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Friday, March 20, 2015

Dark Room: Slow Down and Indulge

Since I have a connection to The Dark Room, I signed up for their mailing list and follow them on social media. Just last week, I got a slew of Facebook Event invitations for a new dinner series at The Dark Room called "Slow Down and Indulge".

This new dinner series is a four-course dinner that will take place on Thursday nights, each night with a theme. The first two Thursdays start with a French theme and next up will be a Moroccan dinner. Surprisingly, I happened to have a Thursday night open and could finally try out one of these dinners.

I have been to The Dark Room before for a late night glass of wine as well as a Wine Girl Wednesday with STLwinegirl, but not for a four-course meal! I was curious how this would go...

I immediately received a printed menu as soon as I sat down and everything sounded elegant, especially the wine pairings. (Of course there are a wine pairings at a wine bar!)

Menu
The dinner started off with a small appetizer and bubbles to help clean the palate. The cheesy biscuits were two bites of cheesy goodness! Since the main course was a heavier dish, I was happy to start off light.

Thyme & Gruyere Gougeres with Fig Marsala Jam and
N/V Domaine Baumard "Turquoise" Brut from Loire Valley
The second course could have been an entree for me. A little larger than a side salad, a healthy piece of tuna came with the Salad Nicoise, I was already quite happy as this is one of my favorite salads. Perhaps they could add this to their regular menu???!!! (Write-in campaign starting NOW!)

Salad Nicoise with Tarragon Vinaigrettte
2013 Domaine Lafond
The salad was paired with a very light, but slightly dry blend from Lirac, France. There was actually a choice between this and a fruitier white from the Alsace region.

For the main course, I was really looking forward to the classic Boeuf Bouruignon and the meat was so soft,  you didn't even need to use your knife!

Boeuf Bourguignon with Yukon Potatoes and Carrots
2013 Domaine Laporte
Extra special was the side of bread, which I don't normally eat, but it is the owner's grandmother's recipe and has a touch of sweetness to it. It was sturdy enough for butter or jam, but was perfect for sopping up the gravy afterwards!

A rich dish like this needs a big red so out of the four choices, I selected the 2013 Domain Laporte Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. My friends let me try their Merlot from Bordeaux and it was too dry for my taste so the Cab Franc was just right.

The big red was also a good pairing for the dessert course, a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Tawny Port Whip and Ghiradelli Caramel on top. You know how I feel about chocolate. Perfect meal.

Flourless Chocoalte Cake with Tawny Port Whip, Ghiradelli Caramel, and Fleur de Sel
My friends opted for a glass of Tawny Port to go with their dessert and it got to star in the photo above.

Hopefully, The Dark Room will keep coming up with unique food and wine pairings!!

Resources:

The Dark Room = http://thedarkroomstl.com/

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Frida's Deli

After watching "Forks Over Knifes" last night, I was inspired to try Frida's Deli. All my veg-head friends have raved about it and is very centrally located in U. City. I didn't realize it was RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Momo's, another favorite.

You can see the modern and sleek look of the interior from their website. I also enjoyed the techno music playing and the eclectic scenery of people walking by with the large windows. Most hilarious was the picture of "Frida the cat" with full length eyebrows. I bet my Haley would love having her own portrait as well!

Anyway, after reading a lot of reviews, I really had my heart set on the Mushroom Reuben. While the mushrooms really aren't similar per se, the sandwich had a thick consistency and was very filling. (Always a fear I used to have with vegan foods.) Although, I do admit, I probably got filled up on the Energizer smoothie, a thick purple fruity drink. It takes like blueberries and bananas to me with the green tea and spinach mixed in.

Mushroom Reuben with Energizer smoothie
And the small scoop of hummus to put on my cucumber slices was cute and tasty! Gave me something to eat while I waited for my sandwich to cool down.

I really hope to go back because there are so may interesting types of sandwiches and smoothies.

Resources:

Frida's Deli = http://www.fridasdeli.com/

Adam's Smokehouse

Since it's my spring break, I finally got a chance to try out another one of our top BBQ places, Adam's Smokehouse. Now that I managed to stop by Pappy's earlier this year, I hope to make my way to some of the others as well.

Adam's is actually not too far from where Patience lives so it made it easy to get to, although the store is right on an angled cornered. I was lucky in that my hair appointment ran long so I ended up making it there for a late lunch around 2pm. It sounds like that during the lunch rush, the line can be out the door, which is not too surprising since it's quite a little shop. Maybe a dozen tables or so...

I'm not sure how they manage the lunch rush, but I assume that most of the orders are to go. I enjoyed not having to rush at all and could spend time talking to employees. Everyone was extremely friendly and I feel like they would have been happy to get me anything I would need.

Menu board
While I probably should have gotten a similar "2 meat platter" to Pappy's, I decided to be a little more sensible and just order a turkey sandwich with two sides: baked beans and cole slaw.

Turkey sandwich with baked beans and cole slaw
The turkey was thin and lean, just how I like it. There were only a few sauces on the table so not overwhelmed by choices and actually tried them all. The strawberry cayenne was fruity at first with a kick at the back of your throat. Another sauce was unlabeled and I was only willing to try a little dab of it. I stuck with the Sweet Jane sauce and used plenty of it!

The beans had a smokier flavor than what I was used to and the slaw was not overly creamy, so it was nice to try a different take on these common side dishes.

Resources:

Adam's Smokehouse = http://www.adamssmokehouse.com/

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dinner Lab - Crawfish Boil

I recently read about Dinner Lab in a fellow food blogger's post on Whiskey and Soba. I had never heard of Dinner Lab before and I was curious. I had only done the underground dinners by Juniper chef, John Perkins, but this is actually a nation-wide organization to feature up-and-coming chefs.

After clicking on the link to the March edition, I found out that this month's dinner was open to non-members and since it was a crawfish boil, I knew Patience and I had to go.

I was curious as to how they would handle a four course dinner since a crawfish boil is a meal unto itself, but the southern-themed dinner was coursed by its side dishes.

Menu
While you already know the theme, the "underground" part is the unknown location and chef. For some reason, my email address did not go through so I never received a confirmation or the location email. Yet, I easily found the "support" email address and immediately received a reply. The reply contained the St. Louis contact email address and phone number, and Brittany quickly called me back. Once she had my email address, she sent me the information and all was well. (Great customer service!)

Dinner Lab turned out to be held at Create Space in the middle of the Delmar Loop! Create Space is an artisan market where you can find wares from local artists and designers with crafts and specialty foods. Our chef was a very young, Lulu Chustz, and since she was originally from Louisiana (south of Baton Rouge), I knew we were in for a treat.

Chefs in action
When we first arrived, we had a chance to pick out a drink, which was included with the meal. Local beers, Schlafly Hefeweizen and Urban Chestnut STLIPA were the choices as well as a red and white wine. A beer was definitely needed to help cool yourself off from the heat of the spices in the boil!! There wasn't a pairing with each course, but you could have as many drinks as you liked and I saw that everyone was respectful since it was a day time "dinner" at 2pm. As I understand, most of the dinners are in the evening around 7pm so the drink policy may be different then.

First course was the deliciously light watermelon salad with red onion, feta, and a balsamic dressing. I hope to see this dish around St. Louis this summer since it's so refreshing. I thought this was a good palate clenser as well.

Watermelon Salad with red onion, feta, and balsamic
Next up were both sides served together at the same time and at this point we were starving and we ate these quickly. I was happy to find that neither one of these dishes had too much spice to them and luckily they weren't too filling either since the big course was about to come out.

Although there is Cajun listed on the menu, I tasted more of the green onion in the red beans and rice.

Cajun Red Beans and Rice with cajun trinity, green onion, and parsley
I never had a Natchitoches Meat Pie before, but the meat was very mild inside of the crispy dough.

Natchitoches Meat Pie
Now for what you've been waiting for...the Crawfish Boil!

Crawfish Boil with corn, potatoes, mushrooms, and andouille sausage
I took a little bit of everything and for the first time, I saw button mushrooms added to a crawfish boil. Soon after trying the mushrooms, andouille sausage, and corn, my mouth was on FIRE. I decided one of each was enough and I quickly focused on the crawfish, getting better and better and opening them up with Patience's help. Luckily, wet wipes were provided at the end!

The best part about this meal is that opening the crawfish slows you down a bit, so I did not overeat and room for dessert. So I tried both of them!


I believe the one on the left is the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie (needed more chocolate) while the goo on the right was the Peach Cobbler and a little too sweet for me. There was even homemade whip cream that you could take as much as you wanted.

The servers were very generous and kept bringing out more crawfish. Patience was definitely the champ at our table since she asked for a third tray all for herself and wisely skipped dessert when she was done.

I'm not sure when we'll do a dinner lab again since it depends on the menu, but even for a non-member, the meal was quite affordable and fun. Definitely a food adventure for the ages!

Resources:

Whiskey and Soba = http://www.whiskeyandsoba.com/

Dinner Lab = https://dinnerlab.com/

Create Space = http://www.createspacestl.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Katie's Pizza and Pasta Passport Dinner: Campania

I probably should just sign up for the 6-month ticket for Katie's Passport Dinner series because I can't stop going. Each month, I'm so curious to see what is going to be on the menu and the only way to find out is to go!

We had a wonderful surprise waiting for us as a container of Katie's fresh homemade pasta greeted us at the table. Now she just needs to sell her own sauce!

Menu and fresh pasta
We started out the evening with a home run as one of my favorite dishes, Eggplant Parmigiana, was served as an appetizer. I have to admit that this was not appetizer size and could have easily been one of the entree courses. Since it was the best dish of the night, it probably should have gotten star billing if you ask me. Now THIS is a dish that should be on the regular menu!! (Please start the write in campaigns now.)

Eggplant Parmigiana
The mozzarella and parmesan cheeses really made this dish amazing, and it was paired with a Lacrima Christi Bianco, which tasted like an oaky Chardonney to me. With all the cheese, the pairing went well together, although I think a light red would have done just as well.

The second course was a lot lighter, and I might have called it a "seafood salad" with so many greens and lemon flavor on top. The prawn is center stage in this dish, surrounded by squid rings and a couple hunks of potato.

Squid, Prawns, Potato, Chive, Fennel, Frisee, Lemon
This was perfectly paired with the Falanghina from Villa Matilde, which had more of a crisp finish to go with the seafood course.

I was thrilled to see one of Katie's pizzas on the menu this time, since I don't usually order it from the regular menu. I'm just too in love with the unique salads and pastas. (Really you should bring friends so you can split a pizza, a pasta, and a salad among all of you!) Again, I'm pretty sure I am biased about the gobs of Bufala Mozzarella cheese, but there is a reason Katie's pizza is always a winner. You know you need a red wine for this, and the Aguanico, also from Villa Matilde was a good choice.

Neapolitan Margherita Pizza, San Marzano Tomatoes, Bufala Mozzarella, Basil
Speaking of pasta, the Spaghetti with Botarga and lemon zest was the fourth course. Bortarga is a cured fish roe and helped to decorate the edges of the plate. This was served with a big red, a Lacrima Christ Rosso. By the way....placing the eggplant on top of this bed of spaghetti would have been an amazing meal!!

Spaghetti with Botarga & Lemon Zest
Last but not least, the dinner was rounded out with gelato adorned with three blackberries. The pastry next to it is Sfogliattelle Ricce. Katie did not even attempt to pronounce it herself, so let's just say that this pastry topped with powdered sugar used to be prepared only for the Italian aristocracy during the Reenaissance.


Dessert was served with a homemade Limoncello that was sweet enough to make you pucker!

Resources:

Katie's Pizza and Pasta = http://www.katiespizzaandpasta.com/

STLwinegirl = http://www.stlwinegirl.com