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Photo by Chris Shepherd

Editor's note: Long before Chris Shepherd became a James Beard Award-winning chef, he developed enough of a passion for wine to work at Brennan's of Houston as a sommelier. He maintains that interest to this day and covers it regularly in a column for CultureMap's Houston site. Here, he talks not about wine, but the perfect after-dinner sip.

All right, team! Listen up! I’m going to give you some very important holiday information to help you get through all of the parties, family gatherings, and large festive dinners. We are not going to talk about wine today. We’re going to talk about another love of mine — the life-saving amaro.

What is amaro, you ask? It’s an Italian herbal liqueur that’s traditionally consumed post-meal as a digestif. Think of it this way: you start your meal with an aperitif — could be a martini, Campari, or Aperol spritz — to get your palate going and your body ready to eat. After dinner, amaro will help you get through the rest of your night. This elixir will magically and quickly break down everything you just consumed.

Most amari are from Italy, but fortunately new producers with similar styles are popping up all over the world. Some are sweeter, some are more bitter. You just have to find the style you like. Producers don’t traditionally tell you what’s in their amaro, because most of them are made up of dozens of herbs and spices. It’s all about trial and error to find the one you love.

I drink it neat, but some people drink it on the rocks. More and more, you’re seeing amari in cocktails, too.

The amari selection at our house is awesome. My wife and I are firm believers in this beverage as a night cap, and it’s even become part of my regiment pre-dinner as a spritz. Kill two birds, you know?

Unfortunately, not a lot of restaurants carry multiple amari, so it’s up to you guys to get this trend moving. The more you ask for it, the more they’ll stock it.

Our No. 1 go to at home? Montenegro. It’s easy to find, and it’s easy drinking. It has flavors of vanilla and orange, but it’s not too sweet and not too bitter. It’s had the same recipe since 1885, and I hope they never change it.

My wife’s favorite is Braulio. This spirit is from the Italian Alps and aged in Slavonian casks. Using more medicinal herbs and fruits means it skews more bitter than Montenegro, but it has a nice sweetness at the end.

A newish player in the amari game is Amaro Nonino. The Nonino family is historically one of the best grappa producers in the world — they’ve been distilling grappa since 1897 — but they didn’t start to produce their namesake amaro until 1992. (By newish, you get what I mean.) It has lots of honey, vanilla, licorice, and orange flavors. It’s a tad less sweet than most, but I think it’s fantastic.

Pasubio is really different from other amari. If you’re a fan of blueberries, this is for you. It literally tastes like crushed blueberries.

The next two are really cool and unusual, because they're made here in the U.S. An all-time favorite is Southern Amaro from High Wire Distilling Co. in Charleston. Yaupon is one of the main characteristics, which is found all over Texas.

High Wire built its reputation on using regionally grown and foraged ingredients. If you’re ever in Charleston, you should stop into the distillery and say hi to Scott and Ann! Also, try some of their Jimmy Red Corn whiskey. Actually, everything they make is delightful.

Heirloom Pineapple Amaro is made in Minneapolis. To me, this is fantastically bitter but also tastes like roasted pineapple in a glass. One of my new favorites, for sure.

Now, here’s a helpful tidbit of info. You may have heard of fernet. That’s a general term for an amaro with very little to no sweetness. Branca is a producer that makes fernet, and it’s the most well-known. Search out others as well, because they’re all pretty cool.

Almost everything I listed can be found at most liquor stores. Don’t be afraid to try something. Yes, sometimes it tastes like taking your medicine. But I’ll bet the smell of Jägermeister penetrates your early 20s, and surprise — that’s a style of amaro as well.

Chefs for Local Farmers

More than 25 local chefs and local farmers twill eam up to create a delicious and memorable event ... all in support of more healthy, just, and sustainable food systems. At least 10 notable San Antonio chefs will create small plates featuring ingredients from Texas’ farmers, ranchers, and food artisans.

The feast includes local brews, wine, and teas. The majority of producers whose foods will be highlighted are members of Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, which along with its sister non-profit Council for Health Food Systems, are beneficiaries of this event. Among the chefs will be Jesse Kuykendall of Ocho at Hotel Havana and Milpa Restaurant, Elizabeth Johnson of Pharm Table, Anne Ng of Bakery Lorraine, and Michael Sohocki of Kimura.

Funds support Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance's work to advocate at the state and national level on behalf of small-scale farmers and ranchers and the Council's work to educate farmers, consumers, and legislators about growing and eating foods produced using sustainable methods.

Elotitos/ Facebook [https://www.facebook.com/elotitos.sa/photos/565552585250982]

7 things to know in San Antonio food: Favorite snack shop crops up in Government Hill

News you can eat

Editor’s note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of San Antonio’s restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings and closings

According to a coy Instagram post, Deco District snack shop Elotitos is branching out with a second location in Government Hill. The concept, which puts a contemporary spin on local favorites like corn in a cup, was mum about its exact location and opening date. But another East Side business offered a clue. In a separate post, Folklores Coffee House said that Elotitos would be its neighbor, placing the new Elotitos in the shopping center across from Fort Sam Houston.

Local chain Hometown Burger suddenly shuttered all locations on September 11. In a since-deleted social media announcement, the brand said, "It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing the permanent closing of all our Hometown Burger locations," but did not offer the reasoning behind the decision.

Potluck Hospitality is continuing its sleepless September with yet another restaurant debut. After welcoming Carriqui's first guests on September 2 and gearing up to open Ladino on September 19, the group will say hello to Full Goods Diner on September 22.

Other news and notes

The Pearl has announced a busy schedule of programming celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 - October 15. Starting with a huge Viva Dieciséis party, the near-downtown destination will offer deals and pop-ups throughout the month. Among the culinary offerings are a new mezcal margarita at Boiler House, free aguas frescas at Chilaquil, and several menu specials at La Gloria.

UTSA Libraries and online shop Masienda are teaming up for "MASA: Then and Now," a panel discussion featuring MASA: Techniques, Recipes, and Reflections on a Timeless Staple author Jorge Gaviria, Texas Monthly taco editor José Ralat, and Mixtli chef and co-owner Rico Torres. A deep dive into representations of the nixtamalized corn dough, the conversation will also include light bites from Naco Mexican Eatery and a book signing in partnership with Pearl book shop The Twig.

Maverick Texas Brasserie is on the hunt for a new chef after the departure of longtime chef Chris Carlson. According to a press release, the Maverick Restaurant Group will seek to reinvigorate its original casual French inspiration. "We're looking forward to the next generation of energetic and talented leaders in the kitchen and front of the house that can reignite the spirit that Maverick was founded on — making memories and lingering over simple but delicious food and wine," group president Peter Selig said via statement.

Alamo City fave Max & Louie's New York Diner got a shout-out on Yelp's recent "11 of the Most Outrageous Milkshakes" list. The crowd-sourced reviews app wasn't kidding. The BFS ups the ante on chocolate or vanilla shakes with a topsy-turvy pile of French fries, a loaded burger, and a pickle.

Courtesy of Ladino

Anticipated Pearl restaurant from top Austin hospitality group sets opening date

Ladino in the know

The Pearl continues to grow, celebrating what seems like a new, highly anticipated restaurant opening every week. First, Potluck Hospitality brought us the delightful Carriqui, and now an Austin group is bringing Ladino, set to open on Monday, September 19.

Touted as a Mediterranean grill house celebrating Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisine, Ladino is the brainchild of Austin's Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group. Led by executive chef Berty Richter, the restaurant will pay homage to Richter’s roots with a menu centered around the charcoal grill.

Located in the Pearl at 200 E. Grayson St., #100, the name Ladino was chosen to showcase and share not only Richter's childhood cuisine, but also the influences of the surrounding cultures and cuisines on his style of cooking and eating, sharing food, and the excitement of a bountiful and colorful table of delicious food.

“I grew up in Israel mainly with my mom’s side of the family that came from Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. We spoke Ladino, a dialect of Spanish mixed with French, Italian, Greek and Turkish,” said Chef Berty Richter. “Large family gatherings and endless feasts were part of our daily lives and I’ve always dreamt of one day creating a concept that will pay homage to my family’s roots and culture. Naming this concept Ladino was the natural choice for me and is the realization of this dream."

Ladino’s menu features fresh made pita and other regional specialties accompanied by an abundance of dishes that are playful and bold, utilizing a wood-burning oven for the lion's share of the restaurant's offerings. Highlights will include coal charred eggplant dip, Jerusalem mix, meat dumplings in yogurt, and a modern take on Agristada, a traditional Sephardic fish in a lemony egg sauce.

While the beverage program highlights regional wines and spirits, dessert selections are inspired by the sweet and savory staples of the region with a modern touch.

The Emmer & Rye team worked with partner Rand Egbert on the restaurant's design, who sought to make the space "transportive" using "beautiful tile accents, handmade light fixtures, traditional patterns, and pops of color," according to a release.

“Sephardic Jews have origins all over the Mediterranean with deep roots in North Africa, so much of the interior is influenced by Morocco and the Moorish culture of Spain during the time the Ladino language first came to be," Egbert adds in the release.

Ladino will mark the seventh concept from Austin-based Emmer & Rye Hospitality Group, and its first in San Antonio. The restaurant will be open Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5 pm to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday from 5:30 pm to 11 pm; and reservations are open now.

Knafeh is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert and just one reason to save room for sweets at Ladino.

Courtesy of Ladino
Knafeh is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert and just one reason to save room for sweets at Ladino.
Courtesy of Bakery Lorraine

Favorite San Antonio bakery heads for the hills with first Boerne location

Boerne Bound

One of Alamo City's best bakeries, and perhaps one of its most famous, is heading for the Hill Country. Bakery Lorraine recently announced its newest location coming to Boerne in October 2022.

Featuring the bakery's full menu — macarons, pastries, sandwiches, salads, and more — Boerne residents and Hill Country visitors will find the new location at 134 Oak Park Dr. An official opening date will be announced closer to the time.

Owned by chefs Anne Ng, Jeremy Mandrell, and operator Charlie Biedenharn, the bakery celebrated 10 years in San Antonio in 2021 and its future looks bright: The company has four locations in Alamo City, including one in the Historic Pearl district, one in the Medical Center, one in the RIM shopping center, and one inside the The DoSeum. This new Hill Country location will be its second outside San Antonio, with an Austin outpost at the Domain Northside.

“We are very excited to be opening up shop in Boerne,” said chef and owner Anne Ng. “Boerne feels like a natural fit for Bakery Lorraine and we’re looking forward to becoming part of the community.”

Ng and partner Jeremy Mandrell met while baking at Thomas Keller’s world-famous Bouchon Bakery in Napa Valley, moving to San Antonio in 2010. Since establishing Bakery Lorraine in 2011, the pair have garnered national attention from the likes of Food & Wine magazine (best new bakeries), Condé Nast Traveler (13 destination bakeries), and Southern Living (the South's Best Bakeries, 2022).

In addition to the bakery's iconic, colorful Parisian macarons and divine pastries, the Boerne location will also feature breakfast items, including the breakfast parfait, the quiche Lorraine, and breakfast sandwiches. A variety of savory lunch dishes, including an assortment of salads, soups, and artisan sandwiches, will provide plenty of reasons to stop by well past the morning pastry craving.

For more information on Bakery Lorraine visit bakerylorraine.com.

Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock

3 unexpected — but delicious and fun — reasons to travel to Lubbock

1, 2, 3

Looking for a getaway that's full of music, wine, and good food? Look no further than Lubbock, a northwest Texas city that has all this and so much more.

Wine country
The Lubbock area is located within the Texas High Plains AVA, which accounts for 90 percent of all Texas wine grapes grown and produced.

With more than a dozen wineries, and six award-winning wineries in the Lubbock area, wine tastings are available for all palate preferences.

Drop in for a glass or two at Burklee Hill Vineyards and McPherson Cellars, the latter of which is owned by winemaker Kim McPherson, a two-time James Beard Award semifinalist.

Just outside of city limits, Reddy Vineyards, Llano Estacado, and English Newsom Cellars offer full tastings and tours of the vineyards on property.

Llano Estacado is the second oldest winery in the state and hosts multiple wine festivals per year, including Grape Day, an annual event in October that celebrates the end of harvest season.

High Plains cuisine
You'll find that the food here offers a distinct West Texas flare that pays tribute to the ingredients grown and raised in the area.

Not only does the locale have a large influence on the dishes served in local restaurants around town, but Lubbock’s diverse culture is also on display in each plate.

From La Diosa Cellars, a Spanish tapas restaurant, to Llano Cubano, a Cuban food truck, the offerings for dining in Lubbock are as extensive as they are rich.

Restaurants of note include The Nicolett — home to chef Finn Walter, a James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Texas — Dirk’s, The West Table, Claraboya, Thai Pepper, Stella’s, Evie Mae’s BBQ, and Rave On at The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences.

Standing ovation
Music lovers and theatergoers will be thrilled with the diverse lineup of performances onstage in Lubbock nightly. From Broadway performances like Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen to national headlining acts like Tim Allen and Lady A, the Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences offers shows for all preferences.

As the birthplace of Buddy Holly, Lubbock is no stranger to good music and local talent. The legacy of Lubbock legends such as Buddy Holly, Mac Davis, Waylon Jennings, and Josh Abbott take center stage at one of the many music festivals, including JABFest in October.

Fun fact: Lubbock currently boasts the most live music venues per capita in the Lone Star State.

To start planning your itinerary of Lubbock's restaurants, wineries, and attractions, head over to VisitLubbock.org.

La Diosa Cellars serves a stellar Sunday brunch.

Photo courtesy of Visit Lubbock
La Diosa Cellars serves a stellar Sunday brunch.
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Legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers heat up San Antonio with 2023 tour stop

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most legendary acts is headed to San Antonio on their highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play the Alamodome on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

Kicking off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29, RHCP will also stop in Houston's Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25 to close out the North American leg of the tour before heading to Europe. Effortlessly hip modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers on both Texas stops, along with talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale at 10 am Friday, December 9 online. Other supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red-hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Texas-based 3D printing company tapped by NASA to build on the moon

To infinity and beyond

An Austin-based builder of 3D-printed homes, ICON, is making one small step for man and one giant leap for mankind by signing a $57 million contract with NASA to build on the moon.

According to a release from ICON, the Texas company will soon venture into a new frontier of space dimensions. The contract, announced on November 29, was awarded to the company under NASA's Phase III Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. This program allows ICON to use the $57 million award to build their Olympus system, which adds to previous construction done by both NASA and the Department of Defense for exploration of the moon and beyond.

"ICON’s Olympus system is intended to be a multi-purpose construction system primarily using local lunar and Martian resources as building materials to further the efforts of NASA as well as commercial organizations to establish a sustained lunar presence," the release stated.

The project will work in conjunction with NASA's Artemis program, which launched its first rocket in 50 years on November 15. ICON will work with the program to:

  • Use lunar regolith samples brought back from Apollo missions, in addition to other regolith simulants, to see their mechanical behavior in lunar gravity.
  • Bring advanced hardware and software into space through a lunar gravity simulation flight.
  • Create results to inform future lunar construction approaches for the space community.
  • Establish critical infrastructure necessary for a sustainable lunar economy and habitation.

“The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement," said Jason Ballard, ICON co-founder and CEO.

"It's a construction system we call Olympus system that will allow us to use the local materials of the moon to build all the elements of infrastructure necessary for a lunar outpost and ultimately a moon base ... launch and landing pads, roadways, habitats, you name it, all the things on the moon," said Ballard.

He added that they hope to start building on the moon by 2026, starting with a launch and landing pad.

In addition to the grant, ICON was awarded a subcontract in 2021 to support NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate to create the world's first and only simulated 3D-printed Mars surface habitat. Called Mars Dune Alpha, it is located at NASA's Johnson Space Center and is assisting in long-duration science missions.

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Read the full story and watch the video at KVUE.com.

6 things to know in San Antonio food right now: New beer garden quietly opens

New You Can Eat

Editor's note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of San Antonio's restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our regular roundup of essential food news.

Openings

The owners of Gold Feather have unofficially untapped a new venture, LadyBird Beer Garden. Although official channels are keeping details mum, a Facebook page run by landlords VLA Real Estate spilled the beans on the November 25 opening. In addition to serving craft beer, the concept at 447 W. Hildebrand Ave has a full kitchen, bar, and a small patio for enjoying the mild December weather.

Months after coyly announcing a second location, Elotitos Corn Bar sprouted a new Government Hill location on December 3. The snack shop is well known for its aguas frescas and elotes flights, offering the street food staple in various flavors. The new outpost is open Monday through Saturday, 3-9 pm.

Following the recent San Antonio expansion of Oregon-based Dutch Bros Coffee, another out-of-towner is gaining some local buzz. According to Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation records, Arkansas franchise 7 Brew Coffee is brewing its first Alamo City location at 4825 Walzem Rd. Barring delays, the project will be completed in May 2023.

Pop-up concept Rose Hip Coffee has found a permanent home at 116 W. Olmos Dr. in Olmos Park. The broadened Rose Hip Market combines caffeine with boutique retail, offering everything from kid's clothes to ready-to-eat sandwiches and salads. The playful equestrian wallpaper might make it a can't-miss selfie spot.

Other news and notes

A new cocktail conference will lift San Antonio's spirits in January. The Culinaria-hosted Third Coast Cocktail Summit will feature seminars, tastings, dinners, and tipsy soirées during its five-day run from January 10-14. All-access passes are now available for $250 for industry and $500 for general admission at the nonprofit's website.

In other booze news, Kinsman's Brandy Alexander Tour is back in full swing for the holiday season. Dorćol Distilling's annual celebration of the famous desert cocktail has drafted 14 spots to offer the renowned desert cocktail this year, including several newcomers like Allora, Bar Loretta, Double Standard, Ladino, and Sojourn Trading Co. A full list of participants can be found here.