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Jul 25, 2014
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The Scoop: Café Pintxos at Hotel Ignacio to become sushi lounge BaiKu

July 25th, 2014


Japanese flavors are coming to Midtown. Sushi lounge BaiKu is slated to open in the former Café Pintxos space at Hotel Ignacio at 3407 Olive St., in early September.

When Café Pintxos opened in 2011, it operated as a soup-salad-sandwich cafe by day and a Spanish tapas bar by night. Neither concept quite caught on, and Café Pintxos has been quiet for some months.

Steve Smith, a partner in Hotel Ignacio and the owner of a trio of businesses in the complex - Triumph Grill, Moto Museum and Moto Europa – looked to reinvigorate the space. Smith tapped as his consultant Brad Beracha, owner of the now-defunct Japanese restaurant Miso on Meramec and Araka. The plan: Japan. “There’s not a lot of sushi for Midtown in this area by Grand (Boulevard),” Beracha said.

BaiKu, which means “motorcycle” in Japanese, will specialize in sushi. It will offer basic rolls, as well as five to seven specialty rolls. “It’s not a big roll menu,” Beracha said. “I want it to be small and done great.” The restaurant will also offer eight to 10 Japanese-inspired appetizers, such as ginger-scallion-sake wings and lobster shumai (steamed dumplings). The dinner menu will be rounded out with a couple Japanese entrees. During lunch hours, BaiKu will also offer Asian noodles with an eye on ramen. Other mid-day meal options will include bahn mi and a few stir-fry items.

BaiKu’s beverage program will focus on sake and wines that pair well with sushi, which will be offered as a special during happy hours. Look also for a small cocktail menu and Japanese brews on the beer list.

Helming the sushi bar will be chef Soung Min Lee, who worked at Miso until it shuttered, and then held the position of executive sushi chef at Central Table Food Hall since it opened last year. Beracha said Lee departed from Central Table a month ago. While the sushi-making action will take place behind the bar at BaiKu, all hot food will be prepared next door in the Triumph kitchen, where chef Josh Norris leads the culinary crew.

Beracha said sushi was a perfect fit for the space’s small bar, and he also hoped that the lighter fare of Japanese cuisine would appeal to ticketholders attending performances in Grand Center. “It’s not heavy,” he said. “When you go to a show, you’re not wanting to take a nap.”

The entire space – bar, dining area, lobby lounge area and patio – will undergo a remodel. Besides new furnishings, look for pieces of a disassembled motorcycle to be a focal point along one of the walls.



Readers’ Choice 2014: Favorite Chef – Ed Heath

July 24th, 2014



When you’re one of the area’s most popular chefs, everyone wants a word with you. We yanked Ed Heath out of the Cleveland-Heath kitchen for 1 minute to pepper him with questions about his pasture-to-plate restaurant in Edwardsville, then let him get back to making more slinger-like lomo saltado and Japanese pancakes.

What dish on the Cleveland-Heath menu are you most excited about?
The duck breast with the German potato salad. English peas, bacon … oh my God, it’s so good.

What menu items surprise you with their popularity?
For the breakfast menu, the lomo (saltado). It’s even more popular than our biscuits and gravy. For the starter menu, the okonomiyaki. We get more comments about that than anything else on our menu. The popularity is almost shocking.

What dish can you not take off the menu?
The BLT.

Are you working with any new farmers or food producers?
Jenna Pohl. She owns Midwest Lamb. She’s all-natural in her feed, but these lambs are huge. They dress out at 90 to 100 pounds. We wonder if we should call them mutton. They are massive, and they are delicious.

What’s the biggest thing you learned since opening Cleveland-Heath in 2011?
Staffing – learning how to be an appropriate manager of people, and keep them happy and wanting to come back every day, and hungry so they want to keep learning on their own. We have a killer staff, but it’s been the most challenging thing.

What music do you listen to in the kitchen?
I hate really heavy metal, so we stick with contemporary rock ’n’ roll, Willie Nelson, good old country, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, some old-school rap, a ton of old blues. It’s really who gets a hold of the radio.

What are your typical hours at the restaurant?
I am there Tuesday through Saturday, 15-plus hours each day.

How do you keep up your energy?
After work, I either jog or go to a 24-hour gym. If I didn’t exercise six or seven days a week for a minimum of an hour, I couldn’t keep up with it.

Find out who else you voted your favorites in St. Louis. Click here to see all our Readers’ Choice winners. And click here to get Ed Heath’s recipe for Chiva Cubana, deliver to you By Popular Demand.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

By Popular Demand: Chiva Cubana

July 24th, 2014

A reader requested this dish so long ago, we no longer have the person’s name. Well, mystery reader, here is your long-awaited recipe for Cleveland-Heath’s Chiva Cubana – mouthwatering pulled goat meat and black beans, deftly spiked with garlic, ginger, jalapenos, mint and cilantro.



Chiva Cubana
Courtesy of Cleveland-Heath’s Ed Heath
4 servings

1¼ lb. saddle or leg of goat or lamb
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
7 Tbsp. butter, divided
3 Tbsp. minced shallots
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 14-oz. cans of black beans
¼ cup vegetable stock
3 Tbsp. minced ginger
¼ cup pickled jalapenos
10 mint leaves
¼ cup minced cilantro
1 Tbsp. lemon juice plus more to taste
Thinly sliced radishes for garnish (optional)
Hot sauce for garnish (optional)

• Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees. Season the meat heavily with salt and pepper and let it come to room temperature. Smoke 1½ hours.
• Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place the smoked meat in an oven-safe dish and fill with boiling water until the meat is half to three-fourths covered. Simmer the meat in the water 4 to 4½ hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of 187 degrees. Shred the meat into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
• Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a saute pan over low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sweat until translucent, about 15 to 20 minutes. Add the canned black beans with their liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes.
• Add the stock and bring to a boil again. Add 4 tablespoons butter in small pieces, stirring constantly to emulsify it into the beans. Remove from heat and set aside.
• In another saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over high heat until it begins to brown. Add the meat and ginger and saute until it crisps and turns dark brown, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Set aside.
• Making sure the sauce is still emulsified, return the beans to the stove over medium heat, bring to a boil and then turn off heat. Add the pickled jalapenos, mint, cilantro, lemon juice and salt to taste.
• To serve, divide the beans evenly between 4 deep bowls. Top with the crisp meat and, if desired, garnish with thinly sliced radishes, hot sauce and additional mint or cilantro.

What else did readers crave? Click here to see seven more recipes from local chefs, delivered By Popular Demand.

-photo by Michelle Volansky

The Scoop: Local sushi star Naomi Hamamura joins the culinary team at United Provisions

July 23rd, 2014


With the opening of United Provisions just weeks away, there’s news that another talented face from the local culinary scene is joining the team at the highly anticipated international grocery store at 6241 Delmar Blvd., in University City.

Naomi “Hama” Hamamura, previously executive chef at the Wasabi location downtown, has been hired as the chef at The Dining District, the prepared foods and dining section inside the grocery store. United Provisions partner Ben Poremba said he hired Hamamura two weeks ago. “He’s the best,” said Poremba, who also owns Elaia and Olio and co-owns La Patisserie Chouquette. “I called him up. He liked the idea of a new place … something a little different from what he’s done so far.”

While Hamamura will be in a new location, he’ll still be the focus of attention as he prepares sushi, ceviche and other raw far at the 16-seat raw bar at United Provisions. The Dining District’s other stations include a grill, a plancha and a deli with cured meats and cheese, according to St. Louis Magazine. Executive chef Jay Stringer will overseeing the entire dining and prepared foods operation. A veteran of the Chicago dining scene, Stringer has worked in the kitchen at Olio since it opened almost two years ago.

Lunch hours at The Dining District will be counter service with dine-in or carryout options, while dinner will be full service at this restaurant within a grocery store. There will also be a coffee shop serving up drip Northwest Coffee and pastries from La Patisserie Chouquette. Poremba said United Provisions is expected to open Aug. 11.

While Hamamura’s career began in Japan, the chef has made a mark on the local food scene since arriving to the U.S. in 1979, including working at now-closed Japanese steakhouse Robata of Japan and Ritz Carlton – St. Louis, and owning and operating the now defunct Sansui and Sansui West. In 2010, when Hamamura sold Sansui West to Wasabi, he stayed on as its corporate chef. After a stint at Prasino, Hamamura returned to Wasabi, where he worked until July 14.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Editor’s Note: This piece originally misstated Naomi Hamamura’s responsibilities at The Dining District. It has been corrected.

The Scoop: Chef Chris Lee leaves Mad Tomato, opens Chef’s Table STL

July 23rd, 2014



Chef Chris Lee has parted ways with Mad Tomato chef-owner Vito Racanelli to launch a new venture called Chef’s Table STL, a prepared meal delivery service and catering company. Lee, who joined Racanelli at Mad Tomato just three months ago, decided to launch his own business after friends requested his help creating diet-specific meals, as reported by St. Louis Magazine.

Lee rolled out Chef’s Table STL last week; customers can call or order custom, nutritious meals online, to be delivered twice a week. “The thought was to offer that to people so they can stay home, relax with the family and not have to drive around,” Lee said. The menu, which will change according to ingredient availability, features entrees like seared chicken with Southwest-style quinoa and a gyro salad, small plates like maki rolls and crisp pork meatballs, as well as a selection of sides, soups and salads. Chef’s Table STL currently is using the kitchen at Wild Flower in the Central West End while Lee hunts for a commissary kitchen.

Years of experience with professional kitchens and catering have prepared him for running a one-man catering operation. Prior to teaming up with Racanelli at Mad Tomato, Lee worked as a banquet room chef at River City Casino. For a number of years he was executive chef for In Good Company, which operates Café Ventana, Sanctuaria, Diablitos and Hendricks BBQ. “I took all the things I learned in the past eight or nine years and squeezed it into one thing,” he said. “From a lifestyle choice, I like this much better. Not only am I not using my physical being as much to crank out food for service, I’m running a business … I’m no longer behind the stove. I’m in front.”

He added that Mustard Seed, a joint venture between Racanelli and Lee, had not yet taken off when Lee left Mad Tomato two weeks ago. The concept saw the two chefs visiting and assisting other restaurants, then using some of those consulting fees to help establish small restaurant businesses in developing international communities.

Racanelli said he was surprised at Lee’s departure, but he was confident he could handle any extra workload at his Clayton restaurant. “I’ll get it all done. God gave me some really strong shoulders,” he said. “I always find a way to get it all done.”

Ligaya Figueras contributed to this report.

The Scoop: Local distiller Pinckney Bend wins big at international spirits competition

July 23rd, 2014


{Ralph Haynes, Pinckney Bend’s vice president of marketing}


Area distillery Pinckney Bend continues to rack up accolades for its spirits. Today, July 23, the International Wine & Spirits Competition announced the results of its 2014 spirits competition held in London, and the New Haven-based distillery was awarded two medals. Pinckney Bend earned a silver medal for its American rested whiskey and a bronze medal for its American gin, the only American gin to win a bronze.

Now in its 45th year, the IWSC promotes the quality and excellence of the world’s best wine, spirits and liqueurs. Competition entries, which hail from nearly 90 countries, undergo a blind tasting by a panel of judges comprised of industry professionals.

“The IWSC in London is like the World Cup of spirits competitions,” said Ralph Haynes, the distillery’s vice president of marketing. “For small craft distillers like Pinckney Bend, winning a medal at this venue gives us a rare chance to position ourselves on a world stage, in the company of the most respected spirit brands on the planet.”

This spring, Pinckney Bend won a double gold for its American rested whiskey at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, where it has earned medals for the last three years. The rest of the world is picking up on the quality of Pinckney Bend spirits, which are now available overseas in Singapore and Italy. In addition, the distillery just picked up a distributor in the Caribbean, Haynes said, with product slated to export to that region this fall.



The Scoop: Tenacious Eats brick-and-mortar plans on hold

July 23rd, 2014


{A classic film screening from a recent Movies for Foodies event, hosted by Tenacious Eats at Meyer’s Grove}


Fans of film-and-dining concept restaurant Tenacious Eats will have to hold on a little longer for its permanent home. Chef-owner Liz Schuster said she will no longer open her brick-and-mortar location at 4195 Hampton Ave., in South City, citing disagreements with the building’s owners.

When Schuster announced the Hampton Avenue location in April, she envisioned a traditional breakfast and lunch spot that would also allow for Tenacious Eats’ current dinner-with-a-show format that Schuster used at her Movies for Foodies events at Meyer’s Grove. However, Schuster said delays in getting the building up to code forced her to move on. Schuster is still on the hunt for another location, with eyes on burgeoning urban neighborhoods like Cherokee Street and Maplewood.

In the meantime, Schuster said she will continue to host film-and-food events, including Harold Ramis classics like Animal House and Caddyshack in August. Keep an eye on Tenacious Eats’ website for more event details.


Baked: Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Cherry-Lavender Compote

July 23rd, 2014



As regular Baked readers know, I recently espoused my love not only for a lovely cherry-lavender hand pie recipe, but also for the excess filling the recipe leaves behind. That sweet, floral substance inspired me to create a classy dessert for a dinner party. I opted for this sinfully dark, but not-too-rich chocolate cake.

This recipe is largely a classic chocolate cake except buttermilk is replaced with red wine. The result doesn’t necessarily taste boozy. Instead, it’s a dense, richly flavorful chocolate cake, perfect for pairing with fresh whipped cream and compote. Any red wine, regardless of price point or type, produces unique flavor. I’ve used a cabernet sauvignon as well as a Malbec; even the Trader Joe’s “Two-buck Chuck” tasted great in this cake. And the best part of this recipe: You already have an open bottle of the perfect dessert wine pairing. Enjoy and happy baking!


Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Adapted from a recipe by Smitten Kitchen
Makes 1 9-inch cake

6 Tbsp. room temperature butter
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 egg yolk
¾ cup red wine
¾ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. flour
½ cup high quality cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
Pinch kosher salt
¼ cup powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
2 cups heavy cream
Cherry-Lavender Compote (Recipe follows.)

• Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat a 9-inch cake or pie pan with nonstick spray.
• In a large mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar 5 minutes, until combined. Add the egg, yolk, red wine and vanilla separately, beating well between each addition. Use a spatula to gently fold in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt until combined.
• Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool before turning it out of the pan and dust with powdered sugar.
• Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, beat the heavy cream and ¼ cup powdered sugar together with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Serve with the Red Wine Chocolate Cake, along with the Cherry-Lavender Compote.

Cherry-Lavender Compote

1½ lbs. cherries, pitted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
Juice of one-quarter a lemon
½ tsp. lavender extract
A pinch plus 1½ tsp. table salt, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar

• Coarsely chop the cherries and toss in a large bowl with the lavender extract, cornstarch, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and 1/3 cup granulated sugar. Adjust the sugar to taste.

Just Five: Simple Baked Bay Scallops

July 22nd, 2014



My family loves to make fun of my nickname for scallops – the marshmallows of the sea. But that is exactly what they are: sweet, tender, delicious and a challenge to cook perfectly. Like a burnt marshmallow, a tough, overcooked scallop is a sad thing to eat.

Most people are familiar with two types of scallops. The larger mollusks (the size of a standard to jumbo-sized marshmallow) are sea scallops, while bay scallops are the smaller variety (more the mini-marshmallow size). Both types are available in most grocery stories and fish markets, and there’s no discernible difference in flavor.

This dish is deceptively simple; after all, there’s no good reason to dress up a properly prepared scallop. Here, you simply poach bay scallops in butter infused with garlic and wine, them top them with Ritz crackers, saltines or panko for crunch. Adding herbs or a little heat would be inspired, but use a light hand. You don’t want to overpower the delicate nautical marshmallow.

Simple Baked Bay Scallops
4 servings

3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
12 oz. bay scallops, patted dry
4 Tbsp. crisp white wine such as a sauvignon blanc
¾ cup crushed Ritz crackers
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan

• Move the oven rack to the highest level and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Place the butter and garlic in a 24-ounce baking dish and bake 3 minutes, until the butter is melted.
• Remove the baking dish, leaving the oven on. Add the scallops and drizzle the wine over the top. Use a spoon to baste the scallops with the liquid until coated. Sprinkle the crushed crackers and Parmesan cheese over the scallops and bake 10 minutes.
• Switch the oven to the broiler and broil 2 minutes, until the cracker topping is browned.
• Serve with a hunk of bread to soak up the sauce.

Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Tuna Salad

July 21st, 2014


Like so many culinary “aha” moments, the idea for the base of this recipe came to me during what I like to call a “college kitchen” day. I needed something for lunch but hadn’t gone grocery shopping in more than a week. My ingredient options were either in can form or sitting in the freezer in unmarked plastic bags (with an ominous layer of ice, I might add).

I opted out of rediscovering the frozen tundra of past cooking adventures and stood in the pantry, staring at the shelves, willing something to jump into my hands and reveal a brilliant plan. After several scans, I settled on a can of garbanzo beans, thinking I’d whip up some hummus. Then I remembered our food processor went kaput earlier that week. Drat.

Undeterred, I decided it was nothing my good ol’ potato masher couldn’t handle, so I set to work draining the beans and adding some salt, pepper, garlic powder and olive oil to get things going. About halfway through the mashing process, I realized I had the beginning of tuna salad.

Find out how Beth Styles went from half-smashed beans to a spot-on vegetarian version of this picnic staple here, and get the recipe here.

-photo by Carmen Troesser


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