Up until this July, I had never been to Texas. My husband was actually born there however has never returned. This year’s USPCA (United States Personal Chef Association) conference was being held in San Antonio and I can tell you that I was more than excited to attend. Initially, I was looking forward to be surrounded by other chefs, like myself, but as the departure date drew closer I knew I was going to have fun exploring the culinary world of the South. Not liking to fly, I choose to drive the 1200 miles to San Antonio via New Mexico. Yes, I was avoiding the planes but I validated the LONG two day drive there (and back of course) with the fact that I would be doing research along the way…aka tasting, eating, shopping etc.
Without turning this blog into a novel, I can say that I was truly amazed with how much I enjoyed San Antonio. History and geography were not my strong points in high school, however I soaked up every detail of how San Antonio became to be so diversified and found it amazing. Of course, I look at details differently than I would have years ago. I tend to focus on the culinary trends and what influences particular areas. San Antonio is unique in that its history includes German, Spanish, Mexican, French and Indian influences that are still evident today.
Our guest speakers at the conference did a wonderful job at describing the diverse cultural makeup of the area. Latin Chef Johnny Hernandez owns several restaurants in and around San Antonio as well as other states. His story is one to savor and his passion for food, tradition and family I found admirable. Of course following it up with a fantastic meal at his restaurant La Gloria was a treat.
I took a Texas BBQ class from Chef Brian West and it changed my opinion of BBQ entirely. My personal experiences with true BBQ have sometimes left me questioning the amount of smoke, off flavors and dryness. After tasting Chef West’s BBQ Brisket I knew I needed to explore more in the BBQ world. I will be experimenting in the near future. Chef West can win anyone over with his personality and smile but shows his true colors by acknowledging you as you enter his amazing restaurant Smoke. A must for anyone visiting San Antonio.
Most people who travel focus on popular attractions. I focus on food and all things related. So no one would be surprised to hear that I fell in love with the Central Market in San Antonio. The best way for me to describe Central Market it basically like a Whole Foods merged with Trader Joes on steroids. You can not help but fall in love with this market. And to top it off it has a recreational cooking school upstairs! I took three of there classes and highly recommend anyone visiting the area to do so.
Last but not in the least, one of the best reasons to visit San Antonio, is the River Walk. I was lucky enough to have stayed right on the River Walk and was immediately in awe of how beautiful and festive it was. Yes, it was summer time and crowded like Disney Land and gave sticky buns a new meaning, but the energy of the people was contagious and fun. River taxis are so much more fun! And of course the food and the food and the food! There were a lot of tourist like restaurants however among the chains there were some fantastic restaurants that are truly pushing the envelope in creativity. The culinary world is alive on the River Walk.
In short, yes a trip to Italy, Spain, of France would be nice, however I have discovered there are a lot of places in the United States that are well worth visiting. I am always amazed at the cultural diversity that is just a day’s drive away.
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