WING DING 2014—Thursday Night!

Eat wings, drink beer, support a worthy cause—all for just 20 bucks!

The 2014 UCP Heartland Wing Ding is set for Thursday, August 21, 6:00 p.m., in the Greensfelder Building at Queeny Park. (The event is inside and air-conditioned.)

Joe Buck Wings

Your $20 advance ticket allows you to sample chicken wings from over 20 area restaurants. It also includes 2 drink tickets. Purchase advance tickets HERE, before 2:00 p.m. on 8/20 and pick them up at the event.

You may also purchase advance VIP tickets for $45. (Tickets will also be available at the door for $25 and $50.)

An important thing to know is these restaurants are bringing their best. This is a competition!

WD crowd

Participating restaurants include Sugarfire Smokehouse, The Salted Pig, Bogart’s, Twin Oak Pizza and BBQ, Fallon’s, J. Greene’s, Joe Buck’s, Gator’s South, Highway 61 Roadhouse, Hotshot’s, Milagro, Gobble Stop and many more.

I am flattered to have been asked to judge again this year, along with a stunning list of local media personalities. Categories are Best Traditional Wing (sauced), Best Specialty Wing (sauced), Best Dry Rubbed Wing (unsauced), Judges’ Overall Favorite and Hottest Wing. (I excused myself from the Hottest Wing category.)

 

WD judge

The United Cerebral Palsy Heartland team puts on a great event with lots of food and drink for a modest admission fee. Bring a bunch of friends and family and enjoy these great wings!

BTW, this is a family-friendly event. Bring everybody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foodie Movie: The Hundred-Foot Journey

 

The Hundred-Foot Journey has excellent credentials. Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg are among the film’s producers. The great Helen Mirren is the main star. The film is set in France. It’s based on a popular novel. It promises and delivers gorgeous food images.

But it’s not a particularly good movie.

The Kadam family is forced to leave India. Their ultimate destination is France. They take over a building directly across the street from a Michelin-starred restaurant owned by Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren). The Indians, led by Papa (Om Puri), are boisterous in sharp contrast to Mallory and her refined crew. They are just 100 feet away. (And I’d always thought France was on the metric system!)

One of Mallory’s cooks, the gorgeous Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), befriends young Hassan Kadam (Manish Dayal), sharing cookbooks with him and encouraging him to elevate his ambitions. He gets hired by Mallory, passes Marguerite on the kitchen pecking order and, thanks to his spicing up the food just a bit, brings the restaurant up a notch to two Michelin stars.

He then moves on the to big leagues, nabbing a chef gig in Paris. He leads an active social lifestyle, but begins to miss the folks back home.

Why does The Hundred-Foot Journey fall short of greatness? The characters are not particularly compelling. It’s pleasant to watch Hassan and Marguerite’s chaste budding romance, but I wasn’t particularly concerned about their ultimate fates. Meanwhile, it’s not a surprise when Papa and Mallory are shown to have soft spots in their hearts despite their tough exterior personalities. Still, I did not have a soft spot in my own heart for either of them.

Despite my misgivings, here’s why you may want to see The Hundred Foot Journey: It’s rated PG. No language, sex or violence. It’s like a Hallmark Channel movie with a bigger budget. Also, the food looks great. (Although this year’s other foodie movie, Chef, caused me to leave the theater hungrier than THFJ did.)

The film’s message—that different cultures (and cuisines) can combine to deliver great outcomes—is an admirable one. It’s also one that can be observed in dining establishments and other businesses around St. Louis every day.

Ivy In Charge

Ivy In Charge

Veteran St. Louis chef Ivy Magruder has taken control of the kitchen at Panorama, the restaurant that opened last summer in the St. Louis Art Museum.

Panorama pic

A new summer menu has just been announced which includes, among other items:

Fresh Summer Pea Soup
pistachio gremolata, crème fraîche, shoots

Summer Kale Salad
avocado, strawberries, toasted almonds and
lemon-chia seed vinaigrette

Pan Seared Golden Scallops
creamy-pea-basil risotto, sherry gastrique

Basque Chicken
summer bell peppers, artichoke hearts, fresh basil,
tomatoes, grilled crusty French bread

Grilled Beef Tenderloin
onion ring, Foyot sauce, summer-tomatoes,
spinach, roasted fingerling potato

Ivy on TV

Panorama is also kicking off a monthly dinner series on Wednesday, August 27. For each dinner Panorama will partner with a local winery or brewery. The first event will feature a prix fixe menu of items paired with Schlafly beers. Cost is $75 (which includes tax and gratuity). Call 314-655-5490 for reservations.

Panorama is open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and for dinner on Fridays, 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sunday brunch is offered 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Click HERE to go to Panorama’s website.

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!