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Sep 18, 2014
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The Scoop: Hydroponic gardening shop opens in Overland

September 18th, 2014



Don and Heather Willman, co-owners of Advanced Garden Supply in Jefferson City, have recently opened their second shop Sept. 2 at 2126 Woodson Road in Overland. They’re aiming to provide customers with the essentials to grow their own healthy garden with a hydroponic twist.

Hydro-what? The difference is in the soil – or lack thereof. Hydroponic, literally “working water” gardening, utilizes nutrient-packed water to raise crops. These plants grow suspended above nutrient-enhanced water, as their roots grow freely in the liquid underneath. You get all kinds of weather (in Missouri), from hot and dry, to wet and soggy,” Don Willman said. “When you grow a garden inside on a water-based system, your possibilities are unlimited … Instead of working with soil, water is the main delivery system for getting all the nutrients needed.”

The Willmans, both longtime hydroponic farmers, have grown a variety of vegetation from shiitake mushrooms to banana plants. Advanced Garden Supply sells plant nutrients, LED lighting and other tools necessary to successfully grow hydroponic gardens at home.

Willman chose the St. Louis area after witnessing a growth of hydroponic gardening in the city. “There are all kinds of people getting into it right here in the St. Louis community,” he said, including rooftop gardeners, professional farmers and novice gardeners.

Advanced Gardening Supply is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.



Baked: Fudgy Peanut Butter-Pretzel Brownies

September 17th, 2014



I love a good brownie, and I love trying new recipes for them. They’re simple to whip up and satisfy a chocolate craving in less than an hour. I was initially drawn a David Lebovitz recipe because it doesn’t call for flour. That’s great news for the gluten-averse crowd, but for me, it meant a fudgier, more chocolaty crumb. I was not disappointed.

But I couldn’t let it rest there. One of my favorite cookies at Whisk, where I help out from time to time, is a peanut butter-pretzel cookie. The salty, sweet, crunchy combination is perfect, so I took played with those same ingredients, except now the pretzels and peanut butter snuggle together in a fudgy chocolate bed. You’ll definitely need a glass of milk for this one.

A few tips: Be sure to beat the batter at least 2 minutes, until it is glossy and pulls away from the bowl for a cracking top and the perfect brownie texture. A hand mixer on medium speed is ideal.

Also, for the fudgiest brownies, under-bake them. No more than 25 minutes in an 8-by-8-inch pan is best. Remember, they are still cooking when you take them out of the oven, so let them rest for 45 minutes to finish. Enjoy and happy baking!


Fudgy Peanut Butter-Pretzel Brownies
Adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe
Makes 1 8-by-8-inch pan

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chips
2 room-temperature eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup coarsely crushed pretzels*
¼ tsp. flaky sea salt

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8-by-8-inch cake pan with parchment paper (Do not skip the parchment paper; these brownies will stick to the pan without it.).
• In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from heat and add the sugar and chocolate, stirring to coat the chocolate in butter. Let sit 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is completely melted and the sugar is dissolved.
• Use a hand mixer on medium speed to beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla, cocoa powder and cornstarch about 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth and shiny.
• Fold in the peanut butter chips and the crushed pretzels, then pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the flaky sea salt.
• Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 45 minutes before slicing and serving.

*Substitute gluten-free pretzels or omit them entirely to make this dessert gluten-free.

Budget Crunch: 10 delicious dishes and sweet deals to try right now

September 17th, 2014

Welcome to Budget Crunch, wherein intrepid reporter Byron Kerman offers 10 tips on delicious menu items and sweet deals happening now. Got $10? Grab a friend and sample, split and stuff yourselves with these steals.


1. There are about 25 chocolate-covered blackberries to a pound at Bissinger’s, and at $42 per pound, that’s a just less than $2 a blackberry. It ain’t cheap, but thankfully it only takes one to get your fix. Oh, mama. It’s worth driving to either Bissinger’s at Maryland Plaza or Bissinger’s at Plaza Frontenac, and savoring a dark or a milk chocolate-covered blackberry through September only.


2. Writing about fried chicken is, as Martin Mull might say, like dancing about architecture; one medium can hardly express the pleasures of the other. But one must persevere, so here it goes. I once ate fried chicken at the monthly Thursday Night Supper Club at Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Cafe and jotted down some notes: “great, thick, savory, dense, spiced crust –wow.” Boneless fried breasts make it kid-friendly, plus fried drumsticks, for those who like dark meat. In the spirit of “wow,” we must recommend this delightful feast for Budget crunch even though $16 is a touch higher than we usually go. In this case, though, it’s a steal. Tomorrow, Sept. 18, Thursday Night Supper Club includes an unlimited buffet of this mind-blowing fried chicken, Caesar salad, deviled eggs, slaw, potato salad, cornbread, mac-n-cheese, desserts and more, all from the mind of Jilly’s chef Dana Holland.




3. Forget bottomless cups of coffee; the brewers at downtown’s Alpha Brewing Company choose one of their brews every Tuesday and offer a swimming pool of it for $10. That’s all you can drink, matey. Some beers that have been included in the deal recently are Lapsided (a mildly hoppy pale ale Alpha describes as “fruity, with a smooth bitterness”) and Alpha’s Belgian pale ale.


4. The Taste of Benton Park Festival  on Sat., Oct. 4 at the corner of Arsenal Street and Jefferson Avenue  is offering a sweet deal: $5 gets you a plate with samples from three Benton Park restaurants. Blues City Deli, Capitalist Pig BBQ, The Choice at Something Special, Ernesto’s Wine Bar, Frazer’s, Jax Café, Luvy Duvy’s Cafe, Melt, The Mud House, Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co., Sidney Street Cafe, Spare No Rib, Whisk: A Sustainable Bakeshop  and Yemanja Brasil are all in on the act. Also, look for live music, a vintage Volkswagen show, and wine and beer sales.




5. The Robust Wine Bar outpost in Edwardsville is celebrating its one-year anniversary with a BBQ, Bourbon & Bubbles party tomorrow, Sept. 18. The evening will feature edibles from $6 to $10, including a barbecue of land and sea cuts, and appetizer specials on items like buffalo-chicken meatballs and bacon-wrapped jalapenos. Also look for $8 to $9 specials on bourbon-based cocktails, sparkling wines and live music.


6. Ten out of 10 potatoes agree: they’d be happy to end their days baked into poblano au gratin potatoes ($4) at J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood. The creamy side dish is made with gruyere and pepper jack cheeses, heavy cream, roasted poblano peppers, onion, garlic and spices. It’s served in a mini cast-iron crock, and as the weather gets colder, it tastes better and better.




7. The mouth-watering Cuban sandwich at Capitalist Pig starts with Companion bread, brushed with butter. Next up, a brushstroke of sauce made with mustard, mayo and more, followed by slices of house-smoked ham, Emmenthaler, smoked pork shoulder and house-made pickles. A trip through the sandwich press yields a Cubano with a crusty exterior with the sharp flavors of mustard and pickle playing off the moist, salty meats. All this flavor for $7.50? We’ll call that a steal.


8. The relocated Taste of St. Louis will tantalize and satiate from Chesterfield Amphitheatre, from Sept. 19 to 21. The eateries in Sauce Magazine’s Restaurant Row will offer Taste Bites, smaller-sized portions priced from $2 to $7. From Annie Gunn’s to Villa Farotto, there are more than three dozen restaurant booths. Don’t forget the free Art & Wine Walk, the Stella Artois Chef Battle Royale, culinary demos, Kid City, and big ticket items like appearances by Food Network’s Tyler Florence and Duff Goldman, as well as music by Big Head Todd & the Monsters and The Urge.




9. Iron Barley’s chef-owner Tom Coghill is crazy like a fox. He makes a bacon brownie ($9) using bourbon instead of water, and bacon fat instead of vegetable oil. He then dips very thick-cut bacon in brewer’s malt extract before double-smoking it and adding chunks to the batter. The final flourish: house-made vanilla ice cream and more bacon, of course. The bold dessert is available during dinner service at Iron Barley Thursday through Saturday.


10. Hey, ladies! A fun new deal at Art Bar Saint Louis, Nails and Cocktails combines booze, beauty and bargains. For $10, gals get a cocktail and a manicure the first Wednesday of the month. The oft-changing cocktail, said bar owner Tatyana Telnikova, is “a refreshing and fruity special that’s not too sweet.” Telnikova does the 15-minute manicures, which are “not too complicated, but better than what you would have done by yourself.” Art Bar, which opened about five months ago, also has a food menu that includes sweet and savory crepes, pierogies and a hummus app.





Extra Sauce: Homemade Amaretto

September 17th, 2014



In August, Dan and Anne Marie Lodholz, the husband and wife duo behind The Weekend Project, showed you how to use every last bit of your peaches and cherries, all the way down to the pits. Today, they’re sharing a recipe for one more boozy way to get the most from your end-of-summer stone fruits: amaretto.

In addition to macerating the lovely floral and herbal notes of fruit and spices with vodka and brandy, the Lodholzes also create a double simple syrup and a caramel syrup separately. This method allows drinkers to sweeten their amaretto exactly to their tastes.

Need a refresher on how to crack open those peach pits to get at the seeds? Click here and follow the instructions in the Peach Pit Tincture recipe for steeping, roasting and cracking those bad boys open.

Makes about 2 quarts

5 cups sugar, divided
3½ cups plus 2 Tbsp. water, divided
4½ cups vodka
1½ cups brandy
½ cup roasted peach seeds
½ cup peach pits pieces (remains of broken pits from removing seeds)
3/8 cup chopped raw almonds
2 Tbsp. anise seed
2 Tbsp. fennel seed
½ cup cherries, pitted and chopped
½ cup peach slices and scraps
½ cup apricot chunks
4 whole cloves
1 Tbsp. mint leaves
2 allspice berries or ¼ tsp. ground allspice
Almond extract

• To make the double simple syrup, bring 1½ cups water to a boil in a heavy saucepan and slowly whisk in 3 cups sugar until it is dissolved. Once the liquid is completely clear, remove from heat and let cool. Store the simple syrup, covered, in the refrigerator up to 6 weeks.
• To make the caramel simple syrup, bring 2 cups water to just below a boil in pot over high heat. Meanwhile, pour 2 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons water into a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Gently swirl the saucepan until the water is incorporated into the sugar and it begins to turn an almond color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully whisk in the almost-boiling water until well incorporated (Use caution, as the mixture will steam.). Remove from heat, pour into a container with a lid and let cool. Store the caramel simple syrup, covered, in the refrigerator 4 to 6 weeks.
• To make the amaretto, pour the vodka, brandy, peach seeds, peach pit pieces, almonds, anise seed, fennel seed, cherries, peach slices and scraps, apricot chunks, cloves, mint and allspice into a large pitcher. Mix and then divide the mixture evenly between 2 quart-sized mason jars. Seal and shake.
• Store the jars in a cabinet for 4 weeks, shaking every couple days to agitate the ingredients. After 3 weeks, open the jars and smash the fruit with a wooden spoon. Seal again and place back in the cabinet. Let the jars rest the last 4 to 5 days of maceration so the ingredients can settle.
• Line a fine mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth and pour the liqueur through the strainer into a large pitcher. Discard the solids.
• To bottle, mix 1 cup amaretto liqueur with ½ cup double simple syrup, ¼ cup caramel syrup and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Pour into clean mason jars and serve with additional syrup.

 -photo by Michelle Volansky

Guide to Drinking 2014: Trendwatch – Part 2

September 16th, 2014


Did you miss Part 1 of our Trendwatch? Click here for more about the latest trends in the beverage world, part of our annual Guide to Drinking.


5. Drinking Weed: Some people mow down dandelions. Others eat them. And then there are those who use the plant for booze. Following the national trend of using foraged ingredients for housemade elixirs, The Fortune Teller Bar on Cherokee Street has concocted a house-made dandelion tincture that adds vegetal tang to a reverse martini called Summer Switch No. 2. Meanwhile, look for the release by mid-October of Lion’s Tooth, a dandelion liqueur made with dandelion roots and Crown Valley brandy. The liqueur is a collaboration between Water Street in Maplewood and the Ste. Genevieve distillery.

6. The Spirit of Korea Takes Flight: Soju, the best-selling alcohol in the world, is making a splash in the Gateway City. The Korean spirit distilled from rice is traditionally consumed straight, but from London to NYC to San Francisco, bartenders are mixing the low-alcohol liquor into everything from aperitifs to slushies. Locally, The Purple Martin bar manager Joel Clark prepared herb-steeped soju for a multi-course Asian-themed dinner held this summer at the Fox Park bar and restaurant.

7. Day Beer Believers: Brewers have answered the call for beer that you can drink and drink some more. It’s out with the double and triple IPAs and in with sessionable suds. We’re familiar with Schlafly Sessions IPA and Founders All Day IPA, but in the last year, we’ve also seen Stone Go To IPA, Goose Island Endless IPA, Lagunitas DayTime IPA and Boulevard Pop-Up Session IPA arrive on the scene.

8. Choose Your Own Booze Adventure: Has it been years since you had your nose in a Choose Your Own Adventure book? Time to join the adult version of that club. Lots of bars around town are offering build-your-own cocktails, and no matter your poison, there’s a drink adventure in store for you. If gin is your thing, build your own G&Ts at The Gin Room at Cafe Natasha’s. At Bar Italia, you can have your spritz – a classic northern Italian combination of amaro and prosecco – just the way you like it (and if you head there during happy hour for 5 O’Clock Spritz, you’ll get free plates of antipasti). At Boogaloo, they’re still building mojitos your way through September; then it gives way to a maze of Manhattans. Finally, at Cielo, you can build your favorite cocktail using its house barrel-aged spirits.

9. Alpine Aperitif: Génépy, the alpine herbal liqueur reminiscent of green Chartreuse, has jet-setted from French ski resorts to St. Louis bars. For a taste of the French liqueur, head to Small Batch and order Bright, which features genepy with rye whiskey, house-made wormwood bitters, lemon and cava. At Taste, you’ll get génépy when you order Gimme Samoa, a combination of rum, cognac, génépy, crème de cacao, pineapple and lime juice. Meanwhile, bartenders at Planter’s House are génépy-happy with drinks like Eight is Enough and Unusual Suspects.





The Scoop: Former Cuban and Mexican cafe La Tropicana Market sees new life as El Tropical

September 16th, 2014



When the Trabanco family closed doors to its La Tropicana Market last October, St. Louis waved a sad goodbye to the nearly 40-year-old market-cafe at 5001 Lindenwood Ave., that was an institution for Cuban and Mexican food. But La Tropicana is seeing new life with a different name and under new ownership.

Now known as El Tropical, the South City corner eatery is a project by Daime Gomez and Lorena Roble Munoz. “We’re following La Tropicana’s traditions of serving Mexican and Cuban food,” said Munoz in her native Spanish during a break from making fresh tamales. Munoz has ties to the state of Zacatecas in north central Mexico. Gomez, a native of Cuba, has lived in St. Louis for the past four years.




Like its predecessor, El Tropical offers a menu of Cuban and Mexican cuisine patrons can eat at the cafe (including outside on the patio) or carry out. With Munoz as the primary cook, the menu leans heavily Mexican and includes items such as tacos, burritos, fajitas, tamales and empanadas, all featuring a variety of meats like chicken tinga, chorizo, pulled pork and shredded beef. Gomez will lend his hand to Cuban offerings that include Cuban-style empanadas, Cuban sandwiches and yuca herbida (boiled yucca).

While El Tropical does not have a grocery component like La Tropicana did, Munoz and Gomez hope to soon see the refrigerated cases along the walls stocked with some fresh market items, as well as beer and other adult beverages. The approval of a liquor license is pending.

“It’s great. It’s wonderful to know (the space) is going to be occupied, that there will be food, and that we’ll keep the Cuban aspect in the city,” said former owner Luis Trabanco.

Although El Tropical opened quietly Aug. 29, its website and Facebook page have not yet launched. El Tropical is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Those looking to contact the shop can call 314.833.3513.

Just Five: Pimento Cheese Crackers

September 16th, 2014



Here are some things I know to be true: The folks at Southern Living magazine like their cheese and crackers, particularly when combined into things like cheese straws. Also true is that I can eat an entire box of cheese straws during the drive home from the grocery store.

To feed my craving (and to avoid getting crumbs all over my car), I adapted that Southern Living recipe to make crackers instead of straws with a bit more oomph in the spice blend. These little fellas are incredibly easy to assemble, and they taste a lot like a certain small orange cracker one might find in a red box. To make true crackers, be sure to roll the dough very thin; if not, the crackers stay a little soft, closer to a thin biscuit. In my home, these “Snacky Crackers” never last more than a day.
Pimento Cheese Crackers
Adapted from a Southern Living recipe
Makes about 5 dozen

1½ cup flour
1½ tsp. ground mustard
½ tsp. chili powder
1 4-oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
2½ cups (10 oz.) finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ lb. (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 tsp. kosher salt
A few tablespoons water

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ground mustard and chili powder. Set aside.
• Pat the drained pimentos dry with paper towels, and mince half, leaving the other half coarsely diced. Toss the pimentos in the flour mixture until lightly coated. Set aside.
• Use an electric or stand mixer to beat together the cheese, butter and salt on medium speed until combined. Slowly add the flour-pimento mixture and continue to beat on medium speed, adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just comes together, but does not become sticky.
• Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it out as thin as possible, about 1/8-inch thick. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to score the crackers into 2-by-2-inch squares and place them on parchment-lined baking sheet with a little space between each. Pierce each cracker with a fork.
• Bake 16 to 19 minutes, or until just brown around the edges. Let cool on a rack. Crackers will keep in an airtight container up to 1 week.

The Scoop: Blind Tiger in Maplewood to close this week

September 16th, 2014



After almost a year in business, Maplewood’s Blind Tiger will close its doors for good on Thursday, Sept. 18 or Friday, Sept. 19. The closure was first reported by 40 South News.

“It was just a perfect storm, and we had to close,” said owner Mike McLaughlin, citing strategic mistakes and bad luck including a break-in and robbery in late August. Blind Tiger opened in December 2013 at 7376 Manchester Blvd., and featured a wide selection of whiskey and New York-style pizzas.

Blind Tiger chef Jackson Noon will move just down the block to McLaughlin’s other restaurant, The Crow’s Nest, where he will turn his attention to updating its food offerings. McLaughlin said the new menu will “be a more creative take on what we’re already doing. We want to use the best quality stuff we can.” Fans of Blind Tiger’s barrel-aged cocktails can still get their fix at The Crow’s Nest; those drinks will find their way over to that bar, too.

-photo by Michelle Volansky

Meatless Monday: Truffle Mushroom Mac-N-Cheese

September 15th, 2014



We love a good cast-iron pan around here, but it can be used for so much more than getting a fantastic sear on steak or an ultra-crisp skin on fried chicken. In fact, tonight we’re using this kitchen cookware staple for a decadent Meatless Monday Mac-N-Cheese. Cremini mushrooms, Madiera wine, half-and-half and Parmesan enrobe cavatapi noodles with cheesy goodness, but the crown jewel? A generous drizzle of truffle oil mixed into the sauce. You can bake them in individual cast-iron skillets as The Tavern Kitchen and Bar’s Justin Haifley has done here, or pour the whole thing into one big skillet and serve it family-style. Get the recipe for this dish here.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

Guide to Drinking 2014: Trendwatch – Part 1

September 15th, 2014



1. Cherry Bomb: Cherry is the lush’s fruit of the moment, and choices abound. There’s Kasteel Rouge cherry beer, St. Louis Kriek lambic, Original Sin cherry cider, Berentzen wild cherry liqueur and Montelle Winery cherry brandy, winner of a best of class and a gold medal in the distilled product category at the recent 2014 Missouri Wine Competition. Mikkeller’s one-off lambic Spontan Cherry Frederiksdal is long gone, but beer lovers can look forward to the December or January release of 4 Hands Cuvee Diable, a barrel-aged version of its sour cherry saison, Prunus.

2. The Art of the Tonic: You can stop for a housemade soda at loads of bars around town. For a different journey, jump on the artisan tonic train. Among Juniper’s mocktails, dubbed “sparklers,” you’ll find the option of a house tonic syrup doctored with dashes of nonalcoholic plum, grapefruit and cherry bitters topped with fizzy sparkling water. Meanwhile, in Lake Saint Louis, the bar crew at BC’s Kitchen has taken a page from the cook’s book by whipping up à la minute gin and tonics with the help of a soda siphon. Finally, at The Gin Room at Cafe Natasha’s, home to a number of house tonics, tonic-making is such an art that they are offering tonic-making workshops beginning Sept. 24.

3. Strange Syrups: If you think the flavor wheel for vodka is out of control, take a look at the current syrup spectrum. Among the wild and whacky scratch syrups claiming space behind local bars, we’ve seen smoked corn at Juniper, Sriracha-honey at Cielo and toasted celery seed-fennel syrup at Taste. House syrups are also getting pumped into boozy (or not) snow cones at newly opened Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.; with chef-owner Kevin Nashan as the mad scientist behind this project, there’s no telling what offbeat syrup might get cooked up.

4. Coffee and Tea Get a Green Card: Coffee and tea have migrated onto cocktail menus in the last few years. But now it’s official: they are citizens of the cocktail menu. You’ll find tea taking up residence at Cielo (in Earl Grey Chaos, a combination of an Earl Grey-black pepper infused gin, limoncello, lemon juice and simple syrup served on Earl Grey ice cubes), at Juniper (in Tennis With Hemingway, a mixed drink that uses tea syrup with gin and yellow chartreuse) and in the tea cocktails at newly opened MaryAnn’s Tea Room in the Central West End. Java addicts who need a jolt of caffeine in more than their morning brew can get their fix with cocktails featuring cold-brew coffee at Planter’s House, Taste and Small Batch. And this month, those riding the latest wave in the coffee world will want to hit up Blueprint Coffee for its debut nonalcoholic coffee cocktail menu.

Don’t miss Part 2 of Trend Watch tomorrow, Sept. 16!

-photo by Carmen Troesser

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