Best of the Fest
Culinaria Wine and Food Festival is an annual celebration of all things near and dear to the hearts — and stomachs — of local foodies. Overlooking an acclaimed golf course and scenic Hill Country views at La Cantera Resort & Spa, this year’s fest gave attendees an opportunity to sample innovative dishes from notable dining establishments and newer, buzzy restaurants, all to benefit Culinaria’s various missions as a culinary arts and education organization.
Eating and drinking our way through the festival, here are the favorite dishes and drinks enjoyed, by event:
Thursday's Farm Dinner was an interesting way to kick off the 2016 fest at Culinaria’s future urban farm site. Chef Robert Fleming of Magnolia Pancake Haus is building the Magnolia Halle as part of the project. Gathering within the hall’s wooden frame — and serving as a preview of what's to come for Magnolia Halle — attendees for the seated dinner enjoyed an intimate evening, sampling shared plates from renowned local chefs.
Magnolia's team served up some tasty gems, such as the grilled quail prepared by Kurt Gelhaar. The Boiler House's Jeff White readied whole hog porchetta, while Robbie Nowlin of Boudro's and Zinc took on a lamb shank. You could then top your plate of greatness with Luis Colon of Folc's fingerling hash with duck confit tostones.
Fleming wrapped up the Farm Dinner with a luscious Creole bread pudding with bourbon sauce. Staffers from Magnolia spent the evening keeping attendees happy by filling glasses with The Diving Rod from the Mondavi Winery and wine from Becker Vineyards. The Divining Rod Chardonnay and Cabernet, presented by visiting members of the Mondavi family, were particularly popular at the table.
Friday night's Back to Bubbles was an elegant and outdoorsy shindig. It featured small plates of gourmet food, wine, and Champagne served around the pool at La Cantera. As day gave way to night, patrons dug into treats such as the braised pork from Brian West's sublime Smoke the Restaurant, and the house-cured tuna and salmon tartare from the La Cantera kitchen.
On the beverage side, visitors could cool down with the resort's tangy, Champagne-infused Popsicle, or an Old Fashioned with Redemption Rye, the latter of which had an impressive presence throughout this year's Culinaria.
On Saturday afternoon, the resort's Plaza San Saba turned into an oasis for fans of tacos and cool drinks, much needed on a humid day. During the Tacos, Talk, (and Tasting) event, La Cantera staff outdid themselves again with lemon-curry barbecue shrimp tacos, which came complete with smoked tomato-citrus vinaigrette, pickled onion, mango, and poblanos. Johnny Hernandez's El Machito served up braised octopus on homemade blue corn tortilla.
Visitors in need of liquid nourishment stopped by the Dulce Vida Tequila booth for a chance to enjoy the Austin-distributed spirit straight up or in a mini-margarita. Speaking of Austin, Austin Cocktails offered samples of its bottled craft cocktails, such as the cucumber vodka mojito. Blue Star Provisions, an outgrowth of Blue Star Brewing, provided mint, lemongrass, and "gingerade" kombucha.
At The Grand Tasting on Saturday night, La Cantera's culinary team shined with the coffee and smoked bison short ribs. Culinary Institute of America San Antonio represented with ceviche mixto — a blend of scallops, shrimp, and calamari marinated in roasted tomato, black garlic, and citrus, and garnished with red onion, peaches, and radish. Ming's Thing from Olmos Park served up a hearty plate of noodles, while shrimp fried rice got a spin from John Russ from Lüke. Among the plethora of wines available, the Two Angels petite sirah saw the most demand at the table.
The Culinaria finale, Burgers, BBQ, and Beer on Sunday afternoon, was a dream for foodies, who easily filled up on unique takes on burgers and barbecue. The Southtown Irish pub Francis Bogside rolled out its Reuben-style slider followed by a brisket burger. The Hoppy Monk had its remarkable chorizo and egg burger made with Akaushi beef, duck chorizo marmalade, and fried quail egg.
Supper, Hotel Emma's charming restaurant at the Pearl, had an alluring booth brimming with herbs and vegetables. It won over many attendees with a barbacoa burger — fitting for a Sunday in San Antonio — coupled with a cup of cream corn.
Max's Wine Dive offered a boudin burger, complete with apple cider braised pork belly, cracked black pepper aioli, and Sriracha ketchup. Cooper's Meat Market put a twist on things with a macaroni and cheese and brisket sandwich. The Old Main Assoc. and H-E-B each met the demand for concha burgers — you know, a burger served on pan dulce.
Capping off the food-filled weekend, attendees needing a serious drink could not go wrong with a boozy ginger cherry limeade from Frank, a Tito's Vodka Bloody Mary, or a comfort-based Bending Branch Winery Cabernet.
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