Friday, April 7, 2017

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for April...Featuring San Antonio's Restaurant Gwendolyn #WGDinesOut

This month, The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out featured restaurant is Restaurant Gwendolyn, which is located on a quiet corner of the Riverwalk in Downtown San Antonio. Restaurant Gwendolyn has consistently been named one of the city’s very best – and most innovative – restaurants since its opening in 2010. It's also the only restaurant in San Antonio that is 100% local and sustainable. Chef Michael Sohocki’s approach to food and cooking is definitely old school – as in before the industrial revolution occurred around 1850! This food philosophy means Restaurant Gwendolyn’s kitchen has no blenders, mixers, choppers, deep fryers, or anything else with a motor. Additionally, all perishable ingredients are sourced within 150 miles of the restaurant. Chef Sohocki personally knows the ranchers and farmers who supply the kitchen's ingredients, and he buys directly from them to ensure their supply chain remains small and visible.

Restaurant Gwendolyn's menu changes nearly daily and features fresh seasonal ingredients. The food that comes out of its small kitchen is pure magic! Michael and I enjoyed a fabulous multi-course dinner tasting at the restaurant that was a very special culinary experience. The food was creative, but approachable…and the wine pairings selected for us were spot on. We were seated at the restaurant’s Chef’s Kitchen Table, which was an unexpected surprise. It was amazing to watch Chef Sohocki and his team work in synergy to create the menu items we enjoyed. We arrived and were warmly greeted by the restaurant’s general manager, who showed us to our seats in front of a large glass window looking directly into the kitchen.
This was our first time to dine at a Chef’s Table, and it was a fun and educational experience – a show to go with our dinner, you might say! We were brought flutes of chilled champagne to enjoy while we settled in and looked at the evening's menu. We were there to feature Restaurant Gwendolyn’s San Antonio Restaurant Week menu...but they had a few surprises up their sleeves for us too. Not only did we enjoy the Restaurant Week menu – we were served additional menu items with wine pairings AND a selection of delicious house-made charcuterie and cheeses! The entire dining Restaurant Gwendolyn dining experience lasted nearly 3 hours from start to finish. The food was delicious to eat and gorgeous to look at  and the kitchen's creative presentations included a touch of theatrics! We enjoyed our champagne – my personal favorite – while we watched the organized activity going on in front of us in the kitchen. Our first culinary surprise was a display of house made charcuterie, cheeses, and accompaniments – including delicious bread and butter. 
Everything on the charcuterie platter was creative, delicious, and artfully displayed. However, we especially enjoyed the unique amberjack bacon, tart lime marmalade, and mild fresh blue cheese. Even better? Miles Davis music was playing in the we took our time and savored our food. After our charcuterie and champagne starter, a lovely amuse bouche made its way to our table: two shooters of Smoked Ham and Egg Custard. It was rich and flavorful – a perfect little bite! Our First Course dishes included the wildly creative Potted Plants and Consommé with Gougeres. The Potted Plants included a variety of roasted root vegetables topped with a edible “soil” made from charred black olives and quinoa. 
The presentation was amazing – and the depth of flavors was earthy, with a slight sweetness from the roasted vegetables. Michael’s consommé may look deceptively simple – but it was crystal clear and intensely flavored. The cheese gougeres floating on top were perfectly executed. Our meal was off to an amazing start!
Michael selected a seafood entrée, which featured pan seared amberjack fish, white bean ragout, and a sweet-savory butternut squash gratin. My entrée was Braised Beef Ravioli with Beef Demi Glace, paired with a lovely cabernet. The demi glace was reduced until it was rich and deeply flavored, the fresh pasta was perfectly al dente, and the beef filling inside was insanely tender and beefy. This was definitely some amped-up comfort food!
When it came to dessert, Restaurant Gwendolyn blew us away with its inventive combinations of flavors and textures – and even a bit of theatrics! My Smoking Juniper dessert featured a juniper gin fizz cocktail shot, black pepper-juniper ice cream, black pepper meringues, grilled citrus pound cake, a tart citrus curd...and a bit of smoking juniper wood. It came to the table in a cloud of smoke – which provided both visual appeal and an added depth of aroma. 

What a fun dessert! Michael’s dessert resembled a rock garden and featured beet ice cream, kumquats, chocolate crumble, and candied citrus zest. This dessert wasn’t overly sweet, and the lightly sweet earthiness of the beet ice cream worked really nicely with the cookie-like chocolate crumble. It was almost too pretty to eat...
With that, our memorable dinner at Restaurant Gwendolyn was over. We left satisfied on so many levels! The food was excellent, watching our meal being prepared in the kitchen was educational and entertaining, and the ambiance was casually elegant. If you think San Antonio dining is only about Tex-Mex and chicken fried steak, then think again! The fine dining experience at Restaurant Gwendolyn is on par with what you’ll find in any large U.S. city. Whether you’re a local resident…or you find yourself at a Riverwalk hotel while visiting our city…Restaurant Gwendolyn should definitely be on your short list of dining options in this city!

Disclosure: Restaurant Gwendolyn provided us with a complimentary dinner to facilitate this post. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

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