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Tag Archive | "Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard"

Wine Dinners: Bliss Sparkles, Sandy Oaks Does White Wines


Mark Bliss

Mark Bliss

Chef Mark Bliss will present an elegant five-course dinner paired with champagne and sparkling wine from around the world on Wednesday, July 30 at Bliss, 926 S. Presa St.

Wine experts will join guests on a culinary-inspired exploration of the versatility and luxury these special wines impart. Some of the wine selections will be available for purchase as well. The cost is $165 per person, all-inclusive. For reservations, please call 210-225-2547.  To see the menu, check this link.

 

An evening of sipping and dining at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard

One of the best ways to endure a hot, humid, Texas summer evening is to sip a cool, refreshing glass of white wine. Better yet, pair that glass of crisp, white wine with delicious food and you have ingredients for a memorable evening.

Sandy Oaks Chef Chris Cook has put together a meal pairing each course with a selection of white wines from some of the best Texas has to offer, including Pedernales, William Chris and Hye Meadow Wineries.

The event is Friday, July 25. There is a 7 p.m. reception and 7:30 p.m. dinner. Cost is $50 per person plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, call 210-621-0044. For more information on Sandy Oaks, visit them at the link here.

Sandy Oaks Olive Oil Ice creamMenu:

Reception:  Lump Crab Croquette with Grilled Strawberry Sauce and Sandy Oaks Fig Vinegar Reduction/ Pedernales Rosé 2011.  Second:  Fresh House-pulled Mozzarella and Compressed Cantaloupe, Fresh Honey and Garden Basil/William Chris, Mary Ruth 2012;  Third: Local Chicken Ballotine with House-made Pancetta and Garden Doughnut Peaches/Hye Meadow, Viognier 2012. Fourth: Crispy Skin Redfish with Apple Mint Orzo, Radish and Herbs/Pedernales, Cinco 2013; Fifth: Smoked Almond Country Bread Pudding with House Olive Oil Ice Cream and Vanilla Blackberries/Hye Meadow Trebbiano 2013.

 

Sampling the wines of Spain, at Crumpets

Crumpets, at 3920 Harry Wurzbach Road, will be celebrating some of the excellent wines of Spain at this wine dinner on Aug. 8,  beginning at 7 p.m.  The cost is $70 per person, not including tax and gratuity. Call for reservations at 210-821-5600.

On the menu:   Gazpacho, served with Ostatu Rosada; Paella de Rioja/Ostatu Blanco; Jamon Serrano/Ugarte Cosecha; Pierna de Cordero Asado (roast leg of lamb)/Tres Ojos OV Garnacha; Helado de Avellana (ice cream)/El Maestro Sierra Pedro Ximenez

 

 

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Chef Chris Cook Giving ‘Ranch’ Cuisine New Look at Sandy Oaks


Elmendorf, TX – Ranch cuisine has never looked this good!

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard has named San Antonio chef Chris Cook to a position as food and beverage director and executive chef. Cook will be overseeing all of the food and wine endeavors on the ranch’s culinary program, as well as overseeing The Kitchen at Sandy Oaks. Cook is also working with the ranch ownership to implement exciting plans for new culinary events and business ventures.

sandFor Cook, this is a new experience, a short step or two away from his most recent position at the venerable Emily Morgan Hotel in San Antonio. Or from Brasserie Pavil, where he was executive sous chef.

At Sandy Oaks, where he began working earlier in the year part time, Cook moves from traditional fine dining settings to a rural setting – and one that offers good dining, but quite a bit more.

Saundra Winokur founded Sandy Oaks in 1998, one of the pioneers in Texas to take on the agricultural endeavor of growing olive trees for production. Since purchasing that expanse of rolling terrain covering more than 260 acres, with sandy, red soil and plenty of sunshine, her 40-acre orchard of roughly 10,000 trees has thrived.

“We have really strived for excellence in our management of our olive orchard and production of high-quality olive oil at Sandy Oaks. Our mission is education, of course, for those who want to grow their own trees. But, we have also built a beautiful, cultivated retreat for those who love food and wine, appreciate a fresh and healthful approach to food and who want to take some of that experience home with them,” Winokur says.

Sandy Oaks cheese plateCook, says Winokur, has already shown himself as someone who gets it when it comes to Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard and the many facets of its business. These include not just the pursuit of great products and prepared food, but an overall dedication to quality that starts with the ranch crop and has permeated the entire environment making Sandy Oaks a place to visit – and spend time.

Cook wanted to be a part of it all, she said. He hit the ground running at the first event, where he was asked to step in to run the kitchen with just two days’ notice.

“It went very well, everything that had been put in place worked, the teamwork of the staff, the back of the house, kitchen,” said the chef. “I’ve experienced a lot coming up in the business, so what I had to do just came as second nature. And, you can accomplish anything if you’re organized.”

The chef has described himself as a “minimalist with a vision.” He likes to marry creativity with simplicity using seasonally fresh ingredients. Using textures, flavors and ingenuity coming from more than 20 years in the business, Cook likes to surprise patrons, bring inspiring combinations and balance to his dishes.

Since leaving Oro, at the Emily Morgan, the Johnson and Wales University-educated chef been involved in catering as part of the San Antonio Chef’s Cooperative — with some successes. But, as he noted, “Every chef wants a place they can put away their knives and not worry have to about them.”

Jazz on Sandy Oaks patio adds great musical ambiance to the a serene, country setting at Sandy Oaks.

Jazz on Sandy Oaks patio adds great musical ambiance to the a serene, country setting at Sandy Oaks.

Cook will be overseeing many aspects of ranch’s culinary endeavors, which include putting out a line of excellent skin care products made with olive oil and pantry items, such as Olive Leaf Jelly, jarred olives and of course, Sandy Oaks’ high-quality olive oil.

Cook also will be directing his energy toward building the ranch’s attractions as a destination. One of his new tasks will be to help guide a new venture at Sandy Oaks: This summer, the ranch begins offering its grounds for weddings, rehearsal dinners and other special events. He has instituted a new summer menu and, with the help of new front-of-the-house staffer, Ramon Florez, will be honing the food and service at The Kitchen at Sandy Oaks.

In the meantime, the chef has presided over several successful special events, such as the ranch’s popular Passport Series of dinners, where guests are transported to other countries for tastes of its wines, cheeses, olives and food, and learn some of the culinary traditions and history.

Summer Salad

Summer Salad

In taking Sandy Oaks’ culinary program to a new level, Cook thinks of the term “rural” as one would a renowned winery with vineyard-based restaurant in Napa-Sonoma wine country, or a Texas Hill Country venture of the same caliber. In addition to its farming and ranching implications, “rural” also encompasses elegant country living as a temporary or long-term getaway for city folks looking for a respite from city hubbub.

In the last decade or two, however, the country scene, especially with respect to agriculture, has taken on a new, far more significant meaning. Farm-to-table movements, sustainability, buying locally, eating and cooking healthfully, have all been encompassed in Sandy Oaks philosophy.

Building business at Sandy Oaks, Cook says, simply means to bring people in who are drawn by the kinds of things Winokur, and the ranch stand for.

“She’s a woman farmer, she operates on sustainable and organic principles, her products are excellent and she is an educator. The ranch has a richness of the kind that many people seek by going to wineries and resorts in the Hill Country – and Sandy Oaks has this much and more to offer,” says Cook.

Photos by Christabel Cook

Sandy Oaks nursery, with healthy baby olive trees.

Sandy Oaks nursery, with healthy baby olive trees.

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Good Press, Causes for Local Women in Culinary Arts


Saundra Winokur, Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, featured in New York Times

Saundra WinokurAn article by David Wallis in the Your Money: Retiring section of the New York Times on June 20, featured Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, owner Saundra Winokur’s ranch south of San Antonio near Elmendorf.

A Texas pioneer in growing olive trees as an agricultural crop, Winokur’s ranch, which she founded in 1997, is shown as a success for those starting second (or third) careers at a time most people would be retiring.

Wallis writes, “Ms. Winokur, a native Texan who worked as an elementary-school teacher and earned a doctorate in developmental psychology, traveled extensively to research olive production. She noticed that renowned olive-producing regions — southern Spain, southern Italy and Egypt — “looked a lot like Texas.” In 1997, she bought 276 acres of sandy land, which she describes as “oceanfront property without the ocean.”

Wallis describes some of the bumps in the road to success, but the orchard now thrives, pressing its own olive oil in the fall, welcoming guests to lush olive orchard for tours, or to The Kitchen at Sandy Oaks restaurant for lunch — and much more for visitors which come from all over the country and beyond. Read Wallis’ article here.

Ferra Coffee LogoCoffee roaster and importer, Susan Jaime, takes spotlight in this month’s San Antonio Magazine

Read Julia Rosenfeld’s article in the most recent issue of San Antonio Magazine. Susan Jaime, whose business is Ferra Coffee, in Boerne. She does much more than roast beans and sell coffee — she goes directly to the growers in several countries to source the beans and pass along some of her expertise to growers, as well.

From San Antonio Magazine: It’s a lot to think about when drinking your first cup of the day, but the coffee we crave each morning is often traced back to impoverished farmers being paid less than one dollar per pound of beans. When Susan Jaime thought about it, she couldn’t stop. And a business and a movement was born.

Food lovers. curious cooks: Learn the science behind some of your favorite foods

This summer, Landa Library’s adult summer reading program will feature science-based talks will be held every week in June and July with a variety of speakers and activities. The next one is Monday, June 30, from 4-5:30 p.m. at the library, 233 Bushnell Avenue. There is “no fee” to attend. Gather in the “Meeting Room.” For more information, call 210.207.9090.

From Di-Anna Arias, vice president of sales and culinary vision for Don Strange of Texas, you’ll learn some fascinating facts about cooking as she shares her favorite recipes and her “secret” formulas. Along with sharing some of her favorite kitchen “experiments,” Arias will be delving into some of her favorite cookbooks, teaching the science involved and sharing her secret “formula” for cooking for a crowd.

The Barrios family restaurants honor Viola Barrios’ birth month in July

Violas Ventanas croppedIn July, the Barrios family restaurants will celebrate founder Viola Barrios’ birth month with a cake special at all three restaurant. Viola’s Heart Cake is a chocolate or vanilla cake with creamy flan and sells for $5.99 a slice or $49.99 for the whole cake. The sales go directly to Viola’s Huge Heart Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization that gives out full school scholarships to girls. For more information on the foundation, visit www.violasheart.org.

The restaurants and addresses are: Los Barrios, 4223 Blanco Road; La Hacienda de los Barrios, 18747 Redland Road, and Viola’s Ventanas at 9660 Westover Hills Boulevard.

 

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Kitchen at Sandy Oaks Debuts Summer Menu, Hours


Elmendorf – Backyard barbecue is great, but Sandy Oaks has another idea for those who want to pleasantly surprise Dad for Father’s Day – with a difference that he’ll love.

Just a 20-minute pleasant drive south of San Antonio on I-37 takes you to one of the area’s loveliest working country ranches, Sandy Oaks. Founded in 1998 by Saundra Winokur, this ranch is one of the pioneering Texas spreads to focus on growing olives. In this warm climate, Winokur’s grand idea has literally come to fruition with 10,000 thriving olive trees, 38 different varieties planted on 40 acres of this 360-acre ranch property.

Dad will love the calm setting, a meal prepared by Sandy Oaks’ new Chef Chris Cook at The Kitchen at Sandy Oaks and a tour of the ranch.

Sandy Oaks Olive Oil Ice cream

Olive oil ice cream, a specialty at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard.

Also, the chef has created a new summer menu with a Mediterranean feel, but spiked with some great local and Texas flavors, such as blackberries, grilled peaches and a beefy burger with caramelized onions, house-made pickles, rosemary potatoes and more.

The new menu is available Friday, June 6.

Sumptuous salads, such as the Lump Crab Cobb, are cool choices for the warm weather. Homemade summer soups, such as Tomato Basil, or Roasted Corn Bisque garnished with locally grown garden peas and a touch of truffle, are also standouts on the new menu.

“Our goal is to use this beautiful setting to focus on the good local produce, seeking out growers for our products who are using sustainable, organic methods while also showcasing Sandy Oaks’ great products and the many exciting things happening here,” says Cook.

After lunch, Dad can relax and soak up the ambiance in a beautifully landscaped setting on the shaded patio, have a drink, listen to live music and let the family roam through a well-stocked gift shop. Olive oil products, including Sandy Oaks’ own olive oil, used and loved by area chefs, are available, as well as books, skincare products developed and produced at Sandy Oaks and much more are worth a visit all by themselves.

olive pressing 2010 004The nursery is close by, stocked with many varieties of healthy olive trees. Here, you can choose your tree or trees, and also hear the best advice available on how to grow olive trees in South-Central Texas’ warm climate.

Your dad also would be interested to see the Italian olive press. This machine goes to serious work at harvest time in late summer, pressing olives from the orchard and pouring out streams of highly rated, green-golden oil.

Surrounded by a spacious meadow and pasture for cattle and other livestock, the business property is beautifully landscaped and appealingly country in attitude — but polished in a way that you might expect on a grand Tuscan estate or vineyard.

New Hours! June 15 also marks the first Sunday that Sandy Oaks begins its new hours. The ranch will now be open through the weekend, on Saturdays and Sundays. It will be closed on Mondays and on Tuesdays as well.

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard, a short drive from downtown San Antonio, is one of the best ways to see a real olive orchard and ranch in action, relax and soak up ambiance from a first-rate agricultural business where visitors are welcome. Dad will love it!

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Passport to Israel: Dinner in a Market Setting, Exotic Flavors


Sandy Oaks’ Olive Orchard’s  Israeli Passport Event offers a chance to immerse yourself in the flavors of Israel in a setting that resembles the vibrant souk, or Israeli market –  and all it requires is a short drive out of town.

The ranch, a 20-mile drive from downtown San Antonio, has become known for its Passport Adventure dining series and this one, on June 13,  offers something fun and different. There will be a series of dining stations for each course of the dinner.  You’ll stroll through the market,  sample olive oils from Israel, listen to live music and in the meantime, enjoy a five-course meal of carefully selected dishes that highlight the Israeli cuisine and Israeli wines.

Food and Beverage Director, Chef Chris Cook

Sandy Oaks Food and Beverage Director, Chef Chris Cook

Sandy Oaks’ new food and beverage director, chef Chris Cook, has planned dishes featuring some of the remarkable flavors of this cuisine: za’atar spice, preserved lemon, tahini and more, all lending flare to locally sourced meats and vegetables, from Hill Country raised goat and turkey to chicken and seasonal garden herbs.

Fine Israeli wines come with each course, carefully matched to the food. The dinner ends with Orange and Almond Cake with berries and Grilled Pear Baklava, served with sweet Israeli muscat wine. (See full menu below.)

If you’ve never been to Sandy Oaks, late spring is a great  time to visit. The 10,000-tree olive orchard is nestled within the 360 acres of the ranch, that also includes meadows and pasture land for cattle and other livestock. The grounds and business buildings, including barn, offices and a well-stocked gift shop, are beautifully maintained.

zaatar-seasoning-1

Za’atar seasoning, spice blend used in Middle East cooking.

Best of all, the setting for this Passport Series dinner will provide a sense of visiting an exotic market.

You may also visit Sandy Oaks’ gift shop, where items are selected for their beauty and usefulness. Buy olive oil and other foods based on olives and olive trees, and try out some of the fragrant skin care and beauty products also made at Sandy Oaks.

The Israeli Passport Event begins at 7 p.m. Friday, June 13.  The cost is $65 per person. Reservations can be made here.  Or call 210-821-0044.

 

MENU: Israeli Passport Event

Reception:      Israeli olive oil, cheeses, challah and traditional accompaniments

Italian_olive_oil_2007Station 1:        Whole Roasted Hill Country Goat with Israeli Garden Herb Cous Cous, Preserved Curried Lemon, Za’atar Spice, Cilantro Yogurt

Wine: 2011 Dalton Winery, Canaan Red, Galilee Region, Israel

Station 2:         Roasted Garlic and Olive Falafel, Mint Pinenut Pesto and Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice.

Wine:  2010 Kinneret Muscat Hamburg, Judean Hills, Israel

Station 3:         Grilled Turkey Shish Taouk and Schnitzel, Preserved Vegetable Garlic Paste, Tahini, Mint Lemonade Fresh-Squeezed Juice

Wine: 2010 Tishbi Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, Zichron Ya’Akov, Carmel Mountains, Israel

Station 4:         Smoked Chicken Dumplings and Seasonal Vegetables, Garden Tomato Sauce, Olives and Pickled Onions

Wine: 2011 Dalton Winery, Canaan Red, Galilee Region, Israel

Station 5:         Orange and Almond Cake and Grilled Pear Baklava, Seasonal berries, Chocolate Mint, Pear Coulis, Blintzes and Truffles

Wine:  2010 Kinneret Muscat Hamburg, Judean Hills, Israel

oliveoil

 

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Sandy Oaks Passport to South Africa: Chef Chris Cook


Beer and Olives 4 resizedSandy Oaks Olive Orchard on Friday April 11,  presents the next in its series of Passport Adventure Series dinners. This one take you to South Africa, where the cuisine and wines are attaining wide recognition.
While you might think wild animals and baobab trees, fabulous scenery and magnificent waterfalls, Africa doesn’t always suggest cuisine. Or olives. But in fact, olive trees were first planted in South Africa in 1661. It would be another 200 years before the actual fruit was recognized for the valuable food that it is.
Today, olive farming is rapidly increasing. Among popular olives for oil are Leccino, Frantoio and Coratino, Mission and Kalamata are popular table olives.
Sandy Oaks Passport dinner series Chef Chris Cook.

Sandy Oaks Passport dinner series Chef Chris Cook.

By popular demand, chef Chris Cook returns to Sandy Oaks to present this colorful, interesting dinner paired with olives, cheese and wines of South African cuisine. You will not want to miss out on this adventure, with one of the area’s excellent chefs at the helm in the kitchen and a lovely setting for guests at the ranch.

The reception begins at  7 p.m.; the dinner is $65 per person. Make reservations 210.621.0044. These events do sell out fast, so make that call soon! Future Passport adventures will explore the cuisine, wines and olive oils of Israel, Turkey, Tuscany and Uruguay. For more information on Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard and direction to the ranch, about 30 minutes drive south of San Antonio, visit their website here.

Reception

Selection on olives, olive oil and cheeses

First Course

Lamb and Spiced Vegetable Skewer with Sandy Oaks Curry

Second Course

Bobotie, the national dish of South Africa, Texas-style

Texas Game Meatloaf, Apricots and Pecan Chutney

Third Course

Green Chile Potato Noodles, Five Spice Castle Lager Broth

Fourth Course

Tandoori Shark, Pickled Seasonal Vegetable

Dessert

Melktart – A South African delicacy

Masala Blueberry Chocolate

The dinner will be paired with wines unique to South Africa.    

 


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Finer Dining: Scotch Dinner, Passport New Zealand, Karbach at Boiler House


Scotch glass illustrationCrumpets’ Single Malt Scotch Tasting and Dinner

Join other lovers of single malt Scotches in this dinner and tasting at Crumpets Restaurant & Bakery on Friday, (Jan. 31) at 7 p.m.

Chef Francois Maeder will prepare each course to serve with a different Scotch. The menu includes: Aperitif — Oban 14 year; Glenkinchie 12 year served with Baked Brie; Talisker 10 year with Smoked Salmon Canapes; Cragganmore 12 year with Prociutto-stuffed Mushroom; Lagavulin 16 year with Lamb Chops with fresh rosemary and Dijon mustard; Dalwhinnie with Chocolate Florentine for dessert.

Reservations are required. The price is $55 per person plus tax and gratuity. Please call 210-821-5600. Crumpets is at 3920 Harry Wurzbach Road.

Sandy Oaks Passport Dinner sets sail for New Zealand

Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard invites you to come out and enjoy an evening of pairing olive oils, wines, cheeses and typical dishes that best display the gastronomic arts of some of the worlds finest olive-growing regions.

oliveoilThe next dinner features the food of New Zealand, renowned for its bountiful fresh produce, lamb and of course, olives and world-famous wines.

The dinner will be on Feb. 7, at Sandy Oaks, 25195 Mathis Road, Elmendorf. This is just a 25-minute drive from downtown San Antonio. The dinner begins at 7 p.m. and costs $65 per person. To make reservations call (210) 621-0044. For photos, information on the olive tree nursery, gift shop, the Kitchen at Sandy Oaks restaurant and more, visit the website at www.sandyoaks.com.

Boiler House has fun and Karbach on tap

Boiler House at the Pearl, 312 Pearl Parkway, is having a Karbach beer dinner at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

In honor of the dinner, chef Jeff White has created five courses of playfully named dishes to go with the playfully named beers.

beer icyThey include Jonny’s Beer Nuts and Deconstruction Zone Pastrami Sandwich with duck pastrami and foie gras spread paired with Karbach Hopadillo Negro IPA, followed by Strong Man Chowder with Karbach Weekend Warrior Pale Ale.

That’s How Jeff Rolls, a lobster salad with cider beer bacon on a bun, will be served with Karbach Weisse Versa Wheat, while Pig in a Poke, melted pork shoulder, will be with Karbach Rodeo Clown Double IPA. An Ice Cream Manwich and the Karbach Hellfighter Imperial Porter close out the meal.

The price is $55 a person plus tax and tip. For reservations, call (210) 354-4644.

 

 

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Dine in Andalusia — or Under the Stars at Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard


The popular Passport Adventure Series of dinners continues June 7 with a trip to the Andalusia southern coastal area of Spain — and it all happens a short drive south of San Antonio.

This is a celebration of dishes, olives, olive oils and wine from the region.  The last Passport Adventure dinner sold out a month ahead, so make your reservations now!

Passport_head_webThe five-course dinner includes wine to complement chef Scott Grimmett’s dishes from this wine- and olive-rich area.

There is also a brief tour of Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard and a discussion of how olive oil is made preceding the dinner.

Tour: 6:30 p.m.; Dinner: 7 p.m.; Tickets: $55 per person.  Call (210) 621-0044 for reservations.

Sandy Oaks patioDining Under the Stars at Sandy Oaks

On Friday, May 24, Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard will present a mixture of fine dining and an international wine list. Chef Scott Grimmett will have a prix fixe dinner with options so you can decide your dishes and then pick wine to match!  Just in time to herald ‘National Wine Day.’

The dining will take place ‘Under the Stars’ — but in case of inclement weather, seating will be moved indoors. Dinner: 6 p.m. Cost:  $55 per person, plus tax.  Call (210) 621-0044 for more information and to make reservations. Visit Sandy Oaks online here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Taste of Croatia at Sandy Oaks Next Passport Dinner


Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard will offer not only culinary tastes from one of the Old World’s rising stars, Croatia, but wines, olive oils and cheese from that country as well at their next Passport Adventure Series dinner, Feb. 1.

Offering a rare blend of glamor, history and old-fashioned authenticity, Croatia has been an increasingly sought-after destination. Here, beaches and sunshine vie for attention with cultural treasures, ancient architecture and time-tested folk traditions. This is a country in transition, lying between Central Europe and the Mediterranean, less than 25 miles from Italy’s northeastern border.

Photo courtesy Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard

Part of its new-found attraction is the increasing appeal and recognition of its culinary arts. Its chief assets are locally sourced, quality ingredients from the land and sea, creatively prepared by celebrity chefs or cooked home-style in family-run taverns. The menu at Sandy Oaks’ taste of Croatia draws on that rich culinary history. Also, olive oils (particularly those of Istria) from the country are getting top awards. Wines of this country as well as gradually becoming available in San Antonio. If you haven’t experienced Croation food or wine, this is a great opportunity to do so.

Passport Friday, Feb. 1, 6:30 p.m., 125195 Mathis Road, Elmendorf. 210-621-0044

Make (required) reservations here.

MENU:
1st Course
Cheese, Olives, Olive Oil
2nd Course

Blitva s Krumpirom and Kulen
Swiss Chard with Potatoes, Olive Oil and Garlic with Cured Pork Sausage
3rd Course

Skampi na Buzara
Croatian Style Shrimp Scampi Seasoned with Vegetables
4th Course

Istrian Maneštra with Pogac
(a Vegetable Stew with Bread)
5th Course

Zagrebacki Odrezak
Veal Stuffed with Ham and Cheese
Dessert

Kremna Rezina
Cream Cake with Puff Pastry

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Griffin to Go: Tales of Portugal, Chocolate and Roasted Radishes


The holiday season always means an extra-busy schedule, filled with gatherings at work and with friends as well as shopping, stuffing stockings and enjoying the lights both on the River Walk and on many people’s homes. It also brings on a lot of good food, both homemade and in restaurants around town.

The following are some random food notes that have nothing to do with each other than they were recent treats that offered a few culinary lessons along the way.

At Portugal’s table

I’ve visited Portugal twice and hope to go back many more times. The cuisine from the country’s various regions, largely unknown in America, is a lesson in making the most of every morsel available.

The people in the county are not rich in money, but their food is certainly filled with the riches of the ocean as well as their own farms. Cheeses bursting with flavor, unctuous and tangy olive oils, and hundreds of desserts made with a mixture of egg yolks and sugar are just a few of the culinary treasures to be found.

So, when Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard in Elmendorf announced that Portugal would be the latest dinner in their ongoing passport series, I was more than willing to taste whatever chef Scott Grimmitt came up with for his menu.

Sure enough, the evening began with two of those stunning cheese, which vary from town to town. One was a creamy Azores Flores and an aged raw cow’s milk cheese call Sao Jorge, both of which paired well with a sparkling wine from the ever-reliable Casal Garcia.

Then the courses flew by, with a kale and sausage filled Caldo Verde, thickened with potato, a happy marriage of pork and clams, and, perhaps my personal favorite of the evening, grilled sardines with a piri-piri sauce and fresh lemon. Grimmitt shared his recipe for the killer sauce, which he described as a chimichurri with sriracha adding a welcome kick. (So, that’s parsley, garlic, olive oil, a touch of vinegar and salt, plus the fiery kick of sriracha used to taste.) Try it on fish, fajitas of any type, roast chicken or just a slice of bread.

A hearty steak with potatoes preceded a custard tart — those egg yolks and sugar, again — topped with port-soaked strawberries. While the tart was wonderful, the simple magic of the port-soaked strawberries could make an easy dessert throughout the holiday season. A dollop of whipped cream and you’re all set.

The program for the dinner included next year’s dinners at Sandy Oaks, so you may want to start preparing now:

  • Feb. 1 — Croatia
  • April 12  — Sicily
  • June 7  —  Andalucia
  • Aug. 9  — Morocco
  • Oct. 11  — Chile
  • Dec. 13  —  Mexico

For more information on Sandy Oaks, click here.

Chocolate many times over

A chocolate temple complete with torches and a pool of passion fruit sauce.

Susana Trilling, one of Mexico’s top chefs, made a welcome appearance at Las Canarias for a chocolate-themed dinner. It’s the first in a series the restaurant in the Omni La Mansion del Rio, 112 College St., has planned. Chiles and corn will be the themes of the next two meals, planned for early 2013.

The five-course tasting menu, accompanied by a savory starter and truffles laced with hot chiles, made you rethink all you thought you knew about the flavors of chocolate, cocoa and cacao.

Duck breast in an achiote-chocolate sauce was silky with a slight tingle of heat and the supple, dark mystery of the cocoa. Beef sautéed with wild porcinis in a chocolate and Cabernet Sauvignon sauce offered a complex host of flavors, and a roasted pumpkin soup was served with chocolate croutons. Chocolate came in all three dishes, but that common ingredient didn’t taste the same from dish to dish.

Perhaps my favorite expression was a mixed green salad with matchsticks of watermelon radish, Honeycrisp apple and almonds tossed with a chocolate-orange-vanilla dressing. Las Canarias chef John Brand said that the original recipe had also called for kohlrabi, but his suppliers and local farmers could find any that day.

Dessert was a dark chocolate temple dedicated to the rain god Cosijo and arrived with a passion fruit sauce that disappeared as quickly as the chocolate.

For many chefs and restaurateurs, these special dinners can just seem like extra work. But not at Las Canarias during this meal. Everyone we spoke with from the staff was in awe of Trilling and the knowledge she had to impart. Some even came in on their day off to help make the banana leaf-wrapped mole tamales filled with olives and plantain.

Roast that radish

Roasted radishes a la John Brand

This coming Sunday is Noche de los Rabanos, the Oaxacan festival of radishes. Every year on Dec. 23, the citizens of that Mexican village get together with radish carvings of the most intricate nature. It’s a chance to celebrate together before enjoying the more private family gatherings of Christmas. (A bit of trivia: Trilling was born on Dec. 23, thereby earning the nickname “Rabanita,” or “Little Radish.”)

I love to use radishes in a lot of dishes, both raw and cooked, from latkes to raw ravioli, in which this slices of lime-soaked daikon radish have goat cheese spread between them.

Brand offered up another variation of what to do with these root vegetables: Take red globe radishes, rub olive oil over them and season with rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Roast at 350 degrees for about a half hour or until the radishes are done. Then, serve them as a snack.

Brand said if he ever had a bar, he’d make this the snack food.

After giving them a try, I can see why. They’re aren’t just good by themselves, they’re great with a pilsner on the side.

Let no leftovers go to waste

A pot of ham soup.

In a column of leftover food items, it’s good to end with a few thoughts on real leftovers.

I found myself facing some really good leftover ham, minus the ham bone, so it just made sense to make a fresh pot of soup using the vegetables I had in the bottom of the fridge. A turnip, some broccoli stems, carrots, onion and cabbage, with a little garlic, became the base, sautéed for about 10 minutes in olive oil, while some vegetable broth came to a boil on the back burner. Then, about as much ham as vegetables went into the pot for a good warming before the stock was added. A beer was added at the end to provide an added richness of flavor.

There was still plenty of ham left. So more cabbage and onion got chopped up. This time, dill pickles were added with the ham to create a massive amount of salad, mixed with sour cream and mayonnaise, some extra dill weed for good measure, plus salt and pepper.

Both will come in handy on those days when making lunch takes up too much time in the morning.

When I told this to a friend, she wondered why no ham casserole. That’s certainly a possibility, but most casseroles have too many potatoes, carb-heavy soups and starches for my diabetic diet, but I could easily see layering ham, potatoes and cheese in a 9-by-13-inch pan, adding milk or cream and seasonings, and baking until its a bubbling thing of beauty. Or maybe adding ham to a baked macaroni and cheese.

What do you like to do with leftover ham when you don’t have a ham bone?

 

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