Sunday, March 29, 2015

Gingham's Restaurant

I have seen the sign for Gingham's many times while on 94 and my St. Charles friends had visited often so I figured I had to try it once while out in the county.

Like most breakfast places located right next to a church, there was a wait on a Sunday morning, but it was only about 20 minutes. It looks like they have this breakfast thing down!

The menu is huge, as they serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals, but my friends didn't even bother to open it up. On each table, there is a sign for a discount menu items for under $6!! Most of the discount menu is just different combinations of everyone's favorites, eggs, bacon, and pancakes served with sides of toast and hash browns.

Eggs over easy, hash browns, and toast

Of course I had to be fancy and order Eggs Florentine, which was one of six different Eggs Benedict choices. Impressive!

Eggs Florentine with hash browns
I probably should have asked for something healthier on the side but the hash browns came in handy to mop up the hollandaise sauce!


Gingham's Homestyle Restaurant =

Lulu's Local Eatery

Due to a snow storm last month, we finally got to try Lulu's Local Eatery. I had heard nothing but wonderful things about this vegan restaurant so even though we did see a few flakes at lunch, we made sure not to miss this night.

Our friends were kind enough to point out their favorites and some new menu items and we really wanted to try one of everything. It was nice that some choices came in a "bowl" option or a wrap, which is what my friends got.

I thought I would order a wrap myself but then I saw the "bowls" listed under the Entree section and I chose the Buddha Bowl: udon noodles, organic marinated tofu, stir-fried vegetables, green onion, cilantro, crushed peanuts, black sesame seeds and homemade peanut sauce.

Buddha Bowl
Patience ordered the Spring Roll Bowl: house made crispy cauliflower bites with greens, cucumber, shredded carrot, green onion, cilantro, crushed peanuts, fresh avocado with orange peanut sauce over brown rice.

Spring Roll Bowl
Both bowls could be made gluten free as well!

The bowls and wraps were quite filling, which again removed any fears that I had about vegan foods. The wraps were chilled while the bowls were served warm.

There is such a wide variety of interesting sounding dishes like the Sweet Potato Black Bean Burger and the General Tso Cauliflower. While it probably won't taste exactly like the original, it's nice to know that it's much healthier.

It was busy on a Friday night, and seating is limited, but once it gets nicer out, you'll be able to sit on the patio. Lulu's is very casual and you had to order from the counter, but a food runner delivers your meal to you.

Also, another large local craft beer list!


Lulu's Local Eatery =

5 Star Burgers

So I have to admit that I had not tried 5 Star Burgers because I had them confused with 5 Guys Burgers, and boy are they two completely different burger joints. It's a shame their names are so similar because it is night and day between the two.

Right away I was shocked to see that it's a sit-down restaurant and not just an "order from the counter" place. Also, I was pleased to see the long list of ingredients that you could add to any burger. Of course I was going to add mushrooms, avocado, and an egg and no I don't care that it's going to be a towering mess!

I was also surprised to see at the top, posted in bold letters: "FRESH, ALL-NATURAL, HORMONE and ANTIBIOTIC FREE" when referring to their beef. So without hesitation, I wanted to try one of their signature burgers for my first time. I chose the "Magic Mushroom" since that came with the sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and swiss cheese that I would have ordered anyway for the plain burger.

Magic Mushroom
Now I can't wait to go back because I also want to try all their specialty burgers like veggie, turkey, lamb, and bison. Plus they have other types of sandwiches like grilled chicken, salmon, and a portabella. For a burger joint, they have a lengthy salad list on top of that. Something for everyone!!

I knew better than to order a side dish with my massive burger, but the fries, fried pickles, and crispy cheese curds looked fabulously greasy and good.

Oh...and they have a fantastic happy hour EVERYDAY from 4-6pm where they have sliders for $1.50 each! I was impressed with their local, craft beer selection too.

I can't wait to go back....


5 Star Burgers =

PW Pizza Second New Belgium Beer Dinner

I was so excited to see that New Belgium was picked as the featured brewery this month since they were the very first brewery for a "beer night" back in 2011. You can read about it here:

PW Pizza wised up and realized they should probably serve some food with all the beer tastings!!

Once again, IPAs were the featured beers for the night as we got to try their Slow Ride Session IPA and the Rampant Imperial IPA.

Yet, my favorite beer of the night was the new Snapshot Wheat because it was so light and easy drinking. I think it'll be perfect for the summer too.

Unfortunately, I did not have my personal photographer with me this time so I forgot to take pictures besides the menu and dessert course.

The Snapshot Wheat was paired with an Almond & Arugula Salad while the IPAs were each paired with a pizza.

The Thai Chicken Pizza was covered in pineapple, so that was an excellent pairing with the big citrus flavor of the Slow Ride Session IPA. This beer was not too bitter for an IPA and was easy drinking and food friendly.

The Rampant Imperial IPA was a lot more bitter and so that was paired with the Spicy Hot Capicola Pizza, although it was just a few pepper flakes to add heat. It did to help cut through the sausage on top.

I just wanted to skip to dessert, a Chocolate Almond Tart that was incredibly decadent!! Well paired with a Portage Porter, which could be dessert in itself!

Chocolate Almond Tart with Ginger Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream
PW Pizza has already announced their beer dinners for the year so let me know if you're interested in signing up for one each month!


PW Pizza =

New Belgium =

Friday, March 20, 2015

Dark Room: Slow Down and Indulge

Since I have a connection to The Dark Room, I signed up for their mailing list and follow them on social media. Just last week, I got a slew of Facebook Event invitations for a new dinner series at The Dark Room called "Slow Down and Indulge".

This new dinner series is a four-course dinner that will take place on Thursday nights, each night with a theme. The first two Thursdays start with a French theme and next up will be a Moroccan dinner. Surprisingly, I happened to have a Thursday night open and could finally try out one of these dinners.

I have been to The Dark Room before for a late night glass of wine as well as a Wine Girl Wednesday with STLwinegirl, but not for a four-course meal! I was curious how this would go...

I immediately received a printed menu as soon as I sat down and everything sounded elegant, especially the wine pairings. (Of course there are a wine pairings at a wine bar!)

The dinner started off with a small appetizer and bubbles to help clean the palate. The cheesy biscuits were two bites of cheesy goodness! Since the main course was a heavier dish, I was happy to start off light.

Thyme & Gruyere Gougeres with Fig Marsala Jam and
N/V Domaine Baumard "Turquoise" Brut from Loire Valley
The second course could have been an entree for me. A little larger than a side salad, a healthy piece of tuna came with the Salad Nicoise, I was already quite happy as this is one of my favorite salads. Perhaps they could add this to their regular menu???!!! (Write-in campaign starting NOW!)

Salad Nicoise with Tarragon Vinaigrettte
2013 Domaine Lafond
The salad was paired with a very light, but slightly dry blend from Lirac, France. There was actually a choice between this and a fruitier white from the Alsace region.

For the main course, I was really looking forward to the classic Boeuf Bouruignon and the meat was so soft,  you didn't even need to use your knife!

Boeuf Bourguignon with Yukon Potatoes and Carrots
2013 Domaine Laporte
Extra special was the side of bread, which I don't normally eat, but it is the owner's grandmother's recipe and has a touch of sweetness to it. It was sturdy enough for butter or jam, but was perfect for sopping up the gravy afterwards!

A rich dish like this needs a big red so out of the four choices, I selected the 2013 Domain Laporte Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley. My friends let me try their Merlot from Bordeaux and it was too dry for my taste so the Cab Franc was just right.

The big red was also a good pairing for the dessert course, a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Tawny Port Whip and Ghiradelli Caramel on top. You know how I feel about chocolate. Perfect meal.

Flourless Chocoalte Cake with Tawny Port Whip, Ghiradelli Caramel, and Fleur de Sel
My friends opted for a glass of Tawny Port to go with their dessert and it got to star in the photo above.

Hopefully, The Dark Room will keep coming up with unique food and wine pairings!!


The Dark Room =

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Frida's Deli

After watching "Forks Over Knifes" last night, I was inspired to try Frida's Deli. All my veg-head friends have raved about it and is very centrally located in U. City. I didn't realize it was RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Momo's, another favorite.

You can see the modern and sleek look of the interior from their website. I also enjoyed the techno music playing and the eclectic scenery of people walking by with the large windows. Most hilarious was the picture of "Frida the cat" with full length eyebrows. I bet my Haley would love having her own portrait as well!

Anyway, after reading a lot of reviews, I really had my heart set on the Mushroom Reuben. While the mushrooms really aren't similar per se, the sandwich had a thick consistency and was very filling. (Always a fear I used to have with vegan foods.) Although, I do admit, I probably got filled up on the Energizer smoothie, a thick purple fruity drink. It takes like blueberries and bananas to me with the green tea and spinach mixed in.

Mushroom Reuben with Energizer smoothie
And the small scoop of hummus to put on my cucumber slices was cute and tasty! Gave me something to eat while I waited for my sandwich to cool down.

I really hope to go back because there are so may interesting types of sandwiches and smoothies.


Frida's Deli =

Adam's Smokehouse

Since it's my spring break, I finally got a chance to try out another one of our top BBQ places, Adam's Smokehouse. Now that I managed to stop by Pappy's earlier this year, I hope to make my way to some of the others as well.

Adam's is actually not too far from where Patience lives so it made it easy to get to, although the store is right on an angled cornered. I was lucky in that my hair appointment ran long so I ended up making it there for a late lunch around 2pm. It sounds like that during the lunch rush, the line can be out the door, which is not too surprising since it's quite a little shop. Maybe a dozen tables or so...

I'm not sure how they manage the lunch rush, but I assume that most of the orders are to go. I enjoyed not having to rush at all and could spend time talking to employees. Everyone was extremely friendly and I feel like they would have been happy to get me anything I would need.

Menu board
While I probably should have gotten a similar "2 meat platter" to Pappy's, I decided to be a little more sensible and just order a turkey sandwich with two sides: baked beans and cole slaw.

Turkey sandwich with baked beans and cole slaw
The turkey was thin and lean, just how I like it. There were only a few sauces on the table so not overwhelmed by choices and actually tried them all. The strawberry cayenne was fruity at first with a kick at the back of your throat. Another sauce was unlabeled and I was only willing to try a little dab of it. I stuck with the Sweet Jane sauce and used plenty of it!

The beans had a smokier flavor than what I was used to and the slaw was not overly creamy, so it was nice to try a different take on these common side dishes.


Adam's Smokehouse =

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dinner Lab - Crawfish Boil

I recently read about Dinner Lab in a fellow food blogger's post on Whiskey and Soba. I had never heard of Dinner Lab before and I was curious. I had only done the underground dinners by Juniper chef, John Perkins, but this is actually a nation-wide organization to feature up-and-coming chefs.

After clicking on the link to the March edition, I found out that this month's dinner was open to non-members and since it was a crawfish boil, I knew Patience and I had to go.

I was curious as to how they would handle a four course dinner since a crawfish boil is a meal unto itself, but the southern-themed dinner was coursed by its side dishes.

While you already know the theme, the "underground" part is the unknown location and chef. For some reason, my email address did not go through so I never received a confirmation or the location email. Yet, I easily found the "support" email address and immediately received a reply. The reply contained the St. Louis contact email address and phone number, and Brittany quickly called me back. Once she had my email address, she sent me the information and all was well. (Great customer service!)

Dinner Lab turned out to be held at Create Space in the middle of the Delmar Loop! Create Space is an artisan market where you can find wares from local artists and designers with crafts and specialty foods. Our chef was a very young, Lulu Chustz, and since she was originally from Louisiana (south of Baton Rouge), I knew we were in for a treat.

Chefs in action
When we first arrived, we had a chance to pick out a drink, which was included with the meal. Local beers, Schlafly Hefeweizen and Urban Chestnut STLIPA were the choices as well as a red and white wine. A beer was definitely needed to help cool yourself off from the heat of the spices in the boil!! There wasn't a pairing with each course, but you could have as many drinks as you liked and I saw that everyone was respectful since it was a day time "dinner" at 2pm. As I understand, most of the dinners are in the evening around 7pm so the drink policy may be different then.

First course was the deliciously light watermelon salad with red onion, feta, and a balsamic dressing. I hope to see this dish around St. Louis this summer since it's so refreshing. I thought this was a good palate clenser as well.

Watermelon Salad with red onion, feta, and balsamic
Next up were both sides served together at the same time and at this point we were starving and we ate these quickly. I was happy to find that neither one of these dishes had too much spice to them and luckily they weren't too filling either since the big course was about to come out.

Although there is Cajun listed on the menu, I tasted more of the green onion in the red beans and rice.

Cajun Red Beans and Rice with cajun trinity, green onion, and parsley
I never had a Natchitoches Meat Pie before, but the meat was very mild inside of the crispy dough.

Natchitoches Meat Pie
Now for what you've been waiting for...the Crawfish Boil!

Crawfish Boil with corn, potatoes, mushrooms, and andouille sausage
I took a little bit of everything and for the first time, I saw button mushrooms added to a crawfish boil. Soon after trying the mushrooms, andouille sausage, and corn, my mouth was on FIRE. I decided one of each was enough and I quickly focused on the crawfish, getting better and better and opening them up with Patience's help. Luckily, wet wipes were provided at the end!

The best part about this meal is that opening the crawfish slows you down a bit, so I did not overeat and room for dessert. So I tried both of them!

I believe the one on the left is the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie (needed more chocolate) while the goo on the right was the Peach Cobbler and a little too sweet for me. There was even homemade whip cream that you could take as much as you wanted.

The servers were very generous and kept bringing out more crawfish. Patience was definitely the champ at our table since she asked for a third tray all for herself and wisely skipped dessert when she was done.

I'm not sure when we'll do a dinner lab again since it depends on the menu, but even for a non-member, the meal was quite affordable and fun. Definitely a food adventure for the ages!


Whiskey and Soba =

Dinner Lab =

Create Space =

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Katie's Pizza and Pasta Passport Dinner: Campania

I probably should just sign up for the 6-month ticket for Katie's Passport Dinner series because I can't stop going. Each month, I'm so curious to see what is going to be on the menu and the only way to find out is to go!

We had a wonderful surprise waiting for us as a container of Katie's fresh homemade pasta greeted us at the table. Now she just needs to sell her own sauce!

Menu and fresh pasta
We started out the evening with a home run as one of my favorite dishes, Eggplant Parmigiana, was served as an appetizer. I have to admit that this was not appetizer size and could have easily been one of the entree courses. Since it was the best dish of the night, it probably should have gotten star billing if you ask me. Now THIS is a dish that should be on the regular menu!! (Please start the write in campaigns now.)

Eggplant Parmigiana
The mozzarella and parmesan cheeses really made this dish amazing, and it was paired with a Lacrima Christi Bianco, which tasted like an oaky Chardonney to me. With all the cheese, the pairing went well together, although I think a light red would have done just as well.

The second course was a lot lighter, and I might have called it a "seafood salad" with so many greens and lemon flavor on top. The prawn is center stage in this dish, surrounded by squid rings and a couple hunks of potato.

Squid, Prawns, Potato, Chive, Fennel, Frisee, Lemon
This was perfectly paired with the Falanghina from Villa Matilde, which had more of a crisp finish to go with the seafood course.

I was thrilled to see one of Katie's pizzas on the menu this time, since I don't usually order it from the regular menu. I'm just too in love with the unique salads and pastas. (Really you should bring friends so you can split a pizza, a pasta, and a salad among all of you!) Again, I'm pretty sure I am biased about the gobs of Bufala Mozzarella cheese, but there is a reason Katie's pizza is always a winner. You know you need a red wine for this, and the Aguanico, also from Villa Matilde was a good choice.

Neapolitan Margherita Pizza, San Marzano Tomatoes, Bufala Mozzarella, Basil
Speaking of pasta, the Spaghetti with Botarga and lemon zest was the fourth course. Bortarga is a cured fish roe and helped to decorate the edges of the plate. This was served with a big red, a Lacrima Christ Rosso. By the way....placing the eggplant on top of this bed of spaghetti would have been an amazing meal!!

Spaghetti with Botarga & Lemon Zest
Last but not least, the dinner was rounded out with gelato adorned with three blackberries. The pastry next to it is Sfogliattelle Ricce. Katie did not even attempt to pronounce it herself, so let's just say that this pastry topped with powdered sugar used to be prepared only for the Italian aristocracy during the Reenaissance.

Dessert was served with a homemade Limoncello that was sweet enough to make you pucker!


Katie's Pizza and Pasta =

STLwinegirl =

Cheese and Beer Pairings - Schlafly

As a huge fan of Schlafly beers, I was especially excited about this month’s cheese and beer class at Dierbergs Des Peres. Believe it or not, I actually got try some beers that were new to me: the Bier de Garde and the Lewis Osterweis Ginger beer.

Schlafly lineup
Our welcome beer was the easy-drinking Summer Lager, and is brewed only during a specific season in St. Louis called “baseball season”. Also a good palate cleanser!

The first beer was the Lewis Osterweiss & Sons Hard Ginger beer, following a ginger trend these days. The ginger beer is actually recommended to be used in mixed cocktails although you certainly can drink it on its own. The sharp ginger flavor really helped to cut through the cheese, Reypenaer, a one-year aged gouda. Paring the two together gave off a sweet flavor. Mixed with a pear paste, the combination actually created a maple flavor altogether.

Cheese lineup
Next up was one of my favorites, the very popular Hefeweizen, because it’s so light and refreshing. I learned that Hefe is German for yeast, which is a good name for an unfiltered wheat beer. This was paired with a Wensleydale cheese with cranberries, so it had a butter finish that was slightly chalky, but still a hint of fruit to cut through. These lighter beers pair well with the fruit, although the two together gave a pancake flavor. The best part of this pairing was adding a bite of milk chocolate, which made for a super sweet combination like a rich dessert! Chocolate cream pie!

An ale/lager hybrid, Kolsh, is another beer I enjoy regularly and I learned that not too many breweries make it because the yeast strain must come from Koln, Germany. Luckily, co-founder Tom Schlafly happened to marry a native of Koln and they were able to make the proper connection. This beer was paired with a Karst (meaning cave) cave aged cheese (around 7 months). The toasted rye bread flavor of the beer paired well with the cooked butter and nutty flavor of the aged cheese. The beer did a good job to cut through the creaminess of the cheese and the oil from the addition of salami.

Now the Biere de Garde came in a tall bottle so I automatically assumed it’d be a big beer, but that wasn't the case at all and I found it very easy to drink. This beer is traditionally aged (hence the name) and has secondary fermentation in the bottle resulting in small, tight bubbles. The beer helped to chill out the cheese, which was thick, creamy, and intense. The apricot dried fruit helped to add sweetness to tame down the cheese some more.

At the end, we finally had the big beer, Extra Irish Stout, which was paired with the flavorful Apple Smoked Cheddar. I found this cheddar to be fairly mild in its flavor and I probably would have swapped it with the previous cheese. The stout had a roasted coffee and chocolate flavor and a thick, creamy head. The creaminess of the cheese fit well, but the beer really dominated this pairing. The added Spanish almonds helped to take away some of the smokiness of the cheese for a mild flavor as well, but I really would perfer the bigger beer to help cut through a bigger cheese.


Schlafly (St. Louis Brewing Company) =

Dierbergs =

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Seedz Cafe

I made it to another Green Dining Alliance dinner and this time was a little different since there were two locations to choose from: PuraVegan and Seedz Cafe. I hadn't been to either one yet, but Seedz Cafe was a little closer to me since it's located in the Demun neighborhood.

As one of the last cold nights in St. Louis, I ended up parking right outside the restaurant. I felt a little bad for parking in the neighborhood instead of on Demun itself. At least now I know for next time, and hopefully it won't be so miserably cold so I wouldn't mind a short walk.

When I got inside, I was really surprised at the length of the menu choices and I really was curious about all of them since there were a lot of "mock" foods such as Rockin Mockin Tuna, Tempeh Reuben, and a Rawvioli!

My first question at the register, though, was to see if they had any soup available to help warm me up. They had a West African vegetable soup with faux sausage. I couldn't tell which chnunks were the sausage, but the soup had a kick to it and I warmed up quickly. Very delicious and it was enough soup to share.

For my main dish, I ordered a Mediterranean Wrap and that wasn't too adventuresome since it was just their house made hummus with olives, tomatoes, cucumber, and tahini in a sprouted grain wrap. It was a large wrap and I could only make it through half of it after the soup. Now I really wish I had tried their Veggie Burger or the Raw Pad Thai made from zucchini noodles. I already know I want to go back!

My friend was much more brave and ordered the Rawfreddo, which was long slices of raw zucchini noodles with a cashew cream and pesto (for cream sauce?), served on a bed of spinach and topped with sun dried tomatoes. While the dish was tasty, it wasn't too filling and seemed more like a giant salad.

We probably should have ordered some dessert since they did have a Raw Cacao Brownie on the list!

I really hope to be back to try more and to see what other vegans think!


Seedz Cafe =

Green Dining Alliance =

SOHO Brunch

I was invited to brunch by some city-livin' friends because otherwise I never would have thought that SOHO Restaurant & Lounge would have a brunch. SOHO looks like a really hip club in the really hip Grove area with an industrial look and feel on the inside.

Brunch runs from 11am-3pm on Sundays only and it has a "southern" theme to the menu thanks to a lineup of Catfish and Grits, Chicken and Waffles, and a Smothered Pork Chop. None of us were brave enough to try these specialties, but I was blown away by how many people ordered the Chicken and Waffles!!

Our table stuck to the usual breakfast foods, but there were some pretty amazing dishes like the Red Velvet Pancakes and the Beignet French Toast. I wish I would have gotten pictures of these two dishes because they were beautiful against the white plates. We were so hungry and completely forgot about taking pictures.

The Red Velvet Pancakes were stacked three high and definitely could be two meals or shared easily. It really tasted like dessert!

The Beignet French Toast were dipped in beignet batter, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and came with a bourbon syrup! A good portion for one person.

I was happy that I could get my omelet, with all four veggies available: peppers, onion, spinach and tomatoes. Adding meat cost extra, but I didn't miss it. My meal came with breakfast potatoes, which were very small diced "home" potatoes. I think they're a little more tasteful when they're cut bigger though.

Another friend ordered the Biscuits and Gravy...and when they say large buttermilk biscuits, they meant LARGE! Definitely a two person dish and very hearty.

You can still order small side items like eggs, bacon, and toast, at a reasonable price. Another friend ended up making a meal out of just sides, and might be the best option for a breakfast traditionalist. We made sure to order two servings of Cheddar Cheese Grits and I easily almost ate one entirely by myself!

There was no wait to speak of and we were the first people in the restaurant right at 11AM. I guess the word hasn't gotten out yet, but the breakfast was great. We are all very curious about some of the southern style dishes, which may lead to a return visit...


SOHO Restaurant & Lounge =

SOHO Brunch Menu =