Monday, June 10, 2013

Spotlight on San Antonio's Culinaria Food & Wine Festival

Last month, San Antonio celebrated the best food and wine in the city with the annual Culinaria Food & Wine Festival. This week-long culinary event features lots of great food and wine-related events. The festival featured restaurant dinners with wine pairings, a food truck event, a luncheon at Becker Winery, The Best of Mexico food fair, a brunch with Chef Johnny Hernandez, wine education seminars, the lavish Grand Tasting and the casual Burgers, BBQ & Beer  festival. With so much to choose from, local food lovers were positively giddy! This year, The Weekend Gourmet was invited to attend one of the Wine Taste Test Education Seminars and The Grand Tasting! We had a great time at both, and I can't wait to tell you all about them. 

First up on Saturday afternoon was an hour-long wine education seminar that featured two sweet white wines: Riesling and Gewurztraminer. I love a good Riesling, but I had never tasted Gewurztraminer. Heck, I wasn't even sure how to pronounce it before this informative seminar. The class was led by Stephen Kreuger, the sommelier at The Westin La Cantera resort. He is so knowledgeable about wine, but he makes it all very approachable for those of us who are still learning. He told us us about each wine -- including information on the growing region and grapes used, their flavor profiles and suggested food pairings. We sampled three to four glasses of both varietals. First up was the more-familiar Riesling. While my friend Rebekah and I enjoyed all of the wines, we both agreed that Dr. Loosen was our favorite, hands down. It was sweet and light, with a very slight hint of sparkle. We agreed that it was the perfect Summer wine -- light, juicy and easy to drink!
Next up were the Gewurztraminer. I had heard of this wine, but had never tasted it before this class. We sampled four different labels, and each one was a bit different in taste. We once again were in agreement about our favorite. This time, we selected the Becker Iconoclast 2012 from nearby Becker Vineyards. It was smooth and fruity, with a distinct floral backnote on the end. We really enjoyed this wine and agreed that it would pair nicely with cheese for a Summer appetizer.

I learned a lot from this wine seminar, and I found two new wines to add to my collection of whites. Can't beat that for a Saturday afternoon, my friends! After the class was over, it was time to head home and get dressed up to attend The Grand Tasting event later that evening. 

The Grand Tasting is basically a food and wine lover's dream come true! Imagine this: top local chefs prepare their signature items before your eyes, and large tables of wine are set up for attendees to sample. This allows you to interact with the chefs and ask questions. This indoor-outdoor event takes place at The Grotto at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in Downtown San Antonio. As you arrive at The Grotto, you're handed a Culinaria logo wine glass and start enjoying the tastes and smells of amazing culinary creations.  We enjoyed a wide variety tasty treats as we walked from station to station, inside and out. Here's a sampling of the amazing food we tasted that evening.

The inside room featured two large tables filled with red and white wines to taste, including a nice variety of local Texas wines. A salsa band was on hand to provide lively music that had guests dancing between sips and nibbles. Everyone was having a great time trying all the fantastic food and drinks. We enjoyed all of the food that we sampled, but two items stood out for Michael and I: the creative sweet corn mousse by Chef Jason Dady, and the spicy shrimp and grits from John Besh's Luke San Antonio. Chef Dady's recipe was a refreshing, modern spin on the Mexican street food staple roasted corn with lime and queso fresco. Luke's shrimp and grits was spicy and full of the Cajun-Creole flavors that we love. 

Once the Sun set and the temperatures cooled off, we headed back outside. There was a nice breeze, and the outdoor Grotto area and surrounding Riverwalk were awash in gorgeous colored lights. We took one last spin around the area to soak in the atmosphere...and enjoy a few more bites of the delicious food. Those carrot cake macarons pictured above were so good that I couldn't resist grabbing one more for the road! We left The Grand Tasting and walked along the Riverwalk back to our car, feeling satisfied and happy. We also came away with some great new options for dining out in San Antonio in the weeks and months to come. 

Disclosure: To facilitate this article, Culinaria San Antonio provided me with complimentary tickets to attend these two festival events. All opinions expressed are my own, and all pictures were taken by either me or Michael K. Garcia. They may not be copied, shared, or reproduced without permission.

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