Monday, June 30, 2008

Wedding Day

I'm often mocked by my family for not taking pictures of people. Here are two. First, the wedding couple that brought us to St. Louis. The bride is my cousin Heidi and her husband, Nick.

Here is my Aunt Betty, Uncle Max/Joe (Heidi's Dad), Uncle Dick and my Mom, Peg.
These are the root of my love of food. These four have travelled the world and eaten foods from all corners of the globe. My aunt has visited numerous countries including her more recent trips to Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, and Antarctica. She regularly brings back ideas for foods that she translates into meals. Uncle Joe is a Russian History professor at Washington University, and my guide in the world of cheese and beer. Uncle Dick brings me the Asian influence of Japan from his many travels to that country. And of course, my mom, who introduced me to Mexican night and Chinese night growing up, but now shares my passion for exploring new restaurants. We truly are a foodie family. None of us is quite the same, but there is not much you could put on a plate in front of us that we wouldn't eat.

A Toast to Her Majesty the Queen

Queen E2's favorite drink is gin (30%) with dubonnet rouge (70%), on ice with a slice of lemon under the ice. So tonight, Tyler made a glass to toast the Queen! Here, here!

Mango - StL

Here's our last notable meal of St. Louis - Mango, a family Peruvian restaurant. Tyler and I have are fans of Peruvian, and we've enjoyed it both family style and fusion. Fusion is fun, but the good old food of the people is the way to go. Since I get Peruvian so rarely I ordered my favorite dishes from my time in Peru - Papas Rellenos and Aji de Gallina.
The papas are essentially mashed potatoes filled with spicy meat and raisins. These weren't the best I've had, but were still very good. A papa could easily be a lunch in itself.
The Aji is my all time favorite dish and this one didn't let me down. Bread thickened yellow pepper sauce with shredded chicken, potatoes, boiled egg and olives on rice. My first plate of this was with Los Hermanos de Colombianos - and Italian Catholic order that I stayed with prior to my big climb. The housekeeper made this for me to fatten me up before the climb!

Aji de Gallina
c.1997, M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger
1 large frying chicken (about 3 1/2 4 pounds)
1 leek, trimmed, washed and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 cups soft bread crumbs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon yellow Aji, Amarillo or Chile powder
1/3 cup finely chopped or ground walnuts
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 pounds small potatoes, boiled, peeled and halved
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
Chopped parsley for garnish

Place chicken in a large pot and fill with water to halfway up sides of bird. Add leek, onion, carrot, tomato, salt, peppercorns and bay leaves. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until chicken is done. Remove chicken and place in a bowl until cool enough to remove the meat from the bones and shred into bitesize pieces. Meanwhile, strain broth and reserve 4 cups.

Soak the bread in the milk. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin and saute for 1 more minute. Add softened bread and aji or chile powder, and cook for about 1 minute, stirring. (For a creamier sauce, place onionbread mixture in a blender, puree until smooth and return to skillet.) Add 2 cups of the chicken stock and continue cooking until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken and simmer for 5 to 8 more minutes, adding more stock if needed. Stir in the walnuts and Parmesan cheese, and simmer gently for another 5 minutes, or until thickened slightly. To serve, spoon chicken and sauce onto a serving platter and surround with potatoes and eggs. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Edel Weiss

I am in no ways an expert on beers, but over the years I've had quite a few good beers, and focus on weiss beers, and in particular heffeweissen. Wheat beers have a heartiness and flavor that are unmatched by my standards. I often describe heffes to the uninitiated as, "drinking a loaf of good bread." I haven't tried any of these beers yet, but will by the end of the weekend and I'll post my tasting notes. We found these at the new Friar Tuck's, which just opened in the past few days, and is surely the best beer/wine store in the St. Louis area, if not for many states around. They boast 4000 wines, 600 beers and every spirit imagineable. Some of my favorite stores are Kahn's in Indianpolis and KL Wines in San Fran. Friar Tuck's will definitely give both a run for their money in terms of quantity. Time will tell if their selection matures with quality and staff knowledge.

Niche - St. Louis

Niche is certainly one of the better restaurants in St. Louis, and one that I would highly recommend. Like some of my previous comments about StL food, however, its charging big boy prices without backing it up with a big boy experience.

And you are absolutely correct that with an on-site pastry chef, I certainly would have offered a bread service. We passed on the cheese options which were minimal at best (Stilton, Maytag, St. Andre).

Enough of the negative, here's the positive:

We had the Chef's Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings. That started with a glass of Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco followed by "Parsnip consomme, bacon, grapefruit, brown butter foam." This was the weakest of the courses. The bacon and grapefruit were sodium alginate caviar and were over cooked (over chemically processed?). But it was a nice flavor combination albeit a bit non-distinctive.

Next was a glass of Josef Ehmoser Gruner Veltiner, 2006 and "Fried brandade, arugula, egg and ramps." Salt cod and potatoes formed into a cake and fried, an over easy egg with sauted vegetables. This dish received mixed reviews. I enjoyed it, the other two did not so much. One said it was too fishy, the other too potatoey. I like it just fine. I would however, have fixed the presentation by poaching the egg or at least cooking the egg in a way that it did connect with the other eggs, leaving torn edges. For the price - make my egg pretty, please.

The pours were full glass which (I hang my head in shame as I type this) were too much. I would rather they had dropped the pours to 1/2 glass (along with the price). It was difficult to keep up with the amount of liquor being thrown in front of me.

But ploughing ahead (as I was getting ploughed) we had M. Chapoutier Cotes du Rhone, 2006 with "Reuben - rye gnocchi, pickled mustard seeds & horseradish." This was the one dish that I wanted to emulate. The rye gnocchi had an outstanding taste, the mustard seeds were great texture, and the meat - corned pig tongue - while an odd choice for a rueben - was superb. This really tasted exactly like a rueben and was very playful. Again, mixed reviews from the table as some thought it was too strong, and the gnocchi to mushy. I disagree - gnocci is what it is and chef did a good job on these, and yes, ruebens are strong flavored.

An off-menu palate cleanser was then brought to us (good choice and the only one we received) which was a carrot lime sorbet. I can't wait to get home to throw lime in my carrot cake frosting - this was a very, very good taste.

Another full pour of Torii Mor Pinot Noir, 2006 served with "Lamb, rhubarb, hummus & white chocolate." This was, in my opinion, the only innovative course. I had not seen white chocolate used in hummus before and it really worked well. We argued for quite some time about whether a dark or milk chocolate might have been better, but I don't think so. White chocolate has a roundness, and yet a flavor snap that brown/real chocolate just don't have. The lamb chops were prepared properly and the rhubarb sauce added a nice twang. I believe the foam was a fresh garlic foam, but I can't remember.

Finally was the dessert - the course that I cared most about. Noble One Botrytis Semillon, 2005 (a wine I had never had before) with "Coconut kulfi, passion fruit glazed pineapple, granola." First, I find kulfis to be lazy/convenient desserts. I made one recently in my ice cream class because I knew I wouldn't have time to make enough ice creams for the participants, but the tradeoff to convenience is texture. Kulfis are hard. In my restaurant universe, I would have zapped the kulfi in the microwave for 10 seconds on power 1 and softened it just a bit. Other than that, it was a wonderful dessert. Kulfi creaminess with an intense coconut flavor, paired well with the slight acidity and zing from the pineapple.

The tasting menu cost $65 and the wine $35. This was the least expensive of the tasting menus that I have done, but as far as quality and innovation, it was proportionate. That said, it was a very good meal and one I would do again.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Happy Birthday Suzi

I made a birthday cake for local artist,Suzi Calhoun
Her partner, Janey, likes gluten free cakes, so I made a lemon almond flour cake topped with lemon curd, lemon creme and fresh blueberries.

Gateway to Gluttony

Tyler and I haven't been in St. Louis together for over five years. We've both had short visits since then but not together. This is the city of my birth, and where my food life began. Its not really a foodie town, but surely has a growing food scene. Right now that scene is focusing on ethnic and international expansion, but in time it will focus on quality and innovation. But not yet.

Last night we went to Asa Sofia, a Turkish restaurant across the street from one of the Ted Drew's - which is a St. Louis landmark. Not a restaurant I would avoid, but its not one that I would seek out. In sum, the prices are too high for the quality of the meal. Turkish is an inexpensive cuisine and only if the service is excellent should prices as high as Asa Sofia charged exist. Cut the prices by 1/3 and its a good restaurant. Avoid the desserts.

For lunch today we opted for rooftop dining at Vin de Set, billed as an American twist of a French Bistro. I started with a Mojito
and then moved to a French Carribean Salad (Confit, greens, mango & curry dressing).

Next we headed off to find sweets. First was Veruca, Niche's companion pastry shop. Niche is our dinner tonight and considered the top restaurant in town. We bought their candy bar and red velvet cake.

And finally we heard that there was a coffee shop selling 64 varieties of Gooey Butter Cake, which is the quintessential St. Louis dessert. They had about six flavors today and we tried three of them (original, blueberry & German chocolate). All were too decadent, but perfect in their own over indulgent way.

Beautiful Food


Yet More Recent Meals

Tyler made this summer salad a few nights ago with Chipotle Mustard marinated chicken on greens

Then we had salmon cakes with fresh aioli:

And Zucchini Chicken skewers with pesto rub:

Sorry that there's not more to say, but we're in St. Louis right now for a family wedding and we're really busy visiting good foods - more on that in a sec!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

National Public Pastries

Yesterday our local National Public Radio and PBS stations held a community town hall at our store for breakfast. This was an opportunity to impress so I got to the store very early and baked away. I started with Maple, Pear and Pistachio Scones that were perfectly moist and light (meaning not dry and hard like many scones):
Then had a perfect batch of croissant and pain au chocolate:
And I pulled a beautiful batch of Blueberry Brioche from the oven right as they started:
And finished with a little treat of Calissons. Calissons are basically an almond nougat with a hint of orange essence. Tyler doesn't much care for these, but they are special treats regardless.

Rib & Spritz

A few nights ago it was so hot, and we wanted to add as little heat to the house as possible, so we pulled out the tagine. A quick saute of onion and garlic, browned a few goat ribs, doused in Shiraz and we took off to walk the dogs. When we came home we had a wonderful goat rib dish. The meat was extremely rich and very delicate. Then Tyler made us his famous summer sodas - sour cherry and fizzy water. Perfect meal!


Friday, June 13, 2008

The Library of Food

About a year ago a friend (Bayou Seco in our tabs to the left) loaned me From Here You Can't See Paris, which was a wonderful story set in the Jura region of France. It followed a family as it settled in from America to learn the culture and foods of France in small town life. Highly recommended.

Yesterday I started a new book that was loaned by our down the street neighbors (remember my earlier post - these are the ones who really live up the street but are directionally askew). A Pig in Provence looks to be a good one. I've only read part of the first chapter, but it is about an American family relocating to Provence, and they are preparing to set up a goat cheese operation. Should be fun.

Keen on quinoa

I was first introduced to quinoa when I lived in Alamosa, CO. There were some local farmers who were introducing it as a sustainable crop for the area, and it was doing quite well. Its a good protein grain, and has a unique and appealing texture although it sure looks odd. Last night we made some pan fried cod and served it on a quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and blue cheese.

Big Mac

I had Patrick A make lemon macarons to lighten things up for the summer, then I added some dark chocolate caramel ganache. Sold out in one day!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Soba Globa

Spicy Soba
Why is that we are incapable of creating a stir fry that includes noodles, that doesn't result in a big glop of mess?! Does anyone know what we're doing wrong? Don't get me wrong, this was a tasty peanuty spicy buckwheat soba chicken yumminess, but it was gloppy. Help us!

(and btw, welcome to our 1000th visitor)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Up, Up & Away...

Our friends, the Langes are moving back to Michigan and so I made them a farwell cake. Their oldest son is fixated on balloons, so I made three cakes. Each is topped with a half bowl of mousse and all are glazed with colored pastry glaze. I made the balloon nipples out of fruit roll-ups.

I Scream

...and boy did they after this ice cream class. The students probably thought they were getting chocolate and vanilla...and if I was being crazy, maybe pecan swirl. But, if they did, they don't know me! We made Olive Chip Ice Cream (olive oil, Lyle's Golden Syrup, mascarapone and dried olives:
Blue Cheese ice cream with dates. Lavendar-Mascarapone ice cream. And, Zaafraani Kulfi (almond, pistachio, saffron, cardamom and raisins:

Saturday, June 7, 2008

All in a days work

Chocolate Apricot Tart (6/08)
I spent today making desserts for sale. First was this chocolate apricot tart for our favorite Dutch customer. A 64% Venezuelan chocolate on top of Italian apricot preserves. At the last second the customer asked me to cut it into servings, which I wasn't happy about, but it turned out really well.

Iranian Lime Ginger Tartlet (6/08)
This is leftover ginger lime curd that I glopped into some leftover pastry crust and topped with leftover candied grapefruit peel. Not bad for leftovers :)

More beans and rice

A staple throughout most of the world, beans and rice have always been my ultimate comfort food. Last night Tyler made a Carribean beans with lime rice, served with salted fried plaintain.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Needs no words

A well travelled gift from our chef and her husband, recently returned from Vegas:

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Summer is the only time of the year when I crave a cocktail. I'm not really a cocktail guy - something surely related to college when I couldn't afford anything except the 3-for-1 watered down vodka and orange juices. Give me a good beer or wine any day.

Tonight ended one of the windiest days yet. It was so windy that even I put on white flower oil. And so I stood staring at our meager liquor cabinet trying to find inspiration. Surely it should start with a tropical laced tequila. Maybe a dash of the raspberry syrup that I had to move to get to the tequila. Cointreau. You can't go wrong with that. Oh! And that limoncello in the freezer that we always forget about. A squirt of fizzy water. A cocktail unnamed but delicious.
To chase the cocktail we had this tasty but unphotogenic pork medallion with creamy polenta and shallot balsamic reduction, and a wedge of iceberg with blue cheese. Nice.

En Papillote

Tyler is getting all fancy on us! Last night it was Cod en Papillote. It was so good that I forgot to get the final pic so you'll have to settle for the preparation pics.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Tonight was Tyler's turn to make dinner and it was a seafood paella. He included shrimp and chorizo picante, but left out the mussels because, "I don't think its a good idea to eat mussels when you live in the desert." I agree.

Asparagus Gyrations

I believe this one thing to be true - American grocery store asparagus is shit! Now that I said it, let me say that I love asparagus, even from the grocery store. I just know that somewhere its much better than this stuff that sits bundled on our store shelves. Its not the flavor so much as the texture and the heads...I love chomping off the head or nibbling off each little leaf. Its just a great vegetable. A couple of nights ago I made a simple asparagus whole wheat pasta dish. I started by flash blanching the asparagus, drizzling it with the olive oil mentioned below and a basil pesto, and tossing it on the pasta. Here are some images of why I love asaparagus: