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Aug 22, 2014
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Three Reasons

Three Reasons why we love drinking in Missouri

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

051811_drinksThe accolades keep coming in for our area bartenders and wineries. In the last week alone, a St. Louis bartender and a nearby winery bested national competition. Another bartender received news that he’s headed to compete in NOLA, all proof that drinking in our fair city rivals any in the country. Here are three reasons why we are cheering on beverage-makers in Missouri:

1. TJ Vytlacil deserves a Saucy congrats for being named among the winners in the DonQ Rum 2011 MixItUP Ultimate Mixology Challenge at the annual Manhattan Cocktail Classic held last weekend in New York City. The bartender, whom you can find behind the bar at Demun Oyster Bar, won for his long drink, Love Burns, which featured DonQ Añejo rum. Vytlacil’s victory earned him a spot on the DonQ Team USA, which will go head-to-head against Team Puerto Rico.

2. Justin Cardwell of BC’s Kitchen in Lake St. Louis received news this week that he is one of 18 bartenders from across the country who will compete in the US Bartenders Guild Bacardi Piña Colada competition at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail, a cocktail festival held annually in New Orleans. Cardwell hopes to take home the title with his drink, Pineapple White Wash.

3. Augusta Winery received top honors at the 2011 Riverside International Wine Competition. The winery was named winner of the Terroir Award, which is presented to the winery which displays the best regional character of its wines. In addition, it was Augusta’s 2010 Chardonel that enabled the winery to walk home with the Chairman’s Award, presented to a wine that has won a gold medal with a unanimous vote by the judging panel. Augusta Winery also received gold medals for both the 2010 Seyval Blanc and 2010 Estate Bottled Vidal Blanc and a silver medal for its 2010 Vignoles.

Three Reasons to head to a forest-to-table dinner at Molly’s in Soulard

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

042811_MOREL2Next Wednesday, May 4, the ever-adventurous folks at Molly’s in Soulard are hosting a multi-course dinner featuring foraged mushrooms and wild greens alongside other locally grown eats. Light hors d’oeuvres will be served at 5 p.m., followed by a five-course sit-down dinner. Here’s why we will be attending:

1. We can’t eat enough morels and other seasonal ‘shrooms.
One of the main ingredients used to prepare the dinner will be mushrooms foraged by none other than Missouri’s self-proclaimed Mushroom King, Thomas Weipert. “This guy is shorter and 75 pounds heavier than me, and you can barely keep up with [him],” remarked Molly’s executive chef Bryan Flaxbeard about the master morel hunter whose been prowling for mycelium for nearly 40 years and is the founder of morelhunters.com.

2. The menu will be a surprise.
Because the menu will be created based on what Weipert nabs in the woods – as well as the other wild edibles foraged by Molly’s kitchen crew – the line-up of dishes won’t be determined until a day or so before the event. However, you can be sure that it will be fresh as can be (and that you won’t just graze on greens and fungi, since the remaining ingredients will be sourced from area growers and farmers).

3. The price. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, followed by five more courses, all for $45? Sold!

Want to attend this forest-to-table affair? Call 314.241.6200 to make your reservation.

Three reasons to dine out and give back

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

041211_DineOutSt. Louis is one of the nation’s most generous cities, ranked 8th nationally, based on per-capita giving among large cities in 2009. We in the Gateway City know that charitable giving is important; it’s just a matter of deciding who should get our charitable dollars. Here are three ways to make your dining dollars support some worthy causes right now.

1. Give Back Mondays at Ruth’s Chris Beginning yesterday and running through the end of the year, when you head to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse downtown or in Clayton on Mondays and order the Give Back menu item of the month, 10 percent of sales will be donated to Backstoppers, a group which supports families of public safety workers in the greater St. Louis area who have died while on duty.

2. The Ripening of the Mad Tomato Chef-owner Vito Racanelli Jr.’s new restaurant at 8000 Carondelet Ave., in Clayton is set to officially open May 6. However, you can get a preview of Racanelli’s Southern Italian cuisine by attending the opening fundraiser party on Thursday, April 28. Half of the proceeds from your $30 ticket will support St. Louis area food bank Operation Food Search. Make your reservation by calling 314.802.8883 x 399.

3. Dine in the Dark to help fight blindness. Guests who attend Dining in the Dark at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac hotel on May 11 will don light-blocking blindfolds while dining and use their sense of smell, taste, sound and touch to gain heightened awareness of blindness. Proceeds from the event will support the sight-saving research efforts of national nonprofit Foundation Fighting Blindness. To purchase tickets, visit fightblindness.org or call 847.680.0100.

Three Reasons to check out UnderWAREs

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

032411_UnderwaresUnderground dinners have become trendy over the last few years. And sure, there is a place for a five-course meal prepared by a trained chef, but it will set you back between $50 and $125 – more if you choose a wine flight – plus don’t forget the tip for the servers. For budget-minded folks looking to share conversation and a delicious dinner with interesting people, there’s another operation in existence and it’s called underWAREs.

“A covert sharing operation among the St. Louis community to celebrate food and meet new people,” is how founders Will Fischer and Geraldine Co describe their “secret” society. Dinner parties are just one element of the underWAREs concept. The group also offers a barter circle, whereby food, drinks, classes, arts and crafts, even services, are traded. Lastly, underWAREs publishes an e-zine full of information about St. Louis’ food culture – think of it as an alternative way to become in-the-know about eateries you may have not tried yet.

I recently attended an underWAREs dinner party and will most decidedly be returning. Here’s why:

1. It’s an unpretentious affair. Dinner parties occur monthly and alternate location, taking place in the home of one of the attendees. The crowd is small, usually about 15 people. So, who are these daring diners? Fischer is a recent graduate of Washington University’s School of Engineering and currently works at the university’s office of sustainability. He and his circle of acquaintances enjoy food, embrace the “support local food” mantra, and engage in food and drink experiments such as making yogurt, preserves and hard cider. To shake up the guest list and live up to the credo that “strangers are especially welcome,” attendees are asked not to attend two dinners in a row. Jeans are the customary attire.

2. You’ll share a thoughtful meal. It won’t be a trained chef preparing your meal. Instead, it’s a home cook, perhaps with that cook’s significant other or BFF lending a hand. He or she will put thought and time into making a nice, well-rounded meal made with fresh (and mostly locally sourced) ingredients.

At the dinner that I attended, we noshed on hors d’oeuvres like beet and apple tartare, crostini of quince vinaigrette-marinated flank steak and twice-baked fingerling potatoes with Gouda and a balsamic reduction. The main meal consisted of paprika-spiced chicken tossed in a rice pilaf with roasted onions and peppers served alongside a spinach salad with an excellent blood orange vinaigrette. This, by the way, was a help-yourself affair. Hit the kitchen, fill up your plate, and if you want seconds, go for it. To finish, we enjoyed strawberry granita garnished with Fischer’s homemade port-preserved cherries, plus buñuelos sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, a drizzle of honey and a dab of strawberry jam.

3. It’s affordable. A $10 donation and a libation to share will hardly break the bank. Some diners brought a bottle of wine, others a six-pack of beer. Fischer even batched up a tiki drink and served it in wood-carved tiki mugs.

The next UnderWAREs dinner party will be held Sunday, April 10. To make your reservation or to find out more about this fun organization, visit its Web site.

Three Reasons to try the pie at Pizza-A-Go-Go

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

031711_PizzaAGoGoPizza-A-Go-Go has been a spot you want to go-go to-to since 1967. Here’s why:

1. This place ain’t pretentious, buddy. Getting a meal from Pizza-A-Go-Go is a no-nonsense affair. You have a choice of pizza, pizza or pizza. There are no appetizers, no salads, no calzones and no desserts. The restaurant takes cash or check only; your Visa is powerless here. It’s only open for dinner and it closes a half-hour before the sign says it does, because that’s when the kitchen crew shuts off the ovens. You don’t like it? Tough. The cozy brick building has about 10 tables, and there’s a cooler in the corner for your beers, as this spot is BYOB. If you can’t relax in an atmosphere this informal, you might need a tranquilizer.

2. Let’s talk about the pizza. At Pizza-A-Go-Go, pie comes in two sizes, and at 12 inches, the small is big enough for three people (or one or two, with leftovers highly probable). The crust is house-made and hand-tossed and its thickness is somewhere between a St. Louis-style thin and a traditional medium. It doesn’t overwhelm you like some kind of gluten bomb and instead complements the other ingredients perfectly. The brown bubbles that form near the crust’s edge let the cooks know it’s done – and let you know it’s the real thing. The mozzarella is melted to a seductive golden color, and it fills the craters between the other ingredients in a luscious pizza landscape. The red sauce is tangy and mild, but whoa Nelly, the …

3. sausage they make in-house at Pizza-A-Go-Go gets its own paragraph. A dish is only as good as its ingredients, and if you’re not a vegetarian, we urge you to make the sausage one of the ingredients on your pizza here. This spiced, fresh sausage explodes with juiciness when you bite into it, and each bite – with the fats released from the hot cheese, the savory red sauce, and the chewy crust – comes with an amazing texture and taste. This is the pizza your mother warned you about – plan on eating too much.

Bonus fourth reason: Pizza-A-Go-Go is about 60 seconds away from the Ted Drewes on Chippewa Street – just sayin’.

Three Reasons to try Absolutli Goosed

Friday, March 11th, 2011

031111_absolutliThe martini is not a drink you can gulp. I mean, you’re allowed to, if you’ve just seen something horrible, like a mime, but really you should sip it. A martini is too potent to suck down in mindless, bibulous need. It’s for savoring, for reflecting.

Well, you can reflect in about 80 different ways at Absolutli Goosed. Let’s break it down.

1. You can go savory with a salty, dirty martini, or any other kind. The basic martini instruction page makes it easy: Choose your spirit; make it dry (with dry vermouth), sweet (with sweet vermouth), perfect (with sweet and dry vermouth) or dirty (with olive juice); and choose your garnish, a variety of  olives – plain or stuffed with blue cheese, anchovies or almonds – cocktail onions, pickled asparagus, pickled green beans or others. Finally, make it either straight up or on the rocks. Absolutli Goosed is famous for its Bloody Mary choices, as well – the signature I’m Goosed Mary is made with house-made garlic- and peppercorn-infused vodka and comes in your choice of five heat levels.

2. You can go for the sweet stuff with any of the dozens of sweet concoctions that dominate the menu here. There are 15 cosmos (including the Pink Coconut and the Neapolitan) and a coffee cocktail section with winning concoctions like the Express Yourself: Van Gogh Espresso Vodka, Amarula cream liqueur, white crème de cacao, Kahlua and a chocolate rim. The chocolate dessert martinis in the Pure Decadence section are wild; the Chocolate Cherry Caramel is made with Skyy Infusions Cherry, Amarula cream liqueur, white crème de cacao, caramel and a caramel rim (it’s messy fun). Also consider the Limey Bastard: Finlandia vodka, Keke Beach key lime cream liqueur, lime juice, cream and a whipped cream rim. You’ll want to lick off the whipped cream like a bulldog loose in the kitchen and then drink a pitcher of ‘em.

3. You can go funny, because the Absolutli Goosed crew has an absolutely great sense of humor. Consider ordering drinks with screwy names like Bugs Bunny in Drag (remember that one?), Porky Pig in Leather (me neither), Bitch’n Mona, the Banana Hammock, Godiva Down and a bunch more that will make you blush.

Look around – people are deep in conversation at their tables here. Blame it on the martinis. Whether they’re dry and salty or sticky with chocolate, they’re potent and have a way of making good things seem better and bad things maybe not so crappy after all.

Three Reasons to try Grassi’s West

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

022411_grassiswestIf Grassi’s West were a person, it would be the guitar tech who makes sure the lead guitarist’s instrument is accounted for and in tune or the speechwriter who makes the politician look smarter than he truly is – in a word, “dependable.”

To denizens of Frontenac, Ladue, Creve Coeur and the surrounding communities, Grassi’s West has been the go-to spot for a quick, tasty, traditional Italian meal – and a menu that has items for even the fussiest kid in the family – for more than 25 years. (Those who’ve never been marvel at Grassi’s “secret location” behind the former Coco’s restaurant at South Lindbergh and German boulevards.) Here are three reasons to check out this tasty spot, if you haven’t.

1. The cafeteria-style service means you (and your impatient kids) get your meal quickly. At lunchtime, the super-human speed of the service is something to behold. The dining room’s perfectly unpretentious décor, which seems to have been frozen in time, features area prep school memorabilia on the wall and is the definition of casual and a great place to bring the family. About half the seats are repurposed church pews.

2. Standouts on the menu include the chicken parmesan, the Mary Jo Special (house-made ravioli with meatballs) and the Terry Special (veal on cheese garlic bread). The sandwiches are savory and hearty with a satisfying texture. The meat sauce, or “gravy,” that’s used on many of the pasta dishes is a delicious house-made red sauce, while the pizza is a St. Louis-style, cheesy, thin delight. The expansive menu has so many choices, including pizza and spaghetti for the kiddos. Virtually every dish comes with a house salad, which is tossed before your eyes in a tangy house Italian that saturates the crunchy croutons and coats the sliced green olives in it just right.

3. Regulars know that one of the best intangibles of the Grassi’s experience is the wisecracking that goes on behind the counter from the likes of owner Glenn Pariani and longtime employee Doris. They’re just a fun and charming gang.

Three Reasons to go to the Raging Chili Cook-off

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

021711_chiliHow do you like your chili? Arterial red with big kidney beans and chunks of tomato? Brick-red with a slurry of all-meat, no-bean goodness and the occasional chunk of diced green pepper livening up the party? Are oyster crackers a happy embellishment or simply the garnish of a fool?

Embittered old cowboys may tell you chili is made only one way, but they’re just provincial haters – there are as many kinds of chili as there are cooks, thank goodness. And next weekend, you can experience all of them. Here are three reasons to check out the Raging Chili Cook-off at South City’s Time Out Sports Bar & Grill Feb. 27.

1. The professional/restaurant division of the competition features teams from The Shaved Duck, The Scottish Arms and Tin Can Tavern and Grille. Will they use duck, Scotch and beer in their savory chilis? With this kind of chef talent, no ingredient is out of the question. Other area pubs with chili teams include The Silver Ballroom, The Famous Bar, Sandrina’s, Yummy’s, Colorado Bob’s, The Wicked Lady Pub and Tip Top Food and Spirits.

2. The amateur division of the competition isn’t so amateur.
These local “chili masters” have won awards at top competitions for their tasty chow, and they’re bringing in the big guns for a day of meat, beans and plenty of heat. That means great competition and enough chili for an ornery chuck wagon driver and his team of famished ranch hands. A $15 admission gets you five 3-ounce samples.

3. The Raging Chili Cook-off helps keep an adult St. Louis-area amateur baseball team, the Pabst Blue Ribbon Raging Bulls, with enough balls and Glovolium to get them through the season. Now that the specter of a Pujols-less Cardinals squad is haunting the city, we need to cheer on good baseball players while we (gulp) still can …

Bonus fourth reason: Wrist bands good for all the beer you can drink are $10, or just $5 in advance. Call 314.259.1950 or e-mail Linck@ragingbullsbaseball.com.

Three Reasons to eat at Katie’s Pizzeria

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

020311_katiesLadies, have you heard that Tommy Lee likes to hang out (ahem) at Katie’s Pizzeria in Clayton? No, we’re not talking about the tattooed dude from Motley Crue, but the restaurant’s general manager, who happens to have the same name. Our Mr. Lee is part of the fun at Katie’s, where you can find excellent food and fun people who do not have strange diseases (like the other Tommy Lee may, that is).

1. The ambiance at Katie’s is urban, dimly lit and relaxing – a tremendous change from that of the former tenant, Blackberry Café. The walls are adorned with art by family matriarch Belinda Lee, an art prof at neighboring Wash. U., alongside “family photos and sixth-grade baseball trophies,” Lee noted. Lee encourages his servers to bring in their own music to play in the dining room, making for a very contemporary vibe. Lee gave us the scoop on another fun idear he’s currently kicking around, too. “We’re contemplating projecting movies onto the wall on Friday or Saturday nights and making themed pizzas and desserts – possibly even servers in scaled-down costumes in the theme of the night’s movie.” Sounds fun.

2. The ambiance is swell, but the food is what you’ll be talking about the next day. Prosciutto spring rolls feature asparagus, that salty prosciutto, portabella mushrooms, fresh mozzarella and basil. The fried artichoke salad is a customer favorite – mixed greens with pistachios, goat cheese, asparagus and “artichokes marinated in olive oil, pepper and salt, and then deep-fried quickly for 15 to 20 seconds,” explained Lee, all drizzled in a balsamic dressing. It’s a killer salad. The ricotta doughnuts on the dessert menu are a sticky, sweet, irresistible sin – doughnut batter mixed with ricotta, fried and covered with elderflower honey and powdered sugar. They’re light, tasty and utterly addictive.

3. But of course, to paraphrase James Carville: “It’s the pizza, stupid.”
Katie’s pizza sports a Neapolitan-style crust that never makes a perfect circle, reminding you that someone rolled it out by hand for your order. As for the toppings, the menu is always changing, making room for seasonal pizzas with fresh ingredients, such as the current butternut-squash variety. Some of the combinations, like fennel, sausage, leeks, fontina cheese and pine nuts, or fingerling potatoes, parsnips, pancetta, Parmagiano, onion and rosemary, have stuck around for delicious reasons. The latter may sound a little “un-pizza-like” to some (parsnips?), but it’s a high-carb melange that works, especially in winter. The kitchen staff also cuts meats and grates cheeses daily, and it shows. This pizza is the real deal.

Thank you, Katie’s Pizzeria. Thank you, Lee family. No, thank you, the other Tommy Lee with the drumsticks and the film career.

Three Reasons to sing for your supper at Pam’s Chicago-Style Dogs

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

12611_pamsKaraoke – it’s a word than can conjure dreams of extremely short-term stardom, as well as nightmares of mortification every bit as horrid as being locked into wooden stocks at the center of town for a public shaming. If karaoke is an option for you and your gang, consider these three reasons to take to the stage at Pam’s Chicago Style Dogs & More.

1. Whoever heard of karaoke at a hot dog stand? The sheer oddness of the setting makes for some surreal moments at Pam’s. This is not a bar or club. It’s not dim, it’s not smoky, and the modest food (more on that in a moment) and well-lit interior have a way of bleaching the performers in the absolute sobriety of the moment. Karaoke was never so naked, and yet, there’s a familiar vibe from the audience. People are cheering one another on – while eating authentic Chicago-style hot dogs in steamed poppy-seed buns. The karaoke happens from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays (but runs later than that if the line for the karaoke machine gets long, Pam’s co-owner Dan Revell told us). Customers, who get free karaoke with any purchase, sing from a lighted stage at the very front of the eatery by the window. In fact, people walking past along Delmar Boulevard can see them shaking their booty and emoting from the sidewalk, and have been know to enter Pam’s just to see if they sound as good as they look. Kid Rock, Metallica, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga have been popular choices recently, Revell reported.

2. The lack of a liquor license and the early hour mean that this is one of few places where families can enjoy karaoke together. Kids of all ages can and do take the mic. Some are cheered on by stage parents who seem ready for Toddlers and Tiaras, and some are shy, preferring to hide behind mommy’s legs, but most are somewhere in the middle. Families adore the opportunity for some karaoke fun, Revell said, giving mom, dad and the kids all a turn to embarrass themselves. “No one else offers this kind of thing for kids who want to be the next American Idol,” said Revell.

3. The cuisine at Pam’s offers intrigue for those who’ve never been to one of the corner hot dog joints in the Windy City, along with those who have and miss that high-calorie fare served at a rapid clip from behind a counter. The menu features authentic Chicago dogs nestled in their “salad” of condiments, including that preternaturally green relish and those curiously mild “sport peppers.” Pam’s has the 22-inch Archinator monster dog, the Reuben Dog, the deep-fried Mexican Pamirito and the ominous-sounding Slinger Dog. You’ll also find such Chicago faves as the Italian beef sandwich, the Polish sausage, the gyro and an authentic Philly Cheese Steak made with Cheez Whiz. As for desserts, you may want to go ahead and sign that living will before you order. We’re talkin’ about deep-fried, festival-style choices including a deep-fried Twinkie, deep-fried Ding Dong, deep-fried Snickers bar, deep-fried Oreos and deep-fried cookie-dough balls. That’s no joke, son.

If the spirit moves you, head to Pam’s on Wednesday night for dinner and a show. Both are … strangely satisfying.

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