Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sugarfire Smoke House

Since I’m a county girl, I figured I really had no excuse during my time off not to hit up Sugarfire Smoke House to see what the hype is all about. Apparently, the hype is still going strong because MOBS of people were still arriving and the line was out the door when I got there at 12:45pm…I thought for sure it would not be a problem since I got there at the end of the lunch rush.

I felt a little better that once I was inside the door and I saw a sign posted that said “15 minutes” and that was pretty much true. It felt like forever, though, waiting in the long corridor that was never used when it was a Dickey’s! I also saw how crowded the dining area was and I ordered my food “to go” just in case there weren’t any table openings by the time I was ready to sit down.

I was first impressed when I hit the soda fountain while standing in line. The entire machine was supplied by Excel bottling company and they had a few sodas I had never heard of before. I wish there had been more room to try a few flavors while I was waiting, but I felt like I should keep up with the line. I kept looking back to the end of the line and more and more people kept coming in!

Luckily, I studied the menu before going over there and there is a big board over the soda fountain in addition to a chalkboard by the ordering area. Use your time wisely! I selected a turkey sandwich, which came with one side. Be ready with your side order because there are quite a few choices as well! The sandwich comes with 6 ounces of meat and that was a little bit more than I needed. I probably should have gone with the meat alone (only 4 ounces). Since the meats are cut in quarter-inch thick long slices, putting the meat on a sandwich doesn’t make it any easier to eat. The slices on one end kept sliding off when I went to take a bite so perhaps knife and fork is the way to go.

Each table has five or six giant squeeze bottles, which hold a wide variety of sauces. I definitely wish there were more time to linger so I could test out my turkey in each sauce. Since you have to share the wooden tables, I didn’t want to interrupt my tablemates’ conversation so I just used the BBQ flavor in front of me. It had a little bit of kick with not too much of a sweet finish at all. True BBQ lovers will be pleased.

I went with the cole slaw as my one side, which was a good move so I had something creamy to cool me down after the BBQ sauce. My side was also no joke as they filled a 4 ounce container to the top. The entire meal was quite filling and I wasn’t hungry for some time after. So be sure to go in there with an appetite and cancel any big dinner plans.

Normally I would not take a vegetarian to a BBQ joint but I have to admit that I am a little curious about the Smoked Portobello Sandwich as well as the Smoked Salmon.

I’m not sure when the hype will die down either so for now perhaps the best strategy is to call in your to-go order if you don’t have time to wait.


Sugarfire Smoke House = http://sugarfiresmokehouse.com/

Excel Bottling Company = http://excelbottling.com/


After visiting Home Wine Kitchen so many times, I knew I needed to try Table, the latest venture for Cassy Vires. I was sad to see the Stable no longer in service, but was happy to hear that the space was at least being used, especially since it’s such a beautiful space! If you go to the website for Table, we literally sat in that spot too!

Since Table is located deep in Soulard off of Cherokee, I figured my best chance to go would be for brunch and luckily they open quite early at 9AM so it was no problem squeezing it in before attending to other important Sunday activities (watching football).

The high ceilings made for a chilly atmosphere, but the fresh, hot coffee and smoked tomato Bloody Mary helped to warm us up.

Smoked Tomato Bloody Mary
I was surprised that it was somewhat empty for brunch, so perhaps more folks prefer the dinner menu. At least this way we didn’t feel like we were disturbing anyone while we looked around and tried to imagine the previous uses of the building. We also found the pastry chef behind a window and probably could have watched her work for hours. At the end we also took a trip upstairs to check out the event space above.

There are several “sections” on the menu with most items ten dollars or less so that gave everyone an opportunity to try a few dishes and we ended up just sharing everything together anyway.

My most favorite item was the first one right at the top under the “Baked” section, the sea-salt shortbread biscuits with honey and butter. I thought the sea-salt was odd on top but the baby biscuits were so soft and melted in my mouth smothered with honey and butter. They are quite little so we each only got one. Now I am wishing we had gotten at least one more order of them, although we had quite a lot more food coming…

Normally I would have skipped over the “Snacks” section but my friend Chris and I have a soft spot for “Poutin”, as it is spelled here. I didn’t realize the fries came with crispy pork belly mixed in with the white cheddar gravy and hard-boiled egg on top, but it was easy enough for me to pick off. I also made the mistake of grabbing the fries first out of the small bucket, whereas all the fries at the bottom were the ones deliciously soaked in the gravy.

Finally it was time for the main course, and I selected the Mushroom Strata, which had sharp white cheddar and rosemary baked in.

Patience couldn't resist the Duck and Potato Hash, which came with a beautiful fried egg on top.

We had to look up what a “shirred” egg was and since it was quite runny, and my friend had to use the toast as a transporter for the egg.

The best dish out of the “Hatched” section was definitely the Scotch egg, but it is so heavy, you probably won’t want to eat the rest of the day. I was really impressed with the yolk in the middle, but the outside “shell” was quite filling.

I have to admit I am curious about the Champagne Steamed Mussels, and the “Savory” section of the menu had a few other higher priced items like Beef Tartare and a Cornmeal Pizza. But we decided to skip on down to the “Sweet” section to finish off our meal. Since we cleaned our plates, we were allowed to have dessert for breakfast right?

You know I was all over the “chocolate cake donuts” although I was surprised they were crispy. Still plenty of chocolate to taste. Chris got the rye whiskey French toast sticks with fig syrup. I couldn’t taste any whiskey but the French toast sticks were also crispy and certainly tasted more like dessert, especially once you dipped it in the syrup.

Hopefully I’ll be in the area again sometime so I try can their dinner menu next.


Table = http://tablestl.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Friday, December 27, 2013

Three Kings Public House

I had been wanting to try Three Kings Public House after hearing about their highly rated veggie burger from STLVegGirl, aka Caryn Dugan, since it’s made of “Match meat”, made up of soy protein and black beans, to make it almost a full substitute. Not only does it come with my favorite veggies, avocado, lettuce and tomato, but I got to throw some sautéed mushrooms on top! What’s even better is that they also offer a pretzel bun or a gluten free bread…talk about choices!
Match meat Veggie Burger
While I have heard about them mostly for their burgers, especially those weighing in at half a pound, I was really surprised to find a number of Cajun items on the menu like the Cajun Pasta and a Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwich. Patience had a lot of trouble deciding what to order with so many choices and finally selected the Cajun sliders, which were like baby shrimp po’ boys, since you can’t get that just anywhere. (It was also a good alternative to a half pounder for those who have smaller appetites!)
Cajun Sliders
We also split a Middle Eastern Sampler to mix up our taste buds even more. The sampler came with Red Pepper Hummus, Roasted Head of Garlic, Grilled Eggplant Relish, tzatziki, Dolmas & grilled flatbread. Since my veggie burger was covered in a chipotle mayo, I actually used the tzatziki sauce to help cool down my bites of the burger, so that worked out very well.

There was even the long list of beers on tap, several local craft breweries represented as well, which made it difficult to decide.

We’re definitely going to have to make a few more trips because there are just too many items to try! If nothing else, there is something for everyone here.


Three Kings Public House = http://threekingspub.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What Your Favorite Cheese Says About You

A friend forwarded me an article from the Huffington Post entitled "What Your Favorite Cheese Says About You".

This is hilarious!


As for me, well, I really love ALL cheeses...except for maybe that Limburger...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Food Media Forum 2013

It is really awful that it has taken me this long to write about such a fantastic weekend at the Food Media Forum back in early August at the Culinary Institute of St. Louis. I had skipped the first year because I really wasn’t too sure what it was about, but this year, I won a free entry thanks to a contest that I entered!

The conference is really the best of both worlds…foodies, food critics, chefs, restaurant owners, and local media were all available for speaking. Not to mention we were QUITE well fed three times a day! Not too many other conferences can say that! But really the best part of the conference was meeting so many people and making new friends, especially those that I had only known online.

All the meals were prepared by the culinary students so I made sure to thank them for working so hard to feed all of us on a weekend. Saturday morning we started off with waffles (with chocolate chips!), scones, egg strata, and potatoes. While at breakfast, I met a woman from Alaska who was sponsoring the event (and lunch) by Copper River.

Coho Salmon and Corn Chowder
I also met Ann Pollack, formerly married to local restaurant critic Joe Pollack, and a critic herself. I felt bad I did not recognize her, but she had quite a few things to say about restaurant writing and luckily I was able to attend her session during the conference.

I went to a lot of sessions throughout the weekend and while I have pages upon pages of notes, I hope to just hit the highlights. Yet, the first session was actually my favorite session, probably because it was most applicable: “Ethical restaurant reviewing”. I have been gently “encouraged” not to post anything negative in my food writing and that since I’m not a “critic” or a “reviewer”, I should be careful what I say and how I position my writing.

This session was a panel of restaurant owners and two professional food critics. They all admitted to the power of blogs these days, and yet they are afraid it may unfairly dilute the quality of the review. One point I definitely agree on  is to not write about a restaurant during a soft opening, or even when it’s first starting out (if you ask me). It’s better to let the restaurant get settled first. While chefs do read what the average blogger might say, they really just look at the overall view point. And don’t be mean since those kinds of comments don’t really help.

Next up was “How to adapt recipes to special diets”, which was a panel with a vegetarian (STLVegGirl), a woman on a gluten-free diet, and another on the “paleo” diet. The best part of this session was that all three ways of eating (not really a diet) are very similar and are geared towards eating healthy, nutrient-dense, non-processed foods to help fight disease.

At lunch time, the highlight was meeting my online nemeses MC Charcuterie! We started out with much debate “pig vs cheese”, but it turns out that the woman has one of the best collections of cheese in her refrigerator drawers out of anyone I know!

After lunch, I went to another applicable class, “Food Blog Design”, by one of my food blogging heroes, Stefani Pollack. I got to talk to Stefani in depth while standing in line for lunch and she is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. The best part about being able to make money from her blog is that she now has a lot more time to spend with her children. That was really inspiring.

The last three classes of the first day were about food photography and I definitely know very little about it. I struggle with whether or not to use a flash and I'm sure you've seen some awful pictures on my blog. I learned a lot, especially from famous local photographer, Jonathan Pollack (Stefani’s husband), but it’s really hard to do much with your camera phone while you’re at a restaurant. Without it, it seems too dark…with it on, the image gets whited out. I probably need to take those sessions again next year.

The first day ended with a goodies bag CHOCK FULL of stuff (everything from BBQ sauce to cake decorating tools) and a happy hour catered by Chipotle with Schlafly beer!

Now that I knew what to expect Sunday morning, I made sure to arrive on time for another filling breakfast.

As someone who is still trying to figure out how to monetize my blog, I found the 9AM “Selling Ads and Ad Networks” very useful. I had no idea there were “ad networks” that you could join as an easy way to get ads onto your site. Several ad networks include Federated Media, BlogHer, Platefull, Glam Media, and Martha's Circle. It was recommended that you should be in at least two networks to ensure that you constantly have ads appearing on your site at all times. Also, it was recommended to add “related posts” to your site to keep eyeballs there and increase page views.

Caryn Dugan, STLVegGirl, gave a 10AM talk about how to do a TV food demo. Caryn has become quite an expert after all her sessions on morning TV.

Another super useful session for me was the 11AM talk on “Affiliate Marketing”. I had no idea that some bloggers could really make a lot of money and Monica Matheny, with help from her computer expert son, was able to do very well through Amazon's affiliate marketing program. Unfortunately, a week later, Amazon announced they were ceasing all payments going forward so it is unsure if it will be reinstated.

The 1PM session was given by another familiar face, Angela Ortmann, STLwinegirl, who talked about branding. That's a pretty wide topic so Angie shared her opinion and gave some great advice from her point of view. She suggested that you shouldn't compare yourself to others, be unique, and find a niche to set yourself apart. Be a go-to person and a resource in your field. Build relationships and mentorships with others, so that it's a win-win situation for both parties. Face to face interaction goes a lot farther than just social media and use it to tell your unique, memorable, and compelling story. Be authentic, honest, and factual, which will help with loyalty in the long run. Say yes, be flexible, and experiment.

I got to meet some more of my writing heros in the 2PM “Freelance Writing” session. All the panelists had great experience writing for local publications and had a lot of tips. They suggested filling a niche, use good writing, and be able to meet deadlines. Don't write the same story for multiple publications and use your blog as a resume for editors to see your writing. Keep the focus on your story. Use social media to promote your work. Spell correctly and triple-check your work for typos. Send pitches to editors that are personalized, and explain how you can add value to a publication.

I did attend the 3PM session “WordPress 101” hoping to learn something new, but I think I have all the basics down. Unfortunately, how to host your site is a major debate for a lot of people still.


St. Louis Food Media Forum = http://www.foodmediaforum.com/
Other Blogs:

Every Little Thing = http://www.everylittlethingblog.com/2013/08/food-media-forum-wrap-up-2013/

St. Lou Eats = http://stloueats.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/food-media-forum-night-one/

Katie's Pizza & Pasta

Normally I try to follow the unwritten rule of not writing about a place that has just opened but I am hoping that it's OK to break the rule if you think the food is just fantastic!

And since this is Katie's second location, it's not totally "brand new", but I was excited to try Katie's pasta, which is new at this location.
I was thrilled to see several burrata listed on the menu and started my lunch with the Mixed Wood Mushroom Burrata, all lightly covered with a balsamic dressing. 
Then I tried the artichoke salad and the artichokes looked just like flowers amongst all the feta cheese and greens. It was almost too pretty to eat and I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of it.
Those two together were probably enough for a proper lunch, but I wasn't done yet. The Tagliatelle with prawns, mussels, clams, monkfish, and chili peppers caught my attention. The noodles were a dark color and had a bite at the end, catching me off guard, from the chili peppers mixed in. 

My coworker was also kind enough to share a bite of his cured meat pizza. If you love meat on every inch of your pizza, this is for you!
The inside of the space is just beautiful. Different tables and chairs, paper lamp shades, living walls, and an open kitchen. What a wonderful spot!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Libertine for Dinner

Unfortunately, the Libertine has closed.

I finally made it back to the Libertine for dinner but I forgot that Josh Galliano's famous fried chicken is only served on certain Sundays of the month. So I will have to go back again. Yet, this really worked out well because I got to check out the full dinner menu. Let's just say I was quite overwhelmed by all the choices listed. Even my friend who I was with changed her mind several times before she finally decided.

My friend probably did it the best way by choosing a smaller dish first and then a main course. She started with the She-Crab Soup that was just as thick as any bisque. The pan roasted cauliflower was also delicious with a light balsamic-like dressing.

I was very tempted by the fish courses on the menu but I wanted to test Chef Galliano's southern style cooking so I chose the Shrimp & Andouille. The three shrimp were cleverly hidden inside crawfish heads, while the sausage chunks were already cut into a proper size and weren't too spicy for me!

I did think both “main courses” were on the small side, so I do wish I had also picked a “starter”. The smaller courses really aren't designated although you can tell more so by the prices. Instead the menu is separated into meat, seafood, and vegetable. 

Another tough choice we had was whether or not to go with cocktails or wine. I was really curious about their cocktail list so I tried the "Tom Waits For No Man". The citrusy flavors helped to smooth out the dry finish.

One advantage to the smaller portion size was that it meant I had plenty of room for dessert and I immediately knew I wanted The Libertine Candy Bar one more time. Since I had company, I also picked out a second dessert, the Pumpkin Pie. It was incredibly soft and creamy, and came with a Maple Bacon and Bourbon ice cream. Now I'm all ready for Thanksgiving!


PW Pizza Goose Island Beer Dinner

I attended my second PW Pizza Beer Dinner in a row this month since I am a huge Goose Island fan. I am a little sad that they are no longer a “craft brewery”, but they still make beers I really enjoy.

I first got hooked on the 312 Urban Wheat Ale since it's so light and easy to drink. It was a great way to start off the evening as it was paired with a mixed green salad and went into the vinaigrette dressing as well.

Slightly heavier, yet still very smooth, the Honker's Ale was a good pairing for the Prosciutto Pizza. There actually was a little too much meat on the pizza, making it a bit too salty. I'm sure you can guess that I picked off a lot of the piggy.

My favorite pizza of the night was the House-Made Chorizo Pizza on PW's famous Honey Wheat Crust. While the chorizo was supposed to give the pizza a little bit of a kick, it was very subtle so the kalamata olives and rich tomato sauce stood out for me. This was paired with an IPA, which I thought was a little too overpowering, but I am biased since I'm not really an IPA fan in general. I actually continued drinking the Honker's Ale instead.

The last course was really my favorite since a cheese course was used in place of dessert and it was paired with one of my favorite "ladies", or Matilda, who has a light and tangy finish.

Goose Island and cheese!

Menu - Photo by Beth Sorrell


Saturday, November 2, 2013

STLVegGirl Vegetarian Party

Since Patience and her friends have so many special diets among them, which includes a couple of vegetarians and some gluten-free folks, I figured that the best way to make everyone happy was to throw a STLVegGirl Vegetarian Party.

While I love dining out, I now understand how hard it can be to “find something you can eat” when you venture out to a new restaurant. While STLVegGirl (aka Caryn Dugan) doesn’t regularly focus on gluten-free, she had no problem coming up with ways to work around wheat items in her menu as well. What was really satisfying was to hear our friends say they were full by the end of the night. Sure beats trying to put side dishes together to make a meal!

I decided to start with STLVegGirl’s world-famous hummus, which uses tahini paste and tamari as the secret ingredients, and instead of using pita chips, STLVegGirl was thoughtful enough to purchase a bag of gluten-free chips instead. This way my guests had something to snack on as Caryn worked on the next course, Zucchini Sliders with Herbed Mayo.

I had seen STLVegGirl create these sliders on a local morning show and I wanted to try them for myself. The sliders usually get their thickness from bread crumbs, but since we were going gluten-free, STLVegGirl brought gluten-free bread and we made our own. (We also skipped out on the mini-rolls to make a sandwich.) My other favorite ingredient was the 21 Salute seasoning (found at Trader Joe’s) that was mixed tino the Veganese, that replaced regular mayo.

Next up was the “dinner” course and STLVegGirl started us off with a Crunchy Kale Tahini Salad. The tahini paste and tamari showed up again in the dressing for the salad, but my favorite salad ingredient was the “feta cheese” made from firm tofu. My other favorite cheese substitute that was used is nutrional yeast, which gives foods a cheesy nutty flavor. I have used it in the past to mix in with pasta sauce.

We finished the night with Italian Tempeh Meatballs, which could also be made into a meatloaf if you prefer. The “meat” was actually tempeh, a fermented soybean cake, and was chopped up into chunks. All your usual meatball seasonings and marinara sauce can be added like usual. Again, to avoid the bread (for a meatball sandwich), we just used toothpicks and forks.

If you wish to throw your own vegetarian party, or are interested in classes or a personal chef, all of STLVegGirl’s contact information can be found on her website listed below. STLVegGirl can be found on Facebook and Twitter as well!


STLVegGirl = http://www.stlveggirl.com

Schlafly Brew Master Beer Dinner

I have attended a couple of beer dinners in the past, but I was especially looking forward to this one since Schlafly is one of my favorite local breweries. While this one wasn’t as fancy as the ones in the past, I really did enjoy PW Pizza as the food pairings since I enjoy their pizza so much.y looking fore past but I was especial Beer
These PW Pizza beer dinners are priced at $24.99 (before tax and tip added when you pay), which is quite a reasonable for the four courses. I really thought I could pace myself, but I still ended up quite full. There was enough pizza for everyone to have 2-3 (half-sized) slices for the pizza courses and I probably should have stopped at 2 slices each to have more room for dessert!
The first course was well paired with the Kolsch and the Mixed Greens. Kolsch is light enough for me to drink regularly so of course it’s the salad course. Hehe
My favorite pizza was the Shrimp and Spinach since it was on the Honey Wheat Crust, although the second pizza tasted much like BBQ chicken, which I love, but I had to pick off all the bacon bits. While we both love the Oktoberfest, neither Patience nor I could stand the Tasmanian IPA. You either love the hoppy stuff or you don’t!
As for pumpkin crème brulee…yes..it tasted just as delicious as it sounds! It was paired with a Schwarzbier (which means dark beer) and I was surprised that a heavier beer could have such a smooth finish.
For you beer lovers, everyone gets a tasting-sized (4 ounce) pour and we often poured our own samples from a pitcher for the whole table. So there was definitely no shortage of beer!
1st Course
Mixed Greens
Roasted Butternut Squash, Spiced Pecans, Parmesan, Tart Apple Vinaigrette
Paired with Kolsch
2nd Course
Shrimp & Spinach Pizza
Honey Wheat Crust, Red Onion, Goat Cheese, Tomato Sauce
Paired with Oktoberfest
3rd Course
Roasted Chicken & Bacon Pizza
Original Curst, Pineapple, Mixed Mushroom, Cheddar Jack, Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Paired with Tasmanian IPA
4th Course
Pumpkin Crème Brulee
Paired with Schwarzbier


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tree House

I finally had a good reason to go to Tree House as it is the perfect place for a vegetarian birthday dinner. I figure on your birthday, you shouldn’t have to worry about what’s in each dish, but then again, it’s a lot harder to narrow down your choices from the menu!

The restaurant is in a great location off of South Grand and has an intimate feel to it. Yet, due to the wood floors and high ceilings, it still feels spacious as well. While the décor may be simple, the flavors in the dishes we tried were quite complex.

I thought it was a little funny that there were no typical “salad section” on the menu since that is often what vegetarians are stuck ordering in most restaurants. Although, my date did get quite a bit of cabbage in the “Brussels Sprouts Salad”, she mostly picked out the Brussels sprouts and got a spicy surprise by eating a habanero!

I actually had no trouble making my picks and immediately chose the Fried Green Tomatoes off the “small plates” section as my starter. The crunchy breading and firm tomato flavor was delicious with the goat cheese on top. (You can also order it with the vegan boursin cheese! Several of the dishes had a vegan option so I thought that was cool.)

Fried Green Tomatoes and Brussel Sprouts Salad
 There are only a handful of “large plates” on the menu so it really is easy to make a decision and the “Street Tacos” stood out for me. Each taco had a unique flavor that really stood out and altogether quite filling.

I also got to try the “Raw Noodle Bowl” and while I loved the texture of the bean noodles (just like Vietnamese noodles!), it wasn’t quite as satisfying served cold with raw vegetables. The heat of the dish actually came from the seasoning and was a bit too overpowering for my taste.

Raw Noodle Bowl and Street Tacos
The largest section of the menu is actually the “Snacks” section and you could probably make quite a meal out of sharing several of these dishes. We actually started our dinner off with the “Red Curry Deviled Eggs” and the “Tree House Sliders”. The sliders were stacked pretty high with the mushroom tempura piled up so we had to squeeze them down just to take a bite. But the deviled eggs were by far the best dish of the night due to the creamy curry that served as the filling.

Now I’m just curious if they’ll change up the menu according to the season so as to tempt me to return. And whether or not they’ll add some desserts as well?

The other section I forgot to mention were the cocktails. The cocktails and wine list actually covered one side of the menu as well as on the chalkboard next to the bar. As you can see in the picture above, we went with a sweet lemony drink, Rhubarb Rickey, which was very refreshing with the spicier dishes!


Tree House = http://treehousestl.com/

RFT review = http://www.riverfronttimes.com/2013-10-31/restaurants/tree-house-south-grand-vegetarian-seitan/

Libertine for Lunch

Unfortunately, the Libertine has closed.

Thanks to a fellow foodie coworker, I finally got to try Libertine after hearing so many wonderful things about Josh Galliano’s new restaurant. Since I work in Brentwood, it was easy to get to the restaurant in the heart of Clayton and got lucky with a parking spot on the street only a block away.

The restaurant was smaller than I had thought, but there was some outdoor patio seating and several spots at the bar, so it was no problem at lunch time to find a spot, but I bet a reservation would be necessary for dinner.

For lunch there was a much smaller menu, but in a way it worked out better because it was so hard to choose. Several items under the “Bowls” section caught my attention and my coworker ordered the Fried Chicken Salad. I was intrigued by the Creamy Waldorf Dressing, which matched up well with the fried chicken crispiness.

I went with the Chicken & Gnudi Dumplings which was served as a chicken thigh on the bone surrounded by a handful of dumplings. I could have devoured an entire bowl of gnudi by themselves since that was the best part of the dish. While the chicken was tasty, the darker, greasier meat is not my most favorite section and I probably would have ordered something else had I known there was deboning work to do.

Even though the lunch menu is short, I was also interested in the “Boards” selection since I saw small sandwiches served up on planks with French fries piled high. This is certainly a place I would love to try a few times since the dishes sound so interesting and there is even twice as many items listed on the dinner menu!

What I couldn’t ignore was the dessert section due to the “Libertine Candy Bar”. Salted Caramel Semifreddo, Hazelnuts, Ganache, and Chocolate Dacquiose. This was just like a frozen Snickers ice cream bar with wonderful melting chocolate going everywhere. It was worth getting messy for!

Now I just can’t wait to go back on a Sunday night for his famous fried chicken! I just might have to write up another review…


Libertine = http://www.libertinestl.com/

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I had an event to go to in the city and was by myself so I figured I would take advantage and hit up the last Gerard Craft restaurant that I had yet to go to. I have been there once for a drink before but like always, I was dying to trying their menu!

Taste is definitely a place that lived up the hype and I recommend sitting at the bar if there is room. The bartenders put on quite a show! I really don't know how they learn all the incredibly complex cocktails that are available between the uniquely created ones and all the classics listed on the menu!

Since the cocktail menu is quite lengthy, I would just let the bartender know what kinds of flavors or spirits you prefer and they'll point you in the right direction. I knew to select something with citrus, which was right on the top of the list: Curious Flowers. This ended up being perfect for me since it was plenty sweet with a floral scent and very little booze taste!

The food menu is much more reasonable in size, but yet I still suggest studying in advance because the focus is on small plates and I had difficulty choosing just a couple to try. I did notice a lot of piggy options so that helped me narrow it down, and I must also confess that the two items that I selected were not on the menu listed on the website. I always appreciate a restaurant that tailors their menu to the season.

I started with a heirloom tomato salad with a light balsamic dressing. Nothing too fancy or exciting and perhaps a bit overpriced, but still delicious. As for the Cioppino with Fetticini noodles...only a couple dollars more and it was amazing. The noodles helped to soak up the flavor and were every bit as tasty as the mussels. I even made friends with the customer sitting next to me and I almost offered to help her finish her Cioppino as well...

Like I said before, Taste really lived up to the hype and it's a great romantic spot. Certainly better for smaller parties. The restaurant is very small so be sure to get there early or be comfortable dining at the bar. Luckily, it is patio weather, so that really is the best spot of them all.


Taste = http://tastebarstl.com/

Square One Brewery

I am definitely late to the party when it comes to Square One Brewery, but it is not all that often that I am down in the Lafayette Square area. I have heard wonderful things about their patio, Macaroni Mondays, Build A Burger Tuesdays, as well as their top notch beers. AND there’s a distillery?! But I was most curious about their menu…

Little did I realize that they had a lengthy menu and I was quickly overwhelmed! I did not have time to prepare or study! On one hand, this means that everyone is happy…there is SOMETHING on the menu for everyone as well as a good variety on the beer and cocktail list too. This only made me wish it were closer since it will definitely require repeat visits.

I was easily tempted by some of my favorites such the Nicoise salad and the Pan Seared Crab Cakes but since I was in a brewpub, I went with a more traditional choice and tried their Beer Cheese Soup as an appetizer. The soup is actually delivered with the beer in a separate container so you can mix in as much as you like. The beer helped to cut through the thick cheese soup, so I ended up dumping the whole thing in…way more flavor that way!

Yet, I’m not sure I made the right selection with the Mahi Mahi Tacos. There was a good amount of heat from the chipotle marinade, and a lighter beer (I had an Oh Hawaii since the Oh Honey was already out) was a good pairing, but probably not crisp or sweet enough to cut through the heat. Since I wasn’t too hungry, I appreciated the list of “micro plates” so I didn’t have to order anything too heavy.

I have a feeling anything heartier on their “macro plates” or “pub sandwich” list would definitely be a better match for a beer. 

Since it was one of the last sweltering days of summer, I didn’t get to enjoy the beer garden either. I will definitely have to go back…


Square One Brewery = http://www.squareonebrewery.com/

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Milwaukee Revisted

Last year I posted about my "cheese" adventures while visiting Milwaukee. In case you forgot, you can check it out here: http://www.stlcheesegirl.com/2012/08/milwaukee-cheese.html

Thanks to those adventures, I finally got the chance for my first guest blog post on "I am Meg", where I talked about my trip in addition to all the cheese that I ate.

Check it out!


Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Shaved Duck

I had been wanting to visit The Shaved Duck just because so many of my friends had been talking about it and it wasn’t until Thirst For Paws that I had a really good excuse to finally make plans to go. I hadn’t even researched the restaurant, so I had no idea where they were located (just east of Tower Grove Park) and that they were known for their BBQ! (Not to mention Guy Fieri visited recently and the restaurant will be shown on The Food Network in the near future!)

The Shaved Duck is a very small restaurant and they don’t take reservations. Their bar area is also very small, so be prepared to wait and possibly stand. Even though it was a Thursday night, the restaurant was still plenty busy, so I would probably recommend an earlier in the week visit. Luckily, there is a very eclectic and inexpensive craft beer list, so my friends and I had no problem finding something new and interesting to drink while we waited. I tried a blueberry cider…SUPER sweet!

I had a hard time trying to figure out what to order since I’m not the biggest meat eater, so I figured I would try as many duck courses as I could since that seems to be the theme, although any BBQ lover would be happy there with all the meats well represented.

I started with the Duck Confit as an appetizer, which was a duck thigh poached in its own fat served on top of lettuce in a vinaigrette dressing. I was a little curious about their crab cakes, but was too “chicken” to order them.

Duck Confit
Yet, my friend Dan was NOT ashamed to order the large plate of Smothered Fries, which is really enough for four people. There was only a little bit of meat but A LOT of home-made cheese sauce that I just wanted to dive into it.

Smothered Fries
I wasn’t up for a big slab of meat since it was such a hot day (both outside and inside the restaurant), so the Duck & Blue Cheese flatbread seemed to be a good compromise. The bread quickly got soggy, but I was interested in the duck meat and cheese anyway. Both duck dishes were very juicy and not too gamey, so I was impressed with both duck courses.

The males of the group had no qualms about ordering huge amounts of meats though. One friend ordered “The Boss”, which is a slow smoked beef brisket smothered in a bacon swiss cheese sauce, topped with onion rings and a side of caramelized onion mashed potatoes.

Then another friend dared to get the “Big Jimmy Sampler”, which includes three St. Louis style spare ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, and some pulled smoked chicken. On top of that he ordered a side of cornbread the size of my head. Needless to say, he took home quite a bit of leftovers.

Another friend ordered the smoked meatloaf, but he ate it so quickly, I didn’t quite get a good look at it, but I have to admit, I am very curious for next time…

My vegetarian of the group had a limited set of choices, so it’s probably not the best place to go with a veg-head. But Patience did enjoy her veggie sandwich with green peppers, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, artichokes, and cheese, also with a side of brussels sprouts.

Loved the atmosphere…very casual, small bar, cute patio area, but excellent BBQ without heavy sauces. The meat definitely speaks for itself.


The Shaved Duck = http://www.theshavedduck.com/

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Venissimo Cheese Lovers Club

A friend of mine, who of course knows I love cheese, sent this link to me today.

What better gift is there than finding cheese in your mailbox on a regular basis!


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Robust Wine Bar MX

I have actually been to the Robust Wine Bar in Webster Groves several times, but have never sat down to dinner there. So I jumped at the chance to visit the new location downtown on Washington Avenue for a wine tasting with the American Wine Society, ran by Jeff Callahan.

Willamette Winery, from Oregon, brought a few wines for us to taste, and of course they brought a pinot gris and two pinor noirs. The pinot gris was crisp and refreshing as expected, but I was surprised by the multiple flavors of pinot noir...one made with the whole cluster, causing a fruitier nose and finish, and the second one was more of traditional pinot with a bolder ending. Willamette also let us finish with a dessert Riesling as well but it was far too sweet for me, believe it or not.

I was happy the wine tasting hour went quick because I had really been looking forward to dinner.

We got to stay in our private dining room, although I didn't get to check out the large dining area. The Robust menu was lengthy enough that our server had to walk us through the pages, although most of it was various wine selections and flights. On the dinner page, we still had a large amount of choices and went with a combination of small plates and main course.

Almost as an appetizer, we started with two sea scallops, which was the usual “melt in your mouth” flavor.

The Shrimp & Grits were more of a side dish size than a small plate and the course was very filling. The grits were smooth and creamy, more like a risotto than crunchy grits like you normally think.

We went with the special, a skate wing, as our main course, and I was quite surprised by the smoky flavor that doesn't typically come with a white fish. Quite excellent and unique flavor!

Sea scallops, shrimp & grits, and skate wing
Definitely a place to take out of town guests and wine lovers, where everyone wins.


Robust Wine Bar = http://www.robustwinebar.com/

The Fountain on Locust

I had been wanting to go to the Fountain on Locust ever since I met a really cute red-head who worked there and claimed to make some of the best ice cream martinis. I never had an ice cream martini before and this quickly moved to the top of my list of things I had try!

Luckily, I had an event on Locust so naturally it made sense to stop by The Fountain on the way. It was meant to be, although my new friend was not working.

Of course I ordered the Grand Chocolate Martini, which was filled with all kinds of chocolaty goodness: Godiva Chocolate liqueur, chocolate vodka, and chocolate ice cream. Don't worry, I shared this drink since it was quite strong!

Grand Chocolate Martini
I was really impressed with the “soda fountain” feel of the décor and the long list of "sammiches" just felt right for the place. I went with the “adult grilled cheese” that I had heard about, the Royal Grille, which consisted of three types of cheese, apple slices, and some turkey as well!

Patience ordered one of her favorite too...the High Hat, which consisted of creamy, smooth egg salad. I got the pickle though!

We both combined our half sandwich with the St. Louis City salad, which is their version of a Rich 'n Charlie's salad...delicious!!

Even though we had ordered an ice cream martini, our server still offered us ice cream for dessert, but our drink was plenty dessert for us!


The Fountain on Locust = http://www.fountainonlocust.com

Saturday, July 6, 2013


I had been really looking forward to Agrarian since my friends and I had been to the first installment of Entre’s first pop-up restaurant, "A Good Man is Hard To Find", but also because I am so pro-vegetarian these days. I always get excited when chefs go out of their way to put the spotlight on veggies because they always come up with such fantastic ideas.

Agrarian’s menu offered up a price fixe menu again, but you got to choose any four menu items for $35. Since none of the desserts were chocolate, I went with two small plates and two larger plates for my complete dinner. Luckily, with six people in my party, I ended up getting to try or hear about most of the dishes. I highly recommend going with as many people as possible because the descriptions on the menu don’t quite cover the unique and different plates. We asked a lot of questions about our server as well, but each course is nothing like you’ve ever had!

Before I get into the menu, we had the difficult task of just selecting a cocktail. Even this list had seven creations and it was hard to guess if you’d like the flavors or not so it was a gamble. I went with “Wendell Berry’s Last Stand” because I love a fruity drinks, but the bourbon was the strongest flavor and I had to sip it throughout my meal. I preferred “Little Flower” the most because of the sweeter flavors and bubbles. The “Ivan Drago” looked just like a mojito and was very refreshing, while the “Macchu Pisku” was another “fruity” drink that I probably would have enjoyed much more.

In addition to not being able to pronounce “Macchu Pisku”, we had to research “Chow Chow” and "Chifrijo” on our phones! Hehe We asked the server but both of these dishes just needed to be tried for yourself.

While I started with a cheese plate (four amazing selections that can also be ordered as a dessert), my friends went with the Chow Chow, which looked like a red and green pickled pepper spread. If you like pickles, it was quite delicious.

We all had a very hard time deciding which courses to get for our “main dinner”, so again, I recommend going in a larger group so you all can taste as much as possible. I also recommend ordering a few smaller items and then some larger dishes for a good mixture in complexity of taste and so you get enough to eat. Four small dishes probably won’t be filling for most Americans.

I started with the Tomato Mint Sherry, which was a tasty fresh tomato, without being overwhelmed by the mint. It was probably the most beautiful dish as the bright red contrasted the white plate. I also go to try the peas and carrots, which again were flavorful, but not too many on the plate.

Tomato Mint Sherry
My second “small plate” was the Beet Red Onion Chevre. I should not have gotten this since I’m not the biggest fan of beets and there wasn’t too much chevre on the plate, but I found that my friend’s Squash Black Garlic Pepita was a better taste for me with the tower of squash right in the center.

Squash Black Garlic Pepita
I was super excited to see the word “gnocchi” in the dish Spring Onion Vichyssoise Gnocchi, but there were only three small dumplings on this plate, so that was a bit of a disappointment. I was hoping for a whole bowl of them. The Cauliflower Risotto was also a downer because it wasn’t actually risotto at all, just cauliflower in small pieces. I did not get to try this dish but I probably would have been fine with this as long as I wasn’t expecting risotto.
Another friend ordered the Chifrijo, which tastes wonderful in comparison in trying to pronounce this. The chef’s take on this meant a black bean, tofu, and rice filling in place of any piggy that makes up the traditional dish.

This was one of the heavier dishes, much like my Poutine Smoked Shiitake Gravy Bluecheese. And yes, it was just as wonderful as it was a mouthful to say.

I have never had poutine before who doesn’t love French Fries covered in gravy and cheese! After one taste, my friends immediately ordered one just for themselves!!

The other “heavy dish” that I got to try was the Tagliatelle Smoked Broccoli Pesto Fried Duck Egg. There was only a hint of broccoli and pesto, but the perfect fan for any pasta lover since the big noodles are what stood out the most.

We did have one “meat eater” at the table who ordered a ½ Cornish Game Hen and it was definitely a good-sized meal, but I’m not sure that it had the most flavor when compared to the rest of the uniquely crafted vegetarian plates.

For dessert, the Brown Butter Financier Strawberry Ice Cream was a big hit with everyone except for me since it was lacking the required drowning in chocolate sauce for me to enjoy a dessert.

While not everything was a huge success, I must give props to the chef for coming up with so many new and creative takes on everyday vegetables. Definitely a food adventure!

Please note that the menu does change a little bit each week since with vegetables, it does depend on what the local farmers have in stock!


Agrarian = http://entrestl.com/presents/

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Sommelier Showdown III

I hadn’t been to a Sommelier Showdown before and when I saw that STLwinegirl, Angela Ortmann, was going to be in the third “battle” against Brandon Kearne from Elaia & Olio, I immediately signed up!

What I really love about this “competition” is that the challenge is about making the perfect pairing, which to me is much more important than how good a wine is by itself. Some wines just may be quite quaffable, but one usually has a glass to drink over dinner and you want to bring out the flavors for both in either a complimentary way or to let the food shine.

With Randall’s Wines & Spirits as the sponsor, they kicked off the evening with a shot of tequila, handed to us by a guy in a Mexican wrestling mask. I’m not sure if every “Showdown” is like this but it certainly set the tone for the night as the evening definitely had a “fight night” atmosphere!

While I admit that I was very biased towards Angela’s pairings, the voters were definitely the winners as you got two glasses of wine with each course. Not a bad deal at $35!! This was an exceptional price considering this “Showdown” was held at Cielo inside the Four Seasons!

In summary, I felt Angela had the better pairings because her wines were a lot more accessible in both taste and price. (Prices are listed on the menu because Randall’s was encouraging everyone to purchase what they tasted that night.) I felt that her wines were a lot more mellow and paired well with each course, really letting the food stand out. Brandon’s wines were almost all big, bold, or dry. I don’t think I could drink any of his selections as none of his pairings matched my palate.

First course...goat cheese and salad
Second course...risotto, shrimp and asparagus
Third course...Pork tenderloin

My favorite part of the evening was when both Brandon and Angela came over to our table and I got to ask them why they had picked each wine. It’s great to get inside a Sommelier’s mind and see how they think about the wine and the corresponding food.

Brandon came out the winner, although I really think Angela had the better pairings, which is what the evening’s competition was really about.

Be sure to check out the next “Sommelier Showdown” on Thursday, July 18th at 7pm with Linda McGovern from Major Brands vs Glenn Bardgett from Annie Gunn’s. This one is also $35, but will be located at Copia at 1122 Washington Ave.


Randall’s Wines & Spirits = http://www.shoprandallas.com

Cielo = http://www.cielostlouis.com/

STLwinegirl = http://www.stlwinegirl.com

Elaia & Olio = http://www.elaiastl.com/

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Square One Brewery Macaroni Monday

I just learned about Square One Brewery's Macaroni Monday from the J + J Twins blog:

Macaroni Monday

According to the blog, "...every Monday from 5pm to 9pm, you can build your own Mac N' Cheese!"

Here is info listed on the Square One page: http://www.squareonebrewery.com/events/

When Cheese Smiles...

Deep Thoughts...Thanks John Pirkey!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Crow's Nest

Now that I’m working in Brentwood again, I am close to one of my favorite areas of town: Downtown Maplewood. I have already been to Schlafly’s Bottleworks and Home Wine Kitchen for lunch, but I had never been to The Crow’s Nest! Luckily, I got an invitation to meet up there for a reasonably-priced meal, and a lot of food for the money!

Since I had never been, I fell victim to wanting to try one of everything as usual, and got a recommendation to try the Meat Loaf Sliders - house meatloaf, hawaiian sweet rolls, garnished with green beans and tomato jam.

Since this was on the starters list, I also added a House Salad. These two items would have been plenty by themselves, especially since the Meat Loaf Sliders (four of them!) were well sized. If you miss your Mother’s meat loaf as much as I do, you’ll really enjoy these “easy to eat” meat loaf. The only weird thing was the lone green bean at the bottom of each one.

Anyway, my salad was delicious and it really stood out from your typical side salad since it was well covered in gorgonzola and toasted almonds, as well as a light vinaigrette. The salad was medium in size and much more than what I thought of a side salad, so the vegetarian chili bowl pretty much tipped me over the edge.

The vegetarian chili bowl came in a small bread bowl and was filled to the brim with different types of peppers as well as beans. This could have been a meal all unto itself since it was so thick and heavy. I highly recommend this as a hearty meal for vegetarians…something that will really warm you up in the winter time.

So I have to admit I was really impressed with the atypical bar food at a “dive bar” lookin’ kind of place. I actually hope to go back and try a few more items on the menu…

Quite a few specialty items for veg-heads as well!


The Crow’s Nest: http://crowsnestbarstl.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Charted Cheese Wheel

A good buddy, Chris Hayes, sent this to me on Facebook...needless to say I need this in wallpaper size...


Chart of Cheese


I was ecstatic when I heard that the old Noah’s Ark space was finally being put to good use, especially since 5th street is one of my favorite areas in the St. Louis area, and because it’s so close to where I live. Although it is actually a chain, I kept hearing about Prasino from friends who attended the soft opening as well as from those who tried out their happy hour. When I mentioned that I had wanted to go, quite a few quickly volunteered to go with me again! Definitely a good sign…

The cool thing about Prasino is that they are an eco-friendly restaurant and believe in a sustainable environment along with using organic produce and eggs. And by the way, really amazing food and drinks!

I started with the drink menu and that’s probably the best way to go because it’s a MUCH shorter list than the dinner menu. (I highly recommend studying in advance.) Well, I take that back…their beer list is quite lengthy and takes up one side of the page, but I had my heart set on one of their seasonal cocktails since I heard they were so delicious. It might be best to attend a happy hour as well since all the drinks are on the pricy side, but luckily my friend confirmed my choice of the “green” drink, a basil-infused vodka with a couple flavors of fruit. I also tried the “summer thyme” and the “prasino fizz”, and both were just as refreshing for the summer heat.

As I said, the menu is quite lengthy due to the fact that they have some of everything and therefore it makes it hard to classify the restaurant over all. There are quite a few small plates, but a lot of large dinners as well, so it’s not necessary tapas. There are tacos…and I had my heart set on fish tacos initially, but then there are flat breads and sushi rolls too! But all my friends kept saying what an awesome burger they had…I was extremely torn…

Taking more advice, I started with the “lobster avocado”, which is just as rich as it sounds. I also got to try the p.e.i. mussels, which had a hearty, smoky flavor to them, as well as the kefte, or lamb meatballs. It really is just one giant meatball that comes in a marinara sauce surrounded by pita bread to help you lap up the sweet sauce when you finish. The meatball was so dense that I really should have split this one. I was too scared to try the shisito peppers because every so often, there’d be a real spicy one and my friends would frantically grab their drink.

Moving on to the other sections of the menu, I had really wanted the fish tacos and you get four cute little baby tacos that are a good “small plate” size. I definitely have to get them next time.

Instead, I absolutely could not resist the sushi rolls and I ordered the “unagi” which is avocado, unagi, and yuzu marinated tuna. It was a huge roll…about eight pieces and quite filling as well. I really had gone past the appropriate limit of food at this point!

Last but not least, three of my friends ended up with the “Prasino burger”. I was skeptical, but luckily a couple of friends helped me to see the light…oh my goodness…it really is one of the best burgers I have ever had. It comes with smoked gouda, tomato jam, arugula, and pickled onion. I am not sure what they have done with the meat, but it had the most wonderful juicy flavors. Yes, it really did live up to the hype.

Really…the whole restaurant lived up to the hype and the new developments are a very promising sign of more good things to come on 5th Street south of 70.


Prasino = http://www.prasino.com

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Little Country Gentleman

Unfortunately, Little Country Gentleman has closed.

Due to my coming down with strep throat, it took a couple of attempts to set up my Dad’s birthday dinner at Little Country Gentleman. I had been wanting to go there for a while since I had heard so much about it. Although, I do admit that I actually hear more about Half & Half’s amazing brunch that causes an hour wait on the weekends, so I figured I was more likely to manage a dinner reservation.

The first thing my parents noticed was the decor…even though it wasn’t exactly fancy per se, they said it really did have a French countryside feel to it! Since we were there during the week, it was very calm and quiet with only a third of the restaurant filled.
My friend Tim had already explained to me that it’d be a prix fixe three course meal (the eight course dinner is twice as expensive), in which you can also add the wine flight. April was a good time of year to go since there were a lot of fresh spring vegetables on the menu. For each course you got the choice between two items so we all were able to find something we liked. (We all skipped the pork choice for the main entrée.) I tried to get my stepmom to try the opposite choice so that I could get a taste of everything!
Before we could even order, we were presented with a glass of rose and an amuse bouche for palate cleansing. Unfortunately, the amuse bouche was a bite of sweet and sour pork so I had to sacrifice and finish them off. I guess I forgot to mention no pork in our reservation so lesson learned.
My first course was an easy pick…chunks of lobster in a bernaise sauce. While I’m not a fan of beets typically, the beet root with smoked trout was actually very flavorful and was a good course to split.
Yet, on the second course, the halibut with gnocchi definitely stood out over the ramp with ono and smoked sablefish due to the richer flavors.
These first two courses were “smaller plates” and beautifully plated, so I am sorry I didn’t take any pictures. Still, I was happy for a “meatier” main course and we all finished with lamb, which was prepared in small chunks in different ways…each one tastier than the next. I finally felt full.
Since it was my Dad’s birthday, I let him pick the dessert and he chose well…a fresh peach cobbler that had been canned from last season. You can look up in the rafters and see the current batch of peaches stored away for a future cobbler! I also walked by the cheese cart (it IS a French-style restaurant after all) and could have eaten the whole tray as my dinner so it’s best I didn’t notice it until the end.
Last but not least, on our way out of the door, our server caught up with us to present us with cute little bags of snickerdoodles for the road. Adorable!
Definitely an elegant evening, which my parents adored, but pricy enough that I definitely would have to save it for special occasions. We all agreed we wish we could find the time to try Half & Half during the week for their famous brunch as well.


Little Country Gentleman = http://littlecountrygentleman.com/