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Jul 26, 2017
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Readers’ Choice 2015: Best New Restaurant – Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

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“What did I enjoy as a kid? What makes me happy now?” Kevin Nashan, chef-owner of Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. asked himself as he contemplated the restaurant, his second after running Sidney Street Cafe down the street to wild acclaim. “I always gravitated toward po’boys and a good lobster roll.” Your votes make it official: Peacemaker is St. Louis’ favorite new restaurant. Here, Nashan dishes his thoughts on the most popular, quintessentially coastal dishes at Peacemaker.

1. Clam Roll: “It’s got the sweetness of a scallop, the brininess of an oyster – absolutely delicious.”

2. Buffalo Crawfish Po’boy: “Inspired by chef de cuisine John Messbarger’s dad and his love of hot wings.”

3. Lyonnaise Salad: “Crispy oysters, pickled mustard seeds, beautiful poached egg – it’s a delicious bite.”

4. Smoked Brisket Po’boy: “How do you put something on the menu for the non-fish lovers that is going to absolutely make everyone want it? This brisket does it.”

5. Blueberry Pie: “It’s just ridiculous, it’s so good. It’s like a Pappy’s rib: It makes me want to hug someone.”

-photo by Jonathan Gayman 

Extra Sauce: Cooking for the Circus

Friday, December 26th, 2014

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It’s one thing to cook for a full house every night; it’s another to do it on the road. That’s the task Liz Samatis takes on as head chef for Cirque du Soleil’s traveling show, Varekai, which comes to the Lou Jan. 7 to 11 at the Chaifetz Arena. Samatis and her kitchen crew cook two full meals a day for more than 100 performing artists and crew members from nearly 20 countries. Not only does her food have to fuel athletes for grueling physical performances, but the Johnson & Wales graduate also tries to create menus sourced from and inspired by the places they visit. After nearly a year on the road and almost 40 cities, this roving chef shares what’s its like to literally feed a circus.

 

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Cirque du Soleil contracts with Spectrum Catering for its food service. How did you end up on the Cirque team?
I actually knew somebody who worked on a rock ‘n’ roll tour cooking and I thought, “Wow, that’s a really cool job.” I just went out and searched different companies that do tour catering, and I fell upon this job.

Do you use onsite equipment or do you carry it all with you?
I have a truck. It’s a completely mobile kitchen that gets unloaded into the arena. Everything is in a case, then we set it up somewhere. It could be anywhere from a tent outside the arena to the Zamboni room to a hallway. They fit us in where ever they can. … As far as our operation goes, we are completely sustainable. We bring everything you would need to cook.

How do you balance meals to be both tasty and nutritious enough for athletes?
We offer a full salad bar, a juice bar and a deli bar. I always have to serve one lean protein, and I have to keep in mind I’m cooking for the technical staff as well, who don’t necessarily eat the same way the artists do. The most important part is to give as many options as possible to keep everybody happy.

 How do you keep meals fun and interesting?
I write a different menu every week. I’ve never repeated a menu, though there are some items people enjoy that I will bring up every once in a while. Another thing I try to do is stay true to the local cuisine. When we’re in the Midwest, I’m not going to try to get seafood from the East Coast. I try to source the products that are readily available … that way I can bring a little bit of flavor of whatever city we’re in. When we were in Maine, I drove down to the lobster dock, cut a deal, and bought lobsters from them. Two weeks before I go to the city, I do a lot of research; what they have, what’s abundant.

There are people from all over the world on staff. Do you prepare a lot of international fare?
I try to ask people, “What do you like to eat from your country that you don’t get to eat in America?” I’ll try my best to mimic that dish, say, Russian borscht or goulash. We have a lot of Russians on the staff. They’re used to eating a lot of salmon, so I try to incorporate salmon into the menu once a week.

Is there a staff favorite?
Everybody loves taco day. Any time they can build their own thing, that goes over really well. Once a week we do a live-action station. On Sunday (brunch), we’ll do omelets to order. … We do Asian stir-fry, crepes, things like that. That way there’s interaction. They get a fresh, hot meal, and it’s personalized to their tastes.

Do you go out to eat when you visit cities?
Absolutely! I get two days off a week. I love going out to eat and trying the local cuisine, especially when I’m about to try to cook that style of food.

Spencer Pernikoff blogs at Whiskey and Soba
-performance photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Extra Sauce: Companion’s Josh Allen enters bread battle to compete in World Cup of Baking

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Every four years, the world goes wild for international competition. Participants train endlessly, all vying for the chance to represent their countries on the grandest of stages. No, we’re not talking about the Olympics or the World Cup. We’re talking about a more delicious and mouthwatering sport: the World Cup of Baking, or the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie.

The top three bakers from each country’s team will gather in Paris in March 2016 to be judged on bread, Viennese pastries, a savory sandwich presentation and an artistic piece. But before they go head-to-head in international competition, they have to make their national team. St. Louis’ own Josh Allen, owner of Companion, is one of 15 bakers fighting for a coveted spot tomorrow and Friday, Oct. 23 and 24, at the next round of competition in Providence, Rhode Island. If selected, Allen will be the first St. Louis baker to compete in the World Cup.

Since August, Allen has spent nearly every Friday at the Ladue Companion Cafe from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., elbow-deep in dough, testing new recipes and learning along the way. We popped by one of his final practice sessions to get the inside look at how a baker prepares for the tryout of a lifetime.

Allen is required to present five types of bread: a traditional and decorative baguette, a sourdough-based option, a nutritional loaf, and two freestyle breads of his creation. All five must be completed in eight hours and match precise weight and shape requirements.

 

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Since the judges will taste the bread straight from the oven, Allen has changed his usual methods, which focus on preparing bread consumed 12 hours later. “(I) found that the amount of thyme or rosemary has to be cut way back because it’s so floral initially,” Allen said.

Allen wanted to create breads that stand alone, almost as a meal. Each bite should be a sensory overload, he explained.

 

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The nutritional bread (pictured below), which contains more than 50 percent whole-grain flour, has the comforting aroma of chamomile dust. Mixed throughout the dough are quinoa and wild rice, as well as sweet-tart, crunchy pomegranate seeds.

 

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The classic baguette (below) is Allen’s favorite.

 

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Allen elevated the average sourdough (below) by using semolina flour studded with fennel and sesame seeds and brown butter to gild the lily.

 

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The first freestyle bread (below, left) is an ode to fall: chunks of apple and toasted walnut are folded into a thyme- and apple cider-infused rye dough topped with barley for crunch. He kicks up the heat with his second freestyle bread (below, right): an airy polenta bread with briny green olives, aromatic rosemary, bright orange zest, and a zip of red pepper.

 

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Allen expects to hear the results of this round in two weeks or so. If he succeeds, he will move to the final round of competition in March 2015, when the top three compete again to earn the coveted bread baker slot on the three-person team. “I’m as ready to go as I can be,” Allen said the day before competition. “There’s no telling what will resonate with the judges … I’m very excited about it. It’s been a great experience, but it’s been enough work that you want to do well.”

Spencer Pernikoff blogs at Whiskey and Soba

-story and photos by Spencer Pernikoff

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