Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vacation: Hill Country Resort, Antlers Lodge

Still on vacation. I was talking to one of the staff here at the resort asking about "must try" places in San Antonio and was met with the same reply as I got from the concierge, "um. that's a good question" I was finally directed to a couple of pizza places but since I'm low carb-ing it those were out. I decided to try the resort's fine dining option at the Antlers Lodge. I wandered in early and they apparently let my t-shirt wearing self slide by their dress code policy (I was otherwise compliant).  Let me say, "wow!" this was an excellent meal, I only wish I went there three days prior so my girlfriend could have experienced the food too. 

They started off with a cheddar biscuit and laver with house made butter. Wait, house made butter? I had to question the waiter, "did you mean you house compounded the butter? or did you actually mean you guys made the butter?" Apparently they churn their own butter and added candied pecans. And apparently they mix it up and make various butters all the time.  It was quite tasty. The butter was very fluffy and light and I knew I needed to add a few more mins on the elliptical tomorrow.

I normally would have a partner in crime helping me with a giant order of food so I could taste everything. Fortunately, the hotel rooms come equip with a dorm fridge so my leftovers are chilling nicely. I started things out with the "cold lobster", which came with avocado and a cocktail bbq sauce with red onions and cucumber. Very tasty. I think I got a good amount of claw meat from the texture of the meat but the few pieces of tail meat were delicious.

Next was the Chicken Fried Oysters. The oysters were delicious, the crust was very thin and not too overwhelming. The sauce that you see was a paprika aioli, I still wonder if they used some cayenne too since the sauce had a bite to it. The jicama slaw was nice and refreshing to cleanse the palate. 

Pork belly was on the menu and that was a "must have". Pork belly and scallop (surf and turf) with a blackberry pear (?) chutney. I detected cumin or some other smokey flavors in the sauce. The scallops were tender to perfection and pork belly... well nuff said.

Finally my entree was the Venison chops I accompanied it with roasted mushrooms (they should take a cue from their sister restaurant and add the truffle oil). Wow! The venison was crusted in pecans and a mustard wet rub. The mustard really brought out a bright note and complimented the gamey quality of the meat. My very knowledgable waiter was 100% correct on pointing me to this dish. 

I'm going to have to go back and try the antelope since I'm here...  More soon!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vacation: Hill Country Resort

So it's about that time again. I've burnt myself to a crisp both in terms of life and work. I'm really bad about taking vacations for two reasons. First, I'm not a big fan of going out to a destination vacation on my own. I like sharing experiences and so I feel bad when my significant other is unable to accompany me. Two, I'm just bad at drawing my own boundaries even though I know how refreshed I feel when I do take time to unplug from my email and truly take time off.

Well I came up with a nice compromise I decided to jet down here to San Antonio and stay at the Hyatt Resort Spa. There's a lot of advantages to this type of vacation. It's not much of a destination, so I don't feel to bad since my girlfriend doesn't have the vacation time to spend on this vacation (we have others planned). It's close enough that my girlfriend could come up with me over the weekend and spend time with me. It's on a golf course so I get to try to see if I like golf. It's a resort! It's a place designed to make you chillax. And finally, it's next to Six Flags, so one of my day trips this week is to go and ride as many roller coasters as possible since kids are still in school!

Anyhow, I wanted to post on an nice little meal we had at the resort in the main restaurant. The restaurant is pretty good for a large kitchen restaurant. It caters to the bulk of the hotel guests and although pricey  it's not nearly as pricey as the higher end restaurant at the other end of the resort (I've got a post on that one coming too). However, I was taken aback enough my surprisingly good food on my last dinner with my girlfriend to take some photos and put a post.

First we got an appetizer, the "Tres Sopes". Their fried masa shells topped with a trio of meats. From left to right ground beef, shredded chicken, and chorizo. The chorizo was my favorite I think the flavor of the pork went well with guac and sour cream. The masa shells were very nice and flaky.

My girlfriend ordered the fish tacos. Mahi mahi  topped with a chili lime vinaigrette slaw and served with a tomatillo sauce. They grilled/toasted the corn tortillas and the whole thing had some great flavor. I thought the fish was a little over done but the flavors were nice. Presentation wasn't the best but again, this was main dining this was the place folks went to after a day out in the sun floating in the lazy river or walking around on the nature trail.

Finally for dinner I got the grilled Ribeye. Now if you've been reading you'll know that I'm very particular about steak, in fact I rarely order it out anymore since sous vid-ing at home always produces a better result. I didn't hold up much hope here either as the steak was about one inch thick and I had ordered it "medium rare". To my surprise they got it correct at medium rare. The steak was very flavorful and cooked well.  The biggest surprise for me were the sides! First up was a southwestern creamed corn. The side dish had a distinctly smokey flavor and the corn was extreme fresh, not that extra sweet stuff out of a can, this clearly came off the cob or they did a good job fooling me. The second side was a sauteed mushroom with a bit of truffle oil. The truffle oil really put the dish over the top, how else to get more mushroom flavor than to add oil infused from the king of mushrooms. Such a simple thing but totally added a touch to the dish that made it special I'll need to remember this trick and  put this in a bento somewhere.

Anyhow back to vacation. I hit those rollercoasters tomorrow!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kenyan Bento

I had a hell of a time getting the title photo into place. For some reason every time I tried to upload the photo it turned it on it's side. I was going to blame blogger for this but I finally fixed it by uploading via my mac. GRRRR. Who to blame? My browser or my OS. Ok.ok. in with anger out with love. WOOOSAH. 

Originally I was going to go with another Indian theme since curries seem to be very popular with my bentoers but then I remembered I have a co-worker from Kenya so I quizzed her a bit about Kenyan dishes and started my research from there. Like many cuisines, Kenya draws on influences of regions around the area, Arab, Indian, and surprisingly English cuisine. 

The main dish is called Kuku Paka, it's a chicken in a coconut based curry sauce. This is a nice combination of the Indian influences of curries as well as the English use of actual "Curry Powder". Curry powder (after digging around) was an English invention to mimic the flavors of Indian foods that the British discovered when they colonized India. The "gravy" of the curry comprises of a tomato puree and coconut milk. It's a lot thinner than an indian curry but has a great flavor with a twinge of sour from the tomato. This recipe says serves 4-6 so I doubled up and after serving 8 I *still* have 3 quarts of this stuff in my fridge (not necessarily a bad thing).

You can't have curry without having some rice. I didn't want to go with the same old basmati rice. This one is a quasi "fried rice" with turmeric, onion, cumin, and cayenne. The cayenne certainly packed a good punch. I liked that it was a simple and dresses up the rice with some flavor.

This dish is called Dengu. It's reminiscent of an Indian Dal. It's made with a green mung bean cooked with red onion and tomato but not cooked down as much as a Dal. I found the flavor to be a bit flat and my coworker had mentioned another dish to substitute as I believe she knew it was a little bland. I went for it because I had half a bag of mung bean to use up. (you'd be surprised what ingredients I have stocked in my pantry) Anyhow, I ended up adding a bit of lemon juice to punch up the flavor. I only added about three tablespoons to the pot and it brightened up the flavor and I couldn't even detect the lemon flavor.

Finally I wanted some vegetables to round things out and decided on this Sukuma Wiki. It literally means "stretch the week" which I take to mean inexpensive filler. I went with a mixed green of collard, mustard, and kale. I cooked this down and braised in some chicken broth. Very tasty and very good for you.

Don't know when my next bento will be. I'll be doing some travel so I might post something from my "near-cation".

Box Content:

  • Kuku Paka
  • Spiced Basmati Rice
  • Dengu
  • Sukuma Wiki