Two Tricentennial Cities Known for Food Offer Lively Culinary Exchange

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Courtesy / Jeffrey Gurwin

Chef Jeff Balfour (center) of Southerleigh prepares Gulf Coast oysters for a dinner at the James Beard Foundation in 2016.

San Antonio and New Orleans are not officially sister cities, but they have much in common. Both are celebrating their 300th anniversaries, with festivities commemorating their histories and rich cultural traditions.

Now the two cities will share their foodie glory with an official Tricentennial culinary exchange, with three noted chefs from each city presenting dinners at notable restaurants – at SoBou in New Orleans on Nov. 27 and at Tre Trattoria at the San Antonio Museum of Art on Dec. 3.

San Antonio chefs Jason Dady of Tre Trattoria, Jeff Balfour of Southerleigh, and Cariño Cortez of La Familia Cortez Restaurants will cook at noted French Quarter restaurant SoBou, and New Orleans chefs Juan Carlos Gonzales of SoBou, Will Avelar of Meril, and Michael Gulotta of Maypop and Mopho will prepare dishes at Tre Trattoria.

“We’ve got some top-notch chefs” involved,  Dady said, including “some superstars of the culinary industry.”

Actually, said Dady, all six chefs will be preparing food at each venue. New Orleans chefs will prepare hors d’oeuvres on their home turf, with the San Antonio chefs making the entrées, and then the San Antonians will do hors d’oeuvres here for the New Orleans chefs’ main dishes.

“What I like about dinners like this,” Dady said, “is they give you the opportunity to eat in New Orleans without having to leave town,” and the same goes for New Orleanians interested in learning more about San Antonio cuisine.

Both cities are also well known for their food cultures. San Antonio was recently honored as a UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy, and New Orleans has long been a destination for its famous Cajun and Creole cuisine.

SoBou, for example, is known for its small-plate takes on New Orleans street food, like cracklins’, po’boy sandwiches, and beignets, while Mi Tierra, the flagship La Familia Cortez restaurant, is regularly crowded with diners seeking authentic Tex-Mex food from menudo to chalupas to fajitas.

Dady said he plans to showcase where San Antonio food culture is as a whole, he said. He’ll prepare a hamachi crudo, which combines raw Japanese yellowtail with smoked tomato, cilantro water, and a touch of fresh jalapeño. For his entrée, Dady will make smoked beef shortribs with smoked oyster aioli, as a way to tie fine dining together with the Texas barbecue scene, he said.

Each chef will prepare courses that best represent their local cuisines and how they feel about their respective food cultures, he said. Dady said he very much looks forward to seeing what each chef brings to the table.

The idea for a culinary exchange came about during a conversation between Dady and Shanon Miller of the San Antonio Office of Historic Preservation about ways to bring together both city’s Tricentennials.

“And now, here we are just a couple days away from this fun, awesome exchange dinner,” Dady said.

Each dinner is open to the public, with tickets starting at $175 and available here, along with further information. The San Antonio event will begin with cocktails at 6 p.m. and a dinner to follow at 7:30 p.m.

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