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Dec 02, 2016
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Best New Restaurants: No. 10 – Melo’s Pizzeria

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_melos

{ dom pizza }

 

Five seats, five menu items and a fire crackling merrily in the oven: This is Melo’s. The small but mighty Italian-American pizza shop is run by the Valenza family – brothers Joey, Johnny and Vinny, and their dad Vince Sr., the owner of Blues City Deli, whom you could call their consigliere.

When Vince finally bought the Blues City building in 2013, it came with a teeny garage, big enough to fit a couple cars, or to give life to Joey’s bread-making hobby turned pizza-making obsession.

Happily, Dad went with the latter, and now we’re obsessed, too. The Dom is our favorite, a simple pizza topped with Grana Padano, sliced garlic, fresh basil, oregano and a glug of extra-virgin olive oil. It’s Neapolitan-style, with a thin, wood-fired crust and a perfectly pure crushed tomato sauce, but has an American twist, mixing fresh mozzarella with drier, shredded mozzarella. This transgression makes for a lower moisture content that keeps the dough from getting too wet.

“It’s more of a familiar flavor for people,” Joey said. “I don’t know if it’s our American taste buds, but we think it tastes better.”

Melo’s formula for an Italian-American pie combines the best of both worlds. We appreciate an edited menu, pared down to the bare, most delicious bones.

 

More about Melo’s Pizzeria

• Hit List: 6 new restaurants you must try this month

• Sneak Peek: Melo’s Pizzeria in Benton Park

The Scoop: Blues City Deli owner to open Melo’s Pizza

Photo by Dave Moore

Best New Restaurants: No. 6 – Porano Pasta

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_porano

{ ‘nduja pizza }

Porano Pasta is the fast-casual restaurant we have been waiting for. It took Gerard Craft, the chef mind behind Niche Food Group, to combine affordability and speed with such quality ingredients and consistently well-executed food.

Walk in and notice the restaurant’s towering ceilings and wall-sized illustrations of Italian and St. Louis landmarks. Sunshine pours in through floor-to-ceiling windows and upbeat pop music fills the air (Ace of Base, anyone?).

Queue up to build your bowl from a variety of starches, sauces, proteins and toppings. The possibilities are endless, but we’re loyal to a combination we call the Suzie Bowl (That’s Suzie Craft, marketing director of Niche Food Group.): a half-kale, half-farro base, anchovy dressing, spicy tofu, green olives, crispy garlic, herbs and a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey. Spicy and sweet with briny bites, fresh crunch and pops of intense garlic and herbs – it’s been hard to order anything else since she suggested it on opening day.

While such healthy options are available, comfort combinations should also be indulged in, like a strozzapreti pasta bowl with Alfredo sauce, grilled chicken, herbs and toasted almonds. It’s a version of fettuccine Alfredo also known as our Achilles’ heel. Or go for executive chef Michael Petres’ new Detroit-style pizza: square focaccia-like dough with edge-to-edge cheese that bubbles at the brink into a salty, crackling border. Pair that with a Negroni slushie, and you’re in for a good night.

Niche Food Group took a national, fast-casual business model and made it work. Will it ever be a franchise? The possibilities, like their bowls, seem endless.

 

Related Content

Lunch Rush: Porano Pasta

• Hit List: 4 new must-try restaurants in February

• Sneak Peek: Porano Pasta on Washington Avenue

The Scoop: Gerard Craft to open fifth restaurant downtown 

Photo by Carmen Troesser

By the Book: Home by Bryan Voltaggio

Friday, November 11th, 2016

BTB_Nov16_Round1_1

 

I am a major Top Chef fan (Season 14 starts Dec. 1!). Season six, which featured brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, was a favorite – so much so that on a my first trip to Baltimore, I took a detour to Frederick, Maryland to eat at Volt, Bryan Voltaggio’s restaurant. It was a wonderful experience. One memorable chicken and beets dish featured local ingredients and several components that came together to make an unforgettable experience.

His cookbook, Home, reminds me of that dish. Many recipes have smaller sub-recipes that are additional components on a plate. I’m currently in a cooking rut, and the thought of making several recipes for one dish was daunting. So I decided to make simple lemon cookies.

There are only two recipes in for this dessert: one for the cookie and one for a glaze. The dough was easy to make, though the dough needed to rest at least four hours (surprise, I didn’t), and they must cool thoroughly so the glaze can harden (yeah, skipped that part, too). Even with my shortcuts, the recipes yielded tiny, slightly doughy treats with a hint of lemon and a sweet glaze that I’ll likely make again.

Skill level: Moderate. Recipes are long and detailed, but they sound delicious.
Other recipes to try: Everything mashed potatoes, loaded hash browns
The verdict: Check back next week!

 

Lemon Cookies
Makes about 18 cookies

1½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Glaze
3 Tbsp. water
2½ Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
2½ cups powdered sugar

Make the cookies
• Sift the flour, cornstarch, and salt together. Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on low speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vanilla and lemon zest and mix until smooth. Stop the mixer and add all of the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl, 2 to 3 minutes. Put the dough in a covered container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
• Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
• Use a ¾-ounce ice cream scoop to portion the dough into balls, and lay them out on the baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie. Bake for 8 minutes, or until the cookies are set and slightly golden brown around the edges. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Make the glaze
• Put the water, lemon juice, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until the salt dissolves. Add the powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Set a wire rack over a baking sheet. Dip the tops of each cookie into the glaze and then set them on the rack. Sprinkle the cookies with freshly grated lemon zest and leave them on the rack until the glaze hardens, about 20 minutes.

Reprinted with permission from Little Brown

Tweet Beat: The week’s top tweets from #STL foodies

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Think you should be on this list? Prove it. Tweet @SauceMag.

Tweet Beat: The week’s top tweets from #STL foodies

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Think you should be on this list? Prove it. Tweet and tag @SauceMag.

 

By the Book: Big Bad Breakfast by John Currence

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

BTB_Oct16_2_Round1_1

 

Big Bad Breakfast sounded like a fun cookbook, and author John Currence has the credentials to back up his recipes. He won a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South in 2009, and he is the chef-owner of several restaurants in Oxford, Mississippi, including (of course) Big Bad Breakfast.

I chose to make his German pancake. Like its Dutch baby cousin, it’s baked rather than cooked on the stovetop, producing a gloriously puffy breakfast treat that elicits oohs and ahs when it hits the table. Currence’s version fills a simple batter with apples and butter, then pours into an oven-proof skillet atop even more butter, apples and dark brown sugar, creating a sticky caramelized base.

The pancake puffed up as promised, but it took much longer than the recommended 12 to 14 minutes. After nearly 20 minutes, the top still had not browned as I’d hoped, so I helped it along with the broiler. Though it wasn’t quite the voluminous showstopper I’d hoped for, it tasted wonderful when finished with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a splash of maple syrup. I’d definitely make this again.

Skill level: Moderate. There are some recipes in here that require more time and more obscure ingredients.
Other recipes to try: Sauteed trout, soft scrambled eggs, chanterelle mushrooms, Louisiana crabcake Benedict
The verdict: Check back next week when Big Bad Breakfast takes on the next breakfast challenger.

 

BTB_Oct16_2_Round1_2

 

German Pancake
1 to 2 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ cup whole milk
¼ cup buttermilk
6 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 Granny Smith apple, cored, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
¼ cup clarified butter or your preferred cooking fat
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Confectioners’ sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice, for sprinkling

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• In a bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla. Pour the milk mixture into the flour mixture and whisk together until smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, then stir in half of the apple.
• Warm an 8-inch cast-iron skillet (or nonstick skillet) over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the clarified butter, then place the remaining apple slices around the bottom of the skillet and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Pour the batter evenly over the top and slide the skillet into the oven. Bake until the top of the pancake is golden brown, puffy and firm to the touch, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice, and serve immediately, preferably directly from the pan.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

Eat This: Honey-glazed chicken wings at Diner’s Delight

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

092916_eatthis

 

In business since 1969, Diner’s Delight has been around long enough to know a thing or two about chicken. Its tender, sticky Honey-glazed Chicken Wings are fried until crackling crisp, then lacquered in a spicy honey glaze for a finishing touch of sweet heat. Practice makes perfect chicken wings.

 

-photo by Carmen Troesser

Tweet Beat: The week’s top tweets from #STL foodies

Friday, September 30th, 2016

Think you should be on this list? Prove it. Tweet and tag @SauceMag.

Tweet Beat: The week’s top tweets from #STL foodies

Friday, September 16th, 2016

Think you should be on this list? Prove it. Tweet and tag @SauceMag.

 

By the Book: Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors by Erik Cosselmon and Janet Fletcher

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

BTB_Oct16_Round1_1

 

Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors is compilation of dishes from the titular restaurant located in San Francisco. While it was filled with fresh salads and sides, I was after a winning entree.

Most of the meat and fish dishes in the book overwhelmed. Preparing whole fish on a Monday night was out of the question. Proteins lean heavily toward lamb and rabbit, which makes sense for a Greek restaurant, but I don’t eat either. Many require grilling over charcoal, which I don’t have. I settled on a rib-eye. The recipe required only a simple rub, a few minutes on a grill (or in my case, a cast-iron skillet) and a douse in the restaurant’s Kokkari Dressing.

Rich rib-eye is always a winner, but the dressing was the standout here. This lemony, herbaceous, garlicky vinaigrette complimented the meat, cutting through the fatty steak. I normally baste my steaks in butter, but this vinaigrette offered the same rich finishing touch.

Skill level: Intermediate. Recipes are a little complex but doable.
This book is for: People who want light, fresh fare and are willing to work for it.
Other recipes to try: Kokkari Potatoes and Grilled Whole Fish with Kokkari Dressing
The Verdict: Check back soon when Kokkari takes on the next challenger.

 

 

091416_btb

 

Grilled Rib-eye with Kokkari Dressing
4 servings

2 20-oz. bone-in rib-eye steaks, preferably dry-aged, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. Steak Rub (recipe follows)
Kokkari Dressing (recipe follows)
4 lemon halves, each wrapped in cheesecloth

• Prepare a hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to high. Season each steak on both sides with the steak rub, using a total of ½ tablespoon per steak. Massage the seasoning into the steaks well on both sides.
• Grill the steaks on both sides to desired doneness, about 7½ minutes total for medium-rare. Watch for flare-ups from dripping fat, moving the meat away from the heat until the flames die down, if needed. Transfer to a platter, drizzle the steaks with dressing, and serve at once with the lemon.

Steak Rub

½ cup sea salt
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)

• In a food processor, combine all the ingredients and process until the herbs are completely pulverized and the mixture feels like moist sand. You can use the rub immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. For longer keeping, spread the freshly made mixture on a baking sheet and leave it at room temperature until it is completely dried out, a day or more, depending on humidity. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

Kokkari Dressing
Makes ½ cup

6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. capers, rinsed and minced
2 tsp. minced shallot
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ tsp. chopped fresh oregano
¼ tsp. dried wild Greek oregano, crumbled
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

• In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, capers, shallot, garlic, parsley and fresh oregano. Add the dried oregano and whisk in salt and pepper to taste.

Reprinted with permission from Chronicle Books

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