It’s hard to get or feel any closer to your food than to have it prepared before your eyes in the kitchen by executive chef John Armstrong of the Westin La Cantera Resort on the western edge of San Antonio. Chef John is an engaging guy – talking about his childhood in Ohio that gave him his work ethic, his wife and kids that give him something to work for, and the lengths his hard work goes to keep things local and seasonal at this huge golf and spa resort.
Every time you’re tempted to think how complicated Chef John’s cooking is – by home standards anyway – he does something to make you realize just how simple it is. Here, for instance, he plates pan-seared scallops atop a sauce made mostly by pureeing the green parts of zucchini with Texas pecan oil, which he insists is even better for you than olive oil. The tiny salad on top adds the perfect taste and texture.
In the Westin La Cantera’s fine dining restaurant, Francesca’s at Sunset, most of our table went with the antelope Diane, the meat coming from the famed Broken Arrow Ranch just a bit farther west in Ingram. Feeling contrarian, I had to order the beef filet that’s been a favorite since Francesca’s opened its doors. And with a cabernet from Rodney Strong to accompany, the whole thing was pretty much carnivore heaven.
The idea of German chocolate cheesecake might strike you, as it struck me at first, as mixing too many metaphors. Still, it was pretty hard to resist anything that packed this much chocolate punch beneath this Jetson-like swirl of crispy tuile cookie. There’s also a spin on s’mores offered that would make me want to take up camping anytime.
I must put in a good word for Francesca’s sommelier Steven Krueger. Whenever this guy isn’t conducting early evening tastings of the very best Texas wines (20 wines, organized into a quintet of four-wine flights), he’s picking out great things from around the world for your every dinner course. Dessert, on this occasion, was quite welcome to show up (and stay a very long time!) with glasses of Brachetto d’Acqui from Rosa Regale, a sparking wine as sweet as it is deep-jewel red.