juice
1 ounce passion fruit juice
3/4 ounce pomegranate syrup
Pour ingredients over ice in a shaker and shake. Pour into a hurricane glass and garnish with fruit slices, such as a slice or orange or pineapple.


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Paella and Prizes Fill a Sunday at the Pearl

Students from Memorial High School accept the first place award for their paella.

Students from Memorial High School accept the first place award for their paella.

The storm clouds rolled past during the middle of the night, leaving Sunday with a healthy glow of light and a steady breeze for more than 1,000 to enjoy the 4th annual Paella Challenge at the Pearl Brewery.

Brian West (right) of the Culinary Institute of America makes paella.

Brian West (right) of the Culinary Institute of America makes paella.

The annual cook-off, created by chef Johnny Hernandez as a fundraiser for culinary scholarships, brought an array of chefs from across town as well as around the country and Mexico to participate.

The lineup included a number of long-time participants, such as Rene Fernandez of Azuca, Zach Lutton of Zedric’s and Jason and Jake Dady, while newcomers, including Mark Bliss of Bliss and Angie Bridges of Copa Wine Bar, dished up their best. Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen served up a seafood paella with fideo as the base, and Susana Trilling went with a traditional take that featured bright amounts of saffron and garlic in the base. Brian West and a team from the Culinary Institute of America weren’t in competition but they did serve up six different pans of paella to the hungry crowds.

Serving up Susana Trilling's paella.

Serving up Susana Trilling’s paella.

A fairly constant breeze made it hard for some of the chefs to keep their burners working steadily. Some used baking sheets to prevent the wind from extinguishing their burners. Others found that the fire would burn so hot that it had to be turned off to prevent the paella from burning.

The crowds didn’t seem to mind, as they waited patiently for dishes from Jeff White of Boiler House Texas Grill, Jeffrey Balfour of Citrus and Steven McHugh. One of the visiting chefs, Jehangir Mehta, known from his appearances on “Iron Chef,” looked out over the huge get-together and marveled at how well-run and fun the day turned out to be.

In the end, Hernandez announced the winners of this year’s high school division, which went to Memorial High School, followed by John Jay High School and Sam Houston. The winners earned a trip to New York, where they’ll visit the CIA’s main campus in Hyde Park and be able to shadow chefs in action.

The crowd listens to the winners being announced.

The crowd listens to the winners being announced.

This year’s judging was slightly different in that three top awards were handed out.

Clint Connaway of Max’s Wine Dive walked off with the people’s choice award, while Flor Vergara of Hernandez’s True Flavors took home the award for best contemporary paella.

The award for best classical paella went to James Canter, who won the top honor last year as well. Canter also was in charge of making the paella for Ben Ford’s team, which won the top award during the first Paella Challenge.

Canter, who is now chef at the Victoria Country Club, was in tears when he took the stage with his team to accept.

Given his track record, you can expect Canter to return for the fifth Paella Challenge next March.

The winners: Flor Vergara (right), host Johnny Hernandez, Clint Connaway and James Canter.

The winners: Flor Vergara (left), host Johnny Hernandez, Clint Connaway and James Canter.


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Dishing Up Paella: Coming Soon to Pearl

The 4th Annual Corona Paella Challenge hosted by La Gloria’s chef/owner, Johnny Hernandez, returns to Pearl Sunday, March 10, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m..  Chefs from San Antonio, across the country and Mexico will be cooking.

“We are excited to host the Paella Challenge again this year and invite everyone to come and join us in this celebration,” said Elizabeth Fauerso, chief marketing officer at Pearl. “This event has become a tradition in San Antonio, bringing chefs and the community together, and we are thrilled to be doing it again this year.”

paella snailsGoing into its fourth year, the Paella Challenge showcases the delicious food and wine of Spain and offers traditional sangria and a variety of fabulous craft and imported beers. The event continues to present its attendees with an afternoon filled with live entertainment and fun for the whole family.

Proceeds from the event will benefit The Culinary Institute of America San Antonio and The Educational Foundation of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

This year’s celebrity chef will be Jehangir Mehta, who appeared on The Next Iron Chef: Redemption.

Joining him in competition are Jesse Perez (Arcade Midtown Kitchen), Jeff White (The Boiler House), Steven McHugh, Tim McCarty (Sodexo), Jhojans Priego Zarat (Mariscos Villa Rica), Susana Trilling (cookbook author and Seasons of My Heart Cooking School chef instructor), Zach Lutton (Zedrics), John Herdman(Las Ramblas), David Wirebaugh (Hyatt Regency), Jeff Balfour (Citrus), Jason Dady (Tre Trattoria).

Also entering are Craig Bianco (The RK Group), Peter Holt (Lupe Tortilla), Mark Bliss (Bliss), Clint Connaway (MAX’s Wine Dive), James Canter, Michael Mata(Wyndham), Alejandro Rodriguez (Catalan Cuisine Catering), and Flor Vergara (True Flavors).

Tickets to the event are $50 pre-sale. Admission for individuals under 21 years of age is $25.  Tickets can be purchased here. and the day-of at Pearl.

paella traditional

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You’ll Want to Take a Bite Out of Two New Restaurants

Pork belly in a white chocolate mole at The Fruteria.

In the Basque region, tapas reign among those who want to spend an evening out, grabbing a small bite or two while bar hopping.

It’s not a dining format that has translated successfully to San Antonio. As I’ve said before, this city, by and large, has never been fond of the small plates concept. Legions of germaphobes find the idea of sharing food repulsive, while others just think the kitchen is trying to gyp their customers by not filling their plates with proper portions. Plus, too many people just don’t want to eat what everybody else does.

I don’t fall into any of those categories. I love the excitement that comes from taking a bite of one dish and then sampling another, tasting what friends have ordered and what arrives next. So, imagine my delight when I found myself jumping from one small plate restaurant in the Southtown area to another recently. My evening started at Johnny Hernandez’s new The Frutería, 1401 S. Flores St., and ended at Bite, Lisa Astorga-Watel’s haven for small plates at 1012 S. Presa St.

The Fruteria’s Seis Chiles Margarita

Beneath The Frutería’s name on the sign outside the door, the restaurant is billed as a “botanero,” meaning it specializes in botanas, or snacks. Also known as small plates. So, don’t expect one of the five chiles rellenos to be some overstuffed monster on a platter with rice, beans and shredded lettuce on the side. The slightly misnamed Chiles Anchos con Pollo was actually only one chile, a beautiful burnt-red rehydrated pepper that had been stuffed with lightly spicy shredded chicken tinga and topped with a hearty tomato sauce and a dramatic drizzle of crema.

It disappeared in just four or five bites, but I enjoyed each as I alternated it with a taste of Pulpo a la Plancha (a cold grilled octopus salad) or Puerco en Mole Blanco, slabs of crispy pork belly in a silky white chocolate mole with slivered almonds and a dramatic slice of fried plantain twirling up as a garnish. Other temptations from the dinner menu include carne asada, grilled sirloin in a guajillo sauce; camarones con fruitas, shrimp with a medley of mango, pineapple and orange as well as jícama; and huitlacoche con rajas, corn truffles or fungus with roasted poblanos.

Grilled octopus at the Fruteria.

Given the name of the place, I had to try the fruit cup for dessert and was rewarded with a large bowl of freshly diced apple, pineapple and strawberries with blueberries and more in one refreshing serving that was made even more mouthwatering with a touch of Lucas, chile and lime.

The Frutería takes that fruit and carries it over into its cocktail program, matching tequilas and juices in a rainbow of colors. Since I’m no fan of sweet cocktails, I asked my server for a suggestion. He recommended the Seis Chiles Margarita, said to have everything from habanero to ghost pepper in the mix. What arrived was beautiful, with a slice of red pepper floating atop the drink — and the first taste certainly showcased the intense flavors of the peppers and their innate fruitiness, but without the heat. But by the second sip, a candied quality swamped all other flavors, and I quickly lost a desire to finish it.

Bite at night.

The interior was still being worked on while I was there, but Hernandez has done a beautiful job of capturing color and an elegant sense of Mexico without the decor echoing the serape-and-sombrero look of the old school taquerias in town. Everything from the open kitchen to the bustling tables suggested that The Frutería will be a vibrant addition to the ongoing renovation of that block of Flores Street.

I moved on to the jewel box that is Bite, a dining space so cozy that small plates seem a natural. The pleasant interior design is a major improvement over the sparse sandwich shops that have come and gone in the space, which bookends a plaza with Torres Taco Haven. And the pop art canvas of a woman declaring in a cartoon bubble, “Oh my God Darling!! Southtown is so cool!!” gives the right sense of playfulness to set you at ease.

Most everything offered called my name, whether it was the cioppino or the carbonara on the specials board or escargots from the menu.

While sipping a glass of sparkling Spanish rosé, I settled on a dish from the Basque country, Boquerones Basquaise, an enticing array of tangy, white anchovies fanning out from a mound of a ratatouille-like salad of eggplant and tomato. Though the dish practically screams summer freshness, it displayed a vitality that made it refreshing, even on a cold, windy night.

It was followed by an off-the-menu special, veal-stuffed mushrooms with a touch of cheese on top. The mushrooms that provided a sturdy base for the delicately seasoned meat were king trumpets, and texturally, they resembled the octopus earlier at the Frutería. The heat of the dish just caused everything to melt together into a few exquisite tastes. The size of the serving was also fairly generous.

I would have preferred to have both dishes served at the same time to allow a little grazing, but it was not to be. Perhaps such kinks will get ironed out in the near future. I’d also like to suggest new seats at the bar. The stools are, to put it mildly, uncomfortable. Worse still, they made me feel off-balance, which is a sensation that I’d prefer to let my cocktails provide.

Veal-stuffed mushrooms at Bite.

Then the owner came in, a move that was welcomed by her regulars and Astorga-Watel did make the rounds to greet everyone there, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, she was wearing a perfume that was a little too strong for so small a place.  Though she was standing across the restaurant, her scent obliterated the aroma of the wine in my glass — and it was Torrontés, a dry Argentine wine with one of the most floral and expressive bouquets in the wine world. Within moments, her perfume literally took my breath away and sent me out of the restaurant gasping for air. (A word to restaurateurs of all stripes: Leave the heavy colognes at home, unless you’re using it to mask any flaws your food and wine may have.)

A final word: Dining on a few small plates can add up. The stuffed mushrooms at Bite, for example, were priced at $18. Nothing at The Frutería was quite as expensive — most of the prices run in the $5.50-$8.50 range — but, with the exception of the fruit cup, nothing was that substantial, either. Add a drink or two, though, and your bill could be higher than you might have realized.

The Frutería
1401 S. Flores St.
(210) 251-3104
Lunch/dinner: Tuesday-Saturday. Brunch: Sunday

1012 S. Presa St.
(210) 532-2551
Lunch: Thursday-Saturday; Dinner: Wednesday-Saturday

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2012 Was a Year of Eating Well

The Pearl has become a food lover’s center for festivals as well as restaurants.

Bliss is aptly named.

As we approach the end of 2012, it’s time to look back on the many great flavors that we sampled. The list is lengthy, thanks to a decided upturn in culinary offerings across the city, both on the dining scene and for the food lover in general.

One of the biggest food stories of the year was the continued growth of the Pearl Brewery, which saw the opening of three praise-worthy eateries and a trendy bar. It also was the location of an increasing number of food festivals, meaning thousands from all over the city were showing up on a regular basis for cooking demonstrations at the Saturday farmers market, for paella, burgers and barbecue or tamales, and for the restaurants, all in the quest of good food.

A glimpse into the kitchen at the Granary.

The list of new restaurants includes the Granary ‘Cue and Brew, which restored beer making to the premises. Artisan barbecue, fine brews and an irresistible condiment known as ‘cue butter all made this a welcome addition. The Boiler House Texas Grill and Wine Garden delivers on the belief that quality grilled meat is prerequisite in the Lone Star State, and the massive setting, covering two stories, is epic enough to complement chef James Moore’s ranch-style fare.

The most intriguing addition, though, is NAO, the Culinary Institute of America’s full-service restaurant, which has provided San Antonio with its broadest and most authentic taste of South and Central American cuisines to date. These exciting flavors, from seafood stews and roasted meats to an inviting cocktail program, have somehow not been able to secure a foothold before in a city that values its Tex-Mex above all; yet in just a few months, NAO has developed a local following, and its client base should grow as word continues to get out to the rest of the country that the school has a campus and a destination restaurant here. When the visiting chef series returns, with culinary stars from countries as diverse as Brazil, Peru and Argentina, you’d be wise to make your reservations as soon as possible.

The CIA’s flagship restaurant in San Antonio.

NAO is also built on the concept of small plates, which has also not been widely popular in San Antonio. Yet Bite in the Southtown area and a revitalized Nosh on Austin Highway are joining in the effort to break that mold.

Southtown continued to attract diners from across the city, as Mark Bliss returned with a new restaurant, the aptly named Bliss. The warmth of the place, the impressive setting and the comfort of the food, especially when enjoyed at the chef’s table in the kitchen, all help place it among the city’s best.

Johnny Hernandez opened two distinct venues in the Southtown area, if not Southtown proper. They include the Frutería at the Steel House Lofts, where you can get everything from market-fresh fruit for breakfast to an impressive array of, you got it, small plates for dinner, and Casa Hernán, an airy catering facility and brunch spot in his own home.

Another welcome addition to the Southtown scene was the Alamo Street Eat Bar, a food truck park that featured crazy good burgers from Cullum’s Attaboy, the Peacemaker combination of pork belly and fried oysters from Where Y’At and the DUK Truck’s duck confit tacos. Add Zum Sushi, The Institute of Chili, Wheelie Gourmet and a few other visitors, as well as a great beer lineup, and you’ve got some wonderful fresh treats. And what do food trucks provide but small plates, albeit from different plates, giving you the feel of being on a tapas trail?

An “Eat Street” crew films at the Point Park & Eats.

Another food truck park that opened up north in Leon Springs was the Point Park & Eat, which also offers a great beer selection and a wide array of foods from a lineup that has changed in the months that it’s been open. The culinary confections come from trucks such as Skinny Cat, Gourmet on the Fly, Blazin’ Burgers and Say-She-Ate.

Television continued to discover may of these culinary gems. Say-She-Ate was one of four food trucks filmed for the TV series, “Eat Street.” The others include Rickshaw Stop, Tapa Tapa and Society Bakery. Meanwhile, PBS celebrity chef Ming Tsai came to town to film segments of “Simply Ming” with Diana Barrios Treviño from Los Barrios, Elizabeth Johnson of the CIA, John Besh of Lüke (visiting from New Orleans) and Johnny Hernandez at La Gloria.

Sustenio, with Stephan Pyles’ blessing and David Gilbert’s gifts, made people realize the Eilan Hotel Resort and Spa off I-10 was not just a pretty façade. Its menu, with much of the dishes derived from local meats and produce, features an exciting array of ceviches that captured the freshness of the sea and a number of dishes using South Texas Heritage Pork products.

The $13 Burger at Knife & Fork.

The gastropub movement continued with the opening of Knife & Fork in the Stone Oak area. An outgrowth of the Bistro Six food truck, it offered a $13 Burger worth every cent, an extensive cocktail program and a laid-back atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the bistronomy craze — a hybrid of “bistro” and “gastronomy” — could be found in Laurent’s Modern Cuisine on McCullough Avenue. Next door to the still-vibrant and dependable Bistro Vatel, it proved that a segment of San Antonio does love its French food.

For those who enjoy a meal every now and then at home, the number of gourmet groceries grew, thanks to the addition of Trader Joe’s in the Quarry Extension and a second Whole Foods on Blanco Road, north of Loop 1604. The food warehouse Gaucho Gourmet expanded its hours to the public to six days a week, while Groomer’s Seafood reeled in even more seafood lovers, especially when lobsters hit a mouthwatering low of $5.95 apiece.

Classic cocktails have made a comeback.

San Antonio lifted it spirits high during the year. Distilled spirits, that is. Mixed drinks, both shaken and stirred, got a huge boost from the first annual San Antonio Cocktail Conference. But it didn’t stop there. The Blue Box in the Pearl and the downtown Brooklynite joined the likes of Bar 1919 in the Blue Star Complex and the bar at NAO as havens for hand-crafted classic cocktails. A rye sour shaken with traditional egg white, a real martini made with gin and a pisco sour bright with freshly squeezed citrus were all incentives that made exploring these nightspots fun.

Expect beer’s popularity to soar in the new year. Beyond the excellent brews at the Granary, we await Alamo Beer’s ambitious plans for a downtown complex that will feature a restaurant as well as a brewing facility as well as the launch of Branchline Brewery.

What else can we expect? The Pearl will continue to expand with the openings of Jesse Perez’s Arcade Midtown Kitchen and an as-yet-unnamed venture from Steven McHugh as well as the move of Green Vegetarian Cuisine, all of which will add to the draw of the campus. Culinaria has announced plans for a community garden center offering food and agricultural education for the city. Andrew Weissman is taking over the former Liberty Bar site on Josephine Street.

With these strides forward on so many fronts, the city’s culinary scene should continue to offer some enticing new flavors for anyone with a healthy appetite.

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Christmas Is Coming. That Means It’s Time for Tamales!

Tamales! returns to the Pearl Saturday.

Christmas meals mean tamales in many San Antonio homes. So, it’s a sign that the season is drawing near when the annual Tamales! Holiday Festival returns to Pearl Brewery.

The third annual celebration will be from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free.

“We’re so excited to invite all of San Antonio to come celebrate the holidays at our third annual Tamales! Festival,” said Elizabeth Fauerso, chief marketing officer at Pearl. “This event is becoming a real San Antonio tradition, and it’s so great to see people from near and far get together to enjoy great food, music and to honor our San Antonio culinary traditions.”

There will be more than 35 different tamale vendors, and visitors will be invited to explore the full range of tamales from traditional San Antonio classics to South American to sweet, vegetarian and many more. The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio will partner with Pearl to bring the whole property to life with the new Brew House Plaza, Boiler House alley and outdoor kitchen. Regional amateurs, culinary students, popular restaurants and esteemed chefs will showcase a blend of innovation, experimentation and classic tamales. Among the participants are chefs Jesse T. Perez and Johnny Hernandez, Los Barrios and Tellez

The competition features such categories as best chicken tamal, best pork tamal, a wild card category and, new this year, best tamal using H-E-B Primo Picks products.

Pearl Farmers Market will still take place this Saturday, but it will be in the East Parking lot of the Full Goods building for this one time.

Pearl is located 303 Pearl Parkway. For more information about events at Pearl, visit www.atpearl.com.

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H-E-B Rounds Up Some Food and Fun, All in the Name of Charity

Where Y’at serves up New Orleans barbecue shrimp.

Shoppers in the area of Loop 1604 and Blanco Road know the H-E-B Plus there as a dependable source of great food to cook with. On Saturday, the store proved it once again, only this time the food was free and it was ready to eat.

Jason Dady serves up his nachos while his daughter, Tessa, watches. Saturday was her birthday.

The parking lot of the supermarket was the site of the first H-E-B Food Truck Face Off, and it brought four of the city’s mobile kitchens together for a friendly competition.

The competitors all had to use H-E-B products in their dishes, which were served up to hungry lines of people until their supply ran out.

The crowds enjoy the free food.

By the time the judges’ had finished their work, Pieter Sypesteyn of Where Y’At had taken first place for his New Orleans barbecue shrimp, made with Chimay ale and baguette, both included among H-E-B’s Primo Products.

His victory meant that Gordon Pictures, a Christian movie production ministry, would take home $10,000 from H-E-B. Sypesteyn also won the people’s choice award, which brought another $500 to the charity.

Jason Dady and his DUK Truck took second place with Not’Cho Dady, nachos made entirely with H-E-B Primo Products. His $5,000 prize will be going to Culinaria’s new educational center and community gardens.

Johnny Hernandez brought his True Flavors catering wagon out and made pulled pork tacos, which earned $2,500 for the Culinary Institute of America’s San Antonio campus.

Michael Anthony Romo and his MARS Mobile Kitchen also served up an heirloom tomato and watermelon gazpacho.

This is the first of H-E-B’s Face Offs. The reaction from the crowds should guarantee it won’t be the last.

Johnny Hernandez (center) and his team make pork tacos.

MARS Mobile Kitchen offers heirloom tomato and watermelon gazpacho.

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