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Jul 10, 2014
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The Scoop: Kräftig and Morgan Street win big at U.S. Open Beer Championships

July 10th, 2014



Cheers to William K Busch Brewing Co., and Morgan Street Brewery for their successes at the U.S. Open Beer Championship earlier this month in Atlanta.

Busch’s Kräftig Lager Light won its third consecutive gold medal in the American light category, while its heartier sibling, Kräftig Lager, brought home the gold for American premium lager. Morgan Street brought home gold for its Black Bear dark lager in the Schwarzbier category, it took silver and bronze, respectively, for its When Helles Freezes Over and Golden Pilsner in the Light Munchner Helles and Bohemian Pilsener categories.

More than 3,000 beers and ciders were entered across 81 categories at the U.S. Open Beer Championship, which is the only beer competition to include both professional breweries and home brewers.

Billy Busch, president and CEO of William K Busch Brewing, said it was an honor to have won the award once again. “In the industry we’re in, there is so much competition against both giants of industry and smaller breweries,” he said. “To win the gold in both categories is a true tribute to our company, our brewmaster Marc Gottfried, and the way we brew our beers. It keeps us going, and we feel very good about what we have offer to St. Louis.”






5 ice cream sandwiches to cool down summer

July 10th, 2014

On a hot summer afternoon, we yearn for the cold comfort of ice cream smashed between two crisp cookies. And while they’ll always be a place in our hearts for the classic vanilla and chocolate wafers, our palates have developed since those lazy summers spent at the local pool. Today, we’re reaching for ice cream sandwich in flavors like ginger, peach, cherry and even banana bread to sate our cravings. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with going old-school, particularly when it’s served from a 1940s ice cream cart.


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What I Do: Qui Tran of Mai Lee

July 10th, 2014



Qui Tran, 36, has become the face of cult favorite Mai Lee, but he’s quick to credit his mother, Lee Tran, with the restaurant’s success. “The restaurant wasn’t doing so well,” recalled Tran of Mai Lee’s early days as a Chinese restaurant. “So my mother said, ‘Let’s do Vietnamese food.’ She took the first step in ’85 when there was not a Vietnamese restaurant in sight.” While he reveres his mother, the cuisine of his native country and life in America, there are some things that St. Louis’ king of pho can’t embrace – like ramen burgers. Here, Tran tells all.

Why did your parents pick St. Louis when they immigrated to the U.S.?
When we arrived, they didn’t speak any English. My dad said he remembers circling NY. They sent us to STL.

Where did you grow up?
The Hill. There’s my love for Italian food right there.

How old were you when you started working at Mai Lee?
Eight. I was translator, dishwasher. You grow up kind of fast. That’s why I don’t believe in child labor laws. Put ’em all to work! It builds character. I turned out OK, I think.

Is your mom still the primary cook at Mai Lee?
Yeah, she’s the exec. Mom and I finalize things. We do all the master sauces. If she’s not here, I’m doing it. People ask me, “Are you opening another one?” I’m like, “Not a Mai Lee.” It’s too difficult to replicate.

What’s the best-seller at Mai Lee?
I wanna say pho.

What’s one thing you wish people would understand about pho?
It takes a long time to cook – 10 to 12 hours. They need time to caress it.

How many pounds of noodles does the restaurant cook in a week?
For the rice noodles, we go through at least 300 pounds. And that’s a dry noodle when it weighs nothing.

There are more than 200 numbered items on the menu. Do you know what dish corresponds to each number?
Sometimes I’m like, “What is that?” I gotta look it up.

What would happen if you took off the numbers?
There would be a lot more Vietnamese-speaking people in St. Louis.

How do you feel about ramen burgers?
If I want ramen, I want ramen. If I want a burger, I want a good old American burger. Some trends are fine, but that one – I’m not interested.

Who’s the most famous person to walk through the door?
We had (Jerry) Seinfeld in here. We’re not like Pappy’s where you get all the famous people. (Pappy’s owner) Mike Emerson gets Wolverine.

If you were to open another restaurant, what would it be?
I’m working on a concept: a fun, little, casual noodle house.

What’s your timeline?
I’m taking my time – maybe a year and a half from now.

What’s your advice for non-Asians on using chopsticks?
The bottom chopstick never moves. You have to brace it between your thumb and index finger. Sometimes people crisscross. Sometimes people clamp. Sometimes people spread it out. I crisscross. There’s no wrong way as long as the bottom one is the stable one. It’s like the pivot foot when you’re playing basketball.

Do you play basketball?
I’m Asian. We don’t play basketball.

Do you play any sports?
I’m a traditional martial artist. I have multiple black belts. In this high-stress environment, that’s my outlet. People are always like, “Why do you smile so much at work?” I say, “Well, because I get to punch the bag at night.”

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

Baked: Cherry Lavender Hand Pies

July 9th, 2014



I used to dislike pie so much that when anyone offered me a slice, my reaction was a perfunctory “No, thanks.” However, this is increasingly difficult the more I play with fruit and dough. Case in point: When I saw fresh cherries at the supermarket, I knew exactly how I wanted to use them. Floral, fragrant lavender perfectly cuts the sweetness of dark, luscious cherries, and there’s no better package for this combination than pie.

Instead of a cumbersome traditional pie, I opted for the more portable hand pie. This also provided greater crust-to-filling ratio (Rejoice, crust lovers!), but the best part is all the leftover filling. Place it in a saucepot over medium heat let it boil and bubble until it became thick and jam-like. Then spoon it over chocolate cake, smear it on pancakes or just close your eyes and inhale that heavenly scent. These portable bites smell just as good as they taste. Enjoy and happy baking!

Cherry Lavender Hand Pies
Adapted from The Martha Stewart Handbook
Makes about 24 3-inch pies

1½ lbs. cherries, pitted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
Juice of one-quarter of a lemon
½ tsp. lavender extract
A pinch plus 1½ tsp. table salt, divided
1/3 cup plus 1½ Tbsp. granulated sugar, plus more to taste, divided
½ tsp. lemon zest (optional)
3¾ cups flour
1½ cups plus ½ Tbsp. unsalted chilled butter, very cold and cubed
¾ to 1 cup cold buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten
Coarse sugar for sprinkling

• 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 and set aside.
• In a large bowl, rub the lemon zest into the sugar, then add the flour and the 1½ remaining teaspoon of salt and mix well. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your hands or a pastry cutter until it is in small, pea-sized pieces.
• Pour in the buttermilk 1 tablespoon at a time, using your hands to work the dough until it just comes together in a ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
• Place the chilled dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll it out ¼-inch thick. Use a 3-by-3-inch square cookie cutter or a sharp knife to slice 24 dough squares, rerolling as necessary (Chill the dough again if it gets too soft.).
• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
• Arrange 12 dough squares about 1-inch apart on the baking sheets. Brush the edges of each square with the beaten egg.
• Place a heaping teaspoon of cherry filling in the center of the squares, then insert a small cube of the remaining ½ tablespoon of butter into the center of each scoop of filling.
• Cover each pie with the remaining dough squares and use your fingers or a fork to seal the edges. Poke a few holes in the top of each pie with a fork. Brush the tops with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
• Bake 15 minutes, until puffed and golden on top and browner at the edges. Transfer to racks and let cool to room temperature before serving.

The Scoop: Unkle Munkey’s arcade, restaurant and bar to open in Edwardsville

July 8th, 2014


Get your quarters ready; Unkle Munkey’s Coin Club opens doors Saturday, July 12 at 1027 Century Drive in Edwardsville. Owner Ryan O’Day renovated the 3,200-square-foot space into a restaurant/bar/arcade just a few doors down from his other restaurant, Wang Gang, which serves Asian fusion cuisine.

O’Day said he was inspired to open an arcade and restaurant about eight months ago after seeing similar venues in Chicago and New York City. “I thought it was pretty interesting with the dynamic of not only are you out with your friends, but you also have a nice and friendly competitive thing going on with the games and the pinball,” he said. “It provides a little more fun stuff to do.”

O’Day hunted down more than 40 classic arcade games such as Ms. Pacman, 1972’s Pong and a Jurassic Park pinball machine now installed at Unkle Munkey’s. With the wide variety of games, he hopes to attract an equally wide range of clients, from gamer teens to baby boomers recalling their Pinball Wizard days. “The overall experience is (meant) to strengthen the bond between people of different generations,” O’Day said.

The restaurant, which seats about 64, will serve up classic bar fare with a twist like hot dogs topped with slaw, pineapple-jalapeno sauce or Korean barbecue; hot and cold sandwiches loaded with meats and cheeses between Companion bread; and sides including the pimento cheese potato salad made with russet potatoes, cheddar cheese, red and green onions and diced pimento.

Unkle Munkey’s beverage menu includes five draft beers, 15 to 20 bottled beers and a small selection of wine. Nine specialty cocktails are also available, including The Superman, a fruity mix of Malibu rum, peach schnapps, triple sec, pineapple juice and grenadine.

Unkle Munkey’s will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight Friday and Saturday. After 5 p.m., it’s 18 and older only, but don’t worry, baby gamers – Sunday is Kids’ Day, when everyone can play all day.

Can’t wait until Saturday to get your Pacman on? Unkle Munkey’s hosts a soft opening tomorrow, July 9, from 6 to 10 p.m. All ages are welcome for a $10 buffet of menu items and a cash bar, and proceeds benefit Partners for Pets.

Just Five: Honey-Roasted Chickpeas

July 8th, 2014



Chickpeas, garbanzo beans, ceci, channa… Call them what you will, I must have two cans of these babies on hand at all times or I panic. Chickpeas are incredible versatile; rinse and throw them straight into salads, pastas and soups, or puree them with garlic, lemon, tahini and olive oil for hummus. Roasting turns them into a crunchy substitute for croutons in a salad (hello, gluten-free eaters!) or a protein-packed snack.

Normally I just toss them with a little salt and cayenne or chili powder before roasting, but this time I upped the flavor factor with one key ingredient: garam masala, a wonderful combination of aromatic spices that marries delightfully with a citrusy honey glaze. Put these out to snack on with a summer shandy or a gin and tonic, or bring them to share at the next barbecue.

Honey-Roasted Chickpeas
Makes 1 cup

1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed, drained and dried
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
½ tsp. garam masala
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. lemon or orange zest

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread chickpeas on top in a single layer. Roast 40 minutes, tossing occasionally.
• Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, honey, garam masala, cayenne and salt. Immediately, toss the hot chickpeas into the bowl and evenly coat them with the glaze. Pour them back onto the baking sheet and roast another 10 minutes.
• Remove from the oven and toss with the zest. Let cool and serve.

The Scoop: Carondelet Diner reopens under new ownership

July 8th, 2014



If you missed Carondelet Diner at 321 E. Davis St., before it closed in November 2013, you now have a second chance to try it out under new ownership. Sue Stewart, who co-owns the space with Tiffany Cotton, managed a KFC for 15 years and said she always wanted to open a diner where customers could have a service-oriented experience. “[I was] tired of going to restaurants where the people don’t care,” Stewart said.

After leasing the space earlier this year, Stewart kept the name emblazoned on the side of the building. Doors opened in April and business has grown steadily. Open daily from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., the diner is focused on classic heartland dishes like burgers, sandwiches, steaks, chili, omelets and hearty breakfasts, as well as more unconventional fare like a stuffed macaroni-n-cheese burger. Carondelet seats 49 at a mix of tables, booths and a long dark wood bar.

Stewart said weekend specials—fresh fish Fridays, barbecue Saturdays and fried chicken Sundays—draw a crowd. Stewart recently tried a new concept with the help of her sister-in-law Philomena Arnowitz and friend Debby Wahby, created traditional Lebanese dishes like kibbe, meat pies, cabbage rolls, grape leaves and baklava. Stewart said the day was so successful, she hopes to host Lebanese-themed menus monthly.


Meatless Monday: Summer Lasagna

July 7th, 2014


Lasagna has something for everyone. Cheese. Starch. More cheese. But vegetarian lasagna? Well that’s usually just Mom’s recipe without the meat. Bo-ring. (Nothing against your mom. She’s lovely.) Since it’s too hot to turn on the oven and my farmers market produce overfloweth, it’s time to find a new twist on this old favorite.

Ready for a vegetarian lasagna that doesn’t require gallons of tomato sauce or even pasta? Click here for the recipe and click here to read more about how a friend’s love affair with polenta inspired Kellie Hynes to create this vibrant vegetarian dish.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: Plush ends table service to focus on snacks

July 7th, 2014


{Chicken and waffles are still offered on Plush’s new, snack-focused menu.}


If you’ve visited Plush since late June, you may have noticed changes to its dining options. The Midtown entertainment venue has called an end to table service and replaced its full menu with minimal snack offerings.

“We are focusing on apps and small foods that go well with the lounge and music events,” owner Maebelle Reed said via email.

Plush opened on New Year’s Eve 2011 as an eclectic combination of a bar, a diner, a coffeehouse and a live music venue. Under the direction of executive chef David Zimmerman, the menu included a smorgasboard of scratch comfort foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night. (We loved the smoked tomato and cracked pepper waffle so much we asked Zimmerman for the recipe.)

However, Zimmerman left Plush three months ago due to health reasons. Courtland Eiland, who worked with Zimmerman for many years, now helms the kitchen.

The new menu includes items like loaded fries and loaded nachos, wings, chicken and waffles, beef and veggie sliders, wraps and a Macken muffin, a muffin version of Plush’s Macken Cheese featuring cheddar and Colby. More Macken muffin flavors are slated to appear in the fall. While Zimmerman developed the recipes, Reed said the kitchen has “tweaked some of them for easier presentation.”

Hit List: 6 new places to try this month

July 6th, 2014


Jilly’s Ice Cream Bar: 8509 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314.993.5455, jillysicecreambar.com

Located just steps from its sister establishment Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Café, this chef-driven ice cream bar offers 19 ice cream flavors divided into classics, cupcake inspirations and monthly chef creations. Our pick is the Ka-Boomm (pictured), chock-full of brownie bits, Oreo chunks and M&Ms. Enjoy it in a Jilly’s cupcake waffle cone or a two-scoop side-by-side cake cone. Feeling indulgent? Build your own sundae or go with a signature one like Lemonberry: Bee Sting ice cream, blueberry compote, morsels of streusel crunch, whipped cream, a cherry and a wee sugar bee.


Root & Vine: 5100 Daggett Ave., St. Louis, 314.773.5553, fivebistro.com

Anthony Devoti’s latest rotating restaurant concept inside his Five Bistro focuses on produce, much of it grown in Five’s garden. The almost-vegetarian, six-course prix-fixe begins with a deviled duck egg placed atop a leaf of bok choy kimchee. Other highlights include a panna cotta of creamed turnips served with smoked trout and a gnocchi dish that celebrates spring onions. But don’t wait too long, veg-heads; we can’t guarantee Root & Vine will last past July.



Death in the Afternoon: 808 Chestnut St., St. Louis, 314.621.3236, deathintheafternoonstl.com

The much-anticipated lunch spot in Citygarden from Blood & Sand’s Adam Frager and T.J. Vytlacil is open. But adjust your expectations, aficionados: Unlike its members-only sister restaurant-lounge, Death in the Afternoon is open to the public, doesn’t serve dinner and doesn’t have a cocktail menu. What you will find is a gorgeous gardenside patio and a lunchtime bill of snacks, soups, sandwiches and salads. We enjoyed the grilled pita with an eggplant dip (pictured) redolent with Asian flavors, as well as crispy falafel that shares space with garden-fresh veggies and tzatziki in a warm pita. For a more Westernized option, try the burger with Calabrian chile aioli. Pair it with a beer brewed on-site by new Upper 90 Brewing Co.


Que Sazon: 314.775.7714, quesazontruck.com

Que Sazon finds its niche in the food truck scene with authentic, flavorful South American cuisine. Expect a rotation of empanadas, their smaller cousin the empanadilla, and arepas – handheld cornmeal discs split and stuffed with meat, beans, cheese or vegetables. Keep an eye out for the arepas de pernil, filled with slow-roasted pork and a house-made mango barbecue sauce, or the pollo and mango arepa of tender chicken studded with bright bits of avocado and mango. Light, flaky empanadas hold surprising flavor combinations – like the Che, filled with ground beef, hard-boiled egg and briny green olives served with chimichurri mayo on the side. Wash this down with a glass of refreshing maracuya, a sweet-sour passion fruit juice.



A Pizza Story: 7278 Manchester Road, Maplewood, 314.899.0011, apizzastory.com

A Pizza Story’s pizzaiolo and co-owner Muhammad Alhawagri spent months perfecting a dough recipe that serves as the foundation for 12-inch Neopolitan-style pies like Fantasy (burrata, prosciutto and arugula), Mystery (a pairing of meaty mushrooms and red peppers) and Space Opera (smoked salmon, capers and fresh dill atop a swath of ricotta, pictured), all baked in a wood-burning oven. A slight twist on the dough recipe makes for a fine house bread, seasoned with rosemary and sea salt. If the limoncello gelato is available during your visit, order it.


Shack Restaurant: 13645 Big Bend Road, Suite 105, Valley Park, 636.529.1600, shackstl.com

Shack Restaurant recently relocated to Valley Park and added breakfast to the menu. The Nutty Monkey smoothie, a mix of crunchy granola and banana, is a great way to ease your hunger pangs before the real food arrives. Order The Kitchen Sink from the Skillets section and load up on ham, bacon, sausage, veggies, white cheddar, hash browns and eggs. Craving sweet? The Wild Berries buttermilk pancakes are crowned with a scrumptious berry compote and a generous spoonful of creme fraiche. Best of all was the breakfast pizza, which changes frequently. Ours held a richly satisfying version of creamed spinach, pork belly and eggs – but atop that sweet yeasty dough, anything would be delicious.

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