Sunday, October 23, 2011

Salt

Since I had completely missed Savor while it was at this location, I could not wait to try Salt, especially after all the wonderful things I had been hearing since it opened. I was lucky enough to get into the free Feast tasting for the month of October and even that was spectacular as a warm up for dinner!

This restaurant definitely made my list of “restaurants that are worth going to for a special occasion” just because of how beautiful it is inside. You can tell it was a former residence and at one time it was a funeral parlor. We were taken upstairs (you gotta check out the swank bathrooms) to a private room that included a stage. I was definitely expecting Catherine Neville or Angela Ortmann (aka STLwinegirl) to perform a magic trick!

No magic was necessary since the tastings and wines were just outstanding and spoke for themselves. Owner and chef Wes Johnson was so wonderful to take the time away from the kitchen to introduce some of the dishes as well as hand them out. He even took the time to talk about the food at a lot of tables as he was going around. Chef Wes didn’t even give me any trouble when Angela pointed out that I was not the biggest fan of piggy.

The first tasting was the best and I would have been fine just having a couple more servings as my dinner. Foie Gras Pate paired with a Von Huhl “Jazz” Riesling. You can’t go wrong with Rieslings from Germany. Chef Wes made the Pate just for our tasting so you can’t order it off the menu but the mussels are recommended in its place. While I love mussels and was planning on ordering it for dinner, I doubt anything could have come close to the Foie Gras. At least I can say I’ve had it now and hopefully no one from PETA will send me a threatening letter.

Next up was a very fruity, yet dry Domaine del la Solitude Rose from the Cotes du Rhone region in France. I point this out because I didn’t realize they even MADE rose from this region, especially since it’s the region I recommend the most when giving gifts to red wine drinkers. My favorite wine is Chateauneuf du Pape…smooth yet bold. Anyway, the rose was paired with another huge favorite of mine: a Chevre from Baetje Farms. Salt has quite a few cheeses on their menu, including this one, but the suggested pairing was the Duck Fat Fried Chicken, since the Duck Fat is what Salt is known for.

The next two pairings were not high on my list due to the piggy factor but I am sure any piggy lover would have enjoyed them. We had a Cider Braised Pork Belly paired with an Oregon Pinot Noir from Boedecker Cellars and then a Pork and Fennel Meatball paired with a Steele Cabernet Franc out of California. Both dishes are on the Salt menu.

When it came time for dinner, my friends were smart and split orders for the Duck Fat Fried Chicken and the Duck Fat fries, which are very thin potato strings. Salt even offers its own homemade ketchup and mayo to go with them! I was all set on ordering the mussels and seared scallops (small plates) or the seared trout (large plate), but then the special of the night won me over. Beer cheddar soup followed by a gnocchi small plate. The soup was so filling that I struggled to finish the gnocchi as well as attempt to help my friends with the duck fat fries. I also got to taste the sorghum lacquered duck, which was fantastic.

It appeared to me that all the main courses were large portions and could easily be shared. I did spy on Angela’s frisee salad and mussels and both of those looked like the perfect size for a full meal as two separate “small plates”.

Definitely a winner.

Resources:

Salt = http://enjoysalt.com

STLwinegirl = http://www.stlwinegirl.com

FEAST magazine = http://www.feaststl.com

Whole Foods Galleria October Wine Tasting 2011

Now that Angela Ortmann (aka STLwinegirl) has taken over wine classes at Whole Foods, I went to taste “Up and Comers of the Wine World”. I typically don’t attend strictly wine classes as I prefer food pairings, but Whole Foods was generous enough to provide an aged gouda and one of my all-time favorites, Epoisses, as well as chocolate truffles for dessert! Of course all of these treats went best with the red wines since they can stand up to the drier wines.

Another reason why it worked out well for me is because we got to try three white wines out of the five total, although I should quickly note that they were all dry whites, so even the pickier wine tasters enjoyed the wines.

We started with a Gruet Blanc de Noirs from New Mexico, which I had just learned about last week at Home Wine Kitchen. I was surprised to learn that wine is now made in all 50 states these days, even Alaska! (Ice wines) I also learned that New Mexico has the longest wine growing history in the states dating back to the 1700s. This wine really surprised me because it was a sparkling wine but did not have that many bubbles like the name implies and was quite dry.

The next two white wines were similar in that they were dry and crisp with a lot of fruit on the nose. We tried a Opala Vinho Verde from Portugal and Indaba Chenin Blanc from South Africa, who has an opposite harvest season since they are in the southern hemisphere. The wine we tasted was harvested in February of this year!

The first red wine was a Apaltagua Carmenere from Chile, which tastes somewhere between a Merlot and a Cabernet. This was smoother than the Pueble del Sol Tannat from Uruguay, but again, the strong cheeses were the only way I could handle such dry red wines.

In addition to teaching classes at the Galleria location, Angela will also be offering classes out west in Town and Country, who will host the next class. Next up is a “bubbles” tasting on November 8th, and then back to the Galleria on November 16th for a food pairing with a “fall comfort food” theme.

Resources:

Epoisses = http://www.cheese-france.com/cheese/epoisses.htm

Whole Foods Galleria = http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/st-louis/

STLwinegirl = http://www.stlwinegirl.com/

Aya Sofia

I had moved Aya Sofia to the top of my birthday dinner wish list because I had heard so much about the restaurant through Jill Aboussie and other friends. Luckily, they happened to be hosting a wine tasting for Sheridan wines and I needed to eat dinner before going to the theater. I feel really bad for not stopping in long before since it is SO close to Ted Drewes on Chippewa that I know that I’ve driven by it hundreds of times!

Of course my favorite was the white wine, La Belle Blonde, and I managed to get a second glass from a friend! It worked out well since I traded her my red wine leftovers because Sheridan offers a L’Orage, (named after the big storm that hit the vineyards), which is 65% Cabernet and 35% Cabernet Franc, in addition to a 100% Cab Franc. My favorite red was the Mystique, since it had the least amount of tannins and is made up of 50% Merlot.

Aya Sofia let us all try the Kibbe with the wines, which looks like a breaded meatball but has a much sweeter flavor, especially once you cover it in the yogurt sauce. My friend also shared her Sakasuka with me and this time it was eggplant mixed with the yogurt sauce and was just delicious.

Even though Aya Sofia offers Turkish dishes as well as Mediterranean cuisine, my love of eggplant always causes me to order the same thing: Musakka. It was a huge plate and came with a side of couscous as well. I probably could have made two meals out of it but I wasn’t able to stop in time!

I was also told there is a vegetarian version of the Musakka that is just as tasty and I admit I would love to go back to work my way through all the eggplant and lamb dishes! Not to mention that I just realized I forgot about dessert….

Resources:

Aya Sofia = http://www.ayasofiacuisine.com

Sheridan Wines = http://www.sheridanvineyard.com

Friday, October 21, 2011

Home Wine Kitchen Traveling Table

Even though I had dined at Home Wine Kitchen for No Menu Monday, I was really looking forward to the Home Wine Kitchen Traveling Table hosted by Angela Ortmann (aka STLwinegirl). I just knew that Chef Cassy Vines would go all out for us…and I didn’t realize just how much!

Much like the mix and match cheese tasting a couple of nights before, we were encouraged to try all the courses with each of the three wines that were served:

Vin Ver’rary Chardonnay
Mendocino, California

Chaumette Rose of Chambourcin
Ste. Genevieve, Missouri

Mountain View Pinot Noir
Carneros, California

Needless to say, I was quite surprised that Angela picked out three American wines, not to mention a Missouri wine! It was much like being Goldilocks…the white was a little sweet, the rose was mild, while the red was a little dry. All were smooth initially but once they were paired with the food, the Rose stood out the most and went perfectly with everything. I admit that I barely touched the Pinot Noir and even the white wine was too sweet with some the pairings.

Our appetizers consisted of a variety of assorted confits and housemade ricotta to be spread on large slices of grilled bread. All the vegetables, tomatoes, mushrooms, and garlic were soaking in olive oil, while I wanted to eat the ricotta straight out of the jar. As an appetizer and small plates fan, I could have made my entire meal out of the confits and arugla salad, consisting of figs, herbed cheese, pumpkin seeds, and a cider vinaigrette. I even had a second serving, which turned out to be a big mistake because of the amount of the food that came with the main course followed up by dessert!

For a split second, I thought it was Thanksgiving as huge piles of food kept coming out to the table. The roasted chicken was stacked like the Great Pyramid and THE largest bowl of pasta EVER contained a green linguine with radish pesto, parmesan, and pine nuts. If that wasn’t enough, we were served a side of polenta that was so smooth and creamy that it was almost a tapioca pudding!

I think I finally understand the “home cooking comfort food” theme of Home Wine Kitchen, but I found all the courses to be unlike anything I have ever tasted before. These flavors are nothing like you have ever tasted before! This really is a place for a “food adventure”.

As if we had any more room, we still had to finish the night off with a Pistachio Tart with goat cheese on top! It was very hard not to slurp the goat cheese creamy top off every piece! I would have sworn it was cool whip if I didn’t know better. Dessert was graciously paired with a Domaine St. Vincent Sparkling Wine from New Mexico. We definitely had much to celebrate!

Resources:

STLwinegirl = http://www.stlwinegirl.com

Home Wine Kitchen = http://www.homewinekitchen.com/

Sunday, October 16, 2011

American Cheese Month 2011

October is American Cheese Month…no…we’re not celebrating those plastic slices but rather cheese that is made in the States, and Angela Ortmann, STLwinegirl, along with the Wine and Cheese Place, helped us celebrate properly.

We got to taste six completely different cheeses from all over the country. Starting out west with my all-time favorite cheese, Midnight Moon comes from Cypress Grove in California, although it’s actually made in Europe. Midnight Moon is an aged goat cheese and is a lot more firm than the typical goat cheese. With a sharp finish, this cheese pairs well with a large spectrum of wines.

My second place favorites are a tie between the smooth and creamy, Von Trapp Oma out of Vermont, and Milton Creamery’s Prairie Breeze, an aged cheddar-like cheese from southeast Iowa. Of course I’d recommend the Oma with a white and the Praire Breeze with a mild red to balance out the flavors accordingly.

The last two cheeses, Dry Jack from New York State and Rogue River Blue out of Oregon, were my least favorites, which is just as well since both really went better with the heavier red wines.

We were encouraged to pair each of the cheeses with all of the wines, but unfortunately we really would have needed a lot more cheese to appropriately taste each of them. Like I said before, Midnight Moon was the best to pair with all of the wines even though I am very biased in saying that.

Last but not least, we got to try two different Baetje goat cheeses, both paired with a sparkling wine. Baetje Farms is located in the Ste. Genevieve and you can find their products at farmer’s markets around the St. Louis area. The Cranberry Orange was a little too tart but the Chocolate Raspberry had just the right amount of sweetness so as not to overpower the bubbles.

Resources:

The Wine and Cheese Place = http://www.wineandcheeseplace.com/

STLwinegirl = http://www.stlwinegirl.com/

Midnight Moon = http://www.cypressgrovechevre.com/cheeses/creamline/midnight-moon.html

Baetje Farms = http://baetjefarms.com/

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beer vs Wine with Goose Island

I was really looking forward to the second round of Wine vs Beer, hosted by STLwinegirl, Angela Ortmann, returning back to The Wine and Cheese Place. The beer was hosted by Goose Island, one of my favorite craft breweries out of Chicago. My top two favorites are the “312” and the “Sofie”, which is named after one of the brewer’s daughters.

We started off with the Sofie since it’s one of the lightest beers to match up against the Jean Louis Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine. Both were paired with a super buttery triple crème called Delice de Bourgogne, but the wine was the clear winner due to the cream taming down the bubbles. I love Sofie a lot but I think she has enough flavor that a mild brie would go better so you can still let her taste stand out. The Sofie is actually oaked and aged for 90 days so you really need to let the flavor speak for itself.

The second flight included a Le Cirque Rose (made up of Grenache and Syrah) versus the Goose Island Pepe Nero. The rose was a bright red that I had never seen before and it tasted just as bold as it looked! The wine was high in acid and the flavors were strong, much stronger than I was used to for a rose, and actually overpowered the saltiness of the olives and nuts. I really felt the Pepe Nero and its own nutty flavor paired up better.

In the third flight, I really thought my love of Beaujolais would bias me against the Goose Island Matilda, another beer named after one the brewer’s daughter. The 2008 Dubeuoef Julienas Cru Beaujolais had a great smooth and mild flavor, which makes for a great everyday drinking wine. Definitely quaffable. But the Matilda again came out on top for pairing with the salami with mustard due to the spices in the Matilda.

If you love bold, red wines, you can’t go wrong with an Italian Barbera, sometimes called the Italian Pinot. The Damilano Barbera d’Asti definitely won the fourth round when paired with a St. Louis style pizza with sausage on top. The greasy meat and heavy sauce was able to stand up to the wine whereas the Goose Island Harvest Ale was way too hoppy and I had trouble drinking the beer.

The last flight paired a Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto against the Goose Island Pere Jacques during the dessert course. We tried both milk and dark chocolate…I made sure I tried multiple of each…and the wine came out on top. Unfortunately, at this point in the class I don’t remember too much about the wine, but the Pere Jacques, while a dessert beer, was far too bitter and overpowering.

While I picked winners for each round, everything I tasted, both food and drink was fantastic. Beer vs Wine is definitely one of the top classes to attend.

Resources:

STLwinegirl = http://www.stlwinegirl.com/

The Wine and Cheese Place = http://www.wineandcheeseplace.com/

Goose Island = http://www.gooseisland.com/

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Katie's Pizzeria

I actually had a hard time finding Katie’s Pizzeria since it’s in the middle of a small strip of stores in Clayton. Yet, I thought the place felt familiar when I drove around the back, looking for a place to park. Sure enough, the back door to Katie’s used to be the door I went in for my one and only boxing class. I must have been in the building two restaurants ago! Heh

I had heard that Katie’s was good but I didn’t know anything about their pizzas, so I was surprised to find out that they have created their own unique and custom flavored pizzas. As another Traveling Table hosted by STLwinegirl, this gave me a great opportunity to try it out!

What got me excited the most is that quite a few of the pizzas come with a goat cheese topping sprinkled on top and I got to try a couple of them. My friend Ellen got us started off right by ordering a Smoked Salmon pizza that came with capers and red onion along with the goat cheese. During the second pizza course, the goat cheese came up again with fig, pancetta, and sage toppings. These stronger flavors paired well with the dry, California Rose from a Pinot Noir grape.

I thought the pairings were dead on in each of the three courses actually. We started off with a Butternut Squash pizza with Gorgonzola cheese, which was paired with an Italian Chardonnay. Of course this was my favorite due to the white wine holding up well to the mild flavors from the pizza.

The last pairing was quite the “meat lovers” pizza since it was covered with Genoa Salami, Fennel Sausage, and Prosciutto. This definitely needed a strong red wine to help cut through the grease, and we got it with an Australian Shiraz. I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised that I gave away certain toppings and half of the contents of my glass.

Unfortunately, for me, piggy seems to be a popular pizza topping so I probably won’t be in a big hurry to return but there are a few pizzas that sound right up my alley. There is a Roasted Eggplant pizza that comes with Italian olives and fresh mozzarella as well as the Wild Mushroom pizza since that comes with Tellegio cheese! I wonder if you can make a custom pizza there? That way I could just pick out all my favorite toppings, avoid the piggy, and still have all those fantastic flavors.

Resources:

Katie's Pizzeria = http://www.katiespizzeria.com

STLwinegirl's Traveling Table Series = http://www.stlwinegirl.com/Traveling_Table.html