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6 Sinfully Good Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in SA

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Alamo Ice House Brings Hill Country to Downtown

Alamo Ice House Brings Hill Country to Downtown

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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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Happy Hour Hound: Hits and misses at Market on Houston

Photo: Jessica Elizarraras, License: N/A

Jessica Elizarraras

Ask for the tortilla chips with the mole


The redesign of the Sheraton Gunter this past April gave a bit of life to the hotel’s eatery. Now known as the Market on Houston, with an area that includes a deli line and sit-down restaurant, the eatery also includes a padded bar—no, really, there’s leather padding along the bar.

Happy hour, served from 4 to 7 p.m. is simple enough: $5 wine pours of house wine, $3 drafts and $6 Absolut vodka, plus $5 “foodie appetizers” or bar snacks Monday through Friday. While there are high tables scattered throughout the bar area, which also happens to have self-pour stations with several varieties of wine, the bar itself is the focal point. It could be the back wall, a glass- and bottle-lined area that commands attention, or the bar’s wooden details.

The beer list is decent. Of the eight taps available, craft enthusiasts could easily make do with a Shiner White Wing, Leinenkugel Orange Shandy, Deschutes Black Butter Porter or something out of Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company (sorry cider fans, the Woodchuck on tap isn’t on special). I ordered a Bob’s 47 Oktoberfest out of Missouri’s Boulevard Brewing Co. On the wine side of things, our bartender offered either a pinot noir or a chardonnay, with little details on origin or year to speak of (I would have bothered asking, but she really didn’t seem well versed or interested in such details).

The foodie appetizers, of which four were offered, were a bit of a miss. Jalapeño barbecue wild boar riblets, buffalo joes, honey-spiked Sriracha drummies and smoked mole are available, so we opted for the chicken wings (three to an order, so forget sharing) and mole. Although the wings had a crisp finish, they lacked the signature Sriracha heat, which was a bummer. The smoked mole on the other hand was hot and tasty, smoky with the addition of chipotle peppers and had a great dipping consistency. A charred dollop of goat cheese helped cool things off, but the only change we ended up suggesting was switching tortilla chips for the oregano-laced crostini.

The biggest draw is perhaps the anonymity available to the bar’s guests. A gaggle of business types chattered loudly; a couple drank whiskey neat out of tumblers (which they paired with chicken and rice from the restaurant); and my happy hour partner and I gossiped about the latest industry news. The lighting needs some work, but again, you’re not there to be seen (that’s what Lüke’s happy hour is for), you’re there to drink a few moderately priced brews, and maybe take in a snack or two.

Market on Houston

205 E Houston
(210) 554-1721
marketonhouston.com

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Alamo Ice House Brings Hill Country to Downtown

Photo: Jessica Elizarraras, License: N/A

Jessica Elizarraras

Cozy up at this patio, ASAP

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Cute pups are definitely welcome


There was a special kind of draw at Alamo Ice House on a recent Tuesday evening. A handful of weeks after opening its doors, Alamo Ice House played host to the release of Robert Earl Keen’s Honey Pils. Yes, THE Robert Earl Keen, was happily taking photos with fans, kissing babies and petting puppies, and discussing his new beer, brewed by the folks at Pedernales Brewing Company out of Fredericksburg.

The event essentially served as a grand debut of the ice house, owned in part by four wildly different dudes—three-time All-American Brooks Kieschnick, singer-songwriter Charlie Robison, restaurateur Ray Fuchs and barbecue guy Jaime Gonzales. Together, their love of barbecue, beer, food and cool as heck patios has turned into Alamo Ice House, a breezy country haven in downtown’s cement surroundings.

The ice house sits at the corner of Alamo and 8th Street, tucked away between mechanic shops and other nondescript buildings. Parking, even on this busy evening, was a non-issue. Folks biked over and there are several blocks of open spots to use. Once inside, the vibe changes and accommodates most bar-goers. Want to order a cool brew? Yeah, they’ve got several on tap and there are plenty of bottles and cans to choose from, including Austin Eastciders, Lone Star and yes, REK’s pils (on special for the evening), and you’ll still find big-name beers because not being obsessed with craft wares is totally fine here. Specials range from $1 off Texas brews to $2.50 longnecks, but check their Facebook page for updated offerings.

If you’re hungry for more, or need something to soak up said brews, you’ll find a teensy, but suitable menu of barbecue sandwiches, tacos and sides that get the job done. Three tacos come to an order and you can mix up the meats for an extra buck. I settled on brisket, sausage and pork, with pico and a drizzle of house barbecue sauce, and was pleasantly surprised. The tacos are more than filling, the pico’s fresh, but the only slight was the so-so flour tortillas. You can’t win them all, it turns out. The fries are run-of-the-mill, but give the potato salad a shot. Red potatoes cooked just right, crunchy celery and a good shake of pepper make this a side worth not sharing.

The indoor area, crowded with tabletops to one side, houses someone’s (I’m guessing Robison’s) collection of vinyl covers on the far right side, while photos and artwork of the Alamo and barbecue fill the other walls. If there was one hiccup that evening, it’d be the bustling, and seemingly unexpected, turnout that overwhelmed servers and staff. Surely something that’s easily fixed for next time … otherwise, the staff was friendly and as effective as could be.

The gravel-filled, pet-friendly patio is home to several picnic tables, fire pits that will come in handy in the foreseeable future, a handful of lawn chairs, globe string lights and a few games of washers, but the highlight is the stage. This is a music venue through-and-through, as a rustic setup you’d easily find anywhere north of 1604 on the way to Fredericksburg, Boerne and other Hill Country joints takes up the back portion of the patio. Alamo Ice House plays hosts to all manners of country music so expect to find the likes of the Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash on Red Dirt Saturday Night, Kyle Wilson on Honky Tonk Wednesday and country crooners on Outlaw Thursdays. And the sound system holds its own quite well.

Other than country lovers dying to boot ‘n’ scoot without leaving the safety of 410, guests range from downtown socialites, Southtown cyclists in full Spandex and other chill mofos just looking for a great patio to converse on. You don’t have to wear your most capable Stetson to enter, and you definitely won’t have to impress anyone with your beer of choice for the evening (or bring an extra koozie to hide that Bud Light can), but you might have a new favorite patio at Alamo Ice House.

Alamo Ice House

802 N Alamo
(210) 758-5151
alamoicehouse.com

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YAO Food Truck Delivers Asian Goods

Photo: Jessica Elizarraras, License: N/A

Jessica Elizarraras

Spring for the steamed buns


There are two things to love about the YAO food truck. The first being the truck’s actual mobility as it hops along from lunch gig to lunch gig without so much as a pattern. You’ll just as easily find them downtown at Travis Park or Weston Centre as you would places off Loop 410 or Broadway. They’ll come to you, but they’re also easy enough to find around town. The second thing is the food that oozes of freshness and a chef’s balanced palate.

Created by chef Jose Benitez, who’s the culinarian behind Bite Street Bistro food truck and Red - A Bite Street Bistro Deli, YAO delivers a melee of Asian bites at reasonable prices. A recent visit to Travis Park featured a varied menu of entrees that includes miso-glazed udon noodles with chicken, jalapeño cilantro fried rice with hoisin-glazed hog shanks, braised pork belly steamed buns, pork pot stickers, Szechuan beef, egg rolls and kimchi fries with prices ranging from $6 to $9.25.

My lunch partner and I each ordered two items—maybe we were enticed by all the descriptors, or maybe the menu really is that appealing. I can’t decide. My order of braised pork belly steamed buns offered a twist on the ordinary as slices of pork belly were pan-fried and topped with fresh daikon radish slaw and jalapeños. The pillowy buns, three to an order, were sweet and held their own against the hefty feeling. I’d definitely order these again. The egg rolls, five to an order and rather large for $6, were crisp and savory, maybe the best I’ve had in quite some time.

Then there was the matter of the Szechuan beef that was mildly hot and could have used a hit (or seven) of Sriracha, but was still plenty flavorful. A sucker for anything kimchi, I ordered the kimchi fries hoping to find a mound of the spicy fermented cabbage … but alas I did not. What I did find was a batch of home fries, marinated short ribs, spicy mayo, green onions and loads of jalapeños. Great flavors, but this über decadent dish is likely best when shared and after a few strong cocktails. I’m not saying it’s drunk food, but I wouldn’t push these fries away then either.

We happened to order our meals just as a pair downtown business dudes ordered theirs, so the wait was longer than expected, but not entirely awful. Do yourself a favor and follow this truck to satiate that noodle craving.

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6 Sinfully Good Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in SA

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Courtesy

Guilt-free cheesin’ at Green


Cheesy Jane’s
Multiple locations, cheesyjanes.com

If the name is any indicator, this San Antonio staple doesn’t mess around when it comes to cheese. With the wallet-friendly price of $4.99, the Triple Grilled Cheese includes cheddar, Swiss and pepper jack topped with tomato and garnished with pickle slices. It’s the perfect no-frills, comfort food experience worth sitting down for (their food truck menu doesn’t include grilled cheese).

Best with: an order of hand-battered onion rings and a milkshake—choose from one of 15 flavors.

Lion & Rose British Restaurant & Pub
Multiple locations, thelionandrose.com

Ask one of the UK-born regulars at this British-themed neighborhood pub about “cheese on toast,” and they’ll tell you it’s better across the pond. Still, Lion & Rose does it justice with the Jester’s Grilled Cheese ($5.99). Cheddar, American and provolone combine with toasted sourdough and (optional) hickory-smoked bacon or black forest ham to create a greasy sammie that soaks up the alcohol, but won’t make you regret your late-night nomming. In a place where the chef proclaims, “the gooier, the better,” and the kitchen is open till midnight, you can’t go wrong.

Best with: a pint of the Krombacher Pils on tap for its full, citrus taste.

Boiler House Texas Grill & Wine Garden
312 Pearl Pkwy, (210) 354-4644, boilerhousesa.com

It’s a good thing the Cowboy Up Grilled Cheese Benny ($15) can only be found on the brunch menu (served Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.) because a date with this sandwich requires commitment … and a fork. The triple-decker featuring brie, provolone and queso blanco, also comes with tomatoes, bacon, two soft poached eggs and house-candied jalapeno pork sausage. “Honestly, people have asked me if I was smoking when I came up with it,” Executive Chef Jeff White quips. “But I just wanted to do something big, something unexpected. And once you crack that egg yolk—forget about it.”

Best with: mimosa(s) of the orange or grapefruit variety.

Max’s Wine Dive
340 E Basse, (210) 444-9547, maxswinedive.com

If you’re a traditionalist who believes grilled cheese should be accompanied by a bowl of tomato soup and a great glass of wine, this is your place. Max’s serves up Gruyère, provolone, mozzarella and roasted red bell peppers on toasted artisan bread for $14.75. It also comes with crunchy parmesan and parsley-dusted potato chips. But if we’re being honest, the best part is definitely dunking it in the creamy tomato soup.

Best with: a glass of Shiraz (The Lucky Country comes recommended) or Malbec (try The Last Judgment).

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Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
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