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Nov 21, 2017
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Meals That Changed My Life: Gian Nicola Colucci at Cielo

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

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Cielo executive chef Gian Nicola Colucci fell in love with food as a kid growing up in Turin, Italy. When he left Turin for the first time at 24 to work at Lidia Bastianich’s Felidia in New York, the city opened his eyes to foods and cultures he’d never experienced. Since then, he has worked at luxury hotels that have taken him all over the world and picked up influences from Capri to Hyderabad before landing at the Four Seasons in St. Louis. Here, he shares four meals from four countries that changed his life.

Turin, Italy
“My family [raised] rabbits. In Italy, the city where I grew up – Turin – rabbits are the famous ingredient. [My father] cooks rabbit with potato and tomato; it’s something unique, and today when I try to make it the same way it never comes out like his. I don’t know what he does to it. He doesn’t braise or anything – he puts all the ingredients together in a wood-burning oven, and 40 minutes later he takes it out and it’s perfect! Color, flavor, taste, texture, perfect. I say, ‘How you do that?’ and he says, ‘I don’t know.’

“I do the same – I don’t miss any ingredients – but the result is different. Then I try to sear the meat, roast the potato before, but some ingredients don’t completely cook or overcook; the color’s not there. I do it in the exact same oven. When he cooks, he doesn’t pay the attention I pay, but it’s perfect. Maybe one day he’ll tell me his secret. But it’s him – it’s just him. Food is really particular; a magic situation can happen from the beginning to the end, and even with the same ingredients different people give different results.”

Le Bernardin, New York, 1997
“We went to Le Bernardin – it was a kind of crazy moment of emotion. It was my first time in a three-Michelin star restaurant. What I remember is this parsnip truffle soup combined with escargot that was an explosion of flavor. The soup was creamy. Sometimes I joke with my guys that French people just [add] cream to make everything perfect. It was creamy, but the parsnip flavor was strong; a touch of garlic was there. The combination with the snails was amazing. That, for sure, is a plate you remember. When you do something correct, people come back for that plate. For that plate, I want to go back.”

Japan, 2011
“In Japan, I discovered matcha. Of course you can see this ingredient in the United States, but when you go there, you taste matcha in different kinds of items. I remember this matcha store where you can buy the tea, but you can taste [it in] their gelato, sweet items, cookies. That was really nice, to taste how one ingredient can be used in different items. There, I can tell you I tasted matcha in the right way.

“For chefs, it’s important to understand the ingredient, the flavor and how to use it in your style so that it makes sense, so everything is connected completely. Sometimes now in my gelato I use matcha tea; I use it in pastas. You can operate anywhere in the world if you’re able to open your mind, learn and accept different influences.”

Alain Ducasse, Monte Carlo, 2004
“We went out for dinner at Alain Ducasse in Monte Carlo at this beautiful hotel, Louis Cannes. It was a kind of dream to go there to eat. Each plate had a huge component of vegetables, but presented in a different way. At that time, vegetables for me were just a side. I realized that vegetables were the main ingredients – all the other components were the sides. Something changed in my mind – I never thought of that.

“He did a fillet of turbot (a flat fish, really common in Europe with a white, flaky meat, really sweet) with different roots, vegetables, foam, a base sauce and cream. The vegetables became the main component. The fish was there – it was OK, but all the components he put with different textures and combinations and consistency made the plate special, unique. From that moment, I said, ‘I want to change my concept.’ I continue today to increase vegetables in my plates.”

Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan

Meera Nagarajan is art director at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
Sauce Magazine: November 2017

• Meals That Changed My Life: Mike Randolph

• Meals That Changed My Life: Christy Augustin

What I Do: Bernie Lee of Hiro Asian Kitchen

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

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Leaving everyone and everything you know to come to the United States and pursue a dream is the quintessential immigrant experience. Hiro Asian Kitchen owner Bernie Lee’s story is no different. After leaving Malaysia to study, learn the culture and improve his English in St. Louis, Lee seized the opportunity to open his own restaurant (609 Restaurant & U Lounge).

Now Lee serves some of the city’s best Asian fusion at Hiro, where he has slowly added Malaysian dishes he grew up eating. At first, he wanted to have a business that welcomed all people. Now, it’s become a place where he can share his culture.

 

“You just have to learn how to survive. When I was in [college], one of my classmates told me I spoke the worst English he ever heard in his life. It was so embarrassing. I didn’t know how to express myself. In my class, I was always the last pick [in a group presentation] because they thought I didn’t speak well. I spoke six other languages they didn’t even understand. But it forced me to be better.”

“I’m Malaysian-Chinese. My parents are first-generation Malaysian-Chinese. My grandparents in the 1940s were refugees. They escaped from China, from the revolution, very young – 15, 16, 17. They were very poor, and as refugees, what do they know? They worked. They had tons of babies – work, have a baby, work, have a baby. Refugees, they all have to go through the same things. It’s never easy.”

“The motivation behind 609 was I was not treated nicely at a bar one day. I was bullied in public. I told myself someday I need to create a place where everybody is welcome. Two years later, I had an opportunity to open my own place. To be honest, I was 27, I was young. I said, ‘Screw it, let’s do it! If I fail, I fail.’”

“Americans only eat fish fillet. No bone! No skin! No head! No tail! Nothing! So that’s what I had been taught. Only fillet. So, this is what I know. I had opened 609 and one day I thought, ‘Why don’t we do whole fish?’ People said, ‘No, no, no. Nobody will touch that!’ All right. One day I went to [a local restaurant], and it’s all white folks, and they tell me, ‘Our most famous dish is a red snapper.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s order that.’ It came out whole fried red snapper! Everyone was ordering it, loving it, no problem. You go to this restaurant, pay $30 for a whole crispy fish – it’s just salt, pepper that’s it – you think it’s a great dish. The whole fish in an Asian restaurant, people say, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And I bet they would not even pay $15 for it. It drives me nuts. That’s why for Malaysian Week we [had] whole fish. Head, tail, bone, everything. This is how we eat it back home and that’s how it should be.”

“Just cook it the way you want it. I tell the kitchen, don’t worry how people will like it or not like it. If they don’t like it? Fine! Sorry! Pick another one. I’m very proud of them.”

“Even though the plate is nice, it still has the flavor that reminds them of home. The chicken clay pot [at Hiro], the origin is from Taiwan; we cook it Taiwanese style. This is a dish like meatball pasta – everybody makes good meatball pasta, but when you eat it you go, ‘Oh, my mom’s is better.’ One woman ordered it, and I saw she was crying. I asked if she was OK, I thought she maybe burned herself. She said, ‘No, this dish reminds me of my mom.’ Her mom had passed away. She said, ‘We ate this when we were kids, this is exactly what my mom would cook.’”

“You have to trust yourself. You have to believe in your culture. If you believe, you can deliver. If you don’t believe, there’s no point.”

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Meera Nagarajan is art director at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Sauce Magazine: October 2017 

• Best of Brunch 2017

• What I Do: Alisha Blackwell-Calvert of Reeds American Table

 

DTWE: 6 rosés for a hot September summer weekend

Friday, September 15th, 2017

St. Louis summers never end in September. What better way to combat 90-degree weekends than with a refreshing rosé? Here, six beloved bottles that cash in at $14 or less.

 

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1. Saint-Reine Traditionnelle Dry Rosé
$13. Total Wine, 90 Brentwood Promenade Court, Brentwood, 314.963.3265, totalwine.com

 

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2. Jacques Pelvas Brut Rosé
$11. The Wine and Cheese Place, 9755 Manchester Road, St. Louis, 314962.8150, wineandcheeseplace.com

 

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3. Charles & Charles Rosé
$13. Dierbergs, 1080 Lindemann Road, St. Louis, 314.238.0400, dierbergs.com

 

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4. Scaia Rosato
$12.50. Parker’s Table, 7118 Oakland Ave., Richmond Heights, 314.645.2050, parkerstable.com

 

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5. Gerhard Markowitsch Zweifelt and Blaufrankich blend Rosé
$14. Parker’s Table, 7118 Oakland Ave., Richmond Heights, 314.645.2050, parkerstable.com

 

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6. Alloy Wine Works Everyday Rosé
$8. Lukas Wine and Spirits, 15678 Manchester Road, Ellisville, 636.227.4543, lukas.store

 

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7. Axel des Vignes Bordeaux Rose
$12. Balaban’s, 1772 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield, 636.449.6700, balabanswine.com

Eat This: Root Vegetable Tagine at Olio

Friday, September 1st, 2017

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We are obsessed with the Root Vegetable Tagine at Olio. Turmeric-scented rice serves as the base for a plethora of root vegetables including rutabaga, parsnips, carrots and turnips. Their varied sweetness is complemented by coriander, cumin, ginger and the exotic flavors of cardamom and orange blossom. A handful of rehydrated cranberries provides a tart, fruity bite to this richly satisfying, aromatic vegetarian dish.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Meera Nagarajan is art director at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
Eat This: The Classic Breakfast Sandwich at Kitchen Kulture’s The Kart

Eat This: Trout Over Grit Cakes at The Muddled Pig Gastropub

Eat This: Kale-ifornication Salad at Pi Pizzeria

Meals That Changed My Life: Mike Randolph

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

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Chef Mike Randolph has opened a number of restaurants since working at Chicago’s now-shuttered Moto. Starting with The Good Pie in 2008, Randolph went on to open Half & Half, Little Country Gentleman, Medianoche, Randolfi’s and Público. As he gears up to open Half & Half’s second location in Webster Groves this summer, he told us about one meal he ate in 2001 when he was at a professional fork in the road and the late chef Michel Richard changed his life.

 

Citronelle, Washington, D.C. (2001)
“I was finishing school for political science and had just kind of realized I hadn’t done well enough to get the jobs I really wanted. I didn’t want to muddle around at the bottom of the industry, so I started thinking about culinary school. One night [my wife, my parents and I] went to Michel Richard’s Citronelle in D.C. It was in the Ritz-Carlton in Georgetown, and the restaurant had this beautiful glass-front kitchen. It was the first time I had seen four guys plating one plate of food. And I remember thinking, ‘Look how calm everything is.’ The kitchens I had worked in were like a mad rush, and here’s this place and nobody’s breaking a sweat.

“One of the things that really stuck out to me was that there was a sense of humor in the food. They had the toques, the pressed chef jackets, tweezers, all that … but at the same time they didn’t take themselves too seriously. I remember getting a plate that looked like a sunny side up egg with bacon and toast. I think the toast was marzipan, the bacon was something, the egg was set panna cotta for the whites and a mango for the middle. Now, that dish is the Food Network version of molecular gastronomy, like, ‘You can do this at home in six easy steps!’ But in 2001, it was eye-opening. Here you are at this French institution, and you expect this delicate little financier, and then here comes this cafeteria tray. There was the sense that Michel Richard was having fun with you at the end of your meal.

“This was before Moto and Alinea. Throughout the course of the night, I was just totally blown away that food could be something that I never knew about. It was perfectly seasoned small bites of food, tons of textures – that was Michel Richard’s big thing. Every dish had some crunchy element, some kind of creative textural contrast. It was absolutely my first exposure to any of that, and I think that’s what made me so interested in Moto. At this point in my life, [molecular gastronomy] is something I’ve grown out of – now I just want a perfectly cooked piece of meat with one sauce. But I felt like at that time it was cool to research and delve into what food could be – texturally and flavor-wise. I’ve had a lot of pretty transcendent meals, but that stands alone.”

 

Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan

Editors’ Note: The print issue of this story incorrectly stated that the new Half & Half location would be in Kirkwood. This piece has been updated with the correct location. 

What I Do: Tyler Davis at Element

Monday, May 1st, 2017

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Tyler Davis is a details man. From crafting beautiful desserts as executive pastry chef at Element, to designing unique menus for weekly Purveyor’s Table pop-up dinners at Brennan’s, to single-handedly managing his online dessert business, Alchemy Artisan Bakery, Davis aims his self-proclaimed Type A tendencies at confections as visually stunning as they are delicious. Here, the busy sweet tooth shared about finding his passion and making it happen.

“Mom’s the strongest person I know. I didn’t have a father figure growing up – Mom was my mom and my dad. I fell into cooking because she couldn’t always be around to cook. When I was 9 or 10 I was like, ‘I don’t want to eat ramen noodles.’ I called her up and said, ‘How do you fry chicken?’ She was like, ‘Don’t burn down the house.’ She taught me over the phone and I made it.”

“She never bought us presents, but she would always ask what we wanted for our birthday meal and for me, that is the biggest way to show your love.”

“I went to school for cello. I wanted to be a classical musician. I love music, but when you start looking at grad school, auditions, and then you start to see the ratio of classical musicians that have jobs versus those that don’t have jobs and how difficult it is in that industry, I knew deep down inside I wasn’t passionate enough about that to take it to the next level.”

“My mind is always going. I like to start with an original thing and then mix and match it. We’ll have desserts on the spring menu like a cool version of an ice cream sandwich. It has taro ice cream with a matcha dacquoise and black sesame powder. It’s not your typical ice cream sandwich.”

“I started to cook on the side for a few friends to make a little extra money in college. … During that time, it was all experimentation, so anytime I would cook for my friends I was like, ‘Hey, I just saw this on Food Network – I want to try it.’ It definitely sparked a fire. That was the time when all the really cool shows came out, like ‘Top Chef.’ I had never seen anything like that – if I’m in college, I’m not going to spend $60 to $70 going out to eat, but when you see stuff on ‘Top Chef’ you’re like, ‘What is that! This is amazing.’ I became a sponge. Anything that had to do with cooking, I was about it. I watched ‘Yan Can Cook.’ I watched anything with Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, Anthony Bourdain, ‘Top Chef’ – Bravo! You couldn’t take me away from Bravo.”

“Alinea was overwhelming. All the courses were phenomenal, but the dessert course stood out – it was a chocolate dish. It had chocolate soil, chocolate rocks, chocolate creme brulee that was a liquid before and they poured it in a ring mold, took [it] off and it was already set and I was like, ‘I don’t even know what’s happening right now!’”

“You can’t be afraid to fail, because it’s going to happen. It’s definitely going to happen. One time I tried to bake – oh my God, it was horrible – this really, really cool pie crust. I wanted it to be cookie crust. I don’t know what I was thinking. … I ended up using baking soda instead of baking powder, and it completely went everywhere and flooded out the oven. But you can’t be afraid to try new things.”

 

Photo by Ashley Gieseking

Meera Nagarajan is art director at Sauce Magazine.

Related Content
Sauce Magazine: May 2017

What I Do: Patrick Olds of Louie’s Wine Dive

The Scoop: Josh Charles leaves Element, heads to Blood & Sand

 

Eat This: Lobster turnovers at Sidney Street Cafe

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

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The Lobster Turnovers at Sidney Street Cafe are a study in richness. Sweet pieces of lobster are wrapped in flaky filo dough, brushed with clarified butter and baked until golden. If that wasn’t enough, they’re finished with a cream sauce infused with San Marzano tomatoes, brandy, tarragon and a hint of chipotle, Tabasco and cayenne for a subtle kick. Class dismissed.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Related Content

James Beard Foundation names Kevin Nashan, Kevin Willmann Best Chef: Midwest finalists 

The Scoop: Kevin Nashan to launch new food program at 4 Hands

The Scoop: Sidney Street Cafe pastry chef Robert Zugmaier nominated for The People’s Best New Pastry Chef by Food & Wine

Eat This: Fried artichoke salad at Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

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The fried artichoke salad at Katie’s Pizza & Pasta Osteria is a balancing act of temperatures and textures. Blooming in hot oil, the crisp, tender fried artichokes are the stars, supported by roasted asparagus on a bed of dark leafy greens. Studded with dollops of tangy goat cheese, pistachios and a drizzle of syrupy aged balsamic, this salad makes the perfect start to pizza.

 

Photo by Carmen Troesser

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

Friday, December 9th, 2016

From memorable cookbooks to a ridiculously gorgeous range, here’s what Sauce art director Meera Nagarajan really wants this holiday season.

 

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1. Nopi: The Cookbook
On a recent visit to London, I had a beautiful lunch at Yotam Ottolenghi’s Nopi. The highlight of the meal was the pan-fried mackerel served with tamarind sauce and raw coconut salad – which I can now make any time thanks to Ottolenghi’s latest cookbook.
$40. Left Bank Books, left-bank.com

 

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2. Kentuckyaki Sauce
Wandering The Smokehouse Market on the hunt for a clever weeknight dinner idea, butcher Andrew Jennrich suggested this sauce. I soused leftover chicken and broccoli for instant teriyaki magic with a bourbon twist.
$12. The Smokehouse Market, anniegunns.com

 

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3. Plantation Pineapple Rum
Fruity rums are all the rage – and I don’t mean Malibu. I’m talking aged rum infused with ripe fruit. Try sipping this neat or over ice before you attempt a grown piña colada.
$35. Lukas Wine & Spirits, lukasliquorstl.com

 

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4. Grand Palais 180
Remember the ranges inside Gusteau’s kitchen in Pixar’s Ratatouille? I do. The closest thing I’ve found to them in real life is the La Cornue Grand Palais 180 in brilliant black with brushed brass. I would never try to justify buying a $22,800 range, but it is spectacular – and I’m worth it.
Starts at $22,800, lacornue.com

 

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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
• Holiday Gift Guide: 5 gifts for the Food Snob

 

Ratatouille image courtesy of Disney 

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.

 

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{ 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

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