It was the kind of grand and decadent evening (complete with free flowing bubbles and festive garden attire) where Truman Capote would have been right at home. Last week, 350 neighbors from the diverse King William and South Town communities, including artists, architects, and preservationists, food lovers, San Antonio Society, arts-minded cultural patrons and the odd-Peruvian Cumbia fans gathered to “Look South” at Villa Finale, the only National Trust Historic Site in Texas, and the former home of civic leader and preservationist Walter Nold Mathis.
“Our idea with Look South was to provoke a creative collaboration between these amazing chefs, sommeliers, craft bartenders and designers and the Villa Finale collection itself,” said Elizabeth Fauerso, marketing director for Pearl Brewery, the event’s committee chair, and niece of Walter Nold Mathis. “What resulted was a vibrant, living response to my great uncle’s vision and aesthetic that we could taste, drink, touch and take home. That’s one of our goals for Villa Finale – to make this place a vital cultural resource for San Antonio and Texas at large by collaborating with our amazing creative community.”
Set in the ornate garden, the meal was a culinary adventure inspired by the villa’s collections that range from a dizzying array of Napoleana to cowboy paintings from South Texas. The attention to detail and historic context gave the meal more depth than the usual sea of tasting tables. Johnny Hernandez, chef at La Gloria, The Fruteria, and Casa Hernan created a Pozole Verde and Mole Blanco with cinnamon-scented pork belly that was inspired by the Colonial Spanish crowns and retablos (Latin American devotional painting derived from traditional Catholic church art).
Geronimo Lopez, chef at NAO New World Flavors, served a Peruvian-style ceviche to echo paintings from the Cuzco School. Inspired by the haunting South Texas landscapes of Julian Onderdonk, Jesse T. Perez, chef at Arcade Midtown Kitchen, served Broken Arrow Ranch Wild Boar “Stew and Chop” with apple cider grits, cranberry and BBQ glaze.
The thoughtfully crafted homage to the Villa’s collection and the eccentric tastes of Walter Nold Mathis himself was even found in the night’s digestif. Olaf Harmon, the mixologist at the hip Blue Box Bar, served a “Summer Haze Sherry” made from Mathilde Poire, Piedro Ximinez Sherry, Ramazzotti Amaro and Citrus inspired by Walter’s favorite adult beverage–Diet Cherry Pepsi and rum (we can attest the modern update was much more delicious than its predecessor).
Steve Pinetti, director of operations for Kimpton Hotels (the San Francisco-based group will open a new property at The Pearl Brewery complex in early 2014) was there, wisely building relationships with the audience that will likely celebrate christenings and weddings at his new hotel.
Like the Villa’s collection and the King William neighborhood, the evening ended on a sweet, sultry, and completely eclectic note with grammy-award winning Adrian Quesada’s newest project, Peruvian Cumbia-centric Money-Chicha, and pretty French macaroons from Bakery Lorraine.