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Archive for December, 2014

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.

The Scoop: Home Wine Kitchen’s Cassy Vires finds new home at Juniper

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014



{From left, chef Nick Martinkovic, Juniper chef-owner John Perkins and new Juniper head chef Cassy Vires}

Editor’s note: This article was updated with comments from John Perkins at 4 p.m. Dec. 31.

Cassy Vires will join Juniper’s kitchen as head chef, according to an announcement made on Dec. 30 by Juniper chef-owner John Perkins. Vires will fire up the kitchen Jan. 8 after the restaurant’s team returns from its week-long break beginning tomorrow, Jan. 1.

The news comes just a few weeks after Vires and her husband and business partner, Josh Renbarger, announced they would close doors at their Maplewood eatery Home Wine Kitchen tonight, Dec. 31. Perkins said Vires would be a valuable, reliable asset as Juniper continues to grow, adding that Vires would help take the CWE eatery to the next level. “It was a meeting of needs on both our parts,” he said. “I needed somebody that I could trust the restaurant in their hands when I wasn’t there, and she clearly fits that requirement.”

Perkins said while the menu would still stay true to Juniper’s Southern roots, it was possible that some of Vires’ popular Home Wine Kitchen Dishes could make their way to the menu in 2015. “There’s some natural overlap,” he said.

The baton-passing is the latest transition for Juniper’s kitchen staff, which has been in flux since late October. Former chef de cuisine Ryan McDonald and sous chef Tommy Andrew left Juniper to take a position at Truffles and Butchery. Chef Nick Martinkovic, formerly of Death in the Afternoon and Blood & Sand, has lent a hand at the Southern eatery since early December before he departs St. Louis for his new job at Emko in West Palm Beach, Florida after tonight’s dinner service.

“I think having Home close and Nick (Martinkovic) leaving basically at the same time, it seemed like a real natural thing,” Perkins said. “I reached out when I found out about Home, and it seems like it’s going to be a great fit.”


Wheatless Wednesday: Twisted Vegetable Lasagna

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014



Tomorrow begins a new year and the post-holiday food slump. We’re all tired of rich food, but we need filling meals to keep the belly warm as winter drags on. (Want more light, bright winter fare? Click here.) That’s why I turned a classic heavy dish into a lighter gluten-free meal with a twist. Instead of layering noodles into the lasagna pan, try wrapping them around the filling, creating portioned packets of lasagna resting on a veggie bed and swathed in gooey cheese. It’s perfect for last-minute New Year’s Eve gatherings or long winter nights that lie ahead.

Twisted Gluten-Free Vegetable Lasagna
15 to 16 servings

1 16-oz. box gluten-free lasagna noodles
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more to coat, divided
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tsp. dried herbs like basil, thyme or oregano, divided
1 small white onion, chopped
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
1 16-oz. jar pasta sauce
8 oz. cottage cheese, drained
8 oz. ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp. garlic powder
5 oz. baby spinach leaves
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar, divided
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to boil with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook the lasagna noodles under just tender enough to roll easily, about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and lightly coat each with more olive oil to keep from sticking, then lay them flat on an olive oil-coated baking sheet until ready to use.
• Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect heat or place a grill pan over medium-high heat.
• Toss the zucchini and yellow squash with olive oil to coat and season with 1 teaspoon herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Grill the zucchini and squash until tender and a bit charred, about 5 minutes, then flip and grill another 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
• Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms with the remaining 1 teaspoon herbs until lightly brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat.
• Roughly chop the grilled zucchini and yellow squash and toss with the mushrooms and onion. Set aside.
• Spoon a thin layer of pasta sauce on bottom of 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish, then cover with the chopped vegetables.
• In a medium bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, egg and garlic powder until combined. Spread a thin layer of this mixture on top of each lasagna noodle, then sprinkle with a few tablespoons cheddar and mozzarella cheese and cover with a few spinach leaves.
• Roll each noodle into a tight pinwheel and place spiral-side-down on top of the vegetables, packing together tightly so they stay closed. Cover the noodles with the remaining sauce and remaining cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Place the pan on a baking sheet to catch any drippings and bake 35 minutes, until the sauce and cheese are bubbly and slightly brown. Cover with foil and bake another 10 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Chef Grams: Behind the scenes with #STL chefs, bartenders, farmers

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

We could scroll through Instagram all day, ogling food pics that make our mouths water and our stomachs growl. (We’ve even been known to share what we’re eating, drinking and cooking from time to time.) Some of your favorite St. Louis chefs, brewers, baristas, bartenders, farmers and more are sharing snaps of weird ingredients, funky creations and hilarious behind-the-scenes antics; here, some of our favorite moments shared this month.





Row 1, from left: perennialbeer: Just in time for the holidays is tonight’s release, Fete de Noel. @jmmoxey and Jack were on hand to announce the occasion. Happy Holidays! | nickrb82: This week the FOH gets to write the staff meal menu! @nichefoodgroup #family #hospitality | rachelclaverachfarm: 11.5% abv Pinot. Pairs well with pony pajamas.

Row 2: clevelandheath: Favorite new shirt from the Cleveland clan! #phoshizzle | gerardfcraft: 2.5lb bone-in ribeye cut to order @bolyardsmeat Couldn’t be more excited for these two! #eatlocal #butcher #steak | gerardfcraft: Of course I’m drinking this!!!! @rareteacellar #freak #ninjatea what are you drinking?!

Row 3: suchandsuchfarm: You went to Pilates today? Maybe got a PSL? Cool story, basic bitch. #farmgirlworkout #hay #thatsalotofhay | joshgalliano: My present for December 5th – now I need some sous vide meat! | brianmoxey: #tbt

Row 4: chefh88:Edited | jbellstl: Geoff and I slaying crab claws | thethreeonefour: Pastrami and a hog head on the smoker.


Should your favorite chef be on this list? Share their behind-the-scenes Instagrams with #saucechefgrams and follow @SauceMag for delicious insider photos, too!

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

Meatless Monday: Mushroom Stroganoff

Monday, December 29th, 2014



We’ve already lightened up stroganoff with chicken and dill, but tonight, remove the meat altogether for a veg-friendly version of this Russian classic. Saute portabellas for the best textural and visual beef substitution until all their moisture is released, then enrobe these beauties in rich sour cream sauce enhanced with white wine, thyme and garlic. It’s the perfect winter meal to cap off 2014, before you steadfastly resolve to step away from all cream-based sauces … for at least a week. Get the recipe here.


-photo by Carmen Troesser

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


By the Book: Charles Phan’s Hot Buttered Rhum Cider

Saturday, December 27th, 2014



Flushed and teetering slightly, I executed my final By the Book dish of the year more liberally than others, multiplying the yield by many times, swapping some ingredients, fudging others. If the writer’s occupational hazard is drinking, I’ll ration the danger by making my poison in batch form, thank you very much. Heaven forbid I drink alone.

The opportunity came to me at Sauce’s holiday party this past weekend, where my potluck contribution was a steaming jug of Hot Buttered Rhum Cider. The recipe for the festive concoction came from Charles Phan’s The Slanted Door, the cookbook inspired by his eponymously named Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco which happened to win Outstanding Restaurant honors at the 2014 James Beards.

Phan – who claims no professional culinary training – styles himself a home cook, and his recipes show it. Each dish is engineered in a straightforward single page of instructions opposite stark, colorful photography. Think uncomplicated dishes like halved lobster tossed in melted herb butter, an easy Vietnamese fisherman’s stew and a stout lineup of simple cocktails.

Mulled cider makes an amiable base for this drink, which masks (and yet is enhanced by) the flavor of the dark rum. For additional texture and richness there’s the spiced compound butter, a degenerately sugary concoction that I stopped eating with a spoon only because our party guests began to arrive. Into the drink the rest of it went, forming a soupy froth on top. The final product needed a few minutes to steep and recalibrate itself to unify the flavor. When it did, I simply left it on low for the roaring duration of the party, guests ladling steaming cupfuls for themselves throughout.





The recipe outlines the proportion for making one serving, but it’s easily scaled up as needed. I again summoned my ancient Crock-Pot from a few months ago, using it first to mull the cider with spices, then to warm the finished batch of grog. Leave cider to mull for at least an hour in the slow cooker on high.




Let the butter rest at room temperature for a few minutes so it can soften enough to cream with a fork or spoon.





The finished batch totaled approximately three quarts, the mere dregs of which remained at party’s end. The recipe is quite customizable. Leave the mulling spices in or out, add more rum or butter as your palate desires. This is holiday time, people – you get to decide. Just make sure you don’t spill any on that nice sweater.


Hot Buttered Rhum Cider
Makes 1 cocktail

1½ oz. aged Haitian Rum, preferably Barbancourt 8 year
1 Tbsp. spiced compound butter (recipe follows)
6 oz. mulled apple cider (recipe follows)
Cinnamon stick
Star anise

• To prepare this drink put the alcohol, mulled cider and compound butter into a saucepan and heat until the butter has dissolved and the drink is steaming. Pour into a 10-ounce handled heat-proof mug. Garnish by floating a disc of orange peel studded with a clove, star anise and a cinnamon stick.

Mulled Cider
• We juice apples on a hydraulic press daily for this drink. Unless you have an apple press at home, you should find the best unfiltered apple juice available. If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, Philo Apple Farm Bates and Schmitt makes a good one. Add apple juice to a pot with the skin of an orange studded with the clove, cinnamon stick and star anise. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

Spiced Compound Butter
• Soften and cream 8 ounces of unsalted butter with a paddle in a mixing bowl. Slowly add 2 ounces of brown sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and allspice, a pinch of ground ginger, cloves and kosher salt. Scrape the sides to ensure that all of the spices are blended. Roll the butter into a log and wrap it in wax paper. Refrigerate.

Reprinted with permission from 10 Speed Press

What’s inside those glasses you clink with family, friends and loved ones during the holidays? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Slanted Door.


Extra Sauce: Cooking for the Circus

Friday, December 26th, 2014



It’s one thing to cook for a full house every night; it’s another to do it on the road. That’s the task Liz Samatis takes on as head chef for Cirque du Soleil’s traveling show, Varekai, which comes to the Lou Jan. 7 to 11 at the Chaifetz Arena. Samatis and her kitchen crew cook two full meals a day for more than 100 performing artists and crew members from nearly 20 countries. Not only does her food have to fuel athletes for grueling physical performances, but the Johnson & Wales graduate also tries to create menus sourced from and inspired by the places they visit. After nearly a year on the road and almost 40 cities, this roving chef shares what’s its like to literally feed a circus.




Cirque du Soleil contracts with Spectrum Catering for its food service. How did you end up on the Cirque team?
I actually knew somebody who worked on a rock ‘n’ roll tour cooking and I thought, “Wow, that’s a really cool job.” I just went out and searched different companies that do tour catering, and I fell upon this job.

Do you use onsite equipment or do you carry it all with you?
I have a truck. It’s a completely mobile kitchen that gets unloaded into the arena. Everything is in a case, then we set it up somewhere. It could be anywhere from a tent outside the arena to the Zamboni room to a hallway. They fit us in where ever they can. … As far as our operation goes, we are completely sustainable. We bring everything you would need to cook.

How do you balance meals to be both tasty and nutritious enough for athletes?
We offer a full salad bar, a juice bar and a deli bar. I always have to serve one lean protein, and I have to keep in mind I’m cooking for the technical staff as well, who don’t necessarily eat the same way the artists do. The most important part is to give as many options as possible to keep everybody happy.

 How do you keep meals fun and interesting?
I write a different menu every week. I’ve never repeated a menu, though there are some items people enjoy that I will bring up every once in a while. Another thing I try to do is stay true to the local cuisine. When we’re in the Midwest, I’m not going to try to get seafood from the East Coast. I try to source the products that are readily available … that way I can bring a little bit of flavor of whatever city we’re in. When we were in Maine, I drove down to the lobster dock, cut a deal, and bought lobsters from them. Two weeks before I go to the city, I do a lot of research; what they have, what’s abundant.

There are people from all over the world on staff. Do you prepare a lot of international fare?
I try to ask people, “What do you like to eat from your country that you don’t get to eat in America?” I’ll try my best to mimic that dish, say, Russian borscht or goulash. We have a lot of Russians on the staff. They’re used to eating a lot of salmon, so I try to incorporate salmon into the menu once a week.

Is there a staff favorite?
Everybody loves taco day. Any time they can build their own thing, that goes over really well. Once a week we do a live-action station. On Sunday (brunch), we’ll do omelets to order. … We do Asian stir-fry, crepes, things like that. That way there’s interaction. They get a fresh, hot meal, and it’s personalized to their tastes.

Do you go out to eat when you visit cities?
Absolutely! I get two days off a week. I love going out to eat and trying the local cuisine, especially when I’m about to try to cook that style of food.

Spencer Pernikoff blogs at Whiskey and Soba
-performance photo courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

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