Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010 Classes!

I know I haven't blogged in awhile but there isn't much going on with the holidays. Been busy cleaning out my fridge instead...

I DID get a lovely bottle of wine as a present so details on that forthcoming when I crack that open.

The highlight of the holidays was splitting a 2004 Stag's Leap Cabernet (http://www.stagsleap.com/). I probably could have drank the whole thing by myself it was so smooth. I also ate Stacy's Pita Chips (http://www.stacyssnacks.com/) as an appetizer. Probably could have eaten the entire bag of those in one sitting as well.

Anyway, here are some links to 2010 classes...email me if you're interested in attending anything with me. You KNOW I will be at all the cheese classes!

Provisions Schedule: http://provisionsmarket.com/?p=253
Wine and Cheese place: http://thewineandcheeseplace.blogspot.com/2009/12/thursday-night-classes-2010.html

Whole Foods Galleria: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/st-louis/storecalendar.php

The Wine Merchant: http://www.winemerchantltd.com/html/clayton.html

Friday, December 18, 2009

Having to deal with fame and Italian cheeses

Word about this blog is starting to spread and one of the downsides to fame (hahaha) is that there is more pressure to perform…or in this instance, to keep my blog updated! ACK! So yes, I am a week late in writing about Italian cheese class held at the Wine Merchant in Clayton (http://www.winemerchantltd.com). I could make the excuse that I left for Chicago (again) last weekend, and that I have been sick and busy all this week, but instead, I will just write.

After visiting France last month (via cheese class), it was time to visit Italy. I wish I could say that each country has a specific style, but I have a feeling that tasting six cheeses does not quite cover the full gamut of styles of cheese for just one country. That is why I keep going back month after month…there is always something new to try and always new wines to be paired with. My studies will never be complete, as there will always be more.

I was disappointed that there were only a couple of white wines offered for the evening, and both had a bit more edge than I usually like, but it worked out well because it meant more stronger-flavored cheeses were offered.

I didn’t get excited until the third cheese, a Robiola - a cow, sheep, and goat blend from the Piedmont region. It was soft and creamy, much like a French chevre, with just a little bit of gooey edge. What a full-flavored cheese! This paired GREAT with the Barbera red wine. Unfortunately for my buddy Curt, he was completely turned off by the goat smell and taste but it worked out well in the end because it meant more for me! Hehehehe

Another top pairing was the Testun, a cow’s milk cheese from Barolo, which was paired with a Barolo red wine. “What grows together, goes together.” The cheese had a hard texture and wasn’t too far off from the next cheese, a Pecorino Toscano, but the Pecorino was almost too bitter to be eaten straight.

The evening was finished off with a Gorgonzola…a moldy, stinky cheese that I could certainly do without. Of course it was paired with a dessert wine that was also over-the-top in its sweetness.

Simon Lehrer, returning as cheese monger at the Wine Merchant, was kind enough to provide a few bonus treats on the table in addition to the six pairings. An assortment of crackers, salted Italian olives, and the classic, Parmigiano-Reggiano (that I could eat everyday of the week) were also offered to us for mixing and matching with the various wines.

Here is the complete listing for the class. Cheeses are listed by name – milk type – and region of Italy:

2007 Villa del Borgo Pinot Grigio $13.99 – Toma Piemontese-Cow-Piedmont
2007 Abbazia Di Novacella Kerner $24.99 – Veneto de Estate – Cow – Veneto
2006 Sandrone Barbera D’Alba $39.99 – Robiola – Cow, Sheep, Goat – Piedmont
2005 G. D. Vajra Barolo “Albe” $35.99 – Testun - Cow - Barolo
2006 Petrolo Torrione Toscana $42.99 – Pecorino Toscano – Sheep – Tuscany
2004 Nicoli Recioto $44.99 – Gorgonzola Picate – Cow - Milan

And while I did eat out MANY times this week, the meals worth reporting came during my weekend in Chicago. The first night of Hanukkah was celebrated with an assortment of dishes from Maggiano’s restaurant (http://maggianos.com/) – one of my all time favorites (special thanks to Hector). And for my trip home, thanks to my big bro, I got to bring back some Chicago-style pizza from Edwardo’s (http://featuredfoods.com/cgi-local/SoftCart.exe/a-store/c-EdwardoAns.shtml?E+scstore+edwardo)

While attending two wine events in the same week was hard, I am a little sad that all classes are pretty much on hiatus with the holidays. On the bright side, there are more classes coming up in January that I’ve already signed up for!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

St. Louis Cellars holiday celebration!

After taking some time off for the Thanksgiving holiday, I am back at it this week with two classes in the same week! I will briefly mention that I ate quite well in Chicago thanks to my family: Local ale house the first night, another delicious turkey dinner by my bro and sister-in-law, and then finished up with a fine meal at a Greek restaurant in the city, called Parthenon (http://www.theparthenon.com/). Each of those places and meals probably deserve their own blog post too. But even blogs need vacation time....

Anyway, tonight I attended my 2nd event at the St. Louis Cellars Wine Club (http://www.saintlouiscellars.com/), which of course makes me an expert by now. Unfortunately, I could not get there right at 5pm so I had to endure the brunt of the crowds that ran pretty thick for the first hour I was there. But I have definitely learned to go with the flow and being polite helps. Grab food while the wine lines are long and that way you'll have a snack while you wait. Make sure you get in the correct line for whites or reds (only two people serving). White wine lines are busiest early in the night while the red wine lines get busier later.

Again, I got to try 4 whites and 4 reds and all the wines were under $20. The Blue Christmas wines were featured (Elvis on the label) as the first (a champagne) and the last (Cabernet Sauvignon) wines of the evening.

My favorite of the whites was the Relax Riesling. I think this was one of the very first Rieslings I ever tasted and it is still among my all time favorites. I felt foolish taking a tasting because I knew I would love it. It definitely outshined the other whites, which included a blend and a Chardonnay. My personal rule of thumb is when picking out a Riesling from a restaurant wine list, always pick the German version. You can't go wrong. Not too sweet, not too dry.

As for the reds, I thought the Meditrina blend was very smooth but my favorite, as usual, was the Beach Dog Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabs are definitely becoming more and more my favorite red wine...I am assuming it is low in tannins?

Before I list out all the wines, let me rave about the food once again this month. I wish they had a list of the foods being offered as well because I've already forgotten the homemade potato chip brand that was offered. I know you can get them at the Wine Merchant too.

Anyway, they had a few familiar favorites from last month: sautéed mushrooms, red pepper hummus, and tortilla chips. New this month were the coconut chicken paired with a peanut dipping sauce, shrimp and cocktail sauce, and French bread topped with olive pate, tomato, and prosciutto.

And for dessert: Several types of cookies, lemon bars with a cream topping, and samples of Mom's Original (http://www.momsoriginals.com/), provided by Taran herself! I met Taran on Twitter and those that know me know that I try to support my friend's (women-owned) businesses. You can also follow them at http://twitter.com/momsoriginals. They are homemade pretzels covered in a variety of chocolate toppings. They make for great Christmas gifts!!

Here's the lineup:
Blue Christmas - Brut Champagne - California - $19.99
*Relax - Riesling - Mosel, Germany - $10.99
Evolution - White Blend - Dundee, Oregon - $19.99
Novellum - Chardonnay - Languedoc, France - $13.99
Indian Creek Christmas Tree- Sweet White & Sweet Red Wines - Augusta, MO - $19.99
Meditrina - Syra/Pinot Noir/ Zinfandel - Oregon - $19.99
*Beach Dog - Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley, California - $8.99
Blue Christmas - Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley, California - $19.99

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Happy Beaujolais Nouveau and French cheese class

It just dawned on me that perhaps The Wine Merchant (http://www.winemerchantltd.com/) set up their French cheese class the same week as Beaujolais Nouveau! Or maybe it was just lucky. Not that I need a French cheese class to get me hyped up for the holiday. I think it's pretty funny that I was all excited this year when I had barely heard of it years ago.

The only way to keep my wine snobiness in check is by sharing information with my friends. I finally roped in another unsuspecting victim to one of my cheese classes. I was sorry we didn't get to go to Whole Foods (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/st-louis/) this time around to meet those pals, especially since it's a great bargain at $20, but they were having "blue" class. Blue cheeses are my least favorite.

I know I've been going to too many cheese classes when I know half of the cheeses already. But it's always good to retaste and re-remember. hehe My favorite part of the class was talking then having the instructor repeat what I had just said. At least Gail knows I am not just full of it (bull, not cheese - which I am definitely full of)!

Or maybe the best part of class was getting seconds and thirds of the cheeses?

Highlights were the whites of course...
2008 Domaine de Beauregard Musacdet paired with a Chevre
2007 Helfrich Pinot Gris paired with a Racclette
2006 Marc Morey Chassagne-Montrachet "Les Chenevottes" paired with Morbier (A fav!)

Another favorite cheese of mine was the Ossau Iraty...it's a sheep's milk cheese! Nice and light but still full of flavor so therefore usually served with a red.

My friend also bought several bottles of wine, some from the class, so hopefully the Wine Merchant will read this and send me the appropriate commission!

In addition to getting to share cheese class this month, I also got to celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau for the second year in a row. Those new wines always have a bit of a bite and I wish I could let it sit out for a little bit. But it got better as I let it sit in my class. And having cheese to go with it helps balance it out!

A Beaujolais Nouveau wine is also a nice, inexpensive wine to bring to your Thanksgiving dinner as well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

FAC visits Gulf Shores

I forgot that this past Sunday was FAC meeting in my last blog post and Curt picked Gulf Shores (http://www.gulfshoresrestaurantandgrill.com/) in Creve Coeur. I admit that I don’t eat too much fish in St. Louis so I was a little skeptical.

I had a very hard time picking something from the menu because I was torn between choosing a fish item that I knew I’d like (tilapia, lobster ravioli, shrimp) and picking something Cajun-style. After having been to New Orleans recently, I wasn’t sure the Cajun-style meals would be able to hold up to my expectations either. But I figured the FAC is all about trying new things so I gave it a shot.

Luckily for me, I was able to try a variety of items by selecting one of their signature dinners, the Bourbon Street Combo. This came with homemade jambalaya, Andouille sausage on top of a bed of red beans and rice, along with a homemade crab cake and corn muffin. Oh yeah…and some cole slaw to help cool off my tongue. It came in handy after eating a few bites of the jambalaya! My meal was quite good and plenty of spice so not too far off from the real thing down south.

As a group, we started with calamari that was heavy on the batter so they weren’t too chewy but there wasn’t much flavor beyond the batter. Their in-house Cajun ranch dip was very tasty and my friend Lori ended up using it on her salad. We also were daring and tried the Gator Prudhomme, which again, didn't have any standout flavors other than the highly seasoned batter.

All the meals came out on large plates, which could easily be 2-3 portions so don’t be afraid to ask for a box at the end.

I knew I needed a box because the FAC always orders desserts. We try to sample as many as possible and we’re not ashamed! Ok, maybe a little bit. But anyway, I ordered my usual super chocolatey dessert, which this time was the Bourbon Street Chocolate Pecan Pie. (PE-can? Or Pi-CON?) This was just fantastic! It came out warmed with plenty of whipped cream and chocolate. This is how EVERY dessert should be dressed!! Although I admit that I don’t think I heard any complaints from any other dessert eaters. I think I forgot to share too…

The FAC is going on hiatus in December due to all the holidays but I think we have some crepes lined up for the new year!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuesday night FOOD blow out!

While this week was not near as action-packed as the week before, it was still full of surprises! In addition to attending my first STLWineGirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com/) event in awhile, I ended up going to a spur-of-the-moment party at Chef Ashley’s house later that same evening!

Normally I am not a big beer drinker, but I figure I just need to take the time to learn about it, just like I did with wine, so I can appreciate it more. And like with wine, I tend to lean to the lighter side. I don’t want to be weighed down by my alcohol and prefer a refreshing flavor. So it was pretty easy for me to pick out my favorite beer of the night: Great Divide Tripel Belgian Style Ale. A close second goes to the Bell’s Winter White Ale that was served as the reception beer.

I could probably write a lot more about the beers I don’t like; the strange beer that came in a wine bottle, IPAs (too much aftertaste!), or anything dark that requires a fork and knife to drink it (Porter). After the last and heaviest beer, the bitter taste caused me to make that “bitter beer face” just like on the commercials: the Dieu du Ciel “Aphrodisiac” warmed.

As for the food pairings…they were out of this world as usual. I am never disappointed and always come away feeling like I’ve eaten two meals even though they’re tasting portions. The salad came with a delightful “Blackberry Vinaigrette” which went well with the fruity beer to start with. Next came the IPAs, so an equally spicy Chicken and Sausage Gumbo was paired with it. Chef Scott said that Cajun food is his favorite to cook and this was excellent, although it’s a little too spicy for me.

One of my favorites was the Wiener Schnitzel with Gruyere Spatzle. (Say that a few times for fun!) The schnitzel tasted like “chicken fried steak” to me but it was covered with a fried egg on top so it became more like a greasy comfort food, especially since the spatzle (looked like bow tie pasta) was covered in melted gruyere. This was paired with my favorite Tripel.

As with wine, the beef item was paired with a heavier and darker beer. I almost didn’t mind the heavy porter since the beef item was actually a mini bison burger with tomato relish. I don’t get to eat hamburgers too often so this was such a treat! I definitely wanted seconds.

And no matter how good the food is, the dessert is always outstanding. I often think Chef Scott should just become a pastry chef because they are so incredible. We finished with a chocolate bread pudding with vanilla bean mousse. Both flavors of the mousse and the bread pudding just melted in my mouth. At this point, I was ready to start picking leftovers off of my friend’s plates.

Luckily, I didn’t mind leaving a little bit of beer in my tasting glasses because I still had more partying left to go. Someone suggested that Chef Ashley throw a last minute get together…and I seconded! Hehe By the time I got there, I was wishing I hadn’t filled up on my first meal because Chef Ashley had a lot of goodies prepared for her guests! I saw a couple of familiar friends…a bowl of guacamole and the vegetarian chili that I’d had a couple of weeks ago. But I also made a NEW friend: Thai vegetable soup! A miso-based soup that included the following: red chili paste, coconut milk, leeks, new potatoes, fresh green beans, bamboo shoots, roasted red pepper, garlic, lemon grass, lots of ginger and curry. It was FULL of flavors to go with all the vegetables in every bite, which is how I prefer my soups. Since it was a Thai soup, it was a bit on the spicy side and so I had to finish off my meal with one scoop of the vegetarian chili.

Since I was eating such spicy and hearty foods, a red wine was definitely in order and I washed my…wait…what meal comes after dessert?...last course with a Chateau Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage 2005. Cabs are so smooth. J

In other cheese news…unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I was stuck with quite a bit of cheese leftovers for a birthday party that didn’t happen over the weekend. The scale at the gym is definitely showing proof of all the cheese I’m “being forced to eat” to clean out my fridge. I had a slightly aged red wax Gouda, Kerry Gold’s Dubliner, and now I’m working on Kerry Gold’s Aged Cheddar. I can never tell which I like better…the Dubliner or the Cheddar…which is why I always have to buy BOTH of them. Then I had an Alouette coupon to use so I picked up some crumbled feta for salads and a brie. I’m looking forward to finding out how creamy the brand is…stay tuned for details!

I have been really bumming all week because it looks like I’m going to have to work late on my monthly cheese class night at Whole Foods Galleria (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/st-louis/storecalendar.php). The class is on November 17th at 6:30pm. But in a way it has all worked out because it is a “blue” cheese class and that is my least favorite cheese.

On that same night, the Wine Merchant (http://www.winemerchantltd.com/html/clayton.html) in Clayton is also having a cheese class, starting at 6pm.

Other than that, nothing else planned except for the big turkey day. My stepbrother and sister-in-law are excellent cooks. But that doesn’t mean the next adventure isn’t waiting right around the corner!

Friday, November 6, 2009

This Week in Food and Wine

I used to watch “This Week in Baseball” as a kid and made a point to watch it every Saturday morning. I had quite a jam-packed week and now that it’s Friday, I can finally stop and take a look back at my food adventures…

Sunday night, I was invited out to my new favorite restaurant, Three Monkeys, (http://3monkeysstl.com/) introduced to me by my friend Anne. Three Monkeys is located off of Morgan Ford near the Tin Can. Incredible food and portions at a very reasonable price. Since it was the holy day, “Football Sunday”, they have $4 chicken wings and $12 domestic buckets of beer. I made the wise choice of copying my table mates and ordering the “sweet and spicy” version, which we all agreed tasted like General Hso’s chicken. Probably the best wings I have ever had. I keep meaning to go there and have a full meal because I keep hearing how good the food is there!

Tuesday night, the main event was Celtic Thunder at the Fox with my friend Amy, and she kept telling me that we were going to meet her parents for dinner at “that one restaurant”. I thought she was referring to Best Steak House (http://www.beststeakstl.com/) but it turned out we went to Vito’s (http://www.vitosstl.com/) near Saint Louis University. This turned out to be a great surprise because Italian is my favorite food and I have only been there once before for drinks.

I ordered the eggplant cannelloni and it came with ricotta on top. Amy’s parents kept with tradition and ordered the spinach and artichoke dip as an appetizer. Amy was also loyal and ordered pizza, which is all she ever orders. Hands down, she was right. The pizza was incredible. My guess is the spices in the sauce that grabbed my attention, but I definitely will have to go back and have pizza there for sure.

Wednesday night also was a pleasant surprise since I ended up skipping out on gym night at the last minute to meet up with my “cheese class” friends. Yes, I’m not the only one who attends EVERY cheese class at the Galleria Whole Foods (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/st-louis/ ). Speaking of cheese class, the next class is on November 17th but you can have to call the customer service desk to register.

Anyway, my friends are also members of the monthly wine club at St. Louis Cellars (http://www.saintlouiscellars.com/ ) and once a month, they host a special event for members to pick up their wine. At this event, appetizers are served to go along with several wines to taste. This was my first time going in after my friends had raved about the place, mostly about the food! It turns out that St. Louis Cellars also has a deli counter with a wide-variety of freshly made dishes.

The event definitely lived up to the hype. The food counter was a little hard to get to and you could only use napkins but again, it was worth the struggle against the crowd. On one end was hummus, red pepper and traditional, glazed mushrooms, toasted ravioli (stuffed with ricotta – not meat!), cubed cheese, and a couple of others that I know I have forgotten. But the outstanding item of the evening was the turkey and swiss sandwiches on a slightly crispy bun. The bun had some type of honey-glaze, I believe, and it was an incredible melting of flavors with the meat and cheese!! All of us tried to grab as many as we could and they were the first item to run out. It is my hope that they sell full samples of these sandwiches!!!

Of course I couldn’t leave there empty-handed since I had run out of wines at home. Mike and Lara took me to the “Great Wall of Wine” and showed me their favorites, one red (Malbec from Layer Cake) and one white (Torrontes by Crios) and the funny thing is that they are BOTH from Argentina. Mike and Lara are famous for saying that they refuse to buy wine over $20 a bottle because there are just SO many good wines under their limit.

And speaking of wines that are under $20, all the wines that were at the tasting that night were also under the magic limit. Here is the list:

Seguar Viudas Aria – Sparking Wine, Brut Cava, Spain - $12.99

Altanuta – Pinot Grigio, Alta Adige, Italy - $13.99 (This was my favorite…not too sweet, not too dry, as a Pinot Grigio should be!)

Mulderbosch – Chenin Blanc, South Africa - $15.99 (A little too dry for me.)

Valley of the Moon – Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California - $15.99 (Not as sweet as I like my Chard’s to be!)

Jailhouse Rock – Merlot, California - $12.99 (Did you know there is a whole LINE of Elvis Presley wines???!!!)

Evodia – Grenache, Caltayud, Spain - $10.99 (Very smooth.)

Windsor Sonoma – Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California - $19.99 (Also, not too much tannin.)

Now Thursday night was a little bit different. I was actually IN the kitchen for a change. And I mean a BIG change for those of you who know me. I somehow got volunteered to assist my chef/friend, Ashley, in throwing together several dishes for a small party. (Same friend who cooked amazing chili for me.) And I say “throwing” because it’s amazing to see a chef work close up…you have to be quick or else you will get RUN OVER. Hehe

Thankfully, Ashley was very patient and showed me exactly what she wanted me to do since I had never done ANY kind of real cooking before! (I don’t think licking the bowl as a child counts.) First thing, I had to slice avocados and get the pits out. Like everything else, there’s a trick. Wielding a giant knife, scary enough, the avocados are so soft and the pits so hard. Hack at the pit, turn, and wall-ah…it’s out. Then I got to scoop out the insides.

Next task was a little harder…chopping onions. I am guessing there is a trick to that too because I had a lot of difficulty with that one…my eyes were burning so bad…it was hard to see. My pieces were NOT chopped as finely as they should have been but I couldn’t stand it any longer!

Since I was on a roll with the knife, I cut up orange and lemon slices. At this point I was wishing I had paid more attention to my Mom because even that became harder than I thought it should be. I’m probably too much of a perfectionist.

Anyway, after adding the magic spices, I got to mash the whole thing together into one, big green gooey dip. I actually made guacamole! It was really darn good too, except for the giant onion chunks.

After all that chopping, I was off the hook and got to resort to easier tasks such as buttering bread and washing dishes. I felt much safer and more in my comfort zone there. hehe

So maybe if I get tired of computers and social media and sports, perhaps a new career is waiting for me? Don’t worry…won’t be any time soon! My favorite place is still at the table for now.

And today is my day of rest. Stay turned to see what’ll come up for next week’s adventures! Or maybe it’ll be nice and boring for a change?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Home-cooked meals are always the best!

One of the best things about Facebook is catching up with friends and family that you haven't seen or talked to in years and then trying to catch up on the last 2-5-10 years that you missed! hehehe Thanks to Facebook, I got to go to a friend's wedding to Seattle and went out to KC last weekend to try and make up for lost time by visiting friends.

One friend that I recently got back in touch with, has become a chef in the time that we were apart. So OF COURSE the first thing I said was, "When are you going to cook for me?" As part of fair trade, I brought the wine.

Since I had left that Pinot Grigio back in KC, I was down to my LAST bottle of wine in the house: a semi-dry red from St. James Winery.

Yeah yeah yeah...I know wine purists may turn their noses up at Missouri wines but @STLWineGirl (http://www.stlwinegirl.com/) recently held a class at Provisions to show off how good Missouri wines could be. (Sorry I missed it, Angie!)

As someone who doesn't normally drink red wines, a semi-dry was just perfect because it had a smooth taste with very little tannin. This also was an excellent choice since the main dish was a spicy chili. I ended up having to put in two big glops of sour cream to mix with the chili. hehe

But for the appetizer, we actually started with a white "daily drinking wine" that is inexpensive and you can get anywhere: Barefoot Chardonnay! (http://www.barefootwine.com/) They're just so easy to drink an accessible to everyone. Plus I can't help but think the baby footprint on the label is just SO CUTE! I can't resist. hehe

Anyway, as I last mentioned, I have a couple of classes already marked down on my calendar so I encourage you to check them out as well.

November 10th - Beer and food pairing class with @STLWineGirl at Provisions (http://www.stlwinegirl.com/UpcomingEvents.html)

November 17th - Wine and cheese pairing at Wine Merchant (They just released their class list via their mailing list!) http://www.winemerchantltd.com/

Unfortunately, it does not appear as though Whole Foods Galleria will have any more classes the rest of the year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fun food and wine trip to KC inspires serious blogging...

Up until now, this blog had just been a diary for me to record some fantastic cheeses, meals, and wines that I have enjoyed through all the classes that I have been taking as a hobby. Not to mention the monthly restaurant outings that I have been scheduling with my friends.

Another favorite hobby as of lately is social media and social marketing. While I enjoy Facebook and Twitter for myself, I am trying to learn how to use social media to its fullest potential. So I think now is the time to promote my blog if I can actually keep up with it and have interesting content to post.

While I have been trying to cut back on the number of classes I am taking lately to save some money, there are always opportunities for me to eat and drink, and I really want to share all the fantastic foods and wines that I partake in on a regular basis. A good friend of mine recently asked ME for advice and that was definitely inspiring.

This past weekend I went to Kansas City to visit a friend and some family. This was an excellent chance for me to use what I have learned and share it with others. It’s always good to be around people who know more than you so I took a wine expert into Trader Joe’s (http://www.traderjoes.com) with me so I could find the right “gift”. She helped to pick out a bold, red wine…the Rosemount Shiraz (http://www.rosemountestates.com)…since my friends are particular about their wines.

Since I was bringing a stronger red, I knew it was important to bring some cheeses that could stand up to the flavor. I brought one of top favorites, Midnight Moon (http://www.cypressgrovechevre.com/cheeses/PDFs/midnightMoon.pdf), which is a goat cheese, as well as a fairly young Gouda with red wax. I also brought some Drunken Goat (http://cheese.about.com/od/internationalcheese/p/drunken_goat.htm), from Spain, although it had a real mild flavor.

Another gift that I brought along with me is some Funkadelic Salsa, mild flavor. Spicier foods go well with red wines I think. They’d be too strong for a white wine for sure. The salsa was also a big hit and you can contact Nicki Funk at funkn69@hotmail.com to place your order. Her salsa comes in three levels of heat and I was able to purchase it at the St. Charles Farmer’s Market, which unfortunately, is done for the season.

While I thought the Rosemount Shiraz was smooth enough for me to drink, I still prefer white wines and I happened to have a Cycles Gladiator Pinot Grigio (http://www.wineglobe.com/21747.html) that I had been saving to enjoy with company. I felt this was the perfect wine for my trip because it’s not sweet like a Riesling nor too light like a Chardonnay, but a mellow flavor.

Although the best treat from the weekend was all the home cooking I got! Hehe My sister-in-law made a beef stew with a tomato base and my stepbrother cooked an omelet for me in the morning. I really meant to watch his secrets because the omelet came out perfectly folded in thirds with no burning…I still have a lot to learn in the cooking field myself!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Food Energy Whole Foods 9/9/09

Yes...I did go to a second Whole Foods class this week...back to back. But I saw a new class that I was interested in and it was reasonably priced. I figured this was going to be more of a cooking class but I am always interested in eating healthier.

I really thought this class was going to be about eating foods that provide more energy, and therefore were healthier, such as not eating processed foods and why vegetables are so much better for you.

This was completely different.

This class had to do with macrobiotics. I'm still not sure what that is because I haven't gotten the chance to read the information about it. But this class had more to do with spiritual energy and finding balance in the food that we eat. Some foods feel heavy while others feel light. We were encouraged to mix and match those foods and pretty much stay away from all processed foods, which are really considered dead.

Tonight's theme was going back to the basics...so ate a lot of vegetables and REAL grains.

We started out with a butternut squash soup that had just a hint of onion taste to it. Other than that, it was very simply made. My favorite part was the texture of the soup.

Later on, we had a lentil soup that was filled with other vegetables. You could really taste the difference in how the squash was very light compared with the lentils. Not that one was bad for you...but it was more about how at different times of the year, you may prefer a heavier food for winter. Or perahps you're feeling uptight...you might want a lighter, calming, more flowing food.

We also got to compare plain brown rice....much different than white...with couscous, which is extremely light and fluffy (and one of my favorite foods). Shoot. I just love SAYING couscous.

I had seconds and thirds with everything. I certainly wish I could eat more nonprocessed foods but as someone who hates to cook, I know it won't happen. But it certainly makes me appreciate these foods a lot more.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Seafood Class 9/8

These seafood classes seem to be coming up quickly and there is already another one scheduled for October 6th! I'm not sure I can keep up!

This class again is a seafood lover's wet dream because each course was better than the next, even though there wasn't anything flashy on tonight's menu.

We started off with Creole Crawfish Cakes...in other words crawfish tails were used instead of the typical crab and Seafood Chef Matt said that it took him four tries to get it right...basically, he needed to stop chopping the fish so fine so that the cake would stay together. And these were giant, meaty cakes with quite a bit of cayenne pepper to give it quite a kick.

Chef Matt was inspired by a seafood and pasta dish that he had at a wedding over the weekend but decided it would be better as a Smoked Rainbow Trout Penne Pasta. I thought the trout was a little fishy and not my first pick but the light oil dressing with parmesan cheese was really tasty without weighing you down. I was just about full after we each got two servings of pasta.

Keeping with the New Orleans theme, next up was a catfish Po'boy and for sure I thought the catfish would have a fishy taste but with the cajun seasoning on top of french bread, tomatoes, and pickles, it was just the right amount of fish flavor. It's probably the first time I've enjoyed catfish. This course required extra napkins!!!

The last course was my favorite...although not to take away from any of the other courses, but we finished off with a fried walleye. I've never had this before...again...expecting something totally fishy tasting but it was incredibly light! It might as well have been tilapia! I couldn't believe it. This fish was breaded and served with a sweet, light sauce and I definitely overdid it on this course.

I am hoping to recover in time for next month!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Provisions Wine and Food pairing #2 9/1/2009

Being the loyal friend and customer that I am, I immediately signed up for my second Provisions class which was just a couple of weeks after the last one. I did NOT want to miss out!

Word had definitely spread about Angie's classes as this class filled up a lot quicker and was much more crowded. This time the tables were in a U-shape and that helped a LITTLE bit with the acoustics, but it was still difficult to hear with Provisions' high ceilings. If nothing else, it definitely forces you to talk to those around you. I ended up making friends with the same couple I sat next to the week before.

Anyway, on to the important information...the courses! This evening's theme was "The American Melting Pot" pulling meals from specific cities, although most of the foods and wines were borrowed from their original European styles, although made into their own Americanized version.

Appetizer starter was Baltimore - Crab Cake paired with an Oregon Pinot Gris. Normally I tell folks that Oregon is known for their Pinot Noir but really, it's any Pinot grape. I really liked it this white wine because it had a sharp finish to it.

I was really looking forward to the next course, from New Orleans, having just been there, but the Shrimp Etouffee was a little disappointing because I only got one little baby shrimp on my plate. I mostly had brown goo. And the Chenin-Blanc paired with it was too dry (although Angie kept saying overly sweet).

Next from San Francisco was Cioppino which came from the early 1900s when the fishermen would come in and chop up all the leftover fish and put it into a tomato rother soup. Typically it comes with lots of shrimp and shellfish so everyone got two clams. Not too bad. The wine was actually a little bit better here...a Monte Volpe Primo Rosso....real smooth finish. That's the only way I can handle red wines....low on tannins.

From Miami, we had Cubano Beans and Rice but when I think Cuban, I think spicy chicken and rice...but noooo...Angie insisted that Cubans liked pork. So I tried the piggy and it was full of flavor but finished with a greasy aftertaste. Luckily it was paried with a Grenache but the wine was too strong, so you could wash down the grease but it totally overpowered the pork.

Last was cheesecake from New York and it was only a tiny bite. Chef Scott from Provisions is EXCELLENT in his desserts. THis was fantastic even though I could only roll so much chocolate onto the cheesecake instead of smothering it like normal. This was paired with the super sweet wine, a Moscato...which is one I could actually drink...well a little it...almost too sweet for me! hehehe

The best part of the class is all the things I learned. Dessert wines should be stronger than the actual dessert.

More importantly....buy a half bottle of wine...they look like baby wine bottles...and save the bottle when you finish. THEN you have a better sized container to keep your excess wine from any full bottles you don't finish. This is better because there is less air in the bottle since oxygen is what is the enemy when trying to keep wines.

OH...and the most fun thing I learned is "seasoning my glass". We were enouraged to heavily swirl our wines to get the sides of the glass coated in the wine to improve taste.

Unfortunately, I'm going to miss the next Provisions class (when there won't be any piggy) for a "fall food theme". I'm a little bummed I'm going to miss but it's because it's the same night as cheese class and you better believe I won't be missing cheese class!!!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wine Merchant - Wine/Cheese Pairing 8/21

I debated whether or not to go to Wine class tonight after a VERY long week, but since I had to miss the week before, I felt I had earned the right to go and treat myself. Although I probably didn't really need to treat myself after not working out all week long!

As always, it turned out to be the right choice because three of the best cheeses were served. Epoisses du Bourgogne, Saint Marcellin (both super creamy French cow's milk cheeses) and then Midnight Moon (a firm goat's cheese).

I could not lick the plates good enough let me tell you!

This was the first time I have had a Gewurztraimner in a class...that was a nice treat for me although everyone else thought it was too sweet. hehe

OH...we also got to have the "Maserati of Ham" again: Iberico

And so glad that I finally watched Sideways because we had a Merlot and the wine expert made the reference to Merlot. It actually was not bad....smoother than the other reds.

I also learned a lot in this class...like you shouldn't rinse out your glass with water as I always used to do! It's better to put wine on top of wine!

Provisions Wine and Food pairing

Officially, I attended the second Provisions Wine and Food pairing hosted by @STLWineGirl, otherwise known as Angie. I felt bad for missing the first one so I made sure to come to the second one.

Having a class at Provisions was very different than other classes at Whole Foods and Wine Merchant because we're in the cafe section of the store. With the high ceiling and 30 people in the class, it just didn't have an intimate feel and it was hard to hear. Angie is a little bit soft spoken and so the environment just didn't cater to her voice.

Luckily it was easier to talk to the people sitting at my table even though I couldn't discuss the food with anyone else. Discussions were pretty limited and that's usually what makes a class more fun when they're more intimate.

Anyway, on to the food! I will say that wine and food pairing classes are a little more enjoyable in that you get a full meal for your money and get to try incredible meals. These are meals you'd have to be pay top dollar for in a restaurant. So I always feel like it's a very unqiue experience.

This class' theme was Tour of Europe so each course had a theme from a different European country. We started out with the most amazing Austrian Potato Pancake. It was more creamy than like hash browns, as I am used to. It almost was a dessert it was so smooth! Then with the caramelized onion-pear chutney....to die for!

This was served with a Kurt Angerer Gruner Veltliner Kies. I forgot that I'd had a Gruner Veltliner before...it's also known as the "asparagus wine" because it's got a mineral flavor to it and it is the best wine to take on the strong taste of the veggie. Although it is a crisp wine, the mineral after taste isn't my favorite.

My favorite wine was definitey the Vouvray. I hope to keep saying it until I remember!

Here are the other menu items;

Sea Scallop in a Puff Pastry - so rich! But a little fishy
Chanterelle Risotto with Lamb - Excellent
Spanish Paella with Monkfish and Chorizo
Portuguese Chocolate Tart - TO DIE FOR!!!!!

The chocolate tart was SO tiny...I licked it in small portions so as to savior it. Of course it came with a port, which I just cannot drink.

But Angie's class definitely taught me a lot. Usually I think, light food, light wine...such as serving white wines with fish and then red wines with beef, veal, or lamb. But Angie taught me that contrasts can sometims work too. So if the wine is a bit too harsh or too much tannin...then the food will bring it down. So the combination of the two is better than the portions separately!

Momos Ouzaria Taverna

I am finally getting time to write about my dinner at Momos from several weeks ago. I wish I had written sooner while the food was still fresh in my mind. The main thing that I have not forgotten was how much I ate...way too much. Momos serves its meals tapas style, which for me and my friends, is like when they bring the buffet TO you!

This was our second tapas type meal in a row and the Food Adventure Club was definitely more experienced at sharing our meals. Although I am now thinking that the meals were much smaller at Ice Kitchen and therefore, we over-ordered at Momos. Everything we ate was super filling and I know I had "treat tummy" for quite awhile the next day.

But when you're at a Greek restaurant, you have to start with the Greek salad. One friend ordered an extra side of Greek olives too! (They're too salty for me and watch out for the pits!) I didn't realize it too had a Greek name: ELLENIKI

I don't think any of us ordered any of the cold side dishes or "mezes", although I did eye the cheese sampler.

We each ordered a couple of hot side dishes as warm up before the main meal. This is where we made our mistake because we all were plenty full after splitting some of these dishes. I believe we had the SPANIKOPITA as well as the TYROPITA (THREE CHEESE SPANIKOPITA) , sea bass, and meatballs. Everything was delicious. The sea bass was the biggest surprise. Light adn not fishy tasting! Crab cakes are always a favorite too.

My friends ordered gyros and they both were huge. This was meant to be our "main course" dinner but I had already ordered the Grilled Lamb Kabob as my main course and wasn't planning on helping out. Well, both of them needed help!

And to make matters worse, we each ordered our own dessert to try! OY! You KNOW I got the chocolate tort (super soft and rich) and my second favorite is the baklavah.

All this food also caused us to have an overweight bill as well. Hopefully we will use more restraint for the next FAC meal!

In addition to all the eating and drinking, other highlights include flirting with our waiter and dancing with he belly dancer, whom I recognized from other events.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Wine and Cheese Pairing - Wine Merchant - July 31st

I have to say that even though I was not in the best of moods, I still managed to enjoy myself as I always do. The cheese staff are always terrific and I enjoy sharing comments and meeting new people at the classes. And of couse the cheese always picks me up.

Tonight's theme was California so all the wine sand the cheesese (as well as the salamis) were from there.

For the first time I had a chicken and duck pate. It reminded me of a milder chopped liver actually. VERY tasty. It's officialy name: Fabrique Delices Truffle Mousse by Haward.

You can't have a California class without a super buttery Chardonnay! Ours was a 2007 Kistler Les Noisetiers which was priced at $65.99. You KNOW I gotta finish my glas of a $65 bottle of wine! hehe Our cheesemonger said that normally Kistler is only offered to restaurants so it was a real treat that they had it.

Another highlight of the class was the Cypress Grove Truffle Tremor. It was a VERY rich and creamy goat's cheese that paired wonderfully with a Pinor Noir. You had to have a strong red to wash it down because it really did get stuck on the tongue. "Heavenly" is definitely a good term for it.

That would ave been my favorite but the next cheese, the Midnight Moon, is probably my all time favorite cheese. At least top 3. I didn't want to drink any wine with it so as not to ruin the flavor of the cheese.

Plus Iam sure tha tI am embrassed myself yet again since I had two platefuls of cheese. But no reason for the whole thing to go to waste.

I did leave the blue cheese behind tho...

Whole Foods Seafood Class 7/31

This month's seafood class at Whole Foods had to do with the more obscure types of seafood that one doesn't have that often...especially not in the midwest!

The class started with an appetizer of Kabuki Oysters from Washington state. My buddy Griffen said they were cooked JUST right since they were not too chewy like rubber when they're overcooked. I just think they're cold and slimey but putting a dash of hot sauce on it helps. hehe But I probably would have been just fine with the lemon juice that Griffen used. That was only my second time having oysters. They're OK...no strong flavors that stand out to me. It definitely is a weird texture.

And that was just the warm up! Next was Clams Rockefeller. The claims were a little easier to eat because the shell was shallower than the oyster. But you still had to use a spoon to scoop up all the topping goodness that covered the clam meat.

Next up was my favorite...Fried Calimari. As if you could go wrong with anything fried! hehe The sauce was the best. I probably could have had the sauce all by itself.

For the trifecta of shelled seafood...I had mussels. They were a little harder to eat because you had to open up the shell like a pistachio nut to get to the meat. Again...just a little chewy, slimey middle. But it came in some type of yellow broth that was quite tasty and good with the pieces of french bread.

The last was the best though...monkfish. Reminded me of a poor man's lobster meat.

Since this was a seafood class...mostly white fish was served except for one red wine...a cab! Cab is the only the red wine I can actually drink so I am embarrassed to say, I finished all my glasses. since the focus is not on the wine, I don't remember anything I had. Ok...because I finished all my glasses is the real reason that I don't remember all the names of the wines. Next seafood class, I think I need to eat a little something before I go!

The Schmidt's brought a wine appetizer...the one bottle of wine I do remember...it was a Kim Crawford Pinot Grigio. This was definitely the best wine of the whole night.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The In Spot Lounge

Thanks to my wine friend, Angie Ortmann aka STLWineGirl, I got the chance to attend another wine and food pairing at a new hip restaurant called The In Spot Lounge in the Delmar Loop. http://www.inspotlounge.com/

I rarely get to visit restaurants when they first open and this pairing took place about 3 weeks after they opened. The inside is just beautiful and I was wishing I had brought my camera. But it is still an intimate cafe with a small stage and the kitchen area is wide open right in front of customers! The perfect color of chocolate brown on all of its wall...it definitely says groovy dessert bar and lounge. hehe

This tasting's theme was strawberries since we are in the middle of summer. David, the owner and chef, came up with a brilliant menu to incorporate strawberries with each of his courses. Not to mention each of the courses were generous helpings so that I got a full meal out of the evening for only $15! (I did spend an extra $5 on a raffle ticket and won a bottle of wine!)

First course was a Sua Strawberry sparking wine which was paired with a raspberry vinagarette salad dressing (on a salad containing strawberries of course). I believe this was everyone's overall favorite wine because it was so sweet and perfect for drinking by the pool. The sparking wine is really infused with real strawberries too!

Second course was a talapia covered with a mustard sauce and strawberries on top. This was probably my favorite but unfortunately, the chef isn't big on fish. It really doesn't go with the rest of his menu. But the mustard sauce really gave an otherwise blande talapia great flavor. Then the strawberries were put on top of the sauce. The sweetness really helped to balance out the tangy-ness of the mustard sauce. Of course a nice white wine was paired with the fish...not too dry but not too sweet, called The Other Wine. It is a mixture of 3 grapes, mostly Chardonnay and Sav. Blanc.

Third course was probably everyone else's favorite because it was cold bow-tie pasta with a light dressing and strawberries on top. This was a great mix because everything was light and chilled. Definitely a good summer meal that isn't heavy. I think it could have used a little MORE dressing...more zip or kick of some kind...and then it would have held up better against the Oregon Pinor Noir that was paired with it. The wine was a dry red and the two didn't work well together. The Pinor Noir would have gone better with the pasta if there was a heavy cream sauce to cut through.

The last two courses were the dessert courses! The first dessert was a white cake...starwberry and pistachio mousse! WOW! Delicious! ANd then you get to put "the drizzle" on! I picked the best one...Spicy Chocolate. I didn't taste enough of the pistachio mousse...but that was totally the best part for sure. The other flavors of drizzle were raspberry and regular chocolate. This was paired with a Moscato D'Asti which is much like a sparking wine since it's a wine with some bubbles. It almost was a little TOO sweet but definitely a good match with dessert. I love Moscato so I have to admit that I did enjoy it.

And the second dessert was the chocolate but it had strawberry mousse inside of it. So when I was expecting a strong chocolate flavor...I got sweet strawberry instead. I think others will like this but I'm too much of a chocolate freak. I want nothing but the chocolate flavor and THEN maybe add some raspberry drizzle on top. This was paired with a real dessert wine, a Madera, which tasted like a brandy or sherry and I just can't drink those. They burn my throat all the way down. I did at least try it. It's supposed to cut the sweetness down but I'd rather have the sweet flavor ANY day. hehe

Unfortunately, the wines often were outdone by the foods they were paired with. Since the menu items were all light, summer items, a couple of the wines were too dry to match up. I do admit that sometimes when you have a sweeter food item, you need a drier wine to calm it down, but in each of these cases, a lighter wine would would have been a better paring. But I know that Angie had to pick the wines on short notice and wine/food pairings are really a great way to try NEW wines that you might not otherwise taste. I know I would never try all the reds or drier wines if it weren't for someone like Angie.

It is also hard to find parking for the In Spot. There IS some parking in the back but you have to drive all the way around the block to access it. So be sure to give yourself some extra time to find the place and parking the first time you go.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wine and Food Pairing July 7th

Even though I was unemployed, I broke down and went to another Wine and Food pairing class at Wine Merchant in Clayton. I called them up that morning and they said they had ONE spot left so I took it as a sign as I should go. And yes, it was well worth it.

Normally I am more interested in the cheese pairings but the plate had a lot of cheese on it so I was happy. And it really is a chance to try different foods that I normally would never taste.

Apparently, Wine Merchant is the only place that sells bill Goat Potato Chips and they were actually paired with the sparkling wine! That was different. And the chips were excellent.

Other highlights included the Hudson Valley Smoked Duck Breast, which was paired with the $119.99 2006 Serafin Morey-St.-Denis 1er Cru "Les Millandes". Again, I would never buy a $100 bottle of wine so had to finish that glass' worth. hehe

I can also tell people that I had the "Maserati of proscutto" since we each got 3 paper thin slices of Iberico de Bellota Lomo from Spain. It's just fun to say that, even though I'm not tat into proscutto.

The best cheese of the evening was the Chaubier which is a cow and goat's milk mix from France. It was semi-soft and a great flavor at the end. It was paired with a rose. It got added to my favorites list for sure. AND I broke down and took some home with me. It was very reasonably priced so I don't feel as guilty for that purchase. hehe

Now that I am no longer unemployed, I can continue to attend classes guilt free now. I will be skipping this month's Whole Foods Cheese class since it is the same night as the All-Star Game. But Wine Merchant has another Wine and Cheese pairing class on Friday, July 31st.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Schlafly Beer and Cheese Pairing

Since last night's beer and cheese tasting at the Wine and Cheese place was cancelled due to a power outage, I was totally psyched up for tonight's Schlafly Beer and Cheese Pairing, which they host once a year. This year's class was held during STL Craft Beer Week!

This class was hosted down at the Tap Room, which will hopefully be easier to get to once they reopen 40!

Anyway, it was a very eclectic crowd and I was trying to guess if folks were there because they were beer fans...cheese fans...or both. I sat at the "young people" table and I guessed beer...I was right. hehe Luckily, some "both" fans sat down on the other side of me so we could "ooooh" and "aaaah" over the cheeses together. But, I do admit that I appreciated my tablemates' knowledge about the beer.

My first thought was "Awww...look at the cute mini-beer glasses!" So I was schooled that the glasses were from an annual beer festival that Schlafly hosted. Each glass came from a different year and was in a different style. The beer folks then actually tried to match up the beers with each glass. I really wanted to take the beer glasses home so bad. I really need to start bringing a camera to these classes for this very reason.

Of course I noticed the cheeses! Don't be silly! My favorite cheesemonger, Adam from the Wine Merchant, made sure we each got HUGE pieces of cheese so I was QUITE pleased. (Especially since this ended up being my dinner!)

Overall, ALL the cheeses had a strong flavor and were able to stand up on their own. No wussy cheeses tonight! I do think that was on purpose because we were dealing with beer. The only beer that was super light (and my favorite) was the Hefeweizen. The cheese that was matched with it, Tumbleweed, was way too overpowering. Sometimes opposites work in pairings but my poor light Hefe just couldn't keep up.

In reverse, the Oatmeal Stout was way overpowering over the Dry Jack. It probably went better with the APA. The APA actually was matched with the Humboldt Fog (a crowd favorite) and those went pretty well together because they both calmed each other down...took the edge off.

The worst cheese and the best cheese were put together with the Biere de Garde (which comes in a bottle no less!) and both were pungent cheeses in their own way. The worst cheese was the Menuet which was totally barnyard tasting to me. Hopefully you catch my drift when I say "barnyard". The best cheese was the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. A sharp aged cheddar...YUM! That beat all the other cheeses by far.

At the end of the class...I looked around and could once again tell who the beer lovers were versus the cheese lovers. I saw A LOT more plates full of cheese (ACK!) and mostly empty beer glasses. I'm sure you can guess that I finished my plate of cheese completely while leaving 3 of the 6 beers. I just can't do those heavy beers. I'm sure people were sneering at me for being such a beer wuss too.

Here are the pairings as provided by the class but we were encouraged to mix, match, and then discuss some more! Lots of good descriptions and teaching from the brewer as well as from Adam about the cheese.
  1. Dortmunder with Carmody (Bellwether Farms, CA)
  2. Hefeweizen with Tumbleweed (5 Spoke Creamery, NY)
  3. Pale Ale with Osage Orange (Goatsbeard Farm, MO)
  4. Oatmeal Stout with Dry Jack (Vella Cheese Co, CA)
  5. AP with Humboldt Fog (Cypress Grove Dairy, CA)
Special thanks goes out to my Personal Beer Instructor (PBI)...I knew right away Hefeweizen was perfect for me.

Best of luck to Adam since he is off to work for Cowgirl Creamery in Cali next month. I am immensely jealous. St. Louis will miss him for sure!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chihuahua's

Now I don't go to ritzy, trendy places all the time. This is more my speed...an authentic Mexican restaurant. So much better than a chain!

This little gem is hidden at the end of a strip mall behind the Mobil station at the Dorsett and McKelvey intersection. I know my cousin likes Mexican food so it was my chance to go there for only the second time. The first time had been years ago.

I always get a chicken quesadilla wherever I go and it was a little on the small side. Regular tortilla sized. But I was fine with that because it came with a huge pile of rice and beans. Quite filling. And that was the lunch sized portion. Only $7!

So it's worth it to seek out your neighborhood Mom and Pop owned restaurants. They have more reasons to serve quality foods.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

May Seafood class at Whole Foods

I went to my first Seafood class at Whole Foods yesterday. This was the second one for the year put on by the Seafood Team Leader, Matt Hoffmeyer. This class' theme was Alaska. Matt and some other Whole Foods folks really did get to go fishing off the coast of Alaska offered by their distributer! You can email him for any of your seafood cooking questions at matt.hoffmeyer@wholefoods.com.

This was more of a cooking class than a tasting class like all the cheese classes that I go to. Unfortunately, this means you have to wait for the item to actually be cooked! ACK! Luckily, the wine is poured while you wait and it becomes a wine pairing as well. Really, most of the food is already prepared and just needs that last part...the heat! hehe I could have done without the 20 minute oven cooking for the last course though...

Anyway, on to the food! We started out with a Chipotle Cod Cake with Lime Mustard. I didn't taste the mustard part too much because the chipotle takes over after I dipped the Cod Cake into it...it starts out as a teaser and then WHAMO...it sneaks up on you! But really, it is a great compliment to the Cod Cake. I couldn't tell it was Cod from any other fish either.

Next was the King Crab legs. Yes, they were giant...longer than my forearm and plenty meaty. Matt was nice enough to slice them for us but I still had to fight with it. Matt provided butter sauce for us to dip it in of course, and they were awesome. But I hate it when I have to struggle to eat my food. I still needed a bib! ACK!

Luckily, the next fish just laid there calmly...fresh salmon! It started out BRIGHT PINK and then was broiled for only about 6-7 minutes. Matt was wishing he could have grilled them for us but that's hard to do in a retail store! hehe The salmon just melted in my mouth...

And the last fish...(4 COURSES!)...was a Roasted Red Pepper and Ridder Stuffed Halibut Fillet. Matt came up with this with Michael's help. Michael is the cheese guy. The halibut was wrapped around the Ridder cheese. That probably could have been a meal all unto itself. So filling....

Normally I don't pay attention to the wines because that's not my area of expertise, but Michael, the specialty/cheese guy, mentioned that the Austrian Gruner Veltliner is really good to serve with asparagus or brussel sprouts. I thought this was noteworthy since those veggies can be a bit strong depending on how they are cooked. And I always try to eat my veggies when I'm at the parent's house! hehe

To top things off...as if 4 glasses of wine wasn't enough...one for each course...Whole Foods let us get a scoop of gelato from their selection...of COURSE I got the Chocolate flavor! Wow...I couldn't tell it wasn't ice cream. (Not that I really minded.)

Matt is always looking for themes and ideas for future seafood classese. We suggested sushi. Next one probably won't be until July though...but I definitely will be going back.

Certainly worth the $35!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wines from SLeeK

I finally found the name of the red wine from my dinner at SLeeK: Stag's Leap Artemis. It was a very smooth red with not much tannin.

My favorite white for the evening was the Qupe Chardonnay.

Tomorrow night 5/26 is Seafood Class at Brentwood Whole Foods at 6:30pm! More to report then. I am curious if I will be having lobster three times within six days!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

IceKitchen at Westport

So tonight's excursion is the real reason I am starting this blog. This was the second meeting of the Food Adventure Club (F.A.C.), which I just named tonight since meeting twice makes it official. hehe

My friends and I had tried a Japanese steakhouse in St. Charles County before because there was interest in trying sushi, which I cannot get enough of. While the newbies didn't like the sushi, I was very proud of them for being willing to try.

The IceKitchen was reviewed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch a couple weeks ago and of course I always share those articles with the F.A.C. members. This is important to me because being single, it is hard to find people to go out to dinner with. I am not quite able to go out to fine dining by myself, which is a big reason I volunteered to go with STLWineGirl to SLeek in my last post.

Normally it's not wise to hit a newly hyped up restaurant right away. It's usually better to wait for the hype to die down. But I made a reservation so we'd be ready. Turns out it wasn't necessary for a Sunday night! Or maybe because everyone is BBQing over Memorial Day weekend? We were one of two tables in the whole place for most of our stay. They put us in the back...where it was dark. Maybe we weren't pretty enough? I dunno.

Right off the bat, I could tell that this would be a great happy hour place if you like martinis or "foo foo" drinks. Their drink menu was just as long a their food menu with crazy names for their mixed drinks. I had a "Dreamsicle" which had Ameretto in it so I was happy. I really wanted to try the "Son of a Peach", which was very fun to say. All drinks were $8 and up so you really gotta like flavored drinks. Not the place for beers although they had quite a few typical bottles so everyone would be happy drinking there.

The decor is really what stands out when you pass by, walk around, and in the bathrooms. It's worth it just to go inside once to check it out. We were hoping they really had some drink that could be set on fire like in their logo. The ambiance is really for hip folks since they played techno nonstop mixed with some current hip hop and a DJ stand behind us. At least during happy hour, drinks are half price.

We went ahead and tried the "fusion" tapas. I have been asked what does "fusion" mean? I dunno exactly but my definition is "combination of flavors to make something new you've never had before". While the descriptions of the items sounded calm, the actual plates had quite different sauces and garnishes. We kept having to look back at the menu to see exactly what it was that we ordered. And yes...they all had some strange flavorings to it. Definitely different.

I started out with the House Salad...perfectly sized and the rice wine vinagrette had a great, light flavor to it.

My friends ordered a soup flight which is a smart way to try more than one soup. The Roasted Corn Chowder stood out from the rest. Tortilla Soup...you really need to like Mexican for that one. Elephant Garlic Soup came in 2nd. Slight hint of garlic so not overpowering at all.

I ordered the Beef Kabob as my "light tapas" and it was excellent...served on a bed of rice. I could have used a few more than the four small pieces. Of course that was the most expensive "light tapas" at $9.75. Light tapas seemed to be smaller sized too.

My friends ordered the "Trio of Wonton Tacos". I only tried one and was overpowered by the crispy shell and avocado so I couldn't taste the "meat" of it.

Since there were four of us, I got to try quite a few of the "Signature Tapas". The Acorn Squash Gnocchi came out first and was the most disappointing. I think of the Gnocchi at Maggiano's but this was in a heavy mushroom sauce. We could not taste ANY of the other flavors except for the mushroom. We were hoping for more Acorn or Squash flavor. Only a few bites of lobster mixed in couldn't save it either.

Fortunately, everything else was much better. The Chilean Sea Bass was probably my second most favorite due to the mirin shisho broth...which again was a sweet, rice wine flavor. My friends didn't like the sicky, pasty rice (like the kind used for sushi), but when you had the fish and rice dipped into the sauce - heavenly.

My favorite that I ordered was the Petite Surf and Turf. I knew this would be the best from my SLeek experience and it was the most expensive at $18.25. The filet was big enough so I could cut it in four and have a good tasting. The lobster meat was buried in the ...well I'm still not sure what it was. I probably would have liked bigger chunks of lobster.

Anyway, my friends ordered the Chicken Lollipops, which were delicious but so small it was hard to enjoy the taste of it for too long, and the Duck Breast. The duck was cut into small bite-size slices and was completed glazed in an Asian plum-flavored sauce. Covered in the sauce, the duck was excellent...no greasy or gamey taste at all. But the sauce was very sweet...a little strong.

I really was curious about the Ahi Tuna and the Grilled Wild Salmon.

And of course we had to order dessert! And of course I ordered the chocolate one...Chocolate Crepes. They were bigger than dollar-sized pancakes but a good size since I was so full. They were real thin and soggy. But once I pushed them into the chocolate sauce, all was good. There was a strong berry flavor to them so that the chocolate is not overpowering. I prefer my chocolate desserts to be overpowering though.

Cookie Dough Wontons were small and bite size. I could only taste cripsy outside for the most part. The Funnel Cake Sticks were definitely the sweet taste that you think of although it was more crispy than soft. It was so large, that the four of us couldn't finish it at all.

We were sad we didn't have enough room for the French Apple Tart though!

So overall...the food is very different...different textures and flavors. If you love new tastes and food adventures, this is something new to try. But unfortunately it was a bit too pricy for my friends and I to try more often.

The next meeting of the Food Adventure Club is hoping to land at Mongolian Beef. While nothing new, not your typical Chinese.

SLeeK Lobster Extravaganza

I had the most amazing fine dining experience ever and it's hard when you don't have anyone to share it with. So I figured this way I could share it with a world full of strangers! hehe

I recently started chatting with STLWineGirl on Twitter and Facebook, who spent five years in SF in the food/wine industry, and is also a sommlier. So I have the ultimate respect for her knowledge. Every time she posts about a wine, I always try to reply back with a cheese suggestion. But she knows cheese pretty well and could probably school me in that too.

Anyway, she tweeted that she was looking for someone to go with her to a special dinner that SLeek was having for their anniversary. SLeeK is a fine restaurant in the Lumiere Casino that is located on Laclede's Landing, on the Mississippi River, downtown St. Louis. It is definitely the classiest casino in town...plus it is the newest casino. I had been to the Burger Bar, where they serve Kobe beef hamburgers, which I believe SLeek was created by the same chef. Chef Keller.

I volunteered to go with her to SLeeK, not thinking she'd take a total stranger seriously but she was really needing someone to go with her.

Now this is something I know I would normally never get the chance to do. Ever. This kind of restaurant for this kind of special night to spend this much money drinking that much wine. Wow. It was nice for one night to live like royalty. What's really funny is that when you're in the industry, it's quite normal. I tried to look like I did it all the time. hehehe

Rusty, the general manager, looked like a rock star. The hostesses looked like his groupies. But he was all business. And he knows his business. Rarely is the GM out front either! Impressive. Rusty also shared his beliefs on service. It just seemed like common sense but really...how many restaurants struggle with it! Rusty said he enjoyed City Diner due to the quality service of his favorite waiter. That really stuck with me.

This definitely was my first time for a 6-course meal. Each one building on the other. I was lucky to have STLWineGirl with me to pick out the wines but it actually turned out to be quite difficult because certain things were full bottle only, half bottle only, and by the glass. We were trying to get half bottles and pair our glasses with the food but it was difficult to time it all. The white wines weren't chilled enough so that threw the timing off. Probably would have been easier with just three glasses of wine, especially since we fell behind.

The first three courses were the decorative portions as I like to call them. We started out with the Canapes...the one that stuck out for me was the Lobster Corn Dog. I dipped that in some spicy mustard and it was a little party in my mouth. hehe I definitely would have liked more than just the bite. I was trying to find something else to dip into the mustard too! There was a strange Lobster bisque that came in a test tube...kudos for the unique delivery but was relieved that the waitress explained that you could sip it or chug it. Since it was hot at first, I just sipped. Delightful. Definitely could have used more as well.

Unfortunately, our courses came out of order and we jumped to the Lobster Cappuccino. I thought it was more Lobster bisque with a slightly heavier flavor. It was quite filling so I definitely wish it had come later. My friend STLWineGirl accurately guessed that the side dish was a Corn Madeleine...it was perfectly shaped like one. So cute! I dipped mine into the Lobster Cappuccino, which I slowly sipped like a cup of soup.

The most beautiful decorative plate was the Symphony of Lobster. I couldn't taste much lobster in the four adorable items on the plate, but they were more for the eye. My favorite was the baby lobster ravioli. the pasta was so thin and shear, like a jellyfish. Almost like a mini-dessert were two watermelon dice...with the Creme Fraiche filling in. Almost too cute to eat anything on this course but of course I did.

Then the courses started to get more serious...next was the "Thermidor". It was half a lobster cut long ways (so clever!) with the toppings on one half and the meat down the other half. I thought how wonderful it was to get to the lobster meat as opposed to having to crack open one of those suckers by hand (which I did for the first time a couple of months ago). I certainly could get used to this fine treatment. I went a little crazy and tried hard to scoop out all the lobster meat still stuck to the shell since the meat inside was so good. STLWineGirl explained that they make good use out of every part of the lobster!

Of course the best part was the Surf & Turf. The Lobster Tail with a Petit Filet. I would have been thrilled with just this portion since it was the largest and meatest. And the lobster mashed potatoes...heavenly. I definitely wanted to lick the plate on this one.

And then there was dessert. There was no lobster in the dessert but I was fine with that because all four items were CHOCOLATE! While I was in love with all the desserts, I definitely had the BEST chocolate mousse EVER. So light and fluffy, yet full of sweet chocolate flavor. Happy mouth time for sure.

I wish I could talk about the wines but that is STLWineGirl's area of expertise. I hope to link to her review sometime. She even took pictures of all her meals so I am hoping there is even further evidence of my amazing dinner.

The real cherry on top was getting to meet Chef Keller himself. Such a gentle and kindhearted man. Very generous with his time. I cannot wait for him to come back!

Araka

After having my third unique fine dining experience this month, I decided I finally had something to blog about. Even though St. Louis is far from the hub of fine dining...it still is fun to try new places to eat.

A few weeks ago, a friend posted on Facebook that she went to Araka for lunch so when I went to their web site, I saw ads posted for Mother's Day. My family and I are always looking for places to go on Sunday nights for Mother's and Father's Day as well as birthday dinners. So we were sold.

It turns out that Araka (in Clayton near the Ritz-Carlton!) has a special 3-course meal on Sundays so we did not get to review their complete menu, but it is posted on their web site. http://araka.com/

The restaurant is just beautiful...the bar area and high, open ceilings are just amazing.

My parents and I all started with the Bibb Lettuce salad. The goat cheese and avacado really stood out but I always feel weird when I need to use my knife for my salad.

For the main course, my parents were not that daring and both went with the Amish chicken. The meal was not that adventurous and reminded me of homemade, comfort food when you're home for the holidays. Two pieces of chicken with whipped potatoes in a dark gravy. I would have been ready for a nap in front of a football game with that meal. The chicken was very tender and I admit I used some bread to mop up the gravy and potatoes altogether when I was allowed a taste.

Normally I'd get chicken but there was no breast available and the Almond Crusted Salmon actually sounded more interesting. The almond coating was light and flaky and not overpowering. The salmon was laid on top of a spicy hummus...that really gave it a unique kick to liven up the salmon. I had them hold any extra peppers though because I think it would have been overkill.

I had really been wanting to try the Lobster Ravioli or the Braised Missouri Lamb so hopefully I'll go back someday.

Their wine list is extensive, in my mind, so I was appreciative. I still only ordered a Reisling. Not too dry and not too sweet.

The best course was dessert, which was included in the Sunday 3-course meal. Of course the best one was the chocolate mousse over a wafer cookie (we each picked that!). To die for. Totally worth saving room for!

Which reminds me...very reasonable portions.

Overall...not overly ambitious but the food was excellent and everyone was happy.