titletitle

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

St. James Winery

Thanks to my wine friend, Megan, aka The Marketing Lush, landing a job at St. James Winery, I had a new destination to seek out this summer.

Only 90 minutes away down highway 44, the tasting room was easy to find.

St. James Winery
St. James is MUCH larger than I thought! Check out how huge these tanks are!

Tanks
Plus a giant warehouse to store all their cases of wine! This is only one section!

Cases of Wine
I made a new friend in Megan's office...

Huge bottle!
After the tour, we finally hit the tasting room. Each person gets to try six wines and since there were three of us...let's just say, we tasted A LOT of wine!

Tasting List
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the sweet wines make up only about a third of all the wines that St. James has to offer. We started with the dry white and red wines and I found quite a few winners. My favorite was the 2014 Chardonel. Tony, who drinks nothing BUT dry red wines, loved the 2015 Chambourcin, and I brought home the 2014 Estate Norton for Patience. Something for everyone!

After the tasting, we were ready for some lunch, but St. James doesn't have a picnic area in the winery. Instead, they have teamed up with Public House Brewing and built a location right next door with a garden. I was disappointed that I couldn't bring in my own snacks, but their own menu is quite extensive.

Reuben Sandwich

Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza
And since we were at a brewery, we had to try a flight!

Public House Brewing beers
From left to right is Rod's Cream Ale, Hefeweizen, Elusive IPA, another new IPA, Revelation Stout, and last, a new cider.

After all the food and drink, we need to run around to digest. In the grass, there is an area for bocce ball, cornhole/bags, and GIANT CHESS.

Giant Chessboard - Tony won as usual
In case you want to see a close up of Megan's cool shirt from WineFolly.com:

Wine Tshirt from WineFolly.com
Definitely a fun afternoon with beautiful weather as well. You must visit!

Resources:

St. James Winery = http://www.stjameswinery.com/

Public House Brewing = http://www.publichousebrewery.com/

Fondue Class at Larder and Cupboard

As the STLCheesegirl, I am sad to report that I have never had fondue before. In fact, no one has ever taken me to the Melting Pot for my birthday! So I was thrilled when Larder & Cupboard hosted a (second) fondue class that I could attend.

How can you go wrong with dipping food in cheese sauce!

Yet, I learned that there are actually formal recipes for fondue and you don't just sticking a brick of Velvetta in the microwave!

We started off with a "Classic Swiss Fondue", which also includes a cup of dry white wine and Swiss cheeses such as Gruyere, Emmentaler, and Appenzeller, not to mention a tablespoon of cherry brandy! (Let's just make this a drink!)

Unfortunately, I was so busy dipping fruit, veggies, and bread that I forgot to take a picture of the first pot! But here was our selection for dipping...

Fruits, veggies, and bread for dipping.
Next up was a "Beer Cheese Fondue"...even more brilliant! This time we used beer from Pickney Bend and two cheddars, a mild version (Marcoot Tipsy Cheddar) and a sharp one (Milton Old Style Cheddar).

This fondue was a little darker in color and had a little more bite in taste as well.

Beer Cheese Fondue
The third fondue was Caraway Gouda Fondue made with Gouda cheese and caraway seeds.

Carway Gouda Fondue
Good thing I followed my friend Beth's lead and not over do it on the first three fondues (it was so hard!!) because the best was definitely saved for last!

Say hello to Raclette, a semi-hard cow's milk cheese that is commonly used for melting. Even more specifically, it's a Swiss dish based on heating the cheese and scraping off (racler) the melted part.

Check out this contraption that was used to heat the top of the Raclette wheel!

The Raclette wheel being heated
You can see the melted cheese being scraped off once it gets melty enough!

Scraping the melted cheese
Here the Raclette is spread on top of roasted potatoes...

Raclette topping roasted potatoes

Raclette topping roasted potatoes
Amazing huh?!?!

Want to make fondue yourself? All these cheeses can be found inside Larder & Cupboard for one stop shopping.

Resources:

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

The Preston

Normally, I don’t try new restaurants too quickly, but I wasn't worried about visiting some place new in the Chase Park Plaza. The Preston has a spacious dining area and an open kitchen with high ceilings, including a private room holding rows of wine racks, all very elegant.

More importantly, the one thing I heard about it was the serious cocktail program. I was not disappointed. I easily found something sweet for me and Linda was able to order her favorite flavor of whiskey.

Below is the “Dear Katie” (doesn’t she sound sweet?), which blends Spiced Apple and Pomegrante Tea with Nolet’s Gin, Lemon, Flamingo Elixir, and Carra Prosecco.

Dear Katie
Things did get a little strange when we attempted to order from the main menu. Dishes are not separated into sections by course type, which encourages trying a variety of items. Yet, the order of the items seem to be smaller to more fuller entree, and our server explained that the a la carte menu was more typical of European dining and the portions are smaller. You could easily just make a meal of starters.

While not everyone at my table was too happy that there wasn’t side dishes automatically included, this worked out to be the perfect amount of food. I picked a type of salad and an entrĂ©e, which allowed us to save room for dessert!

Of course I started with a salad with cheese! The Warm Baby Kale salad came with Butternut Squash, Taleggio, Pickled Shallots in a Miso Vinaigrette.

Warm Baby Kale Salad
Linda got her favorite, an Heirloom Beet Salad, while my Dad was a little more daring by ordering the Chicken Liver Mousse. This mousse was amazing and was definitely the winner. You could easily skip the crostinis and spoon it right in your mouth.

There were plenty of fish options on the menu, although we didn’t quite realize it due to their fancy Italian-sounding names. I ordered the Bronzino, while Linda tried the Barramundi.
Both were delicious white fish smothered in a sauce. So French!

The Bronzino, actually a European seabass, was pan roasted with Ancho Romesco, Marcona Almonds, in a Charred Leek Vinaigrette.

Roasted Branzino
The Barramundi, an Asian seabass, was a little heavier with Royal Trumpet Mushrooms in a Hazelnut Vinaigrette.

Barramundi
My Dad got the manly sounding Bone-In Short Rib and they were quickly devoured. The Preston serves a few meaty dishes such as a Grilled Lamb T-Bone and a NY Strip, as well as a couple of more interesting dishes such as the Charred Octopus and a Smoked Duck Breast. Something for everyone!

The best show of the night, though, was dessert. We ordered a Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta to share, which was a Ferrero Rocher Gelato and Hazelnut injected with smoke. I really wanted to lick the insides completely.

Milk Chocolate Panna Cotta
Need a new place to go for a special occasion? Want a fancy cocktail? This is your place.

Resources:

The Preston = http://theprestonstl.com/

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Baiku

My sushi buddy, Alexis, and I were looking for sushi in the city that was not the usual Cafe Mochi.

I immediately knew she meant "the restaurant in the lobby of Hotel Ignacio" when she mentioned Baiku and since the scaffolding was down... I didn't think twice about it.

I met up with Alexis and we were the other ones in the restaurant. Turns out they had JUST reopened after the construction finished up so not everyone knows they are open again. They're official grand reopening is THIS Saturday, May 21st, where they'll throw a big party.

I feel like we got an early sneak peak!

I started off with seaweed salad and I just loved the plating!

Seaweed Salad
The server gave us a long list of specials and we decided to try a new kind of fish, skipjack tuna, on a bed of rice. Delicious! They are the items in the top of the picture below...

Of course we got our favorite sushi... so pretty!

Sushi
If you're craving sushi before a show in Midtown, definitely add this to the list.

Resources:

Baiku = http://baikustl.com/

Beer and Cookie Pairing with Jonathan Bender

On a chilly February evening in Kansas City, I celebrated my brother's 40th birthday at a brewery. That night I was introduced to one of his friends, Jonathan Bender, who wrote for one of my favorite foodie magazines. He told us he was in the middle of writing about a book about pairing beer and cookies.

Beer and cookies?!??!?! What?!?!?! I think I actually said that out loud.

Fast forward to a year later while hanging out at Larder & Cupboard, Cindy announces that THE Jonathan Bender would be coming to the store to sign books and...you guessed it...pair local beers with freshly made cookies!

I immediately cleared my schedule.

Let's just say that pairing beer and cookies together is a wonderful invention and I gave Jonathan Bender a few hugs that night. Mostly because it was so nice to see him again and not just because he inspired one of the best classes thus far at the store.

In addition to "Cookies & Beer", Jonathan has also written a "stock and broth" themed book. Not only are there instructions for the stocks, but also soup recipes that you can cook from the stocks.

We kicked off the pairings that night  by keeping it light with a Snickerdoodle and an Old Bakery Citrus Wheat. It's rare that I like a cookie that doesn't have chocolate in it, but this cookie was so light and sweet.

Snickerdoodle with Old Bakery Citrus Wheat
Another happy surprise for me was Nana's Molasses cookies with a Piney River Bronzeback Pale Ale. This combination just reminded me of Christmas all the way around with the ginger in the cookie and the bubbles in the beer.

Nana's Molasses with Piney River Bronzeback Pale Ale
The next pairing was definitely all about breakfast since a Maple Toasted Oatmeal Cookie was paired with Charleville Karate Kicks Coffee. These heavier cookies were able to stand up to the beers easily without one overpowering the other.

Maple Toasted Oatmeal with Charleville Karate Kicks Coffee Stout
The last two pairings were full flavor though...

Pastry Chef Anne Croy brought her Rye IPA Apricot Crumble Bars (yes...beer was IN the bar), and of course paired with the same 4 Hands Divided Sky Rye IPA. You really needed that big, heavy fruit flavor to take on the hoppy taste of the beer.

Rye IPA Apricot Crumble Baras with 4 Hands Divided Sky Rye IPA
The best pairing was definitely saved for last as Chef Amy's Chocolate Chip cookie was paired with Boulevard Brewing Company's Bourbon Barrel Quad. Ok...I admit the beer was quite intense and probably a bit too strong for me, but those cookies were to die for!

Check out those huge chocolate chunks!! They were acutally Kakao's chocolate buttons!!! You'll never want to use regular chocolate chips again!

Chef Amy's Chocolate Chip with Boulevard Brewing Company's Bourbon Barrel Quad
Both books make excellent gifts... these scored points for me at Mother's Day!

Books by Jonathan Bender
And I got mine signed...

Jonathan Bender signing my books!
Let's hope Jonathan writes more books so he can come back to St. Louis and share some yummy treats again!

Resources:

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

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

Cookies & Beer by Jonathan Bender = http://www.amazon.com/Cookies-Beer-Bake-Pair-Enjoy/dp/1449470882/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Stock, Broth & Bowl = http://www.amazon.com/Stock-Broth-Bowl-Drinking-Nourishing/dp/1449472664/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8