Monday, March 5, 2018

Making The Big O

Every cocktail fan dreams of the day when you get the call...

The Big O Ginger Liqueur is ready for another batch and do I want to help?!?!? YOU BET!!!

Several years ago, when I first met Kathy Kuper and Bill Foster, creators of The Big O, I could not believe that they still chopped all the ginger by hand! I couldn't imagine this labor of love by only two people, so of course I wanted to help.

It took me a few tries to line up a time that worked since they only make their liqueur a few times a year. The Big O uses the still and equipment at Crown Valley Brewing in Ste Genevieve, so they have to drive down the ginger on a Monday or a Tuesday, when the still is available. Since it was early in the year, I had plenty of vacation days to use!

Luckily, the Big O has such a strong following that by now there are a long list of volunteers waiting for their change. As they have grown bigger, they are now up to producing the Big O three times a year, 1000 gallons at a time. And to reach that amount, you need nine, 30-pound boxes full of ginger, and that is where I came in.

30-pound boxes of ginger
Not only did some industry folks and family answer the call, a couple of cocktail bloggers from the D.C. area flew in to help as well. (Check out LaShawn at Sip.Ponder.Repeat!)

After an hour drive down highway 55 to Ste. Genevieve, we turned the bar area at Crown Valley into our mini chopping factory. A couple of people washed the ginger, then passed it to the choppers, who used large chef's knives to cut the ginger into smaller pieces. Then I took the small pieces and put them into a food processor. (See white bowl below.)

This was quite the exhausting process...

Ginger Factory Line

A whole lotta choppin' going on!
Once I got a bucket full of finely-chopped ginger "mash", the ginger was ready to go into the still!

Kathy and the distiller overseeing the pot
The still at Crown Valley Brewing is pretty impressive! Check the height on that baby!

Super tall still columns!
After a long day of hard work with only a break for lunch, we got to see some of the magic happening in the warehouse before we left.

The Big O in stainless steel

Jess approves of the barrel aging
Sometime later this year, you'll be able to drink some Big O that I helped to make!

Fortunately, since I was paid in booze (and swag), I won't have to wait until then to enjoy some Big O for myself.


The Big O = http://drinkthebigo.com/

Crown Valley Brewery = https://www.crownvalleybrewery.com/

Sunday, March 4, 2018

PW Pizza Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner

I don't really know much about Sierra Nevada brewery, but apparently they have a lot of IPAs as that seemed to be the theme of the evenings with three of them on the menu - out of four courses!

The Hop Bullet IPA was at least a little sweet since it was paired with the Curried Sweet Potato Soup, which had a little bit of a kick. Soup is definitely appropriate for winter, but I had to save room for PIZZA!
Curried Sweet Potato Soup
I was a little nervous with the first pizza as "Nopales" was the main "meat" on this "Bad Hombre". (I had an allergic reaction once to a cactus taco.) Luckily, everything was fine and I actually enjoyed the Otra Vez Gose.

Bad Hombre Pizza

Sierra Nevada Otra Vez Gose
The next pizza was so good that we forgot to take a picture! BBQ Pork Pizza with BBQ sauce. The meatier pizza also went well with the lighter-hopped beer - Hazy Little Thing IPA. Perfect for a summer day.

Another no-brainer pairing was an Orange Poppy Seed Cake (and Vanilla Ice Cream) with the Side Car Orange IPA. It wasn't that bad of an IPA (for me), but at this point, my mouth was toast.

Orange Poppy Seed Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Hopefully there will be more variety come next month's dinner...


Sierra Nevada = https://sierranevada.com/

PW Pizza = https://pwpizza.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Monday, February 12, 2018

Shake Shack

It was my birthday... so that meant we were going to stand in line for 35 minutes, and then another 20 minutes or so until our order was ready at Shake Shack!

I was super excited....
We made it!
Luckily, it was during the winter thaw weekend, but since it was a Saturday afternoon, there were a lot of kids. The best time to go would probably be during the week, and hopefully the hype will eventually die down.

Not only did I study the menu during the week before, but we had a lot of time to think about what to order once we got in the door. I definitely wanted to try a shake, so chocolate it was! Patience was a little more adventurous since she got one of the shake specials which rotate monthly.

Fries, cheeseburgers, and shakes, oh my!
I knew I would keep it simple with my first time and choose the single cheeseburger and cheese fries. Patience really wanted to try the chili fries, so we had to get our own.

I think next time I'll upgrade to the double cheeseburger and share the fries. The shake was SUPER filling, so maybe even share that too.

I almost felt like I was in downtown Manhattan for a second...


Shack Shack CWE = https://www.shakeshack.com/location/central-west-end-mo/

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I Fratellini

Round two of "Zoe" restaurants meant that we spent my birthday at I Fratellini, which was even more desired due to Elli Snyder's weekly reviews that have been taunting Patience for years.

Even though it was an extra cold winter night, the restaurant was quite warm due to the kitchen. I'm guessing that is the reason why the gentlemen requested to move to the newly opened table that had been waiting for our reservation.

Since they might have been regulars, I politely let them know that they were welcome to have a dessert delivered to our table in exchange for our extra wait time and giving up the more comfortable seating. They just laughed and I shook their hands as if we were old friends.

The tactic worked and we received a lovely bottle of Prosecco to start our evening!

For the first course, I had to pick the cheesiest dish, which turned out to be the Speck with Artichoke Hearts and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. (You know I picked out all the good bits.)

Speck with Artichoke Hearts and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
Patience and Linda enjoyed a Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola and Walnuts, while my Dad played it safe with potato soup.

Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola and Walnuts
To help Patience make the most out of her first time, I agreed to the Spaghetti with Lobster Tail, Butter, Garlic and Shallots, while she chose the Squid Ink Linguine with Mussels and Chorizo.

Spaghetti with Lobster Tail, Butter, Garlic and Shallots

Squid Ink Linguine with Mussels and Chorizo
Linda kept it mild with the Pappardelle with Wild Mushrooms and Shallots in Brown Butter and Sage, while my Dad ordered his usual meat and potatoes.

Pappardelle with Wild Mushrooms and Shallots in Brown Butter

Grilled Beef Filet with Fresh Wild Mushrooms and Escalloped Potatoes
Since Linda and I were both celebrating our twin birthdays, we had to have dessert! There was plenty of gelato, but since there was no chocolate option, I ordered the Chocolate Mousse Torta instead. I'm sure you're very surprised.

Vanilla Bean Gelato

Chocolate Mousse Torta
Definitely a good birthday!

Happy birthday, Linda!

I Fratellini = https://www.ifratellini.com

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bar Le Freres

With Billie-Jean opening up recently, Patience wanted to try out all the other "Zoe" restaurants since she has never gotten to visit them before. Luckily, our anniversary and my birthday fall together in January so it was just a matter of waiting until "special occasion time".

Bar Le Freres is definitely a special place for special occasions. Quite fancy. Quite French. I love the red walls and portraits from the 1800s where all the paintings are staring at you.

We were smart and made a reservation about a month in advance. Not only did this help us get a table away from the door in the dining room during the recent cold snap, but I feel it helped us to land one of the best tables in the dining room separate from the bar. The restaurant overall is small with limited seating so I have no doubt the place is booked all the time. At least in the summer, they can expand to the patio and our server bragged about their happy hour, which is probably more affordable.

I think we were at one of the best tables because we were sat in these huge armchairs. Between that and the large tapestry next to the table, I thought we were royals! hehehe

Perhaps that is what lead us to order a crazy amount of food, although it was hard not to with so many tasty choices. Just the hors d'deuvres alone... Baetje Farms Cheese Plate, Gruyere Souffle, Steamed Mussels, Lobster Tail...and then our server said the magic word: scallops. Not just any scallops, but GIANT scallops!

Giant Scallops
I had my eyes on the Lobster Bisque since I sat down, but they don't do cups. I ate the WHOLE bowl.

Lobster Bisque
And then the server brought out these delicious Gruyère gougères that were perfect for dipping into the soup. I wish I had saved one to clean the bowl with at the end!

Gruyere Balls
At this point, I really didn't need to eat anything else.

I played it safe by ordering the Halibut for my entree, the crispy outside was a little tough to cut through, but the inside was perfect. (You know the potatoes underneath were amazing though!) I did manage to stop halfway this time at least.

Patience went all in with the Duck Confit. So much flavor! Perfectly paired with a Chateauneuf du Pape!

Duck Confit
Still in celebratory mode, we finished off the meal with chocolate mousse, which also went deliciously with the wine.

Chocolate Mousse
Patience drank her dessert as well with a Caffe Amaro. So pretty.

Caffe Amaro
I cannot WAIT to take Patience to Zoe's next two restaurants...


Bar Le Freres = https://www.barlesfreres.net

Photos by Patience Scanlon