The annual Culinaria Festival Week returns with even more chefs, tastings and dinners in a grander celebration of regional cuisine and culinary arts.
Culinaria is a local nonprofit that puts on Festival Week and other events to promote San Antonio as a prime destination for foodies and wine aficionados. Culinaria’s events also benefit the local culinary community.
On Wednesday and Thursday, several local chefs will craft menus paired with wine for a sort of intimate dinner out on the town.
The Pearl restaurants Boiler House and Southerleigh Fine Food and Brewery each will have special selections Wednesday, while Arcade Midtown Kitchen, J-Prime Steakhouse and Stella Public House will be featured Thursday.
Reservations can be made directly with the restaurant of your choice. Menus can be found at the Culinaria website.
The first major Culinaria activity, H-E-B’s Food Truck Event, will be held 6-9 p.m. Thursday near H-E-B Alon Market, 8503 N.W. Military Highway. Admission is $10 for ages 21 and older, $5 for those under 21, and free for 5 and under.
The admission includes event entry and beverages. Food from more than one dozen food trucks, ranging from Sabor Colombiano to Bite Street Bistro, is sold separately. There also will be a children’s play area, and samples at the H-E-B wine garden.
The Residences at La Cantera, 6215 Via La Cantera, will host a happy hour 5:30-6:30 p.m. Friday when visitors may prepare for that night’s major event, Best of Mexico, with tequila tastings, tidbits and more. Admission is $35.
Best of Mexico unfolds 7-10 p.m. near the falls at The Shops at La Cantera. There, local and visiting chefs will provide a culinary tour of Mexico with their own spin on traditional Mexican dishes. Patrons get to pair their food with a tequila sample, or beer or wine. There will also be live music and a silent auction. Admission is $50.
Suzanne Taranto Etheredge, Culinaria’s president/CEO, called Best of Mexico “our most historic event and a cross-collaboration of chefs from San Antonio and Mexico, highlighting our enriched local fabric and our culinary roots.”
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center is the place to be on Saturday. From 1-4 p.m., Tasting Rooms at the Grotto offers interactive cocktail demonstrations, chef deconstructions, wine panels and a cinema room. In so-called “districts,” visitors may learn techniques from renowned chefs, winemakers and mixologists. Admission is $50.
The main Grand Tasting event takes place 7-10 p.m. on the grotto/River Walk level of the convention center where select local chefs provide samples of their premium cuisine to go with wine, a silent auction and live entertainment.
Etheredge said the hands-on allure of Saturday’s tasting festivities should appeal to all kinds of patrons.
“Chefs and bartenders locally, regionally and nationally will be sharing their craft and teaching our guests how to make certain things. This is new and exciting for us,” she said.
Michael Sohocki of Restaurant Gwendolyn and Sandra Bullock’s Austin restaurant Bess Bistro will be among the local and visiting culinary talents taking part in the demonstrations. Jeret Pena of the Boulevardier Group, James Moore of TBA, and photographer David Rangel, whose clientele is a who’s who of local culinary hot spots, all will lead a cocktail activation during the tastings.
“These will be micro-tastings and various activities like making your own bitters, or take-home recipes, Etheredge said.
“We also have a wine activation with panels led by experts in the wine industry and even a movie room showing food and beverage-style movies. Our activations this year are really going to be beautiful and meaningful as well.”
Etheredge said the Grand Tasting will boast “an amazing confluence of cultural foods” thanks to a “night market” concept led by Chef David Gilbert of Tuk Tuk Taproom fame.
“Not to mention we have an amazing wine truck paired with Southerleigh with Chef Jeff Balfour that’s going to be very engaging,” she said.
VIPs will have access to the Grand Tasting Bubble Room (Lonesome Dove ballroom) from 6-9 p.m. where there’s early entrance for the grand tasting, and small bites prepared with high-end champagne.
There’s also the Grand Tasting VIP After-Party at 10 p.m. at Chef Jason Dady’s Tre Trattoria. This event is open to chefs and VIP ticket holders. Tickets to the regular and VIP Tasting Room are in limited supply, and formal attire is encouraged.
Local chefs put their own spin on burgers in the Burgers and Beer event 1-4 p.m. Sunday at Pearl. Visitors may pair their burger with a beer, cocktail or glass of wine. There will also be live music. Admission is $45 for adults, $25 for students, $10 for those under 21, and free for 5 and under.
Because Burgers and Beer has been held primarily outdoors, sprawling throughout the Pearl grounds, Etheredge said it’s important to help keep visitors safe and cool from the sunshine, a challenge that occurred last year.
“We’ve moved locations at the Pearl under U.S. 281 and we are thrilled that there will be shade. This is a small but very important detail to anyone who has ever been,” she said.
A Burgers and Beer VIP after-party is scheduled 4-6 p.m. Sunday at Arcade. It’s open to chefs as well. If that’s not enough, chef Johnny Hernandez and Jeret Pena will lead a tequila dinner 6-9 p.m. Sunday at The Fruteria to cap off 2015 Culinaria. Admission is $125.
Culinaria is again offering discounts to military personnel and people active in the hospitality/service trade.
Various Culinaria events benefit the organization’s Hope for Hospitality umbrella of programs such as Chefs 4 Chefs and The Urban Farm.
“This benefits those in the culinary community whether they are in need of educational support or medical support. We are here to offer that and support the talented chefs and mixologists that work so tirelessly to make our city enriched with flavor,” Etheredge said.
According to Etheredge, it’s a daunting yet inspirational task for Culinaria staff members and volunteers to put on Festival Week.
“We work with a host of chefs from the downtown area and throughout the city, we love to really capture the entire region of San Antonio’s restaurants and chefs, she said.
“I think it is challenge to reach out to all of them, and each year we have those chefs that continue to participate and those that are new and making it a new and diverse experience that really enhances the guest experience.”
*Featured/top image: From food trucks to fine dining, Culinaria Festival Week has something for everyone. Photo courtesy of Culinaria.