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Sep 16, 2014
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Guide to Drinking 2014: Trendwatch – Part 1

Monday, September 15th, 2014

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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

First Look: Butchery

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Carnivores, prepare your grills and break out your roasting pans. Full-service butcher shop and food emporium Butchery has opened its doors. In June, Truffles announced it would add the meat market next door to the restaurant at 9202 Clayton Road in Ladue. Since quietly unlocking doors in late August, Butchery has seen a steady flow of patrons hungry for everything from house-made sausages to premium cuts of beef.

Truffles executive chef Brandon Benack directs operations at Butchery, while meat geek Andrew Jennrich helms the chopping block. Together, they’ve created a unique shop. “Few people in St. Louis are dealing with whole animals,” said Jennrich, noting that Butchery can provide hard-to-find cuts like tomahawk steaks and secreto, a little-know piece near the pork belly, all typically not available at other butcher shops.

While beef, pork, lamb and chicken are sourced from highly regarded local and regional farms, Butchery also makes numerous meat products in-house. It boasts a state-of-the-art aging room for curing charcuterie and offers prepared and ready-to-cook items like sausages, beef patties and pork potpies. Butchery even renders animal fat and sells it in 8-ounce containers. “We’re selling flavor,” Benack said. The Butchery will even marinate your cut for free using the Cryovac machine at Truffles to vacuum-seal it.

Apart from all the meaty goodness, patrons will find local cheeses, myriad house-made condiments, grab-and-go sides, a sandwich menu, a selection of boutique pantry perks and wines that hail from Truffles’ award-winning wine list.

The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here’s a look at what’s happening at Butchery:

 

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-photos by Meera Nagarajan

What I Do: Nora Brady of Blueprint Coffee

Monday, September 8th, 2014

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In four short years, Nora Brady, 24, has gone from working as a barista at Kaldi’s to co-owning Blueprint Coffee, one of the top cafes (and roasters) in town, and taking sixth place nationally at this year’s U.S. Barista Championship finals. Here, Brady gives us the full scoop on why she loves the daily grind of the coffee world.

What intrigues you about coffee?
That it comes from the earth. We can alter a few things about it, and science plays a huge part in it, but really, it’s an organic product.

What was it like to compete at the U.S. Barista Championship?
It was my third year competing. You work hard all year and go through intense training. (The) finals were really surprising. I felt more confident this year than I ever had, but I had a lot of things go wrong.

What went wrong?
Before your 15-minute presentation, you have 15 minutes to set up. We bring all of the equipment we’re using. When I was wheeling my cart out, I had my milk for my cappuccinos on top of the cart. I hit a bump and all of the milk spilled throughout my cart on everything. You bring extras of everything, so I had to run across the room and grab all the stuff that I needed. I thought for sure that I was toast. But they called my name. I advanced to the (next) round.

You have to make a signature coffee drink as part of the competition. What was yours?
I macerated raw beets (to make) a beet syrup. A little bit of Meyer lemon for balance. Four shots of Victor Milano espresso, but I chilled the espresso and skimmed the crema off of it – it basically pulls all the bitterness off the coffee. The whole drink was cold. I charged with an iSi charger. So it was this “espressoda” – effervescent, super creamy. It was like drinking velvet.

What’s the trendiest order at Blueprint right now?
Cortado. They look awesome and they are the perfect ratio (of coffee to milk).

What coffee trend do you predict is on the horizon?
Coffee cocktails. Not alcoholic, but coffee cocktails. I think the industry is super interested in using coffee as “the strong” and diversifying our offerings. We’re about to roll out a new cocktail menu all designed around the specific coffee.

What’s the weirdest order you receive?
I always think it’s weird when someone wants an iced cappuccino, but they want you to steam the milk and pour the whole drink over ice.

Most annoying order?
A flat white. It’s an Australian-European drink that’s essentially just a wet latte, so no froth, and it’s a weird size – like an 8-ounce drink. People come in and they want a flat white, but they all want it different. Nobody really knows what they’re ordering. They just heard about it.

What do you order?
Brewed coffee and a shot of espresso.

How many coffee makers do you have at home?
I’m trying to visualize the shelf. Probably 10 or 12.

Which one is your favorite?
Chemex, hands down. It’s a single vessel and easy to clean.
 
How much coffee a day do you drink?
A 12-ounce cup in the morning. You taste the espresso throughout the shift – that’s a lot of espresso. And I make myself an espresso to go home because I’ve got a lot of stuff to do.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

 

By the Book: George Mendes’ Clams Steamed with Vinho Verde, Garlic and Cilantro

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

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Chef George Mendes grew up on the East Coast, but this son of Portuguese immigrants has retained his Iberian roots – especially his culinary ties. In his cookbook My Portugal, released this month, Mendes shares stories and recipes from his family as well as from his celebrated New York City restaurant Aldea.

I loved the introductory pages, filled with Mendes’ description of Portuguese cuisine and its quintessential dishes: “Portuguese home cooking is distinguished by its gutsy soulfulness, as in a warming casserole with eggs baked right into a smoky tomato and pea stew laced with savory sausage.” By the time Mendes finished waxing poetic over everything from caldo verde (a soup of puréed potato with spicy chorizo and tender collard greens) to refogado, a Portuguese soffrito, I was ready to hop on a flight to Lisbon. Among the 125 recipes in the cookbook, I salivated most over plates of fresh seafood, which is why I opted to prepare Clams Steamed with Vinho Verde, Garlic and Cilantro.

 

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The recipe is delightfully uncomplicated. The ingredients are few – only littleneck clams, garlic, vinho verde (my hot weather wine of choice), a bay leaf, cilantro, olive oil and salt – and the technique is simple.

 

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If you haven’t worked with clams before, soaking them in a bath of cold saltwater is an absolute must so they release their grit. Scrubbing the clams with a brush removes any remaining residue. Sandy beaches are beautiful to look at, but they taste awful.

 

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The clams get tossed in the saucepan with hot oil, garlic and a bay leaf. The young white wine and cilantro are added, and the kitchen begins to fill with the fabulous aroma of a delicate sauce in the making. The fun comes from watching the clams slowly open, at which point you fish them one by one out of the saucepan.

Mendes directs the cook to strain the sauce into a serving bowl before folding in the clams and a handful of fresh cilantro. After tasting the strained sauce, I decided I wanted the softened garlic and the wilted cilantro back in the bowl. Maybe it looks less elegant, but that extra flavor is just too tasty to discard, especially when the dish is served with crusty bread to mop it all up. An indication of how much I enjoyed this quick (less than 30 minutes!) dish: I tucked a copy of the recipe into my prized recipe box.

 

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George Mendes’ Clams Steamed with Vinho Verde, Garlic and Cilantro
2 servings

Kosher salt to taste
12 littleneck clams
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
2 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced crosswise
1 fresh bay leaf, notches torn every ½ inch
½ cup dry white vinho verde
2 sprigs plus ½ cup sliced fresh cilantro leaves

• Fill a bowl with cold water and dissolve enough salt in it to make it taste like the ocean. Submerge the clams in the water. Let them sit for 10 minutes or until they spit out their grit. You should see sand at the bottom of the bowl. Lift out the clams and transfer to a colander. With a stiff-bristled brush, scrub them vigorously until their shells are really clean.
• Heat a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Coat the bottom with oil and add the garlic and bay leaf. Cook, stirring continuously, until very aromatic, bubbling, and golden, about 4 minutes.
• Add the clams and toss to coat in the mixture and get a sizzle going on them. Add the vinho verde and cilantro sprigs. Cover, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, shaking the pan frequently, until the clams start to open. The liquid should be boiling vigorously. Start pulling out the early birds that open first and transfer them to a dish. Cover the pan again and continue cooking and pulling until all the clams open. After 5 minutes more, any clams that don’t open are dead; throw them out.
• Discard the bay leaf and cilantro sprigs. Strain the sauce into a large serving bowl. Swirl in a little olive oil, then fold in the clams and sliced cilantro. Serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread.

Reprinted with permission from Stewart, Tabori & Chang

What is your favorite way to prepare clams? Tell us in the comment section below for a chance to win a copy of My Portugal!

The Scoop: Bryan Carr to close Pomme Restaurant and Pomme Café & Wine Bar, open Avenue in Roxane space

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

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Editor’s Note: This Scoop has been updated to include comments from Roxane co-owner Natasha Creel.

Chef-owner Bryan Carr is closing his two Clayton restaurants, Pomme Restaurant and Pomme Café & Wine Bar, with plans to merge the best elements of each in a new restaurant called Avenue. The new concept will be located just one block west of the Pomme eateries, at 12 N. Meramec Ave., in the space currently occupied by Roxane. That Clayton establishment recently announced it is closing its doors for good this Saturday, Sept. 6, on its Facebook page.

“We were looking for a way to combine the two restaurants,” Carr said. “We hoped to stay on N. Central, maybe expand, but we couldn’t find a practical way to do that. We wanted to stay in the same neighborhood, (wanted) a friendly space and one that is easy to use. We love the outdoor dining in our new location. The layout gives us a chance to separate one room when needed so we can accommodate private events.”

Regular guests at Pomme restaurants will notice numerous similarities between those eateries and Avenue – from décor to dishes to precise execution in preparation and service. While the old Roxane space won’t undergo structural changes, Carr said it will see cosmetic ones. “Diane (Carr) will put her style on it,” he said. “If you like the rooms at Pomme, you’ll like the room at Avenue.”

As for familiar dishes, look for Pomme Café’s trout and some pasta dishes on Avenue’s menu, as well as Pomme Restaurant’s short ribs and its notable Apples For Olivia dessert, honey-roasted apples in puff pastry with pine nut cream and apple sorbet. Pomme Restaurant will close in late September, with the cafe following soon afterward, according to Carr. Avenue will open in early October.

Roxane co-owner Natasha Creel said after more than seven years, she and co-owner Emily Matthes decided they were ready for a new project. “It was time to take a step back … focus a bit more on ourselves and do a smaller venture,” Creel said.

Creel and Matthes are starting This and That Catering and have plans to roll out a food truck. Creel said that like Roxane’s, the menus for both the catering company and the food truck will be an eclectic selection of anything from smoked meats to Mexican fare. Look for more information about their upcoming mobile eatery closer to its launch date in mid-October.

Catherine Klene contributed to this report.

-photo by Richard Nichols

The Scoop: Bissinger’s The Caramel Room nabs Nick Miller as chef

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

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Nick Miller, former chef-owner of the recently shuttered Harvest has been hired as executive chef for The Caramel Room at Bissinger’s. The Caramel Room is a private event space situated on the top floor of the chocolate company’s new downtown location at 1600 N. Broadway, scheduled to open Sept. 29.

“The day I found out Harvest was closing, I called him (Miller),” said Amanda Little, director of events for 23 City Blocks, management company for The Caramel Room and Lumen event space, which it acquired in late July. After an interview and a seven-course tasting, the chef was offered the position. “We want a chef that can have our guests feeling as if they were at a culinary restaurant,” she said.

The Caramel Room will be used for weddings, corporate events and other private parties. The 13,000-square-foot space features large, warehouse-style windows that give way to a flood of natural light and sights of the downtown skyline, plus an outdoor terrace that offers views of the Mississippi River. “It’s modern but not over the top,” Little said.

While menus will be tailor-made for guests, chocolate-inspired offerings will be a focus at The Caramel Room. “We’re a working chocolate factory,” she said. “We want to infuse chocolate in our menu.”

As the 23 City Blocks team prepares to open, the rest of the four-story building is bustling with activity as Bissinger’s relocates its headquarters and local manufacturing operations from 3983 Gratiot St.

“We’re in the throes of moving the operation now,” said Dave Owens, Bissinger’s vice president of taste and chief chocolatier. Owens said the company would vacate the building by the end of August and production will commence at the new location as early as next week.

 

 

The Scoop: Urban Eats opens second location downtown at St. Louis Public Library

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

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Devour more than books when you visit St. Louis Public Library downtown. Urban Eats Café Central celebrates its grand opening today, Aug. 12, in the west wing of the SLPL’s central branch at 1301 Olive St.

The cafe is the second Urban Eats location. Its sister spot sits at 3301 Meramec St., in the Dutchtown neighborhood. Urban Eats is known for fresh, healthy food and beverage options. The menu at the new location will be similar, but more limited in scope to that in Dutchtown, according to Caya Aufiero, who opened Urban Eats in 2008 with husband, John Chen. Look for salads, sandwiches, a couple flatbreads (bacon and pepperoni or sweet-spicy goat cheese), hummus and sweet treats like scones, muffins and a gluten-free/vegan lemon bar. Smoothies, teas, espresso and coffee drinks are all in the beverage lineup.

Urban Eats Café Central is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sneak Peek: Robie’s at The Magnolia Hotel

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

The Magnolia Hotel – along with its bar and restaurant, Robie’s – officially opens for business today, Aug. 12. The new boutique hotel, one of a chain of five Magnolia hotels in the U.S., unlocks its doors at 421 N. Eighth St., after an extensive eight-month, multi-million dollar renovation to the former Mayfair Hotel space.

The hotel’s bar and restaurant, Robie’s, is named for John Robie, played by actor Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief. The lounge offers contemporary American cuisine in an elegant setting. Morning eats are available a la carte and as a continental breakfast buffet; lunch and dinner options include a variety of soups, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, pizzas, entrees and desserts. A limited late-night menu is also available. Here’s what’s in store at Robie’s.

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

The Scoop: Heritage BBQ by Cochon returns to St. Louis Sept. 14

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

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{From left, Blackberry Farm’s Michael Sullivan, 2013 Cochon competing chefs Fabrizio Schenardi, Gerard Craft, SPQR’s Matthew Accarrino, Kevin Willmann, Kevin Nashan and Cochon founder Brady Lowe}

 

Pork lovers, rejoice! Heritage BBQ by Cochon is returning to St. Louis this year. The national tour that celebrates heritage breed hogs will take place Sept. 14 at the Four Seasons Hotel-St. Louis. Cochon founder Brady Lowe brought his Heritage BBQ to town for the first time last year, and his 2014 ‘cue fest is set to be even bigger.

The main attraction at the event is a whole hog barbecue competition. Five area chefs will each cook up a 200-pound heritage breed swine to create six dishes judged by a panel of local industry professionals. The lineup of competing chefs is: Gian Nicola Colucci (executive chef, Four Seasons – St. Louis), Eric Heath (chef and co-owner, Cleveland-Heath), Patrick Connolly (executive chef, Basso), Josh Galliano (chef and co-owner, The Libertine) and Lou Rook III (executive chef, Annie Gunn’s).

But the pig-crazed can dine on more than competition barbecue. New this year is Barbecue Traditions, during which area meat moguls will serve a dish exemplifying their take on barbecue paired with wines, bbers or spirits. Look for Mike Emerson of Pappy’s Smokehouse and Chris Bolyard of soon-to-open Bolyard Meat & Provisions to be among those educating eaters on barbecue culture. Other food attractions will include a pop-up butcher shop featuring Andrew Jennrich of soon-to-open The Butchery, a tartare bar with edible delights by Creekstone Farms, a cheese spread by Rogue Creamery and ice cream from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.

Even though there will be pound upon pound of tender, juicy meat prepared every which way, libations aren’t an afterthought. Festival-goers will can partake in top-tier bourbons, Crispin ciders, wines, mezcals and Goose Island beers, including its rare Bourbon County brews.

VIP tickets are $200 and include a 4 p.m. early admission, as well as access to reserve wines and spirits. General admission tickets are $100; tickets available online.

Sauce Magazine is a sponsor of this event.

What I Do: Anne Lehman

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

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Anne Lehman, 54, relocated to St. Louis from her native San Francisco three years ago. The owner of urban farm Dirty Girl Farms may have dirt under her nails, but she has the toned arms of a weightlifter (and competes at the masters level), the greenest thumb on Tower Grove South’s Juniata Street and a heart filled with pride for her new hometown.

Why the name Dirty Girl?
It was something that my husband called me. In California, I’d always come in and be filthy. He’d know when I was working outside because all the light switches would be dirty. Now, it’s kind of a blessing and a curse. I decided to embrace it. There’s a lot of double entendres, sexual stuff. If I go into a restaurant: “Oh, it’s Dirty Girl. Whatcha got?”

How did you start selling to restaurants?
One of my favorite bartenders (John Fausz of Olio) lives down the street. One day, I said to John, “Can I bring you some herbs for the bar?” Ben (Poremba, Olio and Elaia chef-owner) got ahold of everything before John did. He flipped out over one of the herbs I was growing. He was like, “I’ll take however much of this you’ve got. Bring me a list of what you’re selling.”

What do you grow?
A lot of things that I brought from California: lemon verbena, pineapple sage, Mexican tarragon. There’s Cuban oregano, rose geranium. (Food truck) Holy Crepe bought all my Madras podding radish. They don’t grow in the ground. They grow on a vine. Malabar spinach, a lot of Italian greens: erba stella, stridolo…

Any other unusual plantings?
I have a crack project where I grow seeds in cracks. So does my brother. I don’t know why we do it. In the alley, I grew borage this year. I grew zinnias in the alley last year for the woman across the alley. She was recovering from cancer. I wanted to do something nice for her because she couldn’t come outside and garden. She could see them from her window.

Have any chefs asked you to plant something for them?
(Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner) Kevin Nashan. He challenged me. He’s like, “Well, it’s not like you’re growing salt wort.” And I’m like, “Well, I can.” I have a lot of salt wort. I’m going to see if he wants to buy it.

What do you do with herbs you don’t sell?
I turn all the herbs into tinctures. I just sold my tinctures to (Blood & Sand co-owner) TJ Vytlacil. Amanda (Hammond) at Niche is playing around with them. And (my husband makes) ice cream. Cafe Osage featured it one month. It’s like French custard ice cream. My husband has the most amazing recipe and he won’t change it to make it less expensive. I don’t market it any more.

Why do you call yourself Dirty Girl Farms when you only have one farm?
It will be Farms someday. I always start with the big picture.

So you’re staying put in St. Louis?
I made the best decision of my life to move to this city. We’re not going anywhere. Here’s my California snobbiness: When I went to Taste in the Central West End when we were looking for a place to live, I ate there and was blown away. Everyone in my life was telling me I was crazy to move to St. Louis. I just thought, well, everything’s going to be OK. There’s Taste.

Have you discovered other restaurants here that make you feel that way?
I have a huge list. There are way better restaurants here than in San Francisco. I get treated like every human being should be treated when I go to a restaurant here.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

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