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  SAUCE MAGAZINE
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Sep 20, 2017
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Reviews

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:

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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…

 

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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:

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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…

 

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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:

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.”

 

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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…

 

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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

 

Matt Berkley’s Top 5 Cocktails of 2013

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Matt Berkley works some odd hours as Sauce’s Nightlife critic. In 2013, he spent 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 year: 

 

No. 5: Smoke and Fire from Mission Taco Joint
Hellfire bitters set off hints of peach and serrano syrup in this refreshing, mezcal-laden masterpiece.

 

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No. 4: The Rattlesnake King at The Fortune Teller Bar
Smooth-drinking W.L. Weller Special Reserve 7-year-old bourbon is reinforced with a hit of apple brandy and fresh orange.

No. 3: House Manhattan at Gamlin Whiskey House
Robust oak and sweet vanilla flavors mingle in the Knob Creek Single Barrel whiskey that was handpicked for this standout take on a classic Manhattan.

 

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No. 2: Pimm’s Cup at Bar Les Frères
This easy sipping, warm-weather drink is fashioned with fresh cucumber and sprigs of mint.

 

And my No. 1 cocktail of 2013 is…

 

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Beetnik Margarita at Atomic Cowboy
Fresh beet juice substitutes for lime juice in this potent little drink. My exact words in September: “Though I’m indifferent to beets, beet juice and actual beatniks, I love this drink. It’s a savory-sweet monster of a cocktail with a surprisingly tangy kick and a healthy wallop of tequila.”

And an honorable mention goes to moonshine cocktails from Hendricks BBQ. Subtle and smooth at first, these white whiskeys cocktails serve delightful a knockout punch of rich flavor.

-Bar Les Frères and Atomic Cowboy photos by Jonathan Gayman

 

 

Michael Renner’s Top 5 Dishes of 2013

Monday, December 30th, 2013

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 vegetarian fare to barbecue to fine dining. Here, he shares his top five dishes of 2013:

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No. 5: Spanish octopus at Central Table Food Hall
Even more striking than the two thick tentacles was how tender they were: braised for six hours and finished on the grill. Served with aerated fennel foam, caramelized fennel and its fresh fronds, and jiggling slabs of tomato water gelée, it’s as though though the ocean washed up on your plate, complete with froth, seaweed and jellyfish.

No. 4: Roasted pork loin at Elaia
No ordinary roasting could produce the tender-smooth texture of this Berkshire pork loin when it was on the menu earlier this year. Only six hours in a CVap, or what chef-owner Ben Poremba calls his “magical oven,” could yield such transcendence.

 

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No. 3: Fried chicken at The Libertine 
Chef Josh Galliano’s New Orleans roots shine with this version: brined in sweet tea, soaked in spicy buttermilk, coated in cornmeal and flour, and deep-fried in lard and canola oil for a shaggy, crunchy crust laden with paprika and black pepper.

No. 2:  Spring garlic soup at Niche
Tiny, airy raw garlic “marshmallows” floated to the top when hot liquid was poured over them. A steamy cloud scented with citrusy-spicy bergamot leaves, preserved lemon purée and bits of dried beets and carrots wafted from the bowl; this was not soup, it was an elixir.

 

And my No. 1 dish of 2013 is…

 

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Canh Ga Chien (fried butter garlic chicken wings) at Mi Linh
Fried then sauteed, these wings are juicy and garlicky, crackling with each bite. Your fingers glisten with butter and oil; your lips warm from the gentle heat. You wish you could eat these wings every night for the rest of your life.

- Central Table Food Hall photo by Greg Rannells; The Libertine and Mi Linh photos by Jonathan Gayman

In This Issue: New and Notable – Mi Linh

Thursday, November 7th, 2013
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How does one judge a new Vietnamese restaurant in a city touting more than 30 restaurants featuring the same cuisine? What makes a new place better than the rest when they all offer pretty much the same dishes? Is it fair to judge a restaurant by just one dish?

Maybe Dee Dee Tran and her brother Nelson Tran pondered these questions when they opened Mi Linh, their 5-month-old Vietnamese restaurant in Rock Hill (She’s the general manager; he runs the kitchen.). However, with Nelson’s 20-year tenure in the restaurant industry (working in kitchens from New York to Seattle) and Dee Dee’s experience in running other businesses, the Trans certainly don’t have to prove themselves.

But oh, how they do! And for good measure – again and again.

To read more about what Michael Renner thought of Mi Lihn, click here.

-photo by Johnathan Gayman

 

In This Issue: Nightlife – Hiro Asian Kitchen

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

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In a time when simplicity, local sourcing and a “less is more” philosophy hold sway over so many bar owners and restaurateurs, it’s hard not to grin at a new establishment bucking all trends and, if anything, erring on the side of ostentation. Inside its chic little address in the nexus of Washington Avenue, the former Smash Bar and Sugar Lounge space has been reborn as Hiro Asian Kitchen. Part Pan-Asian eatery and part after-hours cocktail lounge, this ambitious newcomer is a bastion of excess.

Imagine if Benihana and P.F. Chang’s tied the knot and decorated their new downtown loft. That’s a close approximation to the look of Hiro – tastefully flashy. You can tell the owners threw some serious coin into this futuristic Asian-fusion redesign, which maintains a lively atmosphere throughout the night.

To read what our reviewer thought of this downtown hotspot, click here.

-photo by Jonathan Gayman

 

 

In This Issue: Nightlife – Atomic Cowboy

Thursday, September 19th, 2013
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It’s 9:15 p.m. on a Friday, and Atomic Cowboy’s juicer is on the fritz. It’s busted. Inoperable. Man down.

The bartender shrugs. I sulk.

Under normal circumstances, I could care less about the functionality of a kitchen appliance; however, tonight its out-of-order-ness means that I can’t get one of the bar’s signature beet juice or Beetnik margaritas, which, though it may sound froufrou as all hell, has become a personal obsession.

Though I’m indifferent to beets, beet juice and actual beatniks, I love this drink. It’s a savory-sweet monster of a cocktail with a surprisingly tangy kick and a healthy wallop of tequila. It blissfully blurs all thoughts of spreadsheets and TPS reports. It makes my cheeks red. I want one again. Now, even.

As sad as the juicer fiasco is, I’m not surprised. This is the second time Atomic has deprived me of one of my favorite cocktails on its new drink menu (Last time they were out of beets.). Much like Atomic itself, this reimagined take on a classic is still somewhat under construction.

To read more of what our reviewer thought of this revamped staple in The Grove, click here.
-Photo by Jonathan Gayman

 

 

In This Issue: New and Notable – The Libertine

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

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Deadline be damned, I wanted fried chicken. Specifically, I wanted Josh Galliano’s fried chicken: the deep-fried, crunchy, spicy bird that I – and seemingly half of St. Louis – devoured last year at his one-night pop-up event. This was well after Monarch (where most of us first fell under the spell of Galliano’s chicken) had closed, so there was much pent-up demand and curiosity about what he was going to pull out of the skillet this time. Since then, the New Orleans transplant put on another pop-up (gumbo-themed) and designed and executed the meat MX Movies downtown.

Earlier this year, Nick and Audra Luedde tapped Galliano to head the kitchen at The Libertine, their new restaurant in downtown Clayton; and you thought all that buzz you heard was the cicada invasion. Nick is a practiced mixologist, sommelier and restaurateur, while Audra is a master chef and sommelier. A year ago the husband and wife team moved to St. Louis (Nick’s hometown) from Chicago to open The Libertine.

To read more about our reviewer’s thoughts on The Libertine, click here.

-Photo by Jonathan Gayman

 

 

In This Issue: Nightlife – Alpha Brewing Company

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
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Alpha Brewing Company emerged this spring as the scrappy new contender in the ever-thriving St. Louis craft beer scene. There’s a distinct alternative appeal to this spot situated a block north of Washington Avenue. Alone in a gritty, nondescript back alley adjacent to the City Museum on Lucas Avenue, Alpha is flanked by a handful of parking lots. As the sun sets on a Friday, gaggles of club-ready 20-somethings click past the joint with hardly a glance. They’re not to blame, as the signage is almost purposely, yet fittingly, lacking.
Bellied up to the main bar is a herd of young guys – most in need of a shave, sporting flip-flops and T-shirts. Across from them in a dark leather sectional sits a brunette flipping through her smartphone, oblivious to her companions – two dudes in Polo shirts weighing in on politics. Opposite, a handful of middle-aged friends in button-downs hover over a narrow communal table stretching nearly the length of the entranceway. Outside, a small patio decked out in high-top tables teems with smokers, smokers’ friends and smokers’ dogs. Hardly an A-list, glitzy crowd, this is just the type of scene where anyone might comfortably blend in.
As you might expect from a fresh-faced endeavor deep in loft country, Alpha Brewing has a funky, laid-back look. A bright, abstract mural welcomes guests to a cozy, minimalist tasting room dressed with little more than a handful of wooden tables and a couch. From the center of the main bar, barkeeps pull on 10 taps – imposing pieces of custom metal (artwork in themselves) from which flows the real lifeblood of the place.
To read more about what Matt Berkley thought of this this tucked-away beer bar, click here.
-Photo by Jonathan Gayman

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