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Alfresco Dining in This Heat? It Works at Zinc. At Least for One.


Zinc on North Presa Street

When I walked into Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar early Monday evening, the temperature was hovering in the mid-90s. The bar area was filled with people having a great time over their drinks and plates of food, and the air conditioning was blowing a welcome sense of calm. Yet something was calling me to the deserted courtyard out back, still warmed by the sun.

Soon, I was settled at a table near the water fountain with its tranquil burbling while I enjoyed a slight breeze in the air. An icy cocktail helped, and I almost instantly felt some blessed relief from the rush hour traffic out front. The only activity around was the line of servers passing from bar to kitchen and a trio of overfed pigeons strutting around waiting for any crumb.

Wild mushroom and arugula soup

There were few to be had from my table. Zinc’s Restaurant Week menu features a series of choices, starting with a salad or the soup of the day. I opted for the latter, a wild mushroom soup with fresh arugula added at the last moment. The broth was a light gray color and did not look terribly appetizing, yet the mushrooms were earthy and ephemeral, accented by the slight, complementary addition of bacon. And the crunch of the fresh arugula with its peppery note offered a pleasant contrast in texture while contributing to the depth of flavors in the soup.

Seared scallops

Steak or seafood for the main course? OK,  so the infamous “crack” burger wasn’t an option. That’s my usual favorite at Zinc. But I was willing to lookpast that. I went with briny scallops, which were well seared, almost caramelized, and placed atop a welcome bed of sautéed spinach. A generous ring of julienned squash, zucchini, carrots  and jícama added a good crunch, though the sauce was somewhat wan.

Dessert was a heaping portion of bread pudding with plenty of fresh peaches and brown sugar. A scoop of caramel streaked ice cream melted into the top while the serving cup was surrounded by crushed brittle. It was large enough to share with two or three people, though served for one.

Bread pudding

Zinc has a $15 Restaurant Week lunch menu, while the dinner menu is priced at $35 a person. Where to next? For a list of participants, click on the Culinaria ad above. And don’t forget that parking in city lots downtown is free on Tuesday nights.

Zinc Bistro & Wine Bar
207 N. Presa St.
(210) 224-2900
www.zincwine.com

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Flu Fighters: Protect Your Body With Healthful Choices


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Broth is nourishing if you’re on a liquid diet.

Is your body well enough to resist the flu this season?

This is not a matter to be taken lightly or ignored, as theH1N1 flu, sometimes referred to as  swine flu, has been declared a national emergency.  In the United States, the flu has spread into 46 states.

To find out what’s best for your body at this time of year, we talked with several health care professionals in San Antonio to find out what they suggest as the best ways to remain healthy.

Dr. Richard Reyna, an internist, suggested two nutrients that can help fight flu and colds:  vitamin C and zinc.  Each of these can be obtained in supplement form or even lozenges. But, food might be the healthiest way to get your vitamins and minerals.

Zinc is in a host of foods, particularly high-protein foods such as meats. It’s also found in dairy, peanuts and wholegrain cereals. One of the highest non-meat sources of zinc, according to www.nutritional-supplements-health-guide.com, is a food we use a lot in San Antonio and one that is in season right now, pepitas, or pumpkin seeds. (For a recipe on toasting your own pumpkin seeds, click here.)

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Stay hydrated. For extra vitamin C, try rose hips tea.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest rest. Also, drinking clear fluids, such as water, broth and sports drinks help to keep the body hydrated.

Wash your hands frequently, especially if you’ve been in public areas, or are exhibiting symptoms of the flu, such as sneezing and coughing. Try to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for 15-20 seconds, at least. If you need to sneeze or cough, instead of covering your mouth with your hand, use a tissue, then discard it and wash your  hands. If no tissue is available, sneeze into your sleeve or hands, then wash hands immediately. If no water is available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be used.

The CDC also suggests that sick people stay away from others as much as possible, as person-to-person contact is largely how the flu is spread. If you are a family caregiver, be sure and disinfect surfaces in the house and avoid sharing glasses or utensils.

There’s no one sure-fire way of fighting the flu, says Lori Karhu, a registered nurse and licensed massage therapist in San Antonio.

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Pine nuts, such as those used in a basil pesto, are good sources of zinc, as are pecans.

She suggests a multi-pronged approach, so that body, mind and soul are working together. Ignoring any of these could leave your body vulnerable to attack, she says.

For the mind, the best bet is to avoid stress or defuse whenever possible. Meditation is one way of doing this.

Karhu also recommends people devote a little time to learn the science of better breathing. Proper breathing will rid the body of toxins and carbon dioxide while filling both the brain and muscles with oxygen. This also helps remove stress, she says. (There are numerous websites that address the issue, such as SparkPeople.com.)

Improving circulation with exercise helps. “You just need to get up and move,” she says.

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Drink plenty of water.

Work on the body is a little more involved. Karhu likes to take an approach that starts with the outer and works inward. By that, she means working on the outside, with a warm bristle brush on the skin before showering. It removes more dead skin cells.

A tongue scraper and a neti pot also keep the respiratory tract and the cilia in the nose clean, so they can filter more effectively.

When it comes to diet, Karhu prefers the raw food lifestyle because of the way it cleanses the system. Fasting will also remove toxins from the body. (If you are unfamiliar with the raw food movement, she recommends www.oneluckyduck.com. Don’t fast without consulting your physician first.)

Stay hydrated, she advises. “I don’t think a lot of us understand what that means,” she says. It’s not just drinking anything, such as sodas.

“Coconut water is an excellent hydrator,” Karhu says. Studies have shown that coconut water energizes you while giving your body potassium and cleansing the digestive tract. Runners have taken to drinking it to stay refreshed.

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Wash hands frequently with warm water and soap to help prevent the spread of germs.

Superfoods, such as mangosteen juice or açai juice, are loaded with vitamin C among other nutrients. They are also becoming more common; you can find açai pulp in the freezer section of most H-E-B stores. It’s a great addition to smoothies, Karhu says.

Get your flu shot, Karhu says. But if you do get sick, “stay at home, rest, drink lots of water— and chicken soup, if you’re not a vegetarian,” she says.

Don’t see your doctor. Call instead. “The CDC recommends you call your doctor and have him or her call you in a prescription,” Karhu says. That way, you are not sharing your flu germs with everyone else in the waiting room.

“Hibernate about seven days,” so you won’t share it with the rest of the people at work, either, and so your body has a chance to recover more fully, she says. The CDC, in fact, recommends that you stay home for 24 hours after your fever has gone.

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Griffin to Go: A Tourist at Home


tower4On a recent Saturday night, I got to play tourist in my own hometown.

My friend Cecil and I spent the night going to the top of the Tower of the Americas and then walking around the River Walk amid the throngs of tourists getting in a last vacation before the start of school or taking part in one of the conventions in town.

We knew the scene would be busy. A tweet that morning from the Fairmount Hotel announced that all the rooms in the downtown area were booked that night.

Still, Cecil couldn’t remember if he had ever been up to the top of the Tower before. And since his wife, who is afraid of heights, was out of town for the weekend, it seemed like the perfect time for a visit.

We entered HemisFair Park from Alamo Street, walking under a tree-lined path that led past dry fountains. Signs citing the drought for the lack of waterfalls were posted in several places, making the 100-degree evening seem hotter than it was.

Not helping matters was a warm breeze that swept past a malodorous portable toilet, the stench of which wafted almost to the base of the Tower.

tower2We weren’t visiting for dinner, just a drink, which turned out to be good news  for us. A waiting list of more than 90 minutes greeted those without a dinner reservation to the Chart House, but there was space available in the bar.

That’s where we headed immediately after the elevator shot us to the top. Others had the same idea, because the lounge area was packed with people, many were having dinner while others just wanted a drink and to drink in the view.

The difference between the bar and the restaurant is that the bar does not rotate, while the restaurant does. So, we lowered ourselves into a pair of odd lounge chairs so close to the ground that our chins almost rested on the table top. They were not terribly comfortable, but they were to the left of the bar, which offered a perfect view of the downtown area. Everything from the neo-gothic Tower Life Building to the enchilada red library was laid out before us.

It was also the spot to be in to see the sun set. Trouble was, as the sun started to set, the seats began to heat up.

tower3We didn’t linger too long over our drinks. The cocktail list was a mixture of sweet or sweeter concoctions, and the blue martini ordered tasted more like blue cream soda than an alcoholic beverage. A pair of Sauvignon Blancs by the glass, one from New Zealand, the other from Argentina, proved more refreshing because neither was sweet. (In case you don’t remember: Sugar will make you even hotter in the heat, no matter how much you ice it down.)

A pair of small plates, one of fried calamari, the other a pear-blue cheese salad, were the least of the bar’s virtues, unless your tastes run to the bland or candied, that is.

What was most surprising, though, was the mix of people in the bar. Though the designer tried hard to make the setting appear deco elegant, replete with Rat Pack favorites blaring in the background, the effect was jarred by the disparate attire and behavior of the clientele. A number of families with noisy small children looked as if they had just stepped off the beach and hadn’t quite shaken off the last bits of sand.  Next to them were women pouring out of expensive-looking cocktail dresses and looking uncomfortable because they felt overdressed for a place with $40 entrées.

We left after about 90 minutes, glad to have seen the city but not anxious to head back any time soon, especially since we had to pass through the noxious fumes from that portable potty once again.

riverwalk1We caught our breath once we made it down to the River Walk, where we ambled past the convention center, colorful Casa Rio and thousands of tourists, strollers in tow.  Most of the traffic seemed headed in the opposite direction, but we didn’t let it deter us from making our destination, Waxy O’Connor’s , an Irish pub at 234 Riverwalk. The outdoor tables were taken, which was fine with us, as the temperature still hadn’t dropped into the double digits.

A/C, a juicy burger and some special Guinness commemorating the brewery’s 250th anniversary all improved our spirits, making us glad to be a part of the downtown and its bustling party scene. Next time, I may even stay for a game of darts.

But we were on a mission and from there, we headed to Zinc, the wine bar at 207 N. Presa. A glass of crisp, full-bodied Grüner Veltliner and a pour of a Ridge Zinfandel ended off the evening in style. The bar, an old favorite that I hadn’t visited for too long, seems to have settled into its skin. It’s not shiny as it was when it was new; it has a more burnished, comfortable feel that comes with age, placing it safely beyond trends.

Tableside guacamole, in the style of Boudro’s, is now offered, along with a lengthy menu that had somehow slipped my mind. Yet the beautifully presented plates that filed passed made me hunger for a return trip downtown.

Tourists don’t have that luxury. But we don’t have to surrender the downtown area entirely to tourists. It’s there for us to enjoy, too. And I plan on doing that more often.

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