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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Favorite Bites from the Grand Tasting at Culinaria

One of the most elegant events at Culinaria, the wine and culinary arts festival in San Antonio, is the Grand Tasting at the Convention Center along the River Walk. Attending an event like this (or even just reading about it) allows you to pick up some great tips and ideas for future culinary explorations--both dishes to try on your own and a head's up about restaurants that are worth seeking out on future visits (find my tips in bold text).

At the Grand Tasting I had three favorite dishes. First was something very creative and tasty, compressed watermelon with pop rocks! Mainly it was just a lot of fun, juicy and crunchy and crackly. It's definitely a dish with a sense of humor, and while prepared by the chef at the hotel La Contessa restaurant Las Ramblas, it is available from their food truck, Tapa Tapa. I believe it also had a dab of black garlic. Pretty too. Compressing watermelon is a technique to try using a vacuum sealer, no sous vide necessary!

The next dish I really loved was a twist on Italian bread salad called panzanella. It was burrata, tomatoes (undoubtedly ripened in the hot Texas sun) with torn bread, micro greens, balsamic and roast chicken. I'm usually in the "please don't ruin Caesar salad by adding chicken to it!" camp, but in this case, it really worked. The dish was from Luke, a restaurant I got to visit last year.

The last dish was coconut ice cream with fresh red curry, pickled mango coulis and Thai basil micro greens. A sweet and spicy savory bite, I loved the cool sensation of the cold coconut ice cream with the hot curry swirled into it. A very innovative and unsual dish from James Beard nominated chef Jason Dady who runs several restaurants in San Antonio as well as a food truck.

I just noticed all these dishes had micro greens. Not sure why they are in vogue in San Antonio, but I guess you could call it a trend...

My thanks to the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau for inviting me and hosting my trip.