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Archive for December, 2015

By the Book: “Eat Mexico” by Lesley Téllez

Thursday, December 31st, 2015



Eat Mexico: Recipes from Mexico City’s Streets, Markets & Fondas is Lesley Téllez’s ode to her time spent studying and indulging in Mexico City’s street food scene. As with most street food, time-consuming advanced preparation (mole sauce, homemade tortillas, slow-cooked pork) makes for fast, simple assembly come dinnertime. Expected dishes like enchiladas and tacos are approachable for novice cooks, while others like squash flower huaraches and stuffed cactus paddles require patience and a sense of adventure.

I chose to make pambazos, fried chorizo and potato sandwiches that were simple to assemble. Much of the work is done in advance (such as smoky-spicy guajillo sauce and a DIY crema sauce – though I opted to buy mine), and you need to plan in advance for this sandwich. I only let my rolls sit out one day to harden, and they were still far too soft and nearly fell apart when I attempted to toast them with the guajillo sauce. A few halves were sacrificed in the toasting process.

The filling calls for 8 ounces of chorizo to 1½ pounds of Yukon gold potatoes. Healthy resolutions or no, I’ll double the amount of chorizo next time – the mostly potato-filled rolls didn’t pack nearly enough of the rich chorizo spice as I’d hoped. Still, when slathered with rich crema and crunchy iceberg lettuce, this hefty sandwich made for a satisfying (slightly nap-inducing) lunch.

Skill level: Easy to intermediate. While some recipes are lengthy and call for hard-to-find ingredients, several only require patience and a few simple steps to achieve delicious flavors.
This book is for: Anyone who once wandered through the streets of Mexico City (or wanted to) and longs for a taste of that time.
Other recipes to try: Pollo rostizado en adobo (Roasted chicken in adobo), Bistec en salsa de chile pasilla (Steak in chile pasilla sauce) or Mole verde con pollo (Green mole with chicken)
The verdict: While the sandwiches were hearty and filling, they couldn’t compete against Hartwood’s elegance and complexity. Hartwood took on all comers to earn the top spot.






Pambazos (Fried Chorizo and Potato Sandwiches)
4 servings

4 Yukon Gold or any other small waxy potato (1½ pounds total), peeled
2 tsp. lard or canola oil, plus more for frying
½ small white onion, chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. Mexican chorizo, casings removed
4 day-old Mexican telera rolls, or hoagie or Kaiser rolls
½ cup Homemade Crema (recipe follows)
1 to 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce

For the sauce:
5 guajillo chiles, seeded, deveined and toasted briefly on a comal
¼ cup chopped onion
1 small garlic clove, peeled
½ tsp. salt, or more to taste

• Place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover them with 2 inches cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer on high until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork, 28 to 30 minutes. Let cool, then dice.
• Meanwhile, make the sauce: Hydrate the toasted chiles in water until the skins are soft, about 20 minutes. Transfer, with ½ cup of the chile water, into a blender jar with the onion, garlic and salt. Blend until mostly smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the blender jar. The sauce won’t be completely silky-smooth. That’s OK. Taste again and add more salt if desired.
• Heat the lard in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, stirring until sizzling and aromatic, about 30 seconds, and then add the chorizo, breaking it apart into small crumbles. Raise the heat to medium-high and stir often until the sausage is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
• Stir in the potato and salt to taste. Cooked until warmed through, cover and keep warm.
• Cut each roll in half and remove some of the inner crumb. Brush the outer crust of each roll with a light coating of the chile sauce. Working in batches, warm 2 teaspoons lard or canola oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. When smoking, add one half of the bread, chile-sauce side down. Cook until dark-golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Remove and add the other piece of bread, also chile-sauce side down. Repeat with the remaining rolls, draining between batches on a wire rack set on top of a baking sheet.
• To serve, spoon about ½ cup of the warm chorizo and potato mixture onto one bread half, then top with a layer of crema and fistful of lettuce. Cover with the other piece of bread. Repeat with the remaining pieces of bread and serve immediately, while the bread is still crunchy and hot.

Crema Casera (Homemade Crema)
1 cup

1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. plain yogurt (not Greek)

• Two days before you’d like to eat the crema, warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. You should only heat to take the chill off; be careful not to overheat. Stir in the yogurt and turn off the heat.
• Pour into a small clean jar and let cool. Place the lid loosely on top, without tightening and let sit for 24 hours in a warm place.
• Place the crema in the fridge for at least 6 hours to thicken. Stir and add salt to taste (I like just a pinch) before serving.

Reprinted with permission by Kyle Books

Tweet Beat: The week’s best tweets from #STL foodies

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Are you following us on Twitter? Come on, get Saucy @saucemag



Think you should be on this list? Follow us and let us know @saucemag

Extra Sauce: Top 5 Dishes of 2015

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

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. Here, he shares his top five dishes of 2015:


5. Dumplings at Private Kitchen
Nibble around the edges of the steamed pork dumplings, sip the rich stock and plot how to get more.




4. Cluckin’ Hot Fried Chicken at Southern
Four-alarm, “cluckin’ hot” Nashville-style chicken triggers all the pain and pleasure centers with fire and a hint of sweetness. All other fried chicken is milquetoast in comparison.




3. Lamb Sugo at Reeds American Table
Thick and meaty lamb sugo, amped up with orange zest and mint, sticks to ruffled creste rigate noodles and to your ribs on a cold night.




2. Whole fish at Público
Whole, head-on yellowtail snapper was stuffed with scallion, bay leaf, jalapeno, lemon and lime and roasted in the wood-fueled oven. It comes with house-made tortillas so you can share with the table. Don’t.




And the No. 1 dish of the year…

Cast-iron seared scallops at J. McArthur’s
Cast-iron skillet-seared diver scallops are good enough. Float them in smoked corn bisque with Brussels sprouts, pea shoots and bacon, and you have the best dish of the year.


-photos by Jonathan Gayman


Baked: Butternut Squash Pizza

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015



This is an easy, quick weeknight meal. Mildly sweet squash is perfectly paired with a tangy onion jam and a hint of spice from crushed red pepper flakes. Served as a pizza topping with my favorite garlic and herbs cheese (feel free to substitute goat cheese, feta or ricotta), it’s tasty and addictive. You won’t miss the classic tomato sauce. Enjoy and happy baking!

Butternut Squash Pizza
Adapted from a Food 52 recipe
2 to 3 servings

4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
¾ lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Coarse sea salt to taste
1 12- to 16 oz.-container of pizza dough
1½ ounces Boursin cheese
¼ cup fully cooked ground turkey (optional)
Handful of arugula
Balsamic vinegar

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the squash and saute until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the squash and set aside.
• Return the saucepan to the stove over medium heat and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and saute 15 minutes, until light brown. Add the vinegar and maple syrup and stir every few minutes until thick and reduced, 15 to 30 minutes.
• Add the onion mixture to the squash and mash lightly, leaving some chunks. Add the red pepper flakes and season to taste with salt. Set aside.
• Roll the pizza dough out onto a pizza stone or baking sheet in an even layer. Spread the butternut squash mixture evenly across the dough, then sprinkle with Boursin cheese. Add the ground turkey, if desired.
• Bake 15 minutes, until the crust is cooked through. Dress with arugula and let wilt, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar before slicing and serving.

Sneak Peek: Nami Ramen in Clayton

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015



Clayton, get ready to slurp. Nami Ramen will open doors Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 46 N. Central Ave., in the former home of House of Wong. Jason Jan, who co-owns the restaurant with wife Yen Jan, took his passion for creating authentic ramen at home and launched it into a full-fledged business. He spent two months working in ramen shops in Yokohama, Japan, perfecting techniques and developing recipes before passing that knowledge on to chef Arron Syedullah.

Nami offers 10 styles of ramen from traditional tonkotsu with braised pork belly to more Americanized Breakfast Ramen with a poached egg and thick-cut bacon. Each steaming bowl is filled with a house-made broth that simmers away in 120-quart stockpots for 12 to 15 hours until it reaches the ideal consistency. Customers can also choose from a small list of appetizers like kare-age chicken (bites of Japanese fried chicken), gyoza and soon-to-come steam buns, as well as rice bowls for those seeking a break from noodles.

Customers order at the counter and then grab one of 50 seats at the fast-casual eatery. While they slurp, they can sip bottled or canned local craft beer from Schlafly, 4 Hands or Urban Chestnut, or enjoy a glass of wine. True to ramen’s history in Japan as after-hours fare, Jan hopes to host late-night collaborations with local breweries in the future.

Nami Ramen will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s to come when doors open at Clayton’s new ramen shop:


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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

Best New Restaurants: No. 1 – Público

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Opening a restaurant isn’t easy. Each year, hundreds give it a shot – and not everyone succeeds. Some, however, aren’t just surviving; they’re killing it. In the last year, we ate our way through newly opened restaurants from Alton to Ballwin, compiling a list of places that serve the food and drinks we can’t get out of our heads. They bring something different and exciting to the scene – and they do it damn well. While technical excellence was a must, the service and ambiance also had to win us over. Office debates nearly came to fisticuffs, but at last we agreed on St. Louis’ 11 best new restaurants of 2015. Clear your schedule and book your reservations; you’ve got a lot of eating to do.




The world stops when you enter Público, stepping away from the controlled chaos of the Delmar Loop. Here, chef-owner Mike Randolph invites you to luxuriate in the finer things through an innovative Mexican- and South American-inspired menu unlike anything St. Louis has seen before.

The kitchen and bar teams refer to Randolph as “Coach,” a title that goes far beyond his pre-service pep talks. “You’re only as good as your team,” he said with an Eric Taylor gleam in his eye. This is not a platitude – the kitchen is structured to support and challenge its cooks as much as its diners. A cook who works hard at Público will go far in Randolph’s world. “I’m a firm believer in the fact that you can’t teach attitude,” he said. “If somebody has a good attitude, and they’re not turned into a rock star, then that’s my fault.”

When enthusiasm to learn can outweigh culinary school credentials, Randolph has to be prepared to invest long-term in cooks. That’s no easy task in an industry where turnover can be swift and frequent. What’s made it possible at Público isn’t a curriculum or corporate training system, Randolph said. It’s his even-keeled chef de cuisine, Brad Bardon.

“Brad’s just as cool as the other side of the pillow. I’ve never seen him get angry, certainly never seen him yell,” Randolph said. “He gets along with people. The servers love him; the cooks love him. He’s a dream come true.”

The yin and yang of their creative partnership shapes Público’s entire menu. “Brad was extremely conservative, and I was about as far on the opposite end of that spectrum as you can possibly be,” Randolph said. “So he was here,” – Randolph stretched out his right arm – “and I was here.” He extended his left arm, then brought both hands together. “And Público is here, in the middle. … It’s no longer Brad’s food or my food. It’s Público food.”

And just what is Público food? Imaginative, yet tight and reliable, the distinctive menu offers reassuring familiar dishes, like tacos and guacamole arepas. But these serve as an approachable entry into Randolph and Bardon’s world rather than an alternative to adventurous dining. “We have no interest in being a strip-mall Mexican restaurant or just a taco place,” Randolph said. “Tacos are a part of what we do, but they don’t by any stretch of the imagination define us.”

Público is defined by technique rather than a signature dish. The roaring wood-fire oven visible in the open kitchen touches almost everything on the menu. Cooking with something as temperamental as fire is notoriously difficult, and Público’s consistency showcases Randolph’s masterful execution.

Though a few small plates are available, think of all the offerings as a build-your-own tasting menu. Try as many dishes as possible and encourage your dining companions to share. Be brave and order the baby octopus – even texture-phobes can get behind these tender little bites of intense umami flavor. Dishes that sound tame will surprise you. A simple order of leeks arrived as a work of art, decorated with bright roe and surrounded by crema that demanded to be licked from the plate. A more substantial whole fish (a market option meant to be shared between two or more guests) is fire-roasted, simple perfection.

The esteemed bar program headed by bar manager Nick Digiovani will encourage you to share as well, since it’s almost impossible to choose just one inventive cocktail. Classics like El Diablo (Espolón Blanco tequila, lime, cassis and ginger beer) are offered alongside a menu of peculiar house creations. Try the Windy City Mezcalero for a strange, smoky herbal drink made with Del Maguey mezcal, Besk (a Swedish wormwood liqueur) and sugar.

Drinks and dishes rotate aggressively. If you haven’t dined at Público since doors opened in March, you won’t recognize most items currently available. Some favorites are gone in a flash, like the delicate cobia ceviche, served in a slurpable tomato water. Público’s heavy rotation is due both to seasonality constraints and Randolph’s commitment to keep his cooks on their toes. “Monotonous things lend themselves potentially to complacency in the kitchen, so we try to change things up,” he said.

Servers hate it, joking that the moment a dish becomes popular, Randolph pulls it from the menu. “And it is kind of the truth,” Randolph admitted. “I like to keep my cooks fresh, keep them trying new stuff.” If Randolph and Bardon are behind it, we’ll happily keep trying the new stuff, too.

-photo by Greg Rannells


Extra Sauce: Top 5 Cocktails of 2015

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

Matt Berkley works some odd hours as Sauce’s Nightlife critic, spending many a late night sipping craft cocktails around St. Louis on a hunt for the very best. Here, Berkley names his top five cocktails of 2015:




5. The Zombie at Taha’a Twisted Tiki
A tangy and tasteful battleground of flavors where Puerto Rican and Jamaican rums duke it out with high-proof Bacardi 151 rum and absinthe, along with fruit juices, bitters and cinnamon syrup for good measure – truly a monster. Ask nicely, and they’ll even serve it up in a cool tiki mug.




4. The Don Johnson at Art Bar St. Louis
This zesty little gin cocktail makes it worth a trip to Cherokee Street. The Don Johnson matches a liberal pour of Ford’s Gin with dry curaçao, Luxardo Sangue Morlacco cherry liqueur and grapefruit bitters.




3. Yellow Brick Road at Tiny Bar
Spicy, sweet and mind-numbingly strong, Tiny Bar’s take on the classic margarita is a refreshing revelation that joins Ocho tequila with Cointreau, fresh lime juice and jalapeno honey.




2. The Old-Fashioned at Anthony’s Bar
An institution within an institution, Anthony’s Old-Fashioned swims with spicy rye and is served up without the fruity flags or over-the-top frills of other bars. This the sort of satisfying cocktail that makes you close your eyes and smile after every sip.




And the No. 1 cocktail of 2015 is… 

The Barrel-Aged Ginger Manhattan at DeMun Oyster Bar

Big O Ginger Liqueur sends this drink into the stratosphere. Expertly mixed with Four Roses bourbon, a splash of Italian vermouth, and Jerry Thomas’ Decanter Bitters, this is a phenomenal, easy-sipping spin on the classic Manhattan.

-Anthony’s Bar and Taha’a Twisted Tiki photos by Jonathan Gayman 

The Scoop: Que Sazon food truck under new ownership

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015



South American food truck Que Sazon has a new team of chefs behind the window. Aaron Gray and Deana Saunders purchased the business from Fabian and Julie Ocampo last week on Dec. 22. Gray and Saunders were both chefs on the food truck Go Gyro Go since March 2012, and Gray said he’d long planned to open his own mobile eatery. He and Saunders purchased the truck, concept and recipes.

“As of right now, we’re going to keep the South American concept,” Gray said. “It’s stuff that we’re both trained in and have worked with Fabian on the truck in the past … We think we can add quite a bit to what he’s already started.”

Gray said he and Saunders hope to streamline the menu, which consists largely of arepas, empanadas and sides made with yucca and plantains, and make it more approachable to Midwestern palates. They also hope to source much of their meat and produce locally. The new Que Sazon is slated to hit both St. Louis city and county streets in January 2016.

The Ocampos are moving to Arizona in 2016, where Julie Ocampo said they plan to operate another Que Sazon food truck.


The Scoop: Blood & Sand owners put downtown bar up for sale

Monday, December 28th, 2015



Want to own a private bar and dinner club? Blood & Sand co-owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager are putting their members-only bar on the market. The business partners have developed and tested a point-of-sale software program called Brigade POS and are ready to take the product to the open market. Vytlacil said this switch in focus means the duo can no longer dedicate the amount of time necessary to run Blood & Sand.

“We’ve been thinking far in advance,” Vytlacil said. “We wanted to be honest with our membership base.”

That honesty came via an email to Blood & Sand members Dec. 23. “Blood & Sand is not a concept that can function well long-term without ownership being invested in its day-to-day activities,” Vytlacil said in the email. “It would be unfair to our employees who pour their heart into the work they love, and to our members who rightfully expect a superior dining experience.”

While the business and the property are for sale, Vytlacil and Frager do not intend to sell and run. “We will want to be available to the new ownership if they want to help take it to the next level,” he said.

Vytlacil said that the sale of Blood & Sand would not affect its sister restaurant, Death in the Afternoon.



Meatless Monday: Pappardelle with Bolognese

Monday, December 28th, 2015



Put a fresh, light spin on an Italian classic with vegan Pappardalle with Bolognese. Usually a meat sauce, this Bolognese is packed with celery, carrots, mushrooms and cannellini beans to give the meal depth and heartiness. Basil, parsley and rosemary bring fresh flavor to the sauce, which liberally coats each egg-free noodle. Click here for the recipe.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

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