Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

by Rosie Carbo / May 28, 2018 /
Rosie Carbo's picture

Traveling to San Antonio anytime soon? If so, you can still indulge in haute cuisine at a throng of upscale restaurants and bars, even if you missed the 19th annual Culinaria Wine and Food Festival.

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

Culinaria is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting the city as a premiere food and wine destination while fostering community growth and enrichment. To that end, it organizes gastronomic events paired with wine, spirits, and beer. 

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

Last week, from Thursday, May 17, to Sunday, May 20, the four-day festival attracted thousands of residents and out-of-towners primarily to the luxurious Texas Hill Country’s La Cantera Resort & Spa. 

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

The resort was the epicenter for an array of events that began Thursday, May 17, with a pool party that conjured images of “champagne dreams and caviar wishes,” as Robin Leach-host of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” TV show-used to say.

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

Although the giant infinity swimming pool was the setting for the romantic event, the Texas Hill Country served as a stunning backdrop for the party. And while the bubbly flowed, guests enjoyed delicious, chef-prepared foods from Topaz restaurant.

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

This was just the beginning of things to come. Friday’s culinary itinerary included the annual luncheon at the beautiful Becker Vineyards. This was the only event in which attendees traveled 30 minutes from San Antonio to indulge in a popular, annual luncheon.

Ask anyone who’s attended the affair, and they’ll tell you the luncheon - prepared by San Antonio celebrity chefs - is well worth the trip. Each course was paired with a fine Texas wine from Becker, Haak, Llano Estacado, and Lost Oak wineries. Add a bucolic vineyard setting, and it’s no wonder it’s a sellout each year.

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

“All the events are popular and have their own unique following,” said Suzanne Taranto Etheredge, longtime CEO and president of Culinaria, which plans to start a multi-acre community garden in the near future in San Antonio.

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival
Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

On Friday evening, the annual Texas Grand Tasting was held in La Cantera’s spacious, free-standing ballroom. This event attracted about 1,500 food and wine lovers this year. Dozens of chefs representing the city’s best restaurants created delicious dishes that I paired with a choice wine. This was my favorite event. 

When you’re greeted at the Texas Grand Tasting with a cold glass of champagne, prior to entering the ballroom, that’s a sure sign this is an haute Texas affair. From a corner of the mammoth ballroom, the soft sound of jazz filled the air as a throng of food and wine lovers strolled in through giant doors. 

Add to this scenario a mile-long table topped with all types of cheeses, prosciutto, Spanish Serrano ham, French bread, and a potpourri of tasty bites, and you have a feast for the eyes as well as the tummy.

In addition, the choice of both international and Texas wines was an oenophiles dream come true. But for non-wine aficionados there were spirits, such as whiskey and tequila, and beer to choose from. 

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

Chefs from the city’s best restaurants participate at this spectacular event each year. Johnny Hernandez, invited to cook at the White House and recently at the James Beard House and Jason Dady of “Iron Chef Gauntlet” fame are two of the many local chefs who have participated in the Texas Grand Tasting over the years.

Saturday’s “Texas Taco Showdown” and Sunday’s “Burgers, BBQ and Beer” events drew large crowds to La Cantera’s premises on both days. Texans acknowledge the humble taco as part of their gastronomic heritage, along with barbecue and Texas-sized burgers. 

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

The Texas Taco Showdown was not only a new attraction this year, but it was as unique as the Lone Star State itself. That’s because a bevy of chefs competed for top honors in three taco categories: modern, classic, and the ubiquitous breakfast taco. 

Finally, the four-day festival ended with a culinary cookout at the La Cantera venue. This was a laid-back picnic where the all-American burger, paired with an ice-cold beer hit the spot. Texas barbecue was also high on the outdoor menu as well. 

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival
Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

But for those who missed the festival last week, there are other fine dining events on the horizon. Culinaria promotes San Antonio’s award-winning chefs and restaurants all year. It organizes Restaurant Week in August and a Restaurant Week in January. Culinaria also holds a 5K run and fun event annually. 

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

And while it may sound as if dining and drinking is the goal, students interested in the culinary arts benefit from this and other events, because a portion of the proceeds from Culinaria events go toward scholarships. The organization also recruits hundreds of local volunteers throughout the year for its events.

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

Culinaria’s dedication to enhancing the city’s image as a culinary destination for nearly 20 years helped put San Antonio on the map. Meanwhile, local individuals and organizations contributed to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) decision to declare San Antonio “Creative City of Gastronomy.”

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

In the last 10 years, I’ve crisscrossed the state attending food and wine festivals in Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and Austin. And I’m convinced Culinaria’s Wine and Food Festival is a must-attend affair. In fact, if you’re visiting San Antonio, check their website to see if you can attend one of their events. 

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

For more detailed information on Culinaria and its epicurean events, go to www.culinariasa.org.

Wine Lovers Pour Into Culinaria's Wine and Food Festival

Rosie Carbo is the Lifestyles Editor for Wandering Educators, and is a former newspaper reporter whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines nationwide. Some of those publications include People magazine, The Dallas Morning News, The Houston Chronicle, and San Antonio Express-News. Some of her features were redistributed by The Associated Press early in her career as an award-winning Texas journalist.

Photos courtesy and copyright Culinaria.