One of my favorite recent experiences (complimentary, courtesy of the Westin La Cantera) received from our staycation at the Westin La Cantera (more posts to come!!!) was the two intimate hours spent in the kitchen of Francesca’s at Sunset with executive chef John Armstrong and chef de cuisine Ernie Estrada. This restaurant is opened daily from 6pm to 10pm and offers “South Texas cuisine with a Southwestern flair”. The chefs pride themselves on their menu items almost all containing “Farm to Table” ingredients provided by local Central and South Texas farmers and ranchers.

This fabulously romantic restaurant has so much heart behind it in the kitchen. You would not believe how welcomed and gracious Chef Armstrong and Chef Estrada were to our small group. We bombarded them with every question we could come up with and they answered them all in strides and smiles, welcoming us to ask more by emailing them anytime (like other frequent patrons already do!) Everything we ate that afternoon tasted as good as it looked and will definitely remain a top 10 memory in my mind. The chefs offer frequent opportunities to meet with them on a more personal level at the restaurant and we all felt truly welcomed into their world.

Francesca's at Sunset on Urbanspoon

*Brunch menu found here (served Sundays from 10:30am-2pm)!

How Francesca’s got her name?

This restaurant has an equally passionate story behind its namesake. There’s a Wild West legend that involves a young man named Ferenor who was preparing to enter into priesthood by taking his final vows when he met and fell in love with a beautiful girl named Francesca’s, who returned his love. Dismissed by the leaders in the church, they ran away together, unfortunately straying from the path and becoming lost. Leaving Francesca to find help from a light in the short distance, Ferenor never found the light or help that eventually diminished. In his hast to return to Francesca, Ferenor lost consciousness when he struck his head on a rock after stumbling in the darkness. Regaining consciousness the next morning, he found the village searching for himself and Francesca. Setting out in search of Francesca again, neither Ferenor nor Francesca was ever found again.

Luckily our love affair with Francesca’s kitchen was more lucky and we started with Peach cider with grill roasted peaches, pecan oil, and a micro arugula salad:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - local cooking ingredients

Chef Armstrong patiently explained how to prepare everything:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - san antonio brunch

Including the rub he quickly made:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - servers brunch in san antonio

With the paprika he brought from his home kitchen since they didn’t have any at the restaurant that day:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - local cooking ingredients

To how to sear the peaches:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - romantic dining

He also explained that micro arugala was just arugula that was harvested when it was in it’s infant stages of growth:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - romantic dining

Plating the beautiful salad with a sample of locally made peach cidar.

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - romantic dining

And happily marched to one of Francesca’s long-time favorite staple menu items: Francesca’s Guajillo Chile Rubbed Filet of Beef

We did a sniff taste in the kitchen to figure out the ingredients below (that included chipotle chiles, corriander, carmelized onions, cipotle, burgundy, and roasted tomato):

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - romantic dining

The locally grown and butchered filet mignons:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - San Antonio restaurant

Rubbed down with a few different spices:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - San Antonio romantic restaurant

And enhanced after being grilled with a veal reduction (that was homemade and reduced for over 18 hours!!!)

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - San Antonio restaurant

Topped with a fabulous southwestern queso fresco and micro cilanotro.

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - Chef John Armstrong

Perfection on a platter.

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - Chef Ernie Estrada

Brioche French Toast stuffed with blueberries and bananas with pecan maple syrup:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - Family Restaurant

Homemade brioche bread (which I enthusiastically believe makes for the BEST French toast ever!!)

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - San Antonio vacation

The chef sliced bananas and combined with fresh blueberries in a bowl, mashing them together:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - romantic San Antonio restaurant

Which would be stuffed into the bread later:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - San Antonio dining

We got to use tasting spoons to sample the batter that included a tasty standard recipe kicked up a notch with heavy cream, egg, sugar, Tahitian vanilla bean, and rum:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - San Antonio restaurant

The maple syrup also included pecans and bananas:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - San Antonio restaurant

The bread was sliced thickly so that the chef could slice in half and then stuff the seasonal fruit in:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - hill country restaurant

Pressed down and sealed in once stuffed:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - San Antonio resort restaurant

And then submerged in the batter for several minutes:

Francesca’s | Westin La Cantera - San Antonio tourist restaurant

Cooked on a hot skillet:

Francesca’s restaurant | Westin La Cantera

And toasted to perfection:

Francesca’s restaurant | Westin La Cantera

Drizzle and server…voila!!

Francesca’s restaurant | Westin La Cantera