“The Sexiest Pie Scene Ever In A Movie”

That description of the pie making scene in the new movie Labor Day comes from Joyce Maynard. She wrote the novel that the movie is based on. So she is not exactly an unbiased commenter.

Pie scene

Still, most reviewers, whether they like film or not, have mentioned the scene in which Josh Brolin’s character connects with Kate Winslet’s character by making a peach pie. The scene has been compared to the pottery wheel scene in Ghost, which resonated with many moviegoers.

A big difference is that Ghost was a better movie than Labor Day. Another difference is there’s also a kid involved in the pie making.

Click HERE to read my review of Labor Day. (For me, it feels like a Lifetime/Hallmark movie with upgraded acting.)

peach basket

Labor Day raises two food-related questions for me: Who puts brewed coffee in their chili recipe? (Brolin’s character does in Labor Day.) And, when will this year’s first peaches be ready at Eckert’s?


Super Bowl—Guacamole Time!

In the 90’s and early ’00’s, my wife and I enjoyed many meals at the former Casa Grill in the St. Louis Galleria. (That mall space is now occupied by Urban Outfitters.)

One of the things we liked was the way they made their guacamole at your table. That way we knew it was fresh. They prepared it in a stone bowl, like the one in this pic. It was a bit of a chore for the server, so we always tipped generously.

Guac Pic

In 2002, a few days before the Spygate-tainted Super Bowl XXXVI, I visited Casa Grill and talked to chef Fernando about guacamole preparation.

The next day, my morning radio show partners and I (on WIL) shared his guacamole guidance with listeners. We then dialed up my wife to get her guacamole tips. We called her live, right in the middle of her morning trek on the treadmill.

Click on the arrow to listen to the segment. If you’re making guacamole Sunday, you’ll get some useful input! It runs 3:27.

On Super Bowl Sunday 2002, my wife’s guacamole was delicious! But the game (Patriots 20, Rams 17) left a horrible taste in my mouth.

Busch Heroes: Here’s To Earning It!

Busch Beer has launched a new campaign to salute the working man and woman. It’s called Busch Heroes. The campaign focuses on 8 real people chosen from across the U.S. They were introduced last week at the A-B Brewery in St. Louis.

Busch Heroes pic

(One of the Heroes was called back to his job in Houston, which is why there are only 7 Heroes in the photo.)

I spoke to Busch Hero Damian Sharbowski of Troy, Michigan about how he found out that Busch wanted him as one of its Heroes. Click below to hear his response. (Runs 3:25)

Damian Sharbowski picI spoke to the lone woman among the group, Jackie Gabelein of Langley, Washington about the work she does. Click link to hear her response. (Runs 3:17)

Jackie GabeleinNate Scudieri, Brand Director for A-B’s Value Brands, talked about the Busch Heroes campaign and the selection process for the 2014 group. Click below to hear his remarks. (Runs 3:00)

Busch bottle pic

Here’s To Earning It is the slogan of the campaign.

Below are several videos from the campaign, including mini-documentaries about 4 of the Heroes:

Busch Beer is looking for candidates for the 2015 Busch Heroes group. For info, click HERE to go to their Facebook page.

Shop Like A Chef—Get This Book!

Clara Moore and Matt Sorrell (pictured below) have delivered an excellent book with great information about where to buy food in metro St. Louis. As a contributor to their Kickstarter fund which helped get the book published, I am happy to report that the book has tons of useful content.

Shop Like A Chef: A Food Lover’s Guide To St. Louis Neighborhoods assembles retail food sources first by neighborhood, then (in greater detail) by the food they offer.

Clara and Matt

And it includes recipes!  They include a variety of dishes ranging from gumbo to asparagus Milanese to Mexican wedding cookies to Sopska salata to buttermilk fried chicken to roasted eggplant “meatloaf.”

The book gives suburbanites who rarely enter St. Louis city (except for Cardinals games) numerous ideas for places to score food items not carried by the major chains. Or, if the items are available at chain grocers, the smaller shops may offer fresher versions or ethnic variations.

Likewise, for those city dwellers who have heard of places like Ballwin but never ventured there, SLAC:AFLGTSLN mentions stores like The Smokehouse Market (Chesterfield), Jalisco Market (Overland) and Piccolino’s (Ferguson).

SLAC cover

Shop Like A Chef can help you plan for entertaining whether it’s a gourmet dinner or a sports-watching party. By suggesting new possibilities or rekindling a memory of something you read about in Bon Appetit ten years ago, SLAC:AFLGTSLN is a good resource for people who like to eat and especially for those who like to cook.

Like a huge plate of baba ghanoush (recipe on page 175), Shop Like A Chef can be savored in small bites or gobbled up in one sitting. If you love shopping for food and then preparing that food, get this book. And use it.

List price is 15.95. Click HERE for a list of bookstores and grocery stores that carry Shop Like A Chef. It is also available from Amazon.

Would You Be Able To Make A Donation???

A few weeks back my wife wanted a steak. I suggested [restaurant X]. We had gone there 10 years ago and it was great. She said no.

Since that visit she had called them, soliciting a donation for a charity event. They indicated they would love to help and kept telling her to “check back next week,” again and again. After being put off several times, she concluded there would be no donation.

In St. Louis, trivia night season is heating up. Charity golf tournaments and walks/runs are being organized. Gala committees are being chosen. And bars and restaurants are being hit on mercilessly for donations. What to do?

Based on my experience as both a donation solicitor for various organizations and as a PR rep for restaurants, here are some suggestions regarding charity donations.

For restaurant and bar owners:

  1. Give if you can. Giving back to the community that supports you is a good thing to do.
  2. Be selective. You can’t give a gift certificate to everyone who asks. You may have to turn down friends, family, neighbors, vendors etc. If you cannot make a donation, say clearly, “No, we’re sorry.”
  3. Be aware that your donation may end up on a silent auction sheet in a far corner or maybe paired with a competitor’s donation in a gift basket.
  4. Consider making a donation that requires the user to spend at least a little bit of money at your place. If dinner + drinks for 2 runs 80 bucks, you might give a 40 dollar gift card.
  5. If you donate to a church/school/charity, it’s likely that this group will expect you to make the same donation next year.
  6. Your donation to a charity event is not a good form of advertising, even if you get a half page ad in the auction booklet.
  7. If your donation is particularly generous, you may want to specify that it may not be redeemed on Fridays or Saturdays.
  8. If you are unfamiliar with the organization, ask the person asking for a donation to send all the details in an email.

For solicitors:

  1. Don’t be shy. Call and ask. Be nice.
  2. If you receive a 25 dollar gift card, don’t say, “Is that all you can give?” Restaurants may not be as prosperous as you think. Many have a much smaller annual budget than your charity/school/church and the restaurant owner may be taking home much less money each week than your executive director/headmaster/senior pastor/etc.
  3. If your organization is given 200 dollars worth of certificates and you misplace them, don’t call the restaurant and ask them to replace them. (A certain local organization actually did that.)
  4. If a restaurant says, “Yes, we can help,” make an effort to pick up the donation in person as soon as possible. Unless they offer, don’t say, “Can you just mail it to me?”
  5. Realize that just because a restaurant owner gave your group a chef’s dinner for 4 last year, this does not mean that he or she can or will do it again this year.
  6. Don’t solicit a generous gift card contribution for your golf tournament from an independent liquor retailer and then go buy all your beer from a grocery chain. (A certain local organization actually did that.)
  7. Be patient. Soliciting donations can take a while. Don’t call during busy service times. Ask for the best time to speak to the decision maker and follow up at that time.
  8. Don’t take it personally if the restaurant does not make a donation. They don’t owe anything to you or your organization. Be gracious. They may be able to help next time.
  9. Most importantly, remember to thank your donors for their gifts, large or small. Without their help, your event would be less successful.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant

Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant is new in West County at Town and Country Crossing. That’s the center on Clayton Road, just west of 141, that has Whole Foods.

CH entrance

Yes, it’s a winery. No, they don’t make wine in West County, but they sell it. In fact, the first thing you see when you walk in is their wine store.

CH Store

The wines Cooper’s Hawk sells in the store are made at their winery in suburban Chicago. (Grapes are sourced from all over.) But, first let’s go inside the restaurant.

CH Dining AreaDecor is modern, with wood, stone and lots of earth tones. It’s bright in the daytime, thanks to windows all around. I like the way they use the wine bottles as part of their room divider.

photo-238Cooper’s Hawk has a beautiful bar (shown below) which offers a decent selection of beer and cocktails, as well as wine.


I enjoyed a glass of Lux Meritage Red from their wine menu.

Wine glass

From the Beef and Pork portion of the dining menu, I had the New York Strip (shown below) with Betty’s Potatoes and mixed veggies. (Sorry, but I cut off a bite of the steak before I snapped the pic. Hungry!)

CH steak

Cooper’s Hawk also has a Winemaker’s Barrel Reserve red wine that skips the bottle and goes straight from the barrel (shown below) to your glass.

CH barrel

As you leave, you pass through the store again. If you enjoyed the bottle of wine you had with lunch or dinner, you can buy a bottle or three of that very wine to take home with you—at a lower price than you paid in the restaurant.

Cooper’s Hawk in Town and County is, by my count, their 13th winery/restaurant. It’s a clever concept, in a beautiful space. And it adds to the ever growing list of better restaurants in the county. Click HERE to go to the Cooper’s Hawk website.