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Archive for January, 2013

Goldilocks and the Three Dolcettos

Thursday, January 31st, 2013



Dolcetto has frequently been called the “Beaujolais of Italy,” which has bothered me for years, because it’s totally inaccurate and unfair to France’s Beaujolais. Here are three exciting and dramatically different views of this beautiful red grape.

Luciano Sandrone Dolcetto d’Alba, 2010, Piedmont, Italy At first sip, this wine seemed unusual for a Dolcetto, a typically easy and fruity grape. But what initially appeared to be “way too big” turned out to be a lengthy and powerful version of this shy variety. This large and voluptuous style was amazing for its intensity at around $20.

Palmina Dolcetto, 2010, Santa Barbara County, Calif. As a Santa Barbara Dolcetto virgin, my anticipation was a solid Missouri “Show Me!” After swirling and sniffing, the lusciously round and soft tannins were captivating. There was even a very vague sense of wood – unusual if a Dolcetto is from Italy, but who knows what an American Dolcetto should be? Different from its Old World cousins, this great wine was delicious $20 yumminess with a half-minute finish.

Pio Cesare Dolcetto d’Alba 2011, Piedmont, Italy Then Pio came to play. While ordering multiple courses at Charlie Gitto’s in Chesterfield, my guess that this would be “just right” with pasta, salad, chicken and pizza was confirmed. I’m not claiming that this $25 red is the perfect wine for all food, but it was for one night.

This week, Stacy Schultz is obsessed with …

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

{After reading Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones & Butter, I was in search of another culinary memoir, this time one with recipes (the absolute only thing missing from Hamilton’s masterpiece). Luisa Weiss’ My Berlin Kitchen is just the kind of winter read I was craving: filled with difficult life decisions tinged with the sweet smell of pea soup or the sound of peppers crackling on the stove. A life documented in food – now that’s something to curl up with by the fire.}

{Whether it’s a classic version at my neighborhood eatery or a twist like the Monk’s Manhattan at The Restaurant, whose name hails from the addition of Benedictine (Get it?), no matter where I am these days, I’m in the mood for a Manhattan. Smooth, strong and none too sweet, it’s the sophisticated older sister to that Jack and Coke I ordered well through my early 20s.}

{Cough it up to my Type A side, but nothing irks me more than an empty space; the sprawling windowsill in my kitchen has been haunting my decorating dreams for almost a year now. Finally, I’ve landed on the perfect solution: these adorable little Chalkboard Storage Jars from Anthropologie. I’ll fill them with flour and sugar and line them up for an eye-pleasing mix of form and function that will satisfy my open-shelving aspirations (for now, at least). Take THAT bags of five different kinds of flour that always seem to teeter off the highest shelf!}

Baked: Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Pudding and Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013



If you type “vanilla cupcake recipe” into a Google search, you will find at least 2,470,190 results. Everyone has a vanilla cake recipe they swear by. Your preference really just depends on what vanilla means to you. I used to confuse vanilla cake with something overly sweet and headache inducing. Whenever anything boasted of being all-vanilla, the essence of vanilla was almost always buried in masses of sugar. I wondered why people would ever want vanilla anything without at least a little bit of chocolate to ground that wallop of sugar. I mean, how boring.

Years later, after stumbling upon a jar of vanilla sugar from Home Goods (a treasure trove for bakers) and taking in a deep whiff of the delicious aroma, I wondered why I hadn’t truly ever enjoyed a vanilla cake … so I ventured to make one myself.

After testing several recipes that I found online, I finally returned to a classic: white chocolate raspberry cupcakes that I’ve made countless times for many orders and birthday parties. By upping the vanilla content, the cupcakes were completely transformed into bean-flecked beauties, giving off the most enchanting smells of vanilla. To keep the vanilla taste lingering, I filled the centers of the cupcakes with a luscious vanilla bean pudding that I will now be making for years to come, and then I topped them with my favorite vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.

It took every part of me not to add something else to this – some chocolate or strawberries – but I was paying homage to all the crazy people who love all things vanilla (I even showed restraint with my rainbow sprinkles!).

Although the cupcakes were intended to go to my boyfriend’s workplace, my friends and I ended up eating them all, savoring every last crumb. That’s how I ended up with my own version of a truly vanilla cake. And somehow, in the process, I fell in love with something all-vanilla myself.

Here’s my white chocolate raspberry version of theses cupcakes for those of you who aren’t as crazy about vanilla.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes exactly 12 cupcakes

1 stick butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
¼ cup vanilla-infused sugar*
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cup of flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup sour cream
1/3 cup white chocolate chunks
Vanilla bean pudding (recipe follows)
Vanilla bean cream cheese (recipe follows)

• Make the vanilla bean pudding.
• Make the vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• With an electric beater, beat the butter and sugars on high, until fluffy.
• Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat well.
• Use a spatula to stir in the rest of the ingredients through the white chocolate chunks. (Don’t use a beater or else the cupcakes will come out dense.)
• Divide the batter evenly in a cupcake pan to make 12 cupcakes.
• Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean, or with few crumbs attached.
• Let cupcakes cool completely before removing from the pan.
• Use a cupcake corer or a knife to cut a hole into each cupcake.
• Fill the cupcakes with vanilla bean pudding, and then top them with frosting and sprinkles.

*If you can’t find vanilla-infused sugar, add the scrapings from 1 vanilla bean to regular sugar.

Vanilla Bean Pudding
Adapted by Amrita Rawat from a recipe originally published on SmittenKitchen.com
Makes 3 cups

2 2/3 cups 2% milk, divided
½ cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
¼ tsp. salt
1 vanilla bean, including the scraped-out inside (or 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract)
1 large egg

• In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of milk to a boil.
• In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt and the scrapings from the inside of the the vanilla bean. (If using vanilla extract, wait until the end to stir it in.)
• Toss the scraped-out vanilla bean pod into the saucepan of milk.
• Slowly whisk in the remaining 2/3 cup of milk into the bowl of sugar. Then whisk in the egg.
• Once the milk in the saucepan comes to a boil, gradually add it to the sugar mixture while whisking the whole time.
• Return the entire mixture back to the saucepan, and stir constantly with a heatproof spatula.
• Once it simmers, cook for one minute longer and then stir in the vanilla extract if using.
• Pour back into the original bowl and let cool.
• Once cooled, cover the pudding with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator until chilled, about 1 hour.*

*You will have leftovers of this pudding, but you’ll be grateful for it. Serve with fruit or use as a pastry cream in other recipes. You may also double the cupcake and frosting recipes to accommodate the leftover pudding.

Vanilla Bean Frosting
Adapted by Amrita Rawat from a recipe originally published on SmittenKitchen.com

½ stick butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
4 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ the inside of 1 scraped-out vanilla bean
4 oz. of mascarpone cheese*

• Beat all ingredients together except the mascarpone.
• Once fluffy, beat in the mascarpone, until the frosting is combined and smooth.
• Store the frosting in the fridge for about 20 minutes, or until it’s firm enough to frost a cake.

*Or you can use 8 oz. of cream cheese and omit the mascarpone.

Cupcakes, frosted, last up to 4 days in the fridge in an airtight container. Unfrosted, the cupcakes can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap and stored up to 1 month in the freezer. Vanilla bean pudding lasts up to 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container.

The Scoop: The Restaurant and Basso lose executive pastry chef

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Lisa Fernandez-Cruz has resigned as executive pastry chef at The Cheshire’s The Restaurant and Basso. Fernandez-Cruz left her post less than two weeks after her husband Wilfin Fernandez-Cruz resigned as the executive chef at The Restaurant. The Cheshire’s public relations firm Twist confirmed her resignation but has offered no comment. Lisa has not shared her future plans yet; more details as they come.

— photo by Ashley Gieseking

The Scoop: Gourmet pizza chain Zpizza moves into Missouri with franchise in Clayton

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Zpizza, a fast-casual pizza chain, which advertises using fresh and healthy ingredients, is opening a location at 7600 Wydown Blvd., in the space that was formerly a dry cleaning store. The St. Louis location will mark the company’s first in Missouri. Zpizza, founded in Laguna Beach, Calif., currently has franchises operating in 16 other states as well as the District of Columbia. A post on the Zpizza St. Louis Facebook page yesterday noted that the restaurant’s official grand opening will be on April 6.

The Zpizza menu features pizzas which include vegan and gluten-free options, as well as pastas, sandwiches and salads. The company uses organic whole wheat to make the dough for its signature crust and meats that are free of hormones and additives.

The restaurant will offer dine-in as well as carry-out and delivery. A December article in the Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch noted that deliveries will be provided by riders on electric bicycles, except in cases of bad weather.

The Scoop: Kaslik Restaurant serving up authentic eastern Mediterranean eats in Florissant

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Those looking for an authentic taste of the Middle East might consider heading to Florissant. Kaslik Restaurant opened its doors last Friday at 8141 N. Lindbergh Blvd., at the intersection of Manresa Lane. The restaurant is a project by chef-owner Wesam Hamed (pictured below).

Hamed’s menu features more than 20 cold and hot appetizers. Build-your-own mezes are available with such offerings as: hummus (served in the tradition of Hamed’s native Jerusalem with a garnish of olive oil, a spoonful of whole chickpeas and a sprinkle of sumac), labneh (thick Arabic yogurt drizzled with olive oil and garnished with mint), warek inab (rice-stuffed grape leaves), kabis (pickled vegetables), makdous (baby eggplant stuffed with walnuts and garlic), and foul moudames (a stew of fava beans, tomatoes, garlic and spices).

Among the 10 entrees, diners will find chicken, lamb, beef and shrimp dishes. The mixed grill plate of shish tawuk (chicken marinated in garlic, lemon juice and spices), beef kefta and shrimp is a nice way to sample multiple dishes, as is a veggie platter that holds a chef’s selection of five meze items. All entrees are served with a side salad and the majority come with Basmati rice. The lunch crowd will find a handful of easy grab-and-go items such as beef shawarma (pictured) or falafel wrapped in pita. Beverages include Arabic coffee, hot mint tea, fresh orange juice, carrot juice, lemon juice, as well as soft drinks.



The dining area is tiny – there are just five two-top tables – but the tight quarters make for easy conversation with Hamed and his friendly staff of two behind the counter. (If language is another sign of authenticity, note that English is not the predominant language spoken by the majority of Kaslik clientele.) The restaurant is open daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. A website (kaslikstl.com) and Facebook page are expected to launch by mid-February.

By the Book: Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman’s Dijon Portobello Steaks with Roasted Tomato Aioli

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

To round out our month of health-minded cookbooks, I cooked from The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions: Veganize It! Foolproof Methods for Transforming Any Dish into a Delicious New Vegan Favorite by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman.

I’ll just put this out there: I do not follow a vegan diet, and the idea of schlepping all over the city looking for vegan substitutes sounded like a drag. However, after exploring the book more, I realized how useful it is, acting as both an instruction manual and recipe book. And it’s never a bad thing to become more conscious of my ingredient choices. In addition to vegan substitutes, the book also focuses on how to substitute for gluten, soy, refined sugar, fat and honey. While some of the recipes required quite a few special ingredients, there were plenty that didn’t, so I picked my recipe from those.

If you are someone who does follow a vegan diet though, this book clearly marks the vegan substitute staples that would come up in many of its recipes. From Section Three: Keep the farm animals flourishing! Foolproof substitutions for meat, I chose the recipe for Dijon Portobello Steaks because they looked so meaty and enticing at the grocery store.




The book suggested adding the shrooms to a panini, so I also made the roasted tomato aioli to use as a schmear. The aioli recipe came from Section One: Let the cows come home! Foolproof substitutions for dairy. Making it proved to be fast and easy; it also had an excellent punch.



The ailoi recipe yielded much more than I needed to brush across two paninis, so I plan on using the extra in some sort of pasta dish later this week. 



I completely cheated and opted for egg-tastic Challah and melted Swiss to finish off my portobello, aioli panini. But regardless, I’m glad I was put on this assignment, for although I’m not becoming a vegan anytime soon, I did receive a good education on how to make my cooking more healthful (even if I chose to ignore it).

Dijon Portobello Steaks
Makes 2 servings

There is nothing quite as naturally meaty without being a meat as a thick juicy Portobello steak! Serve the mushrooms with Yucca Fries and punchy Aji Verde sauce, or use them to make an amazing panini with a schmear of Roasted Tomato Aioli. If you have leftover marinade, it works great as a salad dressing!

½ cup mild Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. agave nectar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed

• In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, agave, salt and pepper.
• Place the mushrooms in a shallow dish and cover with marinade. Let soak for at least 15 minutes.
• Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and place them on the grill or in a grill pan; cook for about 7 minutes per side, basting with marinade, until mushrooms are tender.

Roasted Tomato Aioli
Makes 2¾ cups

Serve this creamy concoction as a hot or cold dressing for 1 pound of cooked pasta, with baked potatoes, or as a sandwich spread.

For roasted tomatoes:
1 lb. grape tomatoes
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp. fine salt
¼ cup onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

For aioli:
½ cup vegan mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. blended chopped canned chipotle pepper and adobo sauce
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp. fine sea salt
2 tsp. agave nectar
½ tsp. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

To make the roasted tomatoes:
• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Combine all of the ingredients in an 8-inch square baking pan.
• Roast for 20 minutes, stirring once halfway through, until the tomatoes look like deflated tires. Remove from oven and set aside.

To make the aioli:
• Combine all ingredients and roasted tomatoes in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
• Serve as is with pasta or baked potatoes, but chill to thicken before using as a sandwich spread.

Reprinted with permission from Fair Winds Press.

What’s your favorite vegan dish to make or your go-to vegan menu item that you order when you’re out? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Sue whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won her a copy of Dirt Candy. Sue, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

The Scoop: It’s nearly mission accomplished for Mission Taco

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Last summer, restaurateurs Adam and Jason Tilford announced their plans to open Mission Taco Joint. Renovations are moving along inside the former home of Delmar Lounge at 6235 Delmar Blvd., and the Tilford brothers are aiming to unlock doors during the last week of February.

With opening day just weeks away, Jason gave The Scoop a peek at a draft version of the food menu he developed. The tightly focused menu begins with a handful of shared appetizers. Highlights include crab taquitos as well as roasted mushrooms with huitlachoche, goat cheese and arugula presented in a fried corn masa base called a huarache. A la carte tacos include popular choices such as baja fish and carne asada, but Mission gets creative with quite a few others, such as the chile-roasted duck with crisp pork belly and avocado serrano sauce. The menu also beckons for vegetarians with options like a roasted cactus taco or one featuring the local product Mofu tofu. The restaurant will feature giant Mission-style burritos wrapped in house-made tortillas, plus tortas served on telera rolls from Diana’s Bakery. Diners looking for a square meal can round things out with side dishes like fire-grilled vegetable quinoa and chayote calabacitas.

Joel Clark, who recently departed from Sanctuaria, will be helming the beverage program. Clark stated that the bar at Mission Taco Joint will be “a very culinary bar,” explaining that “as many fresh ingredients the kitchen is going to get, I’m going to get the same.” The focus on fresh will be seen in the likes of numerous flavors of agua fresca and horchata, available in virgin form or as alcoholic beverages. In addition, he plans on aligning beverages – not just cocktails, but also beer and wine – with the food. “I’m going to work really closely with the kitchen,” he commented. Clark, who’s been part of a local movement in progressive bartending, plans to continue in that direction, preparing house-made ingredients like syrups and shrubs (No flavored vodkas, sorry.) and noted that the Mission bartending crew will be quite capable of crafting classic cocktails. “I want [the bar] to be an extension of [the kitchen] as well as a bar on its own,” Clark said.

The Scoop: New downtown gastropub nears opening

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium is preparing to open doors at its new St. Louis location. Construction of the gastropub, located just west of Busch Stadium at 900 Spruce St., is on target for a March 1 grand opening, according to Flying Saucer’s assistant general manager Rebecca Keiffer. Among the highlights, she noted, is a patio which spans the entire block.

Keiffer explained that beer offerings will include 80 on draft, including 15 to 20 dedicated to local taps. Bottled beers will number between 120 and 140. The food menu at the seven-days-a-week lunch and dinner spot, similar to that at other Flying Saucer spots, will feature burgers, sandwiches, and appetizers including nachos, cheese fries, wings, salads and soups. However, Keiffer noted that, “We have the opportunity as individual stores to make up our own food specials. We’re allowed to be creative and do our own thing.” One of those creative projects is to “eventually host beer dinners jointly with breweries.”

Flying Saucer Draught Emporium began in the mid-1990s in Fort Worth, Texas. The St. Louis location will bring the Flying Saucer tally to 16, with franchises across six states.

The Scoop: Chris Lee announces his next move

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Chris Lee has taken the position as catering and banquet chef at River City Casino, located in South County.

As reported by The Scoop, this past December Lee put in his resignation as executive chef for the hospitality group In Good Company. The group’s restaurants include Café VentanaSanctuariaDiablitos Cantina and Hendricks BBQ.

— photo by Jonathan S. Pollack

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