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Suzanne Taranto-Etheredge, CEO of Culinaria
Episode 3427th January 2021 • The Alamo Hour • Justin Hill
00:00:00 00:54:31

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Suzanne Taranto-Etheredge is the CEO and President of Culinaria. She has been deeply involved in the San Antonio food scene and being an advocate for improving the visibility and notoriety of it for a decade. She has a lot to say about our city and the scene.

Transcript:

[music]

Justin Hill: Hello and Bienvenidos, San Antonio. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, discussing the people, places, and passion that make our city. My name is Justin Hill, a local attorney, a proud San Antonioan and keeper of chickens and bees. On The Alamo Hour, you'll get to hear from the people that make San Antonio great and unique, and the best-kept secret in Texas. We're glad that you're here.

All right. Welcome to The Alamo Hour, today's guest is Suzanne Taranto-Etheredge. Suzanne is the president and CEO of Culinaria. Culinaria is a 501(c)(3) committed to promoting San Antonio's area food scene, making it a better food destination and wine destination. They're involved with what everybody has experienced in Restaurant Week, that's something they put together. I learned today I'll have other things like what do you all call them? Food tours.

Suzanne Taranto-Etheredge: Yes. We have a lot, [unintelligible 00:01:00] food trail.

Justin: I didn't know that, I thought that was super cool. I was looking into it. I learned some stuff about our food scene today and I thought I was probably pretty good. I'm the guy that like all the North-side guys who have wives and kids will call and say, "We have a date night, where do I go?" There was a time I was good at that. I'm not as good at that anymore.

Suzanne, thank you for being here. Thank you for joining us. I know it's the middle of Restaurant Week, so it's probably your busiest time of the year.

Suzanne: It is a little busy, but it's a different kind of busy now with COVID protocols in place. It's been very interesting to adapt and change and pivot in the middle of our world. It's never too late to eat out, that's the good news.

Justin: Well, I was looking at the Restaurant Week menus, most of them have to-go options, which is the first time I've ever seen that. We're going to get into Restaurant Week here in a second, but I'm going to do what I do with all of my guests and go through some top 10 questions with you being part of the food scene and the wine scene, yours are going to be a little bit different. You're not going to hurt anybody's feelings so I'm going to ask you some questions and let's start.

Suzanne: You never know, Justin. There's time, you don't know.

Justin: Everybody's thin-skinned these days.

Suzanne: [chuckles]

Justin: I had Stefan Bowers on here and I really appreciated how he was not concerned with hurting anybody's feelings. Let's take inspiration from that today. Starting off, what brought you to San Antonio? How long have you lived here?

Suzanne: Oh, my gosh, a job brought me to San Antonio. I had a choice to live in either Austin or San Antonio. Everyone was cra-- They couldn't believe I chose San Antonio, but I knew the minute that I got here because I was doing a lot of things strategically statewide for another organization, and so I had the choice where I wanted to go. The minute I got to San Antonio, I just was in love. I've been here for gosh, over 15 years now. It's flown by like crazy.

I was just the child when I got here. It's been a really fun ride. San Antonio, more than any other city just, made me feel at home. People here are so welcoming and so gracious, and I just loved it. I'm a Texas girl. I'm from North Texas so it just was a really great fit.

I'm from Canadian, Texas.

Justin: You're from Panhandle North Texas.

Suzanne: I'm from the Panhandle. Absolutely right.

Justin: I'm from North Texas, you're from the Panhandle. My dad was born in the Mineral Wells area, he was raised in Borger.

Suzanne: Got you.

Justin: I grew up in the Wichita Falls area, which still falls, I think is more like traditional North Texas.

Suzanne: Yes. You get it, that North. I really love San Antonio just because everyone was so friendly and kind, and it just feels San Antonio still, to this day, feels smaller to me and I like that. I liked that we get to all be interconnected and [unintelligible 00:03:52].

Justin: Did you go to Texas Tech?

Suzanne: Myself-- Two of my siblings did, but I did not.

Justin: Where'd you go?

Suzanne: I went to A&M.

Justin: Okay, I went to A&M.

Suzanne: Technically, I started at A&M and then I finished at West Texas A&M.

Justin: Well, everybody regionalized as where they end up going to school. You moved here in what? 2015?

Suzanne: Do what?

Justin: I mean, 2005 is that about when you moved here?

Suzanne: Yes.

Justin: All right. Where are your favorite spots in town to eat now? I won't say universally, but now where? I know even though you're culinary, you got to share your love.

Suzanne: It's literally picking my favorite children, so I'll go with pandemic. Right? I'm loving the to-go option from Meadow. They have this great-- They've done a really great job since the pandemic started and I don't want to cook, let's be clear. I'm not into cooking, I don't want to do it, I go out for a reason. They did a really good job bringing everything to you and they have free delivery within a mile.

I thought they did such a great job like they have half-priced burger night and then they do half-priced wine nights so I would just order all my wine on Tuesday and get my burgers on Thursday, it was great. I've been loving that. I love Jardeen, I think great thoughtful new place added into the scene. I just went to Rebelle this weekend, I love Rebelle.

I eat everywhere though, so it's really not fair. I love El Jarro for good Mexican food. I eat everywhere, so I really love all kinds of cuisines. I start popping around the genre wide and then I love Tre at the museum. I think that's a really cool spot. I love everything. This is the hardest question that I ever have to answer.

Justin: Well, they're going to get worse. El Jarro was in your neighborhood, right?

Suzanne: Yes. During the pandemic, I stayed closer as I assume most people did. We're seeing a lot of people who are staying closer to where they live now, because that's where they're working as well and so I found it really easy to somewhere that's close to me when I'm Zooming until six o'clock or whatever and just have my food show up. I was really liking that.

Justin: I have found myself going to Playland more than I should and I also found out Sichuan house will basically deliver anywhere.

Suzanne: They'll take it anywhere. I love that place, it's so good. I think it's so good.

Justin: I live super close to Tidy, so I get to cheat with it. Have you been there?

Suzanne: [unintelligible 00:06:39]. Who hasn't been there?

Justin: Well, a lot of people still haven't and you cannot wear tank tops in there. Just as an aside-

Suzanne: [chuckles]

Justin: -you have to have sleeves on your shirt, which is surprising considering the decor.

Suzanne: You need to dress appropriately to go to Tidy, exactly.

Justin: Well, I have a pool, so there's been moments that at four o'clock, after a day in the sun, having some drinks, everybody's like, "Let's go to Tidy," and the gas station next door sells T-shirts, just in case you need to know. What are your favorite spots for drinks right now? Cocktails, wine, whatever.

Suzanne: Well, I like them all. I wish that bars were open, that would be a great place to start. Friendly Spot is always a great place. Really, I'm sticking to patios right now, I'm trying to do my part to be COVID-free. I like to drink all over town too. I like to drink at Pearl. They all have really-- I really like the people watching at The Pearl right now in particular for a shop for all of my mask so I see what everybody else is wearing and then I go and order a billion masks after I see them walking around, but I love both Pica. Have you been to Best Quality Daughter? That's phenomenal.

Justin: I have not, I saw it though. Honestly, I'm sure this is an unpopular opinion, Hot Joy makes my tummy hurt, so I don't love Hot Joy. It's pretty heavy food. I loved the Granary so I will go though eventually.

Suzanne: Got you. I did love Granary, I'm going to miss that. I love Southtown, I love going to La Frite. I love that patio. I love South Alamode, so really everywhere again. Tick all the box.

Justin: The Pearl needs-- The people watching is great, but in that place where you can watch all the people on the lawn, there needs to be a cocktail bar that you can sit outside because there's really not.

Suzanne: Actually, I agree with you. I don't know why they haven't done that.

Justin: Yes, there's beer and wine, but if you want to have a cocktail-- Like you want to have a margarita and sit outside and watch people play with their dogs and whatever else they do. That's what I want to do and that's not an option yet. If that happens--

Suzanne: They don't have-- You need that in a plastic glass, even when walking everywhere.

Justin: You're allowed to walk around with drinks there?

Suzanne: Yes. You'll walk [unintelligible 00:08:51] but not many people want to drink their wine in a solo cup. Some people do. It's not bad, whatever.

Justin: I'm not above that. Next question, what are some of your favorite purveyors in town of either food or meats? We're now getting this industry in San Antonio that I think is a little bit beyond the normal consumer, but we have The Farmers Butcher. We have some of these specialty meat shops and we've got wineries and breweries here too that people don't know about. What are some of your favorite purveyors of the product?

Suzanne: Oh, gosh, I love Maverick. I love-- Really, what is that one that is right by Elm Creek? I can't think of the name. You're putting me on the spot, Justin, I can't remember it.

Justin: The one what?

Suzanne: The little book shop at Elm Creek and it's like they were so good because during the pandemic, they had stuff for everyone. It was great and nobody was thinking about it. You could pop into any of these meat shops when everybody else was going through chaos and ACB. You could just pop in there and they had all the meat where you couldn't buy it anywhere else. Gosh, it's going to drive me crazy.

Justin: Well, when you think about it--

Suzanne: Ask me another question and then I'll remember that-

Justin: You can tell us--

Suzanne: -and I'll shout it out.

Justin: Something we do with everybody is favorite hidden gems in the city. We're going to cover-- We've already covered beer and wine and all that. [crosstalk] Nuremberg pointed out there's Denman Estate Park. I'd never heard of it, looked it up, still haven't been, it's beautiful. It's a cool, off the beaten path local attraction.

Suzanne: I hadn't heard that either.

Justin: I hadn't either. Do you have anything like that in the city when you have friends that are like, "Anything we should check out?" The Botanical Garden's always one for me-

Suzanne: Botanical Garden.

Justin: -but also the Japanese Tea Garden is really great if you've never been.

Suzanne: I love Japanese Tea Garden. I love-- What is it called? Justin, I'm having a mental breakdown over here. I just can't even think of what I'm thinking of.

Justin: It's my hard [crosstalk] questions.

Suzanne: I don't know where Denman is though.

Justin: It's somewhere in the Northside-ish.

Suzanne: I love Botanical Gardens. I also love to go-- There are those great-- In the North right by-- In-between where La Cantera Resort is, there are those great trails through there and you get these beautiful views of the Hill Country, and they're just these walking trails and I love to take people there. That's one of my favorite spots.

Justin: On La Cantera Parkway?

Suzanne: Yes. Well, it's in-between the resorts. There's those two big resorts right there and if you go to either resort-- You don't have to go to resorts, but I always start there because I know where it is. You can just go on all those walking trails through there and it's beautiful.

Justin: I didn't know that.

Suzanne: It's really nice.

Justin: You've got a good one there.

Suzanne: I always feel that's a definite hidden gem.

Justin: Favorite dishes in San Antonio. For me, it's always--

Suzanne: Oh, my gosh.

Justin: At Cured at one point, he had a lamb in a puff pastry, and I don't know what it was called, but to me, that's still just one of the best things I've ever eaten in San Antonio.

Suzanne: I've never had that. I love-- At Botika, he has that sushi that's piled high with all the things and he puts this-- I think it's apple cider vinegar, but I'm not sure. They're soaked in them and he puts those on top and I am obsessed with that dish. I should know what it's called, but I don't, of course. Then I love-- Gosh, what else do I love? I'm trying to think of really weird things that I love all over town. I love Jason Dady does this great gluten-free bolognese that I love. I know gluten-free is weird but I do love it. It's so good. Then there is a bakery that does these beefed little tartlet things that I'm obsessed with those too.

Justin: Do you like--?

Suzanne: I like things everywhere.

Justin: Do you like pizza?

Suzanne: I love pizza.

Justin: Have you ever had Chicago's deep dish?

Suzanne: Yes.

Justin: At Chicago's on Blanco?

Suzanne: Yes.

Justin: Everybody I've fed that to is just blown away and they're like, "This is the best pizza I've ever had."

Suzanne: It's the best pizza in the world.

Justin: It's so good. That's also walking distance for me.

Suzanne: So good. Have you had to Trilogy? Have you had that? That's up in the North too.

Justin: No.

Suzanne: Have you had Trilogy? Everybody's raving about Trilogy. I haven't had it yet, but I'm hearing great things.

Justin: What is it? Pizza?

Suzanne: It's like dish pizza as well. They've got stiff competition, but we'll see.

Justin: I don't know if I'm considered Northside.

Suzanne: [inaudible 00:13:20] whatever.

Justin: South of 410, is that Northside? It's all--

Suzanne: South-- Yes, you're middle city. You're the middle of the city.

Justin: I'm of the people. What's your favorite junk food?

Suzanne: People. [laughs] Popcorn. I like caramel, I like chocolate, I like salt and vinegar. I like all the popcorn and chocolate. Any time, I'll take chocolate every day.

Justin: I'm a personal injury lawyer by trade and there is actually an injury called popcorn lung that popcorn workers-

Suzanne: Stop it.

Justin: -and people that eat too-- You would have to eat so much popcorn-- [crosstalk] I'm not shitting you.

Suzanne: You are lying. What are you talking about? You're just such a liar.

Justin: I swear.

Suzanne: Are you kidding me?

Justin: If you googled--

Suzanne: Have you had one of these cases? Have you had one of these cases?

Justin: I had one in San Antonio. If you Google-- [crosstalk] It was for a lady who worked at one of those popcorn stores in the mall.

Suzanne: What?

Justin: It only affects people that either are around making popcorn all the time or you-- There are some consumer cases because there are some people that are out there and will eat six bags of popcorn a day. It's the vapors that cause-- It's called bronchiolitis obliterans. It actually can be caused by other things, but people that are around aerosolized, fake butter flavoring can get a degenerative lung condition.

Suzanne: What?

Justin: Eat popcorn, don't breathe--

Suzanne: Well, now I'm giving up pop. I'm super depressed now. What's happening?

Justin: Well, don't breathe the vapors.

Suzanne: Don't breathe-- Okay. I'll try not to.

Justin: You know the old commercials, they would pop it open--

Suzanne: Is that a real case?

Justin: I swear. Yes. [chuckles] As crazy as it sounds, I'm not funny.

Suzanne: I'm going to google that. I'm to google so many things. I'll go to Google.

Justin: All right. Well, you're going to learn this and you're going to step away as it's vaporing when you're done cooking it until it's done, then you can eat it. All right. What has been the biggest change-- How long have you been doing the Culinaria stuff?

Suzanne: 150 years now.

Justin: Well, I don't think so. How long have you been doing it?

Suzanne: Gosh, it's probably since 2009.

Justin: What have been the biggest changes you've seen in San Antonio's food scene since then? Obviously, we have more better...

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