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Friday, March 25, 2016

Olive + Oak

After a friend reported that she had been to Olive + Oak three times, it's hard not to notice. It quickly got added to the top of the list of places we wanted to try and I was thankful for getting a reservation (5:30pm Sunday) while calling on Thursday. Rarely do we try to go some place so new this quickly!

I had a little bit of trouble finding the restaurant since they don't have a sign yet, so look for the blue and white color theme on the outside, which carries inside as well. I really enjoyed the "olive branch and oak leaf" motif, which is on all the cocktail napkins and menus.

We sat towards the back of the restaurant, which has an open kitchen. It's neat to watch the cooks in action except for when something is dropped. hehe

One of the owners came over to check up on us so that was a nice personal touch in addition to the wall of pictures that faced us.

The menu donates one entire side to cocktails, wines, and beers. While the wine and beers (mostly craft brews!) is quite lengthy, the cocktail list is immediately at the top so we all stopped there. My eyes immediately went to the drink with the Big O in it called "#69".

#69 - Whiskey, Lemon & Lime, Big O, Egg, Torched Rosemanry
Since Patience ordered that, I went with my second choice, "#51", which had vodka and bubbles in it!

#51 - Vodka, Rose Infused Dolin Blanc, Lemon, Bubbles
Also, each table comes with a wine book, which can seem overwhelming, but after flipping through it, the list is actually "user friendly" with easy to understand section headers.

Again, I found myself in the usual place of wanting to order everything on the menu and luckily there were four of us so we could get a variety of items. We still definitely need to go back to try more!!

Patience and I started off with oysters because we can never say no to them. We each ordered two west coast and two east coast.

East Coast and West Coast Oysters
Amy and Molly chose the Stuffed Clam, which looked a little bit unusual in the long shells, but was good if you like that clam flavor.

Stuffed Clam
Yet, my favorites from the starter section was the Blue Crab Gratin along with the cheese curds.

Blue Crab Grain
Cheese Curds
Amy is the only one who dared to get a salad with all the food we had ordered! This is the Tuscan kale with crispy potato, grated egg, sweet pepper with a creamy sherry dressing.

Tuscan Kale Salad
Since there were scallops on the menu, it was pretty easy for Patience and I to select our entrees.

Roasted Sea Scallops on a bed of braised flageloet beans with suace vierge
Amy tried the hearty Shephard's Pie, which came with braised lamb, root vegetable, cauliflower with a roasted leek gravy.

Shepard's Pie
Molly ordered the Tagliatelle with mushrooms, roasted garlic, leeks with a herb goat cheese.

Tagliatelle
With Patience around, there always dessert to be ordered. I'm really not sure where we found room for this Bread Pudding!

Bread Pudding
And I believe this is a caramel butterscotch pudding with candied walnuts.

Caramel Butterscotch Pudding
So many more things to try! Can't wait to go back!

Resources:

Olive + Oak = http://www.oliveandoakstl.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

J. McAurthur's

Have you ever gone to a restaurant and just wanted to say "bring me one of everything"? Well, that's how I was feeling here. We wanted to try it ALL!

Luckily, we had some partners in crime, Jamie and Shannon, to help us in our attempt to "eat everything". (There is your shout out!)

While I still recommend making a reservation to be on the safe side, the restaurant was fairly quiet until about 8pm, and I still don't think every table was full. I also wonder if the inside room is quieter than the "patio area", but the tables are plenty spaced apart at least.

At 6pm on a Friday night, we were the early birds and that worked out well for getting our server's attention. Later on, it was a little more difficult, but we were in good company so it didn't matter as much, but still, a three hour dinner was a bit longer than I prefer. Part of that was due to ordering the Ribeye in the middle of our meal instead of at the beginning.

With a short menu, it made it a little easier to make selections and we started with mussels, which was a weekly special.


Mussels
However, the wine list was rather lengthy, so we started out with a cocktail, a Kentucky Mule, in this fancy mug.


Kentucky Mule
 I did try to study the wine list since I knew the pressure would be on me to pick something out for the table, and it was hard to find just the right red that was not too pricey and wouldn't outshine the dishes.


Grenache
On the lighter side, our next starter was the Beet Salad, which was almost too pretty to eat. Even better, the beets were laid on top of a creamy goat cheese and green goddess dressing!


Beet Salad
I was very curious about the Missouri Wagyu Beef Meat Loaf, mostly because I'm still in the search for the "ultimate" meat loaf. It arrived in the shape of a softball and the four of us quickly devoured it.


Missouri Wagyu Beef Meat Loaf
We were all still quite hungry after splitting everything so we decided to get serious and ordered some larger entrees to share such as the Ribeye, the Pearl Barley "Risotto", and you know we always have to order scallops if they're on the menu!


Ribeye
The "Risotto" came with Ozark wild mushrooms, leeks, shaved Oregon black truffles, parmesan, and Bee Simple petite herbs. I think I got most of this one, which made me quite happy.


Pearl Barley "Risotto"
Luckily, there were four scallops here so we didn't have to fight!


Cast-Iron Skillet Seared Diver Scallops
I was finally starting to feel full, but once again, I got sucked into the dessert course. 

Patience ordered the Sweet Potato Creme Brulee and of course I ended up with the Flourless Chocolate Cake.

The Creme Brulee came with a pecan-cranberry oatmeal cookie.


Double Star Farms Sweet Potato Creme Brulee
My chocolate cake came with blueberries in a red wine syrup. Love the decoration!


Flourless Chocolate Cake
This is certainly a place we'd definitely go back to in order to try out a few more dishes and to see what the other seasons will hold.

Resources:

J. McArthur's = http://www.jmcarthurs.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Beer and Chocolate Pairing

I'm not sure why there aren't more beer and chocolate pairings. I thought this was a brilliant idea! So thank you to Larder & Cupboard and Kakao for joining forces to make this happen!!

This was also made possible by Larder recently acquiring its liquor license so you can now purchase an array of unique spirits and beer. (Why yes, there WILL be an upcoming spirits class called "Cocktails From the Cupboard" this month! Click here for more info!)

Here is the pairing list and you'll notice that the first piece of chocolate, Irish Stout Truffle, was all by itself since it was MADE with beer. Let's just say it melted in my mouth and I was already in heaven.

Menu
I didn't know how the other chocolate would be able to compete, but immediately after tasting the Lavender Truffle, I was blown away again. I had never had anything like that before and you could see the small slice of lavender carefully placed with tweezers by a dedicated employee. Just beautiful.

Irish Stout Truffle and Lavender Truffle
The Lavender Truffle, along with some Kickstart Granola (I always buy a canister to eat for breakfast), was paired with the Piney River Old Tom Porter. Thick liked you'd expect and I picked up a couple of these beers for Patience.

Just when you think it can't get better, I had my first Marshmallow Pie...let's just say orgasmic if you are chocolate lover. It's like a S'more but without the graham cracker getting in the way. Just a mess of chocolate and marshmallow soft goodness.

The Cowboy Candy (or pecan chipotle brittle) had a kick to it and the American Spoon Fudge Sauce was nice, but these were mostly ignored by me. All of these were paired with a Charleville Karate Kick. There really wasn't a kick per se as it was more of a light coffee stout.

Marshmallow Pie / Cowboy Candy / American Spoon Fudge Sauce
The real kick came with the Mexican Bark, which was paired with the citrusy Piney River Mo Mule IPA. (Did you know the Mule is the Missouri state animal thanks to Cindy's grandather?)

Seed Geek Chocolate Creamed Honey was paired as well and I could eat a whole jar of of it in one sitting. I used to spread it on my toast in the morning in place of peanut butter. Almost as good as Nutella!

Mexican Bark / Seed Geeks Chocolate Creamed Honey with Piney River Mo Mule IPA
A Mint Bark followed and it's a top seller come Christmas time. I loved the crunch factor of this chocolate! This was paired with a sweet and crisp Shiner Ruby Redbird.

Mint Bark with Shiner Ruby Redbird
Last but not least is Kakao's best seller, the Caramel with sea salt, which was paired with the Piney River Black Walnut Wheat. Both items had a mild flavor as to not overpower the other. Very well balanced pairing.

Caramel with sea salt with Piney River Black Walnut Wheat
Everything you see in these pictures are for sale at Larder & Cupboard and obviously the chocolate can be purchased directly from Kakao. You better believe I purchased almost all of the chocolates to share with Patience.

Resources:

Larder & Cupboard = http://www.larderandcupboard.com/

Kakao = http://www.kakaochocolate.com/

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Gus's Fried Chicken

Since Patience got a head start on me by repeatedly going to Gus's for lunch, I finally got my chance last week. We were thinking that by going early on the weekend we'd have a good shot to get in quickly, but there were still a few people ahead of us.

Luckily, it wasn't out the door until much later, so on the weekends just be prepared to wait. There is also a patio so hopefully that will help to expand the number of tables once it warms up a bit.

I was really excited about this fried chicken since it is one of the "World Famous" chains, and I had yet to try "hot chicken". I was a little nervous, but they season it so it's got just a little bit of kick. My nose was definitely running though!

Also, this is probably the most inexpensive place out of all of them. It might be due to all the styrofoam and plasticware so they probably won't be getting any awards from the Green Dining Alliance. I am hoping this makes it fairly authentic to the one in Memphis?

Since Patience only wanted dark meat and I only wanted white meat, we decided to go our separate ways when ordering instead of getting half a chicken like at the last chicken place. The white meat was VERY juicy and had a thick, crunchy skin. Impressive.

Chicken Breast, Mac N Cheese, Slaw, Potato Salad
Chicken Thighs, Mac N Cheese, Greens
I went a little overboard on the side dishes because, like always, I wanted to try them ALL!

My baked beans didn't come out, but the Slaw and Potato Salad were very necessary to help cool me down after eating the hot chicken.

The fried okra and mac 'n' cheese were wonderful favorites as well.

Fried Okra
And due to having Patience with me, dessert was ordered as well. Chocolate Chess Pie for me and Pecan for her.

Chocolate Chess Pie

Pecan Pie a la mode
This leaves just one more new fried chicken place and hopefully I'll get around to Hodak's and Porter's at some point too.

Resources:

Gus's Fried Chicken = http://gusfriedchicken.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Retreat Gastropub

My foodie coworker kept asking me and asking me if I had been to Retreat yet, because it was that good. So I had an easy answer when it came time to pick out my birthday dinner with Beth.

Very close to the IKEA, I was impressed with the remodel of the building. I bet it makes for a nice "corner bar" for a lot of people with all the new lofts going up around there. The place is fairly small so it's good that we went on a weeknight early on to get a table. When we left a couple of hours later, the place was really hoppin'! And the bar was full the whole time...

Cocktails are where it's at here and since there were four of us, we managed to order all the house cocktails in two rounds. I highly recommend this strategy!

Cocktail Menu
The first round...

This one was mine... a Hemingway Lookalike.

Hemingway Lookalike
Patience ordered the Fort Collins.

Fort Collins
Beth's Canaan's Law...

Canaan's Law
And Matt's Oaxaca Flocka Flame, which is just fun to say, was bright orange and looked like it was on fire!

Oaxaca Flocka Flame
As with most places we go to these days, we get stuck in the land of "small plates". We must try them all and rarely make it to entrees.

I knew immediately that I wanted Poutine and Mac N Cheese, since those are my favorite foods hands down.

This is not your usual poutine... while they used fingerling potatoes, there were cubes of cheese that were tastier once they melted in with the mushroom gravy.

Poutine
The Mac N Cheese was probably the tops of the night with the three cheese blend.

Mac N Cheese
I was overruled with this order of Brussels Sprouts. (Who's birthday was it anyway? Sheesh.)

Brussels Sprouts
Oh... and we all started with Potato & Leek Soup, which really hit the spot on a frigid, winter night.

Potato & Leek Soup
Matt did venture over to the other side of the menu for a Flatbread pizza that was also easily shareable.

Flatbread Pizza
After all that food...it meant round two of cocktails! This is where things are a bit fuzzy to me...

I believe I ordered the Timber so we could finish off the list.

Timber
I think this is Beth's Bon Vivant...again, fun to say over and over.

Bon Vivant
This Agave Cooler looked really refreshing.

Agave Cooler
Which leaves the Dunmore Pineapple, bright and yellow, appearing very sweet.

Dunmore Pineapple
Done yet? Of course not! Gotta have birthday dessert! The birthday dessert is the bread pudding and we all shared it since everyone was so stuffed.

Bread pudding
Although Matt did manage to squeeze in a night cap...


I really hope we can go back and "eat and drink all of the things" as Patience would say. So much to choose from! Definitely study up before you go.

Resources:

Retreat Gastropub = http://www.retreatgastropub.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon