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Jul 26, 2014
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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The List: Canh Ga Chien at Mi Linh

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Welcome to The List, our annual homage to the people, places, dishes and drinks we love in St. Louis. Don’t miss a single pick; click here to read the whole List and share your thoughts on Twitter with #thesaucelist.

 

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Last year, I loved Mi Linh’s Canh Ga Chien so much that it made my Top 5 Dishes of 2013 list. Lightly breaded with rice flour and cornstarch, deep-fried and then sauteed with butter, red pepper flakes, garlic and diced onions, these chicken wings made me wish I could eat them every day. Then there was a shake-up in the family-run restaurant, and head chef Nelson Tran – brother of owner Dee Dee Tran – was out. How are the wings now? During a return visit, the dish was overloaded with scallions and garlic, but the light and crispy coating still cracked with the first bite, the meat was still juicy, the gentle heat still warmed my lips, and the wings still glistened – as did my fingers – with butter and oil. My verdict? I’m still eating them.

9737 Manchester Road, Rock Hill, 314.918.8868, milinh.net

-photo by Jonathan Gayman

Michael Renner’s Top 5 Dishes of 2013

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Sauce restaurant critic Michael Renner has tasted his fair share of St. Louis cuisine. All year, he shared his thoughts on New and Notable restaurants, from vegetarian fare to barbecue to fine dining. Here, he shares his top five dishes of 2013:

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No. 5: Spanish octopus at Central Table Food Hall
Even more striking than the two thick tentacles was how tender they were: braised for six hours and finished on the grill. Served with aerated fennel foam, caramelized fennel and its fresh fronds, and jiggling slabs of tomato water gelée, it’s as though though the ocean washed up on your plate, complete with froth, seaweed and jellyfish.

No. 4: Roasted pork loin at Elaia
No ordinary roasting could produce the tender-smooth texture of this Berkshire pork loin when it was on the menu earlier this year. Only six hours in a CVap, or what chef-owner Ben Poremba calls his “magical oven,” could yield such transcendence.

 

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No. 3: Fried chicken at The Libertine 
Chef Josh Galliano’s New Orleans roots shine with this version: brined in sweet tea, soaked in spicy buttermilk, coated in cornmeal and flour, and deep-fried in lard and canola oil for a shaggy, crunchy crust laden with paprika and black pepper.

No. 2:  Spring garlic soup at Niche
Tiny, airy raw garlic “marshmallows” floated to the top when hot liquid was poured over them. A steamy cloud scented with citrusy-spicy bergamot leaves, preserved lemon purée and bits of dried beets and carrots wafted from the bowl; this was not soup, it was an elixir.

 

And my No. 1 dish of 2013 is…

 

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Canh Ga Chien (fried butter garlic chicken wings) at Mi Linh
Fried then sauteed, these wings are juicy and garlicky, crackling with each bite. Your fingers glisten with butter and oil; your lips warm from the gentle heat. You wish you could eat these wings every night for the rest of your life.

- Central Table Food Hall photo by Greg Rannells; The Libertine and Mi Linh photos by Jonathan Gayman

In This Issue: New and Notable – Mi Linh

Thursday, November 7th, 2013
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How does one judge a new Vietnamese restaurant in a city touting more than 30 restaurants featuring the same cuisine? What makes a new place better than the rest when they all offer pretty much the same dishes? Is it fair to judge a restaurant by just one dish?

Maybe Dee Dee Tran and her brother Nelson Tran pondered these questions when they opened Mi Linh, their 5-month-old Vietnamese restaurant in Rock Hill (She’s the general manager; he runs the kitchen.). However, with Nelson’s 20-year tenure in the restaurant industry (working in kitchens from New York to Seattle) and Dee Dee’s experience in running other businesses, the Trans certainly don’t have to prove themselves.

But oh, how they do! And for good measure – again and again.

To read more about what Michael Renner thought of Mi Lihn, click here.

-photo by Johnathan Gayman

 

In This Issue: New and Notable – Prasino

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
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At Prasino, the new mini-chain restaurant in St. Charles, the employees say PRÄH-suh-no. The translation app on my phone says PRÄH-see-no. Tomato or tomahto, prasino is Greek for “green,” as in “environmentally sound.” The St. Charles spot is one of four locations for the 4-year-old family of restaurants self-billed as eco-friendly. It’s also the chain’s first foray outside of Chicagoland.

Prasino’s business plan is driven by eco-friendly kitchen practices, energy and water-saving appliances, and as many locally sourced raw ingredients as possible. Your server will spend a good two minutes explaining just how environmentally conscious Prasino is, to the point that you’ll look around for the Greenpeace seal of approval.

To read what reviewer Michael Renner thought of this new St. Charles restaurants, click here.

-Photo by Jonathan Gayman

 

 

In This Issue: Richard Knapp’s Quixotic Dream

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

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On a hot June morning, the summer sky was clear and still. Puffy clouds hung languidly on an azure background, like giant, listless parade balloons. Richard Knapp had left his shiny Mini Cooper in the driveway, favoring his dusty, dinged-up Subaru wagon to pick up his son, Oliver Knapp, and Gerald Crow. The first stop was a residential treatment center where Ollie, as his father calls him, lived. Down the street, Crow waited in his lived-in truck outside St. Francis House, a homeless shelter where he sometimes stayed.

“Hot damn, about time!” Crow exclaimed, as he snapped up from his supine position and bounded out of the truck’s cab. Knapp had enlisted both men to work a patch of land 11 miles southwest of his home in Columbia, Mo. It’s only 5.44 acres, a gentleman’s farm of sorts, except Knapp has big plans for the all-silt Missouri River bottomland.

It was an interesting crew: two men working through their troubled pasts, each on a new path. For Knapp, hiring Ollie and Crow, who some might consider liabilities, merely exemplified his belief in the healing power of “righteous work,” as he called it. “We have to get together to heal the problems,” Knapp said, matter-of-factly. “I am confident in the basic goodness and intelligence of ordinary people.”

In 2011, shortly after cashing in his retirement savings, Knapp bought the land and quickly fashioned it into something of a real farm. He designed and, with the help of friends and family, built a beauty of a barn, complete with a distinctive gambrel roof, a greenhouse and a cold storage room to hold grain. He bought a 1940s Ferguson tractor on Craigslist. He planted vegetables. And on 1 acre, as an experiment, he planted wheat. “I might call it Easy Digging Farm, but I don’t want to give folks the wrong idea,” Knapp said. “It hasn’t been all that easy so far.”

What hasn’t been all that easy is Knapp’s desire to do what is nearly impossible in Missouri: Grow organic hard red winter wheat for bread flour to mill and distribute locally.

For more about one man’s struggle to grow against the grain, click here.

-Photo by Carmen Troesser

 

 

In This Issue: New and Notable – The Libertine

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

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Deadline be damned, I wanted fried chicken. Specifically, I wanted Josh Galliano’s fried chicken: the deep-fried, crunchy, spicy bird that I – and seemingly half of St. Louis – devoured last year at his one-night pop-up event. This was well after Monarch (where most of us first fell under the spell of Galliano’s chicken) had closed, so there was much pent-up demand and curiosity about what he was going to pull out of the skillet this time. Since then, the New Orleans transplant put on another pop-up (gumbo-themed) and designed and executed the meat MX Movies downtown.

Earlier this year, Nick and Audra Luedde tapped Galliano to head the kitchen at The Libertine, their new restaurant in downtown Clayton; and you thought all that buzz you heard was the cicada invasion. Nick is a practiced mixologist, sommelier and restaurateur, while Audra is a master chef and sommelier. A year ago the husband and wife team moved to St. Louis (Nick’s hometown) from Chicago to open The Libertine.

To read more about our reviewer’s thoughts on The Libertine, click here.

-Photo by Jonathan Gayman

 

 

In This Issue: New & Notable – Central Table Food Hall

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
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Describe it as a food emporium. Label it a communal dining experience. Compare the concept to New York’s The Plaza Food Hall, L.A.’s Umamicatessen or even Tokyo’s Takashimaya food hall. Say it’s a nightclub for foodies.

Just don’t call Central Table Food Hall a food court.

Central Table is St. Louis’ first experience with the national food hall explosion. Situated on the first floor of Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s newly constructed Center for Outpatient Health on the corner of South Euclid Avenue and Forest Park Parkway, the hall takes up nearly a city block. It’s a concept that could only work in the densely populated and mobile Central West End. While its executive chef Nick Martinkovic was imported from Brooklyn’s popular farm-to-table Roberta’s, the food and the rest of the talent are locally sourced. Managing this mammoth operation is Matt McGuire, recently of Brasserie but best known as the man behind the departed – and terribly missed – King Louie’s. When Elliot Harris parks his Chop Shop sushi food truck for the night, he rolls maki and constructs beautiful displays of superb sushi and nigiri at Central Table.

Within this broad gastro-landscape, there is something for everyone – a statement that typically signals, “Warning: Boredom and Mediocrity Ahead.” Yet, Central Table keeps things interesting.

See what reviewer Michael Renner thought of Central Table’s diverse offerings here.

 -Photo by Elizabeth Jochum

 

 

In This Issue: New and Notable – Pan D’Olive

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

{Lobster ravioli}

While Pan D’Olive, the pan-Mediterranean restaurant housed in the former Mihalis Chophouse on McCausland Avenue, is not new (It opened in November 2012.), it is notable for a few reasons. First, there’s the affordability: Most entrees are in the mid-teens and no meze is over 10 bucks. And happy hour revelers can truly revel over the $3 select cocktails and house wines, $2 draft beers, $1 select small plates and half-price flatbreads. Then there is the space: sleek and stylish, with acres of dark wood, lots of subdued lighting and a spacious, multilevel layout, including the bar area with its illuminated bar top and striking mezzanine lounge.

Click here to read more of what Michael Renner thought about Pan D’Olive.

–Photo by Elizabeth Jochum

New and Notable: Sugarfire Smoke House

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

{Baby-back pork ribs with a side of mac-n-cheese} 

 

Housed in a modern strip mall on Olive Boulevard, just west of I-170, Sugarfire shoots for the rustic roadhouse look: dark-stained walls with inlaid squares of pressed tin, heavy plank tables and chairs, multicolored retro metal lawn chairs, and galvanized steel pendants.

But first, you have to get inside. Read the rest of Michael Renner’s review of Sugarfire Smoke House here.

-Photo by Jonathan Gayman

New and Notable: Niche

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

{Braised Carrot: barigoule, quinoa, dill, chive, yeast}

Did Gerard Craft break your heart when he moved Niche from the city’s quaint yet quirky Benton Park to the county’s corporate yet classy Clayton? Did you sigh with resignation when you learned the new Niche dropped a la carte entrees in favor of its four-course prix fixe and nine-course tasting menus? Craft offers no apologies. As the owner of four top St. Louis restaurants, he doesn’t have to.

Read the rest of Michael Renner’s review of Niche, here.

— photo by Carmen Troesser

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