Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A bit of Good Taste: Girl's Night Out with Tanji Patton

As the Christmas season started, Texas' new favorite for the best of food and wine, Tanji Patton, hosted the last Girl's Night Out of 2012. This holiday themed event took place at the Westin La Cantera in San Antonio and spotlighted some great shopping and treats as the attendees geared up for the holiday season.

First a little about Girl's Night Out for those new to the concept. This event started as a way for Tanji and her friends to get together and enjoy themselves -- a difficult thing to do with the busy lives these women lead. Their first event was a huge success, with 100 attendees. Since then, Tanji and her friends have hosted these events throughout San Antonio -- and now Houston -- where women can gather to enjoy great drinks, wonderful food, and lots of good company. The event allows friends to gather and have fun, but it also allows for networking and the development of new friendships.

The most recent one was my first -- and I attended as a guest of Tanji's after meeting her at the San Antonio Cellar Classic. This event was hidden from the hotel's major traffic in one of the large meeting and conference spaces on the grounds. Wine, beer, and a signature holiday cocktail were available (all guests were given two drink tickets and could purchase more drinks after that); these were chosen by Tanji and her staff (as I was told by Westin sommelier Steven Krueger who made a quick appearance after his nightly wine tasting). A wonderful collection of hors d'oeuvre was available, topped off by a chocolate fountain. Live Christmas music provided our backdrop (though I felt it was often too loud for the space), and representative from local businesses and establishments came out to provide an array of shopping possibilities.

As this is primarily a wine blog, I will focus there, but I did want to share a little about the rest.

The food

The variety was great. Everyone could find something to please their pallet -- even unfortunately picky me. I had already eaten after a LONG day teaching, so I stuck to the desserts, which mainly meant the chocolate fountain. This went for the middle and provided milk chocolate with an array of expected and unexpected dipping items: strawberries and marshmallows, but also pretzel sticks and gingerbread men. For those more interested in savory, there were Mediterranean-like vegetables, breads with accouterments, and a number of dumplings and similar meat friendly appetizers. A guest could easily make a well rounded meal from the food.

The shopping

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped for neat gift ideas; most of the shopping, unfortunately, was more personal. Many of the businesses provided great indulgences like jewelry, handbags, shoes, clothes, and other quality accessories. The Westin did come out with great gift packages for the spa and the golf course -- too bad no one on my shopping list wanted either. My favorite for the night was a longtime favorite from the farmer's market scene: Ms. Chocolatier. She had many of her regular favorites -- I brought home the Mexican chocolate and chocolate pecan toffees. Her array of specially made truffles were a nice gesture for the holidays. I did find out she will be working through the holidays and her goodies will be available.

The guests

 At first, I found it difficult to meet new people. I am a bit shy -- though some people might not think so -- so just introducing myself was tough. And to be honest, at this event, most people were in defined groups and were focused on just associating with their friends. On a good note, Tanji was approachable and friendly -- we chatted several times (often by accident); she also introduced me to a few people. However, after awhile, I suddenly found myself meeting others. On the advice of Texas Wine Lover, Jeff Cope, I wore my new signature hat. It attracted people as the evening wore on. Groups and single ladies would come over to ask about it. It was a great starting point to meet a number of interesting people. I even spent some time with the social media contact and other organizers from the Westin -- these ladies were friendly and helpful. Once that began, the night improved greatly.

The wine

So, this is a wine blog, right? Of course, I was set for some great wine, especially knowing the menu at the Westin. Well, that was not the case. The night had a limited selection of wine, primarily wine from Hob Nob Wines (In the San Antonio area, these wines can be found at Costco, Green Fields, and WalMart). I realize this was likely a budget issue -- how do you provide wine for 200+ people without blowing your budget on it? I have since found that these are solid wines at a great price.

Luckily, I did find one nice choice from the group, and it was not a surprise: the Hob Nob Malbec. I recently went to their site to find out about it, but there is no mention of the strongest wine of the evening (Tanji and I both agreed that it was a nice wine, but she longed for the Malbecs from her recent trip to South America). I did some online searching and found out that if you can find it, the wine runs from $9-$14 (though I have yet to find a local retailer for this wine). This is a good price for a smooth, rich Malbec that was easy to drink. However, don't expect a wine to mull over and experience; this is a pleasant drinking wine that can be enjoyed right after opening.

Wicked Red: From HobNob Wine

I decided that since the Malbec was a solid wine, I would try the red blend, The Wicked Red. It is described as very aromatic with a hint of citrus. I found it to be a bit muddled, with no definitive taste coming out. The citrus made the wine seem like it should be sweet but was instead a light dry wine. It was easy on the pallet, but not as solid as the Malbec.

Unfortunately, I wasted my last ticket there instead of on the holiday cocktail. To be honest, the lines for drinks were LONG. They snaked through the crowds and tables; I try to not spend too long in them. With that said, the cocktail was a process that took a bit of time, holding up the line. My thoughts for others kicked in, and I avoided the cocktail so as to limit my time in the line.

In the end...

This bright and sparkly evening ended with a number of prizes that got the crowd anxious. Many of the guests ringed the stage hoping for their chance; it paid off for many. We all left with a nice goodie bag with a shirt, water bottle, nail files, and other great deals. In the end, even nervous-me had a good time. However, I wonder if this was the best one for me to come to. I have heard that some of the other events are less formal than this one; I wonder if I had attended one of those if it would have been easier to meet new people and network more. Well, I'll just have to wait till 2013.

For pictures and a quick look at this event, check out Tanji's site here.

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