The 2018 RIMs Annual Conference & Exhibition will be held in San Antonio, Texas, April 15-18. The timing is fortuitous. On May 1, 1718, the Mission San Antonio de Valero (known today as the Alamo) was established. It was the first of five missions that would grow into San Antonio. In celebration of its 300th anniversary, the city is hosting an array of cultural events throughout the year. San Antonio has also received a stream of accolades, among them Frommer’s “Best Place to Go in 2018,” Travel + Leisure’s “50 Best Places to Travel in 2018,” and National Geographic Traveler’s “Best of the World 2018” list of 21 must-see destinations, making the city one of the places to visit in 2018.
Last year, UNESCO also named San Antonio a Creative City of Gastronomy—the missions are a UNESCO World Heritage Site—the second city in the United States to receive this distinction. After the announcement, Visit San Antonio credited the city’s thriving food scene to its “confluence of many world cultures, such as Mexican, Spanish, German and French,” as well as its being the site of the Culinary Institute of America’s (CIA) third campus, at Pearl, a mixed-use complex.
Once a historic brewery, the 1894 Second Empire-style landmark now houses shops, chef-centric restaurants and a weekend farmers market. Last year, Bottling Dept., San Antonio’s first food hall, opened at Pearl in a new building that was constructed where the former bottling department stood. Five vendors offer something for everyone—rotisserie chicken, burger and fries, gourmet donuts, ramen, and Japanese healthy fare. There’s also a bar where you can order beer and wine from a list curated by the sommelier at High Street Wine Co.
“This is an exciting time for the culinary arts in San Antonio,” says chef Johnny Hernandez, a CIA graduate whose restaurant empire includes La Gloria , a Mexican street-food eatery at Pearl. Two years ago, Hernandez prepared President Obama’s Cinco de Mayo dinner at the White House. His exploration of the diverse regions of Mexican cuisine continues with the recent opening of Burgerteca, which features custom burgers topped with ingredients found in Oaxaca, Pueblo, Veracruz and Yucatan.
While RIMs attendees will miss the tricentennial festivities being held during Commemorative Week, May 1-6, they can enjoy two ongoing events happening during RIMs. Common Currents is an exhibition that illuminates the 300 years of the city’s multicultural history as told and rewritten by more than 300 visual and performing artists. The San Antonio 1718: Art from Viceregal Mexico exhibit at the San Antonio Museum of Art features more than 100 landscapes, portraits, narrative paintings, sculptures, and devotional and decorative objects, many of them never before exhibited in the United States, that cover People and Places, The Cycle of Life, and The Church in the first century of San Antonio.
Embrace the tricentennial spirit at these two boutique hotels, which authentically blend San Antonio’s past and present.
Historic Hotel Emma
• Guests checking into this historic hotel located at Pearl are greeted in the Library with a complimentary La Babia margarita.
• Known for interplay with modern and historic elements, Roman and Williams juxtaposes refined and eclectic contemporary furniture and original artwork with the industrial architectural features of the interiors.
• The 146 guest rooms vary in size and furnishings—for example, Terrace Rooms have a private terrace with a fireplace, handmade tiles and a custom-made mesquite bench. All have a Hotel Emma Ice Box hidden in the armoire and stocked with local beer, farmers market provisions and margarita ingredients.
Book: One of the seven suites on the top floor. Some are two stories. All feature dining areas, original stonework and vaulted ceilings.
Spanish Colonial Hotel Valencia Riverwalk
• A $10 million renovation, which included a total redo of the bar and restaurant, landed the hotel in the No. 1 spot in San Antonio and No. 2 in Texas in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2017 for hotels.
• Acclaimed designer Lauren Rottet used rustic woods, ironwork, and handcrafted tiles and textiles to create the Spanish colonial meets modern Mediterranean look.
• The sophisticated rooms and suites, some with balconies, have wood ebony credenzas, leather club chairs and plantation shutters. Luxurious touches include white Italian marble in the bathrooms and custom-made beds with seven layers of Egyptian cotton linens.
• Executive chef Anthony Mesa’s innovative Argentinian-inspired restaurant at the Hotel Valencia Riverwalk serves up options for carnivores and vegetarians in a Spanish colonial setting.
• Smoked short rib ravioli, grilled prawns, quail meatballs and parrillada, a platter of grilled meats—chorizo, blood sausage, chili-rubbed short ribs, Wagyu beef shoulder loin—are among the dishes drawing crowds.
Must-order: Flamed proveleta, Argentinian provolone that is set afire with tequila.
Mexican Burgers Burgerteca
• “Alebrijes,” the colorful papier mâché figurines famous in Oaxaca, are the inspiration for the décor in chef Johnny Hernandez’s new burger joint, which features custom chairs, hand-forged chandeliers, and large slabs of wood for communal dining.
• Burgers are served on freshly baked yeast buns and enhanced with traditional Mexican toppings—chilies, spices, moles and queso—and flavors such as al pastor, pibil and chilaquiles.
Try: Oaxaqueña—an Angus beef patty dressed with mole negro, black bean spread, pickled onions, avocado, and queso fresco; or the Pacifica—seared tuna with chipotle-lime mayo, cabbage slaw, sesame seeds, avocado and tomato.
• The in-house ice cream shop serves paletas (popsicles), raspas (shaved ice) and other frozen desserts.
Common Currents—300 artists were each assigned one year of San Antonio’s history to develop their work for this exhibition, which is presented chronologically through a variety of contemporary media across six venues. sanantonio300.org
San Antonio 1718: Art from Viceregal Mexico—This exhibit at the San Antonio Museum of Art celebrates the city’s Hispanic roots and cultural ties with Mexico. It features works by renowned New Spain 18th-century artists as well as pieces by unknown vernacular artists. samuseum.org
Pearl—In addition to being a culinary destination, Pearl is known for its shops, events and wellness services. Check out The Sporting District for quality clothing for the modern gentleman. Catch an author reading at The Twig Book Shop. Enjoy a signature hand and foot massage at the new Hiatus Spa and Retreat. atpearl.com
Spirited Away in San Antonio
“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” —Mark Twain
Regarding the merits of good whiskey, no doubt Texans would find common ground with Twain. Relaxed state laws covering the distillery process have led to a boom in distilleries and enhanced the distillery tour and tasting experience. There are now more than 90 distillers’ licenses and many award-winning distilleries where tastings and cocktails will put you in good spirits. You can even buy a bottle to spirit away.
San Antonio’s Award-Winning Distilleries
Dorćol Distilling Company—Owner Boyan Kalusevic produces Kinsman Rakia, an apricot brandy, using his grandfather’s recipe. The spirit has received multiple honors, including Best of Category/Gold Medal Winner at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition 2016. There are 30 cocktails on the menu at the distillery’s tasting room, all of which use brandy as a base. The distillery’s new brewery, HighWheel Beerworks, currently serves Kolsch, Saison, Porter and IPA on tap. dorcolspirits.com
Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling—Ranger Creek brews handcrafted beer and small batch spirits. For its whiskey, Ranger Creek uses Texas corn, which is milled, mashed, fermented and distilled, then aged in oak casks. Ranger Creek has received awards for its .36 Texas Bourbon, a deep amber bourbon with a sweet undertone, and .36 White, a bourbon (before it is aged in oak) that’s good for mixing. Other Ranger Creek spirits include Rimfire single malt scotch-style whiskey, aged in bourbon barrels smoked with Texas mesquite, and .44 Rye, a 100% rye whiskey. Beers like the German-style San Antonio Lager and Mission Trail Ale, an extra pale ale, pay homage to the city. drinkrangercreek.com
Rebecca Creek Distillery—The 2017 “Official Best Of” television program named Rebecca Creek the top craft distillery in Texas. One of the largest craft distilleries in the country, Rebecca Creek uses a 1,000-gallon, custom-built, German-manufactured Christian Carl copper pot during the distilling process. Its small batch spirits include Fine Texas Spirit Whiskey, Texas Ranger Whiskey, Enchanted Rock Vodka and Enchanted Rock Peach Vodka. rebeccacreekdistillery.com