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Value Vino: ‘Girly wines’ aren’t so pretty in pink

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

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We tasted these, so you don’t have to


Any kind of marketing at all is suspicious to some of us. Men’s insecurities are targeted by Cialis, their vanity by the-more-blades-the-better Gillette, but the blatant efforts being made in the wine world to pitch product directly to women seem especially insidious. Perhaps it’s a legitimate way to reshape a market in which, despite the fact that women buy most of the wine consumed, the product is nevertheless one largely controlled by men. But given the category’s emphasis on glittery, over-the-top labels and the implication that the contents are fun, often sweet, and in no way complex, forgive me if I don’t think so. Women are also said to have better palates.

A stroll down the wine aisles at World Market or most H-E-Bs is an eye-opener. Bottles of Italian Petalo Moscato, a blowsy rose on the label, cohabit happily with Sweet Bliss sweet red wine sporting a stemmed cherry erotically dripping chocolate. Even Central Market isn’t immune. Here, Sofia Coppola’s Sofia, a pink sparkler packaged in a four-pack of juice cans, complete with a built-in straw, flies off the shelves. (“They’re popular for indulging yourself while getting a mani-pedi,” admitted wine manager Heidi Holcomb. Sadly, I didn’t have one scheduled.) The 100-calorie Skinny Girl stood out at Gabriel’s Superstore.

The Skinny Girl product line was dreamed up by former Real Housewives personality Bethenny Frankel. Though Frankel sold the company, which also markets pre-mixed cocktails, in 2011, the Huffington Post recently called it “massively successful…one of the fastest-growing on the market.” A panel of both sexes gathered at the Current tasted the Skinny Girl White with these results: “This smells like a cheap wine,” “Not even re-run material,” “100 calories doesn’t sound that low…if there were a big difference, maybe.” (100 calories isn’t that low; an exemplary German Riesling would weigh in at just a few calories more per five-ounce glass.)

The 2011 Little Black Dress Divalicious White, a California blend of four white grapes plus 6 percent “other white,” fared only a little better: “I wouldn’t buy this but don’t actually dislike it,” “It’s a cookie wine,” “Maybe if I were going to watch You’ve Got Mail on mindless repeat…” Some detected a little green apple, but most agreed that “90 percent [of the target audience] would have no interest in what’s in the bottle; it’s all about branding.”

Another white, the non-vintage New Age, a blend of torrontés and sauvignon blanc from Argentina, might almost be picked up by an oblivious guy—or at least he wouldn’t be too embarrassed at the checkout stand. The image of a long-necked beauty is printed on the back of the back label and must be viewed through the bottle. Such subtleties did not extend to the wine itself. “Its carbonated edge [not mentioned on the label] seems accidental,” “Would be better as a cocktail or spritzer”—a suggestion that is made on the label.

The only purposefully spritzy wine in the lineup was a sparkling Italian rosé, prettily packaged in pink with bunches of bubbles. Iconoclastic Washington state winemaker Charles Smith makes Secco with “two Italian sisters”—but it didn’t rock the boat: “Avril Lavigne would drink it,” “It has a Sweet 16 look,” “It seems flat”…Yet there were mild dissenters of the “It’s the least bad wine so far” sort.

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Hit or Miss Eats at Kogi Korean Grill

Photo: www.paytonphotography.com, License: N/A

www.paytonphotography.com

The fluffy Korean flapjack—try it with Kogi’s beef bulkogi


I’ve never been much of a gambler in the traditional sense. I hate scratch-offs (they make my nails dirty), I’ve never understood over/under math and the only reason I’d go to Vegas is to watch Britney’s residency at Planet Hollywood. But part of my job is gambling—taking a chance on a new restaurant, visiting for my review, waiting for the menu roulette to stop and hoping to any sort of higher power that it won’t suck.

My luck ran dry at Kogi Korean Grill.

The restaurant took over the location of the first Cool Café on the Northwest side of town in mid-February. There weren’t very many bells or whistles, just a quiet little opening, but I had hopes for this strip center joint that promised a variety of kimchis and Seoul classics.

The no-frills space is a far cry from its predecessor with its bright green walls, Persian rugs and beaded drapes. In its place is somber wallpaper and black booths. Matter-o’-fact servers let you choose your own seating and leave you with the menu, which is broken down into starters and savory plates, rice and noodles, “From the Grill,” “East meats West,” specialty entrees, salads and “Seoul Food.” For starters, the menu’s an overwhelming mishmash of authentic, fusion and outright American eats.

My dining companion opted for country spring rolls; the flavor was spot-on, but their icy cold centers just bummed me out. The Korean Flapjack, on the other hand, was fluffy, light and just barely spicy. It would have made for a win, if the squid it was topped with wasn’t tough and rubbery.

Should have stuck with the bulkogi. Let’s call this breaking even. For our appetizers, I took the safe route and ordered the standard beef bulkogi of marinated sirloin with onions and garlic. The portion was decent, and there was no gristle to be found on the otherwise flavorful beef, but I was disappointed by the kimchi offerings. The standard was too watery, the turnip kimchi a bit too ho-hum, the tofu variation might have saved the sides but only by a hair. Another draw.

Over on her end, my dining amiga ordered the kimchi-fried rice with chicken. The rice was gummy and overcooked, likely watered down by the namesake kimchi, but the chicken was flavorful, tender and moist.

Frustrated, I returned for my lunch visit and decided to give more adventurous items a shot. Served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the lunch gets to the point by just offering few specialties, although the full menu is available. The description for the Kogi S.A. Burger was tempting, “toasted bun with beef bulkogi or spicy pork, fried kimchi, fried egg, Kogi sauce (which I suspect was a spicy mayo) and Pepper Jack cheese.” There were too many things going for the burger for it to go wrong, right? Kogi continued playing with my feelings by delivering a sad-sack burger and straight-out-of-the-bag crinkle-cut fries no Instagram filter could help. Memories of soy-based cafeteria patties filled my head—perhaps I’d have better luck at another table?

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Cocktails in Loopland: George’s Keep adds serious drinks to Eilan

Photo: Photos by Jessica Elizarraras, License: N/A

Photos by Jessica Elizarraras

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The marble-topped bar makes for an eye-catching entrance


If you’re one of the well-to-do Eilan dwellers who ably shells out the $1,500 a month for a studio or $3K for a two bed/2.5 bath apartment, I imagine finding your way to George’s Keep doesn’t require a compass. But if you’re coming from anywhere other than the European-style luxury development, finding the Keep might feel like heading to Erebor and looking for the Arkenstone (apologies for The Hobbit reference, but this is a serious quest).

Not content with owning two buzzed-about cocktail bars (Stone Oak’s Green Lantern and the Pearl’s Blue Box), owner Stephen Mahoney announced George’s Keep would join Sustenio and Piatti in adding some life to Eilan last fall. Mahoney brought Green Lantern’s Johnny Bernal and Steven Raul Martín (of NAO and Esquire Tavern) on board as general managers to curate a team of bartenders. The team was then asked to create two cocktail menus for each of the bars inside the Keep. One focuses on lighter spirits perfect for patio sippin’ (we’ll get to that in a sec), while the downstairs, or south, bar focuses on cocktails that pack a punch.

But before you take your first sip, you have to find George’s Keep. Much like its predecessors, Mahoney ditched signage, which makes finding the Keep … interesting. The trick is finding Piatti, heading straight up to the terrace level of the complex, passing the fountain—try to not wake up Smaug—going up the first main flight of stairs and taking an immediate left. You’re on your own if you plan on taking an elevator.

The completion of the bar took longer than originally expected, but it’s obvious why when you step inside and take in the attention to detail both on Mahoney’s side as well as that of his interior design team Courtney & Company. The place, which was originally used as storage for the hotel, is a vision.

Marble sits atop the first bar while backlit bottles line the shelves.

To the left of the L-shaped bar is a small seating area with a mix of booths and tables. Here, you’ll find the patio-friendly libations like the Mother’s Little Helper, a pleasant mix of pisco, vibrant hibiscus, lemon and sparkling wine, or the slinky Intimissimi, so named after the lingerie-producing Italian clothing label and equally seductive.

The patio is quaint, a dozen or so tables dot the left side of the terrace level. Once the sun starts setting behind the massive hotel in the early evening, there really is no need for the tables’ umbrellas.

Sure, Sustenio has cocktails and Piatti has its house libations, but George’s Keep’s is the only real cocktail parlor around these parts. Older brother Green Lantern gave folks outside the loop a taste for serious boozing, but the cocktail bar boom has been largey focused downtown … until now.

That fact is driven home further inside the swanky downstairs bar with its tiger-print wallpaper, great lighting and country club-esque leather booths that surround a copper-topped bar. The current soft opening menu is small but mighty, and my only quibble would be it needs prices so patrons can keep track of the damage. Even so, it features four drinks, each rocking a healthy dose of Italian bitters. You can’t go wrong with the bold Transatlantic with anejo tequila, Cocchi Americano aperitif, Gran Classico bitters and a delicate touch of peach liqueur.

The staff at George’s maintain their speed while churning out craft creations and doling out Tito’s and soda—and there were plenty of those to be had. I couldn’t peg the clientele for the life of me. For every button-down shirt wearing, perfectly coiffed bro I saw, a post-work out gal was to be found.

Laidback polos having post-shift drinks gave way to extension-clad, heel-teetering women, as bartenders poured rum and Cokes and 12-year Macallan on the rocks. Confusing, yes, but also strangely welcoming.

As with any Mahoney bar, things might take a turn sometime in the late evening as the party really gets going and the quiet bar takes on a livelier persona. You’ve got three choices: You either need to bounce, take in the show … or just keep drinking.

George’s Keep

17101 La Cantera Pkwy, Ste 1200
(210) 310-3733
3pm-2am daily
facebook.com/georgeskeep

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Flavor File: Block party at Dorcol, Bar America reopens and Easter brunch options

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Bar America’s back with some upgrades


Bar America opened this past Friday under new ownership. Brian Correa, grandson and nephew to former owners Joe, Martin and Angie Ramirez, took over ownership this winter and has rehabilitated the bar by adding necessary changes to the women’s restrooms and a new paint job. The bar will now accept debit and credit cards while also adding a full lineup of liquor to the offerings. All of it sounds fine and dandy, but the most controversial change is the addition of an internet jukebox. Correa said records from the original jukebox are being uploaded into the new machine, so patrons shouldn’t panic just yet. “Change is a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you ask, but we’re hoping to cater to all and stick around for another 30 years at least, to make it an even 100,” Correa said.

Dorcol Distillery is hosting “Surface2Art,” a fundraiser for Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum along with SATX Music on April 19 from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. The event will close down South Flores and La Chapelle for art exhibits, 16 DJs, food trucks, rakia tastings, tours of the distillery and music by Donnie Dee, District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal, Mexicans With Guns, Rise and more. Tickets are $7 in advance, $10 at the gate. Contact music manager Libby Day at (602) 568-0308 or Dorcol at (210) 229-0607.

A new Northside spot comes via Stone Oak’s Muelle 58 Cevicheria & Grill (19903 Stone Oak, Ste 202, (210) 267-5865). The seafood restaurant held a soft opening on March 28 and is serving up ceviche, tartare towers and tostadas.

Let’s talk Easter. Even if you’re not of the church-going persuasion, there’s no reason not to don your Sunday best and crash a few Easter brunches. Max’s Wine Dive (340 E Basse, (210) 444-9547) will serve Easter brunch (10 a.m.-3 p.m.) and dinner (4 p.m.-10 p.m.) featuring chef Justin Johnson’s spring menu. Max’s sister location, Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden (312 Pearl Pkwy, (210) 354-4644) will host its own celebration with Texas-style items by chef Jeff White including lobster carbonara pot pie and Wagyu hanger steak benedict. If you’re hanging with grandma, visit Earl Abel’s (1201 Austin Hwy, (210) 822-7333) for their Nutella “Thins” pancake special ($10) and full Easter menu ($19-$26). Look for a complete list of events at sacurrent.com.

It’s time for another foodie-focused event. Culinaria will host a Chefs for Chefs scholarship fundraiser April 28 from 7 to 9 p.m. The organization is ditching stuffiness by hosting a pop-up picnic at Brackenridge Park with chefs Jason Dady, Jesse Perez, Stefan Bowers, Robbie Nowlin, Mark Bliss, Bruce Auden, Johnny Hernandez, Steve McHugh and Jorge Hernandez of Austin’s Qui. Tickets ($50) can be purchased through Eventbrite.

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Market Eats: Crepelandia’s crepe factory

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It took Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby some time (and a bruised shoulder) to change his mind about crepes. And if you’re a Francophile you might have noticed a severe lack of them in our fair city. But when the mood strikes for one of these Parisian treats, don’t fret—there’s always market-favorite Crepelandia.

The booth isn’t much of a secret to market-goers who line up in droves for these Saturday morning staples. Owned by Marissa Schaeffer and husband Ted, Crepelandia began whipping up crepes at the Quarry Farmers and Ranchers Market almost three years ago as a side project to Good Gluten Free Foods, the Schaeffers’ original business, which focuses on, well, gluten-free goodies that don’t taste like cardboard. The duo made their way to the Pearl Farmers Market a year later where the little crepe stand has blossomed into a two-booth operation, anchoring the southern end of the market next to The Twig Bookshop, a coffee booth, YAPA Empanadas and Ming’s Thing.

On a recent Saturday morning, the Schaeffers had just finished expanding the operation to include 21 circular crepe irons (a few extra backups were left behind in the truck). Crepe-makers man two to three irons each, cranking out two pliable crepes per minute. The Schaeffers carry several coolers filled with prepared produce, cheese and batter—about 25 pounds of spinach, 15 pounds of kale and so. much. cheese. They’ll also run through 270 eggs, with 150 extra used exclusively for the crepe batter. On a good day, the army of crepe makers (Marissa leads the way with the help of two of her children and a few Culinary Institute of American-San Antonio students) will make anywhere from 400 to 500 savory and sweet crepes.

The menu usually includes five sweet crepes, two vegan crepes, three breakfast crepes and two lunch crepes. The Sunrise (egg, applewood-smoked bacon, avocado, tomato, three cheeses and spinach) is especially popular and has an entire station dedicated to its creation alone. There’s also something special about the plain Nutella crepe that’s heavy on the hazelnut crème. For the calorie-averse, Crepelandia carries a Veggie Supreme crepe which overflows with roasted mushrooms, kale, spinach, tomato and Daiya vegan cheese.

“People often ask for the vegan dosa (made with rice flour and lentils) with regular, non-vegan fillings because it’s crunchier than the regular crepe,” said Marissa.

Other offerings include rotating specials such as the Croque Monsieur with scrambled eggs, ham, Gruyere and a bit of strawberry jam, or La Huerfana, filled with roasted poblano and onion rajas, corn, cilantro, spinach and Oaxaca cheese. You can check the weekly market menu at crepelandia.com.

Although the summer is usually Crepelandia’s busy season, the booth saw an increase in fans this winter.

“We broke numbers again in February,” said Schaeffer, “which is funny because breakfast is such a neglected niche in this city.” My guess is the Schaeffers won’t have to strong arm San Antonio into loving these really thin pancakes.

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