I’m not able to let go of San Antonio just yet…so, if you don’t mind, let me polish off last week with this one final entry.
Don’t let the name fool you, this is more a French brassiere than a local watering hole. The notoriously slanted building is owned by San Antonio native Restauranteur/Chef Andrew Weissman, an ambitious graduate of the CIA in Hyde Park who reminds me a lot of Albany’s own foodie wunderkind Matt Baumgartner. The überchef has opened five or more businesses throughout San Antonio that garner high marks from discerning food critics. It wasn’t the white wine but rather the crooked ceiling beams and slightly sloping hardwoods floors that incited a temporary bout of vertigo. Fear not, it was mended when my waiter, tailored in a white apron and crisp white shirt, presented me with a very un-French like portion of duck confit.
You’ll be blown away by the dizzying degree of Mexican decorations and twinkling lights that litter this iconic Tex-Mex favorite. The mural banquet room is a regular hangout for celebrities like Cesar Millan, Carlos Santana and Eva Longoria along with a cadre of well-connected politicians. Open 24 hours a day, it’s always a festive atmosphere with strolling troubadours and a staff of 500 ready to accommodate.
It’s a rare moment indeed when Chef Johnny Hernandez can sneak away from a busy kitchen to entertain his guests as they indulge in botana-style Mexican tapas and cocktails. But that’s the kind of luck we enjoyed while soaking in the secrets to Hernandez’s small organic dishes. Little did I know that so many would be served – a total of 15 varieties with repeat cocktails. I dove with abandon into a saucer of fresh Queso crusted in pumpkin seeds, honey and tamarind sauce followed up with pan fried chipotle peppers with roasted pork tamarind sauce couple and pushing through piles of miniature shaped tostadas with ceviche filling. Feeling no pain, I sucked down a fusion of muddled mango, orange and pineapple juice frothing with egg white and TequilaMe Silver (El Huevón). Not surprisingly, I had no choice but to resist the traditional stoneware casserole dishes and dream of the hour that I’d be hungry again and could return.
Formerly known as the City Brewery, this new groundbreaking restaurant was on the verge of officially opening the day we visited. Chef Steve McHugh wanted to wait until Christmas to celebrate both the birth of his ambitions and the miracle of living through cancer, hence the name “Cured.” Two years ago, McHugh’s determination to pursue his dream was fueled by a diagnosis of and recovery from non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He survived and credits his recovery to good eats. His menu is built on a foundation of lovingly hand crafted, time-consuming, cured foods, from charcuterie to pickles. We sampled menu items made from regional ingredients paired with organic methods. Leaving nothing to chance or the vagaries of mass-production, he controls everything in his dishes and cocktails, right down to the bitters, vinegars, and pickles. Eleven different cured meats grace the Charcuterie list, from South Texas Heritage Pork Coppa to Hogshead Cheese to Bacon and Frog Leg Rillettes – order selections of three, six, or nine choices for a goodly range of McHugh’s passion. One dollar from the price of each Charcuterie board is donated to a different charity rotating on a quarterly basis. In the spirit of giving back, Cured is finding creative culinary means of helping various causes, as well as curing hunger and thirst: you might say that Saint Nick is bringing Steve McHugh just what he wished for… and all San Antonio gets to share in the blessings.