Monday, August 24, 2015

Niche Prix Fixe Dinner

Unfortunately, Niche has closed.

As a fan of Niche, I had signed up for their mailing list a while ago and then I started to get a weekly email detailing their new Monday night Prix Fixe Dinner. Monday night was eventually joined by Sunday night and Patience put it on our calendar.

Normally, I would say to reserve Niche for a very special occasion, but with these set three-course dinners, you have more of an incentive to go "just because". The advantage of getting these emails is that you can wait until you see a menu you know you would enjoy.

We gambled a little bit because we made a reservation long before we knew what the menu was going to be, but it all worked out in the end, and there are actually two choices for the main entree as well as three options for dessert.

Sunday Night Supper Menu
The full wine list was available and that was the hardest choice we had to make all evening!

I think this might have been the easiest-to-eat Bibb salad I've ever had. My favorite part was the egg on top with the green goddess dressing. (OK, so that's two things.)

Endive & Bibb Lettuce Salad
Patience and I both decided to order the Pan Seared Steelhead Trout.

Pan Seared Steelhead Trout
It came on top of a corn and cherry tomato succotash and Israeli couscous, one of my most favorite things to eat!

We both were eagerly looking forward to dessert and with two of us, we were able to order both of them. Of course, I pretty much devoured the gelato with chocolate sauce. I admit that I'm not a fan of vanilla anything (because it's not  chocolate), but this was wonderfully rich with bits of vanilla bean. I don't have to tell you how good the chocolate sauce was I hope.

Vanilla Gelato with Chocolate Sauce
Patience enjoyed her Tres Leches Cake, which came with caramel and spiced, whipped cream.

Tres Leches Cake
And then the cheese fairy came along (I think she was the General Manager) and gave us a couple of slices of local cheese with raspberry compote and pistachios!

Local cheese with raspberry compote and pistachios
You really don't need a reservation for a Sunday or Monday night and it made for a much quieter and slower-paced evening at the restaurant as a whole. Let's just say we were overwhelmed with the quality service since there was plenty of wait staff to go around.

I could get used to dining like this...


Niche =

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Taco Circus

I wonder if they call it Taco Circus because of how many people you can fit in the tiny restaurant or how such a little place can churn out so many tacos.

Taco Circus on the corner
Anyway, Taco Circus serves small "street tacos" so you can order several in one sitting, but all of them were overflowing out of their shells, and are well worth the $1.99 price!

I tried the Chicken Fajita, Veggie Rice and Avocado, and the Veggie Bean and Cheese. The chicken had the most flavor for sure.

Taco Circus has a fairly concise menu and that made it a lot easier to figure out what I wanted, but I still had to decide on the type of tortilla (soft flour, soft corn, or crispy corn), as well as your choice of toppings (lettuce & tomato or cilantro & onion). So you might have to go back a few times to try all the different combinations!

Still, there are a lot of sides like chips and guacamole so you really can't go away hungry!

Tacos, chips, and guacamole
We also learned that the place is open for breakfast everyday and they offer "breakfast tacos" filled with eggs!

Even if there isn't enough room, there are a few picnic tables outside and it was a perfect weekend to do so!


Taco Circus =

Cheese and Beer Pairings - 4 Hands

Thanks to 4 Hands' popularity (or perhaps it was the chance to hang out with me?), I was able to get quite a few friends out to this month's Cheese and Beer Pairing class.

Here are the cheeses for this month:

August Cheeses
Even better, I had my friend, Alisha, model the expert position for tasting cheese with beer at the same time!

Alisha eating cheese with a cheesy grin!
Now doesn't that make you want to sign up and join in on the fun?

Anyway, on to the tastings...

We were welcomed with 4 Hands' lightest beer, Single Speed, which also happens to be my favorite. Most of the beers from there got more and more hoppier as the night went on. Luckily, there were some very full flavored cheese to stand up to all the hops!

Send Help is an American blonde ale and any hops were quickly dismissed by the Ludwig Farmstead Creamery Kickapoo, which was more like a cheddar. One of the best cheeses of the night, and it was even better with the pear paste!

We quickly went to a heavier beer with the Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown. Now I know that this beer is low in alcohol and IBUs, but I really prefer this beer in winter. It was paired with a very heavy Marcoot Creamery Smoked Gouda, which totally coated my mouth with coffee and chocolate flavors. I think it even overwhelmed the beer! Putting it together with the caramelized pecans could not tame this cheese.

A more gentler pairing was the Centennial Red, the only local craft "red" that I've been able to find in St. Louis, with the Marcoot Creamery Cave Aged Gouda. A little bit of hops and a slightly aged cheese...a great combination.You certainly need an aged cheese to calm those hops down, but the cheese was even better with the fig spread. I dipped every bite of cheese in it!

Even though the IPA, Divided Sky, was not my most favorite beer, it definitely was perfectly paired with the Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze. This is one of my all time favorite "in the area" cheeses (actually from Milton, Iowa) since it is full of flavor like an aged cheddar. This cheese was able to stand up to the IPA and was paired with a plum paste. Oh my!

Unfortunately, the last cheese, Heartland Creamery Brimstone, was a bit too spicy for me, and I think it overpowered the hops in the Contact High. I feel like the citrus hops need to shine on their own more. But it worked out because we were all so full from the other cheeses already!


4 Hands =

Dierbergs School of Cooking =

Quincy Street Bistro

Unfortunately, this restaurant has closed.

I admit that I was a little disappointed that Rick Lewis is no longer with Quincy Street Bistro now that I finally made it there, but my dining experience definitely lived up to the hype!

I was really fortunate that there was four people in my party, including Beth, the birthday girl, so I could try several dishes, including a couple of appetizers.

I couldn't pass up the cheese curds! I ate most of them (sorry readers!) and almost forgot to get a picture until the very end. How sad the last one looks...

These are cornmeal battered local cheese curds served with buttermilk dressing.

Crispy Cheese Curds
I was also curious about their version of "toasted ravs"...too much of a piggy flavor for me, but I did enjoy the crunchy outside.

Hog Head Toasted Ravioli
I really wanted to try the fried chicken very badly, but I went with the Pastrami Gone-A-Rye.

Pastrami Gone A-Rye with Baked Mac & Cheese
The pastrami is house-smoked with bread & butter pickled cabbage, gruyere cheese, and 1000 island dressing on a toasted rye bread.

Thanks to the birthday girl, I was able to trade half of the sandwich for a piece of chicken!!! YES!! At last!!

Buttonwood Farms Fried Chicken
The chicken entree includes a boneless breast and thigh soaked in buttermilk, tossed in seasoned flour, country-fried and served with mashed spuds and sawmill gravy.

The meat was SO juicy and tender! It definitely was the winner.

Patience ordered the Smokehouse can't go wrong with any of the burgers really. This one came with smoked ketchup and gruyere cheese! Ok ok...another winner of a choice.

Smokehouse Burger
The Smokehouse Burger is a blend of beef and pork and as you can see, the Baked Mac & Cheese was the most popular side dish at our table!

Then my friend Matt chose the Bahn Mi #3 (not sure what the 3 stands for), which includes a sweet chili glazed crispy pork belly, slow roasted chicken, cucumber and pickled veggies on a toasted french bread.

Bahn Mi #3
This sandwich was so huge, Matt ended up just using his fork.

And you can't have a birthday dinner without some dessert to hold up a candle!!!

Add caption
Here is the Bread Pudding with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top! None of us were able to finish it since we were so full from our dinners!

Make sure you go there in a group so you can "eat all of the things"!


Quincy Street Bistro =

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Sunday, August 2, 2015

London Tea Room

I had tried to go to Local Harvest Cafe for breakfast this past weekend and we were sorry to see that they are no longer open for brunch.

Turning around, we almost ran smack into London Tea Room, which had been a place I really had been wanting to try, especially after visiting London many years ago. Tea time never happened and I'm still not much of a tea fan anyway, but I was happy to have a good excuse to try it out now.

While it's the perfect spot for a quick spot of coffee or tea and nosh, the menu really is limited, although there are quite a few scones, shortbread, cakes, and pastries. (Some British candy also lined the cabinets.)

Luckily, the pieces of quiche were quite a hearty size and made for the perfect breakfast. Even the cup of coffee was a good size.

Lorraine and Spinach Quiche
I certainly am curious about the rest of the menu and if you want a quiet, adorable, and cozy spot in the city, this is definitely for you.


London Tea Room =

Photo by Patience Scanlon

PW Pizza Second Excel Beer Dinner

We were bummed to have missed the 4 Hands beer dinner last month, but we were happy with the return of Excel Brewery to the lineup. A couple of beers were the same, but it's nice to try the new beers that were just released.


I think I've also had this salad before, but the Feta & Watermelon salad is always refreshing with a balsamic dressing. This was paired with the Piasa Pilsner (5% ABV), their new summer beer. Still a bit too hoppy for me.

Feta & Watermelon Salad
Fresh Basil Balsamic Dressing
The Bose Roggen Rye Schwarzbier (4.8% ABV, 30 IBUs) was probably my favorite beer of the night. It was paired with the Strawberry & Prosciutto Pizza.

Strawberry & Prosciutto Pizza on Honey Wheat Crust
with Parmesan/Candied Pecans, Arugla, and Garlic Olive Oil
Of course the East Side IPA (7% ABV, 60 IBUs) was paired with the spicy Cajun Jerk Chicken Pizza. There was a lot going on with the pizza...even banana! That was a first for me!

Cajun Jerk Chicken Pizza with Monterey Jack Cheese,
Red Onion, Black Beans, Banana, Sorrel Pesto
I think Patience enjoyed the last course the best since it was her two favorites: Peach Buckle with the Southside Stout (6.5% ABV, 40 IBUs).

Peach Buckle

PW Pizza =

Excel Brewery =

Photos by Patience Scanlon