Fire Up the Grills

Event Review by Meredith Kay

Within the first five minutes of this year’s Burgers, BBQ & Beer event, my twelve-year-old son, Scott, took off running, and I had no idea where he went. He’s known for doing this, and when he resurfaced several minutes later, he was informed that he was, in fact, grounded for the rest of the week. He had wandered down the hill, and had returned eating a burger that he deemed, “the most amazing burger ever,” and although his disappearing act resulted in his grounding, he also stated that, “it was totally worth it.”

Culinaria Week, here in San Antonio, has traditionally wrapped up with this casual, outdoor event on Sunday afternoon, following several days of gustatory gluttony. It is one of my favorite foodie events of the year. Chefs, who have been cooking tirelessly for days, during Culinaria’s signature week, get to let loose and have a little fun at Burgers, BBQ & Beer. After all, who doesn’t love a great burger? Walking the grounds, and sampling the burgers and barbecue offerings, it’s hard to remember to pace yourself. I always want to eat the entire burger, but there is only so much space in the human stomach. Only that old cartoon character, Wimpy, could actually eat the bounty of burgers present at this year’s event. To really take advantage of this event, and try everything, one must take the stance of a wine tasting, and just sample the food, not consume all of it.

Upon entering the multi-level event, on the grounds of the beautiful La Cantera Resort & Spa, guests were greeted by HEB row, one of Culinaria’s largest sponsors. Of course, my friend, Allen Lansing, and I headed straight for the beer line, while my daughter, Sienna, scooped out the gourmet ice cream table. Scott was nowhere to be found at this point, and only an ice-cold beer would cool the fiery anger building up inside of me. When he reappeared, and was properly chastised, burger in mouth, we set out find the source of the delicious looking creation.

We headed straight toward Jason Dady of Two Bros. BBQ Market. His hundred-watt smile always brightens every foodie fest. Fresh off a great run on the Food Network’s Iron Chef Gauntlet competition, Dady brought his Cherry Glazed Baby Back Ribs to the hungry throngs. I’m pretty sure I saw my daughter sneak seconds. They were tender and cooked perfectly, but I would have liked a little more of the tangy sauce. Across the aisle, Sienna spotted Chef Luis Colon, and whispered up to me, “isn’t that the chef from Folc?” She was quickly becoming my favorite child. Chef Luis’ burger has been praised as the “Best in Texas,” by Texas Monthly Magazine, so, of course, we had to have one. Chef chatted easily with guests, as he topped each burger with house made pickles and cheese. His burgers did not disappoint.

Our cups empty, we headed over to sample the cocktails in a bottle from Austin Cocktails. I had the pleasure of discovering this outstanding distillery at the San Antonio Cocktail Conference, and I was very excited to see that they were pouring four different cocktails today. I began with the Bergamot Orange Margarita, and Allen opted for the Cucumber Vodka Mojito. They were both outstanding. The company was started by two sisters, and they are making quite a name for themselves in the cocktail market. As we quenched our thirst, we finally found the source of Scott’s amazing burger, and I wasn’t surprised at all to find out that it came from the one and only Chef Jeff White, of The Boiler House. Always friendly, Chef White was furiously working the grill, flipping burgers and buns, in his totally cool skeleton apron. His beautiful wife, Jenn, was right behind him handling the line of people waiting to devour his double-decker burger with cheese and red onion. One bite, and I had to admit that Scott was right. This was an outstanding burger.

Next door, the other Chef Jeff took things in another direction with Southerleigh’s shrimp cake burger. Jeffrey Balfour stays true to his Galveston roots, with his Texas Coastal fare, and this delicious little sandwich couldn’t showcase his talents more perfectly. The crunch of the coleslaw paired perfectly with the chewy goodness of the shrimp cake; a perfect duo of textures.

Two other burger standouts included a burger al pastor from Burgerteca, one of the latest projects from restaurant powerhouse, Chef Johnny Hernandez, as well as Chef Brian West’s bacon burger. However, for me, the most surprising dish of the day came from a newcomer. Darlene Taylor Wimberly, with Soulful Catering by Darlene, seemed out of place with the big guys, but her South Carolina inspired pork ribs and potato salad stole the show. A crispy, coating of mustard, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar and seasoned salt, her little ribs packed more flavor than anything I’ve had in a long time. Here’s hoping that Darlene will make it big here in the Alamo City. Her food is outstanding.

Burgers, BBQ & Beer is always a fun event, and it seems to grow more festive every year. Although the rain did manage to make an appearance later in the day, it thankfully held off just long enough to let the chefs and their grills do their thing. It was a great event, and one I will eagerly look forward to again next year.

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