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Nov 25, 2015
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What I Do: Justin Saffell and Matt Walters of Foeder Crafters of America

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015


{From left, Justin Saffell and Matt Walters}

Two years ago, while building the wooden bar at Heavy Riff Brewing Co., Justin Saffell and Matt Walters hatched a plan to become the first U.S. manufacturers of foeders (pronounced FOOD-ers), large oak tanks used for aging wine and beer. Since opening their Foeder Crafters of America workshop in O’Fallon, Missouri in January, 60 breweries scattered across 25 states have tapped the two-person team for custom-made foeders.

Breweries comprise your core clientele, but aren’t foeders traditionally used by wineries?
Walters: Breweries in Belgium have been using foeders for hundreds of years.
Saffell: And breweries have been on the back end of the line for foeders since the beginning of time, so we try to give them priority.

Why are foeders gaining popularity among breweries?
Walters: Because sour beer is getting really popular.
Saffell: A lot of the emerging breweries have a foeder or two. People opening new breweries are looking to existing ones to emulate a little something that they have and produce the style of beer that they’re producing.

Prior to Foeder Crafters, you were among the ownership of Heavy Riff. Why pursue this venture instead?
Saffell: Being in the brewing industry for a bit, talking to other breweries and reading trade magazines, it was pretty clear that there was a need for foeders. Breweries that were able to attain them were secretive about where they got them. It’s really against their nature to be so secretive, but when you have a hookup on something that’s kind of rare, that was kind of a light bulb moment. I started talking about it with Matt.
Walters: It took him six weeks to convince me it was a good idea.

Saffell: It’s one of the most difficult pieces of woodwork to make, to be able to have something that, for decades, is going to have liquid inside it and 20- to 30-percent humidity on the outside – the wood does some crazy things. The physics behind it are extreme.

How did you learn to make foeders?
Saffell: Trial and error. We studied every foeder we could, which was very few, and there’s no information on the Internet on how to build them.
Walters: Which was a good thing because we changed how you build foeders. We basically re-engineered and “Americanized” the foeder to make it cheaper, faster to produce, easier to use and stable.

What is the advantage of a foeder compared to a barrel?
Walters: The surface area to volume is different, so you have a lot less oxygen getting into that beer. And it’s a bigger vessel, so that allows the beer to mature and age without oxidizing as quickly. Also, the ratio of oak surface area to beer is a lot less so you won’t get as much oak taste. And ease of use – it beats the hell out of racking hundreds of barrels.

What size foeders do you make?
Walters: We’ve made maybe 20 different sizes. A barrel is 31 gallons. We do a 7-barrel, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 75, 100.
Saffell: And a 250.
Walters: We haven’t built that one yet.
Saffell: We just have the order. We’re terrified.
Walters: We know we can do it.

Where do you source your wood?
Saffell: That’s kind of a secret. It’s Missouri oak.
Walters: The French buy almost all the Missouri white oak they can get their hands on.

How’s business these days?
Saffell: We have a backup of 20 that we have to build. It’s hard to keep up.
Walters: Usually we’ll ship to a client once a week. Sometimes there’s two or three foeders in a week. One brewer said, “Foeders are like tattoos. Once you get one, it’s just a matter of time before the next one.”

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

The Scoop: Josh Charles is named executive chef at Element

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015


{From left, Josh Charles and fellow Ones to Watch alum John Fausz}

Area rising star Josh Charles has just landed his first exec chef gig. Beginning Sept. 1, Charles will helm the kitchen at Element.

For the last three years, Charles, a member of the Sauce Ones to Watch class of 2014, has worked at restaurateur Ben Poremba’s Elaia, where he quickly climbed from garde manger to chef de cuisine. Charles announced he planned to leave Poremba’s restaurant group earlier this month, but his next move had not been determined.

“(Element) owners Carol and Stacy Hastie had seen that I didn’t have a landing zone yet. They called. We sat down and talked about it. It seemed like a good fit,” Charles said. He was impressed by the restaurant’s design, and as an avid rock climber, he appreciated the restaurant’s close proximity to Climb So Ill, a climbing facility in the same building.

Charles said he will have full autonomy in the kitchen, unlike when Element first opened in fall 2013 and multiple chefs collaborated. “They are leaving it in my hands to decide the menu,” he said. “I’ll still do comfort food, but expand on it a bit. I want to use the flavors from across the world to really define comfort food.”

Look for a new dinner menu to launch the second week of September and a revamped lunch menu to follow soon after. Charles also anticipates adding a separate bar menu.

Element co-owner Carol Hastie was not immediately available for comment.

-photo by Carmen Troesser



What I Do: Mark Baehmann of Wild Sun Winery

Friday, August 7th, 2015




For more than 30 years, Mark Baehmann has been turning grape juice into vino at Missouri wineries like Montelle, Robller, Mount Pleasant and, most recently, Chaumette. Now, he and business partner Ed Wagner are striking out on their own with Wild Sun Winery, opening in late August on a 10-acre property in Hillsboro.

How did you get interested in winemaking?
I dropped out of college to figure my life out. I applied for a job as a cellar master at Montelle Winery. Communion wine – that’s all I knew. I was barely of drinking age. Clayton Byers (Montelle’s founder) sat me down on a picnic table and opened a bottle of Cynthiana. This man had such passion in his voice, such a romance when it came to wine, that I said, “I want to know more.”

What’s your winemaking philosophy?
Keep it simple. When you keep it simple you let the fruit show itself. If you do too much – baby the wine too much, touch it too much – you run the risk of taking things away from that wine.

Is winemaking an art and a science?
Absolutely. I think we should rack it now, I think we should take it off the oak, I think we should leave it on the skins longer – that’s the art, the unknown gut feel that I have. And when someone says, “Why did you decide to do that?” I don’t know. It was a feeling.

What’s something most people don’t know about Missouri wine?
It is night and day from the ’80s to present day. I still hear that a lot of people have not tried Missouri wines because of their experience from the ’80s, but the wines have gotten markedly better.

What wine do you drink?
I drink from all over, and I typically don’t drink my own. In my very early days of winemaking, we went to a winery, and the wine wasn’t very good. The guy never drank any wine other than what he made, so he acquired a taste for what he was making. That scared me. I want my palate to be fresh.

Why start your own winery now?
God’s timing. He’s finally allowing it. This has not been the first attempt. I have been involved in all aspects of owning a winery from working the tasting bar, working in the vineyards, making the wine, running a wine club, talking to customers – I loved it all. But when you work for someone else, you find yourself saying, “I think I could do this better.”

How do you plan to distinguish Wild Sun from other Missouri wineries?
We are going to focus on our wines. We are not a restaurant. We’re not a vineyard. We’re in long-term contracts with grape growers from Missouri. And we’re going to focus on our customer base, that customer that wants to learn about wine.

What have you learned most about the world of wine in your 30-year career?
There’s something about wine that is so darn romantic – the passion that comes out of a glass. I know what wine can do to transform an evening or a conversation or just someone’s enjoyment in a product that gives more than it takes.

What wine are you most proud of making?
When a wine is successful. When there’re 300 people on my patio having a great time, that’s a good wine. If it wins a medal, it means a handful of judges liked it, and that’s a good thing, but I don’t take it as success. The wine that stands out is the wine we made that christened the Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier: a bottle of Genesis, champagne that we made at Mount Pleasant.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

Trendwatch: A look at what’s on our plate, in the glass and atop our wish list right now (Part 2)

Thursday, August 6th, 2015

Don’t miss Part 1 of Trendwatch here.




4. Filipino food at the forefront: The flavors of the Phillippines are gaining traction across the country with big-name chefs like Leah Cohen of Pig & Khao in NYC, Christina Quackenbush of NOLA’s Milkfish and Paul Qui at Qui in Austin, Texas. It’s also finding footing in this town at places like Mandarin House in University City, where Sunday brunch turns into a Filipino fete. Its Kamayan buffet includes dozens of classic dishes with everything from tocino (Filipino-style sweet breakfast bacon) to lechon (roast suckling pig). Settle dinner pangs at Hiro Asian Kitchen Tuesdays and Wednesdays when chef Malou Perez-Nievera (know for her Filipino food blog Skip to Malou) prepares a menu of modern Filipino specials. And if you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon for Filipino fusion by mobile eatery Guerrilla Street Food, tuck in at its new brick-and-mortar restaurant near the corner of Arsenal Street and Grand Boulevard.


5. Dressed in meat: It’s no secret that bacon fat gives unctuous oomph to salad dressings, but chefs are picking other proteins to beef up their vinaigrettes. Missed the scallops swimming in chorizo dressing at Cleveland-Heath or the chicken fat vin on the salad lyonnaise at Old Standard? Experience an alt-meat salad dressing with Sidney Street Cafe’s bone marrow vin on its smoked brisket dish, or order the beet salad dressed in a fiery-hot Italian ’nduja vinaigrette at Reeds American Table in Maplewood when it opens later this month.




6. Jewish deli dance: Quit kvetching about a lack of Jewish flavors in St. Louis; there are signs that Jewish noshes are seeing some chef love. Now, you can find house-made pastrami at places like Dalie’s Smokehouse, Bogart’s and Death in the Afternoon (whose exec chef David Rosenfeld also digs into his Jewish roots for inspiration on multiple dishes at sister restaurant Blood & Sand). Then there’s restaurateur Ben Poremba (Elaia, Olio, Old Standard Fried Chicken): The news about his upcoming Jewish deli in Clayton has us salivating for lox and bagels, chopped liver sandwiches, knishes and matzo ball soup. While we’re waiting, if someone would make avant garde Jewish-inflected fare like the octopus “pastrami” at Bâtard in NYC, we’d dance the hora.


-photos by Michelle Volansky

Trendwatch: A look at what’s on the plate, in the glass and atop our wish list (Part 1)

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015



1. The Wonder Years: Children of the ’70s can’t complain: Their parents let them run amuck outside, eat cheese from a spray can and buy candy cigarettes at the corner drugstore. Relive those glory days at Sidney Street Cafe, where house-made Wonder Bread is turned into panna cotta on a deconstructed tuna fish sandwich, or head to The Libertine for the aged white cheddar “Cheez Whiz” atop the burger. Finally, go to Social Gastropub in Edwardsville and get the lobster and shrimp pie topped with smashed Ritz crackers and reminisce about all the crushed crackers (or corn flakes) your mom sprinkled over every genius casserole.

2. Move over, Sriracha: Harissa, a red-hot North African condiment, has immigrated to the Midwest. Find the garlicky chile pepper paste accenting carrots at Basso, veggies and rice at Eclipse and the tomato salad at Cleveland-Heath. Harissa meted meatier fare at Element, where chicken wings were dunked in harissa hot sauce, and it added oomph to roasted cauliflower at Taste, too. It even served as inspiration for a dry-spice blend dusting the farro salad at Juniper.




3. Steamed buns head West: Everyone is putting a spin on Asia’s answer to the burger lately. East meets West in Peacemaker’s steamed bun roll stuffed with lobster and sour cabbage and in Kitchen Kulture’s everything-bagel steamed bun filled with house-made pastrami. In September, Blood & Sand will begin stuffing its house-made everything-bagel steamed bun with chopped chicken liver, but in the meantime its Peking bun holds Maryland-style crab cake.

 Click here to see Part 2 of Trendwatch. 

-Photo by Carmen Troesser

Sneak Peek: Guerrilla Street Food on South Grand

Monday, July 20th, 2015



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



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.

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



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




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



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

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