Photo courtesy of Jeremy Wolf

The first time I watched Jeremy Wolf hit a baseball was in 2016. He was the slugging leftfielder for Trinity University in San Antonio. I was at the game because one of Trinity’s relief pitchers sleeps down the hall from me. (He’s my son.)

Actually, I was impressed by Wolf before he even came to bat. His walkup song was “Helter Skelter” by the Beatles. I had to ask him, “How do you even know that song? It was recorded 26 years before you were born.” Wolf said, “My mother was a Beatles fan and played their music all the time when I was growing up. I’ve loved the Beatles my whole life.”

Wolf, a senior that year, was named Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year, and Trinity won the D3 World Series, the first Texas school to take the title. Wolf was drafted by the New York Mets and played two years in the minors before a back injury cut his career short … but not for long.

This year, injury-free, Wolf is an outfielder on the Israeli national baseball team. They’ve already survived three preliminary tournaments in their quest to play in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The team is competing this week in the final Europe-Africa qualifying tournament in Italy. Six teams are entered, with the winner gaining automatic entry to the Olympics.

Unlike most sports, only six countries will play baseball in the Olympics: one from the Americas, one from Europe/Africa, two from Asia, and two at-large teams to be named later.

The Israeli team is 2-0 in the Europe/Africa tournament, with a shutout win over Spain and a shocking 8-1 blowout of reigning Europe champion, The Netherlands. Games remain against the Czech Republic, Italy, and South Africa. Win them all, and come Sunday night, Israel will be headed to the 2020 Olympics — an amazing feat, considering that Israel has only one baseball diamond, and the team doesn’t play games regularly, in fact, rarely practices together.

Wolf is one of 10 U.S. players, including three former Major Leaguers, who became Israeli citizens this year in order to be eligible for Olympic qualifying events. I caught up with Wolf shortly after The Netherlands stunner.

CultureMap: Where do you live now?

Jeremy Wolf: I’m living in Tel Aviv. I will be there for the next six months or so, possibly a year. Saturday nights here are epic. It’s like Miami, very relaxed. I live a block from the beach. The cost of living in Israel isn’t crazy. My total internet and phone bill is about $30 a month. Food is cheap but there are little things, like deodorant and toothpaste, that cost double what they cost in the U.S.

CM: Tell me about becoming an Israeli citizen.

JW: The Olympics require that athletes be a citizen of the country they represent. The process for a Jew to become a citizen of Israel is called Aliyah, the law of return, and usually requires being in Israel for a year. The process for us was simple, we got an athlete’s exemption. I have two passports and dual citizenship now, U.S. and Israel.

CM: What’s been your biggest adjustment to living in Israel?

JW: The time zone difference when I call family back home. I’ve had to adjust to Israeli norms, things like crossing the street at the right time or how much to tip at restaurants. I’m trying not to stand out. I want to look and act like another Israeli.

CM: Do you feel like a temp employee or an Israeli?

JW: I feel comfortable knowing everyone is Jewish. Even though I’m half-Italian, I’ve always identified more as a Jew. But now that we’re in Italy this week, I’m telling everybody that I’m half-Italian. Identity crisis is a real thing.

CM: Do you miss U.S. television and watching Major League Baseball games every night?

JW: What’s television? Everything is streaming. I don’t have cable, so I watch nothing on their television. I do, however, listen to ... music playlists on Spotify.

CM: Are the other teams in the Olympic trial tournaments like the Israeli team — they don't practice or play regularly?

JW: The Netherlands does. Their players are full-time employees of the sporting federation. They’re really good. When we played Russia, half of the players were professionals, including some Cubans. The Netherlands, Italy, and South Africa have baseball leagues.

CM: Do Israeli kids play baseball? Is there a Little League there?

JW: There is a Little League. But the only real field is 30 minutes outside of Tel Aviv. It’s like a regular Little League like you’d see in the U.S., with different age groups and teams. Most of the kids are American or Japanese who know about baseball already. The game is starting to grow with more Israel-born athletes, though.

CM: Israelis don’t eat like Americans. Have you changed your diet?

JW: Hummus with a side of hummus. Everything is fresh and Mediterranean. I eat eggs and rice for breakfast every day. I feel better now.

CM: What does Israel need to do to grow the sport?

JW: With money comes players. The government needs to do a better job allocating more money to baseball. Making the Olympics will do amazing things for Israeli baseball. We will be representing Israel on a global stage. In the meantime, I’m working with young Israelis, doing camps, and coaching high schoolers in Tel Aviv.

CM: If the team doesn’t play games or practice regularly, how do you stay baseball sharp? Are there batting cages in Israel?

JW: We don’t practice together because there are too many guys to get to the same place, and then another place. Not enough money. Baseball shape is interesting because you can’t practice repetitions. I wish there was a baseball facility in Tel Aviv, but not yet. To stay baseball ready, I exercise regularly and throw a heavy, weighted ball against a wall to keep my arm healthy. If I need to hit, I travel to the field. But for me, hitting is like riding a bicycle.


Ken Hoffman is a columnist for CultureMap Houston.

Courtesy photo

McDonald's turns up the heat with limited-time-only Sriracha burger

Drive-Thru Gourmet

This week I reached out for a new Signature Sriracha Burger, the latest addition to the "Signature Crafted Line" at America's No. 1 burger slinger, McDonald's, with about 15,000 restaurants blurring the red, white, and blue.

McDonald's ... Sriracha ... what took you so long? This just in: Even the drive-thru set likes spicy food. The other burger barns have been turning up the heat with Sriracha for a few years. Did you think they were just blowing smoke?

Here's the Signature Sriracha breakdown
A 1/4-pound beef patty, spicy chili-infused Sriracha Big Mac sauce, tender baby spinach and kale, smooth white cheddar cheese, crispy onions, and tomato. Choose from an artisan roll, sesame seed bun, or — the smart play — a potato bun.

Whoa, spinach and kale on a McDonald's burger? This must be the Ronald's attempt at health food.

Until we get a load of ...
Total calories: 670. Fat grams: 35. Sodium: 1,010 milligrams. Carbs: 56 grams. Dietary fiber: 4 grams. Protein: 32 grams. Manufacturer's suggested retail price: $4.99.

Still, baby spinach and kale are baby steps in the right direction, if only for eye candy, so good for McDonald's. Other sandwiches in the Signature Crafted Series are: Maple Bacon Dijon, Pico Guacamole, and Sweet BBQ Bacon. The burger patty can be switched out for a deep-fried buttermilk crispy chicken or artisan grilled chicken breast.

The secret is in the sauce
Obviously the star attraction and big difference is the Sriracha Big Mac Sauce. Unlike some hair-raisers that deliver a slow burn, the Sriracha Big Mac Sauce delivers a lightning jolt that fades fast. Still, it's the hottest sauce in McDonald's array of smears and dipping sauces. The Sriracha Big Mac Sauce is available for Chicken McNugget plunking too.

For everything else, this is a regular old Quarter-Pounder all gussied up. That's not a knock — a hundred billion, trillion people seem to enjoy McDonald's burgers, and, credit due, the beef has no fillers, no additives, and no preservatives. So fans of pink slime and artificial flavors and colors, so sorry.

The Signature Sriracha Burger is a limited-time special, so get 'em while they're hot.

Courtesy photo

Domino's debuts addictively tasty new Bread Twists

Drive-thru Gourmet

This week I reached out for an order of Bread Twists, new from Domino’s, the No. 2 pizza twirler with 13,000 locations delivering worldwide. Bread Twists are Domino’s Johnny-come-lately answer to such delicacies as garlic knots introduced a long time ago by rivals Pizza Hut and Papa John’s.

Here’s the Domino’s Bread Twists breakdown
Simple samples of pizza dough flavored with garlic or other seasonings, served as an appetizer or dessert when all the pizza is gone. Bread Twists come in three varieties: Parmesan, garlic, and cinnamon.

Total calories: 230 (for two Parmesan Twists). Fat grams: 11. Sodium: 240 milligrams. Carbs: 27 grams. Dietary fiber: 1 gram. Protein: 5 grams. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $5.99.

For comparison shopping, the Domino's Garlic Twists unload 220 calories and 11 fat grams per two pieces, and the brand's Cinnamon Twists inflict 250 calories and 12 fat grams.

The big difference between Domino’s Bread Twists and garlic knots from the Hut and Papa
Garlic knots are braided over and under, like a mini-challah, while Domino’s gives their Bread Twists one crossover loop-de-loop and done. Domino’s offers eight twists per order, while the Hut sells 10 knots for $5.99 and Papa will give you eight knots for $5.

Domino’s Twists are made with its buttery pan pizza dough. The Parmesan Twists are brushed with garlic and Parmesan seasoning, with an extra dusting of Parmesan powder. Garlic Twists are slathered with garlic butter seasoning. Both Parmesan and Garlic Twists come with a side tub of marinara sauce for dipping.

Cinnamon Twists are sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, and come with a side boat of vanilla icing for dunking.

Like Knots from Pizza Hut and Papa John’s, Domino’s Bread Twists are addictively tasty, and you can put ‘em away till they’re all gone if you’re not careful. If you’ve been to a pizza slice joint in New York, you’ll always find a pile of garlic knots near the cash register. It’s an impulse buy. I tell them to throw a few in a bag for walking around noshing.

Fun fact about Domino’s
It’s the only one of the big four pizza chains that sells Coca-Cola products. Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Little Caesars all have deals with Pepsi.

Here’s the thing about Bread Twists
Domino’s is making a lot of bread, or dough, choose your pun. I’m not one to deny them making a buck, but consider that Domino’s sells a two-topping medium pizza for $5.99. A medium pizza probably (I’m guessing) involves more pizza dough than eight Bread Twists. And, with a medium pizza, you’re getting sauce and mozzarella cheese, plus two toppings. Make mine a thin crust with Italian sausage and mushrooms.

So a medium pizza is the smart financial play, but these Bread Twists sure taste dandy. You’re good either way.

Burger King transforms Lucky Charms into magical milkshake

Drive-thru Gourmet

This week I reached out for a Lucky Charms Shake at the world’s No. 2 burger palace, Burger King, with 15,000 restaurants dotting this crazy blue marble.

Think a great big bowl of the kids’ supermarket favorite, turned into a frosty shake, perfect for dessert. It may be the sweetest dumbing down of breakfast since Cap’n Crunch’s Choco Donuts. Or Burger King turning Froot Loops cereal into a shake earlier this year.

Here’s the Lucky Charms breakdown: Cereal syrup, vanilla soft serve, whipped topping, and a handful of Lucky Charm’s mini-marshmallows on top.

Total calories: 740. Fat grams: 17. Sodium: 580 mg. Carbs: 129 g. Dietary fiber: 2 g. Protein: 16 g. Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $3 (give or take).

The Froot Loops Shake must have banged the cash register pretty hard for Burger King to become serial cereal shakers. The Lucky Charms Shake starts with toasted oat-flavored syrup with a hint of marshmallow. Add vanilla soft serve, whipped topping, and bitty marshmallows, and you have a gimmick that children in the backseat will swallow.

Burger King didn’t gamble when it picked which cereals to shake up. Both Froot Loops and Lucky Charms are in the top 10 most popular cereals in the U.S. Froot Loops are No. 6, Lucky Charms No. 8.

The top five: Honey Nut Cheerios (1), Frosted Flakes (2), Honey Bunches of Oats (3), Cinnamon Toast Crunch (4), Cheerios (5). Coming between Froot Loops and Lucky Charms at No. 7: Frosted Mini Wheats.

Hey, where’s my favorite cereal ... Life? Handing me another disappointment, that’s where.

Lucky Charms cereal was invented in 1964. Occasionally there are special limited-edition marshmallow bits, but the eight enduring shapes are hearts, stars, horseshoes, clovers, blue moons, rainbows, balloons, and hourglasses.

Here’s the thing about Burger King’s new Lucky Charms Shake — the one I guzzled for this review will be my last. Not because it was awful or I didn’t like it. Actually it was different and tasty. It’s just that I’m good with plain chocolate shakes, the hard stuff. If I’m in an ice cream shop, I ask them to make my chocolate shake with hot fudge instead of Hershey’s syrup. I’m not happy unless my shake is sludgy enough to fill potholes.

Trivia question: In what song does Bruce Springsteen mention the phrase "lucky charms?"

Answer: "Better Days." "Tonight I'm layin' in your arms carvin' lucky charms out of these hard luck bones."

Bonus question: What is the name of the leprechaun on the box of Lucky Charms?

Answer: "Lucky."

Guessing General Mills’ marketing department didn’t put a whole lot of time into naming the leprechaun.

Photo courtesy of Arby's

Pizza sliders at Arby's? Sounds like a really dumb idea, but somehow it works.

Drive-Thru Gourmet

This week I reached out for a 3-pack of Pizza Sliders — think mini-slices of pepperoni pie on a bun — at America’s No. 2 sandwich shack, Arby’s, with 3,300 restaurants coast to coast, top and bottom.

Pizza Sliders are Arby’s “take on pizza,” and boy are we lucky. Because no matter how hard you search, it’s practically impossible to find a Pizza Hut, Dominos or Papa John’s today.

Except on every corner.

Here’s the Pizza Sliders breakdown: Genoa salami, pepperoni, melted provolone cheese, and roasted garlic marinara sauce on a warm, soft slider bun.

Total calories: 300. Fat grams: 17. Sodium: 930 mg. Carbs: 23 g. Dietary fiber: 1. Protein: 13 g.

Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $1.49. If your Arby’s has “happy hour,” Pizza Sliders are only a buck between 2-5 pm.

There are so many reasons why Pizza Sliders at Arby’s is a dumb idea. Let’s start with ... Arby’s is where you go for fast food roast beef sandwiches. The slogan is “We have the meats,” not “We have the pizza.” Drive-thru rule of thumb: Order what’s on the sign out front. KFC: fried chicken. Burger King: burgers. IHOP: the P.

The geniuses in Arby’s product development have a weird idea of what makes a pizza. Genoa salami isn’t exactly a top 10 pizza topping. And where’d they get provolone cheese on a pizza? As Alex Trebek would say, “Sorry, we were looking for mozzarella.”

If Arby’s wanted to imitate a pizza, how about a toasted, crunchy, charred-on-the-edges ciabatta roll instead of a soft slider bun?

But here’s the devil in those details. As wrong as its parts are, the finished product is really tasty. It works. If everybody else in the office is ordering Arby’s, Pizza Sliders will satisfy your pizza addiction. That kicky marinara isn't Arby's same old dipping sauce for mozzarella sticks.

Maybe I’ll stop off at Arby’s after work tonight and order a half-dozen Pizza Sliders. I'll eat three on the way home and polish off the rest after the game on TV.

Pizza Sliders are No. 8 in Arby’s sliders collection. The others are: Buffalo Chicken, Corned Beef ‘n Cheese, Roast Beef, Roast Beef ‘n Cheese, Jalapeno Roast Beef, Ham ‘n Cheese and Chicken ‘n Cheese. They’re one price fits all.

While sliders, by legend, are small, Arby’s has another new item that may require your weekend “eating pants” — the Half-Pound Roast Beef ‘n Cheese Sandwich. It’s two layers of Arby’s flagship roast beef and two layers of gooey American cheese.

To give you an idea how hefty this meat monster is, a regular Roast Beef ‘n Cheese is 5.4 ounces total weight. A Double is 8.4 ounces. I know that doesn’t add up, but, hey, you want to do math homework, or you want to eat?

A Half-Pound Roast Beef ‘n Cheese Sandwich, bread, cheese et al. tips the scales at 10.4 ounces.

Now for a personal complaint. This week, I made an Arby’s run to taste-test the Pizza Sliders. I went online for the Arby’s closest to my summer house (it’s also my winter house). When I got there ... no Arby’s. It’s been closed for a couple of years.

New rule: When a fast food restaurant shuts down, the company has to go online and make sure that no website still has it as open. I drove to another location and, whew, made it in time for happy hour.

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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

San Antonio plummets on list of best places to live, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. From hotel accolades to urban treasure hunting, here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio plummets on list of best places to live in new national report. San Antonio was previously the No. 75 place to live in America in 2021, tumbling to No. 83 in 2022 and dropping even further down the list to No. 103 in 2023.

2. Here are the top 7 things to do in San Antonio this holiday weekend. Check out Spoon or Kool and the Gang tonight, or head to UTSA for their annual Asian festival.

3. This is how big San Antonio apartments get for $1,500 a month. San Antonio renters can find apartments that span 1,010 square feet for $1,500 a month.

4. Posh Pearl hotel books top spot on best luxury hotels in U.S. list. Tripadvisor's coveted Travelers' Choice Best of Best Awards recently gave Hotel Emma top marks in two categories.

5. Texas unearths new ranking as 2nd best state for urban treasure hunting. Fun fact: Texas has the highest number of metal detecting sites in the nation.

Fine dining chef unpacks nostalgic pop-up concept at popular Grayson Street bar on Memorial Day


With new restaurants seemingly opening daily, San Antonio’s culinary scene is more exhilarating than ever. But even those with a packed reservation schedule sometimes crave something different.

Enter pop-ups — a San Antonio obsession that grows more popular each month. The latest to enter the fray is Restaurant Claudine chef Mel Cavazos, who will debut Throwback Sammies, a one-night-only concept sprouting up at Three Star Bar on May 29.

“I want to do something comforting that everyone can relate to,” explains Cavazos of the nostalgic concept. “I want the menu to read simply but totally unexpected when you eat it.”

The small menu includes a trio of dishes that evoke childhood memories. Cheese bread is reimagined with Romesco sauce, burrata, and basil, while another sandwich has all the fixings of a Sunday pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and gravy. Those desperately waiting for fall will no doubt flock to the Thanksgiving Meltdown, complete with turkey, stuffing, and cranberry.

One dish, however, is even more personal. In honor of a recently passed friend, Cavazos added a “secret” vegan sandwich featuring buffalo cauliflower and homemade pickled vegetables.

“He loved his vegan wings,” Cavazos remembers.

The chef tells CultureMap that Throwback Sammies is just the start of a series of pop-ups she hopes to hold monthly. As she continues developing a career at Carpenter Carpenter Hospitality’s ever-growing restaurant empire, she sees the pop-up series as a chance to keep exploring her culinary voice.

“I want to expand and explore more options,” Cavazos says, adding, “I love sandwiches, but that’s not what I like to be known for.”

Throwback Sammies starts at 8 pm and runs until supplies run out. Future pop-ups will be announced via Instagram.

Texas' best restaurants and bars reign at 2023 Tastemaker Awards


It’s another one for CultureMap’s history books, folks. Our statewide journey to recognize some of the best chefs, restaurants, and more in 2023 has finally come to a close.

The series kicked off April 13 with our sold-out Houston Tastemakers at Silver Street Studios, then we moved to Cowtown for our Fort Worth event on April 27. The Texas culinary tour steered us to our Metroplex neighbors in Dallas at the Fashion Industry Gallery on May 4. From there, we took a drive to the Hill Country for Austin’s evening festivities at Fair Market on May 11, then concluded our journey with our second-ever fête in San Antonio on May 18.

The 2023 Tastemaker Awards honor the state’s most innovative culinary pioneers, allowing nominated chefs and restaurants to showcase their talents for guests before announcing the winners during a live ceremony.

Guests sampled chefs’ specialty bites and imbibed a variety of creative cocktails or mocktails, with a few Topo Chicos sprinkled in throughout the evening. But as always, our nominees and winners are the main focus of our program and are the reason we can bring these celebrations to life.

Nominees are brought forth by a panel of previous Tastemaker winners and CultureMap editors. While the panel choses a majority of the winners, the winner of Best New Restaurant is determined by our readers in an online, bracket-style tournament. New this year in each city, a sizzling on-site Burger Throwdown sponsored by Goodstock Beef by Nolan Ryan.

Without further ado, let’s meet our 2023 CultureMap Tastemaker Awards winners, listed by city:

San Antonio:

  • Restaurant of the Year: Carriqui
  • Chef of the Year: Robbie Nowlin, Allora, Arrosta
  • Bar of the Year: Amor Eterno
  • Brewery of the Year: Künstler Brewing
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: The Magpie
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Sofia Tejeda, Hotel Emma
  • Best Burger: Last Place Burger
  • Best New Restaurant: Reese Bros BBQ


K\u00fcnstler doppelbock
Künstler Brewing Instagram

Künstler Brewing is our Brewery of the Year.

  • Restaurant of the Year: Bludorn
  • Chef of the Year: Mark Clayton, Squable
  • Bar of the Year: Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar and Spirit Lounge
  • Best New Restaurant: Aiko
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Emmanuel Chavez, Tatemó
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Shawn Gawle, Goodnight Hospitality
  • Bartender of the Year: Kristine Nguyen, Captain Foxheart’s Bad News Bar
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Craft Pita
  • Wine Program of the Year: Nancy’s Hustle
  • Best Pop-Up: Khói Barbecue
  • Best Burger: Burger Bodega

Fort Worth:

  • Restaurant of the Year: Fitzgerald
  • Chef of the Year: Juan Ramón Cárdenas, Don Artemio
  • Bar of the Year: Birdie’s Social Club
  • Best New Restaurant: Calisience
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Angel Fuentes, Guapo Taco
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Cafe Bella
  • Best Burger: Dayne’s Craft Barbecue
  • Best Brewery: Martin House Brewing Company


  • Restaurant of the Year: Shoyo
  • Chef of the Year: Junior Borges, Meridian
  • Bar of the Year: Lounge Here
  • Best New Restaurant: Quarter Acre
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Mike Matis, Fearing’s
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Maricsa Trejo, La Casita Bakeshop
  • Bartender of the Year: Haley Merritt, Midnight Rambler
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: El Rincon del Maiz
  • Wine Program of the Year: Pappas Bros.
  • Best Burger: Wulf Burger
  • Brewery of the Year: Manhattan Project Beer Co.


  • Restaurant of the Year: Birdie’s
  • Chef of the Year: Amanda Turner, Olamaie
  • Rising Star Chef of the Year: Joaquin Ceballos, Este
  • Pastry Chef of the Year: Mariela Camacho, Comadre Panadería
  • Bar of the Year: Nickel City
  • Bartender of the Year: Erin Ashford, Olamaie
  • Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year: Nixta Taqueria
  • Wine Program of the Year: Bufalina
  • Brewery of the Year: Lazarus Brewing Co.
  • Best Burger: Dai Due
  • Best New Restaurant: Maie Day