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Jan 22, 2018
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Lou Rook’

Eat This: Wow Board at Annie Gunn’s

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

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We don’t know who named the Wow Board at Annie Gunn’s – the staff or the customers presented with a plank piled high with house-made charcuterie, rich cheeses and pickled vegetables, seasonal chutney and ubiquitous Irish soda bread. The dozen or so offerings change daily according to chef Lou Rook III and butcher Andrew Jennrich’s whim, from blood sausage terrine to dry-aged Kobe-style beef. Don’t pester your server for details. You’ll ruin a wow-worthy surprise

-photo by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: Andrew Jennrich departs from Butchery, joins Annie Gunn’s

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

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{From left, Butchery’s former head butcher Andrew Jennrich and Truffles executive chef Brandon Benack}

 

Andrew Jennrich has left his post as head butcher at Butchery, the butcher shop and food emporium at 9202 Clayton Road in Ladue. Jennrich said he is now reporting for work at Annie Gunn’s, where’s he’s doing a little bit of everything at the Chesterfield restaurant and its smokehouse next door, he said.

Aleksander “Alex” Jovanovic, general manager at Truffles (which is under the same ownership as Butchery), said he appreciated Jennrich’s contribution to the fledgling butcher shop that opened in late summer. “He helped us get our feet off the ground,” Jovanovic said. “I was hoping he would have stayed longer.” However, he noted the unexpected split was still amicable.

Jennrich said his decision to leave came down to a difference of opinion regarding Butchery’s direction. “We saw things differently,” Jennrich said. “I had a great time being with Brandon (Benack, Truffles’ executive chef) and Alex. I miss being with those guys. Other aspects – (It) just wasn’t going to work out.”

Taking the head butcher slot is Ryan McDonald, who joined the team at Truffles and Butchery as executive sous chef in late October. Jovanovic said that despite the unanticipated change, the transition has been seamless since the Jennrich and McDonald had many weeks to work together prior to his departure. McDonald’s primary role at the shop is butchering; two line cooks from Truffles are now responsible for charcuterie.

Jennrich said his move to Annie Gunn’s has been an educational one, noting the restaurant’s quality and talented staff, particularly executive chef Lou Rook. “Lou Rook, Steve Gontram, Vince Bommarito, Bill Cardwell – they laid the track for all of us. It’s cool to work with someone who set the groundwork,” Jennrich said. “They were all the guys doing farm-to-table before it was cool.” Jennrich’s official title at Annie Gunn’s is still to be determined, but he anticipates it will be settled in January after the holiday season.

 

-photo by Meera Nagarajan

Take It From The Expert

Friday, May 17th, 2013

It was a Wednesday afternoon at my desk with two classic French whites: Pascal Jolivet Pouilly-Fumé 2011 (a famed Loire Valley sauvignon blanc) and Christian Moreau Chablis 2011 (an equally esteemed chardonnay from Burgundy). Chef Lou Rook had the great idea to send some beautiful oysters from Prince Edward Island to challenge these two wines. Pouilly-Fumé was stunning with the simple oyster, and the Chablis was dead-on amazing when the oyster was dipped in mignonette. The bivalve’s aroma combined perfectly with the fragrance of both wines. There is a reason why classic pairings become classic. It was certainly a great day at the office.

— Glenn Bardgett, member of the Missouri Wine and Grape Board and wine director at Annie Gunn’s

— illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan

By the Book: Lou Rook’s Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels in a Spicy Tomato Vermouth Broth with Grilled Crusted Bread

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

The Chesterfield Valley wasn’t always The Chesterfield Valley. When I was a kid, that area was grassland and soccer fields as far as the eye could see. Oh, and there was The Smokehouse Market. After two or three hours of running after a black-and-white speckled ball (or away from it, in my athletically inept case), my prize for the energy exerted was lunch at The Smokehouse Market. We’d go up to the counter and stand on our tippy toes to order a smattering of house-made items, forming makeshift sandwiches out of fresh cheeses and roasted vegetables on thickly sliced whole-grain bread. Dessert was a chocolate chip cookie from the counter right next to the cash register that my sister and I had to split. When the flood devastated the area in ’93, I worried that my beloved lunchtime market had gone with it. Indeed, it had filled with several feet of water, as had Annie Gunn’s restaurant that sat next to it. But fortunately, Tom Sehnert, who owned both eateries, planned to rebuild.

Enter chef Lou Rook. Together, Rook and Sehnert created a new concept for Annie Gunn’s – one that infused fine-dining reliability with farm-to-table roots. After a series of slow changes to the menu, everything from the meat to the produce to the cheese came from local farms, and the food that Rook created using these ingredients was fantastic. Twenty years later, chef Rook has released his first cookbook, Rook Cooks: Simplicity at Its Finest, filled with many of the mainstay dishes that have made Annie Gunn’s worthy of a trip to Chesterfield for even the most jaded critics of West County.

As we finish up our month of cooking from cookbooks penned by St. Louis culinary stars, I was ecstatic to cook from one of my very favorite chefs in town (Bonus: Chef Rook is an incredibly nice guy.). This recipe for mussels epitomizes what I believe Rook is trying to accomplish with this book: quality yet easy-to-find ingredients that are prepared simply to provide big flavor. (I must note that not all of the recipes in this book do so, such as those which call for making stocks and sauces that, on their own, would take many hours and dollars.) And boy did this one deliver. The 1/3 cup of minced garlic and the full tablespoon of crushed red pepper flakes tossed into the broth made for a load of flavor that tickled my taste buds with every bite. While milder palates may prefer to knock the garlic and pepper flakes down a few notches, my heat-loving household happily sopped it up with the grilled bread I served alongside.

For the tomatoes, Rook recommends the only canned tomatoes that you should ever buy: San Marzanos, available at just about any corner grocery. I opted for the white wine I had in the fridge, but if you happen to have vermouth lying around, by all means pop it open for this savory and spicy broth. I do wish Rook was a bit clearer on the rest of the ingredient list, however. After all, what exactly is pure olive oil and did I really need it? A call to Extra Virgin, An Olive Ovation in Clayton quickly answered that question: “Mussels will taste better with extra virgin,” owner Marianne Prey quickly affirmed. And what is clam broth? A little research proved that it’s just the juice that canned clams are packed in. The grilled bread mentioned in the title of Rook’s recipe was left out of the recipe completely, but figuring out how to make it proved easy.

The instructions, however, were fairly spot-on, especially the note on how to de-beard the mussels and smoothing out the sauce with a touch of honey. It worked like a charm. The only tweak I’d recommend: more mussels. With a 28-ounce can of tomatoes and a full 2 cups of clam broth, this broth was begging for more of those meaty little prizes inside the shell. Next time, I’d double the number of mussels and make this a meal for four.

Twenty years after the flood, I’m still a regular at both of Rook’s eateries as they both continue to hold a special place in my heart. On the day my boyfriend and I brought home our first puppy, we sat on the patio at The Smokehouse and ate fresh cheese and roasted vegetable sandwiches. While The Valley may now just, unfortunately, be The Valley, Annie Gunn’s and The Smokehouse Market remain the gems among a breathtakingly large line of chain restaurants. And that makes this cookbook a treasure of its own.

Steamed Prince Edward Island Mussels in a Spicy Tomato Vermouth Broth with Grilled Crusted Bread
2 Servings 

24 Prince Edward Island Mussels
¼ cup pure olive oil
1/3 cup minced garlic
1 Tbsp. red peppercorn flakes
1/3 cup dry vermouth or white wine
1 28-oz. can crushed tomato, preferably San Marzano, Muir Glen or your homemade crushed tomatoes
2 cups clam broth (Note: I used the juice from canned clams.)
Italian parsley
Basil (optional)
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. honey (optional)
Kosher salt, to taste
Butter (optional)

• Scrub the outer shells of the mussels and de-beard them. Set the mussels aside.
• Add the pure olive oil to a 4-quart stockpot and begin heating the oil on high heat.
• Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook them to a light toast.
• Deglaze the pot with the vermouth, then add the crushed tomatoes and clam broth. Let the pot simmer for 30 minutes.
• Add the mussels and steam them until they open.
• Lift the mussels out of the sauce with a strainer or slotted spoon and place them onto a platter or into two bowls.
• Finish the sauce with Italian parsley, basil, 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste.

Presentation:
• Spoon the sauce over the top of the mussels and garnish to your liking with fresh herbs.

Notes:

  1. To de-beard mussels, simply use a rag to pull the beards from the mussels while you are washing them. The beard is the part of the mussel that hands outside of the shell.
  2. If the sauce seems a little on the acidic side, smooth it out with honey.
  3. Prince Edward Island is world-renowned for their high-quality mussels with distinctive flavor – they truly do set the standard. The broth can be made in advance and can hold up to a week in the refrigerator.
  4. Butter is always good in anything, so you can add a little to finish the sauce if you would like.

Recommended Beverages:
Light lager, wheat beer, riesling, Gewürztraminer or Missouri Traminette

What’s your favorite memory from The Smokehouse Market or Annie Gunn’s? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of Rook Cooks. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Joe, whose comment on last week’s By the Book has won him a copy of Stone Soup Cottage: A Vignette of Seasonal Recipes. Joe, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew. 

Lou Rook’s cookbook recommendations

Friday, December 21st, 2012



Last minute shopping? Grab a copy of the new cookbook Rook Cooks by Annie Gunn’s longtime chef Lou Rook. You can find it at The Smokehouse Market, Annie Gunn’s and Kitchen Conservatory.

For Rook, cookbooks haven’t influenced his cooking as much as they have inspired it. “As a chef, you use cookbooks when you don’t have time to go out to dinner or travel – in order to explore new cuisines,” he said. “You read through them to get your inspiration.” So when creating his own cookbook, he resisted the temptation to make something his peers could “ooh” and “aah” over and instead created a guide for you and me. “There’s not 10,000 ingredients needed, no crazy apparatuses. There are therapeutic aspects to cooking; it’s about wine and song. I tried to make this a fun book.” Here, a few of Rook’s favorite reads for getting his mind moving.

A Man and His Meatballs: The Hilarious But True Story of a Self-Taught Chef and Restaurateur by John LaFemina “This is a story of this gentleman in New York City who wanted to own a restaurant. The book is about his vision for it and the trials and tribulations in how he got there; it’s a great read – more of a for-fun one. For me, it’s both a memoir and a cookbook – he ends each chapter with great, basic recipes.”

Ducasse Flavors of France by Alain Ducasse with Linda Dannenberg “I was fortunate enough to eat at one of [Ducasse’s] restaurants in France. He takes a more modern approach, well, a little bit more modern approach to Old World cooking, while keeping the French basics still in mind. It has beautiful photos, too.”

The Inn at Little Washington Cookbook: A Consuming Passion by Patrick O’Connell “This comes from probably the No. 1 inn in the United States. When they first founded the restaurant, 30 years or so ago, all they did was fry chicken and people would drive in for it from Washington, D.C. Now, they own basically the whole town. The book has simple cooking techniques that use quality ingredients. They’re the best at making sure that food is still food. I love the pictures: this rural town in Virginia, the countryside, old barns, sheep, cows … the recipes are incredible, too.”

— photo by Greg Rannells

Annie Gunn’s Lou Rook and Glenn Bardgett to make return appearance at James Beard House

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Annie Gunn’s executive chef Lou Rook and wine director Glenn Bardgett have been invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York. The pair will prepare a meal for members of the James Beard Foundation and the media on October 23. This will be the second time that Rook and Bardgett have been invited to showcase their talents for the Beard Foundation. In 2007, they also prepared a multi-course meal at the famed Beard House in Hyde Park.

While details are still scant, Bardgett, also a wine columnist for Sauce and a 2011 James Beard Award semi-finalist in the category of Best Wine Service, told The Scoop that Rook’s meal will showcase Missouri food in season during October. As for the wine pairing, Bardgett stated, “My plan is to do Missouri gold medal wines” determined by this year’s state wine competition, to be held in August.

Talk of the James Beard Foundation is becoming a regular topic of conversation around town. Chef John Griffiths will be preparing a dinner at the Beard House on June 26, while Jim Fiala, chef-owner of Acero, Liluma and The Crossing, cooked there this past March.

— Photo by Jonathan S. Pollack

Two area chefs to appear in front of big-time TV audiences

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Two St. Louis faces will appear on TV screens around the country this month.

First, tonight marks the premiere of Around the World in 80 Plates, Bravo’s newest culinary competition. Clara Moore, executive chef for Local Harvest Cafe and Catering, is among the 12 chef-contestants participating in this international culinary adventure, testing her skills, stamina and knowledge of local food culture. Will Moore come out on top? Tune in tonight at 9 p.m. If you get hooked, well, now you know what you’ll be doing on Wednesday nights this summer.

Another local chef soon to get some big-time TV time is Dave Rook, executive chef at Copia Urban Winery and Market. Rook is headed to New York City this month to compete in the finals of the Walmart Choice Steak Challenge. Rook recently bested his brother Lou Rook, executive chef at Annie Gunn’s, in the local rib-eye grilling showdown. At the NYC finals, slated for May 22, Dave Rook will face off against chefs from seven other cities – Tampa, Miami, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Nashville and Atlanta – with top honors to be determined by a judging panel that includes champion pit master Chris Lilly. The competition will be televised before a national audience and will also be broadcast on the Sony Jumbo Tron in Times Square. We will provide details on program date and time once Rook receives further information.

— Photo courtesy of Bravo 

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