Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dining with history ...

I count the Spanish influence among the many joys of living in San Antonio, Texas! Short history lesson: the early Spanish settlement of San Antonio began in 1718 with the Alarcon expedition from Spain and the establishment of the San Antonio de Valero Mission (now the Alamo) as a means to reassert Spanish dominance over Texas from the nearby French in Louisiana. San Antonio grew to become the largest Spanish settlement in Texas, and for most of its history, the capital of the Spanish, and later Mexican, province of Tejas.

That Spanish presence continues to influence the architecture, culture, language and food of San Antonio. Any time residents and visitors want to feel transported back to our Spanish colonial roots, they can head downtown to the beautifully preserved remnants of our history.

That historic fabric is part of the charm of Market Square, with its restaurants and shops catering to locals and travelers alike. It's a perfect spot to enjoy a Sunday morning brunch away from the RiverWalk destination that draws the guide book crowd.

San Antonio is renown for its original TexMex cuisine, and every meal starts with tostadas (fried corn chips) and salsa (left). Here, they share space with cold ice tea on rustic, tiled tabletops that contribute to the Spanish character of the Market. Our Pollo al Carbon (grilled chicken) is served on a sizzling, hot comale (flat griddle) along with chilies (jalapenos), bell peppers, onions and fresh, handmade tortillas.

After a great meal, and a frosty Margarita, it's time to pick up baked goods and desserts to take home.  Don't worry about the time, the famous Mi Tierra panaderia (bakery) is open 24 hours with a vast selection of handmade treats. 

Street vendors, like this lady selling coronas (floral headbands), add to the colorful spirit of the market. There are also dozens of shops with Mexican imports and locally-made goods.

Musical concerts and dance performances are part of the regular entertainment in the large interior courtyard of Market Square, particularly during the holidays. If you plan to visit, it's good to know that the courtyard is currently undergoing some major upgrades, so the strolling mariachis are filling the gap while bands take a break from entertaining.

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