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Jul 29, 2015
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Sneak Peek: Guerrilla Street Food on South Grand

Monday, July 20th, 2015

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Guerrilla Street Food junkies who’ve followed the Filipino food truck since 2011 no longer need to wander the city in search of their favorite roving eatery. Guerrilla Street will open a brick-and-mortar location tomorrow, July 21, at 3559 Arsenal St., near South Grand Boulevard.

Co-owners Joel Crespo and Brian Hardesty have developed a menu that includes traditional and contemporary Filipino mains, sides and snacks. Regulars will notice a number of specials from the food truck – crab ceviche, duck adobo poutine and the fried-chicken delight that is Iron Manok – have been turned into staples at the dine-in establishment. While these dishes fall within the “new school” selection, Guerrilla Street’s half dozen “old school” rice bowl offerings like chicken adobo, beef mechado, and its wildly popular Flying Pig, will appease purists (although the dishes are available wrapped in a burrito). Specials will also include dishes like steamed buns with a rotating filling.

Entrees can be rounded out with a handful of side dishes such as fries made with purple sweet potatoes (ube) or ginataang greens, a Filipino-rendition of creamed spinach prepared with coconut milk. Smaller bites from the merienda, or snacks, board include garlicky roasted peanuts, barbecued pork skewers, a sweet pork sausage (longanista) corn dog and lumpia, Filipino-style egg rolls, available fresh or fried. The indecisive can opt for the dine-in only Kamayan platter: a smorgasbord of 15 items traditionally eaten with fingers.

Diners can wash down the feast with a selection of local Excel sodas or Guerrilla Street’s house-made tropical drinks like the lemonade-esque Calamansi Cooler or the 1-inch Punch, which combines black currant and pineapple juices with coconut milk.

Like the food truck, the 26-seat restaurant is a counter-service eatery. The walls are decked with Filipino artifacts like license plates, a replica battalion flag from its war of independence against Spain and the requisite oversize wooden fork and spoon found in every Filipino kitchen. “We try to take every opportunity to expose people to Filipino culture,” Crespo said.

Diners can get a taste of the Philippines Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Here’s what to expect when doors open tomorrow:

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

Readers’ Choice 2015: Favorite Restaurant – Cleveland-Heath

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

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Jenny Cleveland and Ed Heath culled the inspiration for their 4-year-old Edwardsville restaurant from family recipes, restaurant road trips and tenures in other people’s kitchens. The result: an arsenal of cooking techniques, unexpected dish compositions and core dining philosophies that are the hallmarks of your favorite restaurant of the year, Cleveland-Heath.

The Pork Chop
Heath: The pork chop was the one I’d done at Henry’s Fork Lodge, a little seasonal fishing place in Island Park, Idaho. I knew in Idaho they were meat-and-potato people, and I thought I could branch out with some bread pudding. It went over really well. I think I did asparagus or green beans and the pork chop. The egg came later.

Cleveland: The egg is us because the only meal we ever cooked at home was breakfast. It was always leftovers and an egg on top. Everyone says the egg on top of things is done, but I don’t see how it will ever be done because it tastes so good.

The Chicken Wings
Heath: We ate at Redd in Napa a lot. Their chicken wings were the best we ever had … It was a Michelin-starred restaurant, and we would always sit at the bar and eat the stupid chicken wings. It was like a dark soy-caramel glaze. We tried to figure out the sauce. We worked on it at our place for six months before we came up with our chicken wings.

The BLT
Heath: We used to eat BLTs four days a week in Napa. There was a little grocery store a block and a half from our house.

Cleveland: We’d walk down and get two cups of coffee, two BLTs with pickles on them and bring them back.

Heath: Tom (Grant) at Martine (Cafe, Salt Lake City) used to take cherry tomatoes and cover them in garlic and olive oil. At the end of the night, he’d throw them in the oven and leave them for 12 hours until he got back the next day. It was like tomato sauce in a bite. At our place, we were going to do it that way, but our volume got too high. We go through 10 cases of Roma tomatoes a week just to keep the BLT on the menu. Ours are roasted; we can’t really call them oven-cured.

The Pulled Pork Sandwich
Heath: At Farmstead (St. Helena, California), we did ours on the smoker, which was our original intention (for Cleveland-Heath). But once again, volume hit, and we had to start braising. We have the pretzel bun because Companion came by to do our bread. We wanted our pickles to be different, so we did cider vinegar and coriander seed. And when you get all that together – the bite of the coriander seed with the blue cheese dressing – I will eat that sandwich every day.

Cleveland: I think the pickles are because that’s how my mom did them. That’s how I grew up eating pulled pork.

Heath: The blue cheese coleslaw – that was (Farmstead’s) Seamus Feeley. Seamus did the blue cheese coleslaw, so we borrowed it. I don’t think we could have opened without me having worked for him for a year at Farmstead.

The Shaved Raw Beef and Celery Kung Pao
Cleveland: This January, we ate at Mission Chinese in New York. They had this celery dish on the menu that was just the simplest.

Heath: Celery, hazelnuts, soy sauce.

Cleveland: It looked like sauteed celery with hazelnuts, and it was so good. … When we got back, for two days we did nothing but: “No, this is how it was,” “No, this is how it was.” … It was like this celery competition. We were trying to hit the flavor with that dish.

Heath: It’s strange, though. It’s not carpaccio because it’s not super thin. But if you cut it against the grain, it gets that nice chewy element … It was seriously like eating at a regular Chinese restaurant where you get big chunks of celery in a dish. But his was so beautiful and tall and gorgeous, and we’re like, this is the best celery stick I’ve ever eaten. … And what’s everyone saying right now? Celery’s the new thing. I can see that.

The Vibe
Cleveland: Prune (New York City) was awesome.

Heath: It’s tiny and it’s not dirty, it’s –

Cleveland: It’s worn. It’s like your favorite teddy bear. The food had a lot of heart.

The Wait Time
Heath: What’s that ramen place we went?

Cleveland: Ippudo (New York City). The food was amazing. We waited an hour and something for that table. I walked away thinking that’s not a big deal. I would’ve waited longer to eat there. The wait is a sensitive thing for us. I feel so bad – on the weekends, our wait gets so long. So I really appreciated waiting. And I didn’t mind.

The Plating
Cleveland: Ad Hoc (Yountville, California) was family style. The plating was designed to look sort of unplanned, but it was incredibly precise. The thing that you walk away with from there is that casual and comfortable is not an accident. It takes just as much work as fine dining.

-photo by Jonathan Gayman

Readers’ Choice 2015: Chef of the Year – Gerard Craft

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

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You know a meal is special when you can recall it in vivid detail years, even decades, later. Epicures have traveled from far and near to visit Gerard Craft’s flagship restaurant, Niche, and have departed with memories of exquisitely plated, creative dishes. Craft’s own dining experiences likewise have left an indelible mark on his culinary mind. Here, this year’s Readers’ Choice Chef of the Year – and winner of the 2015 James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Midwest – shares the top meals of his life.  

1. The French Laundry, Yountville, California, 2002
“That meal was mind-blowing on every level, especially because I had experienced a lot at that point but nothing unique. I’d been sleeping with The French Laundry Cookbook pretty much at that point. It was a big deal to see it all. The wine service was Bobby Stuckey (now co-owner of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Colorado) as a youngster. My dad still talks about the wine service to this day and how amazingly inspired it was. (We started) with five different soups, each one the essence of whatever that ingredient was. (I had) dishes that are now iconic, like the salmon cornet – the ice cream cone, the oysters and pearls … just mind-blowing and fun. Grant Achatz was a sous chef. It was kind of like a dream team in that restaurant.”

2. Le Bamboche, Paris, France, 2000
“It was during the mad cow crisis. Lots of vegetables because nobody was cooking meat at that point. La Bamboche was a tiny little spot, maybe 20 seats. The chef was Claude Colliot. It was him in the kitchen with one other guy and his wife ran the front of the house. It was the first time I saw traditional rules broken. There was a dish of glazed Loire Valley vegetables with fromage blanc ice cream, a savory ice cream. I was blown away. Now, everyone sees ice cream on dishes. Back then, no one had ice cream on dishes. On the dessert side, he had a Napoleon with pastry cream on one layer, a kind of candied confit tomato on another layer and then basil simple syrup. Again, this notion of the rules had been broken: savory food being used in dessert. That meal alone shaped my career and the way I would look at food from then on.”

3. L’Arpège, Paris, France, 2000
“This place was – and still is – a three-star Michelin restaurant. My parents took me there and said, ‘Pay attention. This is your Harvard education.’ It was a spectacular meal, tons of vegetables. I don’t know if I was necessarily blown out of the water. It was just vegetables and light flavors and very good. What I did notice later on as I was cooking was: This green bean is not cooked right; this turnip’s texture could be much better. Every vegetable in that place was so perfectly cooked. When it comes to vegetables, that completely changed my life. I am so picky with our cooks about how they cook vegetables. That stems from this restaurant.”

4. Trattoria del Conte, Orvieto, Italy, 2006
“Our very good friends, Margaret and Carlo Pfeiffer, took me to this place. It was their favorite local restaurant to eat dinner. It’s pretty much a father and his daughters who run this place. They make really casual pastas, all fresh, hand-made. One of my favorite dishes that I still love to make is a ricotta tortelloni with artichokes, lemon and olive oil – an incredibly simple dish, but perfect. The whole thing, the ragus they do, everything made me fall in love with Italian food. That wasn’t my first trip to Italy, but it was a transformative trip for me.”

-illustrations by Vidhya Nagarajan

The Scoop: Tilfords sell Barrister’s in Clayton

Monday, July 6th, 2015

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Jason Tilford, co-owner and executive chef of Tilford Restaurant Group, and his wife, Colleen Tilford, have sold their interest in Barrister’s in Clayton. The new proprietors, Sam and Kristie Boctor, assumed ownership of the popular soccer pub, located at 7923 Forsyth Blvd., on July 1.

Tilford explained the sale means he can focus on growing the dining concepts that he owns with brother Adam Tilford. Those include Mission Taco Joint, Milagro Modern Mexican, Tortillaria Mexican Kitchen and Cater Al Fresco. Barrister’s was the only non-Mexican concept among the bunch, and Tilford felt the neighborhood bar “needs an owner-operator on-site,” which his busy schedule did not permit.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “It was my baby.” The Tilfords opened Barrister’s in 2004 at 15 N. Meramec Ave. They relocated it to its current location in 2013.

Soccer fans needn’t worry, though. The bar will still continue to show their favorite matches on TV. “There’s no need to change. We kept the staff. It’s just new management,” said Kristie Boctor, who was looking to purchase a turnkey bar operation with her husband. “After meeting Colleen and Jason, we knew we had similar styles. We loved what they’d done with the place. That’s the kind of place we wanted. Jason and Colleen had an image of a gastropub, and we really want to see that through.”

The Boctors both have experience in the hospitality industry. Sam Boctor’s 20-year career, primarily at the front of the house, includes stints at Algonquin Golf Club, Cardwell’s, Busch’s Grove, Monarch and Mosaic in Des Peres. Kristie Boctor has worked for several years as a meeting planner for an insurance company.

Barely a week into their new role as owners of Barrister’s, Boctor said they couldn’t be happier. Fans packed the house yesterday, July 5, to watch the U.S. Women’s National Team take home the World Cup. “There are passionate soccer people who know this bar. The intention is to keep it the same,” she said.

 

What I Do: Mengesha Yohannes of Bar Italia

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

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When Mengesha Yohannes left his native Ethiopia at 18 to attend Saint Louis University, he couldn’t have guessed that in five years he’d go from customer to co-owner of Bar Italia. More than 30 years later, Yohannes remains a guiding light at his ever-evolving Italian restaurant that has become an anchor in the Central West End.

Where was your first restaurant job?
At The Parkmoor. I did everything from dishwashing to bussing and waiting tables. I learned all about American food. … Because of my Parkmoor experience, I have an affinity for down-home American things. They used to have a hot dog with various things and a strip of bacon on it called The Pedigree. Fried chicken was something that they took seriously. The brisket they did on Sundays – there was a certain reverence there.

Tell me about Bar Italia’s early days.
It was an espresso place. Instantly, every Ethiopian person was there. It was desserts, espresso and a small selection of wine. Food took over slowly.

Why did the menu expand?
We got a Sears four-burner electric stove and a small convection oven. Tortellini and mussels were the first hot things.

Did you eat Italian food as a kid?
If you’re middle or upper class (in Ethiopia), Italian cuisine is part of what you grow up with. There are Italians who lived and worked there. To this day, you can get pasta with tomato sauce or tomato-meat sauce anywhere in Ethiopia.

How have you responded to changes at Bar Italia in its 32-year history?
There’s a core set of things that don’t change because they don’t need to change. There’s no reason to dispose of tortellini with cream sauce when it makes so many people happy. Other stuff periodically gets refreshed. The first 10 years, there wasn’t any big piece of meat of any kind. Now we’ve got Black Angus steaks, and we go through a lot of them. … I’ve wanted a fryer for a long time, but there wasn’t room in the kitchen. Now, because of the Spare No Rib influence next door, the fryer is in. I always wanted the frites option with the steaks, fritto misto seafood. … It will further broaden the appeal.

What has the restaurant business taught you?
You have to be adjusting and reinventing all the time. You travel to other cities and see what’s going on. You visit the best places to see what their approach is. You can read about things, but actually being there is a different thing.

Where have you traveled lately?
Washington, DC. We spent the entire afternoon at Jaleo. One of the things I tried there that we’re going to use the fryer for is fried baby artichokes. Not battered, just seasoned and served with an olive tapenade.

What excites you about Bar Italia right now?
The wine list. Now that we have someone as focused and sharp as Brandon Kerne (Bar Italia beverage director), we went to a flavor and experience profile-based way of describing the wines. Wines by the glass are led by description like “Pinot grigio’s more colorful side.” The descriptions are playful, give a sense of what the wine is like and relate it to other things you might be familiar with. The wine itself is on the second line. It’s very unusual to have it done that way, but it’s more approachable.

What have you learned from working in the industry for so long?
One of my great pleasures is bread and butter. Really great bread and really great butter is hard to find. The idea that something dead simple can be great escapes a lot of younger chefs because the focus is on making your mark and making things your own. It’s hard to do if you feel like you have to cover the whole world’s cuisines.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

The Scoop: Mai Lee’s Qui Tran moves closer to opening a ramen shop

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

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St. Louis’ ramen lovers, prepare to geek out. About this time last year, we salivated when Mai Lee’s Qui Tran discussed opening a noodle house. Now, Tran is moving closer to that reality with his eye on a 2016 opening.

Tran recently invited Shigetoshi Nakamura, head of research and development at Sun Noodle, to help him with recipe development, as reported by Feast. “I’ve been trying to get him here since last September,” said Tran, who plans to use Sun Noodles at his upcoming shop. “It’s the No. 1 fresh ramen noodle company. They supply 200 different noodles to over 500 different restaurants.”

Tran doesn’t need 200 types of noodles at his to-be-named noodle shop; he just needs two or three. “We like not overly thick, but a good chew and moderately wavy,” he said. Currently, he is looking to prepare five styles of ramen, including shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt) and spicy miso (fermented bean paste). While ramen will be the focus at the noodle house, Tran plans to offer pho, which is gluten-free, and a monthly noodle special to highlight soups from countries throughout Asia and the Pacific islands.

Another piece of the puzzle is Tran’s executive chef and partner on the ramen project, Marie-Anne Velasco, a Filipino native who has taught at L’Ecole Culinaire in St. Louis and at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago. “She just moved back to St. Louis to help with the project,” Tran said.

He hopes to sign a lease by late 2015 and open in the first half of 2016. Tran and Velasco are considering six different locations for their shop. “We’re looking west,” he said. “It won’t go further than Chesterfield.”

R&D has taken the duo on noodle slurp-fests from coast to coast, and Velasco staged for chef Takashi Yagihashi at his Chicago restaurants Tikashi and Slurping Turtle. “We’ve been very diligent with this. We’ve reached out to a lot of people, eaten a lot of ramen and developed a lot of recipes,” Tran said. “I could have opened last year, but that’s not who we are or what we do. I don’t want to just do it. I want to do it and be the best at what we do.”

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

Lukas Wine & Spirits opens doors at new Ellisville location

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

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Lukas Liquor has a new home at 15678 Manchester Road in Ellisville, just half-mile from its old location. In January, Lukas Liquor owner Gary Bilder announced he would relocate his spirits, wine and beer shop from its old address at 15921 Manchester Road. Concurrent with the move, Bilder renamed the store Lukas Wine & Spirits.

“This is a 15-year evolution,” said Bilder. The bright and airy 31,000-square-foot space adds another 7,000 square feet compared to the former location. Although Lukas has not added a substantial number of new products, the shopping experience will be easier, with products easily located on spacious shelves. Those who can’t make up their mind can get quick guidance from a Lukas employee by pressing one of 10 call buttons located throughout the store.

 

 

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Lukas’ extensive whiskey barrel program – hand-picked barrels bottled exclusively for the store – is a focal point near the front of the shop, while at the back, more than 30 coolers hold chilled beer. Also on the suds side, Lukas now boasts a keg list of 365 different beers and an expanded single bottle selection. All wines, except those from Spain and Italy, are now organized by varietal instead of geographic location.

With education as part of the Lukas mission, the store has added 17 learning centers, posters scattered throughout that provide information regarding the history, production and notable names behind some wines, beers and spirits.

 

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Another highlight is a tasting bar. The eight-seat bar also features a handful of high-top tables and flat-screen TVs. The bar will offer wine by the glass or bottle, four draft beer options and whiskey pours of 35 to 40 rare whiskies. The tasting bar will also be the location for Lukas’ various classes and scheduled tastings.

-photos by Meera Nagarajan

 

 

The Scoop: Chef Wil Pelly to helm Sugarfire downtown location

Monday, June 29th, 2015

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Chef Wil Pelly is leaving his post as In Good Company’s corporate executive chef to join Sugarfire Smoke House. Pelly will helm culinary operations at the barbecue joint’s new location downtown at 605 Washington Ave., when it opens in September. His last day with In Good Company (which owns Sanctuaria, Hendricks BBQ, Diablitos Cantina and Café Ventana) is tomorrow, June 30. Pelly will start his training at Sugarfire’s St. Charles location.

Although he will learn the Sugarfire ways of barbecue, Pelly is no stranger to the smoker. In addition to his ’cue duties at Hendricks, he has participated in competitive barbecue contests, including the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest at Memphis four years in a row. He also worked barbecue when he worked at Jake’s Steak on Laclede’s Landing.

Pelly will also flex his barbecue muscles at upcoming events. In August, he’ll represent St. Louis at the LuvLuv Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, an annual barbecue fete organized by former Overlook Farms exec chef Tim Grandinetti. In November, he’ll participate in the World Food Championships in Kissimmee, Florida.

The opportunity arose last month when Sugarfire co-owner Dave Molina, Pelly’s close friend, approached him. Pelly has spent the last five years with In Good Company, starting as a prep cook at Sanctuaria and eventually overseeing culinary operations for all four eateries after chef Chris Lee departed in late 2012. “It’s time to move on and learn something new,” Pelly said.

-photo by Jonathan Gayman 

The Scoop: Dave Bailey to open weekday lunch spot Shift, Test Kitchen & Take Out

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

 

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Restaurateur Dave Bailey is opening another eatery. Shift, Test Kitchen & Takeout will be a counter-service, carryout only spot at 311 N. 11th St., located next door to Bailey’s downtown brunch place, Rooster. Shift, slated to open in September, will offer lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays.

As its name implies, the menu at Shift will change. “The idea is to use it as an incubator for the restaurants we’re going to be opening going forward,” Bailey said. The 650-square-foot space previously housed baking operations for his restaurants. That bakery has since relocated to the second Rooster location on South Grand Boulevard.

First up: barbecue, serving as a test run for the barbecue concept Bailey announced in April 2014. The still-unnamed 200-seat restaurant was slated to open in January at 1011 Olive St., that opening has been moved to spring 2016.

“We’re not going to focus on one regional style – Memphis or St. Louis, for example. We’ll be doing a worldwide representation of barbecue styles and hope for feedback so we can hone in on really good dishes to use at the barbecue restaurant,” he said.

Bailey said Shift will follow a credo of whole-animal cooking, butchering animals in-house. Look for a tight menu of five main dishes with one vegetarian option. Traditional barbecue sides, salads and pies will also be available.

Also still on the docket is the 45-seat rooftop bar Bailey announced with the barbecue restaurant, though no date is set for that opening.

Shift joins the family of Bailey’s restaurants, which include Baileys’ Range, Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar, Baileys’ Chocolate Bar, Small Batch, both locations of Rooster and The Fifth Wheel, a catering arm that also provides food service at 4 Hands Brewing Co.

Get an early taste of Shift when they smoke up some ’cue on Aug. 2 at the Schurcipefones Festival, which closes out St. Louis Craft Beer Week.

 

-photo by Jonathan Pollack 

The Scoop: Robust to close its Edwardsville location

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

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Robust is closing its location in Edwardsville. Owners Stanley and Arlene Browne announced today, June 23, that the wine bar, which they opened at 126 N. Main St., in August 2013 would shutter after service on June 28.

Stanley Browne said a variety of factors culminated in the decision, one they have contemplated since the beginning of this year. “It’s hard to manage from that far away. I felt like I didn’t have good control on that location,” Browne said. The Brownes live in St. Louis and their other two Robust locations take up residence downtown and in Webster Groves, respectively.

Browne also cited less-than-expected patronage at the Illinois location. “It did not hit the same traffic as the other two locations,” he said. “It was Erato wine bar before that, so we assumed it would be just fine.” All employees at Robust in Edwardsville have been offered positions at the other Robust locations.

The Brownes have sold the assets to the Edwardsville wine bar to an Edwarsdsville-based restaurateur, who will open a different concept in the space. Browne could not divulge the new owner’s name, nor specifics about that project.

As for their next steps, Browne said they are exploring other opportunities. He confirmed that they are looking to open another St. Louis-area location and they will focus on the catering arm of their business. “We’re going to keep growing and expanding,” he said.

 

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