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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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Chicken with a Cult Following at Pollos Asados

Photo: Bethany Rogers, License: N/A

Bethany Rogers

Keep it simple—and tasty—with these inspiring pollos


It’s late on a Sunday morning, and the crowd that will soon fill Pollos Asados is just beginning to dribble in. Outside, the smoke from both Pollos Asados’ food truck and the charcoal grill annex wreaths the low-slung building in a fragrant haze: mesquite with an hint of incense. If there’s an object of veneration here, it’s the namesake chicken gilded with a chile rub and further bronzed by the hot-burning fuel. This is why you’re here. Step right up.

The eatery is all hard surfaces inside, so the worshipers turn out to be a lively crowd—especially when the background is the blare of conjuntos norteños. You gotta love accordion. But it all feels right, down to the Mexican soccer games on the TVs and the no-nonsense attitude of the feisty and efficient waitresses. Your medio pollo will set you back a modest $7.69 (the whole bird is $12.99), arriving faster than a hail Mary with acolytes of bacon-y frijoles charros, simple but savory rice, a charred onion half, a single chile toreado and tender corn tortillas, all flanking the chicken cradled in a burger basket. Pull a passel of tiny napkins from the dispenser before tucking in.

Though modesty forbids, I could live on the beans alone; their deep flavor is the kind that inspires home cooks to engage in fruitless alchemical experiments to recreate it. The onion, wrapped in aluminum foil after its charring so it continues to steam and soften, is another less-is-more triumph. The chicken itself is robed in crisp skin yet moist within, with the best flavor coming from the dark meat—no surprise there. Eat it straight from the bone or tuck some into a tortilla with onion and a lashing of the squirt-bottle salsa; it’s disarmingly minty in color and an odd but appealing combination of picosa and cremosa, in fact. Squirt away.

Pollos Asados could justify cult status on the basis of its pollos alone, but as it happens there are short-of-burnt offerings from an indoor grill as well. The fajitas, a half a pound for $9.59, are almost suspiciously tender but taste of a proper, peppery marinade and have been grilled with bell peppers and onions. They would show well against the city’s other shrines to sizzling skirt, and may even best the chicken as a whole-taco experience with (so-so) pico, avocado, some of the even curiouser warm, red salsa and a grilled, sliced jalapeño.

Other carnes asadas include sirloin (the top-of-the-line offering at $19.89 a pound) and costillas de res ($12.99), but if we were to try one other thing on the menu, it would be a burger. Seriously. But not the Clasica or the Norteña with queso asadero y mas–rather the Salchiburger that’s a mix of beef, grilled sausage, asadero cheese, avocado, chipotle sauce and grilled onion. At $7.89 this is clearly not a bargain like the chicken; the whole bird would easily feed four reasonable folks, given all the sides. But if you’re going to order a burger, it might as well have cojones.

Pollos Asados los Norteños

4642 Rigsby
(210) 648-3303
The Skinny Mesquite-grilled pollo prevails at this jumpin’ Eastside joint; fajitas aren’t far behind.
Best Bets Half chicken with all the sides, half pound fajitas with all the sides
Hours 11am-10pm Tues-Sat; 11am-8pm Sun
Price $7.69-$19.89

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Leave Politics at the Door at Second Angry Elephant Bar

Photo: Bethany Rogers, License: N/A

Bethany Rogers

This pissed-off pachyderm packs a punch


Tucked away in a corner of the Boardwalk shopping center (across from the Dominion) you’ll find a spot that always seems to be looking for its perfect tenant. Many an owner has tried to capitalize on this potentially lucrative space off Boerne Stage Road, and nearly all have failed. Notable attempts include Chango’s Havana Club, which extolled good drinks, good music and fine art, and Tony Parker’s Nueve Lounge, which was supposed to bring “New York to San Antonio.” The most New York thing about this area is the Subway sandwich shop just a few doors down.

The problem with these previous endeavors was that they were trying to exude class while existing in a strip mall. Who wants to pay a valet $15 just to see your car parked in front of a Double Dave’s and THEN pay a cover charge? Come on!

With its newest tenant, The Angry Elephant Cigar Bar, it looks like this location might finally have a keeper. And it’s all about the approach.

This Elephant is a refreshing change of pace from the overwrought, stuffy ambiance of its previous tenants. Benefiting from the alleged $40,000 Tony Parker poured into renovations when it was Nueve (beautiful woodwork, subdued track lighting, two posh bar areas, etc…), the space is nicely balanced by a bit of kitsch.

In keeping with the partisan theme found at its sister location off 281 North, images of political figures adorn nearly every wall of the Elephant. Up along a doorframe you have Reagan leaning, watching you drink; between two dartboards there’s Obama, depicted pounding some Guinness like an irresponsible frat boy. And in the “VIP” area, we have Teddy Roosevelt riding a moose. A fake photo, sure, but one that could win the internet some 95 years after TR’s death.

While the look has changed, the clientele remains the same as it ever was. Thirty- and 40-year-olds dressed in everything from polos to Spurs shirts (albeit nice Spurs shirts) dance the night away to surprisingly good live music (a festive mix of Top 40 and “classics” such as “Your Love” by the Outfield).

There is a good energy and vibe to the place and it only grows as the night wears on, no doubt aided by the impressive drink selection.

On the booze front, this pissed-off pachyderm is packing. The main bar is stocked with nearly every type and brand of liquor you can imagine, from Tito’s and Ketel One to Monkey Shoulder and Jameson. And if you love Knob Creek, well, so does the bar (or they really love the sales rep). If the Kentucky distillery produces it, chances are the Angry Elephant carries it. Rounding out the drink selection is the typical assortment of domestic and imported beers (bottles only), and a nice selection (20-plus) of red and white wines.

Bartenders, such as Kelly, were friendly, attentive and fired up a cucumber martini ($6) just as quickly as they did a Texas Kicking Mule ($8) (their signature drink made with Tito’s, ginger beer and jalapeño. It’s ice cold and has a nice bite, a drink for sipping). If your tastes skew a little sweeter though, try The Happy Elephant ($6). The Pinnacle gin, fresh-cut strawberries, basil and lemonade created a drink that tasted pleasantly like a Fruit Roll-Up.

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Happy Hour Hound: Boozy sangria at Lisa’s Mexican Restaurant

Photo: Jessica Elizarraras, License: N/A

Jessica Elizarraras

Margs so large you could almost swim in them


The bartender’s name is Pancho. He’s a portly fellow with graying dark brown hair, a pencil-thin mustache and a friendly demeanor. Good thing, too, because Pancho served as our one-man welcoming committee to this Happy Hour Hound visit to Lisa’s Mexican Restaurant.

Held Monday through Friday from 3 to 6:30 p.m. inside Lisa’s Bar Mosaico, this particular happy hour helping holds its own. The bar itself is curtained off (with a heavy beaded curtain, no less) from the main dining room. Once inside Mosaico, you’ll find a fun mishmash of lighting options including several chandeliers and colorful holiday lights strewn about, but the lounge feel persists.

While the selection of beer offers scant craft options–against the current trend–it’s hard to turn down a $1.75 bottle of Bud Light, Budweiser, Lone Star, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Michelob Ultra or Shiner Bock. The beer is served ice cold, but you’re there for the house margaritas.

Served alongside Spanish sangria (more on this in a minute), house mixed drinks and a cosmopolitan (what is this, 2004?), the house marg is available in two sizes, small and large, at $4 and $7.50, respectively. If you make it to Lisa’s with only 30 minutes to spare before Happy Hour comes to an end, spring for the large and sip contentedly from the boozy and citrus-y offering that comes in a frosty fishbowl-esque glassware.

You’ll need something to soak up the tequila, and Lisa’s offers $5 appetizers to satiate most appetites. Sopes, quesadillas, super nachos, chips and queso, and queso flameado (served on a piping-hot mini skillet) were enticing, but Pancho talked us into La Botanita. More than enough for two people, the plate presented to us contained three bean and cheese nachos, more cheese by way of a quesadilla, two freshly fried chicken flautas and the accompanying iceberg lettuce, pico, sour cream, a dollop of guac and plenty of jalapeños to go around.

It was just enough food to help balance out the Spanish sangria, which Pancho layered into a Hurricane glass. The mixture starts with Midori melon liqueur, apple Pucker, a splash of pineapple juice, frozen peach schnapps and house red wine, all coming together to create a beverage that lacks authenticity, but makes up for it with sweet and sour notes–just make sure to give it a good stir.

Come Fridays, Pancho warned, the crowd gets a little more festive and a DJ spins tunes until midnight, but if you’re looking for a chill mid-week escape, make it out to Lisa’s and keep it puro in this Westside oasis.

Lisa’s Mexican Restaurant

815 Bandera
(210) 433-2531
lisasmexican.com

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