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Mar 18, 2018
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Best New Restaurants: No. 7 – Living Room

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

Opening a restaurant isn’t easy. Each year, hundreds give it a shot – and not everyone succeeds. Some, however, aren’t just surviving; they’re killing it. In the last year, we ate our way through newly opened restaurants from Alton to Ballwin, compiling a list of places that serve the food and drinks we can’t get out of our heads. They bring something different and exciting to the scene – and they do it damn well. While technical excellence was a must, the service and ambiance also had to win us over. Office debates nearly came to fisticuffs, but at last we agreed on St. Louis’ 11 best new restaurants of 2015. Clear your schedule and book your reservations; you’ve got a lot of eating to do.




Tucked away on Sutton Boulevard next to Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions sits Living Room, a neighborhood gem serving up simple, impeccable breakfast and lunch since December 2014. Living Room grew from Art House Coffees, a wholesale roaster started by Barry Larson more than five years ago. His son, Nate Larson, now heads the kitchen at Living Room. Here, three reasons why this little daytime cafe is worth your attention:

The hand-brewed espresso drinks, pour-overs and cold-brew offerings are good, but you won’t find Living Room’s seasonal, flavored coffee drinks anywhere else. House-made syrups offer a hint of sweetness and rich flavors that complement Art House espresso. Try the Smooth Criminal, a fragrant, lightly sweet cortado flavored with lavender, vanilla and expressed orange peel.

Larson is a self-taught baker – and he’s a complete natural. We’re talking more than cookies, too (though it’s worth getting the shortbread). Living Room tackles buttery croissants, scones worthy of England, old-fashioned flaky biscuits and a rotating lineup of cakes. Larson even bakes his own bread for sandwiches. And speaking of those sandwiches …

Despite the bakery and many house-made items like yogurt, aioli, pickles and jams, Larson insisted he isn’t trying to complicate things. “There’s nothing conceptual about the menu,” said Larson. “I want to prepare the best version of what I can make, simple and generous.” That means great sandwiches, breakfast plates and specialty items like savory bread pudding. The Hot Shroom sandwich entices with melty Gruyere, white mushrooms and caramelized onions. A surprise favorite was the biscuit breakfast, featuring a perfect soft-boiled egg draped in melted white cheddar over a wingspan of Boylard’s bacon, served with a rich, cheesy biscuit. Living Room also offers rotating bento boxes for the occasional snack attack. Munch on an assortment including Bolyard’s signature andouille, white cheddar, grapes, house-made candied almonds and a shortbread cookie.

Is Living Room your favorite new restaurant of 2015? Click here to vote for this Maplewood coffee house in the People’s Choice Facebook contest! 

-photo by Jonathan Gayman

By the Book: “Rose Water and Orange Blossoms” by Maureen Abood

Thursday, November 5th, 2015



Middle Eastern food transcends borders; one nation’s cuisine melts into its neighbor’s. They all have their own versions of standards like hummus, kebabs and baklava. For a Lebanese take on classic Middle Easter fare, I picked up Rose Water & Orange Blossoms by food writer and blogger Maureen Abood. The dishes are interspersed with heartwarming, engaging anecdotes and plenty of tips, serving suggestions and even ingredient brand names, which can be helpful when shopping unfamiliar international aisles.

This accessible text covers the spectrum of Lebanese cooking from avocado tabbouleh to zaatar. Straightforward and well written, most of her recipes are weeknight friendly, yet special enough to serve guests. With that in mind, I decided to prepare a classic meat and rice dish called hushweh that Abood described as “perhaps the most beloved Lebanese dish that my family has ever served anyone. Its buttery goodness will bring peace and calm in the face of adversity, and will soothe a weary soul.” Sold!

The recipe is made in three parts. The buttered nuts took just moments to prepare, and the roasted chicken, though delicious on its own and as good as any I’ve ever prepared, can be easily substituted with a store-bought rotisserie chicken (with only a 5-pound bird available to me, it took almost 90 minutes to roast).

The predominant flavor of comforting dish is butter scented with cinnamon. I’m not sure it would feed 12 as a main, but with an accompanying vegetable (sauteed spinach is perfect) and the suggested salad, pita and hummus, it would be plenty. While buttery and satisfying, I wanted to boost the flavor profile of the dish. I reheated my leftovers in a skillet, which yielded some nice crunchy bits. I finished it with a hefty dose of lemon juice to balance the richness, plus a large handful of chopped fresh parsley and a touch of fresh mint, which not only gave the entree a lighter touch, but also added a much-needed splash of color to the beige dish.

The Rundown
Skill level: Though perfect for an inexperienced cook, anyone will appreciate Abood’s detailed instruction and her inviting approach to simply complex recipes.
This book is for: If you’re looking for entry into the world of Middle Eastern cuisine, ingredients and menus, this book covers all the bases and then some.
Other recipes to try: Zaatar-roasted tomato crostini with labneh, fried kibbe with mint butter, sticky date cake with warm orange blossom-caramel sauce.
The verdict: Check back next week when Rose Water and Orange Blossoms takes on Zahav.




Hushweh (Chicken Rice Pilaf with Butter Toasted Almonds)
12 servings

For the chicken:
1 (3- to 4-lb./1.35 to 1.8 kg.) free-range chicken
1 large yellow onion, quartered
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. granulated garlic powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
Few grinds of black pepper

For the rice:
4 Tbsp. salted butter, divided
1 lb./450 g. ground beef chuck or lamb
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. Kosher salt
Few grinds of black pepper
1 cup/190 g. parboiled long-grain white rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)
2 cups/475 ml chicken broth
1 cinnamon stick
¾ cup/110 g. Butter Toasted Almonds (recipe follows)

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• Pat the chicken dry. Place it in a large roasting pan. Stuff the cavity with the onion. Rub a couple of tablespoons of oil evenly over the skin and season the chicken all over lightly with paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
• Roast the chicken until the juices run clear when the chicken is pierced and the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees in the thigh on an instant read thermometer, about 1 hour. Baste the chicken every 15 minutes with its juices while it roasts.
• Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 4-quart Dutch oven or saucepan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and season it with the ground cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Cook the meat, stirring constantly and using a metal spoon to crumble it into small pieces until no trace of pink remains, about 5 minutes.
• Stir the rice into the meat until it is completely coated with its juices. Pour in the broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, tuck in the cinnamon stick, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until all of the broth is absorbed.
• Transfer the roasted chicken to a cutting board and when it is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin. Shred the chicken into 1-inch pieces.
• Remove the cinnamon stick and add the chicken, ½ cup of the toasted nuts, and the remaining 3 tablespoons butter to the hot rice mixture, stirring to combine. Taste and add more salt, if needed. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts and serve immediately.

Butter Toasted Pine Nuts and Almonds
½ Tbsp. salted butter
1 cup/110 g. slivered almonds or whole pine nuts
Fine sea salt, to taste

• Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the nuts and reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir the nuts to coat them with the butter and continue stirring constantly until the nuts are golden brown. Keep a close watch over the nuts; they can burn quickly once they begin to brown.
• Transfer the nuts to a bowl while they are still warm and salt them lightly. When they have cooled to room temperature, store the nuts in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a month or in the freezer for up to one year.

Reprinted with permission from Running Press

First Look: Brickyard Tavern on South Grand

Thursday, November 5th, 2015



When Absolutli Goosed shuttered its doors last month, its owners took just two weeks to turn their space at 3196 S. Grand Blvd., into Brickyard Tavern. Though the layout remains the same, patrons shouldn’t ask the bartender for a favorite Goosed martini. Co-owner Robin Schubert and her partners wanted to launch a new venture: a warm, approachable neighborhood restaurant where locals could catch the game, play music on the new juke box or hang out on the patio.

The menu, created by Pittsburgh native Jon Homer, includes traditional pub fare like chicken wings and spinach dip to unexpected offerings. Case in point: the chicken-and-waffles sliders served on cinnamon roll-waffles with Jim Beam-maple icing. Fried fare is nowhere to be found – even the chicken wings are baked – and all of the menu items are less than $11.

The bar features eight taps, six of which currently feature Schlafly brews, and there are dozens of bottles and a rotating list of seasonal craft cocktails is available. Brickyard Tavern is open Wednesday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Here’s a First Look at what’s in store at Brickyard Tavern:


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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

By the Book: ‘Sarabeth’s Good Morning Cookbook’ by Sarabeth Levine

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Welcome to the new By the Book, where the Sauce editors choose a monthly theme and pit cookbooks in a head-to-head battle to see who comes out on top. And the winner? We hand the champion over to you in a By the Book Facebook giveaway. This month, we’re tackling all things sweet. Last week, Chocolate Pot de Crème couldn’t stand up to the fruit-packed Blueberry Apple Pie from Pastry by Nick Malgieri. Today, it takes on Sarabeth’s Good Morning Cookbook by Sarabeth Levine.




Having brunched at Sarabeth’s on New York’s Upper East Side many mornings, I was excited to get my hands on Sarabeth Levine’s latest cookbook, Sarabeth’s Good Morning Cookbook: Breakfast, Brunch, and Baking. She’s packed 12 chapters with easy-to-follow recipes fit for novices or more experienced home cooks looking to fill their repertoire with options for everyday breakfasts to a weekend entertaining menus.

Levine walks readers through basic techniques for common but tricky recipes such as clarified butter, blintzes, omelets and even the hard-boiled egg, but she also challenges cooks to more ambitious projects like a yeast-risen Hungarian coffee cake similar to babka and streusel-encrusted French toast. I found her recipes precise and well written, and I appreciated the simple but stunning photographs. Thankfully, most ingredients are easily accessibly, and she rarely calls for any equipment not found in the standard kitchen. She also provides the ingredient weight in grams, as well as cup measurements for those of us who prefer to use a scale to take the guesswork out of measuring.

I decided to test her quintessential New York Crumb Cake. Her goal was to find the perfect proportion of cake to crumb topping, and she achieved it beautifully with a stunning crumb topping. She calls for superfine sugar in most of her baking recipes, and I think it helped the recipes stand apart. The texture was light with a fine, delicate crumb, thanks to the sour cream-based batter. Watch your baking time carefully, though – my cake was overbaked after 55 minutes. I tend to take my cakes out of the oven when a few dry crumbs appear on a toothpick, not when it comes out clean as instructed.

The Rundown
Skill level: Perfect for the beginner or advanced home cook.
This book is for: Cooks looking for basic everyday to company-ready brunch entrees.
Other recipes to try: Cranberry Cream Scones, Double Salmon Rillettes
The verdict: Levine’s classic crumb cake took down Malgieri’s blueberry and apple pie thanks to its light texture, generous cinnamon topping and buttery sour cream cake.

New York Crumb Cake
10 to 12 servings

Crumb Topping
1½ cups (213 g.) unbleached all-purpose flour
⅓ cup (65 g.) superfine sugar
⅓ cup (65 g.) packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
8 Tbsp. (114 g.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

2 cups (284 g.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1⅓ cups (261 g.) superfine sugar
⅔ cup (152 g.) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch chunks, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
1 cup (242 g.) sour cream

• Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9 by 9 by 2-inch cake pan and tap out the excess flour.
• To make the crumb topping: In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, superfine sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter and vanilla and mix with your fingers until combined and crumbly. Set aside.
• Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, rub the vanilla into the sugar. In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar mixture and continue beating, scraping the sides of the bowl often with a silicone spatula, until the mixture is very light in color and texture, about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the eggs, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
• Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with two additions of the sour cream, scraping the sides of the bowl and beating briefly after each addition. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with the spatula. Squeeze handfuls of the crumb topping, then break into small clumps and sprinkle the entire surface of the batter with the clumps and crumbs.
• Bake until the crumbs are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes.
• Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack before serving. The cake can be stored in the pan, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to days.

Reprinted with permission from Rizzoli Publishing

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