Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Culinary Schools in St. Louis

As a food blogger, I get asked quite a few food-related questions from my friends. Usually I get "What wine would you recommend?" or "What cheese should I serve with this wine?", but this time the question was "Where can I find a knife skills class?"

I know of two cooking schools in the St. Louis area:
In addition to those culinary schools, L’Ecole has an Academy for “regular folks” who just want to learn new skills without the culinary school commitment. The Academy is located in Olivette near Olive and 270.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

BlackFinn American Grille

A lot of my friends have mentioned that they really enjoyed BlackFinn, which is fairly new at the Galleria at the north end of the mall, so it had been on my radar for a while. I would say that BlackFinn is known for their steaks but really, there is a wide variety of food so it’s one of those restaurants that you can go to and everyone can find something to eat.

I knew right off the bat that I wanted to order the Jump Lump Crab Cakes, which comes with an apple slaw and remoulade sauce. I could tell this was a popular item since they also offer it as a main course and a sandwich. These were medium-sized and quite meaty so I definitely recommend them as a starter. I also spied some Crispy Shrimp, a Mediterranean Platter, and Seared Ahi Tuna so I probably could have just done all appetizers for dinner.

I was very tempted by the Filet Mignon and the Fish Tacos, which are two of my favorite meals, but since I’m trying to cut down on calories, I decided to order a salad as my entrĂ©e instead. I went with one of the more interesting salads, the Chopped Seafood, which had jump lump crab and shrimp in addition to all the finely-chopped veggies. The lemon basil vinaigrette gave it a very sweet flavor too.

There are also plenty of pasta, flatbread pizzas, burgers, and sandwiches to choose from…even a Black Bean burger for vegetarians!

The best part about the restaurant is that there is a large bar and dining area, as well as a small patio area. The staff was so flexible that even though I had a reservation inside, they accommodated us and let us sit outside on a beautiful evening.

Resources:

BlackFinne American Grille St. Louis = http://stlouis.blackfinnamericangrille.com/

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Milwaukee Cheese


While in Milwaukee last month, you know I had to buy as much cheese as possible. My friend took me to The Wisconsin Cheese Mart downtown and I wanted to write about some of the cheeses that I enjoyed (and shared).

Gran Queso – This is a Spanish-style cheese that reminded me of Manchego.

Cheese Curds - Soft and squishy goodness!

Roth Kase Surchoix Gruyere aged 9 months. World Champ 2004, ACS best 1999 – This was actually too pungent for me to have more than a few bites. I definitely needed a strong, red wine to wash it down.

Baby Swiss Cheese – I’m sorry, but I can’t help that Swiss cheese is my all-time favorite since I was a kid!

White Cheddar with Blueberries – This cheese was sweet thanks to the blueberries, but combined with a sharpness in the finish for a good balance

Black Sheep Truffle Cheese by Carr Valley – Anything with truffles is very rich. This also could have used a strong wine to pair with it.

Chocolate Cheese Fudge – Another one of my favorites because this might as well have been real fudge if the label didn’t say cheese on it!

Photo by Kim Reske

Via Vino Traveling Table

Since I cheated and had already visited Via Vino on Mother’s Day, I knew this was going to be a fantastic Traveling Table with STLwinegirl, Angela Ortmann.

We started off the three-course dinner with Scallops that was dressed with peaches, arugula, and balsamic vinaigrette. I was definitely sad there was only one scallop on the plate. This was paired with an Albert Mann Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France, which was my favorite of the night. The crispness of the wine helped to cut through the rich and tangy sauce on top of the scallop.

I quickly forgot about the lonely scallop after the “main course”, Veal Carciofi served with Grilled Artichokes, Lemon, and Wine Butter. I don’t have veal too often so this was a real treat and the cream sauce on top gave it even more of a “melt in your mouth” flavor. My friends and I wanted to lick the plate but we decided to be proper and use a slice of bread instead. This was paired with Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc from Sonoma, California. To me, Cab Franc is drier than regular Cab Sauvignon but STLwinegirl says otherwise. While I understand that you’d want a bold wine to stand up to the richness of the veal, it overpowered the dish too much for me. Of course all the red wine drinkers just loved it.

Dessert was also a huge success, Chocolate Amaretti Torte served with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from Serendipity. Yet again, I could have made a dinner out this course as well, although it’s probably better than I didn’t. I actually was able to enjoy the dessert wine, Gerard Bertrand Banyuls from France, without it tasting too sweet! But it still needs to be sipped slowly.

Resources:

Photo by Angela Ortmann

STLwinegirl = http://www.stlwinegirl.com

Via Vino = http://www.viaviavino.com/

Farmhaus

I finally got the chance to pay back my friend Beth for taking me out for her birthday, so we both got to try Farmhaus for the first time. I was very surprised that the restaurant itself is very unassuming as it is very small with plain, white walls with interesting photography and art on the walls. All the servers were in plaid shirts and all the napkins were large dishtowels. Now I understood the real reason for the required reservations, very little room!

Now I had heard that Farmhaus was known for their piggy selection and yes, there were quite a few pork items such as the Butcher’s Plate and a salad that came with a bacon vinaigrette dressing. But our server informed us that the chef’s specialty was actually seafood since he is a passionate fisherman.

Of course, the best part about Farmhaus is that the menu is served on paper since it changes daily. Chef Kevin Willmann believes in partnering with the local community in order to have the freshest ingredients, other than the fish, which comes from the Gulf Coast.

Farmhaus has a handful of small plates and even the main courses are appropriately sized in order to share all the courses. This was definitely the best approach in order to try as many items as you can although I still overate regardless.

We started with the Summer Salad, which was a large plate of fresh vegetables (grilled corn, okra, sweet peppers, cucumbers, roasted beets, zucchini, squash, and heirloom tomatoes with Baetje Farms goat’s milk cheese) in Muscat vinaigrette. I wish there had been more cheese to go with every bite!

Next was the House Mozzarella Bruschetta, which was a crostini topped with Marcoot Jersey Creamery curds, heirloom YellowTree Farm tomatoes (such pretty colors!) with a balsamic reduction. Lovely amounts of cheese on the bruschetta! I probably could have gone for a whole plate just for myself.

The Smoked Fish Cake was a little small and I think both of us would have loved to have had one more all to ourselves. There was a sweet flavor to the fish cake thanks to the pickled fennel, Builla Farms tomatoes, and banana pepper vinaigrette, along with fried Louisana crawfish tails decorating the outside of the plate.

Our main course, if you want to call it that, was a grilled Grouper with more pickled green beans and tomato jam that was actually more sweet than savory. I would have liked a little more jam to go with the fish though. Even the spoonbread, served underneath the fish, was also another delicious sweet and savory combination.

And you can’t have a birthday dinner without dessert and luckily Beth agreed to the Peanut Butter Cup instead of all the fresh fruit options. A thin, circle of chocolate held the peanut butter mousse with a thick layer of peanut butter nugget on the bottom. It melted in my mouth! Oh my!

With all the fish that we had that evening, and since it was still a warm St. Louis summer day, I went with a refreshing 2011 Yealands Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough from New Zealand. At first, the wine tasted a little grassy and barnyard, but after it was opened, the wine calmed down and was a good match for all the pickled and savory flavors in the food.

Resources:

Farmhaus = http://farmhausrestaurant.com

Mother-In-Law House

At the end of every computer conference that my friends put on, they have a tradition of dining at the Mother-in-Law House, located on St. Charles Main Street in one of the many adorable, former homes.

The name definitely lived up to my expectations as I was greeted by a couple elderly women and “grandpa” was our waiter. The interior even feels like you are in your grandparent’s house so you know to be on your best behavior and don’t touch anything as it is all very old and delicate.

I believe Mother-in-Law’s is known for their home made fried chicken as they claim a “famous recipe” but I decided to eat healthier and selected the Stuffed Flounder, which was stuffed with tuna and shrimp and then baked. All entrees comes with the salad bar, although not your traditional salad bar items as there were several types of beans, beets, and runny cottage cheese to just name a few.

Also, while you are waiting for your main course, “grandma” comes around and delivers a hot blueberry muffin in the shape of a star!

And you better believe that my friend got some trouble from “grandma” when she didn’t eat her muffin! Since my friend is gluten intolerant, of course “grandma” made a big fuss about it and popped a gluten-free blueberry muffin from the freezer in the oven for her!

All entrees come out with a side of rice or potato, but no vegetables. That’s because “grandma” walks around and delivers her glazed carrots RIGHT from the dish onto your plate. You KNOW I ate all my veggies so I didn’t get in trouble!

My stuffed flounder was huge and I probably should have taken some of it home but the flounder was light and tasty, although I thought tuna was an odd stuffing choice.

Since “grandma” made a big fuss about my gluten intolerant friend, she also served us a special chocolate cake dessert that tasted just as good as any other cake. It was a huge piece so I know my friend didn’t mind me stealing a few bites either.

So when you’re feeling homesick, Mother-in-Law’s has great comfort food but just remember that the service staff moves a little slow.

Resources:

Mother-in-Law House Restaurant = http://www.motherinlawhouse.com/