Monday, July 21, 2014

Wine Merchant Cheese Class July 2014

Since the Wine Merchant had already covered the top countries for cheese production so far this year, this month's theme was "party"! Sounds like fun right? Really, the class could have been called "how best to pair wine and cheese" since Simon, the cheesemonger at The Wine Merchant, really covered that aspect quite well.

Simon picked a really nice wide variety of wines and cheeses and a lot of them "grew together" so you know that they'll "go together" well.

While Simon pointed out that typically, one would serve hunks of cheese with a small cheese knife on a wooden (cutting) board to allow your guests to serve themselves, I laughed to myself for a couple of reasons. (During class, our plates are prepared with individual slices, so he pointed out that is not the norm when serving cheese.)

I wonder if this is not common knowledge and he had to point it out? But then again, I AM a cheese snob. Anyway, I have found that the best way to serve cheese (in the most accessible manner), is to cut it up in about 1 ounce cubes (well...some kind of shape). This way your guests can easily grab a piece (one handed if they're holding a plate or glass) with their fingers, fork, or toothpick. I also think they feel less guilty grabbing a handful of cheese if it's in a smaller piece...

The other important aspect to serving cheese is labeling! People want to know what it is they are eating before they'll grab. People love to know they're eating some unique cheese or that it's local. And I've met quite a few people who can only eat goat cheese. I used to leave the labels hanging off but that looked quite crude and cheese signs don't stand up in cut up cheese, so now I use a Sharpie to write the info on the edge of a paper plate. When I do use a cheeseboard, I sometimes make little sign tents as well.

Anyway, some of the highlights from this cheese class:

Cheese Plate
Gruyere is often paired with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir since they're in the same region. The Alpage Gruyere that we had was from Burgandy area.

Cabot cheese is actually a co-op of about 300 dairy farmers. I am definitely a big fan of the Vermont dairy's cheddar for sure. (Possible siteseeing someday?)

My favorite was the Langres since it reminded me so much of Epoisses.

The Sottocenere and Truffle Gouda were a bit strong for me, but luckily they were paired with a Ogier Syrah d'Ogier so as not to be too overpowering. Simon said he liked the Sottocenere on grilled cheese!

Since the class was completely full, we got to enjoy some higher end wines and cheese, and Simon even threw in some venison pate, which was new to me as well.


The Wine Merchant =

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Prime 1000

Unfortunately, Prime 1000 has closed.

Thanks to some wine friends wanting to meet up and get together for dinner, I finally got to try Prime 1000. I had been meaning to take my Dad there for a while since he always loves a good steakhouse, but now I know for sure that this would be a fantastic place for him. Going during the middle of the week also makes it easy to get in and it was very quiet. I’m sure it depends on the convention schedule in the area though.

We waited in the bar for our friends and was really blown away by the bar menu. We had a very hard time choosing a beer just because they had such a great selection.  Since we went during the week, there was even happy hour pricing. I would have been fine ordering a few apps off the bar menu and having a delicious meal right there.

Since we were meeting friends for a real dinner and wine, we just ordered the fish tacos, which were light in tasting, yet quite filling, and went great with a beer.

Fish Taco
Once we sat down at the table, the wine list is quite lengthy and you really have to focus on that for quite a bit before you can even start to study the food menu. I was a little overwhelmed. I didn’t pick out the first wine, but I was tasked with the second bottle and was a little nervous. It is times like these that I am thankful for what wine knowledge I do have.

Peppoli Cianti Classico 2010
There are no menus online to study in advance so the pressure is on at the table. Luckily, it is the type of restaurant where you can linger as your meal will probably take a few hours. The dinner menu was actually very concise and easy to manage and I assume that the menu is not online since it changes frequently. It’s always better to go with the freshest seasonal selections.

The waiter patiently explained the types of cuts of beef that were available and there are instructions about picking your sauce and sides that come with your dinner. I was happy to see there were grass-fed and bison options and those were the popular choices at our table. 

8oz Grass-Fed Filet
Patience ordered the scallops, which came with a few mussels so that was a winner as well, although the creole rice was a little weighty in comparison to the rich scallops.

Day Boat Scallops with Creole Rice, Mussels, Okra, Spicy Tomato Jam
You can see that our filets came out simply, topped with roasted garlic on top. No flash needed as the filets were perfectly cooked. The sauces were amazing as well, not that any was necessary.

I’m not sure where we found room, but I could not resist the chocolate cake goodness that followed either.  

Chocolate cake and granche
A completely decadent meal, top notch service (both at the table and in the bar)…certainly worthy of any special occasion. 
French and Italian reds were the highlight of the evening

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Saturday, July 5, 2014

PW Pizza Excel Dinner

This probably had to be one of the best PW Pizza dinners that we've been to and I certainly wish Excel Brewing Company was a lot closer to St. Louis, as they are located in Breese, Illinois.

Normally I require outstanding pairings to get high ranks but Excel's beers were so accessible, I really think they can compliment most foods.

I could drink the Lefty's Lager all day long...perfect light, summer beer with 5% ABV and 15 IBU. Perhaps not much flavor to it, but it really let the Goat Cheese & Green Apple Bruschetta be the star.
Goat Cheese & Green Apple Bruschetta
Not only was the appetizer a little more exciting than the usual salad, the Roasted Chicken Pizza and Prime Rib Pizza were quite amazing. Again, the milder beers really let the pizza shine.

Roasted Chicken Pizza
I loved the huge chunks of tomato as well as the roasted chicken, but I had to pull off the jalapenos. It was there since it was matched up to a "IPA" type of beer. I am also a huge fan of their honey wheat crust!

Prime Rib Pizza
This was just as awesome because it was covered in delicious vegetables (caramelized onion, bell and banana peppers, mushroom) in addition to the prime rib. The Bose Roggen beer can be compared to a Schwarzbier since it's full bodied, but no bitter after taste.

Patience gave the dessert and the Southside Stout Trifle two thumbs up!! Chocolate cake, caramel, pecans, and toasted marshmallows on top inside an individual glass serving.

Southside Stout Trifle
Here is their full beer list and we got to try four out of six!

Excel Beer List

PW Pizza =

Excel Brewing Company =

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Wine Merchant Cheese Class June 2014

This month's cheese class theme was Italy, and like wine, is also my second favorite after France.

I was a little overwhelmed by the powerful six pairings of wine, and I had to eat quite a bit of bread so that I could drive after the class...luckily the cheese was able to stand up to the wine as well.

My favorites had to be the first couple since I love the highly acide, creamy cheeses: Tenerone (Goat's milk) and Pina Brigante (Sheep's milk).

Although, the Taleggio had an awesome flavor and was perfectly paired up with teh 2009 Podernuovo IGT "Therra" from Tuscan region, aka a "Super Tuscan".

And I should have know that the rich and intense Amarone would pair up well with a blue cheese.

Italian cheese plate

The Wine Merchant =

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Five Bistro

Unfortunately, this restaurant has closed.

Typically, when I'm driving south on Kingshighway, I am usually heading to the Hill and someplace Italian. but on the northern edge, hides an excellent restaurant Five Bistro.

The interior is beautiful and the restaurant is surrounded by its very own garden on both sides, which I recommend peeking at when it's not the cold and rainy weather that we had at the end of winter. Luckily, there were plenty of dishes to warm us up with a local and seasonal menu!

We made a reservation for the middle of the week but it probably wasn't required, and again, this was back when the weather wasn't the best. I have no doubt you'll need a reservation for the weekends. Certainly upscale enough for a birthday or special occasion dinner.

Since Patience and I often have a hard time narrowing down our choices, we appreciated a smaller menu, which fit all on one sheet. (Now the cocktail menu is another story, and you may just have to try a few.)

You have a choice of a handful small plates, which we shared easily so we could try a few items, or choose from several full entrees which covered all the bases of salmon, chuck roast, pork belly, and a chicken leg confit. (The menu will definitely be different due to the season, but I was happy to see one of each.)

Here were our small plates that we sampled and they were so good, we actually ordered more than one plate of the risotto!
Risotto Milanese
We all started off with a 5BistroGarden greens salad that came with white asparagus, candied pistachios, Baetje Farm cheese, and a deviled chicken egg. Almost too pretty to eat.

5BistroGarden Greens
In addition to risotto, we also go our other favorite - pasta! But not just any ordinary pasta, but a Missouri Nettle Ravioli with wild morel mushrooms!! Talk about attention to detail!

Missouri Nettle Ravioli
As for the Grilled ScharfFarm asparagus, it worked out well that I got the egg in trade for the bacon so everyone was happy on this dish.

Grilled ScharfFarm asparagus
Five Bistro also serves a housemade charcuterie plate, house cheese selections, which can be ordered separately, as well as a prix-fixe menu with or without wine pairings.


Five Bistro =

Photos by: Patience Scanlon