30 October 2008

eating in san antonio -- day 4

well, this is michael's last day as a guest blogger! hope you have enjoyed it!

This is our last day in San Antonio, so I suppose it is my last guest post for now.

I started off the day by strolling over to the Starbucks on the riverwalk, carrying with me the campechanas purchased yesterday from Mi Tierra. I got a decaf americano and sat out on the patio overlooking the river. Starbucks is not the greatest coffee on the planet. It seems as if all their coffee is over-roasted. That kills the flavor of the coffee. My favorite is the fresh roasted coffee I buy from Intelligentsia online and brew at home. Ok, back on point, Starbucks coffee is serviceable. The apple and pineapple campechanas were just as good as yesterday afternoon.

The riverwalk has some of the most aggressive birds around. Anytime you are eating outside along the river, you can expect to be surrounded by ducks, pigeons, and some other real small brown spotted bird. Those little guys are quick suckers. They swoop down from the trees, outmaneuver the fat ducks and pigeons, snatch the food, then retreat to their trees. The ducks and pigeons just gather around and stare at you as if to say, "you gonna finish that?"

I experienced the birds at breakfast and lunch.

Not really feeling like venturing out to find a new place to try for lunch, I decided to go back to Las Ramblas, the restaurant at the Contessa. The salad I had there yesterday was excellent. I was seated in their outdoor section. After perusing their menu, I was thinking this was a mistake because nothing really jumped out at me. The waitress came by and mentioned that in addition to the menu items, they also had a lunch buffet. I'm not a huge buffet fan, but I was curious, "what do you have on the buffet today?" She rattled off the buffet items, and I think my eyes got bigger with each dish she mentioned. I figured since I had plenty of time to kill and a book to read, I could make this a multi-course meal. There were several things on the menu that sounded good, so that is what I did. I stuck with the small salad plates so that I wouldn't get too much at one time, and I read a chapter of my book between each course.

First course was Apple Waldorf salad with maple dressing. This salad had green and red apples, walnuts, dried cherries, and a light, creamy maple dressing. It was a good way to start off lunch.

The second course was Paella Valenciana. Paella is a Spanish dish that originated on the southern coast of Spain. It is a rice and seafood dish flavored with saffron. This paella had mussels, shrimp, sausage, carrots, tomato, and peas. I love paella, and this was a pretty good rendition. It was a little skimpy on the seafood, but tasty nonetheless. I hope someday to be able to enjoy some paella in its natural habitat, sitting at an outdoor restaurant near the beach on the island of Majorca, Spain.

The next course was green beans and parmesan polenta. The green beans were just barely blanched and not seasoned very much. One of my peeves is vegetables that are overcooked and mushy, so these slightly crunchy green beans were refreshing. The polenta was smooth and flavorful. The somewhat bland green beans balanced out the strongly flavored polenta nicely.

For the meat course, I had a couple slices of the pork tenderloin with balsamic demi glaze. The pork was tender and juicy, and the basalmic glaze added sweetness and depth to the flavor of the pork.

Wanting some coffee to go with dessert, I asked the waitress if they served espresso drinks. She said yes, so I asked for a decaf americano. She looked at me and said, "A what?" I responded, "how about a decaf latte." Success, kinda.

Once the coffee arrived, I got a slice of chocolate meringue pie. The meringue was not as light as it could have been, and the crust was also a little heavy, but the chocolate tasted great -- smooth, cold, and not too sweet -- good stuff.

That concludes my notable dining experiences for the day. I did have a bag of italian flavored gardettos from a gas station south of Austin. If you ever get the opportunity -- pass. I guess that was dinner.

Overall, I really enjoyed our trip to San Antonio. I love a walkable downtown with nice hotels, plenty of attractions and dining. For me, the gold standard is the French Quarter, but San Antonio doesn't have to make any apologies.



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