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Jan 23, 2017
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What I Do: Dana Huth and Ben Triola of Mauhaus Cat Cafe and Lounge

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

WhatIDo_Blog_Jan17

 

There’s a small island off the coast of southern Japan so overrun with cats that it makes internet cat videos look like a cheap ball of yarn. But before you start booking expensive airfare, try relaxing at Mauhaus Cat Cafe and Lounge, a new spot that caters to felines and the good people who endlessly share their memes. Co-owners Dana Huth and Ben Triola opened the cafe as a space where people can leisurely bond with and potentially adopt the animals while enjoying lunch or fresh pastries. They also co-own a software company, video game development studio and real estate investments, but said that helping animals in need is worth the stress – and the cat snuggles don’t hurt, either. Here, the couple talk about why a cat makes for a programmer’s best friend.

Getting Attached
“Basically, we’re like a big foster family for these cats, except that we also serve coffee and food. … The adoptions can be a little tough on us but ultimately it’s a very happy thing to find these cats a good home. We partner with Tenth Life Cat Rescue and they have over 100 cats in foster homes, but right now they’re almost at capacity. If we can help get cats adopted, that means Tenth Life can take in more.” –B.T.

“The cat cafes in Asia are full of specialty cats, and they’re not adoptable. Every time you go, you see the same cats. But we knew that was a problem here – so many cats need homes and so many get killed at shelters every year. … I cried when the last ones that got adopted left. I had a very special connection to those cats. But it’s so good; they have great homes.” –D.H.

Cat Magic
“We were not at all planning on opening another business until we went to this cat cafe in Thailand. We were like, ‘We have to have this at home.’ What was most magical about it was not that there were cats, but that there were so many. It’s not like going into someone’s house who has three cats. To see like 15 cats living in a space, and you get to come in, be surrounded – you get to experience their home. … And to have really nice food, that was definitely a bonus.” –D.H.

Bring on the Fun
“This is talked about a lot in the game development industry: fun is really hard to plan for. It can be really elusive … you don’t know on paper if XYZ is going to be fun, so you have to build something and then play with it and then go back and figure out which parts were fun and which weren’t. There’s a lot of iteration. We call it ‘finding the fun.’ I think that’s kind of what we’re trying to do with the cat cafe – find the fun and share it with other people.” –B.T.

Cuteness Overload
“Any morning we come into the cafe, it’s basically a stampede of cats coming toward the door to all get attention.” –D.H.

Cat Therapy
“There’s this thing in programming, where if you have a problem you’re supposed to get a rubber duck and explain the problem to the rubber duck. In the course of explaining the problem out loud, you usually find the solution. But I think you can use the cats just as well – explain your problems to the cat and you might just figure some things out.” –B.T.

Interoffice Romance
“I feel really lucky that this is our life. It works really well for us because we’ve known each other so long, we think on the same wavelength. I think for a lot of people that could be difficult – spending that much time with your significant other, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve worked with a lot of people, had other partners, and it’s not that any of those were necessarily bad, but I’ve never been able to communicate with anyone better than I can communicate with Dana. It makes sense that we do pretty much all things together.” –B.T.

 

Heather Hughes and Kevin Korinek contributed to this article. 

Photo by Ashley Gieseking 

Related Content
Sauce Magazine: January 2017

First Look: Mauhaus Cat Cafe and Lounge in Maplewood

What I Do: Doug Marshall, The Tamale Man

What I Do: Mark “Garlic” Brown of Gateway Garlic Farms 

Ones to Watch 2017: Sam Witherspoon of Sardella

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

OTW_Sam_Blog_Jan17

 

Title: Executive sous chef, Sardella
Age: 27
Why watch him: He proves good guys can get ahead.

Sam Witherspoon’s resume reads like a cutthroat careerist’s: the New York Culinary Institute of America to Danny Meyer’s Maialino to Donald Link’s Cochon, then Gerard Craft’s Niche and now Sardella. The lineup may evoke a sense of cold-bloodedness, a ruthless master plan, but that impression would be wrong for the guy Sardella executive chef Nick Blue called his “softer side.”

“I’ve never really had a plan,” Witherspoon said. “I always just kind of go where I want to go and I figure it out when I get there.” He’s gotten where he is simply by aiming high, giving it a shot. He secured the job at Niche with a cold call – an effort that would seem laughable if it hadn’t worked. “I have the attitude of start at the top,” he said. “Because it’s easier to start there than it is to start down and try to move up.”

This strategy, of course, only works if you have the skills to support it. “He has a really playful sense of food … an ability to translate comfort food into modern food,” Craft said. Take, for example, Witherspoon’s recent special at Sardella: a pastrami-spiced brisket and squash agnolotti served with pickled and butter-braised cabbage. “It doesn’t taste like it’s just a riff [on a Reuben],” Craft said. “It is its own dish – something nuanced and unique.’”

But for Witherspoon, being a chef has as much to do with how you treat people as what you serve them. “It’s almost impossible not to smile when you see Sam. He boosts everybody’s mood,” Craft said. “He’s a very positive spirit in the kitchen. That’s totally separate from cooking ability, but almost more important sometimes.”

He learned this during his externship at Maialino, where it wasn’t just the high pressure or long hours that impressed him. “These guys were very serious about what they did, but they walked in every day, they shook your hand, asked you how you were doing,” Witherspoon said. “They really invested in you, and that’s something I’ve carried with me throughout my entire career.”

A focus on hospitality in and out of the kitchen may sound peripheral, but it’s something that sets Witherspoon apart. A lot of people with serious culinary talent don’t make it past sous. “To be a great leader, there’s a certain amount of positivity that has to be there for people to want to work for you,” Craft said. He was equally impressed by Witherspoon’s ability to interact with guests. “If you’re going to do your own thing, you’ve got to have it – or you better hire somebody who does.”

There’s no doubt Witherspoon will have a lot of people working for him someday. For now, aside from having his voice heard through more dishes on Sardella’s menu, his goal is simple: “I would love to be able to give Nick Blue a day off.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Schlafly Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

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Old dog Schlafly is learning new tricks with its From the Ibex Cellar series. With a nod to what beer nerds are after these days, Ibex offers all barrel-aged beers, which expand the brewery’s purview to include new projects like intensely fruited sours, a gose and foeder-aged beers.

Ibex beers have been difficult to find with small releases in large-format bottles, until now. With the purchase of a new bottling line, Schlafly will be offering more extensive Ibex releases in four-packs of 11.2-ounce bottles sporting that signature rampant goat.

The first to be bottled in this new format its Schlafly’s popular barrel-aged Imperial stout. The rich, chocolaty stout is aged in bourbon barrels for even more intensity. Its bold, strong flavor is surprisingly smooth with just a hint of sweetness. I found the crowd-pleasing beer to bring to my family’s holiday dinner. You can pick up your own four-pack for $18 at the Schlafly Tap Room and Bottleworks.

 

Related Content
The Scoop: Schlafly co-founder Dan Kopman to step down
Elixir: Buzzed Brews
• Elixir: Steady as She Gose 
• Sauce Guide to Beer 2016
 

Extra Sauce: 4 gifts on Heather’s holiday wish list

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

From kitchen workhorses to elegant barware, here’s what print managing editor Heather Hughes wants this holiday season.

 

HeatherWishList_FoodProcessor

 

1. Cuisinart Custom 14-Cup Food Processor
The last time I had to dice mirepoix by hand convinced me that there’s no excuse not to own a big food processor. Every kitchen should have one.
$180. Kitchen Conservatory, kitchenconservatory.com

 

HeatherWishList_Decanter

 

2. RBT Decanter
Rabbit went Gatsby with its new RBT line of glamorous black and gold bar accessories. This swanky decanter, complete with filter, aerating funnel and coaster, is my favorite.
$100. Neiman Marcus at Plaza Frontenac, neimanmarcus.com

 

HeatherWishList_Bowls

 

3. Eshelman Pottery Handled soup bowls
Paul Eshelman’s ceramics combine thick, solid glazes with exposed red stoneware for a bold color blocking effect on clean, modern shapes. I would love a whole set of the smooth handled soup bowls.
$55 each. Available to order from Craft Alliance, craftalliance.org

 

HeatherWishList_Glass

 

4. Yarai large mixing glass
Though I want all the beautiful vintage glassware at this new shop, this elegant mixing glass is what I actually need to complete my bar. Stirring in a shaker is just wrong.
$45. Intoxicology, Facebook: Intoxicology

 

 

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More Holiday Gift Guides
• Holiday Gift Guide: 5 gifts for the person you have to shop for
• Holiday Gift Guide: 5 gifts to stock a starter kitchen
• Holiday Gift Guide: 5 gifts for your boozehound
• Extra Sauce: 4 gifts on Meera’s holiday wish list

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Miracle on Chouteau Pop-up Bar

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

120916_miracle

{ Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r! }

 

If the crowds are any indication, St. Louis apparently had a deep need of a Christmas-themed pop-up bar like Miracle. It’s like spending time in your holiday-obsessed grandmother’s basement, surrounded by decorations collected over the past 40 years – only better, since you can escape your family and sip on drinks made by the crew at Planter’s House.  

Located at 1740 Chouteau Ave. (just look for the glow of hundreds of Christmas lights in the windows), drinks like the Jingle Bell Nog or Bad Santa hot milk punch feel right in this Christmas tree forest, but I’m partial to the cocktails with a tiki vibe on the menu.

Yule Be Singing features Plantation 3 Star Rum with Velvet Falernum, lime and a Champagne topper for an unexpected, sweet-tart holiday treat. And nothing can compete with the Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****r!, a tiki tipple with two kinds of rum, pumpkin-almond orgeat and lime juice served in a Santa mug dusted with powdered sugar.     

Plan on arriving early if you don’t want to wait, but there’s no bad seat, since every chair sports a Santa hat, and the whole place is dripping with tinsel and twinkle lights. Enjoy a cup of good cheer every day through Dec. 24.

First Look: LuLu Asian Kitchen in Olivette

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

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LuLu Seafood and Dim Sum has gone fast-casual with its first LuLu Asian Kitchen location, now open at 9626 Olive Blvd., in Olivette. As The Scoop reported in July, another LuLu Asian Kitchen location will soon open at 9737 Manchester Road in Rock Hill, with more locations in the works.

Popular staples from Lulu Seafood and Dim Sum will be rotating entrees at Lulu Asian Kitchen, along with more traditional Chinese dishes and some exclusive to the new concept, like the caramelized bourbon chicken, which makes use of the new kitchen’s grill.

Entrees can be ordered in different combinations as bowls, plates or platters, or folded into Asian burritos with rice and toppings. There are also soups, salads and lighter to-go options like spring rolls and sushi. Fountain drinks are joined by a handful of beer and wine offerings.

“The quality is the same as the main location. We just have more limited options and faster service,” said co-founder Julia Li.

Lulu Asian Kitchen is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. There will be a grand opening event on Wednesday, Dec. 14 from 3 to 9 p.m. with free food and drink. Here’s a first look at what to expect from Olivette’s new fast-casual spot:

 

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More about LuLu Asian Kitchen
• The Scoop: LuLu Asian Kitchen to open in Olivette and Rock Hill

What I Do: Julia Li of Lu Lu Fresh Express

• First Look: LuLu Chicnese and Dim Sum Truck

Photos by Michelle Volansky

 

By the Book: Hubert Keller’s Souvenirs by Hubert Keller and Penelope Wisner

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

BTB_Nov16_Round3_1

 

Paging through Hubert Keller’s memoir/cookbook is intimidating. The man grew up in a kitchen in France. He’s cooked on more continents than I’ve been to. He’s served presidents and is apparently really into DJing (actually that last one made him more approachable thanks to goofy photos of him spinning with some guy named Frenchy Le Freak).

There are some seriously daunting recipes. I wasn’t going to make brioche dough, pastry cream, poached pears and a glaze all for one dessert. But further reading turns up milkshakes and a beer burger, too. The book is about his life, which hasn’t taken place entirely in fine-dining kitchens.

I chose to make the appropriately French but delightfully simple Galette des Rois – the traditional French king cake made with puff pastry and a rich almond filling. I’d made this seasonal dish before, but Keller’s recipe was better with a nice rum addition to the filling and an egg yolk wash that made the pastry brown and glisten (all my egg washes will be yolks-only from now on). The cake is practically done for you with frozen puff pastry – I’ll definitely make this again.

Skill level: French. Some recipes are simple with big payoff, but some are fine-dining level and could be prohibitively complicated for home cooks.
Other recipes to try: Spicy sesame kettle corn, poached pear brioche galette
The verdict: Keller and the three kings rule.

 

BTB_Nov16_Round3_2

 

Gallette des Rois/ Three Kings Cake
Serves about 8

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
3 large egg yolks, divided
1 cup finely ground almonds
2 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
2 Tbsp. dark rum
1½ lbs. puff pastry, divided
1 dried dean or 1 peeled baby carrot
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar

• In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Beat in the whole egg and 1 of the egg yolks until smooth. Stir in the almonds, 2 tablespoons flour and rum until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate.
• Brush an ungreased baking sheet very lightly with water. Dust a work surface lightly with flour and roll 10 ounces of the pastry until 1/16th inch thick and trim into an 11-inch circle. Transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Mound the almond filling on the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Press the dried bean into the filling. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 egg yolks with 1-teaspoon water. Brush the border with a little of the egg wash.
• On a lightly floured work surface, roll the remaining dough until 1/8-inch thick and trim into an 11-inch circle. Lay it over the filling and press the top and bottom pastry layers together to seal. Trim the pastry so the edges are even. If you like, make a scalloped border all the way around: with your thumbnail facing toward the cake, press your thumb down onto the pastry border. Position a teaspoon on one side of your thumb and pull the pastry back toward the cake with the spoon, snugging it up nicely. Move your thumb to the opposite side of the scallop and repeat all the way around to form a deeply wavy, decorative edge. If the dough warms too much and becomes soft and sticky, refrigerate the cake to allow it to firm up.
• Brush the egg wash over the entire top of the cake. With the back of a paring knife, without cutting into the pastry, draw a decorative pattern of cross-hatched lines or petals by marking sets of curved lines like open and closed parentheses.
• Chill the cake while the oven preheats to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Pierce a few holes through the pastry to allow steam to escape and dust the top with the powdered sugar. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Lower the heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake until the cake is firm, shiny on top, and toasty brown, about 5 minutes. If the sugar has not melted, run the cake quickly under a very hot broiler to finish glazing. Serve it warm or at room temperature. The cake is best served the same day it is baked. Any leftovers can be rewarmed gently before serving.

Reprinted with permission Andrews McMeel Publishing

Best New Restaurants: No. 7 – The Preston

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened: St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

 120116_thepreston

 

Hotel bars aim for luxury and sophistication, but most miss the mark, landing in chintz and disappointment. The Preston at The Chase Park Plaza hits a rare bull’s-eye with stylish leather chairs, cool gray wainscoting and stiff drinks served in cut crystal glasses on a marble bar. The atmosphere is swanky, but still comfortable with a refined, masculine elegance.

Service at the bar and in the dining room strikes the sweet spot of being attentive without getting in the way of conversation, with a staff dressed as smartly as the room. Some original cocktails have a classic vibe, like Goodnight Mr. Preston, which stares you down with bourbon, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, Benedictine and bitters. But others, like Smokey and The Bandito, have more drama with hickory smoke and poblano-infused tequila.

Pecan-encrusted pork tenderloin may sound like boring hotel food, but one bite of the ultra tender meat glazed in barbecue jus and pulled through the bright orange and green swirls of carrot and pea purees, and you’ll want to check into The Chase and spend the whole night. Before you pick up your room key, order the salty-sweet pretzel croissants – at any time of day, at any point in the meal; just get them.

And take a moment, as you’re cozied into the rounded plaid banquettes in dim, flattering lighting, to appreciate how rare it is to realize the fantasy of accommodations that aren’t just expensive, but downright glamorous.

 

More about The Preston

• First Look: The Preston in the Central West End

• Hit List: 6 must-try restaurants in March

Nightlife: The Preston

Photo by Jonathan Gayman

Best New Restaurants: No. 5 – Nixta

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened: St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

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{ from left, chef Tello Carreón and owner Ben Poremba}

Surrounded by hip Latin music and tropical plants at Nixta’s recent soft opening, we kept spontaneously exhaling and saying, “This feels like vacation.” Along with the bright, beachy colors and dim, candlelit atmosphere of Ben Poremba’s newest restaurant, the menu is strewn with flowers and fruit: ceviche served with a fragrant, viscid sphere of rose water espuma; pork belly al pastor topped with caramelized pineapple pico de gallo; a sea scallop in a pool of green, bergamot-infused aguachile sprinkled with tiny whole blooms.

This pretty chiaroscuro of rich meats and delicate seafoods, deep dark mole and bright vegetal spice, is thanks to executive chef Tello Carreón. He’s the reason Poremba wanted to open a Mexican restaurant.

They got to know each other in the kitchen of Poremba’s fine-dining restaurant Elaia, just down the street. “I like his cooking a lot and thought a modern take on Mexican food – his kind of food – would make a great restaurant,” Poremba said. Why look outside – why go to New York to research new ideas – when you have such talent inside your own St. Louis kitchens?

Carreón’s passion for creativity is reflected in unexpected dishes, like the tuna tostada with lime-white shoyu glaze, and in more traditional offerings he grew up eating. “What I’m trying to say is you don’t have to be stuck with the same ingredients,” Carreón said. Which is why he paired his grandma’s classic mole recipe with braised beef cheeks instead of the expected chicken.

“I like to have dishes fresh and more alive than you typically find them. I want to elevate them a little more – bring them to life,” Carreón said. “I think I have the taste, the cuisine that people want to try.”

We think so too, jefe.

 

More about Nixta

• Sneak Peek: Nixta in Botanical Heights

• The Scoop: Ben Poremba to open Mexican restaurant, Nixta, in former Old Standard space

The Scoop: Old Standard Fried Chicken to close

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Best New Restaurants: No. 4 – Kounter Kulture

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened: St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

120116_kounterkulture

{ khao soi }

A carryout-only restaurant this high on our list will only surprise those unfamiliar with Kitchen Kulture from co-owners Christine Meyer and chef Michael Miller. The fine dining veterans make the foreign local and the local foreign at their first brick-and-mortar with a tight, rotating menu of Asian-inspired dishes.

“Using ingredients that people are familiar with – sourcing locally – is a great way to introduce people to things,” Miller said. The same goes for familiar dishes, which can help expose diners to new flavors. Take, for example, the shrimp and grits currently on the menu, made with coconut milk grits, lemongrass-marinated shrimp and a peanut-pepper relish. “I get that by nature [shrimp and grits] is not an Asian dish, but it’s one of those things that brings people in on a comfort level,” he said. “It’s a great gateway dish.

“That’s why we play a lot with our amuse-bouche,” he said. “Because it’s something that people might not order, but they’ll try because it’s free. There’s no risk.” Yes, Kounter Kulture offers complimentary, intricately composed bites for those waiting to pick up to-go orders. Not something you’d expect at a counter service spot with zero elbowroom on Watson Road.

“We’re trying to jam two hours worth of service into five or six minutes,” Meyer said. Servers at a sit-down restaurant can see if diners enjoy their meals or not, but the team at Kounter Kulture has to get more creative. “Having that customer contact every day has been fabulous,” she said. “It allows you to build better relationships, and the feedback is so important.”

But let’s be clear: We don’t go to Kounter Kulture for an education. We go for the food. We go for the khao soi. Miller’s version of the northern Thai soup starts with his house-made curry paste, which he cooks in schmaltz and simmers in stock. The bowl full of shredded Buttonwood Farms chicken, Midwest Pasta Co. egg noodles, pickled greens, lime juice, cilantro and burnt chile oil takes more than four hours to make. “It’s worth the time,” Miller said.

Like Kounter Kulture itself, the khao soi fits more in a small package than should be possible. It’s spicy, smooth, sweet, savory, bright, rich and piquant. “Asian food is a balancing act, because there are so many flavor notes,” Miller said. “It’s like a symphony – you can have something that’s really balanced but still has so much going on.” Consider this our standing ovation.

 

More about Kounter Kulture

• The Scoop: Kitchen Kulture to open brick and mortar, Kounter Kulture

• Sneak Peek: Kounter Kulture in Lindenwood Park

• Hit List: 4 restaurants you must try this August

New and Notable: Kounter Kulture

Photo by Carmen Troesser

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