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Dec 19, 2014
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Drink This Weekend Edition: The Nightmare Before Christmas at iTap

December 18th, 2014



Head to Soulard and explore the big, scary side of beer at iTap’s Nightmare Before Christmas, one of its biggest parties of the year this Saturday, Dec. 20. The fourth annual event is a chance to try some high alcohol, highly sought-after brews brought up from iTap’s cellar beginning at 11 a.m.

This year’s lineup has something for everyone, whether you’re into local offerings or a beer nerd who lines up hours in advance for hard-to-find brews. Half-pours will be available to try some these sought-after beers. A full list of everything on draft can be found here. My two picks:

2nd Shift LSD with Blueprint Coffee is one of the best Imperial stouts brewed with coffee. Thick, rich and delicious, the big coffee notes are a perfect way to start your day at this event.

For something big but not black, try Firestone Walker Sucaba. With notes of caramel, toffee, butterscotch and brown sugar, this barleywine warms your belly and stands out among the stout offerings.



The Weekend Project: Fish Stew

December 18th, 2014



“Holiday time is when the most wonderful culinary wishes can come true…” So begins one of our favorite holiday sketches from Saturday Night Live, when Alec Baldwin makes a guest appearances as baker Pete Schweddy on fictional NPR radio program “The Delicious Dish” to talk about his famous holiday special: Schweddy balls.



To celebrate SNL’s 40th anniversary, online candy store It’Sugar produced several of the show’s more memorable edible treats from popular episodes. That’s right, you can now purchase Florence’s Dusty Muffin, Super Bass-O-Matic 76 gummy fish and – you guessed it – Pete’s Famous Schweddy Balls. Sadly, the company was out of stock when I was shopping for friends on my Naughty list.

Sure, it’s a tad juvenile, but aren’t the holidays when you should reconnect with your inner child? The weekend before Christmas is stressful enough: last-minute gifts, visiting relatives, kids out of school, parties to host and attend. Take a moment and indulge with a relatively simple project that still produces a few immature laughs.

Fish balls (you may commence snickering now) are a traditional staple in many Asian and Scandinavian cuisines. Whitefish, often cod or mackerel, is chopped until very fine, then mixed with salt, pepper and a little water to create a dough. The dough is then repeatedly thrown onto a board 60 to 70 times to create a ball with a perfect bouncy consistency. The balls are then fried and sold on the street or poached and served in soups with a stock made from remaining fish scraps.




Bergen fish stew, named for a town in western Norway, combines inexpensive whitefish like cod with fish balls, fresh winter root vegetables, clean herbs and uncomplicated spices. Since Norwegian fish balls are difficult to come in St. Louis, we substituted Chinese fish balls, which can be found at Seafood City and most other Asian markets in St. Louis. At less than $1 a pound, they’re an excellent and inexpensive source of protein.

You must make your own stock for this recipe. (Hey, we gave you a pass on making the fish balls.) Store-bought chicken or vegetable stock is fine in a pinch, but store-bought fish stock is a truly vile-smelling concoction. Homemade fish stock, on the other hand, is quite lovely and easy to make. Bob’s Seafood will happily sell you bones and heads; call ahead to make sure they set some aside.




The end results of this stew is somewhere between a chowder and a soup full of delicate fish flavor. Thicken it with a dollop or two of sour cream enriched with egg yolks (Those leery of raw eggs should omit them.) and chopped chives. Let this simmer away while you finish the last of your gift wrapping, then serve yourself a light, comforting meal to balance out all that holiday decadence.


The Game Plan
Day 1: Make the Fish Stock.
Day 2: Make the Fish Stew.

The Shopping List*
4-5 lbs. fish bones and heads
2 small onions
5 carrots
5 celery stalks
6-7 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white
1 celery root or celeriac
3 parsnips
1½ cups cream
1-2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
15-20 whitefish balls**
2-3 lbs. firm whitefish fillets such as cod, halibut or trout
8 oz. sour cream
¼-½ cup minced chives

*This list assumes you have salt, butter, flour, sugar and eggs at hand in your kitchen. if not, you will need to purchase them, too.





Fish Stock
Makes about 6 quarts

4-5 lbs. fish bones and heads*
2 small onions, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
6-7 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry white
6 quarts cold water
1 Tbsp. kosher salt

Day 1: Place the bones, onions, carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaves, wine and cold water in a stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. As it heats, skim off any scum that gathers on the surface. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low. Let simmer about 30 minutes, skimming the surface as needed.
● Taste and season with salt. Strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer. Discard the solids. Stock will keep, frozen, up to 3 months.

*Available at Bob’s Seafood. Call ahead to request the required amount.





Bergen Fish Stew
8 servings

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 celery root or celeriac, peeled and cut into sticks 1-inch long batons
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 quarts Fish Stock (Recipe above.)
1½ cups cream
3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1-2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
Kosher salt to taste
15-20 whitefish balls**
2-3 lbs. firm whitefish fillets such as cod, halibut or trout, cut into bite-sized pieces
8 oz. sour cream
¼-½ cup minced chives
3 egg yolks

Day 2: In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and flour. Set aside.
● In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat without browning it. Add the celery root, parsnips, carrots and celery. Stir to coat and let soften slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the fish stock and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Simmer 5 to 7 minutes.
● Stir in the flour and cream mixture, sugar and rice wine vinegar. Taste and season with salt. Return to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low again, adjusting as needed to maintain a gentle simmer.
● Add the fish balls cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add the fish stir occasionally cooked through, 5 to 10 minutes.
● Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, chives and egg yolks. Set aside.
● To serve, ladle the stew into a bowl and top with a dollop of the sour cream mixture. Stew will keep, refrigerated, 7 to 10 days or frozen up to 3 months.

**Available at Seafood City or other Asian markets in St. Louis.





-photos by Michelle Volansky

Wheatless Wednesday: Holiday Party Snack Mix

December 17th, 2014



The bowl of mixed nuts at holiday parties always intrigues me. I love the possibility of crunchy, chewy, savory and sweet, all in one bite – not to mention anything roasted in butter and sugar. But eating gluten-free means I usually keep my hands out of the snack bowl, fearful of hidden crackers or other glutinous ingredients.

My party snack mix relies on naturally gluten-free morsels that are rich in various textures: crunchy curried pecans, toasted coconut chips, dried cranberries … and chocolate-covered bacon. Have a batch on hand for upcoming holiday gatherings and make an extra one just for you.


Party Snack Mix
Makes 4 to 5 cups

2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups raw unsalted pecans
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 slices natural bacon, roughly chopped
4 oz. 70-80 percent chocolate
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
2.5 oz. chopped crystallized ginger
1 3.2-oz. bag toasted coconut chips*
1 cup pomegranate-infused dried cranberries or plain dried cranberries

• In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the pecans and toast, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the brown sugar and curry powder and continue stirring until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with pepper and let cool.
• Wipe the skillet clean and return to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and fry until brown and crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
• Meanwhile, prepare a double boiler by bringing a few inches of water to a simmer in a pot over medium heat. Place glass bowl over the bowl, add the chocolate and stir until completely melted.
• Remove from heat and add the bacon to the bowl, stirring to coat completely. Scrape the mixture onto a parchment-lined plate and spread into a single layer. Sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerate until hardened, about 20 minutes.
• Break the chocolate into bite-sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the curried pecans, crystallized ginger, coconut chips and dried cranberries and toss to combine. The nut mix will keep, refrigerated, up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

*I used Dang Original Toasted Coconut Chips, available at Dierbergs.

The Scoop: Alaska-themed restaurant True Sites to open in Maplewood

December 16th, 2014



Michael True is a prospector of sorts. The current general manager of City Coffeehouse & Creperie is setting out for new culinary territory by opening an Alaska-themed restaurant in Maplewood, and he’s hoping to strike gold by pairing the unique menu with a dinner-theater experience.

As reported by St. Louis Magazine, True’s restaurant, True Sites, will open doors in February at 7376 Manchester Road, the space formerly occupied by Blind Tiger. “I’ve always had a love for Alaska ever since I was a little kid, ever since Northern Exposure was on TV,” True said.

After spending a couple of weeks last summer in the Land of the Midnight Sun, True knew he had to bring a piece of Alaska back to St. Louis. His menu will feature seasonal Alaskan fare such as wild game, including elk meat and reindeer sausage, plus salmon and crab legs.

The restaurant, decorated to feel like a northern camp or lodge, will have a full bar, and True hopes to serve Alaskan beer and cocktails that fit the frontier theme, as well as drinks designed to coordinate with whatever dinner theater show is currently running.

True plans to produce – although not necessarily direct – all of the performances, which will run Wednesdays through Sundays for two or three weeks. Each production will have its ownmultiple-course menu. On those nights, regular walk-in service will continue in a separate dining area.

Theater has been a love of True’s since high school, and he has done backstage work for local productions. “If I could live on theater alone I would,” True said. “I know it’s not a money-maker, especially in St. Louis. I knew I was going to have to open up a restaurant to go along with it. The restaurant is hopefully going to pay for my theater hobby.”

True selected Maplewood for his new venture because of its central location, and the space already has a stage for his dinner theater productions. “Maplewood is so up and coming, it’s going through a renaissance right now,” he said. “I think I’m going to get a good mix of clientele by being in Maplewood.”

After the holidays, True said, he’ll be on the lookout for staff members to join his team.



Extra Sauce: 3 Festive Hanukkah Treats

December 16th, 2014

Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown, and these celebration-worthy pastries will have the whole family clamoring for more. From sweet to savory, serve up a table of tasty tradition with these festive treats for the next eight nights.




1. While these  tri-cornered treats are traditionally served during Purim, for contributor Stacy Schultz‘s family, it’s not Hanukkah until the Hamantaschen hit the table. These hold a filling of dried fruit, pineapple and pecans.




2. When in doubt, go with the pros. This Chocolate Babka from Arthur’s Schwartz’s book Jewish Home Cooking is brimming with melted chocolate chips, crunchy walnuts and sweet cinnamon.





3. Not much of a sweet tooth? Take your taste buds for a walk on the savory side with Tomato, Parmesan And Pine Nut Rugelach filled with a homemade tomato jam.


-rugelach photo by Carmen Troesser

Sneak Peek: Seoul Taco and Seoul Q

December 16th, 2014

“This city has never seen anything like this.” Seoul Taco co-owner David Choi was talking about the barbecue grills fitting inside tables at his upcoming Korean barbecue and hotpot restaurant, Seoul Q, but the statement holds true for everything Choi has done at 6665 Delmar Blvd., in University City. The space is the new home for Choi’s relocated Seoul Taco, and its sister restaurant, Seoul Q. While they share a space, Seoul Taco will open later this week, and Seoul Q is slated to open at the end of December.

Upon entering, diners encounter a host stand in front of a partition made from colorfully painted boomboxes. Step right for Korean-Mexican fusion; step left for Korean barbecue and hotpots. The decor is as much a cultural mashup as Seoul Taco’s fusion fare is. A sculpture made from a 1942 Ford Metro van is mounted on the wall next to murals of Korean martial arts fighters wearing Mexican luchador masks.

Seoul Taco is still counter service, but there’s plenty more elbowroom at 76-seat space compared to its former 18-person confines down the street at 571 Mehlville Ave. The menu at Seoul Taco remains the same, but patrons can expect daily specials like Korean barbecue tortas and nachos. And now that it has a liquor license, patrons can wash down their tacos and burritos with 4 Hands brews on tap.

On the other side of the boomboxes, full-service Seoul Q is just as boisterous, but with a more industrial feel. Eight cylindrical exhaust hoods extend over those DIY barbecue grills in the center of poured concrete tables, and a dark wood scape runs the length of one wall, a signature touch of Smartmouth Designs, the Chicago-based interior design company that worked on the space.

The Seoul Q menu is divided into appetizers, soups and hotpots and barbecue. Patrons ordering the latter choose between various cuts of beef and pork to grill at the table. The meat comes with rice, six sides, vegetables and a choice of soup. A barbecue order generally serves two to three people. Meanwhile, meat and seafood hotpots are kept warm at induction stovetops set into some tables. Beverages include bottled craft beer and cocktails featuring soju, a Korean spirit.

Here’s a look at what to expect at Seoul Taco and Seoul Q when both restaurants open:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


-photos by Michelle Volansky


The Scoop: Andrew Jennrich departs from Butchery, joins Annie Gunn’s

December 16th, 2014


{From left, Butchery’s former head butcher Andrew Jennrich and Truffles executive chef Brandon Benack}


Andrew Jennrich has left his post as head butcher at Butchery, the butcher shop and food emporium at 9202 Clayton Road in Ladue. Jennrich said he is now reporting for work at Annie Gunn’s, where’s he’s doing a little bit of everything at the Chesterfield restaurant and its smokehouse next door, he said.

Aleksander “Alex” Jovanovic, general manager at Truffles (which is under the same ownership as Butchery), said he appreciated Jennrich’s contribution to the fledgling butcher shop that opened in late summer. “He helped us get our feet off the ground,” Jovanovic said. “I was hoping he would have stayed longer.” However, he noted the unexpected split was still amicable.

Jennrich said his decision to leave came down to a difference of opinion regarding Butchery’s direction. “We saw things differently,” Jennrich said. “I had a great time being with Brandon (Benack, Truffles’ executive chef) and Alex. I miss being with those guys. Other aspects – (It) just wasn’t going to work out.”

Taking the head butcher slot is Ryan McDonald, who joined the team at Truffles and Butchery as executive sous chef in late October. Jovanovic said that despite the unanticipated change, the transition has been seamless since the Jennrich and McDonald had many weeks to work together prior to his departure. McDonald’s primary role at the shop is butchering; two line cooks from Truffles are now responsible for charcuterie.

Jennrich said his move to Annie Gunn’s has been an educational one, noting the restaurant’s quality and talented staff, particularly executive chef Lou Rook. “Lou Rook, Steve Gontram, Vince Bommarito, Bill Cardwell – they laid the track for all of us. It’s cool to work with someone who set the groundwork,” Jennrich said. “They were all the guys doing farm-to-table before it was cool.” Jennrich’s official title at Annie Gunn’s is still to be determined, but he anticipates it will be settled in January after the holiday season.


-photo by Meera Nagarajan

Meatless Monday: Brinner, 4 ways

December 15th, 2014


It’s been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. We find that’s equally true whether you have it in the morning or enjoy your favorite flapjacks and French toast for dinner. Tonight, skip the bacon and sausage and enjoy a meatless brinner (breakfast for dinner) with these rise-and-shine recipes:





1. Vegans and vegetarians alike can dig into this Vegan Banana-Almond French Toast. Blend up a savory, sweet batter of mashed bananas, almond milk, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and shredded coconut and get your griddle ready for some fast action. If you happen to find yourself with some leftover bananas and a bit of soy milk, whip up Vegan Whipped Cream for a finishing touch.

2. Is there a better smell than that of baking cinnamon? We didn’t think so. Whisk together pancake mix and mashed bananas, along with a generous portion of butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon, and then roll into Banana Sticky Buns. Fill cups of muffin pans with chopped pecans, nestle in the dough balls and pop then in the oven for a sweet brinner treat in less than 20 minutes. Bonus: These are gluten-free, too.




3. It is so very easy to be green with Avocado Pancakes. Stir together verdant mashed avocado, an egg and lime juice for these funky flapjacks and garnish them with smoked salmon or capers for added flavor.

4. Extend your brinner feast to tomorrow morning with these Vegan Crepes with Cherry Sauce. Instant tapioca and applesauce partner up with soy milk and agave nectar to create a beautifully blended crepe batter. Word to the wise, though: plan ahead. This recipe calls for overnight refrigeration. Prepare tonight and make tomorrow’s weekday breakfast something special.


-photos by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: Home Wine Kitchen to close by end of year

December 15th, 2014



Chef Cassy Vires and husband and business partner Josh Renbarger are closing Home Wine Kitchen, their co-owned restaurant and “home away from home.” The couple made the announcement in a press release this weekend. The restaurant will hold its final dinner service on Dec. 31.

The popular Maplewood eatery saw success in its brunch, lunch and dinner menus, offering a variety of specials such as No-Menu Mondays and Burger Night. Vires, who was nominated for Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef: Midwest this year, and Renbarger said in the release that they were “extremely disappointed” by the decision to close.

Vires did not immediately return calls for comment, though the release stated that “circumstances outside their control” led to the closure. However, Renbarger added in the release that, “not everyone gets to go out on their own terms, so we are grateful for that.”

It’s been a rough year for Vires and Renbarger, who closed their second restaurant, Table, in March, just nine months after opening.


The Scoop: Wine director Andrey Ivanov, bar manager John Fausz to leave Elaia and Olio

December 15th, 2014


{From left, John Fausz and Andrey Ivanov}


Things are shaking up behind the bars at Elaia and Olio. Wine director Andrey Ivanov and Olio bar manager John Fausz are leaving the sister restaurants in the next month, as reported by Feast.

Fausz, a member of the Ones to Watch class of 2011, said that after more than two years behind the bar at Olio, he was ready for a break. His last day is Dec. 31. “I don’t have anything solid planned,” Fausz said, “mostly just going to focus on taking some time off … do some traveling.”

Chef-owner Ben Poremba said Fausz has been training bartender Bess Kretsinger to fill the bar manager role. “Bess came along and they struck a great dynamic between the two of them,” Poremba said.

Fausz said while he doesn’t yet know what bar he will land behind, Poremba and Ivanov’s passion and knowledge have forever altered his work as a barman. “I feel like now for the first time I have a base in the culinary field and the drinking community,” he said. “Working with Ben was a huge honor. He has a really unique capacity to inspire a lot of hard work and creative work from people.” Fausz credits Ivanov for helping to channel his enthusiasm for spirits into the world of wine. “I was all about beer and cocktails and whiskey,” he said. “(Ivanov) sort of knew that he could unlock even more nerdy passion.”

Poremba said Ivanov would remain at the restaurants to help train staff through the last week of January, before he moves on to his next project: working with soon-to-be former Taste executive chef Matt Daughaday on his upcoming restaurant. Poremba does not know if he will replace Ivanov with another wine director. With a few other sommeliers on staff and the front of house at both Olio and Elaia under the direction of general manager Kara Flaherty, Poremba said that he will not rush into any decision yet. “The wine cellar is full, so I don’t have to hurry I can make smart decisions,” he said. “Whoever (it is) has some big shoes to fill.”

“It’s still going to be exciting,” said Poremba of the beverage programs at Elaia and Olio, which have been widely lauded for their eclectic and unique style. He envisions the programs to be “less idiosyncratic, probably a little more approachable, things anyone on my staff can understand.”

Ivanov and Daughaday did not immediately return requests for comment.

-Fausz photo by Carmen Troesser, Ivanov photo by Ashley Gieseking

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