Saucy Soiree 2014

Sunday’s annual Sauce magazine Saucy Soiree was held this year at Union Station. The new venue provided more breathing room and more natural light.

Soiree crowd

Among the many food and drink offerings, my favorite was the pork belly from Cleveland-Heath (with watermelon, jalapeño and mint leaf), shown below.

Pork Belly

The Seoul Taco crew served a spicy pork taco.

Taco

Strange Donuts had chocolate cake donuts with chocolate icing and strawberries.

Strange donut

And The Sweet Divine brought these nicely-decorated cupcakes.

Sweet Divine cupcakes

The food and drink were pretty darn fantastic, but it was also fun to see old friends and acquaintances and have a moment (sometimes fleeting) to say hello and chat.

Among those folks were Joy Grdnic (pictured below with an Urban Chestnut friend), Cory King, Paul and Wendy Hamilton, Karen Klaus, Tony DaGuida, Tim Eby, Marianne and Jim Moore (pictured below with Mike Emerson), Kevin Willman, Arlene Brown, Marc Del Pietro, Brian Doherty, Catherine Klene, Allyson Mace and Mike Craig.

Joy with UC guyJim, Marianne, Mike

Thanks to all who put the event together. Good times!

QuikTrip Intros QT Kitchens in St. Louis

QuikTrip gas stations have always had good grab-and-go sandwiches and beverages. Now they are officially rolling out their QT Kitchens with fresh made-to-order food and specialty drinks in several St. Louis locations.

Kitchens signage

The QT Kitchens offer fresh-made food from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. The newest of the 31 QT’s in St. Louis with QT Kitchens is the one at 9404 Page Avenue in Overland, QuikTrip’s 700th store, which opens tomorrow (Thursday, June 26).

Kitchen crew at counter

Opening day festivities begin with a ribbon cutting at 7:00 a.m. Special appearances Thursday include a Budweiser Clydesdale from 10:00 a.m. to noon, Fredbird from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Rams cheerleaders from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

On Thursday evening (June 26) from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m, ALL metro St. Louis QuikTrip locations will offer one free Big Q drink to customers who stop in.

QT Touch Screen

The QT Kitchens feature touch screens which allow you to order breakfast sandwiches, kolaches, flatbreads, personal pizzas, pretzels, specialty coffee drinks, smoothies, frozen lemonade and other frozen treats (including milk shakes). When you finish ordering, take your printed ticket to the main counter to pay while your food is being prepared for pickup.

Bacon egg cheeseKolache

I attended a preview event this morning and sampled the Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich and the Sausage Kolache (whose bread wrapping has a slight sweetness). Both were good, as was the Chicken, Bacon and Ranch Flatbread. (I also enjoyed my large Mocha coffee drink.)

QT pizza

The Personal Pizza choices include Pepperoni, Cheese, Supreme or Build-Your-Own. They’re right at 8 inches in diameter.

QT Pretzel

Along with the classic Soft Pretzel, QT Kitchens have a Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel (with sugary icing) and a Parmesan Pretzel.

Lady orderingIt’s good to see a place where you stop in mainly for gas, snacks, soda and beer step up their game to provide something above and beyond the norm. QT will be retrofitting more of their St. Louis locations between now and year’s end to include QT Kitchens.

(I know a few people who might like to see some locations keep their QT Kitchens open later on Friday and Saturday nights.)

The newest St. Louis area QuikTrip—a bigger “generation 3″ QT store—is located one-half mile west of the Inner Belt (I-170) on the southwest corner of Page and Woodson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Ready For Some Futbol?

The 2014 World Cup kicks off tomorrow (Thursday, June 12) at 3:00 p.m. STL time with host country Brazil facing Croatia.

Tucanos image

Tucanos Brazilian Grill in St. Charles and the St. Louis Ambush are hosting a watch party tomorrow from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The game will be shown on a large projection screen TV and several Ambush players will be on hand to meet and greet soccer fans.

Tucanos will offer an assortment of Brazilian appetizers at half-price, including coxinhas (click HERE for Wikipedia entry on coxinhas) and Brazilian nachos.

An assortment of non-alcoholic Brazilian drinks will be available and, of course, there will be beer!

Tucanos is located at 1520 South 5th Street in St. Charles, just off I-70.

Fifa

 

 

 

The Precinct

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit during lunchtime and sample some of the food at The Precinct in midtown St. Louis (1900 Locust). The Precinct is also open for dinner and post-game eating and drinking. (Until 1:00 a.m. Monday thru Thursday nights and until 3:00 a.m. on Friday thru Sunday nights.)

Not only will you find several great menu choices, you might also run into former St. Louis Cardinal (and Precinct partner) Jim Edmonds!

Edmonds

My tasting included ribs that were perfectly smoked and not sauced (which is my preference).

Ribs Precinct

The Precinct’s BBQ “Carolina” Steak Burger is a beef brisket sandwich served with coleslaw. Delicious!

Precinct brisket

A spicy selection at The Precinct is the Southwest Steak Burger, made with chorizo, a fried egg, avocado, candied jalapeños and a sriracha aioli. Not something I’d want to eat everyday, but it delivers an interesting combo of flavors to be enjoyed on occasion.

SW Steakburger

The Precinct also has Flatbreads, including the Italian, shown below.

Precinct Flatbread

The dining room at The Precinct is spacious.

Precinct roomThe bar is inviting and well-stocked.

Precinct bar

And, as mentioned, you might run into Jim Edmonds. I caught Jim and Tim McKernan (and producer) during a break in their radio broadcast from The Precinct.

Jim and Tim

Click HERE to get a printable version of The Precinct menu, which includes The Precinct’s famous (infamous?) Hot Pursuit Challenge. That’s a plateful chicken wings with a powerfully hot sauce. The menu notes that anyone taking the challenge should “be prepared to sign a waiver.”

One more food note: If you’ve seen the new movie Chef and have been craving a Cuban sandwich, The Precinct menu has one that includes “cilantro pesto.” (Newly added to my “must try” list.)

The Precinct is a quick ride from the downtown business district, not far from Wells Fargo HQ and SLU, and generally has a good number of on-street parking spots available nearby.

Click HERE to go to The Precinct’s homepage.

 

 

J. Gilbert’s—Worth Finding

J. Gilbert’s at West County Mall in Des Peres is in the area that was remodeled about 6 years ago to give a handful of mall tenants an outside entrance. (At the northwest corner of the mall.)

Two other restaurants have the prime spots that are visible from the roadway around the mall. J. Gilbert’s entrance is tucked just beyond one of the other eateries. You CAN miss it. But don’t.

At a tasting last week at J. Gilbert’s, I had the opportunity to sample some of their good food. First up was Ahi Tuna Tartare, garnished with avacado, mango and pineapple, served on a crisp wonton. A wonderful flavor combo to begin the repast.

JG Scallop

My favorite of the 3 savory dishes was the Seared Georges Bank Sea Scallops with lobster risotto. Great taste, beautiful presentation!

JG Filet

The Filet Au Gratin with asparagus was also pretty terrific. (As were each of the wines chosen to accompany our samples.) We finished with a bit of New York Cheesecake.

JG Bar

During my visit, quite a while before peak dinner time, the bar at J. Gilbert’s was beginning to get some traffic. And the large, dark dining room (which is available for private events) was slowly beginning to fill up.

JG Dining Room

While most of the word-of-mouth I’ve heard, most of the online reviews I’ve read and the images on the restaurant’s HOME PAGE all focus on steaks, the full name is J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks and Seafood. Click HERE to see their dinner menu which includes salmon and crab cakes. (Although I’m aiming for a KC Strip on my next visit.)

If you want to make a reservation OR if you’re wandering around the mall and can’t quite locate J. Gilbert’s, here’s the number: 314-965-4600.

(Final note: In case you were wondering, as I was, Georges Bank—the scallops’ provenance—is an area of the Atlantic between Cape Cod and Nova Scotia.)

Chef (movie review)

Chef is a film that fills me with joy. The food is gorgeous, the music is superb, the characters are (mostly) likeable and this redemption story is neatly presented. This movie is a good time.

Jon Favreau is the cinematic chef for this delicious entrée. He wrote it. He directed it. And he stars as chef Carl Casper, a man with a passion for cooking.

In Chef, the Los Angeles restaurant where Carl cooks is about to get a visit from noted food blogger Ramsay Michel (Oliver Platt). Carl is ready to prepare a creative menu when the restaurant’s owner (Dustin Hoffman) intercedes and orders Carl to cook the same menu the restaurant has featured (successfully) for a decade.

When Michel rips Carl for serving the same old same old, Carl is upset. When he sees that Michel’s slam has been shared on Twitter, he replies obscenely, not knowing how Twitter works. (In real life Favreau is a Twitter master with 1.71 million followers.)

Carl asks for a re-do and invites Michel to come back and let him cook what he wanted to cook in the first place. The owner steps in again and says no, causing Carl to walk out. But he walks back in during dinner service, and launches into a dining room tirade against the critic that is captured on iPhones and shared across the internet.

Any creative person who’s every wanted to rip into a critic for knocking their work, but had the self-control to resist, can appreciate watching Carl rage out of control.

With his career wrecked after this fit of anger, his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) invites him to join her and their son Percy (Emjay Anthony) in Miami. Shortly after arriving, Carl visits Inez’ previous ex-husband Marvin (Robert Downey Jr.) who gifts Carl with a commercial van that he converts into a food truck.

With an assist from his LA kitchen staffer Martin (John Leguizamo) he equips the truck and begins selling Cuban sandwiches on South Beach. Along with Percy, they take the truck to acknowledged food meccas New Orleans and Austin, before coming home to LA and a storybook ending.

Scarlett Johansson appears as the LA restaurant’s hostess and Carl’s girlfriend. Russell Peters has a funny turn as a Miami cop who wants to take selfies galore with Carl and his food truck crew.

For foodies and those in the food and beverage industry, Chef is a “must see.” Favreau shows great respect for those who cook in Chef. He captures the passion that the best chefs (and kitchen staffs) bring to work every day and night. Impressively, he has good knife skills. That’s no stunt double chopping carrots.

Chef gets a special commendation, too, for getting social media right. Twitter helped bring about Carl Casper’s downfall. And, as anyone who owns a food truck will confirm, Twitter is a valuable tool for telling people where you’ll be parked and serving next. Young Percy is the chef’s social media guru whose Twitter savvy brings crowds to the truck’s windows as soon as they open. Twitter giveth and Twitter taketh away, as Chef clearly shows.

I promise that if you see Chef on an empty stomach, you’ll leave hungry. And I bet you will also walk out happy. Chef is a tasty treat. Savor it!

 

 

FREE Beer???

cbc sign

Regulations prohibit Ryan and Brandon Nickelson (pictured below), owners of the new Craft Beer Cellar in Clayton, from saying that they are giving away free beer.

Ryan and Brandon

However, they will be giving away a free gift to their first 1,000 customers who make a purchase when they open to the public on Saturday, May 17, at 10:00 a.m. And, if those gifts are like the ones handed out to those who attended a preview event this week—and the rumor is they will be—each gift will include a six-pack of various beers.

photo-271

The store, located at 8113 Maryland Avenue in Clayton, offers a huge variety of craft beers. St. Louis beers—Schlafly, 4 Hands, Six Row, Urban Chestnut, etc.—are represented prominently. Among the other beers at the Craft Beer Cellar are these pictured below.

photo-272photo-274photo-273photo-275

A couple of brands you won’t find at the Craft Beer Cellar are Goose Island and Blue Moon. While Brandon and Ryan don’t mean any disrespect to those beers, they don’t fit the definition of “craft” beer that they go by. (In fact, you won’t find any A-B or MillerCoors beers in the store.)

But it’s not likely that you’ll walk out without finding a beer, or several, to take home. As mentioned, the choices are immense. And, along with Ryan and Brandon, their team is well-informed and enthusiastic about craft beer. If you ask for guidance or a recommendation, you’ll get it.

photo-276

If you, like my friend Cindy Collins of KLOU radio (pictured above), enjoy craft beer, you may want to check out the Craft Beer Cellar. And do it Saturday. You just might get some free beer!

Click HERE to visit their Facebook page.

More Movies About Food Coming!

The new trailer for the upcoming film The Hundred-Foot Journey has just been released today. It stars Helen Mirren as the owner of a fine dining restaurant in the French countryside.

All is going well until an Indian family opens a competing restaurant right across the street. Click to watch.

Scheduled release date for The Hundred-Foot Journey is August 8.

Meanwhile, the new Jon Favreau film Chef opened last Friday in NY and LA. It is set to open in St. Louis on Friday, May 23. Click to watch the trailer for Chef.

The LA Times gave Chef a positive review. Click HERE to read it.

Boiled Peanut Hummus at Saw’s

My family always parched peanuts at our house. When I moved back to the South in the mid-80′s, I became aware of boiled peanuts.

Near my radio station on Jacksonville, Florida’s west side was a tacky-looking roadside stand that sold boiled peanuts. When we vacationed in the Smoky Mountains we saw boiled peanut stands in several spots in North Carolina.

I finally tried them and did not like ‘em. Why would someone boil peanuts and make ‘em mushy? I always liked my peanuts crunchy.

Boiled Peanut Hummus

Last weekend, on Easter eve, a friend and I stopped at Saw’s Juke Joint in Birmingham where they offered Boiled Peanut Hummus (pictured above). It was delicious! (Yes, those are bacon bits on top of the hummus.)

The peanut flavor was perfect and went great with both stout and saison craft brews. (It might’ve been a better idea to have offered pita bread or toast points—something less flavorful and salty than potato chips—on which to spread the hummus.)

We also enjoyed Saw’s Sweet Potato Fries which were among the best I’ve ever had. They are big.

Sweet Potato Fries

Of course, this is a BBQ joint, so on my next visit, I’ll be tasting some of their ‘cue. Maybe the Chicken Stuffed Tater (a baked potato with green onions, bacon, chicken and BBQ sauce). The guy sitting next to us at the bar was digging into one and it was huge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaldi’s Coffee Dinner at the Ritz

Many restaurants have spectacular wine dinners. Some offer intriguing beer dinners. We’ve even seen the occasional whiskey dinner recently. Now, here comes a Spring Coffee Dinner at the Ritz-Carlton on Saturday, May 17.

Ritz

The meal will feature Kaldi’s coffees in each course. Menu items include coffee-glazed pork belly, coffee-rubbed beef tenderloin, halibut sauced with coffee beurre blanc and coffee créme brulée. Click HERE for the complete menu.

Kaldi

Paired coffee cocktails and Urban Chestnut beers will accompany the meal.

Cost is $150/person plus tax and tip. A portion of the evening’s proceeds will go to the Ronald McDonald House. For reservations, call the Ritz at 314-719-1433.

The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis is located at 100 Carondelet Plaza in Clayton.