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Apr 24, 2014
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Basso’

On the Line: Staci Powell of Basso

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

 

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Line cook Staci Powell started her career in corporate kitchens at P.F. Chang’s and The Cheesecake Factory. But when the she heard about an opportunity to work in at Basso under James Beard award-winning chef Patrick Connolly, she jumped at the chance. Today, you can find Powell at the pasta station, whipping out hand-made noodles, and often working at Connolly’s side during events like Taste of St. Louis and Sidney Street Cafe’s 10th anniversary dinner. Here, she shares her experience moving to an independent kitchen and impressing Connolly with her grandmother’s fried chicken and greens.

On moving from a corporate kitchen
“You can be a lot more creative. … We take a lot of [food] from local places. … [Chef Connolly] is really big on seeing that from us, and you don’t really get that at a corporate restaurant. We also have a lot of events outside the restaurant. You get to see a different side. To do stuff like [the Sidney Street 10th anniversary dinner] is one of the best parts of this job.”

On her go-to staff meal of fried chicken, mac-n-cheese, greens and cornbread
“At staff meal, he wants you to put a lot of love in. It’s your chance to be creative and try other things and kind of wow the other employees… Chef loves [when I make that meal] because he loves Southern food. He loves when I do greens. They’re his favorite.”

 

-photo by Michelle Volansky

 

Still Can’t Quit the Fish?

Monday, October 7th, 2013

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After reading about the allure of fly-fishing in Julie Cohen’s “Rite of the River”, wow your friends by preparing trout recipes from The Tavern Kitchen & Bar and Panorama. Still can’t quit the fish? Try these three fish finishing techniques inspired by some favorite trout dishes around town. And after that? Well, it’s time to go fishing.

1) Marinate a trout fillet with olive oil, toasted cracked fennel seed and thinly sliced oranges for 24 hours. Place fillet on a baking sheet and put in a 325 degree oven skin-side down. Bake for 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve on a plate brushed with almond butter.

– Inspired by chef Patrick Connolly’s red trout from Basso. For the exact recipe for this dish, including directions on how to make the accompanying green bean salad, click here.

Basso, 7036 Clayton Ave., Clayton, 314.932.7820, basso-stl.com 

2) Rub a trout fillet with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sear for 2 minutes on either side. Put the fillet on a baking sheet and top with sauteed vegetables (minced garlic, julienned sun-dried tomatoes, quartered artichoke hearts and sliced asparagus). Put in a 350 degree oven for 3 minutes. Finish with a splash of butter and a squeeze of lemon juice.

– Inspired by chef Nathan Bennett’s grilled trout from Hendel’s Market Café & Piano Bar. For the exact recipe for this dish, click here.

Hendel’s Market Café & Piano Bar, 599 St. Denis St., Florissant, 314.837.2304, hendelsrestaurant.com 

3) Salt and pepper the inside of a clear-cut trout. Close the trout and dredge it in flour and then cook in a lightly oiled saute pan for 5 minutes on each side, or until golden. Top with a sauce of white wine, whole peppercorns, shallots, fish stock, butter, lemon juice, capers and dill.

– Inspired by chef Bryan Carr’s rainbow trout from Pomme Restaurant. For the exact recipe for this dish, click here.

Pomme Restaurant, 40 N. Central Ave., Clayton, 314.727.4141, pommerestaurants.com/restaurant 

-Photo by Greg Rannells

 

 

 

 

Nightlife: Basso

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

 {Second from left: Patrick Connolly, executive chef at Basso}

Wood-fired pizzas and bowls of steaming house-made pasta reinforce pseudo Italian-style cocktails at Basso, the boisterous and continuously packed gastropub burrowed below The Restaurant at The Cheshire. An upscale, casual spot where the flames of wall-mounted gas lamps crackle and illuminate an Old World charm, Basso is best enjoyed as a late-evening drinking and dining spot.

Read the rest of Matt Berkley’s Nightlife review of Basso here.

— Photo by Jonathan Gayman

The Scoop: Despite Dierdorf & Hart’s closing in Westport Plaza, LHM chairman is “excited about the future”

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

After nearly a 30 year-run, Dierdorf & Hart’s is closing its doors. As reported by St. Louis Magazine’s George Mahe, the steakhouse, located at 323 Westport Plaza, made the announcement last week that doors would shutter after dinner service on May 18 (Lunch service has already ceased.).

Is Dierdorf & Hart’s closure an indication that Westport Plaza is in decline? The Scoop spoke earlier today with Bob O’Loughlin, chairman of Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM), which purchased Westport last year and has its corporate headquarters at the Maryland Heights development.

“When we took over in October, the whole complex was running at 72-percent occupancy,” O’Loughlin said of the 200,000 square feet of retail space and 500,000 square feet of office space. Occupancy has since increased to 74 percent on the retail side and 92 percent for office use, he noted.

Besides Dierdorf & Hart’s, the other restaurants, bars and food-related shops currently at Westport Plaza include: Drunken Fish, Family Nuts, Kobe Japanese Grill, McDonald’s, Patrick’s Bar & Grill, Paul Mineo’s Trattoria, Starbucks, St. Louis Bread Co., Subliminal Subs, Trainwreck Saloon and Westport Pizza Co. Subliminal Subs and Family Nuts are two recent additions to the complex.

O’Loughlin also noted that LHM is planning to open its own concept at Westport: a “hip Mexican” restaurant that will feature an indoor-outdoor bar. While no timeline has been set for the eatery, which will serve as a replacement to the Casa Gallardo that closed a few years ago, O’Loughlin stated that the project is “a definite go” and hopes that doors will open by late-fall. (LHM also owns the recently renovated The Cheshire, whose eating establishments include The Restaurant, Basso and The Market; and The Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, with its 360 lounge.) According to O’Loughlin, LHM has also spoken to such restaurants as locally owned chains Llywelyn’s Pub and Big Daddy’s, as well as a national chain called Park Tavern, about adding a location at Westport.

Landscaping enhancements and upcoming events such as Parties in the Plaza, an art fair, wine tastings and live music on Fridays during the summer will bring an even more enhanced experience to Westport, O’Loughlin hopes. “We see some momentum,” he said. “We’re excited about the future of it.”

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: Wil Fernandez-Cruz has left The Restaurant

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Wilfrin Fernandez-Cruz has left his post as executive chef of The Cheshire’s The Restaurant. Fernandez-Cruz and his wife Lisa, executive pastry chef at The Restaurant and Basso, moved from New York City in late August and started preparing for The Restaurant’s opening in early September. Although Wil loved the large kitchen at The Restaurant and the massive smoker and rotisserie, reminiscent of Cookshop, where he worked as chef de cuisine in NYC, he told The Scoop that he “didn’t like the direction The Restaurant was moving.” According to Wil, he was unhappy that he wasn’t able to use enough seasonal ingredients and products coming from small local purveyors.

Wil plans on taking the next few weeks off to spend with his two young sons. While he and Lisa’s end goal (no timeline in sight) is to have their own restaurant, in the meantime, he hopes to work at another restaurant in the city. With his immediate start at The Restaurant, he hasn’t had time to explore St. Louis’ food scene, but he’s excited for the chance to finally see what the city has to offer. Compared to NYC, “St. Louis,” he said, “is a little city, but it has big industry.”

Lisa remains on as the executive pastry chef at The Cheshire’s The Restaurant and Basso.

UPDATE: In a statement issued by The Restaurant at The Cheshire, no plans have been reported as far as interviewing for a new executive chef.  The statement said, “We have an outstanding culinary team in place at The Restaurant, an excellent corporate chef in Rex Hale who has been involved from the start, and an amazing talent in Basso Executive Chef Patrick Connolly, a James Beard Award winner, who will take on a larger role.”

— photo by Michelle Volanksy

The Perfect Mix: An interview with Wil and Lisa Fernandez-Cruz

Friday, January 11th, 2013



We all know mixing business and pleasure can be a recipe for disaster, but for Wilfrin and Lisa Fernandez-Cruz, there’s never been a difference between the two. They met while working at 202, a now-closed restaurant in New York’s Chelsea Market. Wil, having emigrated from the Dominican Republic, had climbed the restaurant ladder to sous chef, and Lisa was making pastries. After marriage, two babies and a job change, the pair has been reunited in the kitchen at The Cheshire. He’s the executive chef for the newly opened The Restaurant, its catering arm and The Market (coming soon). She’s executive pastry chef for all of The Cheshire’s eating establishments. And thankfully for St. Louis diners, their recipe for making it work tastes just right.

What was the final impetus to leave NYC?

LF: It was always in the back of my head to bring the kids back. There are just so many more opportunities for them here. But one day, I had one of those days where your bag breaks on the subway, then you trip and fall and step into a huge puddle, and a man screams at you for no reason …

WF: And some guy is puking …

LF: Or pees on your shoe. And I’m like, am I in a movie? I called my sister crying, and the next day she sent me an email that said, “I found this ad on Craigslist and maybe you should apply; there’s a job for your husband at the same place.” We were here within three weeks of applying.

Did you start dating at 202?

WF: We met there – dated, got married; it was a beautiful time.

LF: Well, I didn’t talk to him at first. He didn’t speak any English! He was like, “Hola lady.”

You learned English to woo her?

WF: Pretty much.

LF: He slipped me his number one day.

WF: I was that creepy guy.

What’s your best tactic for working together?

LF: We’re brutally honest without hurting each other’s feelings.

WF: We work really well together. We knew that going in. We fell in love working in a kitchen. I look at Lisa as a business person. Outside, we’re married. Here, we’re co-workers. I’m not like, “Hey sweetie, can you do this for me?”

Your kids must have the most sophisticated palates in all of day care and kindergarten.

LF: George [the 3-year-old] has a 100-percent salt palate. Every single morning he wants eggs and bacon. “Did you put salt on this?” he’ll say.

WF: Then, “Can I just have the salt? I’ll salt it myself.”

LF: But Wil [the 5-year-old] is about the cakes, cookies and candy. Every day, he asks me, “Are you gong to make some cupcakes today? Do you want to bring some home?”

LF: Food; it’s pretty much our life.

WF: It is our life.

— photo by Ashley Gieseking

 

The Scoop: A round of bartending news

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013



With beverage programs holding their weight against food menus these days, it’s not enough to simply keep up with what the chefs around town are up to. A trio of talented area bartenders are doing some moving and shaking worthy of notice.

Jamie Kilgore, the bartender at Cielo Bar and Restaurant whose face adorned the December cover of Sauce magazine and whose drinking advice got us through the holiday season, has given notice that she will be leaving the downtown restaurant inside The Four Seasons-St. Louis. Kilgore will be joining her husband, Ted Kilgore of Taste, as part of his new project, The Plantar’s House, a cocktail bar targeted to open mid-year.

Also, Jason Reed, who has worked behind the stick at Salt and briefly at newly opened Basso at The Cheshire, will be leaving Salt to develop the cocktail program for the recently announced Table.

Table is the communal dining restaurant to be located in Benton Park in the space formerly occupied by The Stable. Chef Cassy Vires and her husband Josh Renbarger of Home Wine Kitchen are behind that project and hope to have doors open by June.

Finally, Joel Clark (pictured) has left Sanctuaria. Clark, who jumped aboard the bar train at Sanctuaria more than two years ago, informed The Scoop that his final day at the restaurant was December 20. While Clark plans to remain a member of the St. Louis bartending community, his plans are still to be determined.

— photo by Jonathan Gayman

Drink This Weekend Edition: Old but new at The Cheshire

Friday, December 7th, 2012

St. Louisans who remember what The Cheshire looked like in its heyday shouldn’t get teary-eyed over the vast renovations that have gone into resurrecting the 1930s structure. Head to The Restaurant, the first of three concepts slated for the 35,000 square-foot building at 7036 Clayton Ave., and you’ll see an exterior that is still as gloriously Tudor in style as the dark wood beams, stained glass and functional fireplaces. But with a restoration worthy of a This Old House episode come fresh, contemporary décor touches such as lighting and seating will remind you which century you live in.


{The Monk’s Manhattan}

The idea of blending the old with the new carries over to The Restaurant’s drink menu. If you can only order one cocktail, make it The Monk’s Manhattan. To give you an idea of just how good it is: “When someone from the table orders it, soon we’re sending out two or three more because everyone else at the table wants one,” said Katy Romine, whose official title is “cocktail chef.” What makes this Manhattan so good? Bulleit rye whiskey, dry vermouth, Benedictine, and whiskey barrel-aged bitters – three and a half dashes to be precise, per The Restaurant’s bar manager Matt McMullin (whom dedicated drinkers will recognize from his tenure at Lola). Guard the bourbon-poached apple garnish; it’s too tasty to share.

The Monk’s Manhattan is proving so popular that it’ll stick around for a while, even though the other cocktails on the list won’t. “Unlike many restaurants that change the entire list every few months, we will be debuting one new cocktail on our list every two weeks, based on what is seasonally available,” explained Romine. “The goal of the rotation on the list is to not only serve what is freshest but also to organically move the list from season to season, like we do with our food.”


{Dark ‘n’ Stormy}

Two cocktails worth a try before they say goodbye are the Pearadise Express, a twist on a Sidecar that features a smoked apple purée; and a Dark ‘n’ Stormy with fizzy house-made ginger beer plus Black Strap Rum floating on top like a castaway. Cocktails coming down the line include one featuring fig-flavored vodka and another starring amaro.




If wine is on your mind, rest assured that the restaurant’s wine cellar (pictured above), with the capacity for 1,700 bottles, has something to please your palate. The restaurant offers 30 by-the-glass picks, and among bottle choices, you’ll find 35 whites and more than 40 reds. The list is the pet project of The Cheshire’s beverage director: advanced sommelier and certified wine educator Patricia Wamhoff. This wine wonder woman’s standout bottle pick is the Merlot-Cabernet Franc by Chateau Fonplegade St. Emilion of Bordeaux, France. “It’s a blend between Old World and New World in style,” said Wamhoff of this $87 bottle. “It has the fruit forward of New World but still with the backbone of Old World earthiness,” she said. Wamhoff also mans a captain’s list that she dubbed the  “super-juice list,” and she’s downright giddy to share these “gems.”

Basso, the lower level pub at The Cheshire, is slated to open on December 17. Like the food prepared by Basso’s exec chef Patrick Connolly, the cocktails will have an Italian influence. I didn’t have the opportunity to try the drinks on the launch menu, which is divided into categories of  “Originale,” “Classico” and “Dolce,” but considering that Jason Reed, formerly of Salt, is behind the bar at Basso with loads of Italian spirits, wines and liqueurs at his disposal, I’m confident that the word deliziosa will slip from my lips at first sip.

The Scoop: The Cheshire continues to poach The Big Apple

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

The Cheshire’s gorgeously rehabbed soon-to-open basement restaurant and bar Basso now has an executive chef. Patrick Connolly, a St. Louis native, has returned from New York City to helm the Italian-themed casual counterpart to recently opened The Restaurant, which sits above Basso at 7036 Clayton Ave.

Connolly first gained national attention while at the restaurant Radius in Boston, where he served as executive chef. In 2007, he was nominated for the James Beard Rising Star award, and in 2008, he won the James Beard Best Chef Northeast award. From Radius, he moved to Bobo in New York City, where he again assumed the role of executive chef. Since leaving Bobo a year ago, Connolly was acting as exec-chef for The Kitchen, a food media company and private event space in Manhattan.

Just five weeks ago, when Connolly came across the post for Basso, he and his wife hadn’t been considering a move to St. Louis, but they had been toying with the idea of leaving New York. A day after speaking with Todd Rushing, a partner for Concentrics Restaurants (the company designing The Cheshire’s new eateries), Connolly was on a plane to St. Louis. Connolly was so impressed with Basso and the surrounding facilities that he quickly took the job, but the part he’s most excited about on a day-to-day basis is his new wood-burning oven. While working at Bobo and The Kitchen, Connolly said, “I did a series called ‘Plate to Gate’ where I went to the farms I sourced from. I would go there and produce dinners and cook with wood off the property. It was always a treat. Now I’ll get to cook with it every day.”

Connolly is currently in the last stages of tweaking the menu for Basso before it opens on December 17. He plans to feature about 10 to 12 small plates, six or seven options for both house-made pastas and pizzas, a few a la carte items from the grill, five sides and five desserts.

Connolly is also looking forward to working with Wil and Lisa Fernandez-Cruz, the husband-wife team who are the executive chef and executive pastry chef, respectively, at The Restaurant upstairs. Connolly was friends with the two while living in New York, and he and Wil already have plans to share whole animals between The Restaurant and Basso. “New York and New England have great farms, but the Midwest is the heartland,” Connolly said. ”There’s so much. I’m learning new products every day.”

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