The Weekend Gourmet F

Sunday, August 31, 2014

September Recipe Club...Featuring Watermelon & Feta Salad

Where is this year going to...can you believe that it's time for another monthly reveal for Secret Recipe Club? My assigned blog this month is It's Good to Be the Cook. Beth's blog features lots of great waistline-friendly recipes, including some great salad options. Beth and I have two big things in common: we both love to dine out and travel as much as we love cooking good food in our own kitchens! I have the feeling we'd be pretty good friends in real life...especially after I saw her recipe for Watermelon & Feta Salad. Just last week, I enjoyed a salad featuring watermelon and feta at Bite restaurant here in San Antonio for Restaurant Week. It was such an amazing combination of flavors that I wanted to create something similar at home. Enter Beth's recipe...it was fate!

This recipe is a snap to put together for a quick lunch, or as part of a healthy Summer dinner. I picked up chopped watermelon at the grocery store, as well as crumbled feta cheese. I made a quick homemade balsamic vinaigrette in less than 5 minutes, so this salad is ready to eat in a flash! I made one small change to Beth's recipe. I can't eat olives or bell pepper, so I decided to add some chopped hazelnuts for a bit of crunch. This salad is so good and really easy to make!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road: Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas Preview Cruise

Photo provided by Royal Caribbean
Michael and I were lucky enough to be among the first people to preview Royal Caribbean's recently renovated Navigator of the Seas, which sailed from Galveston this Summer! Royal Caribbean kindly included in an invitation-only overnight preview sailing to check out all the ship has to offer! Navigator of the Seas calls Galveston its Summer home port. That makes this fabulous ship an ideal vacation option for families, as well as couples looking for a romantic getaway. Once you board the ship, you'll find every amenity that you need for a good time: pools and a variety of outdoor activities, a skating rink, entertaining shows, a wide variety of restaurants, and a full-service spa. We boarded the ship early on a Saturday morning at the convenient Port of Galveston. Parking was easy and stress-free thanks to convenient shuttle buses that drop you right at the point of embarkation.

The pre-boarding process was very simple, and it took less than an hour. Much like the process at an airport when we fly, we had to go through a security checkpoint. We then checked in with the friendly staff, where we each received a handy card that served as both our room keys and our identification cards. Just like that, we were on our way to Room D22! When we arrived at our room, we were excited to see that we were staying in an Oceanview Stateroom with a small balcony, as well as a large bed and sitting area. It was just the perfect size -- and much larger than we expected. Waiting for us was a handy brochure that laid out all of the ship's onboard activities for our cruise. We took a few minutes to look over the activities and admire the lovely water view from our balcony.
Photo provided by Royal Caribbean
I have to mention one very cool addition to Navigator of the Seas during its recent renovation. They now offer select interior rooms with Virtual Balconies. Virtual Balconies are an 80-inch high-definition screen that spans nearly floor to ceiling. For the first time ever, guests can enjoy real-time views and sounds of the ocean and destinations from the comfort of an interior stateroom. We were able to check out one of these rooms during our visit, and the technology was really impressive!
Photograph provided by Royal Caribbean
After we settled in, we set out to explore the Navigator of the Seas. On the way to the pool area on the 11th deck, we stopped to admire the gorgeous Promenade that's in the center of the ship. The Promenade has shops and restaurants, as well as a casino and performance venue. Navigator of the Seas is huge! It has 15 decks and TEN pools. When we got to the pool level, we grabbed a tropical drink and checked out the area. In addition to numerous pools, there are hot tubs, a gigantic outdoor movie screen, a jogging deck, and even live music. This was a great place to hang out while we waited for the ship to set sail! 
Just before the ship set sail, we took part in a brief required safety training. Then, it was back to our stateroom to change into dinner attire -- but not before we ducked outside to snap a picture of the Gulf of Mexico...once you're a few miles offshore, the water is a lovely shade of blue-green! Navigator of the Seas offers a wide range of dining options, most of which are included in the cost of your cruise ticket. The Main Dining Room serves multi-course menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Other complimentary dining options include the Windjammer Cafe, Cafe Promenade, and room service (a small fee applies for room service ordered between midnight and 5 am). For a small additional fee, Navigator of the Seas offers several upscale dining options. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Family Fun Day in Galveston...Featuring Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Joe's Crab Shack

Growing up in the Houston area, my family spent many Summer getaways in Galveston…sand, surf, and fresh Gulf seafood were all we needed for a great time. My maternal grandparents had a beach house on Galveston during my childhood, so the island was sort of a home-away-from home. As adults, Michael and I still love to visit Galveston! This Summer, we enjoyed a pair of island getaways. Michael and I took part in an invitation-only overnight preview cruise of Royal Caribbean’s refurbished Navigator of the Seas. I’ll tell you about that fun experience tomorrow! Today, I want to share a Galveston Family Fun Day that we enjoyed with our teenage niece and nephews. Lili, Wolf, and Levi live in Ohio...so we don’t get to see them very often. They spent a few weeks at my parents’ house in the Houston area this Summer, so Michael and I put together a fun day trip. Our visit to Galveston included a day at Schlitterbahn Waterpark and a seafood feast at Joe’s Crab ShackSchlitterbahn Galveston is an offshoot of the iconic New Braunfels waterpark of the same name. We had a busy, fun day -- complete with requisite  sunburns!
When Levi was little, we all lived in the Houston area…so Aunt Wendy and Uncle Michael took him on playdates that became known as “adventures.” So, this Galveston trip is the most recent in a long line of adventures that we’ve shared over the years! Our island adventure started in the morning with a quick pit stop to pick up bottled water and snacks. Schlitterbahn has a budget-friendly policy that allows guests to bring coolers inside the park and keep them in a designated covered area filled with communal picnic-style tables. We brought fruit, big bottles of water, and a few other goodies in our cooler. If you prefer to purchase food inside the park, there are 12 different restaurants and snack bars that serve casual food and snacks.
We started our Schlitterbahn visit by dropping our personal items in the convenient, secure locker area. Once we applied copious amounts of sunscreen, we hit the water! We had a blast hanging out in the wave pool...and floating around the extensive river complex that circles the park. The price of admission includes the use of lifejackets and inner tubes. Some inner tubes were for one person, and some were for two people to share. We spent hours floating around on the river...some portions were calm and serene, but there are two offshoots for the more daring.
One section of the mile-long river complex features huge rolling waves that toss you around on your inner tube. Another offshoot features simulated white water rapids. Both of these high-adrenaline sections were really fun – even for the less adventuresome of our group. We spent the bulk of the day until the late afternoon hanging out on the river and riding some of the water slides located around the park. We encountered a few lines, but we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly they moved. The longest time we had to wait for any slide was 15-20 minutes. By late afternoon, our stomachs were growling, and we were ready for a break from the Summer heat. Joe’s Crab Shack to the rescue!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

September Foodie Contributor Program Collection: Comforting Breakfast for Dinner Ideas!

Check out Comforting Fall Breakfast for Dinner Options

by Wendy Wofford-Garcia at Foodie.com


I’ve been a fan of Breakfast for Dinner since childhood. To me, there’s something extra-special about enjoying breakfast foods like pancakes and eggs after dark…especially when the weather starts to turn cool! When I was growing up, my Mama would treat my siblings and I to a special breakfast for dinner meal when my Dad would go hunting in the Fall. To this day, when the first cool snap hits? One of the first things I want to do is whip up a tasty breakfast feast for dinner! Those childhood food memories tend to stick with us, yes? For this month’s Foodie Contributor Program Recipe Collection,  I’m sharing some really great Breakfast for Dinner options…whether you’re craving something sweet or something savory. 

included recipes for handy biscuit sandwiches, savory and sweet pancake options, and lots of versatile egg-based dishes. I'm even sharing a comforting savory Japanese pancake called okonomiyaki. My college roommate, Pieko, used to make this dish for us on weekends -- and I haven't had it in years! The one thing all of the recipes I'm sharing have one common theme: they’re comforting and filling. This month, I included one of my own favorite egg-based recipes – my spicy Puff Pastry Breakfast Chimichanga Rolls. I hope that you find a recipe or two in this collection that inspires you to get in the kitchen and cook up a fabulous Breakfast for Dinner for your loved ones!!

Disclosure: This is a compensated article for Mode Foodie. All opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for August...Featuring the Culinaria Restaurant Week Menu at Bite

Last week was one of the most popular culinary events in San Antonio: the annual San Antonio Restaurant week. Participating restaurants from all over the city offered special three-course prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus. Restaurant Week benefits Culinariaa not-for-profit organization dedicated to benefiting the San Antonio community and promoting San Antonio as an ideal wine and food destination. Area food lovers -- including Michael and I -- had a chance to enjoy fabulous menus at a great price...and help support a fantastic local organization. That's a win-win combination, friends! This year, Michael and I visited Bite, a new-to-us restaurant in the fun Southtown neighborhood near Downtown. We knew we were in for a special treat the second we walked in the door.

The first thing we noticed is that Bite is a jewel box of a restaurant -- with just eight tables and a lively bar area. It may be small in size, but the food is HUGE on flavor! There are several additional tables outside for those who prefer to dine al fresco. The decor is brightly colored and fun...and it really sets a perfect tone for an equally fun menu! The staff is friendly and helpful, and we could literally look into the kitchen and see Chef Lisa Astorga-Watel cooking. Because of the size of the restaurant, we could literally smell garlic being sautéed in the kitchen from our table...talk about whetting your appetite! Bite's Restaurant Week Menu offered two choices for appetizer, entree, and dessert. We asked them to bring one of each choice so we could share all of the creative menu items. We started with brewed-to-order ice tea that was smooth and perfectly brewed. Then, out came our appetizers. Both were perfect for late Summer. The refreshing Watermelon & Arugula Salad with Feta and Balsamic Reduction was an excellent combination of flavors. Sweet watermelon, salty feta, and tangy balsamic paired perfectly with pepper arugula. I loved this salad!
Our second appetizer was a Fig and Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Tart, paired with a simply-dressed field green salad. The tart was really nice -- crispy outside and creamy inside. The perfectly ripe fig worked very nicely with the creamy, mild goat cheese. The addition of sautéed shallots brought all of the flavors and textures together. We agreed that our meal was off to a great start! Next came our duo of entrees.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wendy's Favorite Things for August: Best of Summer Frozen Treats Edition

By now, you've no doubt heard me complain (ok...whine) about how long and hot Summers are here in Central Texas. One of the best keep-cool remedies that we enjoy down here is ice cream and frozen treats! They taste great, and they're the perfect way to cool down in a hurry. Over the course of this Summer, I've tried some fabulous frozen treats...and today I'm sharing my Great Eight ice creams and frozen treats with you! Summer's not quite over yet...besides, we eat ice cream year-round at my house. I hope one of these delicious frozen treats finds its way into your shopping cart for the upcoming long Labor Day weekend!

(1) Favorite Overall Ice Cream Flavor: Steve's Ice Cream Salty Caramel. This is hands down my favorite ice cream flavor that I tasted the entire Summer! Steve's Ice Cream is based in Brooklyn, and they've been making amazing ice cream for 40 years. In fact, they're one of the originators of the mix-in concept! Steve's Salty Caramel is pretty much the perfect combination of creamy, sweet, and salty. It features rich sweet caramel ice cream and a sea-salted caramel swirl. This ice cream is downright addictive. It's perfect "as it" right out of the container with a spoon...but I also love topping it with some salted peanuts and a bit of whipped cream for an extra-special treat. If caramel isn't your thing, they have a wide variety of gourmet flavors. Steve's Ice Cream offers convenient online ordering. They're also available at select grocery stores around the country, and you can use their online Store Locator to find a location near you. Trust me on this: try this ice cream ASAP!

(2) Best Overall Gourmet Ice Cream Company: Phin & Phebes. My favorite overall ice cream brand that I discovered this Summer was Phin & Phebes. They're also based in Brooklyn, New York. They offer ice cream in lots of fun and creative flavors, including Coconut Key Lime and Peanutty Pretzel. The ice cream is made with all-natural ingredients, and every flavor is created in a home kitchen before it's created on a larger scale. I loved how rich and creamy Phin & Phebes' ice cream is...and how vibrantly they are flavored. My favorite flavor is the deceptively simple Vanilla Cinnamon, which is flavored with robust Vietnamese cinnamon. I loved making ice cream sandwiches with this ice cream...it was perfect sandwiched between homemade oatmeal-craisin cookies! Phin & Phebes ice cream can be ordered online...and it's also available at select retailers nationwide.

(3) Best Adults-Only Ice Cream: Mercer's Dairy Wine Ice Cream. What would you say if I told you that there's a company that makes an adults-only wine ice cream? You might think it's a dream come true...and it is! Mercer's Dairy is located in upstate New York, and they've created a delicious line of true wine ice cream...not ice cream that merely tastes like wine. Their rich ice cream contains 15% butterfat and up to 5% alcohol by volume. That means you have to be 21 and up to purchase this ice cream! Flavors include Cherry Merlot, decadent Chocolate Cabernet, refreshing Peach White Zinfandel, Port (my personal favorite), Red Raspberry Chardonnay, and Riesling. The wine flavor is subtle, but you can definitely taste it. The Port flavor makes an excellent dessert topped with fresh berries and drizzled with a bit of port wine on top! Mercer's Wine Ice Cream can be purchased online. You can also visit the online Store Locator to find a store near you that sells this unique ice cream.

(4) Best Adults-Only Hand-Held Treat: BuzzBars. While we're on the subject of adults-only frozen treats, I have to share BuzzBars with you. These are ice cream and sorbet bars that are infused with alcohol. They're almost like a creamy cocktail on a stick...and they're really fun for serving at parties! BuzzBars come in a variety of  fun flavors, including Bourbon St. Chocolate (chocolate ice cream + whiskey), Citrus Berry Drop (raspberry lemon sorbet + lemon vodka), and Blitzed Berry (strawberry ice cream + rum). All of the flavors that I sampled were delicious -- and more potent than you might think! My favorite flavor was the Blitzed Berry, which is dipped in chocolate. 
If you love chocolate-covered strawberries, this is the flavor for you! BuzzBars contain approximately 2.8% alcohol, so you have to be 21 and up to purchase them. BuzzBars can be purchased online, and they can be found at various stores across the country. My Texas readers can purchase BuzzBars at most Specs locations.

Monday, August 25, 2014

El Yucateco Hot Sauce Giveaway...Featuring Caliente Frito Pie Deluxe #SauceOn #CollectiveBias

Disclosure: This shop and giveaway has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its Advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.
I recently discovered a new-to-me a habanero hot sauce that lets me #SauceOn to bring a burst of spicy heat to many of my favorite recipes. El YucatecoHot Sauce is made in Mexico and comes in four different spicy varieties: Red Habanero Sauce, Green Habanero Sauce, XXXtra Hot Kutbil-ik Sauce, and Black Label Reserve -- their newest flavor! Thanks to #CollectiveBias, I recently learned that all four flavors of El Yucateco hot sauce can be found in the Hispanic Foods aisle at Walmart. 
If you've shied away from hot sauces made with habanero peppers in the past because you feared that they'd be TOO hot...don't! I found the El Yucateco Chile Habanero sauces very tasty. They definitely pack a fiery kick -- especially straight from the bottle -- but they also have lots of flavor. When added as a recipe ingredient, they bring a smooth heat...more of a slow burn than in-your-face fire. For example, I used the Black Label Reserve hot sauce to amp up a comfort classic: Caliente Frito Pie Deluxe. Let me show you how I took a gameday classic and gave it a grown-up twist.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Weekend Gourmet Celebrates FOUR YEARS!!

Four years. It's hard to believe -- but as of August 14th, that's how long The Weekend Gourmet has been in existence. Honestly, I'm simply amazed that something that started out as a simple creative outlet has evolved into something so much more. My first post was August 14, 2010...it took me 3 hours to figure out how to insert pictures and get my article posted. I also vividly remember being stunned that more than ONE HUNDRED people were actually interested in what I had to say about food! The first recipe that I shared was Turkey Meatballs with Pancetta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. The pictures aren't that great, but the recipe's one that I still make to this day. Slowly and steadily, people started visiting and commenting on my recipes -- and I discovered that I really enjoyed cooking and sharing my love of good food. Within a few months, I decided to really put my all into making The Weekend Gourmet something to be truly proud of! 

Four years. During that time, The Weekend Gourmet has continued to grow and change. Every change was a natural progression that stems from my love of food, and they somehow fell into place at just the right time. About 3 years ago, I started The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out, a monthly post that features mostly regional restaurant profiles. In addition to cooking and dining out, travel is something else I truly enjoy. As a result, I added The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road and A Food Lovers Weekend In... series 2 years ago. The dining out and travel series have allowed Michael and I to explore dining-out and culinary travel options in Texas and beyond. We've featured the best food and attractions in cities like New Orleans, Las Vegas, New York, and Cleveland -- and we have other great food destinations in mind for the coming year. Michael is now my official Dining Out and Travel Photographer, which allows The Weekend Gourmet to truly be a shared experience for us to pursue together!

Four years. Over that time, I've published 632 posts. That's a lot cooking, eating, and traveling! It also equals countless hours spent taking and editing photos and sitting in front of a computer typing. I have a busy full-time day job during the work week. That means what you read here takes place almost exclusively during evenings and weekends. I love every single moment of food writing, but it certainly keeps me busy! The Weekend Gourmet has also allowed me to do things that I never could've imagined when I started this blog. For starters, I've cooked on live television, covered the James Beard Taste America event for Gulf Oyster Industry Council in New York, and co-presented a Media Kit workshop at this year's Food & Wine Conference in Orlando.

Here's to FOUR AMAZING YEARS! So, what's ahead for The Weekend Gourmet in Year Five? For starters, I promise to keep on sharing the Big-Flavor recipes that I love to cook. I'll also feature the very best restaurants located in the vibrant, growing San Antonio-Austin food scene. Finally, we'll keep showcasing the best in culinary travel in the United States...and hopefully beyond! Beyond that...who knows what the future holds?!?!? I always keep myself open to new possibilities and embrace any opportunities that come my way. I hope that The Weekend Gourmet has inspired you to get in the kitchen and cook -- to push your boundaries and try new foods and cooking techniques. To me, that's what life's all about: good food, time spent with family and friends, and lots of laughter. Oh, and a glass of good wine too!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Midday Break at San Antonio's BIRD Bakery...

I was recently invited to come for lunch at San Antonio's BIRD Bakery to have lunch and sample some amazing baked goods. This popular bakery is located on Broadway in the Alamo Heights neighborhood, and it's serving up some of the very best baked goods that you'll find anywhere in the city. BIRD Bakery is owned by San Antonio native Elizabeth Chambers, and many of the recipes used are her grandmother's cherished family recipes...so they're the real deal! Chambers is a television personality and journalist who now lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor Armie Hammer. They opened BIRD Bakery in Summer 2012, and it quickly became very popular with local cupcake aficionados. In addition to serving a wide variety of mouthwatering cupcakes, they also offer cookies, pies, cakes, Southern dessert classics...and sandwiches too. I was very impressed with everything that I tasted during my visit. 

BIRD Bakery's decor is warm and inviting, and the food is delicious! They pride themselves on using only the best ingredients -- including Plugra butter, Valrhona cocoa, and Madagascar vanilla. That commitment to using only quality ingredients really shows in the taste of the baked goods. Whether you try an espresso, a sandwich, or a cupcake...you can feel confident that it's made by expert bakers who use only the best ingredients! How adorable is the BIRD logo egg carton filled with mini cupcakes?!?!? 
I arrived just before noon and was warmly greeted by the friendly staff. I was seated at a large picnic-style table and started my meal with a selection of mini desserts, along with their signature Hibiscus iced tea. The hot pink tea was tart and lightly sweetened -- very refreshing on a hot Texas day! My mini dessert sampler included Banana Pudding, a Carrot Cake Cupcake, a Lemon Bar, and Key Lime Pie. All were fantastic, and the small size was perfect for sampling several items at once. The banana pudding was creamy and rich...a great version of a Southern classic. The carrot cake was moist, spicy, and full of plump raisins...and the cream cheese icing was rich and tangy. The lemon bar was just the way I like them: pucker-up tart. It paired perfectly with the tart Key lime pie. That dessert duo made for a fabulous double shot of citrus.
Just about then, my lunch arrived. I am an avocado lover, so the California Turkey immediately caught my eye. Moist turkey breast, creamy avocado, peppery arugula, juicy tomato, and Havarti cheese worked perfectly together! The sandwich came served on hearty seeded bread that was slathered with raspberry-chipotle mayo. My sandwich was served with a pickle spear and potato chips on the side. This was truly one of the best sandwiches I've had in ages. The flavors worked so nicely together!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Celebrating Hatch Chile Harvest Season with Frieda's...Featuring Hatch-Cheddar Shrimp Risotto #HatchFever

If you haven't tried famous Hatch green chiles, now is the perfect time to change that…but you have to act fast! From now through early September is the annual harvesting season for these amazing peppers. Hatch chiles are a popular group of long green chile varieties that are grown exclusively in the Mesilla Valley near Hatch, New Mexico. Chile lovers eagerly anticipate each year's harvest of these flavorful peppers. Hatch chiles look similar to Anaheim chiles, but they’re spicier. In fact, the Extra Hot Hatch variety is typically hotter than a jalapeno. My friends at Frieda’s Specialty Produce recently sent me a box of Hot Hatch chiles to create an original recipe to share with you today.
Although Hatch chile peppers can certainly be chopped and used raw, they’re ideal for roasting. Roasting is simple to do, and it enhances the chile's flavor and intensifies the heat level. Roasting can easily be done at home -- Frieda’s has step-by-step directions on their website. Once roasted, simply slip the skins off of the Hatch chiles and you’re ready to use them in a variety of recipes. Stuff them with cheese for chile rellenos...or chop them for using in homemade salsas, sauces, chili, etc. I recently roasted 5 lbs. of Hatch chiles one weekend afternoon. I packed them into ziptop bags and placed them in the freezer so I can use them this Fall, long after the Hatch harvest season is over!
For today’s recipe, I decided to use some of my chopped roasted Hatch chiles in a spicy fusion dish: flavorful Hatch-Cheddar Shrimp Risotto. Using the classic risotto technique, I added diced Hatch chile and creamy cheddar cheese. To add a bit of smokiness, I incorporated some diced pancetta – but bacon would work just fine too! This risotto makes a perfect one-pan dinner that takes classic risotto to spicy new levels. I used one diced roasted Hatch chile in my risotto, but feel free to double that amount if you want a bit more kick.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back to School #SundaySupper...Featuring Chopped Shrimp Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

Where has the Summer gone to? It seems like it was just Memorial Day…and now Labor Day is right around the corner. For many of you, that means one thing: back to school! Some school districts in Texas have already started the new school year, so today’s Back to School #SundaySupper is perfect! Our co-hostesses Tammi of Momma's Meals and Gwen from Simply Healthy Family asked us to share our favorite quick breakfast, brown-bag lunch, afternoon snack, or quick-cook dinner options. Since time always seems to be short for me no matter the time of year, I’m always happy to add new fast-and-easy recipes to my busy weeknight repertoire. The recipe I’m sharing today is for a refreshing, yet filling main dish salad.
My Chopped Shrimp Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette is refreshing on a warm evening…but it’s filing enough to satisfy even big appetites. The trick to preparing this salad as quickly as possible is to buy peeled and deveined shrimp from the grocery store. With that and a bit of multitasking, this complete meal-in-a-bowl salad is ready to serve in about 30 minutes. It features chopped grilled shrimp, avoacado, crumble goat cheese, select veggies, and a couple of crunchy components. Don’t be intimidated by the homemade dressing – it has just a few simple ingredients and comes together in just a couple of minutes. If your family is allergic to – or doesn’t eat – seafood, simply sub in bite-sized cubes of chicken. To make it veg-friendly, sub cubed tofu or roasted chickpeas. You really can’t go wrong!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Preview: San Antonio's Culinaria Restaurant Week, August 16-23rd!

The week of August 16-23, San Antonio area foodies will celebrate one of our favorite food-related events! Every August, Culinaria's San Antonio Restaurant Week spotlights the best restaurants in San Antonio. Our city is quickly developing a vibrant restaurant scene -- and this is the week the best restaurants in the city have a chance to show off their signature menu items! This week-long event is the perfect opportunity to try popular new restaurants, restaurants you’ve always wanted to try out...or even a restaurant that's a familiar favorite. There's literally something to suit every palate and every price range! Restaurants all over the city will offer three-course prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus in three different pricing tiers:
  • $15 lunch and $35 dinner
  • $10 lunch and $25 dinner
  • Restaurant Week on The Move: $8 lunch and $15 dinner
Restaurants run the gamut from casual eateries to upscale fine-dining...and everything in between. For me, San Antonio Restaurant Week is the perfect time to try out a new-to-me restaurant and try three menu items for a great price. Most menus include an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Michael and I will be visiting at least one restaurant next week, and we'll be sharing the experience for this month's The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out feature. You can visit the Restaurant Week website ahead of time to scope out each restaurant's special menu to see which one grabs your attention. The menu from Two Step Restaurant & Cantina especially caught my eye!

Two Step Restaurant & Cantina Restaurant Week Dinner Menu
1st Course:
  • Tomato & English Cucumber Salad with Avocado, Cotija Cheese, and Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette
  • Watermelon and Pineapple Salad with Feta Cheese, Cucumber, and Balsamic Pomegranate Vinaigrette
2nd Course:
  • BBQ Beef Ribs Spice Rubbed, Slowly Smoked and Glazed with Spicy BBQ Sauce 
  • Shiner Bock Shrimp Scampi with Jalapeño Bread Crumbs
  • 14 oz NY Strip with Habanero Butter
  • Choice of one side: Brussel Sprouts Sautéed in Butter with Bacon & Sweet Peppers; Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Corn Mashed Potatoes; or Roasted Corn Dressed with Cotija Cheese, Chile and Mayo
3rd Course:
  • Cobbler of the Day with Amy’s Mexican Vanilla Cream 
  • Banana Pudding with Nilla Wafers, Slices of Fresh Banana, Whipped Cream and Ice Cream
Photo courtesy of Duk Truk
Advance reservations aren't required, but they're a good idea since the most popular restaurants tend to fill up quickly. Simply call any participating restaurant directly to make reservations. Continuing this year is the popular Restaurant Week on The Move event, which features the best food trucks in the city. It's fun event is casual and family-friendly. It will take place this year on August 19th at Travis Park from 11oo a.m. - 200 p.m. Some of the participating food trucks include Chef Jason Dady's popular DUK Truck, Cheesy Jane's, and Saweet Cupcakes

San Antonio Restaurant Week benefits Culinaria, so your dining experience will also be a charitable one. For each meal ordered specifically for Restaurant Week, restaurants will donate $1 for lunch and $2 for dinner to Culinaria and the programs it supports. Culinaria is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to benefiting the San Antonio community and promoting San Antonio as an ideal wine and food destination. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Introducing the 5-hour ENERGY® #Yummification Video Contest...Featuring Pomegranate Pink Lemonade Sparkler

These days, it seems like having a crazy-busy schedule is a foregone conclusion. Like me, everyone I talk to seems to have a “to do” list that's a mile long -- and they feel like there’s never enough hours in the day to get everything done. Sometimes, we all need a little pick-me-up. From time to time, I pick up a 5-hour ENERGY® shot to give me a quick burst of energy in the afternoons. That said, its taste can be a bit…ahem…strong for my palate! The makers of 5-hour ENERGY® recognized this, so they recently announced their Yummification Video contest to find the best-tasting recipe featuring one of their ENERGY shots! Here's the details:
5-hour ENERGY® recently asked me to share this contest with my readers by creating a tasty Yummification beverage featuring any 5-hour ENERGY® shot of my choosing. If you’ve never tried this product, here’s some handy information:
  • 5-hour ENERGY® shots are dietary supplements that provide hours of energy and alertness.
  • They contain a blend of B-vitamins, amino acids, and essential nutrients.
  • They help people feel alert and energized for hours.
  • They contain zero sugar, zero carbs, zero herbal stimulants…and only 4 calories!
  • The amount of caffeine in a 5-hour ENERGY® shot is comparable to a cup of the leading premium coffee.
  • People may consume up to 2 bottles of 5-hour ENERGY®, spaced several hours apart. For moderate energy needs, simply drink half a bottle of 5-hour ENERGY®.

One quick note to keep in mind: 5-hour ENERGY® is not an energy drink or intended to be mixed with alcohol. It is not intended for children, women who are pregnant or nursing, or people with medical conditions. It does not increase physical performance, dexterity, or endurance – and it does not treat or cure any disease or medical condition. Do not drink more than two per day, and do not drink more than one at a time.

For my personalized Yummification beverage, I created a simple and fizzy beverage with only 3-ingredients, including the 5-hour ENERGY® Pink Lemonade shot. My Summer-perfect Pomegranate Pink Lemonade Sparkler is fruity and fizzy…and it gives you a boost of added energy too! Ready to see the recipe?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Staging an Applegate #Weinervention...Featuring Slow Cooker Hot Dog Chili

Today, The Weekend Gourmet is staging a #Weinervention! People, it’s time to change the way you eat hot dogs...so I’m partnering with Applegate to show you a healthier way to enjoy this American classic. A recent survey found that a whopping 92% of Americans bought hot dogs in the last year -- but  80% agreed that most hot dogs are low quality and unhealthy. When it comes to hot dogs, Applegate believes that it’s time for a “cleaner wiener.” More than 90% of people who eat hot dogs say they would rather purchase hot dogs with a short ingredient list, and that’s where Applegate steps in. The ingredient list for their hot dogs is simple: antibiotic and hormone-free beef, water, salt, and spices. That’s it, folks…no funky additives, preservatives, or mystery meat to be found!

Applegate recently provided me with a #Wienervention kit that contains all of the elements necessary to cook up a healthier hot dog feast. My kit included the following fun goodies:
Last weekend, I staged my own personal #Weinervention. I served my Applegate Natural Uncured Beef Hot Dogs two different ways: what I like to call Ballpark Style (with mustard, ketchup, relish, and diced onion) and Texas Style (with mustard, chili, and cheese). Michael absolutely loves chili dogs, so I knew that they had to be one of my menu options. 
For this occasion, I decided to step my game up a bit and make a healthier homemade chili topping. What I came up with was super-easy Slow Cooker Hot Dog Chili. It features lean ground beef, organic tomatoes, onions, and a few herbs and spices. Simply set this chili to cook in the morning, and you’re good to go by late afternoon/early evening. That makes this hot dog topper perfect for back-to-school dinners...or Fall weekend football-watching parties!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

POM Juice Blends Prize Pack #Giveaway...Featuring POM Hula-rific Smoothies

Staying hydrated is very important during the hottest part of the year…and August in Texas is definitely H-O-T! We keep cool and hydrated by drinking plenty of cold drinks. I prefer to stick with ice water and fruit-based beverages when possible. Today’s recipe for my POM Hula-rific Smoothies combines the best of both worlds: it’s refreshing, healthier than a milkshake…and it’s literally a tropical vacation in a glass! My friends at POM Wonderful recently sent me a trio of their POM Juice Blends to create a Summer blender treat to share with you. POM Juice Blends contain a light, refreshing blend of pomegranate and other juices. Juice Blends come in POM Mango (great for smoothies and mixed drinks), POM Coconut (a very hydrating blend), and POM Hula (blended with pineapple juice). All three 100% Juice Blends varieties taste great, but I especially love the POM Hula.

POM Hula Juice Blend contains 50% antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice, 30% tropical pineapple juice, and 20% apple juice. It’s flavor profile is a perfect balance between sweet and tart…making it a perfect starting point for my POM Hula-rific Smoothies. To maximize the tropical flavor of the juice, I added lowfat pineapple sherbet and a bit of cream of coconut. Chunks of frozen banana ensure that the end result is a thick and creamy smoothie. Even better, this smoothie is quick and easy to whip up…making it an easy afternoon snack or an on-the-go breakfast!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Weekend Gourmet Hits the Road...JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa Staycation

Sometimes, you need a quick weekend getaway -- someplace where you don’t have to drive a long distance or purchase an expensive plane ticket. Luckily, San Antonio has a perfect weekend staycation destination: the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. Located just a few miles north of Loop 1604, this resort is close enough for local residents to drive over in less than an hour…but far enough away to feel like you’re getting away from it all. Once you arrive, you’ll find everything you need for a action-packed family staycation…or a relaxing, romantic getaway for two! The resort offers a huge onsite water park, terrific dining options, kid-friendly activities, the TPC San Antonio golf course, and the full-service Lantana Spa. Michael and I were recently invited to visit the JW Marriot for a weekend to experience all that it has to offer. We left rested and refreshed…and we arrived back home Sunday afternoon with plenty of time to get ready for the upcoming work week.
We arrived at JW Marriott after work on a Friday evening, dropped our cars with the valet, and were quickly checked in. Before we knew it, we were settling into our spacious suite. The family-friendly suite featured a large bedroom, two bathrooms, a mini kitchen, large living/dining room area that can sleep at least two more people…and a fabulous L-shaped balcony that provided sweeping views of both the water park and the golf course. We started our staycation weekend with a fantastic dinner at Cibolo Moon, which features spicy Southwest specialties and a highly regarded tequila program. We were warmly greeted and quickly shown to our table. We started our meal with a duo of appetizers and one of Cibolo Moon’s award-winning Cibolo Staple Margaritas. Their handcrafted cocktails are made with fresh-squeezed juice and organic agave. The restaurant takes its tequila very seriously! In fact, they've been given an Award of Distinction Agave del Oro category from the Tequila Regulatory Council. We enjoyed sharing their Guacamole with Bacon & Onion and the Smoked Brisket "Burnt Ends." The margarita was tasty…and potent!
The guacamole was creamy and fresh, and the tortilla chips were warm...not the least bit greasy. The brisket "burnt ends"consisted of crispy smoked beef brisket pieces topped with blue cheese...perfect for rolling in house-made flour tortillas. We opted to go with seafood for our entrees. It was a warm evening, so I chose the light and refreshing Gulf Crab Salad with Avocado and Chili-Lime Chips. Michael selected the spicy Chili-Seared Shrimp with Cheese Grits. Both entrees were well prepared and tasty. My salad featured a generous amount of sweet lump crab, and Michael's shrimp were large and perfectly cooked. Both entrees paired nicely with Cibolo Moon’s signature biscuits and strawberry jalapeno jam. They came served in a mini cast iron skillet and are some of the best biscuits I’ve ever had – tender and moist.
We ended our meal by sharing a dessert duo: Blueberry Cobbler with Blueberry Ice Cream and Deconstructed Banana Pudding. Both desserts were comforting and delicious. We had never had blueberry cobbler before, but we loved the sweet-tart taste of the warm blueberries. The banana pudding was an updated version of a Southern classic, served with bruleed bananas and topped with a toasted meringue topping. It was the perfect sweet ending to a fabulous meal. After dinner, it was so convenient to simply walk back to our suite! Within 10 minutes, we were back to our room to unwind and get some rest. 
Our suite was spacious, with tons of great amenities -- WiFi, two flat-screen televisions, and even a working fireplace! The suite was literally the size of an apartment. Before calling it a night, I hopped into the suite's deep jetted soaking tub for a bubble bath. It was perfection -- a relaxing ending to the first evening of our stay at the JW Marriott. Saturday was going to be a busy day, so we were very thankful for the comfortable King size bed in our bedroom. 
Photo courtesy of JW Marriott San Antonio 
We woke up Saturday and enjoyed a casual breakfast on the large patio adjacent to our suite's spacious living and dining area. Since our room had a mini kitchen with a microwave and a mini fridge, I had brought some fruit and yogurt with me when I arrived. We paired the fruit and yogurt with a stash of extra biscuits that our server at Cibolo Moon was kind enough to give us as we left the night before. The biscuits reheated perfectly after a few seconds in the microwave -- before being slathered with butter and more of Cibolo M0on's tasty house-made strawberry jalapeño jam. 

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