Although I've neglected the 'Spotlight On..." series for several months, I've found myself on a roll following last week's 'Spotlight on...Japan!' article. So let's keep that ball rollin', all the way to San Antonio, Texas.
While six different flags have flown over Texas throughout its history, in San Antonio, Hispanic influence reigns. Along the 15-mile-long River Walk, subtropical breezes ruffle the cypress trees and mariachi music drifts from bars and restaurants; during the April Fiesta celebrating the city’s heritage, confetti and papel picado flicker against the sky.
You will undoubtedly visit the Alamo and the city's renowned River Walk; so how about some lesser known icons for your San An vacay? Did you know that San Antonio is also one of only two U.S. destinations designated a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy. The Culinary Institute of America here focuses on Latin flavors and hosts classes for the public throughout the year. The Ruby City museum, featuring contemporary paintings, sculptures, and installations from the colossal collection of the late Linda Pace and her foundation, has bolstered the city’s flourishing arts scene.
EAT The menu at 2018 James Beard Award semifinalist Mixtli explores a new region of Mexico every 45 days. The chef’s table seats just 12 diners per night, with tickets available online weeks in advance.
Since 2015, chef-owner Elizabeth Johnson has attracted national attention at Pharm Table, her brunch- and lunch-only restaurant with an Ayurvedic, anti-inflammatory bent. The locally sourced, plant-centric menu features farm-to-table tacos, quinoa tamal bowls, and chilled beet gazpacho, to name a few. Johnson also offers small-group cooking classes on-site.
DRINK The James Beard-nominated Esquire Tavern, home of the longest wood-topped bar in Texas, is a classic choice for a downtown drink. Downstairs, the low-lit, river-facing lounge is decorated with taxidermied fish and tufted leather banquettes that beckon nightcap seekers. For swanky cocktails and live South Texas music, head to Jazz, TX. Conceived by local musician Doc Watkins, this cozy subterranean watering hole is located in the cellar of the Pearl Brewery’s revamped Bottling House.
Not much has changed at the family-owned and-operated Little’s Boot Company since its founding in 1915. Today, local craftspeople still cut, hammer, stamp, and stitch at the on-site workshop. San Antonians – along with cattle barons, movie stars, and politicians – have invested in the family’s made-to-measure cowboy boots, which start at $1,250.
Latino culture permeates life in South Texas, and guayaberas are a staple here. The guayabera, also known as camisa de Yucatán, is a men's summer shirt, worn outside the trousers, distinguished by two vertical rows of closely sewn pleats running the length of the front and back of the shirt (per Wikipedia, fyi.). Guayaberas are perfect for San Antonio weather. Dos Carolinas makes bespoke, natural-fiber versions reminiscent of the styles worn in Cuba and the Yucatán. The shop also sells robes and dresses designed to breathe in hot, humid climates such as San Antonio’s.
At Rooms & Gardens, shop for French antiques, Fortuny pillows, and Texas-style entertaining essentials. Co-owner Laurie Saunders has gathered the best collection of cookbooks and coffee-table volumes in the city.
STAY Once a nineteenth-century brewhouse, today the 146-room riverfront Hotel Emma is a symbol of San Antonio’s layered and lovingly restored history. Dine on creative American fare at Supper or grab a cocktail at Sternewirth tavern and snag a coveted seat in one of the booths formed from the cast-iron tanks once used to ferment beer. Because Virtuoso travelers receive a full breakfast daily, make sure you book through the link I've given you (above), or call me. Overlooking 550 acres of pristine Texas Hill Country, La Cantera Resort & Spa has 496 rooms, including villa accommodations and the resort’s adults-only seventh floor, providing extra perks such as private access, valet parking, and an exclusive lounge with daily breakfast and cocktail service. My kind of place.
The 25,000-square-foot Loma de Vida Spa & Wellness offers classes ranging from high-intensity interval training to essential-oil mood enhancement, and treatments from full-day escapes in the private grotto with its heated pool to a two-hour massage and scrub that incorporates local honey, lavender, and beeswax. The special offer from this hotel valid through Dec. 22 is 10% off for 2 nights or longer, plus all Virtuoso amenities. Again, use the link or call me to book this hotel.
''til next week