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Sky High: Getting acquainted with Christopher Ware’s Paramour

Sky High: Getting acquainted with Christopher Ware’s Paramour

Food & Drink: Christopher Ware leads our group into a lofty conference space with mile-high ceilings, two giant wooden tables and possibly the comfiest... By Jessica Elizarraras 10/1/2014
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Value Vino: ‘Girly wines’ aren’t so pretty in pink

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

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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Bavarian Brauhaus Packs in the Brats

Photo: Casey Howell, License: N/A

Casey Howell

Oh, hey Reuben


Blame it on my love of accordions and early exposure to conjunto…but I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for German food. I was originally introduced to vinegary hot potato salad, brats and sauerkraut at Beethoven Maennerchor Halle und Garten in Southtown, where pals and I have congregated almost monthly to celebrate the end of the week.

And once you get a few beers in them, my pals often have the same lament: Why aren’t there more German/Czech eateries in town? Where can you find good spätzle? Why do we have to wait until Oktoberfest or Wurstfest to enjoy some tasty wurst? Well, we don’t.

Bavarian Brauhaus opened early this spring at the corner of West and Bitters with a tightly constructed menu and a thoughtful, but sparse, atmosphere that features German flags, fancy steins and several strands of globe lights hung throughout the inside of the eatery. Bavarian also doesn’t show a sign of compromise. The restaurant avoided the pratfalls of its suburbanite counterparts by forgoing a giant menu filled with just about everything to appease just about every type of customer.

Instead, chef Robert Blake, and owners Ralph and Carrie Richardson, built a varied list, heavy on the German nomenclature. Vorspeisen (appetizers), suppen und salat (soups and salads), hauptgerichte (entrees), sandwiche (I mean, really), beilagen (sides) and nachspeisen (dessert) are available, and there’s a small but fierce beer and wine list that includes Deutschland imports to wash down your meal.

My first visit, on a recent Monday evening (which happens to be $2.50 draft pint night), was met with a handful of male servers and runners (yes, quite literally a sausage fest), and aside from their attentive service, the wait staff also proved quite knowledgeable, pronouncing just about every menu item with impeccable German intonation. My dining pal and I settled on the wurst sampler ($10.99 for two, with a $3.50 charge for a third wurst) served with hot sauerkraut and fresh bread. We chose the bratwurst—regular and jalapeño—and added the currywurst to our spread. While the jalapeño featured enough heat, the brat was slightly overcooked. No worries, the standard option was spot on, while the currywurst was our hands-down favorite, as a sweet and mild tomato sauce elevated what would have been a traditional curry ketchup experience.

I committed to the pork (although an authentic veal variety was offered) wiener schnitzel while my dining companion loaded up on sides, and only sides. I can’t necessarily fault her—the red cabbage blaukraut was sweet, while the bratkartoffein (pan-fried potatoes and onions), and yes, more sauerkraut, was more than welcome and ridiculously plentiful. These are sharing sides, to be sure. But back to my schnitzel, which really did demand my attention. Flanked on either of the plate by cold German potato salad and slightly citrusy spätzle was a thin, butterflied cutlet, breaded, fried and delicious. The side of brown gravy available wasn’t entirely needed, but I wouldn’t push it away from the table either. We might have wrecked our appetites with the wurst sampler, but even so, the wiener schnitzel was huge…and yet, in case you do want to take on a huge hunk of pork, the menu offers a Texas schnitzel billed as “extra large.”

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Sizing Up This Year’s Crop of Pumpkin Ales

Photo: Jermaine Rogers, License: N/A

Jermaine Rogers

Don’t mind the cracked-out teddy bear


It is technically autumn in Texas now, and though it will stay shorts weather through Thanksgiving, other markers of the ostensible change of seasons are everywhere: college football games, network TV premieres and, most relevant to this column, a bumper crop of pumpkin ales. Oktoberfest is, after all, still half a month away. And just as the pumpkin spiced latte does for certain of the yoga-pants-adorned among us, the flavor of Linus’ favorite produce aids South Texans in our willful delusion that fall has befallen us in earnest.

Though I enjoy seasonal brews as much as the next beer correspondent, my experience with pumpkin ales is scant. My new-dad status has inspired more living room drinking recently; happily, the ever-expanding beer section at the H-E-B Plus! on 1604 and Bandera, and the expertly curated selection at the Quarry Whole Foods Market, have made it easy to get a survey of this year’s pumpkin ales. I began with the Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin and Wasatch’s Pumpkin Seasonal. Though I sampled a number of other bottles in the course of writing this column, they remained the highest pinnacle and most pitiful of the lot.

Worst first—the Pumpkin Seasonal failed to offer anything approximating the taste of actual pumpkin, landing somewhere closer to syrupy secondhand extract drizzled down into a beer bottle. Even worse, the be-drizzled beer tasted like a botched first attempt at homebrewing an amber ale, lacking all balance and any nuance. Coupled with its mere four percent ABV, there’s little to commend Wasatch for shipping this across Utah state lines.

The Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin was a different story. Improving on last year’s UFO Pumpkin ale, the Boston brewery blended that recipe with that of an imperial stout. Thus fortified, this beer provided everything the Pumpkin Seasonal lacked—substantial body, hefty alcohol ratio and no question as to its authentically pumpkin properties. Layering on cinnamon, nutmeg and creamy overtones, and unobtrusive hops, Imperial Pumpkin succeeded in reproducing everyone’s favorite Thanksgiving dessert—Mom’s pumpkin pie—in drinkable form.

Some honorable mentions fell between these two extremes. Southern Tier’s Pumking Ale has numerous devotees in the beer world, and while this year’s batch held up well as a solid cool-weather, high-ABV beer, the recipe went overboard on cinnamon, leaving an aftertaste akin to a handful of Red Hots. Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale claims to be the oldest in the country, turning up at the fall equinox on the regular since 1985; this year, at least, its unremarkable, malt-dominated profile does little to commend it against younger offerings. Some old-timers still held up, however. Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale is approaching its 20th anniversary and, with the typical Dogfish love for extremes, presented a bold, brown sugar-infused ale in a bottle featuring an unhinged teddy bear chomping down on a poor, innocent gourd. Happy (preemptive) Halloween.

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Sky High: Getting acquainted with Christopher Ware’s Paramour

Photo: David Rangel, License: N/A

David Rangel

Get familiar with Ware and the view from Paramour

Photo: David Rangel, License: N/A

David Rangel

Yes, New Year’s Eve party plans are in the works


Christopher Ware leads our group into a lofty conference space with mile-high ceilings, two giant wooden tables and possibly the comfiest meeting chairs I have sat on. Ever. I’m trying my best to be a fly on the wall at the meeting as members of Austin’s Strange Fruit Public Relations and Ware meet to discuss the final details on a press release that will effectively announce just about everything there is to know about Downtown’s upcoming rooftop bar, Paramour.

Betwixt the dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s of the press release—Ware’s actually extremely particular about how certain things are phrased and what verbiage is used to describe the bar’s details—the general vibe for Paramour comes to life. The bar, all 8,000 square feet of it*, sits atop the Phipps Building at 102 9th Street (we’re actually meeting in the Phipps building during this instance as it also houses Martin Phipp’s law firm, more on this later), where the majority of its square footage is made up by outdoor patio space.

But before you think about popping in with your pals, you’ll have to make sure your reservations through the bar’s website are set. The entrance will be on the river side of the building and a doorman will both screen for ID purposes and provide access to the fourth floor bar. Once you check in, Paramour is all yours.

If it seems a bit exclusive, well, that’s because it will be. This isn’t going to be your neighborhood Cheers, and there’s a reason for that. Paramour is Ware’s no-holds-barred take on a concept he’s coined as speakcraft, a hybrid bar. If Paramour was in showbiz, she’d be known as a triple threat—there’ll be cocktails, wine and beer for all levels of fandom.

To better understand where Ware is coming from with Paramour, we have to start at the very beginning. Yes, we could look at his previous work experience, which is nothing to sneeze at—two years as the Bar at Bohanan’s head bartender, followed by opening the lauded bar at Arcade—but the story of Ware doesn’t start there.

“I’d never been behind the bar until Bohanan’s,” Ware says.

Hailing from Amarillo, 32-year-old Ware has seen a fair share of adventure. After attending a private military grade school, Ware joined the Marine reserves while at Texas Tech University. He was eventually deployed to Iraq for seven months in 2005*. Upon his return, and having already completed his undergrad work, he took advantage of the Texas Veterans Commision’s Hazlewood Act, which provides up to 150 hours of tuition exemption to complete his masters in history at Tech. Fair warning, don’t get Ware started on history unless you can keep up.

Ware and his wife Britney’s first ever visit to San Antonio was for the Texas Tech-Michigan State game on January 2, 2010, when they stayed at a bed and breakfast on Beaureguard in Southtown. The weekend visit turned into a five-day traipse through the area, meeting Steve and Jody Newman, and falling in love with San Antonio enough to move down the following month. Ware was laid off from his job in medical sales and he dipped his toe into bartending by answering a Craigslist ad for the Bar at Bohanan’s.

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Knife & Fork’s $10K Makeover and Taco Day activities

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Saturday, October 4 is National Taco Day…which seems a bit silly for San Anto, but any excuse to load up on tacos, amirite? Viva Tacoland (103 W Grayson) will host a mid-day yoga-taco-music sesh. Stop in for a chamoy margarita, get bendy with Mobile Om ($10 donation for session) and of course, chow down on tacos via the onsite taco truck from 11 a.m. to close.

If you’re in the mood for a classier and more charitable affair, on Saturday, the Witte Museum (3801 Broadway) will host the second annual Tango of the Vines from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. The event will benefit the Amniotic Fluid Embolism Foundation, which raises awareness for this often-fatal maternal health complication. Look forward to food and drinks via Acenar, Becker Vineyards, Boiler House, Catalyst Catering, Charlie Wants a Burger, the SA Chefs Cooperative, Fiesta Winery, Hard Rock Café, Karbach Brewing Co., La Hacienda de Los Barrios, Lick Ice Cream, Max’s Wine Dive, Ocho, Paesanos Riverwalk, TBA Cocktail Lounge, Thai Topaz and more. Get your $60 tickets here.

If you didn’t volunteer to help Robert Irvine and his Restaurant Impossible team revamp Knife & Fork Gastropub (20626 Stone Oak Pkwy, Ste 103) this weekend, you can still put in your reservation for the grand re-opening on Sunday, October 5 at 7 p.m. by calling (210) 497-7111. The makeover marks the second time the beefy English import and his team remodeled a San Antonio eatery (the now-closed Mama Lee’s Soul Food got a facelift a few years ago). Even if you don’t make the reservation list, on-lookers can check out the progress for glimpses of the Restaurant Impossible host and his crew.

Know what goes great with bread? Delicious tejano history. The staff at Casa Navarro State Historic Site (228 S Laredo) will lead a quick seminar on “Pan De Campo: Tejano origins of the state bread of Texas” on Tuesday, October 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. The night includes an interactive baking party with tastings of the bread. Call (210) 226-4801 or email casa-navarro@thc.state.tx.us to reserve your seat.

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