Lunch at Sustenio

Green papaya saladYesterday I had a delicious meal with some of my foodie mama friends. (A group of food bloggers who meet monthly at restaurants, started by the lovely Bryana) It was more than a good meal. It was a meal I can’t stop thinking about, talking about and dreaming about. Yes it was that good. Although I’m an ex-foodie I have pretty much all foodie friends. Truth is I Love to be around people who love to eat. I love to watch people photograph their food and stop talking mid sentence because the bite they took was so good. I love that my friends don’t make a big deal about my dietary choices and I don’t a make a big deal about theirs. I’ve come a long way in food journey and I like where I am now. Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

Yesterday’s brunch was extra special for me because of chef David Gilbert.

This was my first trip to Sustenio and the Eilan Hotel in general and I was pleasantly surprised. I have been enjoying the company of my foodie mama friends for while now. I am the only one who does not eat meat but this has never stopped me from joining them. San Antonio isn’t the easiest place to get high raw meat free fare, but it can be done. I have learned to call ahead or at the very least review the menu ahead of time carefully before venturing out. There was a time that I was eating fish and that made things easier for me. Lately I have not wanted to eat it, so I have stopped. I don’t know how long this will stick, but for now fish is off the table for me. I did not call ahead before going to Sustenio because I figured there would be lots of vegetarian options for brunch.

Table at SustenioThis was our table, very elegant.

When I got there I learned that the chef put together a menu for us and that it would be served family style. Oops. As soon as Chef Gilbert learned of my dietary restrictions he came over to talk to me and said that he would take care of it. He went above and beyond my expectations.

Perfectly dressed salad

Meet our first course. Chopped salad with pepitas, tomatoes, dressed with lemon balsamic vinaigrette.

Never underestimate the power of a great salad. I have eaten a lot of salads at a lot of restaurants and too often the greens are over dressed. A dressing should work with the greens and not overpower them. Dressings that are too acidic or too oily are a huge turn off for me, so I always get my dressing on the side. There are a handful of restaurants where I don’t have to do this but for the most part it is my standard practice. To me the mark of a great chef is how well they execute simple dishes. Getting a salad right is more difficult than you may think. Knowing how to combine acidic flavors and dress the greens so they are not drowning in dressing is really an art. This salad was spot on.

Chef David GilbertI spy HeatherClaire and Lauren

Next we were treated to a demo of chef Gilbert making us a green papaya salad. He combined Thai chilies, garlic, key lime in a giant mortar and pestle and pounded away adding ingredients slowly. The result was amazing. Before he added the peanuts he asked if anyone had an allergy and sure enough one of us did. It was very thoughtful of him to ask, but that’s just the kind of guy that he is.

Green papaya saladThe final product

After the demo we went back to our seats for more courses. I was treated to a cilantro roasted vegetable flat bread, a vegetarian version of the flat bread everyone else got.

Cilantro roasted vegetable flatbread

I wish I had this right now, it was so good. Sometimes vegetable flat breads can be too soggy if the vegetables are not prepared correctly or too many are loaded on. Not this one. The bread was very crisp and flavorful and had vegetables in every bite.

Our table

Yes we all had out phones out. Tweeting and eating, that’s how we do.

Local hen yolk pappardelle pasta

Handmade pasta topped with roasted golden beets, artichokes and local micro basil.

This pasta dish was so delicious and satisfying. It did contain a buerre blanc sauce, but I find that I can tolerate small amounts of dairy as long as I don’t overdo it.

Chocolate parfaitChocolate parfait with powders, fruit and mouse.

I don’t think you can properly begin to understand how good this was. So here are some more pictures. I exceeded my dairy limit by eating most of this.

Chocolate parfait

Chocolate parfait

I am very strict about not eating dairy at home and when I am cooking. If I am out in San Antonio I am a bit more lenient about it otherwise going out would be impossible. I can eat foods cooked with some butter but I would never eat a milk based dessert. I know it sounds complex, but it works for me. Most of the time I skip dessert or just get fruit. This was a rare occasion where I did not want to skip dessert. I enjoyed every bite, but stopped before my digestion was compromised.

What I enjoyed most about our meal was how well we were treated. Chef Gilbert even made me a special printed version of the menu with all of the food substitutions he made. This was really touching. Especially after having a really bad experience at another restaurant, that shall remain nameless. I called a week in advance only to have the waiter make a huge deal about my diet when I got there. It was a really bad dining experience. This was the exact opposite of what happened at Sustenio. I gave them no notice at all yet they pulled it off seamlessly. I am looking forward to going back, I hear they have a killer tasting menu.

  • Im No vegertarian but meal looks incredible. The Flatbread looks beyond appertizing and and the desert could probably be described as heaven in a glass – and this all just from looking at it. Very Jealous you got to enjoy all this amazing food!

  • BryanaCoalsonHowe

    Loved our experience! David is an amazing chef, as well as a fabulous person. I knew he would make our time special. I also love that you stay true to your diet, we can all be foodiemamas in our own way. Xoxo

  • Manar

    Nice blog, Neven. The pictures are great and I couldn’t agree more with you about simple foods prepared well being the true mark of a good chef or cook

  • Pingback: - Raw Food in The News and Around The Web()

  • Tara, we have been missing you a ton!

  • Tara

    This all looks so good!! I was following everyone’s tweets and drooling all along.

    I love your last paragraph…the restaurant that shall remain nameless.  Funny how none of us wound up blogging that dinner.  Wonder if that jack-ass is still working there?

    Miss ya girl!!

    • Bryanacoalsonhowe

      Oh I did blog that dinner… But out of respect for the Chef, really.

      • David Gilbert

        Thxs Ladies for all the kind words! You all were wonderful to have at Sustenio!
        If there is anything I can do-be lend advice for a recipe or roll out a vegetarian tasting menu, I welcome you all back w/open arms!

        See you soon,
        Chef David