On Sunday, San Antonio closed off a major downtown intersection for a communal picnic. Houston Street was filled with music and laughter as crowds “ate on the street” for a noble cause: fighting childhood hunger.
This wasn’t your typical bring-your-own-blanket affair. Guests dined at a long communal table, symbolic of people joining together for a purpose. Money earned from the event went to benefit the San Antonio Food Bank’s Summer Food Program, a program designed to alleviate child hunger.
According to Eric Cooper, president of the San Antonio Food Bank, there is an influx of families in need during summer vacation due to children losing access to daily school breakfasts and lunches. Learn how you can help the Food Bank with their Summer Food Program.
Six of San Antonio’s top eateries— Bohanan’s, Luke San Antonio, Market on Houston, The Monterey, The Palm and Tre Trattoria—prepared baskets of gourmet goodies for picnickers to munch on.
The basket wasn’t straw, but rather a yellow tote bag designed to give diners a chance to help even more. Guests can fill the yellow baskets with non-perishable foods and drop them off at local Jack in the Box locations to further assist the Food Bank.
Picnickers were treated to a slew of goodies in their basket, and in my party we had one from Lüke San Antonio and another from Bohanan’s Steakhouse.
Chef John Russ of Lüke San Antonio selected an assortment of ham and cheeses in addition to crawfish potato salad, tomato soup, grilled quail and banana cream pie for dessert. The starter was a serving of charcuterie, local cheeses, mustards and jam. The saltiness of the meats and creaminess of the cheeses was rounded out by a sweet fig jam—I was licking my fingers long after the jam was gone.
The star of the basket was the main course, the quail. Far tender than chicken, quail has a more assertive, gamey flavor. Tender, herby and sweet, the meat was garnished with strawberry salad and crumbled cheese. Quail is good eats.
The banana cream pie was a delight to finish the basket. The toasted almonds on top gave a crunchy texture to what was an otherwise soft pie. The wafers, already drowned in the cream had a distinct flavor: rum. The alcohol meshed well with the sweet banana, and the crunchiness of the almonds made for a comfort food classic with an exotic twist.
Overall, I was impressed with the selections in the gourmet picnic basket from Lüke. However, some of the items were better suited to eat indoors (I kept spilling tomato soup). Despite that, it was a finely crafted meal, and I look forward to enjoying another meal from Chef Russ.
The items from Bohanan’s Steakhouse were a little more picnic friendly. Their basket included cucumber gazpacho, watermelon salad, vegetable couscous, a muffuletta, giardiniera (Italian pickled veggies) and plum cake.
With the hot weather, Bohanan’s watermelon salad hit the spot. Made with pistachios, fresh cubed watermelon, arugula, sliced beets and goat cheese, it was unorthodox yet refreshing. The sweet watermelon and juicy beet coincided with the sharp flavor of the cheese and arugula combination.
The main course was a muffuletta, a sandwich with origins from Italian immigrants in New Orleans. The sandwich shares the name with the Sicilian bread that is large, flattened and sturdy but light inside. This traditional muffuletta sandwich had layer upon layer of salami, mozzarella cheese, ham and provolone with a spread of spicy olive condiment to add a bit of kick.
What really made the sandwich remarkable was the homemade giardinera, an Italian-styled pickled veggie. The tanginess of the vinegar cut through the smokiness of the muffuletta. Cauliflower, red pepper, pickles and carrots ensured a variety of textures in the mix.
Taking a bite of the couscous added a nutty flavor to the main course. But since the couscous was flavored with olives it continued to contribute to the tanginess.
The finisher was a plum upside down cake. Fresh candied plums rested atop a fluffy pastry. The cake was very earthy and warm. Nutmeg and cinnamon were used as spices in the cake. The plums were sweet with the tiniest hint of being tart. The warmth of the cake was the perfect way to finish off a zesty and tangy course.
The gourmet baskets at the picnic on Houston Street were a perfect incentive to help the community, and raise awareness. After all, what better way to reward an act of kindness than with delicious eats?
Interested in helping out with the Food Bank’s Summer Program? Donate now to help them provide a million meals over the summer for local children.