Ron Kapon at the Culinaria in San Antonio, TX

Ron Kapon at the Culinaria in San Antonio, TX

I was invited to participate in the 4-day festival (May 14-18, 2014) known as Culinaria on behalf of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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. It showcases the culinary talent found in San Antonio, with its Latin and European roots. Culinaria provides culinary scholarships and aid to San Antonio’s chefs. The total attendance for the 2014 Culinaria Festival Week was 17,000.

Our first function was a sampling of foods from Sustenio Restaurant with Chefs Stephan Pyles and Mike Collins. The restaurant is founded on the principle of using local and sustainable resources- i.e.- farm to table. This was one of the best “tastings” I had during the festival.  The Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden served as the venue for the Blackbird Vineyards winemaker dinner. The wines from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux- Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are the inspiration for this Napa Valley wines.

Our early lunch was at Cured Restaurant with Chef Steve McHugh. The restaurant is housed in the administration building of the original Pearl Brewery. He had been Chef de Cuisine for Chef John Besh’s restaurants in New Orleans. Cured is a gastro pub with a Hill Country feel featuring craft beers and artisanal house-cured meats. I loved it.

Chef David Gilbert’s Tuk Tuk Tap Room featured Southeast Asian street food partnered with 60 craft beers. Chef Gilbert traveled extensively in Burma, Vietnam & Thailand for many years and wrote a book  called Kitchen Vagabond about his travels and career as a chef. This was a new experience for me.

Saturday morning we headed to the Pearl Farmers Market on the grounds of the former brewery. There is now a campus of the Culinary Institute of America, apartments, shops and restaurants there. The market is a producers-only farmers market so all the goods found there are hand-planted, raised and harvested within 150 miles of San Antonio.

By 10AM we had gathered at the Culinary Institute of America’s third campus (Hyde Park & Napa) for our 4-hour mini-boot camp in Latin cuisine. I rarely cook but under the guidance of Chef Sergio Remolina and his two assistants, our group prepared a glorious luncheon.

Next it was off to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center for the grand tasting. We were afforded early entrance and use of the Bubble Room (as in bubbly stuff). I went out to find food and brought it back to try with the Champagne and sparkling wines. There was even a separate dessert area. Yummy.

Sunday morning we took a private tour of the Alamo with an expert guide. Most of had heard the story before but it was great to see the actual site. It was brunch time at Casa Hernan. We had a traditional Mexican barbacoa brunch with Chef Johnny Hernandez at his hacienda. I still can’t believe I ate all that food. We departed for the new (2013) Briscoe Western Art Museum. The three story building houses artwork, sculptures and photography created by renowned Western artists.

A change of clothes and a shower and I was ready for a private event at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. Chef Elizabeth Johnson prepared a pop-up dinner made from local and seasonal foods that are nourishing and healing, bringing our bodies into balance. She encompassed the “root to stalk” usage of plants and food and served her Crave Market juices to help us eat, quench and thrive. After eating all that food for 4 days I was ready for her meal and felt satiated.

Ron Kapon

The Peripatetic Oenophile