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May 28, 2015
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What I Do: Michael Miller of Kitchen Kulture

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

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Last year, 34-year-old Michael Miller left his post as executive chef at Dressel’s Public House to give full-time attention to Kitchen Kulture, the budding mobile food business he co-founded with Christine Meyer. Prepping food all week to sell on Thursdays for pop-up lunches at Sump Coffee and on Saturdays at the Tower Grove Farmers Market is different from working the line at a restaurant, but as Miller explained, orchestrating a moveable feast is never boring.

What inspired your culinary career?
I visited San Francisco. It blew my head off. I was exposed to so many flavors I hadn’t seen before. I ate a lot. Two weeks later, I sold all my possessions, quit my job and moved there. I knew that if this was something I was going to take seriously, this was a great place to cut my teeth.

Kitchen Kulture gained popularity as a pop-up restaurant and prepared foods business, but that’s not how it began.
It started as a T-shirt concept. Being a cook (at Monarch) having a busy night and getting through it, we’d go out and have beers afterward. A lot of my co-workers would wear their chef coats as a way to show individuality or a symbol of pride. I was like, “I think there’s a better way to say ‘I’m in the industry’ without having to wear a smelly coat.” Wouldn’t it be cool if it was quality T-shirts that spoke to food and cooks? We approached Patrick Horine (co-founder of the Tower Grove Farmers Market). He was like, “You have to have a little more to get in the farmers market.” He pitched us (the idea of) prepared foods. I was like, “Sure, let’s do that.” My main goal was to get the shirts out. People really took to the food – not so much the shirts, but the food.

Why does your concept resonate with diners?
There’s an allure to the collaborations we do, especially the Thursday lunches at Sump, because they’re two quality products that aren’t normally together. People would normally spend their entire lunch break to get an exceptional cup of coffee. Now, they get two quality, artisanal products.

How would you classify Kitchen Kulture cuisine?
We don’t have one style in particular. I like the flexibility of being able to have the food ingredient-driven and seasonally driven. It’s exciting to do Mexican street fare, then do a more refined French dish, then something Southern.

Your menus change weekly. Is that a challenge?
It depends what time of year it is. We try to source from farmers, so in winter it can be a challenge. We have a lot of things we come back to, though, like steamed buns. You can put whatever you like in the middle.

What are you preparing this spring?
We do a lot of kimchi; one of the most popular is our nettle and garlic mustard mix. And we’ll make a nice ragout with morels when we get those.

What is the most important skill you’ve learned?
Being able to manage money. That’s not the exciting answer, but it’s very important to be conscious of where your money is going and when it’s coming back in.

What satisfaction does Kitchen Kulture give that you couldn’t get working at a restaurant?
It’s never going to be boring. You’re forced to think on the fly, to problem-solve. I’m looking at the weather for Thursday, and it’s going to rain. We’re going to have to figure out how we’re doing lunch in the rain.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking 

The Scoop: Burlesque restaurant, bar and theater Seven Zero Eight coming to Laclede’s Landing

Monday, May 11th, 2015

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{Co-owners Elliot Winter (far left) and Katerina VonRocket (far right) with some of Seven Zero Eight’s burlesque performers}

 

It’s out with the steak and in with the burlesque at 708 N. Second St., on Laclede’s Landing. The space formerly occupied by Jake’s Steaks is soon to become Seven Zero Eight, offering food, drinks and theatrical entertainment. When Seven Zero Eight opens in early June, patrons can sip and sup in the 100-seat main dining room and bar area or head to the 80-seat theater in back for a burlesque show.

The fare at Seven Zero Eight will be “high-end, gourmet comfort food,” according to co-owner Elliot Winter. He and business partner Katerina VonRocket have tapped chef Brian McGrath (Basso, Butchery, Insomnia Cookies) to helm the kitchen. The menu will revolve around burgers and sandwiches like a Thanksgiving sandwich replete with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cream cheese, Gouda and cranberry chutney on sourdough, or Cajun mac-n-cheese studded with lobster and andouille.

“It’s accessible in what kind of food it is, but the flavors will please the most discerning palate,” Winter said, adding that McGrath’s butchering skills will allow the kitchen to break down its locally sourced beef.

Beer will take center stage at Seven Zero Eight, with more than 100 craft beers in the offering, including 708 Stout, one of Winter’s recipes (he is a homebrewer) brewed by Excel. Also available will be a dozen or so whiskeys plus a cocktail menu.

Those who attend the Friday and Saturday evening shows will also have the option of ordering from a separate menu of food and drinks themed around each performance, which will change every four to six weeks.

Winter said future plans for Seven Zero Eight include a 5,000-square-foot patio that he anticipates opening by late summer with a speakeasy-type bar in the basement to follow.

Winter and VonRocket hope their multi-faceted concept help to revitalize Laclede’s Landing. “We’re big believers in Laclede’s Landing,” Winter said. “We wanted to (open) on the Landing because of the history of the place. I remember when it was the place to go. We want to bring that back.”

 

The Scoop: Italian restaurant Villa Farotto closes doors in Chesterfield

Monday, May 11th, 2015

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Chesterfield’s Villa Farotto has shuttered. Matt Meyers, who manages sister restaurant Farotto’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, confirmed that yesterday, May 10, was the final day of service at the upscale Italian eatery.

Villa Farotto, located at 17417 Chesterfield Airport Road, opened in 2004, offering pasta, pizza, steak, seafood and other northern Italian and Italian-American dishes. While the West County restaurant has come to an end, its sister restaurant on Manchester Road in Rock Hill, remains open. Owner Jeff Parrott did not immediately return a call for comment.

 

 

The Scoop: Gerard Craft wins James Beard award

Monday, May 4th, 2015

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Rejoice, St. Louis! Gerard Craft has landed his first James Beard Foundation award. Craft was named Best Chef: Midwest today at a gala ceremony in Chicago. This marks the first time a St. Louis chef has landed a James Beard award, the culinary world’s preeminent honor. Craft is the chef-owner of Niche, Pastaria, Taste and Brasserie, and a six-time finalist for a Beard award.

The Best Chef category recognizes chefs who have “set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions,” according to the Foundation’s website. Candidates may be from any type of dining establishment and must have worked as a chef for at least five years, with the three most recent years in their region. The Midwest includes Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Vying with Craft for the title in that category were: Paul Berglund of The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis; Justin Carlisle of Ardent in Milwaukee; Michelle Gayer of Salty Tart in Minneapolis; and Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market in St. Paul, Minnesota.

By the Book: Gastón Acurio’s Mixed Ceviche

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

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When I held up Peru: The Cookbook to a trio of Peruvians at a recent dinner party, I was met with shrieks with delight. “¡Ay, Gastón Acurio!” Acurio is a superstar in his own country, but his culinary influence reaches much farther. He owns nearly four dozen restaurants around the globe, including La Mar in San Francisco and Miami. With Peru: The Cookbook (to be released May 18), Acurio makes Peruvian cuisine even more accessible to the English-speaking cook.

My dinner pals salivated over the 500 recipes in this compendium of classic Peruvian dishes. There were so many they longed for – lomo saltado (beef stir fry), tacu tacu (a patty of rice and mashed beans, often served with breaded steak or a fried egg) and especially fish dishes. We agreed that ceviche showcases the fresh flavors of Peruvian cuisine. Among the 30 ceviche recipes in the cookbook, Acurio’s mixed ceviche – squid, white fish, prawns, octopus and scallops – appealed most to the seafood lover in me.

 

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Although ceviche is usually a dish of raw fish or seafood marinated in acid, Acurio’s recipe cooks the squid and octopus and blanches the prawns. The upside to this method is that it shaves a lot off the marinade time.

 

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While I prepped the seafood, a friend got a workout juicing the lemons. The recipe calls for the juice of 20 small lemons. As it happened, the Asian market where I purchased fresh produce for this recipe only sold lemons the size of a fist. In the end, seven of these humongous lemons produced the equivalent of 2½ cups juice, which I poured over the chopped seafood.

 

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Ceviche is often enhanced with the flavors of onions, corn, chiles and culantro, a relative of cilantro. True to tradition, Acurio’s recipe called for all of these. While I didn’t intend to deviate from his recipe, the Asian market threw another wrench in my plans. The only sweet potato was a Japanese variety, and fresh corn was unavailable so I settled for a can of baby corn, I don’t think Acurio would mind the Japanese inflection I added to the ceviche since Japanese is one of many international cuisines that has Peruvian culture over the years. “These people arrived in Peru with their memories, their ingredients, their techniques, and they started mixing with the locals,” said Acurio in one interview.

The dish was delicious. The flavors were fresh and bright. The produce lent crunchy texture to the chewy seafood medley. If you haven’t already jumped on the Peruvian culinary bandwagon that is gaining traction in the U.S., once you get your hands on Acurio’s book, you, like his compatriots, will shriek, “¡Ay, Gastón Acurio!”

 

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Gastón Acurio’s Mixed ceviche
4 servings

5½ oz. squid, cleaned
1 6-oz. white fish fillet
12 shrimp (prawns), blanched
7 oz. cooked octopus, thinly sliced
12 scallops, cleaned
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
2 tsp. chipped limo chile
Juice of 20 small lemons
1 tsp. chopped culantro or cilantro leaves
2 or 3 ice cubes
1 red onion, sliced into half-moon crescents
1 corncob, cooked and kernels removed
Half sweet potato, boiled and cut into 8 slices

• Put the squid in the boiling water for 40 seconds. Drain and cut in ¼-inch rings.
• Cut the fish into ¾-inch cubes and place in a bowl with the shrimp, squid, octopus and scallops. Season with the salt and pepper. After 1 minute, add the garlic and limo chile. Mix together well.
• Pour over the lemon juice and add the culantro or cilantro leaves and ice cubes. Stir and let stand for a few seconds. Add the red onion and remove the ice cubes. Mix together and adjust the seasoning to taste.
• Serve in a large shallow bowl with cooked corn kernels and boiled sweet potato slices.

Reprinted with permission from Phaidon

What is your most memorable experience with Peruvian cuisine? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Peru by Gastón Acurio. 

 

 

First Look: Kingside Diner

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

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Kingside Diner, a new restaurant from Herbie’s Vintage ’72 owner Aaron Teitelbaum, is now open in the Central West End. Located in the former Lester’s space at 4651 Maryland Ave., adjacent to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Kingside serves breakfast all day, plus burgers, hot and cold sandwiches, salads and blue-plate specials.

Kingside looks to offer a modern take on classic diner fare, and most items ring up around $10. Many ingredients are made in-house, and dishes sport creative twists, such as French toast turned into a waffle or the massive Thanksgiving All Year sandwich, which piles quintessential Thanksgiving turkey and all the fixin’s between slices of bread. Such ideas are the work of Chris Vomund, promoted this week to executive chef for both Kingside and Herbie’s. (Vomund was executive chef at the now defunct The Nest, and briefly worked at Eleven Eleven Mississippi before joining Teitelbaum at Herbie’s.)

Beverage offerings include coffee and espresso-based drinks featuring Wild Horse Creek coffee, a specialty brand from local roaster Ronnoco. Once the restaurant’s liquor license is approved, it will also offer a full bar, and late May will see the launch of a dessert menu with a full range of shakes and floats.

The decor at Kingside stays true to the diner’s name with photos of chess matches adorning the walls of the 90-seat main dining area. Vintage travel chess sets sit on display near a stairwell that leads to a second floor patio with an additional 30 seats. Kingside has also partnered with its neighbor, the St. Louis Chess Club, which will offer occasional classes in one of the restaurant private dining rooms.

Here’s a first look at what to expect when you eat at Kingside Diner.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

-photos by Michelle Volansky

The Scoop: Pinckney Bend Distillery wins gold at 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

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The results of the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition were recently announced, and a handful of area distilleries were honored with medals. New Haven-based Pinckney Bend was awarded gold medals both for its sherry cask corn whiskey and its cask-finished gin. Bronze medals were awarded to: Defiant Spirits for its Defiance High Rye bourbon whiskey; Rebel Yell, a honey whiskey locally blended by Luxco; and local dandelion liqueur Lion’s Tooth. Defiance High Rye and Lion’s Tooth were both released in 2014.

This is the fourth time in as many years that Pinckney Bend has earned recognition at the esteemed spirits competition. In 2014, Pinckney Bend took home a coveted double gold medal for its American Rested Whiskey. In 2013, its un-aged corn whiskey received a gold medal; in 2012, its gin also took home a gold.

The number of submissions for this year’s competition totaled nearly 1,600 entries and hailed from 41 states and 66 countries in 90 classifications. The entries were evaluated by a judging panel that consisted of journalists, distillers, beverage directors, mixologists, restaurateurs, Master Sommeliers, hoteliers, consultants and educators from the beverage community. Click here for a complete results of 2015 medal winners.

Editor’s Note: This post originally reported that Pinckney Bend won for its corn whiskey and that Lion’s Tooth is a collaboration between Water Street Cafe and Crown Valley. It has been updated with the correct information. 

 

The Scoop: Don Emiliano’s Mexican restaurant to open in O’Fallon, Missouri

Monday, April 6th, 2015

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Mexican restaurant Don Emiliano’s is coming to O’Fallon, Missouri. Husband and wife team Victor and Gabriella Arellano are shooting for a July opening at 8600 Veterans Memorial Parkway in the former home of S and S Bar-B-Que.

Gabriella Arellano said they aim to bring an upscale Mexican dining experience to O’Fallon. Victor Arellano is a native of Jalisco, Mexico, and Gabriella Arellano is a native of O’Fallon. The couple recently returned to the Gateway City from Michigan.

The Arellanos plan for Don Emiliano’s to “be a little more upscale than traditional Mexican restaurants in the St. Charles area,” said Gabriella Arellano. She also hopes to expose diners to nontraditional Mexican fare, such as lesser appreciated meats like lengua (tongue) through special menu tastings and tapas. “We just want to offer a different version of Mexico,” she said.

While favorites like tacos, quesadillas and chips and salsa will make an appearance look for different presentations like fajitas served in a molcajete. The restaurant will also have a full-service bar.

 

By the Book: Shrimp, Mango, Scallions and Chile Salad from Salad Love

Saturday, April 4th, 2015

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David Bez’s photo-driven salad blog, Salad Pride, and his newly published book Salad Love: 260 Crunchy, Savory and Filling Meals You Can Make Every Day, are the result of his yearlong project of creating a new salad for lunch every day. That’s a healthy endeavor of which we at Sauce heartily approve. In fact, last year, we embarked on a similar challenge, albeit only for 31 days.

Bez asserts in the introduction that the book is not a cookbook. “It won’t teach you how to cook,” he writes, instead describing Salad Love as “a collection of salad combinations.” The salads are grouped by season, which is helpful for those who cook in sync with Mother Nature. Also nice are the color photos of each recipe: there’s no guessing what your mélange is going to look like. Some readers may find the notations on each recipe that denote it as vegan, vegetarian, raw, pescatarian or omnivore (and adaptation suggestions) to be useful.

The day I worked with this book, it was a balmy 70 degrees outside, sunny and beautiful. I wanted something light and fresh that screamed springtime. Mangos are just coming into season, so Bez’s composition of mangoes and shrimp on a bed of greens fit my mood.

When composing a salad, Bez divides it into layers that include the base (often lettuce or hearty greens, but sometimes grains or pasta); raw vegetables and fruit; a protein; toppings like nuts, seeds, olives or dried fruit; fresh herbs; and a dressing. For this salad, mixed salad greens form the base layer. Mangoes offer a pop of tropical fruit flavor and color, shrimp lends protein and chew, and willowy cilantro adds citrus and pepper notes.

 

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The shrimp is where Salad Love’s non-cookbook character became evident. The recipe calls for a handful of cooked shrimp. Plain cooked shrimp tastes blah. I wanted bright flavor and a hint of heat, so I broke By the Book rules and let the shrimp marinade for nearly an hour in a bowl with fresh lime juice and crushed, dried ancho chiles. Much better.

A well-stocked pantry will have most of the ingredients needed to whisk the majority of dressings in Salad Love, including the one for this salad: sunflower oil, soy sauce or Thai fish sauce, salt, pepper and red chile flakes. I tried the dressing with soy sauce and with fish sauce, and ended up using equal amounts of both. I liked the anchovy flavor of the fish sauce, but as a backdrop, not a fish-flavored bomb. My taste-testers thoroughly enjoyed their salad bowls; there wasn’t a green leaf, mango cube or shrimp remaining.

Salad Love didn’t teach me anything new about salads. However, the book is a hefty collection of nutritious, filling options that can serve as inspiration for someone stuck in a salad rut.

 

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Shrimp, Mango, Scallions and Chile
1 serving

For the salad, assemble:
2.5 oz. mixed salad greens
1 small mango, cubed
Handful cooked shrimp
2 scallions, sliced
Handful fresh cilantro leaves

For the dressing, mix:
1 Tbsp. sunflower oil
1 tsp. light soy sauce (or Thai fish sauce)
Pinch salt and pepper
Pinch dried red pepper flakes

Raw alternative: Replace the shrimp with a handful of cashews; and soy sauce with lemon juice in the dressing.

Reprinted with permission from Clarkson Potter Publishers

What’s the most innovative salad you’ve ever created? Tell us about it for a chance to win a copy of Salad Love.

 

 

What I Do: Glenn Kopp of Missouri Botanical Garden

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

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Looking for ways to make your garden the envy of your neighbors? Glenn Kopp, horticulture information manager at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening, is at your service. Kopp, a MoBOT employee of 30 years, tells how he and his team help everyone develop their green thumbs.

How do you decide what to plant in the demonstration gardens?
We’re selecting things of interest to home gardeners, so if there are new cultivars of roses that are more disease-resistant or a new color, we’ll try that. Also, we have an experimental garden. We’re always testing new things that might be appropriate to grow in our area.

What happens to produce grown at Kemper?
If we have overproduction, it goes to food banks. Some (produce) we give to staff and volunteers to get feedback. If the timing is right, we can use it at a cooking class.

What do you do to people who pilfer the produce?
Give a very stern look. There have been occasions where someone will come in with a shopping bag and start grabbing things. We have to say, “I’m sorry. There’s no picking allowed.” We are a display garden. If everyone took samples, it wouldn’t look very good. People would say, “What’s the matter with that plant?”

What are the biggest mistakes gardeners make in springtime?
People try to work the soil when it’s still wet. Some people plant warm season crops too early; you should wait until mid-May to plant tomatoes. Inadequate soil preparation; doing a soil test is worthwhile to find out the nutrients you need for the soil. Matching sun conditions with what you want to grow; most vegetables do not do well in shade. Watering: People water in the evening, which is not a good time. If you keep the plants wet overnight, there’s a greater chance they’ll get fungal diseases.

You’re a Master Gardener.
What is that? It’s a volunteer program that started in Washington State in 1973. People are trained and then do volunteer service. Here in St. Louis, our volunteers go to 16 weeks of classes once a week. Some come with gardening experience, though that’s not required. We match their skills to where they can work.

What does a Master Gardener wear for gardening?
An old T-shirt from the old Japanese festival or a Best of Missouri T-shirt. Those are good. Pants instead of shorts. Good shoes. A hat.

What oddball gardening questions have you fielded?
Recently, somebody wanted to grow edelweiss in their home. Edelweiss is an alpine plant known from The Sound of Music. It won’t grow in St. Louis. The volunteers at the answering service write down some of the unusual questions. Someone asked how would they use Miracle Whip on their strawberries. They meant Miracle-Gro.

Does talking to a plant help it grow?
Breathing minimally increases the carbon dioxide around the plant, some people say. There’s nothing conclusive.

Each spring, a whole team of gardening experts at MoBOT’s Horticulture Answer Service fields hundreds of questions from St. Louis-area gardeners – including a few oddball ones that catch even these seasoned professionals off-guard. Click here to see some of the strangest queries ever received.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

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