Scott Ball / Rivard Report
Each year, the Harvest Feast brings a mix of established and newer chefs and mixologists together to create dishes and cocktails inspired by their individual takes on the Hot Wells Ruins and Gardens.
The proceeds of the culinary event, themed “Under Construction,” will go back to the Hot Wells Resort as it undergoes transformation into a county park. Individual tickets are $75 and couple’s tickets are $125. Tickets are available online here.
(Read more: Bexar County To Fund Hot Wells Park)
The annual Harvest Feast was started by the Hot Wells Conservancy, Justin Parr and local chef Robbie Nowlin who, this year, has handpicked thirty local chefs to serve bite-sized portions of their dishes, some created with ingredients from the Hot Wells Gardens. When searching for the perfect lineup, Nowlin said, he made sure to pick chefs from family-owned or chef-owned restaurants.
“I keep it organic and grassroots in the sense that we do not have corporate restaurants joining us,” Nowlin said.
For a complete list of participating chefs, click here.
Throughout the evening, Harvest Feast guests can vote via text message for their favorite chef’s dishes, which will culminate in first, second, and third place awards for winners at the end of the night. Along with the culinary treats, five bands – including hip-hop headliner, Pokell Dooley – will provide live music, and raffle prizes will be awarded later in the evening. There will be plenty of free beer and wine, as well as mixologist cocktails by the Brooklynite, The Last Word, and Park Social.
This year, Nowlin expects anywhere from 1,300-2,000 attendees, he said, making this year’s feast the biggest yet. This year’s numbers stand in contrast to the small number of guests at the first Harvest Feast four years ago.
“The first year it was only 60 people, like a private dinner,” Nowlin said. “Then it jumped from 60 to 800 (guests) the next year. We were like ‘Let’s make this a festival.’ It was just all my friends from Austin and Houston…who got together and did it and before you knew it, chefs (were reaching out to me) and I had to tell them ‘no.'”
Hot Wells was a spa and resort in the late 1800s and early 1900s that attracted celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and Teddy Roosevelt with its three sulphur pools. After a series of fires, the resort closed down, but the remains of the bathhouse are still standing.
After years of deciding what to do with the property, Bexar County Commissioners approved a plan to transform the former resort into a county park. Phase one of construction, which will cost $4 million, includes site preservation efforts, signage, parking and the construction of an outdoor classroom and a connection to Mission Reach from South Presa Street.
The second $2.3 million phase of improvements will include the creation of gardens, a greenhouse, an outdoor stage and movie screen and conservancy offices. The park is slated to open within the next two to three years.
“A big, major culinary part of the park once it is actually done is to have a sort of educational program (about gardening and eating healthy) for the elementary and middle school kids on the Southside of San Antonio,” Nowlin said.
Top image: The crowd filters through Hot Wells during the 2015 Harvest Feast. Photo by Scott Ball.