SAN ANTONIO COFFEE FESTIVAL RETURNS TO LA VILLITA
By Wilber J. Castro
Those on a quest for the perfect cup ’o joe might consider attending this weekend’s San Antonio Coffee Festival, which is sure to help blaze that trail. What better way to kick off the new year than to find your new favorite brew?
The San Antonio Coffee Festival returns to La Villita this Saturday, Jan. 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The celebration presents an excellent opportunity for caffeine connoisseurs to sample coffees from around the world – many expertly brewed by local artisans.
San Antonio Coffee Festival founder and organizer Linda Brewster, whose apropos surname comes from her husband’s family, explained that the Coffee Festival, a labor of love, offers free admission to everyone … and guests are welcome to enjoy the free presentations that cover subjects from latte art to coffee cocktails and more. As for coffee tastings, visitors can purchase $5 tickets for the festival’s special tasting flights.
“The Specialty Coffee Tasting Flight is the hallmark of the San Antonio Coffee Festival. Attendees can purchase a Tasting Flight Ticket for $5,” Mrs. Brewster said. “The Tasting Flight Ticket allows purchasers to select up to four different four-ounce tastes of coffee brands and blends from the participating coffee vendor exhibits.”
Local and international roasters will be attendance – more than 45 different coffees are expected for this year’s Coffee Festival.
“Each of the coffee roasters presents three different coffees to display on the Ticket,” she added. “There were 31 different coffees presented in 2012, 32 coffees in 2013 and 39 selections in 2014 and 2016. Each selection uses coffee beans grown from all around the globe. Many were single origin while others are masterful blends of beans from different areas.”
The San Antonio Coffee Festival’s approach to celebrating the cherished beverage is modeled after the method that professional brewers often employ to categorize their creations. According to Mrs. Brewster, the “Tasting Flight” concept is an informal version of a traditional “coffee cupping” — the method a professional coffee taster uses to measure aspects of the coffee’s aroma and taste, specifically the body, flavor, acidity and sweetness — similar to how sommeliers evaluate wines.
The festival founder lives her passion for coffee all year long — it’s not unusual for the charismatic espresso expert to extol the virtues of coffee in ways that pique the interest of non-believers. “Coffee is multi-dimensional,” Mrs. Brewster said. “I love the social nature of coffee. It’s a great reason to relax with a friend.”
Mrs. Brewster, who earned a Golden Cup Brewing Technician Certification from the Specialty Coffee Association of America in May 2011, waxed philosophical about coffee’s role in society. And she has plenty of experience to draw from. Mrs. Brewster traveled the world to expand her knowledge of everything coffee, jet-setting to coffee-growing hotspots like Antigua, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Tanzania and Hawaii. A jaunt throughout Europe was a veritable education that added an array of local brewing techniques to her repertoire and extended visits to Los Angeles and New York City allowed her to immerse herself in some of the country’s most vibrant coffee scenes.
“The culture of coffee is so interesting — everyone has a different way of brewing and serving it. Also, the science of coffee, farming, processing, the many hands that carry the bean from crop to cup, the economics of coffee, the history of coffee, the health effects of coffee. There are so many fabulous coffee-related topics to talk about,” Mrs. Brewster gushed.
While many San Antonians buy their coffee from big franchises like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, the city has quietly cultivated a highbrow coffee scene that caters to more discerning drinkers. In 2015, Alton Brown famously declared that Brown Coffee served him the best cup of coffee he had ever tasted, while other popular local competitors like Rosella, Local Coffee, Fairview, Sabina’s and Summer Moon have their own share of devotees.
It turns out coffee might even be good for you. The World Health Organization said in a report released last year that drinking coffee may lower the risk of developing specific cancers. The National Coffee Association cites a Harvard study that suggests coffee drinkers live longer. They also found that coffee consumption is on the rise nationwide and coffee drinkers are increasingly willing to part with a few dollars in return for an expertly brewed cup. Millennials interest in coffee has surged over the last decade, which saw the number of twenty-something-aged coffee drinkers double. Whereas drip coffee makers used to be the norm, younger drinkers have shown a decided preference for so-called “gourmet coffee beverages,” a category that includes espresso-based beverages and iced or frozen drinks. They are also most likely to purchase coffee from a company or brand that they trust, valuing organic ingredients, environmental conscientiousness and cultural cachet.
According to Mrs. Brewster, the coffee culture has taken hold in the Alamo City, and for adults of all ages. There’s no question about it … from latte throw downs to trendy flavors and concentrated cold brews, San Antonio’s star on the coffee scene is on the rise.
“San Antonio’s love affair with coffee is blossoming. The sparks continue to ignite within the city’s coffee scene, and 2017 looks very bright indeed!”
The San Antonio Coffee Festival will run from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7, at La Villita Historic Arts Village, located at 418 Villita St. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/saCoffeeFest. (Photos courtesy of the San Antonio Coffee Festival)
AN AUTUMN POP-UP FEAST AT GARDOPIA GARDEN!
TICKETS AT bit.ly/GARDOPIA
Story by Katie Nickas, Photo by Frederic Covo
The Chef Cooperatives will host a feast, “ThanksGIVING!,” for the benefit of Gardopia Garden, from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 19 at the growing urban farm at 611 N. New Braunfels and all proceeds will benefit Gardopia. The chef-driven multi-course feast includes goat, rabbit and turkey, scratch-made ice cream and pastries … all paired with local craft beer and Texas wines. Dirty Genez will provide music. Tickets are $55 online (bit.ly/GARDOPIA) or at the door the day of the event.
Edible readers should enter promo code Gardopia at checkout for a $5 discount.
Gardopia founder Stephen Lucke officially established the little urban farm on a plot of land at the corner of Nolan Street and North New Braunfels Avenue and activated a Kickstarter campaign to help fund a wellness center at the garden. The Kickstarter campaign failed to bring in the needed cash, but caught Chef Cooperatives President Stephen Paprocki’s attention.
“The most pressing matter is to purchase the property on Nolan St. at a fair value to preserve the garden and wellness center for the Eastside,” Mr. Lucke explained.
Chef Paprocki reached out to Mr. Lucke to see if the Chef Coop could help. Mr. Lucke jumped at the chance.
“Chef informed me they have been extremely successful at raising awareness and fundraising for other nonprofits in the past – it seemed like a no-brainer to me,” Mr. Lucke said. “We get coverage for the work we do, raise funds and have gourmet meals prepared by top chefs!”
Chef Paprocki understood right away that the garden provided a way to reach disadvantaged students and to teach everyone in the neighborhood how to grow produce on a farm. He explained that the chefs are preparing for about 200 people to attend.
“This will be a cool event for a good cause – this event, like every other we’ve hosted, showcases the people we’re supporting,” Chef Paprocki said. “It will help Gardopia Gardens get their name out to the public, especially on San Antonio’s Eastside.”
Gardopia is much more than a garden, it provides neighborhood residents and children with a gardening program that teaches life skills.
“We use our talents through events to help organizations in need,” he added. “What (Lucke) is trying to do for those kids – I’ve never seen such a passionate individual. It will bring tears to your eyes.”
Mr. Lucke hopes Gardopia will grow its membership to 100 in its second year to support garden-based learning at schools and the wellness program at the Nolan St. location.
“I believe in what they’re trying to accomplish with education, nutrition and mathematics through their gardening program,” Chef Paprocki said. “Between this event and helping promote the new GoFundMe campaign through our social media and press release, we are hoping to help raise the money they failed to get during their Kickstarter campaign.”
The Chef Coop hosts dinners throughout San Antonio. Last spring, a sold-out popup dinner at My Father’s Farm in Seguin raised money for Green Spaces Alliance. The group has raised more than $150,000 in three years for local charities, farmers and other 501(c)3 organizations.
MORE ABOUT THE EASTSIDE URBAN FARM, GARDOPIA GARDEN
Story by Angela Covo, Photos By Frederic Covo
Stephen Lucke, founder of Gardopia Garden, on a recent Saturday workday at the urban farm on San Antonio’s Eastside.
In 2012, then the University of Incarnate Word (UIW) senior Stephen Lucke started an edible garden to serve the school community. As a student employee of the UIW grounds de- partment, that wasn’t exactly in his job description, but the young man had a vision. And as the biochemistry major’s garden grew, so did its purpose.
Workdays at UIW’s edible garden evolved into community service hours for students and discussions about promoting campus sustain- ability, fresh food and education. By the time Mr. Lucke graduated in December 2012, he realized the impact a community garden could have, particularly if it was used for education as well as produce.
“Gardening has so many positive impacts. In my own case, I didn’t eat many vegetables until I had a reason. When I started the garden in 2012, I had great success with Roma tomatoes. There were so many, I started to eat them. Even on a very small scale, gardening expanded my palate,” Mr. Lucke said.
As he learned more about the problems that face San Antonio, his ideas about gardening as a panacea of sorts also grew. “Poverty and obesity is like a modern day plague in San Antonio,” Mr. Lucke, now 27 years old, said.
Mr. Lucke started helping with community and school gardens on the Eastside and found the plot of land at 611 N. New Braunfels and Gardopia Gardens was born. The physical garden, more of an urban farm complete with chickens, is located in a high-crime area.
The growing urban farm at 611 N. New Braunfels on the Eastside.
The nonprofit is a wellness program with three pillars: education, health and environment. The group received an Eastside Promise Zone grant for $10,000 to support the health portion of Gardopia. This grant was used to pay coaches and buy exercise equipment need- ed for the Gardopia program to work with several SAISD schools.
“The education pillar is our academic piece, where we emphasize STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) and project-based learning, and just about any subject matter can be taught out of the garden,” Mr. Lucke explained. “The health pillar represents physical activity and nutrition.”
The basic premise of the health and wellness based nonprofit orga- nization is to help everyone practice wellness in their daily lives.
“We define wellness as a holistic approach to being healthy. So our vision is to make sure there are gardens everywhere with fresh organic produce. In the garden, we exercise repetition and demonstrate how everything is full circle,” he added.
At Gardopia, everything is done organically and sustainably. They make and use compost and implement rainwater collection. Right now, kale, tomatoes and cucumbers are growing in the garden. Soon they’ll be putting in broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.
“We can’t be 100 percent off the grid, but we strive to lower costs and lower our carbon footprint,” Mr. Lucke said. “The idea is to set up your garden for success.”
Thank you, San Antonio!
Chef Michael Sohocki’s column below made it into the top 5 for a 2016 Eddy Award!
Edible San Antonio won the 2016 Reader’s Choice Eddy Digital Award for our Facebook page,
which was recognized thanks to your interaction with it and participation in the voting.
Stuff that turkey with a Latin twist
Incredible Tamale Stuffing
By Kimberly A. Suta
If you’re looking for ways to spice up your holiday dinner, Texas-based Mexican food company Mölli has some exciting recipes to give your traditional Thanksgiving meal some delicious twists. Although they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Mexico, they do make a traditional turkey dinner for Christmas in many parts of central Mexico, including Oaxaca. They often stuff the turkey with oranges and brine it for 24 hours to make it super juicy.
Founder Rodrigo Salas used one of his popular Mölli marinades called Oaxaca to make an adobo-rubbed stuffed turkey with all the authentic flavors of Mexico that still feels like home. Mr. Salas also turned the classic American stuffing on its ear by using bean tamales along with the Mölli Veracruz Cooking Sauce (recipe below) to create a savory alternative.
“What we normally hear from people is that they always make the same thing. A lot of our friends asked us what they could do with the sauces for the holidays, so that’s how we started experimenting. One of the things we love about these recipes is what you can do with the leftovers. The turkey makes a great torta. We put it on a baguette with avocado, tomatoes, onions, beans and mayo,” Mr. Salas said.
The company offers a variety of sauces and marinades that are extremely versatile and made with fresh ingredients minus the ubiquitous preservatives and fillers. Mr. Salas is also developing new products, such as a habanero sauce, a marinade made with beer and a chili powder.
“We started the company because we couldn’t find brands that offered us the flavors of Mexico in a quick and healthy way, so we had to cook everything from scratch, which takes a lot of time. Now, we can cook at home using the Mölli sauces, which we do seven days a week, and it only takes 30 minutes,” Mr. Salas explained. He shared that his son, Sebastian’s, favorite sauce is the Morelos, which is a mix of tomatoes, tomatillos, smoky chipotle peppers, onions and spices. “When he came home for dinner after summer camp each night he asked, ‘Daddy, did you use my favorite sauce?’”
More recipes for an incredible and unique holiday dinner can be found on the Mölli website at mollisauces.com. Look for dishes such as easy green beans with bacon and chipotle sauce, spicy mashed potatoes and cauliflower, and a sweet spicy cranberry sauce. Mölli sauces and marinades can be found at Central Market in San Antonio and throughout Texas. Online purchases can be made at artizone.com.
RECIPE: Incredible Tamale Stuffing for Thanksgiving!
Servings: 12/Ready in 35 minutes
- 24 The Tamale Company bean tamales
- 4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 2 jars Mölli Veracruz Cooking Sauce
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- kosher salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Reheat tamales according to package instructions and remove husks. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Use a slotted spoon or fork to crumble the tamales and really combine everything.
- Pour mixture into a greased baking pan and bake for 20-30 minutes. Provecho!
Edible Art: Food for the Soul
By Angela Covo
More than the world’s greatest virtuoso cellist, Yo-Yo Ma is truly a virtuoso human being.
He is a generous soul on an extraordinary quest, seeking answers to profound questions and making the connections to share with all of us. In fact, I’m sure he said the most important part of a performance is “sharing something.” But the words that reached my heart came a few minutes later.
“When you don’t share, you’re spending lots of energy keeping it – but when you share, it’s as if you’ve created a muscle, and it builds more capacity,” he said.
In just a few minutes, it was clear that when Mr. Ma looks at something, he sees, and he’s mastered the elusive talent of knowing the right questions to ask.
On his last visit to San Antonio, Mr. Ma performed with the The Silk Road Ensemble.
I wondered what one thing spurred him to create the magnificent collaboration between musicians as far flung as China and Galicia, uniting the sounds of different cultures and traditions into glorious joyful song. But Mr. Ma was not weaving a wild tapestry of music. The common thread, the piece that joins the musicians, comes from a somewhat distant past when these cultures did brush against each other along the Silk Road.
The historical link is significant, because it connects us as well to a distant ancient past that lies buried within. The story of the Silk Road is as rich as the commerce that made it grow and connected the east to the west, commingling flavors, colors and sounds serendipitously that had never been mixed before. And for hundreds of years, not only exchanging goods like silks and spices, but ideas, traditions and culture.
Mr. Ma explained from the beginning that ideas in his head often have a “long gestation period.”
The very important questions often take time to ponder and nurture, and this grand experiment connecting humans, those who play as well as those who listen, through music, deserved all the time in the world. And The Silk Road Project finally came together as a nonprofit organization in 1998, opening minds and hearts to the echoes of cultural exchange from the past to envision new connections.
“Well, I was born in Paris to Chinese parents and we moved to New York City when I was about four or five,” Mr. Ma said, to explain away the quirk of taking his time to consider something.
The thought occurred to me that he was his own virtual melting pot. But he said it much better: “I guess I’m my own spice rack.”
And indeed, Mr. Ma has recorded more than 90 records in about 35 years and earned at least 18 Grammys in diverse categories, including separate best crossover awards for playing the tango, and bluegrass and Latin music on an album called Obrigado Brazil.
His ability to stretch musically not only led him to create The Silk Road Ensemble, but also to play with Santana, James Taylor, and Sting, just to give a small sample.
For Mr. Ma, music is a universal language, not just a classification on a chart.
It wasn’t until he played with Bobby McFerrin, however, that he learned what he considers the most important performance lesson of his life. “He is fearless, and his message was ‘be yourself,’” Mr. Ma said.
He loves live performances above all.
“Live performances create magical moments,” he said. “They are not replicable, and not only does the experience share the voices, but the people and the moment.”
And Mr. Ma has had magical moments – in 1962, just 7 years old, he played for Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower (with his sister Yeou-Cheng Ma). As he became more and more accomplished on the cello, he traveled all over the world, recorded and played with hundreds of artists. Among his many accolades, he is the U.N. Messenger of Peace and received the National Medal of Arts in 2001.
In 2010, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest national honor that can be bestowed on a civilian.
“It was a surreal experience,” Mr. Ma said. “Barbara Bush was there with her two sons and taking pictures of everybody.”
The other honorees included former President George H.W. Bush, Maya Angelou, Sylvia Mendez and 11 other great thinkers, scientists, leaders.
“It was an incredibly moving moment – and also obviously a great honor,” he explained. “Like a great tragedy, it spurs you to go on and do more, work harder, with more passion.”
Mr. Ma observed that the honorees were all lovely people, people who were intensely aware of others. “Awareness is part of being, and a way to get a sense of who we are,” he added.
On October 16, we have a great opportunity to become more aware, but the upcoming performance with Director Lessing and the San Antonio Symphony at the Tobin Center is for one night only.
“Mr. Ma will play the Cello Concerto in B minor, the last solo concerto composed by Antonín Dvořák. We will also play Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances – both pieces were written in America,” Music Director Sebastian Lang-Lessing explained.
Connections abound now as they did the last time he visited San Antonio.
“All the beauty of tradition and culture is the result of a successful invitation,” Mr. Ma said. “It challenges your way of thinking and gives a certain freedom – and suddenly you find others living the same experience – connecting.”
Mr. Ma added he has real connections here as well.
“My father-in-law was born in San Antonio,” he explained. Mr. Ma is married to the lovely Jill Hornor and they have two grown children, Emily and Nicholas.
But that’s not all. It turns out he is related to Eva Longoria.
“A genealogical study discovered Eva Longoria and I share a relative somewhere in the last one hundred years. Really,” he said.
And while I broke it to him gently that that did not qualify him to be a Mexican, I remembered, thanks to John Phillip Santos and his beautiful book, “The Farthest Home Is in an Empire of Fire,” that in fact, we are all Mestizos.
And for Yo-Yo Ma, that connection was a joy.
To purchase tickets for the concert, visit tobincenter.org. Mr. Ma’s latest album, “Songs from the Arc of Life,” with pianist Kathryn Stott, was released in September 2015.
(This is an updated version of a previously published article.)
“THE OLD MAIN ASSOC.”
A NEW NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY
The busiest man in cocktails is starting his fourth venture and first food concept with Old Main. Jeret Peña was busy putting on a fire sale for perfectly good furniture and hip fixtures from the former Beat Street Coffee Co. Bistro.
“It’s going to be completely different,” he said of the space at 2512 Main Ave. “Three or four long communal tables, lighter colors inside.”
Mr. Peña envisions the space as a convivial grazing spot/watering hole, a neighborhood spot with beer, wine, a small cocktail menu and pub grub. But with partner Lorenzo Morales in charge of the menu, it won’t be standard grub.
Pork-n-beans with braised pork shoulder and spicy white beans, fried chicken with mole, a burger with a bun of pan de huevo and a pecan aioli sauce … Chef Morales, formerly of the Arcade and Tuk Tuk, is extremely excited about marrying a modern food sensibility with the flavors and ingredients of his grandmother’s kitchen.
“We dug deep into our childhood,” Chef Morales said. “It’s very playful. We’re doing it and it’s so weird and it’s so San Antonio.”
Old Main will join Barbaro on McCullough in providing a Midtown neighborhood spot that offers contemporary fare and cocktails at a moderate price. Mr. Peña doesn’t see it as a competitor to the Monte Vista pizza-and-small-plates venue, but as a complement that shores up the area’s offerings.
“We dug deep into our childhood. It’s very playful. We’re doing it and it’s so weird and it’s so San Antonio.”
After winning accolades and national attention at The Brooklynite and The Last Word, Mr. Peña’s partnership, the Boulevardier Group, wanted to do something that could line the stomach as well as lift the spirits. The trick was finding the right space. When the opportunity arose, the site helped shape the plan.
“We had been wanting to start a food concept for some time but not knowing where,” Mr. Peña said. “The space came up and it was a no-brainer that it would be our first food concept. I saw a neighborhood pub that would sell a small but well-thought-out food menu.”
Target date for opening Old Main is “June-ish,” and once that’s up and running, the Boulevardier Group may concentrate on running what they’ve got for a while. Just to stay a little busier, Mr. Peña also has Stay Golden Social House, his venture with Chris Erck of Swig Martini Bar. ~ Elizabeth Allen
Update: The Old Main Assoc. will open at the end of August! We’ll report the exact date as soon as we know!
Salad with … protein (Photo by Leandra Blei)
THE WITTE’S NUTRITIONAL ADVENTURE
Salud! Culinary Night events at the Witte Museum embrace avant-garde presentations with chef demos and informative discussions that offer unique insights — unlike any other dinner series in San Antonio — as the upcoming “Bug Dinner” on August 12 demonstrates.
Chef Stephen Paprocki, founder of Texas Black Gold Garlic, and Pastry Chef Ernest Lopez from Hotel Éilan will create a special dinner to showcase the edible possibilities with a variety of insects.
“If you were blindfolded, you wouldn’t even know you were eating bugs,” Chef Paprocki said. “You’d just say, ‘Wow, this is good.’”
According to the chef, eating bugs is nothing new.
“Bugs have always been there for us as an alternative form of protein and are a great resource for fighting world hunger,” he explained.
He likened edible bugs to sushi in the early 80s when the trend first appeared on American menus.
“People were freaking out. ‘I’m not gonna eat raw fish,’ but today, it’s completely mainstream,” he said.
Meghan Curry, founder of Bug Vivant, an educational website about edible insects with recipes, agrees. She doesn’t think eating insects is a fad.
“The demand for animal protein is growing, but the amount of land and water necessary to produce it [enough to meet the growing demand] isn’t there. Insects are a great alternative because they require much less water, have a shorter generation time and can thrive in crowded conditions,” Ms. Curry explained.
During the dinner, Ms. Curry will discuss how insects are being used in kitchens across the globe, as well as their value as a sustainable food source. With an anticipated world population of 9 billion by 2015, entrepreneurs like Ms. Curry are working hard to develop viable options to meet the ever-increasing need. Her company’s main mission is to encourage Americans to adopt eating insects to help leverage limited resources. Ms. Curry believes if American chefs are able to turn bugs into delicious cuisine, we may be on the verge of a new culinary trend.
“Edible insects are more than just an environmental or academic idea. It turns out that they are delicious and add a whole new range of textures and flavors we can explore,” Ms. Curry said. “What’s most important to me is the message we send the rest of the world. It’s not just about sustainability, it’s about cultural preservation.”
To complete the program, Dr. Harry Shafer, curator of archaeology at the Witte Museum, will explain how insects played an integral role in the Pecos people’s hunter-gatherer way of life.
The three course dinner includes a young spinach salad with goat milk ricotta, roasted beets and a mixed “Caviar” of Hymenopteran larvae with balsamic vinaigrette; a twist on the classic French flatbread pissaladière (made with mealworm) and topped with Texas goat cheese, Texas Black Gold Garlic, local olive and truffle oils; and a chocolate cricket crémeux with fire ant spicy tamarind sorbet. Each menu item will be paired with beer from Karbach Brewery.
“We’re just scratching the surface. There’s so much we can do with bugs – it’s so fun to put in the hands of chefs like Stephen (Paprocki). There’s a huge new range of food we get to play with, it’s exciting to see what they come up with,” Ms. Curry added.
This special dinner/workshop from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug 12 is for guests 21 and over. Seating is limited to 60. Tickets are available at WitteMuseum.org or by calling 210-357- 1910. ~ Kimberly A. Suta with Angela Covo
FROM OUR FIRST ISSUE, Edible celebrates the people who cook our food in our Meet the Chef series:
Chef Jeff White: From Fry Cook to Top Chef!
Step into the Boiler House these days and peek into the kitchen. Chances are you’ll see Executive Chef Jeff White working shoulder to shoulder with his staff. Easygoing and friendly, the 41-year-old chef said his pet peeve is a messy kitchen.
“Sloppy decks mean sloppy thinking. Everything just moves a lot more smoothly when everybody cleans up as they go along,” Chef White said. Making sure things move smoothly is a major consideration in a kitchen that turns out about 600 covers on a weekend night.
Chef White gravitated to the culinary arts as soon as he could start working “officially” at age 15. He began his career at Tom’s Ribs on Nacogdoches Road … washing pots. He worked his way through high school in that kitchen, cleaning dishes, bussing tables and chopping vegetables.
“All the cool guys there were cooking, so I really wanted to be on the line, too,” he said. He finally got the chance just shy of turning 18 — as a fry cook.
“I was the fry guy, making all the onion-ring loaves and the fried trout. I remember when things would slow down, we would take the trout heads and line them up on the dishwasher with cigarettes in their mouths,” he said. “We were just kids in the kitchen then.”
When he graduated from high school, managers at Tom’s ceremoniously offered him a job in the kitchen for $4.75 an hour.
“So I went to college,” he said.
Chef White did not study culinary arts, though. Instead, he delved into mechanical engineering at Texas State Technical College.
“I was married, with a baby, and I needed a real job. So I went to work at Palmer’s in San Marcos and landed a job as a line cook. Having a full-time job and being a full-time student was very tough with a young family,” he said.
Somehow, he managed. Even before graduating, the San Antonio native became executive chef at the upscale Hill Country restaurant and worked there three years.
“As a line cook, I got the chance to create a few specials and they named me exec chef, but I didn’t know a thing about running a kitchen and relied on accounting majors and lots of other people to show me how to do this and how to do that. They never really knew what I didn’t know, I don’t think,” he said.
“I just couldn’t pay attention — I was always thinking about food,” he adds.
After college, he took a job drafting for a construction company, but was always thinking up new dishes, creating joy in the kitchen.
Since then, working 10 to 17 hours a day is part of his routine. Chef White said he wouldn’t have it any other way, and his family life is interwoven with his vocation.
“Finding a balance between personal and work life is always tricky, but no matter how hard you work or how tired you are, you find a way to make time, even if they (relatives) have to come to the restaurant to celebrate a special occasion,” he said.
His daughter, Kaileigh, now 18, is at the Navy boot camp on the Great Lakes in Michigan. And this time he’ll be going to celebrate with her.
“I get to go see her graduate in Chicago next month,” he said.
But there was a point in his career when taking time off wasn’t in the game plan.
On his quest to become a great chef, he sought the best and most reputable masters to help hone his skills. He received a warm welcome into the kitchens of some of the area’s most acclaimed restaurants: from Louis 106 in Austin and L’Etoile in San Antonio to Chef Bruce Auden’s Biga on the Banks, the Westin Riverwalk, Restaurant Acenar and the Grey Moss Inn.
“I’d have to say I was most influenced by Chef Bruce Auden of Biga on the Banks. He allowed me to build my own style. Bruce really taught me how to run a kitchen and with his Chef de Cuisine Martin Stembera, I learned a lot about Asian techniques,” he said. “Almost everything I know about French techniques I learned from Thiery (Burkle of L’Etoile).”
The idea of buying fresh and local made the biggest impression.
“Bruce used lots of locally sourced ingredients and I learned how imperative it is to buy local and be connected to where your food comes from,” Chef White said.
By 2008, less than 10 years after officially switching careers, Chef White was appointed executive and corporate chef for the Columbia Culinary Team. An opportunity to work with Chef Johnny Hernandez at True Flavors Catering beckoned three years later and during 2012 he was invited to help open The Boiler House at the Pearl. Just a year later, he became executive chef.
He’s accumulated accolades and awards, including First Place in the San Antonio Herb Fair in 2003 and The People’s Choice Bronze Award for Taste of Elegance in 2005. Chef White was also an American Culinary Federation Guest Chef at the James Beard House in New York City.
In his relatively new role at The Boiler House, Chef White creates marvelous menus and fosters a collaborative atmosphere.
“I‘ve been in almost every role in many kitchens and I got to see and practice many management styles. Where I feel most comfortable is as a mentor — in my kitchen we all work together. I learned the best way to manage is by example. I wouldn’t ask anybody to do anything I wouldn’t do and I don’t like to see idle hands,” he said.
Chef White especially enjoys preparing charcuterie, the art of cooking, curing and preserving meats, pâtés, foie gras and confits.
“Making prosciutto from scratch, creating mortadella from sweetbread and lamb tongue or pastrami from duck breast takes time and plenty of labor, but the specialized techniques are wonderful. Learning to use the kidneys, the heart, the feet parts of the animal, parts of an animal that are all delicious and underutilized today, is essential in my book,” Chef White said.
Many of the chef’s techniques are rooted in centuries-old traditions and methods that use the whole animal.
“You’re not wasting any part of the animal that died — that shows respect for the farmer and the animal,” he said. “When creating a plate, we reach for a balance of flavors of textures. It’s easy to get lost in the technique and forget the goal — but the idea is to present the cured meats in their most natural state to preserve the flavor and quality — and it’s important to stick with the old-and-tested traditional methods to achieve the best results,” he added.
While the meat-centric Boiler House serves up charcuterie, mouth-watering steaks, grilled skewers and even game, the restaurant also offers plenty of salads and vegetables — almost all of it from local farms. And on the weekends, Chef White often walks around the Pearl Farmers Market just outside the restaurant’s door and buys fresh produce directly from the farmers.
“Working at Biga on the Banks opened my eyes to this concept. You can develop a personal relationship with the people you buy from – you know where your food comes from, how they grow it, sometimes you even get to see the places it comes from,” he said.
That’s a good thing, too, because by necessity, whatever they choose to cook at the restaurant has to be fresh.
“There’s no fryer at the Boiler House,” he said with a smile, “and there’s no freezer here, either. So everything we make is fresh.”
Chef White explained the thing he loves most about his work is the sense of community among the food professionals in San Antonio. He is a member of a new chefs group, the Chef Cooperatives, with a mission to support area farmers through special events and locally sourcing menus as much as possible.
“I love the chef community here — we support each other and each other’s restaurants; we promote each other. Our camaraderie allows us to experiment and elevate the food scene here for everyone in the city, and everyone contributes to make it happen,” Chef White said.
Super Bowl Special
Arugula & Roasted Pepper Pesto Dip
Prep Time: 20 minutes, yields approximately 6 ounces
2 cups arugula leaves, rinsed, drained and stemmed
1⁄2 cup pistachios (if salted, omit added salt)
3 oz. Asiago cheese, grated
2 oz. fire-roasted sweet peppers (red or yellow)
1⁄4 tsp crushed Italian red pepper
5 cloves of garlic
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
1. Using a food processor, gently pulse ingredients until they are thoroughly combined.
2. Scrape sides down with a rubber spatula, approximately 1 minute.
3. Serve or refrigerate in an airtight container, up to 4 days.
Best served with poultry or other white game meats, warm or baked cheeses, toasts, crackers, fresh apples, pears or as a sandwich condiment.
Recipe reprinted with permission from “Pesto Power, An Exploration of International Sauces as Condiments” by Chuck Hernandez, A Bunny Hat Production 2013. Visit www.arugulacatering.com/book for more information about this local cookbook. Nutritional information per serving (approximately): 1,701calories; 31 grams carbohydrates; 166 grams fat; 140 grams protein; 1,539 milligrams sodium; 9 grams sugar.
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Happy New Year, San Antonio!
Back by popular demand ~ our favorite dish to ring in the New Year!
The Salad: Lucky Black-eyed Pea Salad from the kitchen of Paula Nottingham.
(Photo by Earl Nottingham)Prep time: 20 minutes Total Time: 8 hours, 20 minutes, Serves 6
1 (16-oz.) package frozen black-eyed peas
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup red pepper jelly
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup diced red onion
2 large fresh peaches, peeled and diced
2 cups torn watercress
Prepare peas according to package directions, simmering only until tender but firm; drain and let cool for one hour.
Whisk together cilantro and next 6 ingredients in a large bowl.
Add cooked black-eyed peas, bell pepper and onion, tossing to coat; cover and chill 8
Stir peaches and watercress into pea mixture just before serving.Recipe adapted from Southern Living Cooking for Christmas, 2012. Approximate nutritional
information per serving 156 calories; 9 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams fat; 13 grams
protein; 1,192 milligrams sodium; 5 grams sugar.
Enjoy this recipe treat for the first night of Hanukkah:
Not your Bubbe’s latkes …
STORY BY ANGELA COVO and JOHN BLOODSWORTH,
RECIPE BY DI-ANNA ARIAS
The potato pancake is a delicious hallmark of the Hanukkah celebration – but the honor has little to do with the fact that latkes are made from potatoes. The Festival of Lights, which starts at sunset on Dec. 16 this year, celebrates all fried foods to commemorate the miracle of a little bottle of olive oil.
Sometime before 165 BC, the Greek king of Syria, Antiochus, banned all Jewish practices and forced the people to accept and worship Greek Gods. His soldiers desecrated the Temple in Jerusalem, and finally, a small band of Jewish rebels, the Maccabees, fought back. And they won. The people cleaned and restored the Temple, but to rededicate the Temple, they needed to light the Menorah, which was supposed to burn all night, every night. It took eight days to make the oil for the Menorah, but all they had was one little bottle, just enough for one day.
They lit the Menorah anyway, and miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. Those in charge declared an eight-day festival to celebrate the miraculous oil. So Hanukkah is a happy holiday because it celebrates a triumph – not the military one, but the triumph of a little bottle of oil that lit up the Temple for 8 days more than 2000 years ago.
Today’s latkes are still fried, of course, but for Di-Anna Arias, Vice President of Sales & Culinary Vision for Don Strange of Texas, the delicious pancakes pack a ton of culinary potential. She notes latkes weren’t always made from potatoes. People made latkes from whatever was seasonally available, so today’s creative latke dishes are actually a throwback to ancient times.
Ms. Arias said she’s experimented with sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, guacamole, cheese and even tuna.
“Latkes are so delicious. We eat them year round. They can be prepared in so many different ways. And simple variations make a big impact,” she said.
The classic potato pancake, made with grated potatoes, onions and eggs, is traditionally served with applesauce, but latkes can also be topped with sweet or savory condiments, served as a side dish or even a dessert. Ms. Arias also suggests making them in different sizes for different purposes.
“Make an appetizer with mini latkes and just add a little crème fraiche and caviar. The possibilities are endless,” she explained. “There’s no rule that says you have to use potatoes or only serve them for Hanukkah.”
Ms. Arias also recently developed a recipe for a root vegetable latke.
Dame Di-Anna Arias cooked and styled this root vegetable latke for Edible San Antonio. (Photo by Whitney Kelly Schrader)
“It’s a take off of the classic latke, but we use root vegetables like parsnip, golden beet, sweet potato and carrot. And we serve it topped with Don Strange cranberry and pecan chutney,” Ms. Arias said.
She uses a little kitchen magic to make the root vegetable latkes a success every time.
“The trick is to roast the vegetables first – for about 25 minutes at 375 degrees — so they caramelize a little. Then just follow the recipe for the classic potato latkes, using the root vegetables instead of potatoes,” she said.
Ms. Arias also created several versions of a “Latke Benedict,” which demonstrates the versatility of the potato pancake. Instead of bread, the latke takes over as the base with a poached egg and artichoke hollandaise sauce on top. She also suggests adding smoked salmon and crème fraîche for a delectable departure from the classic.
“We’ve even featured latkes made with parsnips and sweet potatoes (parsnips add a great flavor) and topped them with roasted figs, ricotta and honey. There are no limits to the flavor combinations you can create,” she added.
Go ahead. Create your own classic. And remember latkes are just as delightful straight from the pan. Enjoy!
RECIPE: CLASSIC POTATO LATKES (courtesy Di-Anna Arias, Don Strange of Texas)
Makes 3 dozen
2 large Russet potatoes (about 1 pound), scrubbed and cut into quarters lengthwise
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
2 large eggs
cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
½teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil for frying (Safflower is best)
Using food processor with a coarse grating disc, grate the potatoes and onion. Transfer mixture to a strainer and using a paper towel on your hands, squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Working quickly so mixture will not discolor, add the eggs, flour, salt, pepper and baking powder and mix until flour is absorbed.
Heat a medium sized heavy-bottomed skillet over medium to high heat, and pour in about 1⁄4 inch of the oil. Once the oil is hot, drop a heaping tablespoon of batter into the hot pan.
Use a spatula to shape into rounds. When the edges are brown and crispy, flip.
Cook the second side until golden brown, about five minutes.
Continue cooking latkes in batches, adding more oil as necessary.
Transfer the latkes to a plate lined with a paper towel and sprinkle with kosher salt.
For Latke Eggs Benedict:
Use 2 Tablespoons of Classic Potato Latke batter to add to the hot oil.
Flatten latke in pan to make a 3 inch round.
Add sliced smoked salmon and shaved artichoke heart.
Top with a perfectly poached egg and Hollandaise sauce.
Cheers, it’s Oktoberfest!
Let’s drink up some knowledge.
A mid-17th-century Jamestown family harvests the fruits of their labors, including squash, pumpkins, apples and corn (Sidney E. King, artist)
Hops: The Geologic Ingredient Hops, the flower of the common hop plant (Humulus lupulus L.), is best known for its use to flavor beers. It is a female plant species that grows as a vine and is native to temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, such as North America, Europe, and western Asia. There are many varieties of hops, which are used in the flavoring process of brewing beer. Each variety, grown in various areas, provides a different accent of flavor, contributing to the different flavors for each brand of beer. Other factors that can affect flavor are ingredients, such as barley and wheat, and the different brewing techniques.
Hops are a species of vine, whose flowers are used in the beer-brewing process. It provides flavor to beer, and has several varieties. This variety is called Cascade.
As hops plays an important role in the flavor profiles of beer, the alcohol and viscosity (thickness) are a function of other ingredients such as initial sugar content, which is then fermented by yeast into alcohol. The Cascade variety of hops can grow to be extremely large and provide a great harvest and flavor for nearby breweries. Each type of hops requires different soil conditions, but hops in general share some broad requirements.The soil must be crumbly and well drained with low soil acidity. Hops also require access to a lot of water, so the presence of surface water is extremely beneficial. In addition to its geologic mapping, soil geochemistry, and national streamgage network USGS, tracks flood and drought conditions that can significantly affect the growth of hops. Geology Makes a Fine Wine It’s not just hops that rely on geology, not all grapes are ideal for wine-making. In fact, the soil, geology, and climate combine to make the difference between low-value table grapes and delicious wine. Most winemakers will say that nature and the Earth are as important as people in making the best wine. Unlike hops, though, cultivators need to be concerned about giving grapes too many nutrients. In this video, USGS scientist Larry Meinert describes how grapes, when supplied with too much water and nutrients can over-produce and result in mediocre wine. Unlike most gardening, the more stressed the grapes, the better they become for wine production.
Wine-making grapes, like these Syrah (or Shiraz) grapes, require different growing conditions than grapes meant for eating. Cultivating wine grapes involves trying to concentrate sugars and encourage thicker skins, because these are what give wine its flavor. To do that, one of the most important factors to look for is the drainage of the soils. These grapes are grown on a greenstone schist formation in northern Maryland.
To do that, one of the most important factors to look for is the drainage of the soils. Proper Soil Means the “Sauce” Won’t Spoil Soil chemistry and nutrients play a big role in the taste of the various hop and grape varieties. Soil drainage is an extremely important factor in the success of grape growing. The better the drainage, the more concentrated flavor can be in grapes and therefore the better the wine. Better drainage is usually found in loose soils where the water can flow away from the vines. When wine grapes have access to too much water, the sugars are diluted and the grapes grow too large, meaning the skins aren’t thick enough to provide proper flavor and color. Soil drainage can be studied either through geologic mapping or through remote sensing surveying, like 3DEP. The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) initiative is being developed to respond to growing needs for high-quality topographic data and for a wide range of other three-dimensional representations of the Nation’s natural and constructed features through high-quality light detection and ranging (lidar). Diatomite: The Natural Filter Filtering is a key step to the beer and wine-making process. It is important to make sure that these beverages are clean and healthy. Luckily, the Earth has provided a natural filter in the process, a mineral called Diatomite, or diatomaceous earth, used in agriculture for grain storage as an anticaking agent, an insecticide, and as a natural de-wormer. Some farmers add it to their livestock and poultry feed to prevent the caking of feed. Diatomite is a chalk-like, soft, and very fine-grained sedimentary rock, usually light in color (white if pure, but usually gray, and rarely black). It is very finely porous, very low in density (floating on water at least until saturated), and essentially chemically inert in most liquids and gases.
The principal use of diatomite is as a filter aid, an absorbent for industrial spills, and in toothpaste. It is also used as filler in a variety of products from paints to dry chemicals, and as insulation material. USGS tracks these uses as well as the supply and production of diatomite in its annual Mineral Commodity Summaries. Start with Science Amidst all the fun and festivities, there is still much to learn. USGS provides the science and information to understand the potential, production, and consumption of all minerals, water, and climate conditions in the wine and beer making process. So whether you’re celebrating Oktoberfest with a cold pumpkin-spiced beer or a glass of red wine, make sure to learn some science with every sip!
A film that reminds us that “food is memory.”
At the movies with Covo & Covo
By Delia Covo and Frederic Covo
In every issue, we screen and review a film related to food. For our reviews on current feature films, check www.EdibleSA.com and sign up for the free Edible SA newsletter, which premieres in late August.
Lasse Hallström (Chocolat) directed The Hundred Foot Journey, easily one of the best films of the year so far. The foodie film underscores the joys of cooking and absolutely showcases food as the universal language, with the power to tear people apart and, well, you’ll have to go see this magnificent film to learn more.
The movie tells the story of a successful restaurateur family from Mumbai whose lives are turned upside down when tragedy strikes. To restart their lives, they decide to leave the land where their roots ran deep and travel through Europe to find a home. They are of course, the ultimate foodies, and their mission is to return to the culinary landscape where they are most likely to succeed again. Papa, played perfectly by Om Puri, decides the family will settle in a quaint town in the south of France. Madame Mallory, the not-so-welcoming neighbor, owns the Michelin-starred classical French restaurant across the street. And the battles begin.
Foodies will certainly understand this quote, delivered with great aplomb by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren) in the scene above:
“In this restaurant, the cuisine is not an old, tired marriage, it is a passionate affair.”
Juliet Blake, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey produced this charming film that embodies cooking as an art, local and fresh foods, complimentary flavor sensations, modern techniques and the power of emotions while cooking. Add fabulous cinematography to the mix — and audiences will enjoy the bonus of being carried along the tranquil and bucolic scenery of southern France, giving all a moment to appreciate the farmers markets and fresh foods growing in the nearby pastures.
The compelling screenplay is based on the delicious novel “The Hundred Foot Journey” by Richard C. Morais, who recently released his second work, “Brooklyn Buddhaland.”
The movie runs about two hours and 30 minutes, but the time flew by. The entire staff agrees this is a must-see film for our readers.
We were sad to see it end. Splurge and go enjoy “The Hundred Foot Journey,” which opens nationwide August 8.
“CHEF” serves up warm delights
At the movies with Covo & Covo
Every issue, we screen and review a film related to food. For our reviews on current feature films, check www.EdibleSA.com and sign up for the free Edible SA newsletter, which premieres in August.
By Angela Covo and Frederic Covo
Jon Favreau, writer, director and lead in the new film “Chef,” gets back to his cinematic roots and serves up a delicious indie based on an idea “that hit me all at once.”
“And then I wrote this thing (I have a lot of really, really good 8-page scripts, by the way). I didn’t want to lose the scent, I was tracking it like a creature in the woods — and in less than a couple of weeks it was written,” he shared.
After a couple of huge films (think Ironman), the friendly, easygoing filmmaker said the landscape is ripe for doing smaller films.
“You can do smaller movies now again. I think that’s really good for all of us, because the big films have to appeal to everybody … to make its money back. But little ones like this, you can create for you and for an audience that will connect with it more personally, even if not everybody feels it,” he said.
And he assembled a stellar cast to get the job done: John Leguizamo, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt, Scarlett Johansson, Emjay Anthony, Robert Downey, Jr. and Bobby Cannavale. (A little trivia: NY Times food critic Andrew Platt is the brother of Oliver Platt, who plays the food critic).
The plot is easy to swallow too – a chef is already a little estranged from his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony) because he’s always so busy. But when he lets the pressures of work and a well-meaning food critic (Oliver Platt) completely dominate his vista, he loses sight of what’s important and hits rock bottom. His evolution is the feel good part of the film, but there’s so much more.
Part road trip, part drama, part comedy and commentary on the techno aspects of today’s society, Mr. Favreau succeeds in his endeavor. He created a terrific, light-hearted film that tells a story and shares the passion of the culinary world, from the inside out.
You won’t find shoot-‘em-ups or explosions here. You will get to see a father-son relationship develop (kudos to the wonderful young Emjay Anthony for a great job), the inner workings of a professional kitchen and the mind of a chef, some pretty amazing dishes and how wonderful life can be when you just let it happen.
Oh yeah, and remember to not to go see this film hungry, because you will suffer. We could almost smell the delicious meals and those Cubanos on the screen, thanks in no small part to Chef Roy Choi.
Culinary prep for the film
Mr. Favreau wanted to depict the nitty-gritty side of being a well-known chef. So he roped in Chef Roy Choi, affectionately known as the king of food trucks in LA, to teach the cast everything they needed to know to make the film as real as possible.
Chef Roy jumped right in as the culinary and technical advisor and put Mr. Favreau through an intense training period.
“It was more like a boot camp,” the actor said. “Roy said I ate like a 9-year-old boy, because I had this whole list of things that I wouldn’t eat. I wanted to show I was serious about this thing because a chef will taste anything and eat anything especially if it’s being served to them by somebody. That’s because it’s a medium, it’s an exchange.”
Together, the duo created kitchen scenes that ring true, and will certainly resonate with many of our professional cooking friends. Chef Roy shared everything, from the proper choreography and etiquette in a professional kitchen to the proper knives to use and when. The degree of authenticity they achieved alone makes this film worth your time and trouble.
And most important, the passion and dedication required to be successful in today’s culinary scene shines through.
Note: There is a free online cookbook available with Chef Roy Choi’s recipes for the movie at www.bakespace.com, no need to sign up for free access to the book. Bonus tip: Make sure you stay for the credits, it will be worth your while.
We rate this a must-see film for all foodies and anyone who enjoys a good film.
And for those of you inspired to start your own truck … Ms. Lakendra Lewis will have all the information you need in the August/September issue! Also see page 53 in the June/July issue for the recipe to make the perfect Cubano sandwich.