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Mar 29, 2015
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Extra Sauce: A chat with Lidia Bastianich

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015



Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich has made a career preparing, exploring and educating others through Italian-American cuisine. Now she returns to St. Louis for Falling in Love … In Five Courses, an annual five-course dinner to benefit students at St. Louis Community College. Bastianich will oversee the dinner, which takes place this Saturday, Feb. 28 at Four Seasons Hotel, with help from area chefs Gianni Colucci of Cielo, Casey Shiller of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar and STLCC culinary students.

Here, Bastianich shares her thoughts on the St. Louis culinary scene, the importance of culinary education, and who she turns to when she needs a little help in the kitchen.

This event supports the students at St. Louis Community College. Why is this something you wanted to be involved in?
What appeals to me is the education of young people that don’t have the opportunity to make a jump to a four-year college right away. This is such a great stepping stone.

You’ll be speaking with some of these culinary students before the event. What lessons are most important for them to learn?
You have to leave the door open. Culinary school is not just hands-on training … It is the possibility of opening a business, a restaurant, a store. It is the possibility of becoming a culinary teacher, of being a journalist on food, of writing cookbooks … teaching children.

You’ve been to St. Louis many times over the years. What are some of your favorite things about our city?
I connect because of the deeply-rooted Italian immigrant history that it has, from The Hill to the different restaurants, bocce playing, Yogi Berra comes from there … There are a lot of Italian-isms, if you will … I had a great time at Rigazzi’s, Trattoria Marcella, Cunetto House of Pasta, Giovanni’s on the Hill, Charlie Gitto’s.

What are your thoughts on the St. Louis food scene?
I think that it’s a vibrant city as far as food. They enjoy their wine … they’re into food, the markets… I think it has joie de vivre.

People seem to be more into food now than ever before, not just dining out but cooking, too. To what do you attribute that?
Many things: the press, the writing on food, all the exposure: television, Internet, social media. Food is all over, and the understanding and importance of food for our health … And beyond that, the pleasure that food gives us. Food is a venue for nurturing somebody, for loving, for expressing a kind of affection. So it has become a social medium. I remember I had the first restaurant in ’71, it was “OK, a quick dinner and then let’s go to a show.” Now, dinner is the show.

What new projects are you working on?
My third children’s book just came out (Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidias Egg-citing Farm Adventure). … I’m working on a master cookbook that’s going to be out in the fall. It is a compilation of over 400 recipes, a glossary, traditions, instructions and all of that.

What are you cooking right now?
Soups. My 94-year-old mother lives with me. I make soups and freeze them so when I’m traveling she has her meals ready. … In this weather, it is all about soup and braised meats. Before I left, did a big pot of braised ribs. So there you have the ribs are falling off the bone, but also the sauce, and then I package it for Grandma and she has a meal.

You’re an authority on Italian-American cooking, but when you branch out, whom do you look to for advice?
I can call up Jacques (Pepin) and say “Hey, Jacques…” But when I kind of venture a bit out, certainly Rick Bayless for Mexico … Ming Tsai if I’m going to have Chinese problems, or Indian… Madhur Jaffrey is my friend also. So I’m covered.

Editor’s Note: Sauce is a sponsor of Falling in Love … In Five Courses.

Extra Sauce: 5 swoon-worthy desserts for Valentine’s Day

Thursday, February 12th, 2015

For some, Valentine’s Day is a day to spend with your sweetheart. For others, it’s a day to spend sprawled on the ground in the fetal position, nursing a half-empty bottle of cheap wine and force-cuddling Tibbles, your neighbor’s cat. Either way, desserts for Feb. 14 are a must. Here, 5 delicious treats and your significant other, human or otherwise, will love:




1. According to Beyoncé, there’s nothing quite like being drunk in love – or drunk off 30 of these Pomegranate Mojito Cupcakes.




2. Inspired by those petite fancy French desserts from the bakery down the street, this giant pistachio and berry Macaron Cake proves size really does matter.




3. This 12-serving Chocolate Crepe stuffed with fruit and boozy whipped cream is the perfect indulgence for a crowd – or just you and Tibbles. No judgment.




4. What’s better than a warm chocolate chip cookie? One that you pull out of the oven Half Baked and eat straight from the pan.




5. Skip the fire hazard and bake a S’mores Pie in the comfort and warmth of your own kitchen instead.

-cupcake and crepe photos by Jonathan S. Pollack; cookie photo by Carmen Troesser


Extra Sauce: Your top 4 Cajun and Creole restaurants

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Mardi Gras weekend is upon us, which means we’re diving into po’boys, gumbo, jambalaya and all our favorite NOLA-inspired dishes. Last year, you voted for your favorite Cajun and Creole restaurants during our 2014 Readers Choice Awards. Here, your top 4 spots to let the good times roll:



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Extra Sauce: Team Sauce’s favorite chicken wings

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Chicken wings are ubiquitous on a Super Bowl spread. We’re all for making our own, but nothing can beat our favorite restaurants, bars and barbecue joints. Here’s where Team Sauce goes when we’re craving chicken wings:



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Did we pick one of your favorites? Are we out of our minds? Who did we miss? Tell us your go-to chicken wings in the comments below and find our favorites here: Three Kings Public House, Cleveland-Heath, Planter’s House, St. Louis Wing Co., Hiro Asian Kitchen and Bogart’s Smokehouse.


-Three Kings photo by Greg Rannells; Bogart’s photo by Carmen Troesser



Extra Sauce: 5 recipes to win your Super Bowl party

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest unofficial American holiday of the year, and as with all our holidays, it comes with it’s own traditional menu of delicious eats. Step up your game day grub with five recipes for our favorite football food:


1. Get smoky with a big pot of Smoked White Bean Chili. (And before you cry foul, we’ve got the traditional red chili fans covered, too.)


2. Pulled Pork and pigskin are a classic combination, and ours simmers all day in a root beer-chile sauce.


3. Fire up the grill and savor the sweet heat of Harissa Honey Hot Wings.


4. No harissa? No problem. These Honey Sriracha Wings require just five key ingredients, including that bottle of rooster sauce in your fridge.


5. Fear not, vegan and vegetarians – even meat-heads will drool over these Macho Cauliflower Poppers. Sharing is optional.


-chili photo by Michelle Volansky; pulled pork photo by Greg Rannells; cauliflower poppers photo by Carmen Troesser; harissa wings photo from Balaboosta by Einat Admony

Extra Sauce: 12 healthy recipes to help keep New Year’s resolutions

Monday, January 5th, 2015


{Seven-Grain Salad with Italian Sausage, Peppers and Capers}

Pledging to eat healthier in 2015 is a noble endeavor, but one cannot live on poached chicken breasts and lettuce alone. Here, 12 nutritious – and delicious – recipes to help maintain your New Year’s resolve.



{Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce}

1. We all know fish is packed with heart-healthy fats, but some landlocked Midwesterners are still leery of cooking it themselves. This recipe for Fish en Papillotte is a foolproof method for cooking perfect fish fillets every time. Steam is also used to make this Poached Salmon slathered with a quick and easy mustard sauce. Ready for more a more advanced (but still super simple) cooking method? Quickly pan-sear a halibut fillet and serve with a textural medley of sides in this recipe for Halibut with Grapefruit Fennel Slaw.


2. Ramp up your protein intake sans meat with beans and other legumes. A spiced bowl of Curried Sweet Potatoes and Lentils makes for a quick, filling meal , or toss quinoa and lucky black-eyed peas in a spicy lime dressing for a Red Quinoa and Black-Eyed Pea Salad. Stomach growling? Pack together these Lentil, Chickpea and Quinoa Burgers to sate even the most famished appetite.



{Kale Caesar Salad}

3. Still can’t get enough kale? Try a Kale Caesar Salad that eschews anchovies for seaweed. If you’re pressed for time, this Shrimp and Citrus Salad comes together in less than 10 minutes and adds a citrus spark to winter with grapefruit (adding some chopped avocado would not go amiss either), and humble roots can brighten any frigid January day in a Beet and Carrot Salad.



{Warm Mushroom Salad}

4. If crunchy raw salads scream “rabbit food” to you, opt for a lettuce-less creation instead. Try a Warm Spiced Roasted Root Vegetable Salad studded with briny feta and crunchy pepitas or saute a mess of woodsy mushrooms for this Warm Mushroom Salad. We love to dig into this Seven-Grain Salad filled with Italian sausage, peppers and salty capers  (and yes, it counts as a salad!). the idea of


Extra Sauce: Ligaya Figueras Predicts 2015 Trends

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

The time has come once again when we food fanatics weigh in on the edible landscape of the year ahead. But first, let’s take a quick look back to my 2014 predictions.

Illinois has, indeed, been a hotspot, especially for craft breweries. This year saw breweries launch in Belleville (4204 Main Street Brewing Co.), Edwardsville (Recess Brewing) and O’Fallon (Peel).

Last year, I also speculated we’d see more all-veg restaurants with sophisticated plates. Small Batch, Seedz Café and Lulu’s Local Eatery brick-and-mortar on S. Grand Boulevard joined the small club of places to grab a meat-free bite. So did Five Bistro chef-owner Anthony Devoti’s five-week veg-centric pop-up this summer, Root & Vine.

Among local food trends, we’ve become thoroughly versed in ancient grains, but this was farro’s breakout year, and cauliflower is still having a fine run as a faux steak. The liquid stars of 2014 have been cherry alcohol and house-made soda and tonics.

What will 2015 bring? Here’s what I read in the booze-infused tea leaves (tea cocktails – you should try one):




1. Bitter greens get big.
We’ve been won over by raw kale salads and crispy kale chips. But there are more bitter greens than the big K. At Death in the Afternoon, dandelion greens and chicory currently fill the bowl of a spicy Vietnamese grilled beef salad, and the restaurant’s Cobb salad is studded red with a blend of radicchio and its Italian cousin, Treviso. Get ready for dandelion pesto, collard chips and chicory in puntarelle salads.



{Root celery soup with sorrel sorbet at Niche}


2. Regionalism migrates to the Midwest
What Nordic chefs at places like Noma and Dill are doing in cooking with foods native to their area tundra territory has attracted attention because it’s sustainable and a reminder that food is about place. Locally, Scratch Brewing’s indigenous beers are an example of this movement, called regionalism. On the food side, Gerard Craft and his team at Niche are breaking new ground in sourcing ingredients from the Show-Me state. At that restaurant, it’s out with citrus (because it doesn’t grow here) and in with local foods that hold citrus flavors. It means sourcing Missouri-grown wheat from Richard Knapp to make bread. Craft is even on a quest to find Missouri salt, once an important industry for this state. It’s one thing to source locally. Going native takes that a step forward. Look for more chefs to help shape what Made in MO cuisine looks like.





3. Low-gravity beers keep things sessionable – and tasty.
Craft beer fans have spoken: they want to occupy bar stools for hours. However, for a drinking session to last that long, the brew’s gotta be low in alcohol. A lager with no personality won’t suffice because beer nerds want character, too. Of the two dozen craft beers on tap at The Side Project Cellar, 10 are 6-percent ABV or lower, and three of those – Side Project Grisette, Side Project Saisonnier and The Civil Life  Milk Stout – clock in at less than 5 percent.



{Chef-owner Ben Poremba at Old Standard, his new fried chicken shack}


4. The fried chicken run has just begun.
Quality options abound for Sunday fried chicken dinners, and you can even find expertly prepared fried chicken at ethnic restaurants. Chicken shack Old Standard is but two months old and another, Byrd & Barrel, is slated for early 2015. If fried chicken follows the 2014 trend of whiskey bars, we’re going to see a lot more restaurants giving us the bird.



{Bread service at Scape}

5. Better bread is rising.
Restaurants aren’t taking their bread for granted anymore. And we’re not passing up the bread course when the basket is filled with flaky buttermilk biscuits and moist cornbread accompanied by thoughtful jams and compound butters. We’ve been wowed by the bread selection at Old Standard and Juniper, as well as the complimentary rosemary focaccia at Cucina Pazzo. Scape just upped its bread service with fresh baked focaccia, lavash and pretzel sticks served with white bean puree, olive tapenade and whipped butter. Watch for more in-house baking programs to rise.

Extra Sauce: Top 5 Dishes of 2014

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Sauce restaurant critic Michael Renner has tasted his fair share of St. Louis cuisine. All year, he shared his thoughts on New and Notable restaurants, from pizza to Southern fare to pasta. Here, he shares his top five dishes of 2014:




No. 5: Bread Basket at Juniper
Despite all the great food — the deviled eggs, that tangy pimento grilled cheese, fine fried chicken — I’m going with Juniper’s bread basket because even at $9, it’s a worthy indulgence when there’s buttermilk biscuits, cornbread, hush puppies, popovers and fluffy angel biscuits made with lard.




No. 4: Short Rib Pappardelle at Cucino Pazzo
Perfectly al dente house-made pappardelle noodles, carrots, celery and tender, beefy short ribs braised for 16 hours in red wine all in a sauce of cipollini onions and roasted mushrooms? No wonder it’s their most popular dish.




No. 3: Venison Chop at Element
Just like baseball season, it’s gone but it sure was memorable. That farm-raised venison was something. Tasting richer than beef, the big, bone-in seared, savory chop lacked the gaminess of its wild cousin. Roasted root vegetables and a smoked Concord grape sauce balanced winter earthiness with subtle sweetness.





No. 2: Hamburger at Three Flags Tavern
Of course Three Flags’ beef brisket was ground in-house, but it was the house-baked potato bun that didn’t disintegrate and the house sauce (mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and pickle juice) that made this burger such a savory package. A close runner-up: the pan-fried chicken and the accompanying biscuit baked while the bird fries.

And my No. 1 dish of 2014 is…





Lobster Roll at Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co.

Regardless of the style — Maine (served cold with mayo) or Connecticut (tossed with drawn butter and served warm) — what made these rolls even more notable than the chunks of fresh, tender, sweet lobster was the bun: a split-top brioche bun griddled to a buttery, toasted perfection, soft enough for fingers to gently crunch, yet substantial enough cradle all that meat.


And an honorable mention goes to the duck confit at Jax Café Chef-owner Brian Hale showed style and whimsy with a savory chipotle-cherry pancake topped with arugula, creamed corn and a confit of duck leg. A lot of competition for a limited number of taste buds produced surprisingly complementary flavors.

-photos by Jonathan Gayman

Extra Sauce: Top 5 Lunch Dishes of 2014

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Sauce restaurant critic Byron Kerman knows how precious the lunch hour is. All year, he’s shared the highs and lows of new and venerable lunch joints around St. Louis in Power Lunch. Here, he shares his top five lunch dishes of 2014:




No. 5: Buffalo Blue Burger at Lulu’s Local Eats
Lulu’s sweet potato burger has crunchy panko breading on the outside yielding to a soft, moist interior. The Buffalo Blue version adds vegan “ranch” dressing (made with lemon, cucumber and eggless Vegenaise) and a creamy hot sauce to the thickly formed patty. If you can make a better vegan burger, we’d love to try it.




No. 4: Smoked Brisket at Adam’s Smokehouse
The melt-in-your-mouth brisket is the star of the show at Adam’s, where it’s sliced it thin as deli meat. The reddish trim and smoky taste were rapturous. Only a heretic would put a drop of sauce on it.




No. 3: Buttermilk-Cornmeal Pancakes at Southwest Diner
Southwest Diner’s buttermilk-cornmeal pancakes with buttery-brown edges are done just the way pancakes should be: thin and crispy, not fat and fluffy. Ask for real maple syrup for an extra buck to properly anoint these babies.




No. 2: Hot Pastrami Sandwich at Death in the Afternoon
I’ll just come out and say it: The Hot Pastrami sandwich at Death in the Afternoon is quite possibly the best you will ever put in your mouth. It’s crazy-good, largely because the drippings from the thinly sliced pastrami are collected and mixed into a house-made mustard-mayonnaise sauce. I know what you’re thinking: Mayo and pastrami shouldn’t mix. I didn’t care, and you won’t either.

And my No. 1 dish of the year…




Kung Pao Squid at Joy Luck Buffet
The kung pao squid on Joy Luck Buffet’s secret Szechuan menu requires a good 15 minutes to pick a veritable army of dried Szechuan peppers off the plate. The struggle is worth it; pliant squid and peanuts cavort in a kung pao sauce that, like a well-aged Burgundy, takes the diner to a dark, deep, complex place. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only kung pao in town.


-Lulu’s photo by Elizabeth Maxson; Adam’s Smokehouse photo by Jonathan Gayman; Southwest Diner and Death in the Afternoon photos by Elizabeth Jochum; Joy Luck Buffet photo by Carmen Troesser

Extra Sauce: Top 5 Cocktails of 2014

Saturday, December 27th, 2014
Matt Berkley works some odd hours as Sauce’s Nightlife critic, spending many a late night sipping crafted cocktails around St. Louis on a hunt for the very best. Here, Berkley names his top five cocktails of the 2014:




No. 5:  Sandanista Shot at Sandrina’s
The recipe for the Sandanista Shot reads like it came from a fraternity cookbook. One shot of Jose Cuervo is shaken with lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, Sriracha and white pepper for this sinus clearing, adrenaline-shooting monster.




No. 4: Tennessee Rose at Salt + Smoke
A whiskey lover’s dream, this smooth-sipping, rye-based, barrel-aged cocktail warms you from the inside out. This revelation of a drink mixes a robust Dickel Rye Whiskey with sweet ginger liquor, Peychaud’s bitters and a dash of St. Germain.





No. 3: Bloody Ghost at Gamlin Whiskey House
Pepper-infused Jacobs Ghost white whiskey adds bite to this spicy masterwork. My exact description from February: “a tall, white-whiskey infused bloody mary that smacks every other bloody I’ve sample hard across the jaw.”





No. 2: Kentucky Mule at The Whiskey Ring
Whether it’s the dead of winter or a scorching summer day, the Whiskey Ring’s classic Kentucky Mule is a refreshing companion. Ginger beer, a heavy dose of bourbon and a splash of lime come together in a mighty copper mug for this treat.


And the No. 1 drink of 2014 is…




Planter’s House Punch at Planter’s House
The rum and cognac in this icy punch give it a sweet boozy kick, while the lime, lemon, grenadine, bitters and dry curacao blend in to a citrusy, complex finish. The only thing that could make you love this easy sipping drink more is the fact that it’s available to order by the bottle.


-Sandrina’s, Salt + Smoke and Whiskey Ring photos by Michelle Volansky; Gamlin Whiskey House and Planter’s House photos Jonathan Gayman


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