Thursday, September 27, 2007
The following photo and award categories have been taken from Michael Ruhlman's blog, which is eons more awesome than mine will ever be....
Awards to be given include the Alton Award (food personality who can actually cook), the Fergus Award (best performance in offal), the Rocco Award (worst career move by talented chef), the Chef's Chef Award (least heralded yet most deserving working chef), and the Mario Award (chef'restaurateur who best multi-tasked, merchandised, multi-performed, and generally whored him or herself yet still continued to make significant and valuable contributions to the restaurant landscape).
If anyone could possibly hook me up with an afterparty invite, I'd love to buy Ruhlman and Bourdain a drink (or a dozen, in Bourdain's probable case).
Monday, September 24, 2007
The above image was taken from the Taste of St. Louis Web site because I was too hungover to remember to take more than one picture of the event. So it goes.
Last year at Taste of St. Louis, some of the booths left me wondering why some crews had chosen to feature a food that was better prepared from an in-house kitchen, rather than the weak burners and steam baths of an outdoor festival. Well, Self, thanks for opening your big fat mouth. Gone were the spring rolls and rock shrimp beignets of 2006. This year, nearly every booth on Macy's Restaurant Row seemed to say "To hell with it, let's just grill some meat."
We started out with the steak empanadas with red pepper coulis from Minions. It was probably not such a bad thing that the advertised basil aioli accompaniment was MIA, as I have issues with mayonnaise-based sauces kept in 90 degree weather. The fried, greasy meat-filled empanadas would be a spectacular drunk food, far better than the oil envelopes (sorry, I meant Jack N' The Box tacos) my friends seem to prefer, especially with sweet, red pepper puree substituting for buttermilk ranch dressing. But that's the problem -- as alcohol sponges, the empanadas are great. As hangover recovery food, they're just a step above pizza rolls.
Thankfully, Mirasol's booth wasn't far away from Minions', and they were offering savory duck and pork meatballs called albondigas . The dour little goth girl at the register called them ale-bone-DAY-goes, but I'm not one to quibble over semantics when I'm hungry. For $6.00, we were handed a small bowl filled with four 2-bite meatballs drowning in an ocher-red sauce. Drunk, hungover, or sober, this is what I like. Meatballs made with rich duck, chewy pork, and visible chunks of garlic, spurting clear juice with each bite and dripping with sauce. (Sounds sexy, maybe I should author me some erotica.) Eating them was tricky, but I long ago mastered the art of leaning face forward, clothing back, fork in mouth with elbow bent perpendicular from body. This is a valuable skill to have when single and eating over the kitchen sink.
The sauce for the meatballs wasn't like marinara, and it didn't carry the chili wallop I was counting on from a "Nuevo Latino" restaurant. Instead, it was more like tikka masala, a type of Indian gravy flavored with almond paste, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, tomatoes, and onion. I checked Mirasol's menu this morning, and saw that their sauce is made with cashews and ponca chili. If I were to make it myself, I might try poblanos for a smoky, subtle heat.
Lest you foolishly assume from the first paragraph that I've got something against grilled meat, our next stop was Roxane's booth for smoked pulled chicken. The people staffing this booth were some of the friendliest at Taste of St. Louis (unless you count L'Ecole Culinaire students, but they simply haven't worked the line for long enough yet). A perky woman informed us that they had just run out of the pulled chicken, but we could have pulled pork if we wanted it. We did, in addition to some jerk chicken wings.The chicken wings were excellent; giant specimens with the perfect ratio of char to fatty skin to moist meat. The scotch bonnet jerk seasoning was a gradual, sneaky sort of spice that kept my lips warm but didn't sear my tongue off. There could have been more jerk on the wings, but they'd just come off the grill ands hadn't had the opportunity to rustle around with the excess spice that had fallen to the bottom of the buffet pan.
The pulled pork was another story. The meat was so wet that it was practically whipped, the supermarket bun soggy and cold. The sauce wasn't the Carolina-style mustard sauce you'd expect from pulled meat (like I said, erotica, here I come!). Instead, it had an intense, puckery tang from Roxane's own sauce. An employee explained that it was ketchup mixed with tomato jam.
Taste of St. Louis isn't just about food, though, it's about emerging music (yay for my friends in Ashborne, who opened for Bad Company on Friday night!) and local art. All well and good, but this is a food blog, and kids, no matter what the burnouts who hang out in the alley behind 7-11 say, you really shouldn't eat what comes out of a spray can.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
PLUS! I talked to one of the employees (might be an owner, I'm not enough of a jackass to play investigative reporter) and mentioned that I'd reviewed the place last weekend. He thanked me. Maybe because I said that I hearted the sandwich.
And later, Graham's making steak fajitas. Mmmmmm......
Monday, September 17, 2007
Right now, St. Louis is in the middle of that maybe-a-month-long-but-certainly-nothing-more-than-that time of perfect weather. The humidity that makes our lungs feel like soaked sponges is gone, the damp chill of October hasn't set in just yet, and even in the middle of the day, conditions are just right for eating outside.
This past Friday, Graham and I went to the Macklind Avenue Deli at Macklind and Murdoch in South City (get used to this area, as I dislike driving long distances when I'm already hungry). I remember the place as being called Krekeler's, a kind of corner store across the street from a portrait studio my mom took us to. Within the past year, it has been transformed from a corner store to a full-fledged deli with a bitchin' beer (domestics, imports, micros and plenty of Bud products if you care) and wine selection. While Krekeler's had not much besides a bike rack in the past, Macklind Avenue Deli has a cute outdoor seating area with umbrellas and wireless.
Macklind Avenue Deli has chips, snacks, ice cream, desserts, and sides like slaw and potato salad, but we stuck with the sandwiches and beer. I only mildly regret this; although I was full from one half of the sandwich, I really wanted to try the mustard seed-studded potato salad that looked nothing like the demon-yellow mayo (alleged mustard, LIES!) sludge you're used to buying at Schnuck's. Another thing I mildly regret is only getting one beer apiece. Yes, we had to work later, but Macklind Avenue Deli has three kinds of beer on the shelves -- room temperature, refrigerated 6-packs, and refrigerated single bottles.
The staff looks like former cafeteria ladies who could smack the crap out of you, but instead choose to smile and get the massive sandwiches ready within a few minutes. I ordered the Southwest Turkey sandwich, with pepper jack cheese, Boar's Head Sausalito turkey breast, lettuce, red onion, tomato, and chipotle sauce on floured ciabatta bread (no tomato for me, though). Graham got the Carl's Poor Boy (not a Po' Boy, though, more like a King of the Hill). Two sandwiches, a St. Peter's IPA and a Blue Paddle totaled about $19.00, which is no more than what you'd pay at Bread Co.
My sandwich ROCKED BALLZ.
I'm so glad I got over that not liking spicy foods thing, because Macklind Avenue Deli's creamy chipotle sauce was hot enough to make my lips tingle a bit, but not so hot that it overpowered the seasoned turkey breast and standard shredded lettuce. I'm also glad I got over the whole hating onions thing, because the ones on my sandwich were crisp and piquant (haha, yeah, it's a food blog now). This sounds like I'm reaching, but I'm the daughter of a produce man and I hate -- I HATE -- when simple things like sandwich veggies get overlooked. The chewy ciabatta bread provided a very decent counterpoint for the hotter bites and held up well to the thick layer of pepper jack.
Graham's sandwich was all right, but the bland dressing could have been made with a little more vinegar. A touch of acidity works wonders on a heavy on the meat/heavy on the cheese sandwich, and I don't think the tomato he left out would have stood up very well.
There's a dessert counter, too, and unfortunately, I was too full to partake (though I was interested in the chocolate zucchini cake, an example of one of the only times vegetables and chocolate are permitted to be together ever). Graham got a lemon "tart" before we left, and I place that in quotations because it wasn't very tart at all. Cloyingly sweet with a crumble crust and confectioner's sugar on top, if I'm going to eat something that sweet, I prefer that it contain chocolate and cleverly-disguised illegal substances. I kid, I kid.
As you can see from the photo at the top, Macklind Avenue Deli is open until 8pm on weeknights, but not shown is that the patio doesn't close until ten. The whole place closes up at 4pm on Sundays. Remember, you're still on the South Side, and most of these people still make dinner by 5pm.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
This blog was born from the frustration I've experienced with the St. Louis food "scene." (Quotations are because I have no other way to describe it; I'm not the type of person to use the word normally.) As you may have noticed in my sidebar up there, I hate toasted ravioli. I've had ice cream far better than that of Ted Drewes', and I think that gooey butter cake is gooey, and that's just about it. I can't stand that the RFT Reader's Choice (or whatever) poll has named TGI Friday's as the best appetizer selection several years running. It bothers me that people in this town seem to like things because they're supposed to, and they don't seem to know how to want any better.
Probably, this blog is partly due to my spiteful nature. I want to give a big Finger to everyone out there who's never wanted more than bourbon-glazed boneless chicken wings (wings aren't fucking "boneless," just be honest and call them chicken PARTS) on red-checked tablecloths while some suburban brat wails in the background.
But I also think that St. Louis has so much potential, and part of the reason we still have so many independent and family-run places is because some people, in some places, continue to patronize them for a simple reason - they're good. I want to show my friends and anyone else who cares where these places are. I also want to make people less afraid to try new things or spend a little bit more on the good stuff.
I'm really excited about this blog, and I hope that if you're here, you'll visit again. Feel free to post a comment or write firstname.lastname@example.org if you have something to say, recommend, or ask.