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Aug 20, 2017
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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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

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.

 

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{ ‘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

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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.

 

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