San Antonio
TEXAS

San Antonio is a city of contrasts. As the 2nd largest city in Texas, and the 7th largest in the U.S, it was named by NBC’s Today show as “one of the top 5 friendliest cities in America.


It also offers visitors a plethora of fabulous memories. Our own visit coincided with the 9th Annual New World Wine and Food Festival this past fall, when San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau highlighted all the rich history and cultural activities of San Antonio.

Among the city’s many luxury hotels is the renowned Emily Morgan, a fine example of Gothic Revival Architecture in America. Located next door to The Alamo, it is steps from the San Antonio River Walk and close to the Rivercenter Mall. According to legend, prior to the battle of San Jacinto, Sam Houston sent amulatto slave named Emily Morgan into the Mexican camp to distract Santa Anna who was known to enjoy the company of women. His preoccupation with Emily enabled Texans to attain victory. The story (myth) gained popularity in the 1950 swith the revival of the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas”. Historian Margaret Swett Henson, however, contends that Emily Morgan was in fact Emily D. West, a free woman of colour who was contracted to James Morgan. The hotel is also on the Conde Nash Travelers Readers Choice Awards for top US hotels.

Among the city’s many luxury hotels is the renowned Emily Morgan, a fine example of Gothic Revival Architecture in America. Located next door to The Alamo, it is steps from the San Antonio River Walk and close to the Rivercenter Mall. According to legend, prior to the battle of San Jacinto, Sam Houston sent amulatto slave named Emily Morgan into the Mexican camp to distract Santa Anna who was known to enjoy the company of women. His preoccupation with Emily enabled Texans to attain victory. The story (myth) gained popularity in the 1950 swith the revival of the song “The Yellow Rose of Texas”. Historian Margaret Swett Henson, however, contends that Emily Morgan was in fact Emily D. West, a free woman of colour who was contracted to James Morgan. The hotel is also on the Conde Nash Travelers Readers Choice Awards for top US hotels.

Mi Tierra In 1941, Pete and Cruz Cortez established Mia Tierra, a three-table café which would cater to early rising workers and farmers.Located in Market Square of El Mercado, the owners’ children and grandchildren continue the family tradition of serving typical Mexican food along with a warm Texas welcome. Bedecked in Christmas lights year-round, the busy and lively locale now seats 500 and is open 24 hours a day. It’s worth a visit, even if it’s just for a drink from the Baroque designed bar, with its large selection of imported tequilas, beers and (of course) margaritas. If you fancy breakfast, treat yourself to fresh bread made by their master baker
daily and throughout the day. You’ll want to take some home for friends and family to enjoy as well. For your listening enjoyment, strolling troubadours/musicians (who are independent of the restaurant), will takeyour request. For information/reservations, go to www.mitierra.com. El Mercado, the nation’s largest Mexican Market, features shops, restaurants, entertainment and more. You can also visit Museo Alameda, the Smithsonian-affiliated museum dedicated to Latino culture.

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Completing the meal was a light and delicious Walnut, Almond and Pecan Crust Cheesecake with Mixed Berry Coli, made by Chef Jose Benita, of Bistro Thyme II. The accompanying 2005 Becker Vineyards Clementine, that sports a picture of wife Bunny on the label, is a late-harvest wine that is made with the Viognier grape variety. The 29-acre Becker Vineyard produces grape varieties that include Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Scheurebe.

As well, three acres of lavender are planted behind the winery, from which potpourris, sachets, soaps and oils are made and sold in their tasting room and gift shop. Special events, receptions and weddings can be held in the Lavender Haus Reception Hall, or you can take it outdoors on the winery lawn or on the verandah next to the Lavender Haus. Go to www.beckervineyards.com for complete details.

The Black Tie Event at the Grand Hyatt was a chance to put on our gladrags and be spoiled with a superb dinner in elegant surroundings. The silent and live auctions that followed benefited Child Advocates of SanAntonio, and Center for Foods of the Americas. AirlineSim Expands

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Guest chefs from Mexico turned up at The Café  aladar restaurant, wherethey joined Chef Brian West in demonstrating the cuisine, colourful culture and rich flavours of their representative territories. Hailing from La Palobar Café, known for its one-bite tapas and now also for innovation, Chef Alejandro prepared fish marinated in oil andemon juice for 40 minutes. From Encelada Caibas Restaurant-Vineyard, Chef Benito Molena, who is trying to bring in Mexican chefs to showcase new recipes that encourage interchange of talents, also demonstrated his talents. As the chefs wielded their knives, and prepared the food on a portable burner, we were amazed with the swiftness and quality of the end-result which, of course, we were quite happy to sample! More than 30 chefs took part in the New World Grand Tasting at The Grotto, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, giving us a chance to sample some prime examples of what is the best in cuisine from San Antonio and its surrounding areas, alongside wines from arond the world. This gastronomical journey, which was as delightful as it was tasty, is not to be missed. Sunday brunch at Biga on the Banks, in operation since 1991, was a blend of a vast array of tempting appetizers and salads from its buffet tables, followed with a selection of entrée items on their menu all of which are prepared by Owner/chef Bruce J. Auden. Our choice was the roast beef rib ye, apple smoked bacon and spinach stuffed otatoes, broccoli, horseradish crispy onions, jammy tomatoes, mint marigold béarnaise, house steak sauce. Now, don’t you wish you were there?! You can be, the next time you’re in San Antonio. Visit www.biga.com to find out more. A great finish to the festival was a trip to Rio Cibolo Ranch, about 40 minutes north of San Antonio, for its “Totally Tejas” event that featured Texas food and wine. For an admission fee of $45.00, guests can purchase local crafts, sample foods including their legendary pecans [we had a great ‘warm’ mozzarella], or just chill out with a pint of the local brew. Of course, there are Texan wines to enjoy as well under the tent. Intended for the entire family, events also include a petting zoo, hayride, a storyteller and a putting course.

Luncheon at Becker Vineyards

Dr. Richard Becker and his wife Bunny were gracious hosts at luncheon which featured scrumptious dishes by some of the festival’s chefs, paired with featured Becker and Pacific Northwest wines. The first course, prepared by Chef William Schmidt of Soleil Bistro & Wine Bar, was a Cinnamon Dusted Scallop on an Apple, Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Risotto which was paired with 2007 Becker Vineyards Viognier; 2006 A to Z Oregon Chardonnay (steel fermentation with no secondary fermentation), and 12th Edition Sokol Blosser Evolution (a blend of nine white wines).


Luncheon at Becker Vineyards
Dr. Richard Becker and his wife Bunny were gracious hosts at luncheon which featured scrumptious dishes by some of the festival’s chefs, paired with featured Becker and Pacific Northwest wines. The first course, prepared by Chef William Schmidt of Soleil Bistro & Wine Bar, was a Cinnamon Dusted Scallop on an Apple, Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Risotto which was paired with 2007 Becker Vineyards Viognier; 2006 A to Z Oregon Chardonnay (steel fermentation with no secondary fermentation), and 12th Edition Sokol Blosser Evolution (a blend of nine white wines).

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The second course of Air-dried Muscovy Duck Breast over Roasted Fall Vegetable Salad,created by Chef Gabriel Ibarra of Cappy’s, was married with 2006 Rex Hill Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the impressive 2006 Erath Estate Pinot Noir, and the super 2004 Hogue Reserve Merlot. Assorted cheeses, provided by Fromage du Monde in Fredericksburg, went beautifully with the 2006 Amavi Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon made from estate vineyards and the 2004 Columbia-Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve, a compelling wine made with 40% Merlot and 60% Cabernet Sauvignon

This gastronomical journey, which was as delightful as it was tasty, is not to be missed. Sunday brunch at Biga on the Banks, in operation since 1991, was a blend of a vast array of tempting appetizers and salads from its buffet tables, followed with a selection of entrée items on their menu all of which are prepared by Owner/chef Bruce J. Auden. Our choice was the roast beef rib ye, apple smoked bacon and spinach stuffed otatoes, broccoli, horseradish crispy onions, jammy tomatoes, mint marigold béarnaise, house steak sauce. Now, don’t you wish you were there?! You can be, the next time you’re in San Antonio. Visit www.biga.com to find out more. A great finish to the festival was a trip to Rio Cibolo Ranch, about 40 minutes north of San Antonio, for its “Totally Tejas” event that featured Texas food and wine. For an admission fee of $45.00, guests can purchase local crafts, sample foods including their legendary pecans [we had a great ‘warm’ mozzarella], or just chill out with a pint of the local brew. Of course, there are Texan wines to enjoy as well under the tent. Intended for the entire family, events also include a petting zoo, hayride, a storyteller and a putting course.

A River Runs Through It Next to the Alamo, the Riverwalk is this city’s most popular attraction. And nowonder. Allow yourself ample time to leisurely strolls along its original 3miles of river. Of course, a barge cruise will take considerably less and you can absorb the enchanting views in complete comfort. It’s much like the life of a ‘couch potato’, but in much more pleasing surroundings. Something of a record was set by the construction along the river of the 500-room Hilton Palacio del Rio, which was completed in 202 days. You can also visit the Arneson River Theatre, open year-round, and recognized by its five bells which represent the five missions in San Antonio. The Riverwalk comes alive in the winter, when thousands of lights are lit the day after Thanksgiving. To wind down from all the activities, visitors can treat themselves to a signature spa treatment at Watermark Spa, the only world-class spa in the heart of San Antonio. Featuring 19 private treatment  Rooms, a hydrotherapytub, and an outdoor spa poolside café with rooftop views of the city one can be truly pampered in style. No doubt about it, San Antonio has all the makings of a great vacation destination - food, wine, great hospitality and many things to see and do.
Think about it for your next trip.


Anna Cavaliere, Editor/Writer Editor/Writer since 1992 for Enoteca Wine & Food Magazine (now Elite Wine, Food & Travel), Anna has reported on wine and food events from many of the world's wine regions: Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, France, Spain, Malta, Greece, Italy, U.S. and Canada. A member of the International Federation of Wine and Spirits Journalists and Writers (F.I.J.E.V.), and I.F.W.T.W.A. (International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association). Anna feels particularly fortunate that she can write about her three passions: wine, food, and travel.

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