20 September 2012

Destinations - San Antonio's River Walk and a margarita recipe

I'm finally getting around to writing a post about a trip to Texas taken back in May.  As was the case in '09, this was a trip to meet up with the Glass family, whom my partner Keith has known since his Dallas boyhood.  The '09 trip was to Austin, but this one was primarily to San Antonio, where the youngest Glass, Robby (son of Keith's childhood friend Rob), was graduating from St. Mary's law school.

Keith and I stayed in downtown San Antonio at the Omni La Mansion del Rio.  This hotel backs up to the River Walk - more about that later - but in fact bears a connection with our visit to the city: the hotel was adapted in the 1960s from what was the original St. Mary's School of Law.  It's an attractive downtown hotel with a strong Spanish/Southwest feel to it.
San Antonio is a huge city and its outer suburban areas are as unmemorable as any other American city, but the downtown core is outstanding.  Perhaps because of some great art deco architecture and the fact that the San Antonio River winds through it, I kept thinking of Chicago.

The Alamo, a justly famous place in Texan, American, and Mexican history was just a few short blocks away from the hotel. As I'd read before, it is a surprisingly small building considering its fame. Time did not allow for us to do this landmark justice.
Most of what we saw was on our morning powerwalks largely along the River Walk both south and north from the core downtown where most visitors stay.
Go north and you will reach the San Antonio Art Museum (located in a former Lone Star Brewery) and the former Pearl Brewery complex with shops and restaurants.  (A place I'd really like to go back to is a Mexican restaurant called La Gloria just above the River Walk and on the Pearl Brewery property.)  There are numerous locations where you can cross the river.
If you don't want to walk, an effortless and cool way to explore the north end of the River Walk is use the water taxi that runs as far north as the Pearl Brewery complex with many stops.  You can buy single ride tickets, or 1 or 3 day passes.
Go south and you'll pass by the King William neighborhood, the Guenther House Restaurant (at the historic and very much still active Pioneer Flour Mill owned by the C.H. Guenther & Son Co.), and further along the Blue Star Brewery and Blue Star Contemporary Art Center.
Every single one of these I've mentioned deserves a longer exploration.  The King William neighborhood is noteworthy.  It was originally settled by Germans (as in C.H. Guenther) and named for King Wilhelm I of Prussia.  (Wilhelm became anglicized into William.)
Most visitors to San Antonio probably don't leave the downtown area of the River Walk, and that's a shame considering how much else there is to see, but understandable.  Downtown offers a wealth of history and architecture, not to mention restaurants and bars of all sorts.
Shilo's German Delicatessen
Which brings me to the margarita part of the post.
The Omni La Mansion del Rio is renowned for its housemade margaritas.  (No mixes, please.)  The picture below is of Keith conducting research on these famous margaritas on the outside bar of Las Canarias Restaurant at the hotel overlooking the River Walk.
The following evening after we returned to the hotel, we stopped at the small, poolside bar and chatted up the young bartender as she concocted our drinks.  While she didn't provide the amounts of each component, she told us what went in while we watched.  For safety's sake, the pool bar margarita went into a plastic cup instead of a festive cocktail glass, but it tasted just as good.
Here's the margarita recipe inspired by the hotel, which I developed after I got home.  This makes drinks for 2 persons.  The ingredients are expensive so you might not care to make this your everyday margarita!
good standard tequila such as Sauza: 1.5 oz
better quality reposado tequila: 1.5 oz
fresh squeezed lime juice: 1.5 oz
Cointreau: 1 oz
Grand Marnier: 1 oz
agave nectar: 1/2 teaspoon
I found that this makes a fairly sweet margarita and if you, like I, prefer your margarita a little more on the tart, limey side, then you might reduce the agave nectar by half and increase the lime juice by 1/3.  (In the recipe for 2 drinks above, this adjusted dosage would be a 1/4 teaspoon of agave nectar, and 2 oz of lime juice.)  Play around with the measurements and see what you think.
A final libation-related note about San Antonio.  Though not originally from San Antonio (the original is in Fort Worth, Tex.), Flying Saucer is a Texas-sized emporium of good beer.  Around 200 - yes, 200 - beers at any one time are on tap.  Robby Glass, the newly minted law school graduate, took Keith and me to the incredibly popular San Antonio outpost while we were there.  (This is not located in the downtown area.)
They have their own loyalty program ("UFO Club") that rewards regular customers who try lots of different beers.  Flying Saucer hasn't currently been spotted anywhere near California, but UFO sightings have been reported from Texas to the Carolinas across the southern midwest and upper south.

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