Thursday, May 29, 2008

Where I've Been -- Excuses, Other Stories, and a Double Review!

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's been awhile. Aside from the usual excuses (work, friends, laziness, fickle wireless connection), I've also been building the STL Delicious MySpace page. One of the MySpace posts, "Best Sandwiches in St. Louis," was unfortunately posted on MySpace before Blogger, meaning that it'll be a pain in the ass to re-type. Damn Ruper tMurdoch for poor formatting.

I'll post it here. I promise. Sometime.

Go out to MySpace if you just can't wait.

Anyway, I was all set to post a review of Sage, someplace I went nearly a month ago and just haven't gotten around to writing about yet. Then I realized that I'd been quite a few places and perhaps my inability to hammer out the entire Sage review wasn't such a bad thing. It was looking a little long, besides.

With this in mind, here's a rundown of where I've been lately and what I've been eating....

1031 Lynch St.
St. Louis, MO 63118
(314) 256-1203

Sage is located in the old Lynch Street Bistro space and looks about eight billion times better. The colors are softer. The bar is more welcoming. The crowd, at least the one that gathers around 7:00pm, isn't as business-heavy.

The bar itself stocks a decent wine selection, your typical liquors, and, of course, is heavily leaning towards the A-B portfolio for beer. I've got a wide range of tastes, so I was glad to order an elegant tulip glass of Shock Top Belgian White, a new seasonal-turned-year-round brew that's good enough to shut up the beer snobs. At least from what I've seen on the Internet, anyway.

The appetizer menu at Sage isn't particularly inspired, but it skews comfortably far from the toasted ravioli list so typical of just about every joint in Soulard. Our choices, the Trio of Mini Sandwiches and Cha-Cha Calamari, were pretty superb.

Sort of.

The Trio of Mini Sandwiches includes the following sandwiches: Beef Tenderloin with Horseradish Cream (hot-tangy horseradish butter, peppery beef, surprisingly tender for such a small piece), Louisiana Crab Cake with Roasted Red Pepper Spread (silky crab meat seasoned perfectly and not drowning in mayo or breadcrumbs), and Tuscan Chicken with Honey Mustard (kind of pointless, tasted like something from Wendy's).

With the exception of the "Tuscan" Chicken, the sandwiches were just fine...until we got to the calamari.

The Cha-Cha Calamari is listed on the menu as tossed in a Asian cream sauce, but it really tasted more like a honey and ginger glaze. While there were hints of fire and a subtle, lingering heat from the chiffonaded chilis, the real selling point of the calamari was its size and texture. The thick, meaty tendrils were cooked until just done, the light breading hadn't gone gummy, and the scallions provided just the right amount of crunch to keep the dish from turning leaden after one too many chews.

Which wouldn't have been necessary, anyway.

Forgive the poorly-lit picture, but below are our entrees, Boursin and Sun Dried-Stuffed Chicken Breast (foreground) and Sage Seafood Capellini (background).

I don't normally order chicken.

It's not that I don't like it, it's just that I rarely see the point. Chicken is boring. Chicken is bland. Chicken's got no cojones, at least not in 99% of the restaurants I've been to. But this one is made with pancetta gravy.

Mmmm, pancetta. Mmmmm, gravy.

After checking with our server, I was told that the pancetta gravy was not a "lame sauce" as I'd feared, but that it was indeed meaty, smoky, salty, and creamy enough to make me like chicken. Our server's assurance combined with the promise of boursin made me slightly disappointed when I actually tasted it.

The pancetta gravy was incredible, okay? Shredded pancetta studded the velvety gravy and caused me to reconsider my problems with breakfast gravy. The rest of the dish, however, was pretty underwhelming. The boursin might as well have been Philly cream cheese and the "sun dried tomato" was as neon orange and flavorless as cheap tomato powder.

What I tasted of my friend's Sage Seafood Capellini was decent. The pasta was slightly overcooked, but the clams, lump blue crab, and lemony artichokes (lots of artichokes) provided a double wallop of flavor and texture for a satisfying dish.

Sage's dessert menu relies on the shooter concept, that is, tiny shot glasses of dessert cakes, sauces, puddings, etc. that can safely be enjoyed after a huge meal. My decision, the blueberry bourbon brioche with a small puddle of vanilla cream, was FREAKING. FANTASTIC.


La Tropicana
5001 Lindenwood
St. Louis, MO 63109
(314) 353-7328

This isn't really a review.

How can it be? Everyone in St. Louis has been to La Tropicana. They know about the outstanding pernil, the roasted chicken, the cubano sandwich, and the charming patio. What does anything I have to say matter?

Well, it doesn't, but I feel guilty about the laziness and feel compelled to include a few things here. So here goes.

My most recent visit to La Tropicana was Cinco de Mayo. Luckily, Cinco de Mayo is the day before my birthday, a happy little circumstance that gives me double license to enjoy the hell out of some margaritas. La Tropicana gives me license to enjoy the hell of of them along with the very best sandwiches and roasted meats in the city.

As you'll see when you visit my Best Sandwiches in St. Louis post on MySpace, La Tropicana has the very best all-around sandwich in St. Louis. To quote myself....

Best Overall Sandwich -- Cubano Sandwich at La Tropicana. Pulled pork roasted mojito-style (with rum!), ham, cheese, and pickles on pressed bread. I love pork, cheese, and bread. I hate pickles. But at La Tropicana, I eat the crisp, briny slices anyway. And I like them.

I was all sandwiched out by Cinco de Mayo, so below you can check out the gorgeously caramelized roasted chicken, the blurry-yet-unbelieveably moist pernil (like I said, margaritas), and the addictive maduros, yuca, and spicy rice and beans paired with each one.

Terrific pane, too.

And I honestly don't remember how many of La Tropicana's margaritas I'd had by this point. I was with people, there were pitchers, I can't be expected to keep track of these things. I will say that La Tropicana's margaritas are far and away better than Chimichanga's, not quite as tasty as Lily's, but certainly bigger than both and absolutely heaven when paired with the food.

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