Beer, Glorious Beer!

The Centennial Beer Festival happens this weekend at Moulin Events and the Malt House Cellar at 2017 Chouteau in St. Louis. Sadly, I’ll be out of town and will miss the fun.

If you’re going, my advice is to take lots of pics with your phone of the beers you taste. Later, after you’ve sampled dozens of beers, you’ll better be able to recall more than just a handful of standouts.

During the last 12 months, I have drunk less beer than in other recent times, but I have enjoyed the beer I did drink quite a bit more. Here are a few fave beers from my Instagram account. (If I hadn’t taken these pics, I might’ve forgotten a few.)

First, Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan…

Lazy Mag

Lazy Magnolia is brewed in Kiln, Mississippi. I enjoyed this tasty brew at Jim ‘n’ Nick’s BBQ in Birmingham last fall. This beer is not, to the best of my knowledge, available in St. Louis city or county, but is available throughout Jefferson County, Missouri.

Next up, Left Hand Good Juju…

GoodJuju

This beer was served at The Shack in Valley Park. It has a bit of ginger flavor. Left Hand comes from Denver.

Oktoberfest #1—Schlafly…

Schlafly OKT

Loved this beer! Drank it at the Wing Ding at Queeny Park in August, then enjoyed it at the Bottleworks in Maplewood in September.

Oktoberfest #2—Goose Island…

Goose OKt Biergarten

 

Another delicious fall brew. This one from Goose was poured at the Biergarten at the A-B brewery. I also enjoyed this brew at VB’s Chocolate Bar in Cottleville this fall.

From my hometown of Birmingham comes Good People Coffee Oatmeal Stout…

Good People Coffee Oatmeal

Had this at Saw’s Juke Joint in Birmingham. It brings a ton of flavor but doesn’t overdo it (like some stouts do).

From Nashville comes Yuengling lager…

Yuengling

Had this one with my pulled pork at Saw’s BBQ in Homewood, AL. Not my favorite, although I know many who love this brew.

Another favorite from Left Hand, their Milk Stout…

Left Hand MS

I still recall my first LHMS, poured at the recently closed Plush at a Pecha Kucha night in 2012. I’ve enjoyed it at home and at bars and restaurants every since. I like the foamy head! I turned my cousin Randy on to this one at last year’s Centennial Beer Festival but he did not love it.

My favorite Urban Chestnut brew…

Schnickelfritz

This is Schnickelfritz. I had it at the newer Urban Chestnut location in The Grove last summer and just last week at the 21st Street Brewer’s Bar. Hard for me to describe, except to say that it tastes really good!

Here’s one you may have never heard of…

Phin and Matt's

As you can tell from the frosty glass, Phin and Matt’s Extraordinary Ale was enjoyed at PW Pizza (in the same building where the Beer Fest is held). Brewed by Southern Tier in Lakewood, NY.

The old standby…

Pale ale

For many of us in St. Louis, Schafly Pale Ale was our gateway craft beer. I had Sam Adams earlier, but Schlafly Pale Ale had more going on than did the early Boston brew. This cup was enjoyed on a warm spring day at Paddy O’s, just south of Busch Stadium.

And a new favorite…

Honkers

Goose Island Honker’s Ale is now, following Goose’s takeover by A-B/InBev in 2011, available in more places than before. Less bitter than Schlafly Pale Ale and great with a burger.

From Italy…

Menabrea

At Acero in Maplewood, more people order wine from the Piedmont region of Italy. (As do I much of the time.) But I really like this Menabrea brew from the city of Biella.

Like Belgian beer?

Mikkeller

This Mikkeller was among a mixed six-pack I got at the new Craft Beer Cellar store on Maryland Avenue in Clayton. I liked it but doubt that it’ll enter my regular rotation.

From back in the day…

Stag

Yep, had a Stag at a gathering at Spoke Marketing on Locust back in the summer. Hey, after a round of salty snacks, it hit the spot.

Another local brew…

Marzen Kirkwood

From Dave and the crew at Kirkwood Station, their delicious Marzen beer.

And from a year ago at the Beer Fest…

Jah-Va

Another from Southern Tier in Lakewood, NY. Their Jah-Va Coffee Stout.

If these beer pics made you thirsty and/or curious, you’ll want to hit the Centennial Beer Festival this weekend. Sessions are set for Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Saturday night. Click HERE for a link to all the info.

As the Dos Equis guy says, “Stay thirsty, my friends!”

—–David Craig

By the way, I invite you to follow me on Instagram at @davidcraigstl. Not just beer, but also food, animals (including humans) and outdoor scenery.

The Diner’s Dilemma: Something New or The Old Familiar?


Michael Pollan’s great 2006 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma asks the basic question: What should we have for dinner?

Ominivore

The St. Louis diner’s dilemma is: Where should we go for dinner?

(Caution: baseball similes and metaphors ahead.)

Often the choice is between a place that’s new or a place that has been in your restaurant rotation for some time. Actually, there are two kinds of new places.

First, places that have only been open for a few days/weeks/months. Second, restaurants that have been open for a while that you’ve never visited. They are new to you, like that unfamiliar shortstop for the Padres who makes a great play and when you look him up online you find he’s been in the bigs for 7 years.

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With the place that’s just recently opened you take a huge risk. The kitchen crew and the wait staff may not yet have their acts together. Employee turnover can be an issue in those early days. Even if the chef and/or owner has a good reputation, a new joint can be like that rookie outfielder just up from Memphis—3 for 4 with a home run one day, 0 for 4 with three strikeouts and an error the next.

The big upsides of patronizing a spanking new restaurant are: you’re supporting a new business at the time it most needs your support and you may discover a true gem whose virtues you can boast about to both online and IRL friends. Not unlike buying a Randal Grichuk jersey at the Cardinals team store last summer.

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With a place that’s a few years old but new to you, you can sift through online reviews and talk to chums to get an idea about what are “must try” dishes and which ones have been less than successful. A restaurant that has been open for a couple of years or more must be doing something right and making enough people happy to keep rolling, even if it’s not always getting attention from the foodie media. Comparable to that manager whose career record is right about .500 even though he’s never taken a team to the postseason.

The familiar place that you’ve visited numerous times over the years has much to offer. You know your way around the menu, you may be familiar with many staff members, you know which table or booth you prefer. But, like at Holiday Inn (supposedly), there are no surprises. (Okay, maybe the manager will surprise you with a free sample of a new dessert or wine, etc.) Generally, you know how things are going to go. Kind of like Yadier Molina—you marvel at his defensive prowess, his hitting and (lately) his improved base running, but you are no longer surprised by his abilities.

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4)

A downside of the familiar restaurant is that it, like Yadi, it can be costly. (You should note that, in some cases, the newer spots—especially those that have spent big on design and fixtures—can also be pricey.) Even at $15 million a year for Yadi, you know that you are getting value for your dollar. Similarly, a long-running old familiar place can require you to pony up some bucks. But you know it’s worth it.

Would you rather drop $70 for a dinner for two that’s just a bloop single or $110 for a dinner for two that’s a tape-measure homerun?

Typically, younger folks are the ones who crave new, fresh things in life while older people prefer to stick with things they know and love. This is why a 25-year-old will prefer today’s hits on radio to oldies. (Although even most 25-year-olds must surely be getting sick of All About That Bass by now. And most 60-year-olds have surely heard The Joker a sufficient number of times for this life.)

I encourage older folks to try something new when you get the chance. Enjoy the familiar places that consistently make you happy. But take a chance every now and then on something different. It’s like when the Cardinals play at an American League ballpark and use the designated hitter—you may or may not like it, but at least you’ve had a change of pace.

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At the same time, I encourage younger diners to patronize restaurants that have proved their mettle and delivered year after year. Like Yadi or Miguel Cabrera or Andrew McCutchen, these places have achieved a level of consistency that assures you are unlikely to be disappointed. They may cost a bit more. The other patrons may be older than you. But, like when Adam Wainwright starts for the Cardinals, you will be witnessing greatness.

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Photo credits…

Yadi: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/5886771536, http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Cioppino: http://www.flickr.com/photos/69655432@N00/6566610871, http://photopin.com, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

McCutchen: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/7185728251, http://photopin.com”>photopin, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Wainwright: http: http://www.flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/14871796562, http://photopin.com, photopin, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

 

I WANT GUAC! (Super Bowl food)

It’s not quite the tradition that Susan Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish recipe was each Thanksgiving back in her heyday on NPR’s All Things Considered, but…

I have shared this bit of audio (from 2002 when I was on mornings at WIL) several times just ahead of Super Bowl games. It’s a guacamole recipe from a chef at the former Casa Gallardo Grill at the Galleria. (That spot is now occupied by Urban Outfitters.)

Guacamole 2015

My wife Jo-Ellen, who makes a killer guac, also chimes in with her best tip.

If you, like me, believe that guacamole is a must for the Super Bowl, whether you have dozens of guests or you’re watching the game by yourself, listen to this clip (runs 3:27) and take notes!

Go Seahawks!

Valentine’s Day—One Of The Big Ones

V-day is huge for restaurants. This year it falls on a Saturday. Convenient for couples. But owners would prefer V-day happen on a weeknight, since tables are generally in greater demand on Saturdays anyway.

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Here’s what a few local restaurants have planned for Valentine’s 2014.

Panorama at the Art Museum is offering a special 3-course prix fixe dinner on Friday night, February 13, 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. For $65 per couple, you can share an Aphrodisiac Menu For Two, created by chef Ivy Magruder:

Roasted Asparagus with avocado, arugula salad and basil honey vinaigrette

Rum and Coffee Marinated Filet with artichoke-tarragon risotto and butter-poached lobster

Double Chocolate Brownie Tart with raspberries and vanilla ice cream

Panorama will offer brunch on Valentine’s Day and Sunday, Feb. 15 from 10:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m. The view is spectacular! Call 314-655-5490 for reservations.

Panorama pic

The Ritz-Carlton in Clayton is featuring a Romance Menu on Friday and Saturday nights (February 13 and 14), 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in The Grill. It’s priced at $99/person. (They’ll also have a la carte items available.)

The Ritz has an overnight stay package that includes deluxe accommodations, dinner for two, breakfast for two, a “rose petal turndown” for $459. Available Friday and Saturday nights. Call 314-719-1433 for dining reservations or 800-241-3333 for the overnight package.

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Kemoll’s is hosting a Valentine’s Dinner and Dance on Saturday, February 14 up on the 42nd floor of the Met Square building.

Cost is $100/person which includes your meal, open bar, tip and parking. (Not to mention a nice view of the Arch!) Dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m. Here’s the Kemoll’s V-day menu:

1st course: Caesar Salad with shaved parmesan, 5 cheese croutons, and grilled anchovies

2nd course: Farfalle Pasta tossed in a creamy wild mushroom alfredo and fries procuito

3rd course: Grilled Filet Mignon with garlic bourism and Tiger Shrimp sauteed in a roasted red pepper scampi butter served with balsamic marinated asparagus

4th course: Belgium Waffle Strawberry Shortcake topped with vanilla bourbon syrup glaze.

Call 314-421-0555 to make your reservation.

Meg Sally

Tenacious Eats, which matches a 5-course food and cocktail menu to a movie, is sold out for its Valentine’s Day presentation of When Harry Met Sally. But, at last check, tickets are available for Friday, February 13. For info visit TenaciousEats.com.

You should note that a Tenacious Eats dinner is not your usual formal dinner date. It’s not quite Rocky Horror at the Tiv, but it is a looser, more fun kind of night out. $65/person.

Whatever restaurant you may be thinking about for Valentine’s Day, it’s important to make your reservation soon.

Also, consider that Valentine’s Day means a bit of an adjustment for restaurants, since most V-day reservations are for parties of 2. (A normal Saturday may include several parties of 4 or 6.)

And now, to conclude this post and put you in a romantic state of mind for Valentine’s Day, here’s a classic love song from the Reverend Al Green!

Pizza Memories

While reading all about the world of pizza in St. Louis in the new February issue of St. Louis magazine (click HERE for link), I recalled a few personal memories of pizza.

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As a child in Birmingham, pizza was a rare treat. I recall one place put their pies into a bag to be carried horizontally. One night, my dad let me go in to the joint and pay for the pizza. Unfortunately, I carried the pizza vertically. Everything slid off the surface of the crust into one greasy pile at the bottom of the bag.

As an adult, the radio station I worked for in Davenport, Iowa, had a basketball team. We would face off against high school faculties. Then after each game, team members always went to a local Pizza Hut for pizza and beer. Good times!

After visiting a college friend in Chicago and tasting that city’s deep-dish pies, I was excited in the 80’s when Pizzaria Uno went national. They opened in Philly. I loved it but my wife did not. We moved to Dallas and my son and I had their stuff there. Shortly after we moved to St. Louis, Uno opened in the area but their product was not quite as good as I had remembered from Philly and Dallas. The chain has since closed all of its St. Louis stores.

On the day we moved into our home here in St. Louis in 1988, a neighbor sent over a pizza. After the movers left, we unpacked and were exhausted and hungry. The pizza was greatly appreciated. But when we opened the box, my son had a strange reaction. He was puzzled by the Imo’s thin crust pizza, unlike anything he’d seen before. He later became a huge Imo’s fan and actually worked at an Imo’s briefly.

In the mid 90s, I took several Imo’s pizzas to country music star Vince Gill before he was to perform at Six Flags. He was immensely grateful. Vince is a notorious Imo’s fan who never fails to give an onstage shoutout to Imo’s anytime he plays here.

Just a few years ago when I was hosting mornings on KLOU radio, my teammates and I had a quick on-air chat about our favorite pizzas then moved on to the next element of the show. Suddenly the phones went wild as listeners wanted to chime in on their favorite pizzas. It reminded me that people are passionate about pizza.

(photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oxborrow/2920481239, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

2014 Faves

Here are a few of my favorite foods I enjoyed during 2014.

Family circumstances prevented my wife and me from having a large number of dining out opportunities, but I did enjoy some good grub during 2014. Warning: This is not a haute cuisine, fine dining list.

Some of my highlights:

1. My wife’s Shrimp and Grits. A preparation she picked up during her tenure at Dierberg’s School of Cooking.


BBLT

2. The BBL & T (above) at the new Rooster on South Grand. Two B’s indicating a double dose of bacon. Also their sweet house-made ketchup for my fries was a treat. Speaking of fries…

 

Sweet Potato Fries

3. Sweet Potato Fries (above) at Saw’s Juke Joint in Birmingham. I like the ones at 5 Star Burgers here in town, but the ones at Saw’s are bigger and very tasty.

 

Bacon Maple

4. Bacon Maple Doughnut (above) from the Ex-Cop Doughnut Shop (on Telegraph Road), sampled at the Baconfest downtown on a rainy August Saturday.

 

Torta

5. Choro Huevo Torta (above) at Mission Taco on Delmar. Chorizo, egg, cheese, beans on a nice piece of bread.

6. Sushi from Drunken Fish at Ballpark Village. I’m not a sushi expert but everything from Drunken Fish I sampled at a media event at BPV in June was delicious.

7. Pulled Piggy Pizza at PW Pizza. Tasty pizza made better because my grandkids were with me!

8. Crabcake sandwich at The Crossing (a client). With a wonderful pesto sauce.

9. Barbecue. Pulled pork from Super Smokers and ribs from the SLOBS competition teams. (I worked with Terry Black at Super Smokers during 2014 and became reacquainted with his consistently good product. I also worked with the Tom Coghill and Bill Kunz and the SLOBS group and sampled many beautifully smoked ribs.) Additionally, I really liked the ribs from The Precinct downtown and dug the pulled pork from Hendrick’s BBQ in St. Charles and Highway 61 Roadhouse in Webster.

 

Waffle

10. Waffle (above) from the Waffle House in Fultondale, Alabama. Perfectly cooked, promptly served and just what I wanted that morning.

 

Bobby Flay Turkey Day Special Saturday

Flay crew

One of TV’s most popular chefs, Bobby Flay, hosts Thanksgiving At Bobby’s which premieres on Saturday, November 22, 11:00 a.m. on Food Network. Flay and his guests will create a Thanksgiving feast and share recipes and useful tips.
Flay Turkey

Flay will prepare Roasted Turkey with Mustard Maple Glaze (pictured). Co-host Katie Lee will serve up her grandmother’s Cornbread Stuffing with Herb Butter. Guest Sunny Anderson’s Sage and Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole is an ode to her mother’s sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows.

Choco Pumpkin pie

Alex Guarnaschelli brings Broiled Cauliflower Steaks with Parsley and Lemon. Michael Symon shares his Chocolate Pumpkin Pie (pictured). Other dishes on the menu include Holiday Sangria, Mashed Potatoes with Buttermilk, Black Pepper and Green Onion, along with Katie’s take on a classic Deviled Eggs appetizer.

Following Saturday’s premiere, Thanksgiving At Bobby’s may also be seen on Food Network Sunday (11/23) at 1:00 p.m., Monday (11/24) at 3:00 p.m. and Wednesday (11/26) at noon.

For more information about the show, including recipes for all the featured dishes, click HERE.