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Sep 30, 2014
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The Scoop: Parker’s Table amps up specialty food focus with new staff

Monday, September 29th, 2014

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Customers at Parker’s Table have long enjoyed the artisan food offerings that owner Jon Parker carries at his Richmond Heights boutique wine shop, from dried bulk pastas to fine cheese and specialty European condiments. Now, a recent addition to the staff is set to bring patrons even more options when shopping at 7118 Oakland Ave.

New shop manager Karl Runge joined the crew at Parker’s Table earlier this month. Runge comes from Whole Foods Market, where he worked as specialty team leader for wine, beer and cheese for more than a decade, most recently at the Whole Foods location in Brentwood. Prior to that, Runge lived in Richmond, Virginia, working for retailers similar to his new employer.

“It’s in my roots to work at a place like Parker’s Table,” Runge said. “My duties are going to revolve around the cheese case and food selection in the shop. We’ll be bringing on lots of fun, new products. The shop has expanded over the years. We have more room to bring in new stuff from local producers and from further afield. We want to round out the fact that we have a great wine selection with food.”

Runge will also draw on his knowledge of specialty food in the coming months as Parker’s Table prepares to open a kitchen. The Scoop reported in January that Parker’s Table would add a bakery component to the business; Runge said the bakery is still a question mark, but the shop’s full kitchen will offer a daily lunch menu featuring many of the same ingredients sold on its shelves. “It will be more grab-and-go than a dining area or cafe,” he said. Look for lunchtime fare to roll out in January 2015.

 

Meatless Monday: Veggie burgers, three ways

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

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Too often, at-home veggie burgers mean microwaving frozen patties packed with brown rice and whole host of not-so-natural ingredients. But in fact, it’s simple to make veggie burgers at home, and if you have a can of beans, an egg or even leftover pasta, we’ve got three simple veggie burgers that can be on the table in no time.

1. These Falafel Sliders, pictured, are packed with flavor thanks to garlic, red pepper, cumin, coriander and ground turmeric, and are the perfect size for sharing. Get the recipe here. 

2. Italian Bean Burgers use overcooked pasta to bind together white beans, red onion, sun-dried tomatoes and herbs for an delicious, vegan take on a classic veggie burger. Get the recipe here.

3. No brown rice flour here – this is a real Black Bean Burger. Two full cups of black beans are pulsed together with edamame and smoky chile powder for heat. Get the recipe here.

Click here to learn more about how to make your own veggie burgers.

 

-photo by Carmen Troesser

First Look: Grapeseed

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

In February, The Scoop reported that chef Ben Anderson would open a restaurant at 5400 Nottingham Ave., in the South Hampton neighborhood. After months of renovation, the wait is over. Grapeseed quietly opened Friday, Sept. 19.

The menu is divided into snacks, small plates, sandwiches and entrees. The restaurant sources from numerous local purveyors, including meat from Rain Crow Ranch and Todd Geisert Farms, produce from Double Star Farms and breads from Companion and La Bonne Bouche.

Wine figures heavily in the beverage program. Patrons will find nearly 50 wines – 16 by the glass – on the menu. Craft beer enthusiasts can select from six local brews on tap; another 16 are available in bottled format. The cocktail menu holds nine drinks, including Todd’s Famous Sangria, created by bar manager Todd Brutcher. Brutcher keeps his sangria seasonal; the current offering is bursting with apple flavors, while butternut squash will make an appearance in the weeks ahead.

The remodeled interior features woodwork by local green-builder Mwanzi. The majority of the wood used for tables, banquettes and accent pieces, hails from the restaurant’s own space, including stairs repurposed into tabletops. Grapeseed also offers patio seating both near the front entrance and on a secluded back patio. Open Tuesday through Sunday, Grapeseed currently offers dinner; lunch service is anticipated in the near future.

 

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-photos by Meera Nagarajan

Guide to Drinking 2014: Trendwatch – Part 2

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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