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Jan 23, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘Union Loafers’

Chef Tour: Ashley Rouch

Monday, January 1st, 2018

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{ Coma Coffee Roasters }

Ashley Rouch always knew she’d work in a kitchen. “I was always fascinated with food,” she said. After stints at Baileys’ Chocolate Bar and Pint Size Bakery, Rouch is transitioning from her job as Reeds American Table’s executive pastry chef to the bread baking team at Union Loafers Café and Bread Bakery this month. Her culinary background means she values fine food and drink, but ultimately, it’s good service that makes Rouch a repeat customer. “I want to be in an environment where I always feel welcome,” she said.

1. Southwest Diner
Southwest Diner is a frequent stop for Rouch since it’s on her daily route to Reeds. “You can tell they take individual care with each ingredient.” One dish she can’t pass up is the sopapilla, and she said Southwest’s guacamole is also something special. “It steals the show – it’s the best guacamole in St. Louis.”

2. Taqueria El Bronco
“I’m a big fan of Mexican food; hands down, it’s my favorite,” Rouch said. When she needs a dose of the real deal, she heads to this Cherokee Street staple. “They have some of the best authentic tacos in town,” she said. Her favorite? “Al pastor all the way. There’s just something about the pineapple with the savoriness of the pork that’s so comforting.”

3. Público
“On the higher end [of Mexican food], I love Público. Their pork belly taco I could eat every day,” Rouch said. “They don’t get as much press as I feel they should. Their service is always great.”

4. Union Loafers Café and Bread Bakery
“I love them for both lunch and pizza,” Rouch said of this Botanical Heights standby. “They’ve spoiled me on the pizza front – now it’s hard to go anywhere else.” She’s also a fan of Loafers’ sandwiches and salads. “The amount of care and quality they put into their work is amazing.”

5. Coma Coffee Roasters
Rouch takes her coffee seriously. “I’m a huge coffee person, and my husband used to be a barista,” Rouch said. Coma Coffee is her go-to to satisfy caffeine needs. “Connor [James], their roaster, is so talented in what he’s doing with their coffee. They supply our coffee at Reeds, so I get to see them and talk to them all of the time. They’re really doing great things.”

6. Tick Tock Tavern
“It’s right by our house, so we can easily walk there,” Rouch said of the south city spot. “I just love the super old-school vibe. It reminds me of Iowa, where I grew up.” Rouch also likes the fact that Tick Tock is conveniently located next to Steve’s Hot Dogs, in case happy hour turns into dinner. Plus, “Who can argue with a $3 Schlitz?”

Photos by David Kovaluk

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Sauce Magazine: January 2018

• Summer Wright to helm Vicia’s pastry program, Reeds American Table names new pastry chef

• Best New Restaurants 2015: Union Loafers Cafe and Bread Bakery

Trendwatch: Guide to Drinking Edition (Part 2)

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

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{Vista Ramen’s Matcha Gonna Do For Me? cocktail} 

1. Go Green
Teatime and happy hour combine in green tea cocktails. Matcha is found in Retreat Gastropub’s Brainfreeze Culprit, which combines the vibrant green tea powder with rum, sherry, pineapple juice, cacao and coconut. We also spied it at Hiro Asian Kitchen, in a matcha mint julep. Green tea-infused vodka gets fresh at Rooster with apple, lime, pineapple and cucumber in the Green With Envy, while Water Street uses it in its Sweet Pea along with snap peas, dandelion liqueur, mint and lemon. Meanwhile, the drink team at Vista Ramen doubles down, using matcha and cold-brewed green tea stems in the gin-based Matcha Gonna Do For Me?

2. East-Coast Vibes
If intensely hopped IPAs blow your palate, head east. The East Coast IPA is a gentler, juicier IPA best identified by its murky, unfiltered appearance. Eastern breweries like Alchemist, Trillium and Tree House are known for these less bitter, slightly resinous beers, and up-and-coming hometown brewers are taking notice. Narrow Gauge Brewing, which recently opened inside Cugino’s in Florissant, is making waves with its cloudy, dry-hopped IPAs like Fallen Flag, and forthcoming Rockwell Beer Co. shared a taste of what’s to come at Heritage Festival with Major Key, an 8.5-percent East Coast-West Coast hybrid double IPA.

3. Concept Menus
Themed drink menus may seem like a marketing gimmick, but one sip of these exclusive cocktails will sell you. Pouring Ribbons in New York has been traveling with a themed menu series, hitting Route 66 and the Silk Road. Closer to home, Olive & Oak’s Gilligan’s Island-themed menu is a boozy voyage that includes a Three-Hour Tour, while sophisticated takes on college drinks were the star on Planter’s House’s spring break menu earlier this year. Recent menus at Blood & Sand have been based off everything from ninth-century Viking trade routes to popular music, and dedicated tiki menus have been found on bar menus from The Libertine to Taste to Retreat Gastropub.

4. Taste the Rainbow
Brewers are getting experimental, fermenting some of their classic base beers with fresh fruit. Side Project Brewing Co. has released raspberry, peach, blueberry and, most recently, apricot versions of its flagship Saison du Fermier. Over at Perennial Artisan Ales, Funky Wit has seen raspberry-rhubarb, raspberry, apricot and melon varieties, while fans of 2nd Shift Brewing’s Katy can try a veritable fruit salad of blackberry, peach, cherry and raspberry varieties. Looking for an insider taste? Rumor has it that 4 Hands Brewing Co. has quietly released infrequently available strawberry- and blueberry-inflected kegs of City Wide at its tasting room.

5. Basque Wine
Txakoli, a super dry, acidic white from Spain’s Basque region, has popped up on menus and in shops all summer. Union Loafers Café and Bread Bakery offered the crisp 2014 Xarmant Txakolina with barely-there bubbles on its summer wine list, while Reeds American Table still has two Txakolis to try. 33 Wine Bar has three of these Basque beauties on its September wine list, including Gorrondona Txakolina.

Miss Part 1? Click here to find out what else in trending in the STL beverage scene. 

-photo by Jonathan Gayman

Best New Restaurants: No. 2 – Union Loafers Cafe and Bread Bakery

Monday, December 14th, 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.

 

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Three years after Sauce published a story on how Ted Wilson was going to change the St. Louis bread scene with a new bakery, we can finally report that we were right. Wilson and co-founder Sean Netzer opened Union Loafers Cafe and Bread Bakery in Botanical Heights at the end of September, a lunch spot serving sandwiches on bread unrivaled in the city.

The key to Loafers’ loaves is fermentation. The bread is naturally leavened, meaning the bakery doesn’t just avoid chemical compounds like baking soda. In all but two of Loafers’ breads, it means avoiding even mass-produced yeast. Instead, Wilson starts with just flour and water, and carefully cultivates the yeast that occurs naturally, watching over it as it ferments – think of sourdough starters or Amish friendship breads.

Aside from the incredible flavor this process produces, Wilson is objectively fascinated by fermentation. The fact that he can start with water and flour and end up with bread makes him giddy. “In some way, it takes responsibility off your shoulders. Your role is to set up this environment … you can only be in control of so much,” Wilson said. “Then you just have to react, and you have to pay attention.”

This patient relationship with food requires a rare mix of fanatical curiosity and dogged perseverance – qualities reflected in Loafers’ entire team. Some, like chef Brian Lagerstrom (Sauce Ones to Watch class of 2015), left the fine dining world for Loafers to explore the freedom fermentation allows. Lagerstrom, who dabbled at Niche with house bread and cheese programs (not to mention house-made soy sauce, vinegars and fish sauce), was given free reign at Loafers to get as funky as he liked.
No condiment is too small for serious attention; house-made mustard and pickles grace the Cuban-like roasted pork sandwich, and house-smoked beets are piled high with sauerkraut and creamy Thousand Island dressing. Even the rotating nut butter and jam sandwich is taken seriously. Wilson and crew roast and grind the nuts, cook down the berries and churn that creamy butter.

Romantic slow food notions could easily stall when confronted with labor-intensive reality, but not at Loafers. “The work really brings us joy,” Wilson said. “(We have a) great excitement and love for these transformations that happen under our watch. … They’re little science experiments that taste good.”

Union Loafers is waiting on a liquor license to extend service into evening hours and debut a bread-centric bar menu. We’re confident it, too, will be worth the wait.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

Hit List: 5 new restaurants you must try this month

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

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1. Union Loafers Cafe and Bread Bakery: 1629 Tower Grove Ave., St. Louis, 314.833.6111,
unionloafers.com

After years of planning, renovating and baking, Ted Wilson and Sean Netzer have opened the highly anticipated Union Loafers in Botanical Heights. The cafe and bakery serves a small, rotating lunch menu of sandwiches, soups and salads along with artisanal loaves. Bite into the roasted pork sandwich, their take on a Cuban made with roast pork, country ham, Gruyere and house-made pickles piled high on Loafers’ ciabatta with house-made mustard and mayonnaise. Or try the smoked beet sandwich, also on ciabatta, which marries ruby sliced beets with Emmenthal cheese, hard-boiled egg, house-fermented sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing. The real dark horse is a delectable nut butter and house-made jam sandwich (almond butter and raspberry jam during our visit) on buttered Light & Mild country loaf; it’s a childhood staple all grown up. Go green with a Little Gem Salad tossed with house buttermilk dressing, pickled shallots, fine herbs and sourdough breadcrumbs, and don’t forget to pick up a full or half-loaf on your way out to savor artisanal bread all week long.

 

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2. Retreat Gastropub: 2 N. Sarah St., St. Louis, 314.261.4497, retreatgastropub.com

Lace up your boots and hike over to Retreat Gastropub in the Central West End for elevated pub food. Grab a seat at the concrete bar or cedar tables and benches lining the interior and tuck in to the substantial poutine with fried fingerling potatoes and cheese curds bathed in a rich mushroom demi-glace. Though you may want to inhale all the gravy-soaked goodness, leave room for the Farmhouse Burger. Two smashed beef patties topped with house-made cheese sauce, candied bacon and a sunny egg, served on an English muffin-like bun from Companion. Be sure to grab a drink at the bar, which serves up a creative cocktail menu embroidered with house-made tinctures and shrubs. You can’t go wrong with the Fort Collins, a lively concoction of Bulldog gin, grapefruit and lemon juices, Amaro Averna, IPA syrup, a black pepper tincture and house vermouth.

 

3. Tai Ke: 8604 Olive Blvd., University City, 314.801.8894

You don’t have to be an expert on Taiwanese cuisine to enjoy an authentic meal at Tai Ke. Start with an array of small plates, which are billed as side dishes and Taiwanese snacks. We swooned over the downy bao bun that holds a sliver of flavorful pork belly, and we devoured the link of red sausage on a curved bed of sticky rice that looks like a Taiwanese hot dog. Tai Ke also handles beef with aplomb – it’s incredibly tender in both the beef noodle soup (where you can cut your meat with a spoon), and spiced up with generous hits of black pepper in the sizzling beef entree over rice.

 

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4. Robata of Maplewood: 7260 Manchester Road, Maplewood, 314.899.9595, robatamaplewood.com

Robata is the first of several anticipated ramen restaurants to open its doors in the St. Louis area. But before you slurp, peruse the numerous yakitori options and share the grilled shishito peppers, pork belly or bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms, all skewered and grilled to order. An array of sushi is available, too (Robata’s owners ran the now-shuttered Sekisui). The main event, though, is the ramen, which can be customized with a variety of noodle choices, broths and garnishes. We sunk our spoons into regular-cut noodles swimming in tonkotsu-style ramen, featuring rich pork broth topped with roast pork, green onions, a boiled egg, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, pickled ginger and wood-ear mushrooms.

 

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5. Byrd & Barrel: 3422 S. Jefferson Ave., St. Louis, 314.875.9998, Facebook: Byrd & Barrel

Byrd & Barrel has come home to roost on Jefferson Avenue. This new South City eatery serves up pressure-fried chicken and indulgent fare. Choose from one of 50 canned beers and start your meal with the South Side Poutine: house-made tater tots coated in shreds of smoked chicken, mellow cheese curds and a choice of smoked mushroom or chicken gravy. Order a few juicy wings to share, but save room for the over-the-top Mother Clucker sandwich that piles a fried boneless thigh with caramelized onions, spicy pepper jelly, house-made Provel “Cheez-whiz” and Red Hot Riplets. If you manage to save room for a side, don’t miss the creamy Provel mac-n-cheese.

 

-photos by Michelle Volansky and Meera Nagarajan

First Look: Union Loafers Cafe and Bread Bakery in Botanical Heights

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

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After years of planning, renovating and baking, Ted Wilson and Sean Netzer quietly opened Union Loafers Cafe and Bread Bakery yesterday, Sept. 30, at 1629 Tower Grove Ave., in Botanical Heights. As The Scoop reported in June 2012 and July 2013, this highly anticipated bakery will turn out naturally leavened, hearth-baked breads. The small team at Union Loafers includes Brian Lagerstrom, formerly of Niche and a member of the Sauce Ones to Watch class of 2015.

Union Loafers serves up a lunch menu of sandwiches, open-faced tartines, soups and salads. “Everything’s made from scratch. Especially the bread,” Wilson said, and he means everything – including pickles, mayonnaise, jams and even butter, all made from Missouri dairy. “The only thing we’re not doing is curing meat – yet.”

After the grand opening this Sunday, Oct. 4, drop in for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. or buy a loaf of fresh bread from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (or until supply runs out) Tuesdays through Sundays. Union Loafers is currently waiting on a liquor license, but Wilson hopes to stock a bar with a selection of beer, wine and whiskey.

 

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-photos by Meera Nagarajan

 

 

Trendwatch: A look at what’s on the plate, in the glass and atop our wish list right now – Part 1

Monday, December 8th, 2014

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1. Fishy Doughnuts: French fritters stuffed with fish and seafood have been washing up on menus all over town. Even if you missed Niche’s smoked trout beignets with sorghum butter and chives, you can still bite into beer-battered brandade beignets of salted cod, potatoes and garlic at Urban Chestnut’s Brewery & Bierhall in The Grove, lobster beignets at Three Flags Tavern and spicy crab beignets at Vin de Set. The classic French market doughnut has never tasted so much like the sea.

2. Top Muffins: What could go better with eggs than a homemade English muffin? You don’t have to head to David Chang’s Momofuku Ko to get a killer house-made version. Restaurants like Death in the Afternoon and Winslow’s Home ditched the bag of Thomas brand rounds and baked their own. Grab a fried egg sandwich at Winslow’s to experience the difference. And any time you eye the sporadically available English muffin at microbakery Comet Coffee, snatch it. Prepare to become an English muffin addict when cafe-bakery Union Loafers opens (“Soon!” promised owner-baker Ted Wilson.). Look for the breakfast staple at the Botanical Heights shop along with a bialy, a Polish roll that’s a cross between an English muffin and a bagel.

3. Forest on the Plate: Cooking with conifer is an art form at René Redzepi’s restaurant, Noma, in Copenhagen, and pine has popped up on plates here at home, too, at places like Sidney Street Cafe, where spruce oil brightened pistachio-encrusted scallops, or Blood & Sand, where they’re grinding toasted juniper berries to season chicharrónes. Also spied at B&S: an Asian pear salad with a buttermilk-juniper sauce and juniper-hemp seed crumble.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of Trendwatch.

 

 

 

 

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