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Nov 8, 2008 10:26 AM

[San Antonio] Fine Dining & More [Long]

It had been many years, since we were last in San Antonio. Back in the mid-‘70s, we spent many wonderful days there during Fiesta Week. We’d usually get the Rex Allen Suite at the Gunther Hotel and partake of the various events and parades. Then, we moved to Colorado and only drove through San Antonio, usually just to dine at La Fogata. Last week, we were heading back for the first real visit in decades. I made a request for info on fine-dining,, and got several recommendations.

We only had two nights of dining on our own, as we had events that we needed to attend, so I narrowed down the recommendations to two: Le Rêve, and Las Canarias, These two were chosen, based on the recommendations, on their menus and their proximity to the Marriott Riverwalk, where we were staying.

San Antonio had changed. The Gunther is now a Sheraton, and looks like it’s had another major renovation, since we last stayed there. Do not know if the Rex Allen Suite is still in existence, but hope so. The Riverwalk has expanded greatly and some places that we knew are gone. Many, many new ones have been added. The Riverwalk was definitely a vibrant place, though there is a decided wealth of mid-level dining locations. Judging by the crowds, these seem to be what most tourists are seeking, so I guess that the city is doing something correctly. Back up at street level, some things do not seem to be going quite as well, especially when one gets only a couple of blocks from the River Center development. Still, the Riverwalk was very busy and most of the restaurants there seemed to be filled.

Now, for the reviews:

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  1. Le Rêve:

    Le Rêve, 152 E. Pecan St (Historic Exchange Building), phone: 210-212-2221. Wine list: We started out early for our 6:00PM reservations and began walking along the Riverwalk, taking in the changes, and finding a few things that we remembered. We had a map of the area and it looked like we could just walk to Pecan St and then pop up to street-level. As we made the final turn, more or less heading north, we were on the eastside of the river. Things were changing a bit from the hustle and bustle of the areas closer to the Marriott. We got to Travis Street and I knew that Pecan St was coming up. When we got below the Pecan St bridge, I had an idea that the attractive balcony above our heads, with the awning, was Le Rêve, and it turned out to be. However, the only stairs leading up were on the westside of the river, not the eastside. We walked on for a few blocks, hoping to get up to street level. It was looking bleak. We headed back to Travis St and took the stairs there, only having to do about 3 blocks to 152 E. Pecan. I realize that all of the natives knew that we were on the wrong side of the river, to do what we wanted, but to a couple of tourists, we had to deviate a bit.

    Just before our reservation, we arrived and were shown into that enclosed balcony, that we’d seen from below. Maureen Weissman, wife of the chef, Andrew, greeted us, and we were promptly seated in the dining room at a nice four-top, along the west wall.

    The room is small, with about 14 four-tops. Two were pulled together for a larger party. At this moment, most were empty. The kitchen is partially open and was across the room from us. The color scheme is a slightly greenish taupe with several very nice and colorful pieces of artwork displayed on the wall. The lighting is a bit of a mixed bag. There are recessed “can lights” in the high ceiling, three largish, slightly odd hanging fixtures and some track-spots over the artwork. Most of the can lights were turned off. Luckily for us, we still had late afternoon light coming through the shades on the west wall. It seemed that the best lighting on the tables was along the north wall, where the artwork was located. The general ambient lighting from the can lights in use was fine, but the lighting on the tables (except those on the north wall) was too dark. One of our servers offered a flashlight to read the fine print on the menus. Were I designing the interior, I’d have made some changes. First, the hanging lights would disappear, as I found them incongruous with the rest of the decor. I’d add a drop-ceiling to hide the can lights and then use new instruments to get back to that level of ambient light and add diffused instruments over each table, for “task lighting.” Now, this would have to take into consideration the fact that some of the four-tops might be moved to accommodate larger parties. Still, I think that this would preclude the need for flashlights. Also, the presentations from the kitchen need a bit more light to fully appreciate. Just like the paintings on the wall, we ARE talking about artwork here. Let the patrons get a really good look at it.

    As we were being seated, Maureen removed our white napkins and had them replaced with black ones, based on our clothing – always a nice touch, and one that is too often overlooked. Menus were presented, along with the wine list. Water was poured, bread and two butters were provided and my reading began.

    The menu is basically in two parts: a chef’s tasting with some different wine-pairing options and then an à la carte page, that can be ordered by the number of courses – basically a prix fixe scheme. I have to admit that it all looked good, but after going over the chef’s tasting and getting clarification on the wine-pairings, we decided that this was where we wanted to go. We checked each offering, just to make sure that there weren’t any bi-valves (oysters, mussels, clams or scallops), that would give my wife problems. There were none.

    Now, I have to point out the levels of wine-pairings. While Le Rêve’s take on this is not unique (Chef Mavro’s, Honolulu, sommelier Todd Asline, comes immediately to mind), it is not that common to offer different levels of wine pairings. I really like this option. Had we really been thinking things through, we’d probably have done one of each “level,” but I opted for the “Platinum Pairing” for both of us. Especially when I’m dining at a new restaurant, and do not know exactly what the kitchen might be doing, I greatly appreciate the expertise of the sommelier, when it comes to putting together wines for each course. Already, Fabian, the sommelier, had stopped by and helped educate me as to the two levels of wine choices. He explained his general philosophy and quickly convinced me that he’d do a great job. He did. He also left the wine list for my reading. This is always a nice touch, as too often some restaurants act as though they only have one copy of the wine list, and are too quick to snatch it away, especially if one indicates that they will be going with a pairing, or b-t-g selections. This restaurant understands how “wine geeks,” such as I, really enjoy seeing all of the offerings. Though we went with the upper-level of pairings, I have to add that Le Rêve has a very nice half-bottle selection, plus a good b-t-g list. Information for another visit. One could easily do their own pairings from the half-bottles. The list is small, but well thought out. Since it is often my wife and I dining, and we enjoy multiple wine courses to match our meals, I seek these out and found a great one here. I also had a moment to try and guess where Fabian would be going with his pairings. I have to admit that he fooled me on a few of his choices, but quickly convinced me of the wisdom of his picks. [Note: I have read several reviews for Le Rêve on other sites. Some have been highly critical, even insulting, of the sommelier’s efforts and knowledge. I do not know who the sommelier was on their visits, but it could not have been Fabian, as he really impressed me, and I am not that easy on any sommelier.


    Now comes the hard part – putting this great meal, along with the wines into some sort of list. About the best that I can do is a chronological order and sprinkle in little comments, since I was not taking notes during our meal.

    Our first wine was the Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne. This was a very fitting way to begin the evening. During this time, we were served an amuse bouche of a fried-fish tidbit with homemade tartar sauce. I did not get what it was skewered with, but it was perched over a little egg-shaped cup. It went perfectly with the Champagne, as does almost anything. All too often, I find that restaurants and diners, alike, ignore how food-friendly most Champages are. Fabian knew and offered a great pairing.

    The first course was a Mushroom Tortellini with a very flavorful jus and sweet garlic puree. The wine chosen was an ‘04 Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes Hermitage, La Mule Blanche. This 100% Marsanne was a wonderful accompaniment to the tortellini, though so was the Roederer, some of which I had managed to save for later comparison. This was to become a common thread

    Next came a Caramelized Onion Tart with Goat Cheese and a Balsamic Drizzle. Here, I had guessed that we’d have an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. Close, but it was the ‘99 Trimbach Domaine des Seigneur de Ribeaupierre Gewürztraminer. There was enough acid in the Gewurtz to work with the Goat Cheese and with the wine’s age, the Balsamic went perfectly. I was a bit surprised that the Marsanne did not do any better with this dish, but was relieved that my next to last sip of Champagne still held up to the Tart.

    Soon, we were presented with Seared Pave of Foie Gras with an Apple Base. The chosen wine was the ‘97 Chateau Tirecul Lagraviere Monbazillac. Hm-m, I’ve only had a few Monbazillacs, but none with foie gras. Usually, I’m pairing with it better-known neighbors, Sauternes and Barsacs, or maybe a Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. I’ve even done some TBA’s, especially with apple or pear treatments. We talked a bit about the foie gras pairing and I mentioned a wonderful pairing of a Canadian Late Harvest Apple Cider with a similar apple-infused foie gras in London. In a second, a glass of LH Cider appeared on the table. It was also an excellent accompaniment, though the Monbazillac was the better here. After a recommendation from another foie gras thread, I wondered if Le Rêve had an Alsatian Riesling Vendage Tardive. They did not, so I will have to wait on that pairing.

    Our salad-course was the Crispy Fried Prawns with Mango, Toasted Cashews and Lime Juice Vinaigrette, which was paired with the ‘06 Adelsheim Willamette Valley Pinot Gris. Normally, I’m not a big fan of domestic Pinot Gris, with the exception of the King Estate Reserve. This PG was perfect and played off of the sweetness of the mango plus the tang of the lime juice. OK, now I have two domestic PG’s to choose from. About here, I had finished the Roederer, and the other previous wines did not quite do justice to the salad.

    It was now time for the fish-course. This was the Georges Bank Monkfish Tail on Green Pea Purée and Pan-roasted Snails. With this, we were served the ‘05 Mongeard Mungneret Savigny-Lès-Beaune. This pairing was excellent, though most of the early wines (that were still left) did not fare quite so well. My wife thought that her monkfish was a tad over-cooked, but mine was perfect. Possibly just a difference in our personal tastes. While we both enjoy sashimi, I do not know over tables and patrons to get to it, as my wife does. Warning! Never stand between my wife and fresh sashimi-grade ahi tail, or you will be rushed to a near-by ER.

    The main-course was a Tournedo of Angus Beef with Warm Fingerling Potato Salad, served with the ‘04 Chateau de Pez Cru Bourgeois, St. Estéphe. The beef was succulent and the Bdx. went very well with it. It still needed a bit of time in the glass, but we were in no hurry. For a Cru Bourgeois, Ch. de Pez always presents itself as being several levels up. I always wonder how this, and some other producers would fare, should there be a major Bdx. re-classification from the one of 1855 (with one amendment).

    Unfortunately, I did not get a list of our cheeses in our next course, but they went great with ‘04 Chateau La Vieille Cure Fronsac, as well as with the Bdx and the Burg from earlier. I also enjoyed the Monbazillac, which was almost empty.

    Remember how I commented that we were seated at a four-top, and there were only two of us? Well, about now, the table was filling up. I had managed to keep a tiny amount of most of my wines, and my wife was close behind. I’d say that with the wine-courses, plus the extra glass of cider, we were in trouble. We played with the remaining wines and the cheeses, and soon were able to start turning in our empty glasses. One thing that I greatly appreciated was that the waitstaff not trying to grab any of the stems, even though some had very little wine left. They understood what we were doing, and I did not have to scold anyone to “leave it, please.”

    I’m getting hazy on the exact desserts that we had, but strongly believe that there were two (plus a little morsel, or two): a ‘Vacherin” of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Strawberry Sorbet with Meringues and Chantilly Cream and a “Rocky Road” Pave with Cardamom-coffee Ice Cream. The wines were a ‘96 Domaine Mas Blanc Banyuls Vielles Vignes and the Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin “Yellow Label” Champagne. Now, I might have gone with a demi-sec Champagne, though the Brut did cleanse our palates. The Banyuls was sublime!

    The evening was finally coming to an end. We’d been cautioned that dining at Le Rêve was a three hour event. Chickstein had mentioned four hours, in her recommendation. She was correct. We’d pretty much opened the restaurant up at 6:00PM, and I’m glad we did, because there were only a few diners left, when we departed at about 10:30PM. During that time, the restaurant had filled completely, and a few of the tables had turned. With only a very slight pause, between the fish-course and the meat-course, the pacing was absolutely perfect. Honestly, the pause allowed us the opportunity to say something besides “Um-m-m,” and similar. We also got to take a breath. At no time did we feel rushed in any way. This restaurant shows restraint in taking reservations and it is fitting for such fine-dining. It was an evening to be savored to the fullest.

    The evening was perfect and we’ll definitely be heading back, when next in San Antonio. I found the setting to be quite romantic and, with the exception of the lack of lighting over the tables, almost perfect in its intimacy. The noise level was not noticeable at all and polite conversation was the norm at all tables. Even with the partially open kitchen, we heard no clattering of pots, or similar. There is a dress-code: gentlemen will wear jackets, and I’m glad for this, especially as so many bastions of fine-dining seem to be relaxing any form of dress-code. When we made our reservations, both the dining time and the dress-code were clearly stated, though I always have at least my blazer, when dining out at any restaurant above a neighborhood BBQ spot. Still, this is something that one must take into consideration when planning on dining at Le Rêve. However, considering the napkin-service, the settings, flatware (always cleared between courses, and instantly replaced), the overall level of service and the Spiegelau stemware, it is in keeping with the experience.

    With our two “chef’s tasting menus” and the “Platinum” wine pairings, our total bill with 20% gratuity on all came to US$557.70. Also remember there was an “extra” wine that materialized on the table. While it was not inexpensive, it was a great “value,” for the price. I have paid far more, and gotten far less. Everything service-related, was perfect. The staff was there when needed, but absent when they were not required. No one hovered, and there were not incessant questions, usually posed when one has a mouthful of food, or wine. Conversations were allowed to continue, without a server standing over us, tapping a foot impatiently on the floor. I cannot imagine a more perfect evening, unless I had also won the Powerball. Once again, I owe Chickstein a great bit Thank You for this recommendation, and will not hesitate to include Le Rêve in my list of “must dine” places. I used to drive ~500 miles out of my way to get in a meal at La Fogata. Now I have an even better reason to do so - heck, I always have a bunch of free tickets on Southwest Airlines, and I know where some of those will take us – San Antonio, TX and Le Rêve.

    Le Reve Cuisine
    152 E Pecan St, San Antonio, TX 78205

    1. Las Canarias, La Mansion del Rio Hotel (Omni), 112 College St, phone: 210-518-16063.

      This was our second fine-dining night in San Antonio. I’d found it in a couple of other sites and when I got the CH recs for it, did not hesitate. I also have to state that I made the reservation via Open Table, and was particularly aware of some views on that service, based on a few recent threads on CH. I only mentioned where we were staying, our cell phone contact, while in San Antonio, that it was our first time there and that we were looking forward to dining with them and exploring their wine list.

      We had chosen 7:30PM, because we had a cocktail party that we had to attend, prior to dining on our own. Once more, we took a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk from the Marriott. This walk was a bit easier, as Las Canarias is located right on the Riverwalk, about halfway between our hotel and Le Le Rêve, plus one does not have to go up to street level, just walk up the stairs. Since the restaurant is on several levels and the hotel runs for about a block, we did have to ask directions on where to enter to get to the hostess station. Once found, we identified ourselves and were promptly seated, though we had actually arrived a bit early.

      Now, going back to that discussion on CH, concerning less than stellar treatment, with an Open Table reservation, I waited to see where we’d be seated. Our large two-top was right against the window, overlooking the al fresco dining area and the Riverwalk. I could not have asked for better, had I known which table number to give, when making the reservations. If some restaurants choose to seat patrons, who use Open Table, in bad locations as punishment, Las Canarias is not one of them.

      The interior dining room is luxurious and well-appointed. It might be a little more elegant, than Le Rêve’s, but in a more formal way. I do not recall a dress-code being mentioned, but I was in my blazer, so it did not make any difference. Most diners also appeared to be dressed in similar fashion, though I believe that some gentlemen on the veranda did not sport jackets. Still, all were nicely dressed.

      Though Las Canarias lists their cuisine as New American, there was a definite French theme. Our server noted that the restaurant does highlight specific cuisines and that France was represented on this menu. Here we are in San Antonio, TX, home of some of the best Tex-Mex cuisine, that I have ever tasted, and our two nights of dining are French! Still, we love French, so all is good.

      My first disappointment was that there was no tasting menu, though they were offering their regular dishes plus the French influenced ones, so we did have quite a lot to choose from. My next disappointment came with the wine list. It was possibly twice a large as Le Rêve’s, but was filled with too many of the “usual suspects,” for the level of the restaurant, at least my way of thinking. I will admit that it is more “mainstream,” than is Le Rêve, and being “mainstream,” probably comes with some compromises, you have to please “everyman,” and not just wine snobs like me. The b-t-g selection was ALL usual suspects and there were no half-bottles. OK, I was going to have to do the “heavy-lifting,” and work with the list. I’ve done that most nights of my adult life. At least the wine list had adequate depth and some interesting wines, but I had no idea of what Chef John Brand was going to be doing, especially with the French “treatment,” on half of the menu. After a little study and a few decisions on first courses, I had made up my mind. I started with an ‘06 Domaine Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne. Because of its youth, I asked that it be “caraffed,” and explained that that was basically decanting of a white wine. I think that my point was missed, but maybe because the wine was quite warm and did need to be chilled a bit, helped with the confusion. Normally, I do not need my whites chilled, but as our server pointed out, this one was definitely at “room temp.”

      We lingered a bit over the rest of the menu and I also made plans for our next wine, while the Corton was cooling its heels. I chose an ‘06 Merry Edwards Olivet Lane Pinot Noir. I hesitated over the Domaine Romanée-Cont, but at US$2000 it was a bit out of my price range. I wanted something with heft, but also some smoothness, as wife was going with the Short Ribs and I the Pork Loin. Nothing in the way of a Côte-Rôtie. No big Zinfandels. OK, there was a Nuits-Saint-Georges, that I looked at, but decided on the Merry Edwards. Well, this was the wine that was decanted. I have to take full responsibility, because I was not clear on exactly what I wanted done, and also I realize that it is quite uncommon in the US to “decant” a white wine. The effort to please was there – no mistaking it. I just was not clear. Note to self: explain exactly what is required and then tell why you want it, especially if it is not the norm. We just did a lot of swirling of the Corton and gave it time in the glass. Speaking of glass, these were OK stems, but not at the level of the Spiegelaus at Le Rêve. Good, but not up to par for US$170 wines. They had thicker sides and a “bead,” but at least they had larger bowls. I would have been nice to have Burg balloons for each, especially the Riedel Montrachets for the Corton. Good, just not quite good enough.

      Since it was just the two of us, and we were starting at 7:30PM, I did not expect to finish both bottles, though we nearly did.

      Our first courses were the Red Pear Carpaccio with spinach, walnuts, sherry vinaigrette and sharp white Cheddar and Confit of Duck and Wild Mushrooms Springroll, accented with arugula and orange. Here, the Côte-Rôtie, or a big Syrah would have been my first choice, but three bottles of wine for two? Even though we were walking, there are not a lot of guardrails on the Riverwalk! Both courses were nice and the Corton and the PN did not do badly, just not perfectly, but that was partially my fault. One real reason for having a great half-bottle list, especially when couples dine. The Corton went best with the pear (obviously), and the PN held its own with the duck. Here, I am jaded. In Phoenix, we are fortunate to have Chef Vincent Guerithault of Vincent’s on Camelback. He has added a Southwest twist to some classic French dishes, and his Confit of Duck Tamal is just flat to die for. These springrolls were good, but I kept thinking of that tamal. Hey, one doesn’t win a James Beard award for America’s Best Chef – Southwest, a Citation of Execllence from the International Food & Wine Society and the Chevailer de L’Ordre du Merite Agricole for no reason.

      Next, I went with a soup-course of Kabocha Pumpkin Bisque with Créme Fraîche. I asked for a spoon for my wife, and the server had the dish split into two bowls – a very nice touch. My wife does about four different pumpkin soups and I tried to define what was missing from this one. I had three thoughts: maybe some slivers of mushroom (truffles?), some toasted pepitas or maybe some roasted piñon nuts. Something was missing, but the PN went well with this dish. The Corton, not quite as well. Maybe a much bigger Chardonnay would have paired better? Throw in some mushrooms, and the PN would probably have begun to sing.

      Now for the mains. My wife went with the Bordelaise Braised Short Ribs with artichokes, baby potatoes and Maille mustard, while I chose the Berkshire Pork Prime Rib with apple, bacon, shaved Brussel sprouts and currant jus. Unfortunately, we both know Chef Vincent’s short-ribs well and could not get them out of our mind. I was more enamored with these short-ribs, than was my wife. She thought they were too dry. Yes, there could have been a touch more jus, but they were still pretty good. My pork was the better of the two, however. The PN did OK, but for the short-ribs, something with more heft would have helped. Just too bad that there were no great half-bottles to choose from! Even a Turley, or Biale Zinfandel b-t-g would have helped. The PN went beautifully with my pork. Along these lines, I have to say that everyone dining that night at Las Canarias was a “couple.” I do not know how the diner groupings normally set up, but to have a great wine program, one needs to consider the volumes of wine offered. Maybe we’re atypical. Maybe we’re just wine “geeks,” but if Le Rêve can offer so many world-class half-bottle selections, it is something to consider. I also realize that a wine list in a chef-owned/driven restaurant is one thing, and a corporate restaurant another. Still, please consider putting in a good selection of half-bottles, please! I’d have done four and spent more money, but gotten wines for each course. [Rant over]

      We added a cheese course and a dessert, but I do not recall either in detail – remember, we had now almost finished two bottles for the two of us.

      Now came some fun. Our server suggested either the Taylor-Fladgate 40 year Tawny Port or the Far Niente Dolce. I mentioned that normally I preferred the Taylor 20 year Tawny, or the Porto Barros 20, to the Taylor 40. I happen to have all of the Taylor Tawnies in the cellar and do bring up the 40 (or the 30) on occasion, but usually go for the 20 year. Our server brought out a bottle of the 20 and joined us to taste it alongside the 40. With our meal (and the wines that went before) we DID decide that the 40 was the better this night. Again, a very nice touch to be able to do both side-by-side, even if I had to “eat my words... “

      Once more, we closed the dining room, but remember that we did start at 7:30PM.

      Our tab came to just under US$700 with a gracious tip on all. Remember, we did have US$400 in wines. The room is lovely and the dining romantic. The service (except for my mistake with regards to caraffing the Corton) was perfect and fun. Pacing was perfect, though we did have fewer courses. With the above noted exceptions (read wine list and stemware, and black napkins), I cannot fault a thing. I’d definitely dine there again. I do have to give a big nod to Le Rêve for total value, but remember, I am a certified wino and they scored extra points for some great pairings, that caught me flatfooted. Stuff like that does score a bonus with me. Fool me. Amaze me. Show me something that I would have never tried at home and you get those bonus points. Le Rêve did just that, and I thank them for it. Still, Las Canarias gave me the opportunity to do the Taylor-Fladgate 20 & 40 side-by-side and that was FUN, even if I had to pick a wine to go with “crow!”

      Also, I think that we possibly graded down just a bit, because of a local (PHX) chef and some similar dishes. That is not fair to Las Canarias. It’s almost like saying, “hey, this is good, but Guy Savoy does it better... “ Like I said, not fair.

      If I’m flying over to San Antonio on those free Southwest tickets to do Le Rêve and La Fogata, I WILL include Las Canarias in the mix.

      Le Reve Cuisine
      152 E Pecan St, San Antonio, TX 78205

      Las Canarias
      112 College Street, San Antonio, TX 72205

      Mad Dogs British Pub
      123 Losoya St # 19, San Antonio, TX

      Las Ramblas
      306 W Market St, San Antonio, TX

      4 Replies
      1. re: Bill Hunt

        "Since it was just the two of us, and we were starting at 7:30PM, I did not expect to finish both bottles, though we nearly did."

        For the future, Texas allows you to take unfinished bottles with you.

        1. re: orangecat

          Thank you for that info. I have begun encountering this more and more often, and just did not think to ask.

          Even in a dry county in TN (I believe that it is still dry), the resaturant at the resort stored our opened bottles for us for the next evening's dinner. By the last night, I think we had a half-dozen bottles to finish, but most were down quite a bit, as some had been around from the day before.

          Next time, I'll ask, thanks to your comment.



          1. re: Bill Hunt

            You are welcome. It is an odd law, especially that Texas has so many dry areas and blue laws still in effect. Some proprietors or restaurant workers may not even know about it. Here is the law:

            " Section 28.10 of the Alcoholic Beverage Code says, in part,:

            A mixed beverage permittee may not permit any person to take any alcoholic beverage purchased on the licensed premises from the premises where sold, except that a person who orders wine with food and has a portion of the open container remaining may remove the open container of wine from the premises."

            The only caveat is if you are driving, there is an open container law and you need to put the wine outside of the immediate passenger area (trunk, glove box). Of course, since you were walking this was not a problem.

            I have taken wine from restaurants on the riverwalk; I walked backed to our Carriage house right off of St. Mary's riverwalk entrance into the Prince William area. Very quiet and with gorgeous homes. Ten minute walk along the river to the Marriott, if that. The house was totally secluded, with a pool, and of course a kitchen, patio, where we could enjoy the extra wine with bread, cheeses, fruit, etc.

            I love San Antonio.

            1. re: orangecat

              I remember the "blue laws," from decades ago. In Abilene, one could go to the tiny 'burg of Impact, TX, that was surrounded by Abilene proper, to buy beer. Back then Coors was not distributed beyond CO and TX (at least not much), and I'd pick up my Coors for the trip back to New Orleans. Back then, TTA (Trans Texas Airlines) had a $25 fare, to any/everywhere that they flew. I'd usually map out a trip with a half-dozen stops, and travel the state for $25. I'd usually stop in and see friends in Abilene, and pick up my Coors.

              Being from the Deep South, and traveling those environs extensively, I've had to learn what can, and cannot, be done, regarding liquor/wine/beer. Nowadays, I have a lot of re-learning to do, as much has changed.

              Next time in San Antonio, I'll not feel pressured to drink "it all," even if I am walking. Heck, there are not railings along all of the Riverwalk!

              As we both enjoy our wines, we seldom do much driving, if at all. My limo company has me on a standing account. I'll often do my dinner reservations based on cabbing it, or walking.



      2. Miscellaneous Dining:

        Las Ramblas (Breakfast)

        I’d had breakfast in the Marriott Riverwalk and had been disappointed. What did I expect? Well, whatever it was, I was not pleased. We’d strolled the entire Riverwalk and I’d seen some neat-looking restaurants around the bend from the Hilton. I returned and chose Las Ramblas, at the Hotel Contessa, 306 W. Market St, phone: 210-298-8040, It had a good look and a lovely patio on the Riverwalk. When I arrived, there were about 4 tables open on the patio and the majority of the tables were unoccupied in the interior dining area. There appeared to be a half-dozen servers/bussers working both inside and out. I was a bit surprised, when the hostess told me there would be a fifteen minute wait for a table. There was only one name on her list, and she was scratching it off, as we spoke. I think that that party had just been seated. No problem, as it was a lovely Fall morning and there were photographs to be taken out on the Riverwalk. I gave my name and told the hostess that I’d be right outside on a bench.

        In about fifteen minutes, my name was called and I was ushered to a table along the edge of the patio. My server approached and offered coffee and juice with the menu. I ordered both, and asked for “raw sugar.” She disappeared and brought both the coffee and, what I think was “fresh-squeezed” orange juice. She was still looking for the raw sugar. I read over the menu and in a few minutes, she returned, albeit empty-handed. “I found the box for the raw sugar, but it was empty. Someone put it back on the shelf, and there is none.” Fine, I’d make do with the refined sugar. I started rummaging around the sugar bowl, but couldn’t find any. There were some packets that “looked” like sugar, but they were some sort of chemical, just disguised to look like a sugar packet. These were along with some of the more recognizable “sugar substitutes.” When it came time to place my order, I asked for some real sugar. “I hope you weren’t fooled by those packets, that look like sugar. If so, I’ll bring you another coffee. A lot of people are fooled and that stuff is horrible,” she stated. “No, I read the fine print, and did not use any of that. I’ll take some of the real stuff, however,” was my reply. In a few moments, I had a handful of the “real stuff,” and got on with my coffee, which was pretty good – much better than the coffee in my room. That may truly be the worst coffee that I’ve ever had. Made me want to begin drinking tea in the AM.

        There was a breakfast buffet, but I am really not a fan of those, with but two exceptions: the now gone Marquessa at the Scottsdale (AZ) Princess Resort, and Orchid’s Sunday Brunch at the Halekulani, Waikiki, HI. These two restaurants take/took the “buffet” to the ultimate heights, but all of the rest have convinced me to NOT go with any buffets. Off the menu, it was. I’d asked about the Huevos Españolas, and found that it was pretty much eggs over easy with no tortillas. Hm-m, “any tortillas with anything?” There were not. It became waffles with fresh berries and an order of crisp “applewood-smoked bacon.” The waffle had been frozen, but was not THAT bad. The bacon was crisp, just as I had ordered, but lacked any hint of “applewood smoking.” Still, better than the Marriott’s breakfast.

        The venue is lovely and the food was OK, though not up to what I had expected from the “look” of the restaurant. The breakfast service seemed to be understaffed, because it took a bit too long for each item to come around. The restaurant was beginning to fill a bit, and my server was moving around quickly, but either she had too many tables, or maybe the kitchen was off in another part of the hotel, and it just took too long to get things to Las Ramblas. The complete breakfast was rather uninspired, though better than some others. It was a lovely morning in a beautiful setting. I guess that I cannot complain too much.

        As I continued my walk on that section of the Riverwalk, I did see some other “likely candidates” for breakfast. There are quite a few little restaurants, usually attached to a boutique hotel, that also had the “look.” Maybe I would have been better off in one of these.

        I’ll not know from this trip, because for the next breakfast, I chose a muffin and a “pumpkin spiced” latté at the Starbucks. Maybe next trip to San Antonio. Besides Le Rêve, I’ll need some other dining options, when we use our free Southwest tickets.

        Mad Dogs British Pub (Lunch


        I am a pushover for English pubs and Bulldogs. I was hooked, when I saw the sign for Mad Dogs British Pub on the Riverwalk. I get to spend about a month every year in London and have had some good “pub grub.” Yes, most of the pubs are now owned by “concept restaurant companies,” many from the US. Yes, it’s getting more difficult to find good pub grub, even in the outlying areas of London, but still I’ve managed. O’Neil’s (and Irish pub and part of a mini-chain) has come through often, though their Shepard’s Market pub seems to be closing to become something else. Still, the Eagle & Baby, the Original Running Footman and a few others do fit the bill and do it nicely.

        I had left two of the most beautiful Bulldogs, you’ve ever seen, back in Phoenix, so the sign for Mad Dogs British Pub caught my eye. When her early meetings were over, I dragged my wife there. They are right on the Riverwalk and looked pretty good. The waitstaff seemed to be “something else” with plaid micro-skirts and lace-to-the-knee paratrooper boots, but this was the day after Halloween, so maybe it was part of the season.

        I’m a big fan of UK brews (fizzies, beers, ales, Porters and stouts), and also fish and chips. My wife went with the “Fried Gulf Shrimp,” and a glass of Chardonnay. My choices of beers was a bit limited, but hey, we were not in the UK. I got the tasting and ordered a cider for the meal. Normally, I’d go with a Strongbow, or a Woodpecker (they even had a Woodpecker sign), but had to settle for a cider from Ohio, not the UK or their colonies. The fish and chips were very large. Unfortunately, there was almost no fish inside these three giant fried items. They were all greasy dough. Two pounds of grease and flour with maybe 4 oz of fish amongst them! At least the “chips” were pretty good. Yes, they were frozen, but still pretty tasty. I cannot say the same for my wife’s fries. Though it’s been decades, since I last tasted a McDonald’s fry, these were bleak. Her “Fried Gulf Shrimp” came from a Mrs. Paul’s box, of I’m crazy. For ~ US$10.00, these five dried out frozen shrimp were horrible. What WERE we thinking? At least the beers were OK, though nothing special.

        I learned that this is a mini-chain, having started in Hong Kong. Well, Hong Kong was a British crown colony, but maybe someone needs to check out the Eagle & Baby, or try and catch O’Neil’s, before they close for good. Even in Phoenix, we have better pubs! Maybe this is what the masses on the Riverwalk want – another Landry’s Seafood House, or Dick’s Last Resort or Hard Rock Something, or another similar restaurant. Just a poor choice on my part, but some of the other dining made up for it.

        The Marriott Riverwalk

        I will refrain from doing a review of the banquet food there. Let’s just say that it was banquet food and leave it at that. We do about a dozen similar events per year at various resorts around the country. I refer to one block of these in the late Spring as the “rubber-chicken” circuit. The only real exception in all of these was an event at the Grand Hyatt in Seattle, WA. It was actually for this very meeting, though a few years earlier. They offered a “surf-n-turf” of Pacific Salmon and a Petite Filet, that was excellent, plus a very good “special” wine list (meaning that these could be ordered for the table, should one not go with the “hosted” wines). The absolute standout was the intermezzo. This was a spruce-infused sorbet that was out of this world. It was also served in a unique way. You’ve probably seen the “iced” martini glasses, that consist of a truncated sphere (where you’d normally put crushed ice) and a separate glass cone (the martini glass). The sorbet was in the glass cone, and there was a tiny spruce branch, replete with miniature spruce-cones on the bottom of the sphere, below the point of the conical glass. Given the presentation and the taste of that sorbet, I was blown completely away. I shared that idea with my caterer back in AZ and he’s done some similar concoctions. To date, none has quite lived up to that intermezzo at the Grand Hyatt. Yes, banquet food CAN be something more!


        Le Reve Cuisine
        152 E Pecan St, San Antonio, TX 78205

        Las Canarias
        112 College Street, San Antonio, TX 72205

        Mad Dogs British Pub
        123 Losoya St # 19, San Antonio, TX

        Las Ramblas
        306 W Market St, San Antonio, TX

        8 Replies
        1. re: Bill Hunt

          Bill Hunt you are living large.

          From the wilds of Hawaii to the backwoods of rural Tennessee...from the banks of the Mississippi to the banks of the San Antonio I always enjoy your reviews.

          Somehow I picture you pounding them all out on an old Olivetti typewriter with a big glass of some impossible to find wine by your hand.Opera is playing on a reel to reel through some giant Magneplaner speakers.

          Great work.

          1. re: scrumptiouschef

            I really like the imagery. It reminds me of the old TV series, “The Slap Maxwell Story.” Unfortunately, I do them on a laptop on my patio, with my notes blowing all over the place. Usually, the wine is rather mundane, although good (by my palate). There IS often a cigar someplace, but more likely the entertainment will be an episode of “Top Chef,” “Kitchen Nightmares” or “The Golf Channel’s” coverage of whichever tournament is being aired. Your verison is a lot more romantic and thanks for sharing. Now, I AM fortunate to get to travel all over and dining is a really big part of that. Since I “use” CH so much in my travels, I just want to give something back.


            1. re: scrumptiouschef

              You are living large! I'm picturing the same thing and am so jealous...looking to adopt anyone, lol? You write great reviews, and i wish i could be as knowledgeable about ANYTHING as you are about wines.

              1. re: iluvtennis

                I have to tip my pen to Fabian (I do hope that I have his name correct, ignoring a few missing diacriticals), as he surprised me, in a very good way, with some of his choices. That is one reason that we so often do chef's tastings with sommelier's pairings. Most are very good, a few are great, and then, a very few fall flat. If the sommelier has worked to create the wine list, and then spends some time in the kitchen, they can work magic. Often, there will be some little element that the chef is using, that is not likely to appear on the menu (so the diner might never think of using it in the pairing), that just makes wine A work, where wine B, not so well.

                My second choice is a great b-t-g selection, that we can work with, though half-glasses, one for each course, is even better. Next comes half-bottles. Since we love rather eclectic dishes, trying to pick one wine, that will work with all of our courses is really tough. We'll usually order two bottles, and just leave the remainders for the staff.

                I have to deflect your kind words to the people, who gave me the suggestions. I would never have found Le Rêve on my own, especially with sorta' short notice. Still, thanks for the compliments.

                Regardless, we'll definitely be back, especially as we got NO Tex-Mex on this trip, and it's just been too long. Sonoran is good, but give me that Tex-Mex anytime. Hey, 2:02 gate to gate and we've got tickets that we don't seem to be using - do the math!



            2. re: Bill Hunt

              What great reviews! I can't believe you remember everything you ate! I am so glad you enjoyed Le Reve. I just love Maureen and Andrew.

              My territory is from New Mexico to VA (no FL), and I know almost every fine dining restaurant in those states. Glad I could be of help.

              1. re: chickstein

                "I know almost every fine dining restaurant in those states." So far, I can vouch for that, and I have been the lucky recipient of some of your recs.. When I see that you have replied to a request for dining, I know that the place will be wonderful.

                Thanks, as always,


              2. re: Bill Hunt

                Next time try Waxy O'Connors across from La Mansion Del Rio. We stopped in for a glass of wine, it's a quieter part of the riverwalk. The next day we came back for more wine, and a local told us the food was actually pretty good. I too am a sucker for fish and chips, the fish was listed as fresh cod, and it seemed to be, if not fresh, at least well handled frozen. The portion was not huge, but it was not overly battered at all. The fries were fresh cut and very good. I'm sorry though, no waitresses in plaid mini skirts, just normal waitstaff and a very accomadating gentlemen, I believe named Omar, manning the front. I checked their website when I got home, it turns out they are out of Florida, a mini chain with restaurants in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Foxboro, Ma. plus San Antonio. The interior was all handcrafted in Ireland, and shipped over enduring a delay from Hurricane Rita. Unfortunately I did not know this, never setting foot inside as the weather in late October was absolutely perfect.

                1. re: James Cristinian

                  After Mad Dogs, I did see Waxy O'Connors. It had a good look about it. I'll take your rec. and head there, Bulldog images, or not.

                  Thank you for the information.

                  There was one other "pub," on the Riverwalk, but I do not recall the name, or even which part of the river it was located on.


              3. Thanks for the follow-up. I'm at a conference in SAT now and will hopefully get to walk the trail you've blazed.

                Yesterday I took a taxi to Taco Haven for a TexMex lunch (puffy taco), but am looking for more Chow-worthly places near my Riverwalk hotel. The hotel sent me to the "Hot Mex, Cool Bar" place after I landed late Saturday and I don't feel the need to go back again.

                I just looked at the VIA street car map and wonder if I can use it instead of a cab to expand my food options. Looks like it runs to Prince William, Market Square and La Villita.

                1. There are 2 Waxy O'Connor's in London (the original and Waxy's Little Sister right opposite!) Not so sure of the original being American but they do an OK pint of Guinness!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jenjenjen

                    Thanks for that. We are in London twice per year, and one of my favorite pubs, O'Neil's in Shepards Market, has closed. I'll look for Waxy O'Connor's and see if either is near to Mayfair. I'm a big fan of good "pub grub," and have been known to drain a pint, or two. Though usually a full-fledged wino, in the UK pubs, I fancy their offerings ahead of the wines.

                    Thank you,


                    1. re: jenjenjen

                      Just did a Google, and they have one not too far from our flat on Curzon St. Well within walking distance. Come April, I WILL dine at Waxy O'Connor's, Leicester Square.

                      I greatly appreciate the tip,