Tag Archive | "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
210-688-9885
www.tiusteppis.com

Coffee and Doughnuts

Coffee and Doughnuts

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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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Tre Trattoria Dishes Up Four Courses of Flavor During Restaurant Week


As the extension of Culinaria’s Restaurant Week nears its end, wonderful flavors keep pouring forth from participating kitchens. On Thursday night, several friends and I settled in to Jason Dady’s Tre Trattoria Alamo Heights location for four courses of welcome rustic Italian dishes, priced at $35.

Tre Trattoria's Caesar Salad

Tre Trattoria’s Caesar Salad

We started with a pair of favorites, an old-fashioned Caesar with plenty of garlic and a punch of anchovy in the dressing, not to mention a fried Parmesan wafer perched on top, and a trio of antipasti that included silky golden beets, a refreshing white bean salad and the delightful crunch of farro salad.

As generous as these starters were, we were surprised at the size of the pasta dishes that followed. A heaping serving of handmade tagliatelli was tossed with earthy oyster mushrooms and pecorino to create a dish with an almost meaty intensity. Deftly made gnocchi seemed both light and substantial with a gorgonzola cream sauce adding a rich tang.

Tagliatelli with oyster mushrooms

Tagliatelli with oyster mushrooms

Our main course choices included a 5-ounce salmon fillet with orzo as well as a delicate rainbow trout with a parsley-caper salsa on top. One of my favorite dishes, roasted organic chicken, was served just the way I like it, with crisp skin and succulent meat down to the bone. A touch of chile rubbed into the skin made it even better, while the caponata on the side won raves all around. (A Tuscan ribeye for $20 extra is also available.)

For dessert, the popular choice was the signature Nutella x 3, with its airy mousse alongside a dense tart with ganache, all filled with that one-of-a-kind chocolate-hazelnut combination. But the other option, ricotta cake with mascarpone, was a welcome surprise to my friends, who had not tasted it last year on the same menu. The name might lead you to think of cheesecake, but it was more like a warm, rustic yellow cake (like a rum cake without the rum, as our server described it). A chiffonade of basil and slivers of orange on top worked together to create an equal to the mighty Nutella dish that left us all satisfied.

Roasted Organic Chicken with Caponata and Charred Lemon

Roasted Organic Chicken with Caponata and Charred Lemon

As good as the food was, special mention must be made of the service. One of my friends, who was using a cane, needed a little assistance navigating the restaurant and its environs. Dady’s staff went out of their way to accommodate her. It’s what any good restaurant should do, though not enough follow through.  That attention to a patron’s needs earns a lot of respect, Restaurant Week or not.

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week continues through Saturday at the following places:  Azuca, Biga on the Banks, Bin 555, Boardwalk Bistro, the Boiler House, Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse, Myron’s Prime Steakhouse, and both Tre Trattorias.

Ricotta Cake with Mascarpone

Ricotta Cake with Mascarpone

Tre Trattoria Alamo Heights
4003 Broadway
(210) 805-0333
Lunch or brunch and dinner daily.
www.tretrattoria.com

 

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Satisfaction Is on Boardwalk Bistro’s Restaurant Week Menu


My friend Gail had raved about Boardwalk Bistro’s Restaurant Week menu last year, so it landed near the top of my list for this year’s celebration. I couldn’t fit it into last week’s hectic schedule, which made me glad when I learned that it was one of the places that decided to extend their special menu another week.

Pimiento ricotta -- pure pleasure.

Pimiento ricotta — pure pleasure.

Gail and I headed out on Tuesday night and were almost immediately faced with a dilemma. There were six first-course options and, well, we wanted as many as we could get. Our server solved our problem by announcing that we could get an extra appetizer for $5 apiece, so we loaded up on four of the six choices and proceeded to fall into a state of comfort food bliss.

My first plate was the fancifully labeled “pimiento ricotta atop toasted baguette,” which we folks in Kentucky would call pimento cheese on toast. Mighty good it was, too. The addition of a fried herb and a balsamic drizzle made the dish a mash-up of Italy and the Old South, but it worked because it was all about presenting these favorite flavors in a way where they all complemented each other.

A seared scallop with grapefruit butter

A seared scallop with grapefruit butter

A velvety corn soup arrived with a crab beignet in the center and chunks of ham suspended in each spoonful, while a romaine salad featured a generous amount of duck confit, a touch of duck bacon and a light hazelnut dressing. Our final starter was a perfectly seared scallop crowned with slivers of nectarine and served with a dollop of grapefruit butter and a pistachio vinaigrette that was so nutty you wanted to dredge each voluptuous bite of that shellfish through it. (And we weren’t through with those irresistible pistachios.)

Because we were sharing a bottle of robust Bogle Phantom, made with Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, we opted for the two red meat entrée options. One was Lamb Wellington, with tender shank meat presented with a rustic apricot sauce and scallion mashers. It was a toothsome variation on the usual serving of meat and potatoes. The other was a Petite Filet Benedict, in which a 5-ounce cut of beef tenderloin had been wrapped in prosciutto and served with a poached quail egg and hollandaise. The beef arrived medium rare to order and practically melted in your mouth, with or without the unctuous sauce on top. Rosemary potatoes and asparagus spears rounded out the plate.

Petite Filet Benedict with a poached quail egg

Petite Filet Benedict with a poached quail egg

The final option on the Restaurant Week menu is Cornmeal Encrusted Red Fish.

From the dessert menu, we chose a nut-lover’s fantasy — pistachio cake with pistachio cream and pistachio ice cream — and a seductive chocolate torte with a bourbon caramel sauce. Both plates were cleaned before we left.

Most every dish offered as a fine reminder of the good food that comes out of Boardwalk Bistro’s kitchen on a regular basis.

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week continues through Saturday at Boardwalk Bistro as well as Azuca, Biga on the Banks, Bin 555, Boiler House, Myron’s Prime Steakhouse and both Tre Trattorias.

A chocolate torte with bourbon-caramel sauce

A chocolate torte with bourbon-caramel sauce

This Friday, you can hear Jim Cullum’s Band at Boardwalk Bistro while enjoying the Restaurant Week menu.

Boardwalk Bistro
4011 Broadway
(210) 824-0100
Lunch: Monday-Saturday; Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday
boardwalkbistro.net

 

 

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Kirby’s Leads the Way with an Extension of Restaurant Week


Which was more fun, having a chance to continue exploring Restaurant Week offerings with a dinner at Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse or being seated a table next to Tim Duncan?

Kirby's gnocchi with a shallot-prosciutto cream.

Kirby’s gnocchi with a shallot-prosciutto cream.

Actually, it was a tossup.

It’s hard not to like a restaurant that extends its special menu an extra week so people can get more tastes of what the city has to offer. And for four years now, Kirby’s has led the way in doing just that.

They also have developed quite a robust menu with plenty of variations, so that you can mold the meal to suit your appetite. Want the Filet Oscar but want a steak a little more substantial than the 5-ounce cut offered? For a little extra, you can have it in two larger sizes. Want an extra appetizer? Try the house-made gnocchi for an added $7.

We tried the latter and were rewarded with a bowl of fried puffs of potato with a ladleful of cream sauce boasting flavors of shallot and prosciutto. A few grinds of black pepper added a welcome touch of heat.

Australian rack of lamb

Australian rack of lamb

After we polished that plate off, we were ready for a serving of wild boar sausage with an Italian peppers and onion sauce, which was rustic and heartily robust, as well as a ramekin of escargots in a sun-dried tomato-garlic butter that begged to be sopped up with bits of the puff pastry sheet that arrived on top.

Entrées were a mixed lot. Australian rack of lamb featured four chops that had not been properly trimmed before cooking. So, while the flavor of the meat shone, especially with a touch of veal demi-glace on the plate and some shiitake mushrooms, too much effort was expended in cutting off a tough layer of fat on the outside that should have been removed before cooking. Pan-sautéed Veal Ladybird was cooked a perfect medium-rare, as ordered, with the fork-tender medallions gaining a lift from the tarragon and the cream in the Sauce Béarnaise that covered both it and some braised leeks.

Veal Ladybird with a Sauce Bearnaise

Veal Ladybird with a Sauce Béarnaise

Other entrée options included Parmesan-crusted Atlantic Salmon, Peppered Prime Sirloin and the aforementioned Filet Oscar with crabmeat, asparagus and more of that Sauce Béarnaise. Each table choosing the Restaurant Week menu also gets a plate of mushrooms, mashed potatoes and vegetables.

For dessert, my friend fought hard between key lime pie and Kirby’s signature Chocolate Spice Cake. The latter won out, and it proved to be a winner, with its touch of nutmeg and coffee in the warm, chocolate-rich cake and a scoop of refreshingly cool vanilla ice cream on top.

Meanwhile, the kitchen kindly obliged my request for a simple medley of berries topped with a drizzle of heavy cream. I know of no dessert so rewarding and am grateful to the staff for making the substitution.

Kirby's Chocolate Spice Cake

Kirby’s Chocolate Spice Cake

It was at some point during the entrée that my friend pointed out Tim Duncan sitting next to us. I guess I was too absorbed in my veal to notice. Or perhaps I just couldn’t see in what is one of the most dimly lit restaurants in town. Despite the lack of natural light, there were plenty of eyes in the place on him. I’m sure the Spurs star wanted to enjoy a quiet night out with friends, but the thrill of having him nearby was palpable. He also graciously posed for at least one picture with a young red-haired girl who will likely be the envy of her class when she returns to school this week and shares her version of their encounter.

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week continues at a number of places around town. In addition to Kirby’s, the list includes Azuca, Biga on the Banks, Bin 555, Boardwalk Bistro, the Boiler House, Myron’s Prime Steakhouse, and both Tre Trattorias.

Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse
123 N. Loop 1604 E.
(210) 404-2221
Dinner: Daily
kirbyssteakhouse.com

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Enjoy a Taste of Myron’s Prime Steak House During Restaurant Week


When I saw that Myron’s Prime Steak House was part of the lineup for this year’s Restaurant Week, I knew it would be one of the places I had to visit. Apparently, quite a few others had the same idea, too, because by the time we dined there on Tuesday, there were 11 in our party, all enjoying the three-course dinner special for $35. And we were not alone in the house.

Myron's pork chop with apple chutney.

Myron’s pork chop with apple chutney.

Each of the meals on the special menu begins with Myron’s signature wedge salad, which actually includes a few field greens in addition to the traditional iceberg lettuce. But it is the dressing that is the real star of the show. I’ve long been a fan of the restaurant’s house-made thousand island, which I’ve enjoyed at both of Myron’s locations, on Northwest Military Highway and in New Braunfels; so, I decided to branch out and try the blue cheese, which proved to be dense and chunky, yet covered the lettuce thoroughly in its rich excess. Others at our table enjoyed the gorgonzola and the balsamic vinaigrette, though the ranch was found to be a little thin.

The wedge salad with blue cheese dressing

The wedge salad with blue cheese dressing

Entree options included salmon with capers and a moist, bone-in chicken breast with a light touch of rosemary. Then there was an oversized pork chop topped with an apple chutney that satisfied many at the table because that rich pork flavor came through in every bite.

Because Myron’s is a steakhouse, the last option among the entrees was a prime filet, and it could prove to be the most controversial item on the prix fixe menu. It’s because the cut offered during Restaurant Week is  4 ounces, hardly what some would call sufficient in a city where a competing steakhouse offers a 32-ounce pork chop. It could be considered a bargain, however, when you compare the $35 price of the special menu with the prices of the full-sized steaks on the menu (I remember the T-bone being listed at $52). Such a petite filet admittedly appears small on the plate, even when accompanied by two spicy shrimp and vegetables. Yet it should also be mentioned that 4 ounces is the recommended daily portion of meat that we should be consuming. I know I eat more than that at most meals, but I ordered the steak anyway. And I was glad I did. The meat was served medium rare as ordered. Each cut gave way tenderly at the touch of the steak knife. And it caressed my tongue, filling my mouth with a juicy, earthy richness that a well-prepared steak offers. A swirl of 2010 Stackhouse Napa Cabernet Sauvignon made it go down in style. (I was satisfied with the portion size, but if you’re about quantity when you dine out, go for the pork chop.)

The 4-ounce filet with shrimp

The 4-ounce filet with shrimp

That particular wine came recommended by our attentive, helpful server, who made sure we had what we needed, from cocktails to warm bread. He also went out of his way with two members of the party who avoid gluten. Since they couldn’t have either the massive chocolate cake or the cheesecake with berries, the two dessert options on the Restaurant Week menu, he offered them a bowl of warm ganache, which was had been used to frost the cake.

The dense chocolate cake was large enough for two, and the velvety ganache was so dark and inviting that my fork kept darting back for another bite. But the best flavor of all was the mint leaf used as a garnish dredged in all that chocolate.

A final note on the bar: When I sat down early in the evening I had wanted a whiskey sour to take some of the edge off the heat of the day. I quickly found out that it would not be made the traditional way with an egg white to add texture, but I decided to go ahead and had it made with one of the ryes on the extensive menu. The tang of lemon juice in that drink, blended with the spicy rye, made it as much a delight as anything else served that evening.

Restaurant Week continues through Saturday. For details on participants, click here.

Myron’s Prime Steak House
10003 N.W. Military Hwy.
(210) 493-3031
www.myronsprime.com

 

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Savory Options Rule at Boiler House During Restaurant Week


It was easy to choose the Boiler House as the first meal for Culinaria’s Restaurant Week: Of all the menus posted, it was the only one that offered three savory courses for the $35 price. Dessert could be had for an extra $6, but for three people who didn’t want — or need — a dessert, we found ourselves sitting pretty.

Salmon Ceviche is one Restaurant Week option.

Salmon Ceviche is one Restaurant Week option.

Our meal started with a choice of braised pork belly with a Kraken rum demi-glaze and house-made mustard, a variation on Chef Jeff Wayne White’s recipe, which we recently ran on SavorSA, or an attractive tower of salmon ceviche.

I started with salmon, and on yet another day that topped 100 degrees, I found the cooling mixture of diced raw seafood, avocado and cilantro-lime sauce to be perfectly refreshing. The pork belly, which my friends ordered, was substantial and deliciously porky, especially when a touch of the outrageously good whole-grain mustard was applied.

For an extra $25, you could get wine pairings for each course, the first of which was a Vanishing Point Pinot Grigio, bright and clean with a light fruitiness the complemented the pork while cutting through the silky voluptuousness of the avocado.

Cool off with a crisp local greens salad.

Cool off with a crisp local greens salad.

The second course was a local greens salad with plenty of applewood smoked bacon, nuts, cheese and tomatoes. A green goddess dressing had a surprising hot pepper tingle that worked well with the black peppery arugula in the mix of greens. The matching McDaniel Chardonnay was pleasantly clean and bracingly cold, balanced well with its oak flavor.

Main course options included a roasted salmon, a Kurobuta pork chop and prime rib.

One friend went for the pork chop, a massive piece of meat that was rich but slightly dry, despite a mention on the menu of a buttermilk brine; there were no complaints about the creamy white beans with the ham hocks that filled out the plate or the touch of red onion jam on the side. The pork came with a glass of Guard Shack Red Blend.

Prime rib arrives in an onion-flavored jus.

Prime rib arrives in an onion-flavored jus.

A generous slab of prime rib arrived with no side dishes, and it didn’t really need any. I had a delicious crust, with plenty of salt and the meat was tender, set in an onion-rich jus. The two of us who ordered the prime rib would have enjoyed our cuts cooked a little less, but we weren’t asked how we wanted it. The beef was paired with a fairly indifferent Wire Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Blanc.

For an extra $9, you can add a trio of oysters Rockefeller to any plate, and I would suggest you add them, because they were the highlight of the evening. A welcome touch of heat cut through the cheesy sauce, which had coated spinach, garlic and, of course, the oysters. A little leftover Chardonnay was a perfect partner.

If you haven’t been to the Boiler House yet, which my friends hadn’t, don’t let Restaurant Week pass you by. It’s a great introduction to this lively newcomer to the Pearl Brewery.

The Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden
312 Pearl Parkway
(210) 354-4644
Lunch, dinner daily
www.boilerhousesa.com

 

 

 

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Restaurant Notes & Quotes: Biga, Kirby’s and Sea Island


Kirby’s Alaskan King Crab Cake part of their Restaurant Week menu.

Restaurant Week extensions

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week last week was a hit — and at least three restaurants will be extending their Restaurant Week offerings. These include Biga on the Banks, 203 S. Saint Mary’s St.; Auden’s Kitchen, 700 E. Sonterra Blvd;  and Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse, 123 N. Loop 1604 E.

Restaurant Week featured special menus at lunch, for $15 and dinner, for $35. You can check out their menus by clicking here.

“A to Zealand” at Rock San Thai and Sushi Restaurant

Chef Rocky Niravong has planned a great four-course dinner to accent wines from
Argentina and New Zealand. Dinner begins with a Pinot Gris from New Zealand and move to two great reds from Argentina.  The finish will be a Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough.  Cecil Flentge will be there to discuss the wines as you enjoy the special dishes Niravong has for the night.

Event is Saturday, September 15, 7 p.m., $39.95 per person, not including tax or tip. For reservations call: 210-561-0011. Rock San Thai and Sushi Restaurant is at 5238 De Zavala Road.

Kids Eat Free, Mondays at Sea Island

Check out Sea Island Shrimp House’ new promotion, kids eat free every Monday, now through through Sept. 30. The promotion, which is valid every Monday all day, includes one free kid’s meal with the purchase of one adult entrée.  The kid’s meals feature one of four entrées and include a hush puppy, a choice of a side dish or Mott’s Applesauce and a free fountain drink. The entrees are Shrimp Bites, Fish Bites, Hamburger and Chicken Tenders.

Each Kid’s Meal costs $4.95 when ordered off of the menu, so a family of four ordering two adult entrées dining with two children 12 or under could save $9.90.

Mango Pork Carnitas Tacos at Barriba Cantina.

Music, Mexican street food on the River Walk

Barriba Cantina on the San Antonio River Walk is open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., seven days a week, and features Mexican street food that is available until closing time.  Happy hour specials are available every Monday through Friday between 3 – 6 p.m. ($4 drafts, $4 wells and $2 off all Barriba Cantina signature cocktails).

Barriba also offers live music seven days a week, and during the day on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.  There is no cover charge for the music. Music schedules are updated regularly on Barriba Cantina’s website. See what’s coming up!

The Hangar introduces new Smoked Meat Sandwich

The Hangar, a local bar and restaurant in the Alamo Heights area, at 8203 Broadway, introduced a new Smoked Meat Sandwich this month. Their cooks season a slab of brisket, then it is rubbed and cured for five days, then slow-cooked for five hours. It is served on rye bread with mustard, a pickle spear and home-cut fries. The sandwich is available Fridays through Sundays until they run out.

 

 

 

 

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Enjoying a River Walk Idyll at Fig Tree


Tempura squash blossoms

Culinaria’s annual Restaurant Week came to a close with an impressive dinner at Fig Tree Restaurant, offering a rewarding finale to eight days of special tastes from some of the city’s finest restaurants.

It’s always a treat to dine at Fig Tree, with its spectacular view of the River Walk, and this meal was certainly no exception.

Our evening  started with a delightful amuse bouche of a fried pepper Jack ball with the tiniest bit of heat serving as a hint of bold flavors to come.

It would be hard to say which of the appetizer options was better, a dilemma that happily presented itself through all three of the meal’s courses.

Was the better dish the tempura-battered squash blossom stuffed with goat cheese? This was a happy blend of crispy hot dough on the outside while the cheese largely stayed cool and creamy at the center of the blossom. A tomato coulis added a welcome acidic brightness.

Watermelon soup

Or was it the watermelon soup with lime and jalapeño? This simple yet artful blending of three fresh flavors worked so well that you had to wonder why the trio hasn’t become a summertime mainstay throughout the state.

The main course options both had roots in northern Africa, with touches of general manager Moe Lazri’s heritage filling the dishes.

Grilled cobia

Grilled cobia was firm yet supple with the freshness of the fish making itself apparent in every bite. A chermoula sauce with garlic and preserved lemon worked well with both the fish and the caponata on the plate. Every detail of the dish merged into a richly satisfying whole.

And yet I would have to give the prize here to a tagine filled with tiny pearls of buttery couscous on which lamb, merquez sausage and a vegetable medley of zucchini, carrots, turnips and garbanzo beans as well as white raisins had been arranged. The presentation of the dish was particularly dramatic with the conical dish placed in the center of the table, and a miniature version filled with spicy harissa next to it.

Lamb, merquez sausage, turnips and more over couscous

We helped ourselves to spoons of fork tender lamb with a touch of jus, well-seasoned sausage and the delicate pasta, all made even more inviting with a touch of harissa adding a fruity and fiery touch. Yet the turnips were what won over everyone at the table — and they drew us back for seconds and thirds until they had run out. That is a sentence I never thought I’d type, but even the two non-turnip fans, myself included, were drawn to cubes of the firm, slightly sweet root vegetable.

Chef Byron Bergeron stopped by our table and explained the lengthy process by which the couscous had been made, according to Lazri’s instruction, and every forkful made it clear that it was worth the effort. (The chef also announced that he would be leaving Fig Tree at the end of the month, with his assistant Chris Spenser taking over. So, you have a few more days of sampling Bergeron’s distinctive cuisine.)

Almond Tart

Both dessert options pleased. Peach Melba featured the expected fresh peach and raspberry, but it was the pristine vanilla ice cream that sent spoons back into the glasses for more until the last drop could be scraped from the bottom. An almond tart was filled with several forms of nutty richness, from a not-too-sweet marzipan in the base of the tart crust to toasted slivers on top. A dollop of whipped cream and diced poached pears added color, texture and flavors, but they were surprisingly not needed, at least in the opinion of this almond fanatic.

A bottle of 2008 Simi Merlot was a nice companion to the lamb with the jus, the couscous, the squash blossoms and, well, even the hot buttered rolls, which had a dense crust and yet was so fluffy inside.

Service deserves a special mention for being among the most professional, best informed and least obtrusive that we have experienced recently.

This year’s Restaurant Week ably demonstrated how the celebration has grown in just a few short years. I may need to go on a diet, but I’m also ready for another run.

Fig Tree Restaurant
515 Villita St.
(210) 224-1976
figtreerestaurant.com

 

 

 

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Auden’s Kitchen Conjures Welcome Comparisons of Home


Marinated grape tomato and watermelon salad

Sampling the menus around the city for the past few days during Culinaria’s Restaurant Week has been a great way to taste the wide variety we have here. By Friday evening, I was hankering for a bit of comfort food, so I headed off for Auden’s Kitchen for three courses of food that reminded me of home.

The menu was perhaps a little bit fancier than Mom would have made, but the spirit in the approach of Bruce Auden’s staff was similar.

Take the salad that started the meal as a perfect example. It was made of marinated grape tomatoes and watermelon tossed with greens  (and reds, if you count the radicchio), feta cheese and bits of crisp pancetta. The greens  were so fresh that they reminded me of the lettuce we would pick from our backyard garden. The balsamic in the dressing added a sweet touch, which also echoed Mom’s. Several slices of ripe avocado on top added a creamy touch.

Smoked pork tenderloin with braised red cabbage

Two thickly cut slabs of pork tenderloin arrived atop a bed of braised red cabbage flavored with applewood-smoked bacon, providing an appealing pair of ways to enjoy pork. As good as the smoked pork was, tender and moist, with a demi-glace adding flavor, the cabbage was the real star of the plate, upstaging even the crispy potatoes, which were good, if not memorable. The size of the vegetable servings were also generous, prompting another memory of home.

A ginger peach cobbler arrived warm and showcasing a harvest of fresh peach slices. Dumplings swimming in a thick, sweet, buttery sauce held it all together. This dish was perhaps the closest to Mom’s, though I could have wished for a little more ginger in the mix. I doubt anyone would have even remembered the ginger, however, when spooning up that first taste of firm peach and silky sauce.

Ginger peach cobbler

A glass of house wine was included with the Restaurant Week price. I chose the Sauvignon Blanc and was rewarded with a New Zealand-style explosion of passion fruit flavor with a brightly acidic base. The food may have been a little sweet for the wine, but it was a treat on its own.

Auden’s Kitchen offered an extra bit of comfort Friday night by showing a movie in its courtyard. Those not afraid of the heat, and that included a few kids, enjoyed “Labyrinth.” The series continues next week just after dark.

“Labyrinth” on the patio screen.

Culinaria’s Restaurant Week, however, continues only through this evening. That leaves you with one last chance to try a multi-course lunch for $15 or dinner for $35. For a list of participating restaurants, click on the Culinaria ad above.

Auden’s Kitchen
700 E. Sonterra Blvd.
(210) 494-0070
www.audenskitchen.com

 

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