29 October 2008

eating in san antonio -- day 2

We're down in San Antonio, and Caryn says that since I am eating better than her (convention food) that I get to guest post.

When we checked into the Hotel Contessa yesterday (I highly recommend it), the bellhop mentioned that there was a good place around the corner called Schilo's deli. They have good breakfast and lunch, he says. So Caryn and I went there for breakfast this morning.

Schilo's is a German deli that has been around since 1917. I had potato pancakes and eggs. The potato pancakes were served with fresh applesauce. Potato pancakes are finely chopped potatoes, onions and other stuff made into a batter and grilled like a pancake. Imagine a dense, savory pancake. They are usually served with applesauce, sour cream, or ketchup. I haven't had them very many times, but these were definetly the best. I asked Caryn if she wanted a bite, and she informed me that she has had enough potato pancakes to last a lifetime. Grandma Berger used to always make potato pancakes, apparently.

Caryn had eggs, bacon, hash browns, and biscuits. Considering I love making -- and eating -- biscuits, I was curious to see what theirs would be like. When the waitress brought her biscuits to the table, I had biscuit envy. On the plate were two biscuits that were about 4 inches tall by 2.5 wide and deep. These are about twice as tall as my biscuits. I'm still wondering how they get that kind of rise and still had them cooked all the way through. Maybe lower temp for a longer time, and probably double acting baking powder, too? So, I had to try a bite of the biscuit. I would say that their biscuits had a more uniform consistency than mine and about the same density. Where mine win, in my opinion, is taste. My biscuits are much more buttery. These biscuits are are probably made with lard or vegetable shortening. I know that's the traditional way, but I like my biscuits made with butter, thank you.

One comment on their bacon: it was very meaty, perfectly cooked, not greasy, and just the right amount of saltiness. So often bacon is an afterthought, but really good bacon gets my attention.

I liked Schilo's so much for breakfast that I decided to come back for lunch. I saw a lot of intriguing German fare on the menu that I wanted to try. Also, they have Spaten on tap, which is probably my favorite German beer. (I know they probably would have been happy to serve me one for breakfast, but that is frowned upon in most cultures.)

When I came back for lunch, I had a difficult time deciding: polish neighbor, reuben, corned beef special, and on, and on, and on. I finally settled on the Kraut Dog with hot potato salad, a cup of split pea soup and the mandatory Spaten.

I wouldn't normally order split pea soup off the cuff, but I already knew this place was high quality. I also knew this soup was one of their specialties. This was confirmed by the fact that at every table around me, at least one person was enjoying either a cup or bowl of the soup. So, I joined the crowd and did not regret it. Once you get past the disturbing color (for those of us not too far removed from having small children), the soup is great. Theirs was very well seasoned and fulfilling. They serve the soup with a slice of fresh rye bread. Now, I am usually not a fan of rye bread -- at all. I thought to myself when she brought it out that I should have asked her for sourdough instead. I can't stand the bitter bite that most rye bread has. Apparently, I've just never had great fresh rye bread because this bread was awesome. I was enjoying my cup of soup and bread so much that I forgot there was more food on the way. I thought about asking for the check and leaving right then. I'm glad I didn't.

The Kraut Dog is a grilled frank split lengthwise served on a toasted sub roll, piled high with the best saurkraut I have ever had. Now, I like saurkraut, but I don't get to eat it very often. Also, I cannot say that I have ever truly had great kraut, until today. The hot potato salad was good, and it appeared pretty simple: Boiled potatoes, slightly mashed with smll pieces of crunchy celery and a little dill. There may be a secret ingredient or two that I am not aware of, but that is the gist of it. All of this was complimented nicely by the Spaten.

So, early evening we bummed a few free drinks off of the conference mixer at the Westin. "Scotch rocks, how about a double?" We made a pass through the hors d'ouvre line, which was tapas style and pretty good for hotel food. We hung around just long enough to say hi to one of Caryn's Rackspace reps and finish our food and drinks.

We walked on down to the other side of the riverwalk loop, where all the action is. We poked our head in Dick's Last Resort and decided to go to Joe's Crab Shack next door instead. I know what you're thinking, "tourist trap," and you would be right. But, they do have consistently good shrimp (bbq peel & eat for me and popcorn for Caryn), fruity drinks for my lady, and bananas foster crepes for dessert (don't knock them till you try them). For me, that food was worth the too loud music, terrible service, and obnoxious patrons -- as long as you know what you are getting yourself into.

That finished off a day of good eats for me. We'll have to see what tomorrow brings. . .


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