Pearl’s Oyster Bar at Ameristar

St. Louis area seafood fans, put Pearl’s Oyster Bar on your list! Located at Ameristar Casino in St. Charles.

Ameristar has added a new executive chef for the St. Charles casino and has just introduced a new menu at Pearl’s. A recent tasting event featured several items with a distinctive New Orleans influence, including Shrimp and Grits, shown below.

photo (2)Atlantic Grouper is available at Pearl’s, grilled or blackened, as shown below.

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The new executive chef for Ameristar St. Charles is Chicago native Don Yamauchi who was on hand during my recent visit to Pearl’s Oyster Bar.

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Yamauchi’s honors include having been listed by Food & Wine magazine as one of the “Top Ten New Chefs in America” and being named one of the “Top Five Rising Chefs in America” by the James Beard Foundation.

Pearl’s Oyster Bar offers cornmeal crusted fried oysters in a po’ boy sandwich and as an appetizer. And, of course, they have raw oysters.

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Among my favorite items at Pearl’s were the Lobster Rolls and the Shrimp Po’ Boys, seen below.

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Add Hush Puppies, with remoulade sauce…

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And a bowl of Gumbo…

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And finish up with Key Lime Pie that has a perfect blend of sweet and tart.

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If you’re up for a cocktail, Pearl’s has a cocktail menu that includes concoctions called “Cajun Lemonade,” “Sweet Mother of Pearl,” “Blazing Cyclone” and “Who Dat.” (I’m more of a beer guy—and they have a good variety of beers available.)

The food choices at Pearl’s also include a Filet Mignon Po’ Boy, Live Maine Lobster, New England Clam Chowder and that New Orleans favorite Red Beans and Rice.

Pearl’s Oyster Bar is open Fridays and Saturdays, 5:00 p.m. to midnight and Sundays, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Click HERE for more info.

For info about Ameristar Casino Resort Spa St. Charles, click HERE.



Gnocchi at The Dark Room

The Dark Room on Grand Boulevard in St. Louis has a new chef, Samantha Pretto, who joined recently from the Scottish Arms. One big way she’s put her stamp on the menu is with a weekly gnocchi program featuring fresh house made gnocchi with a variety of ingredients.

She hand rolls and hand cuts the thick, soft dough dumplings, mixing in featured ingredients. The 1″-2″ gnocchi pieces are pan-seared to the desired texture.

White Gnocchi

Among the ingredients she adds to her gnocchi are sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, spinach, and roasted red pepper. Chef Pretto (pictured below) then adds various butters, wine sauces and creams, topping it all with seasonal vegetables, artisan cheese and local greens.

Samantha Pretto

Dark Room wine and gnocchi

Along with gnocchi, The Dark Room’s food choices include appetizers (featuring charcuterie and cheeses) and an assortment of flatbreads. Also: Catalan meatballs, vegetable curry and desserts. To see The Dark Room’s menu, click HERE and scroll down through their extensive wine list. (The proper billing for the place is The Dark Room Wine Bar and Photo Gallery.)

The Dark Room is located at 615 North Grand Boulevard, between the Fox Theatre and Powell Hall. Call 314-531-3416.

Social links: Twitter: @TheDarkRoomSTL

Instagram: @TheDarkRoomSTL





Cooked comes to Netflix

Cooked, a four-part documentary TV series based on Michael Pollan’s 2013 book, is coming to Netflix. All episodes will be available for streaming on Friday, February 19. Here’s a preview:

Click HERE to read my review of Pollan’s Cooked book. (“In Cooked, Pollan suggests that cooking was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, boon to human civilization.”)

(Thanks to Mike Emerson for sharing this info about the show on Facebook.)

Newsy Notes of Interest

Companion Baking has opened its new café in the Westport area. The location is 2331 Schuetz Road in Maryland Heights. Hours are Monday through Friday, 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.


The new restaurant Boundary is set to open February 8 at The Cheshire. It replaces the Restaurant at the Cheshire. Click HERE for more. The name is inspired by the Cheshire’s location on Clayton Road which straddles the city/county boundary.

A fast-casual Mexican restaurant will open in Clayton in spring. Located at 7810 Forsyth in a former Quizno’s space, Wet Burrito comes from the folks at Rock Hill’s landmark Hacienda. Wet Burrito will cater to the Clayton lunch crowd and promises “to serve virtually every customer from start to finish in less than three minutes.”


Mardi Gras at the Biergarten

The Anheuser-Busch Biergarten is hosting a buffet breakfast on Saturday morning, February 6, 8:00 a.m. to noon, before the Soulard Mardi Gras parade.

After the parade, the Biergarten will have live music from North Of The Quarter, performing from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.


During the Bud Light Grand Parade, which begins at 11:00 a.m., the A-B Tour Center will have its trolley (with a beer/burgers/baseball theme) in the parade.

The Biergarten will be serving $2 Bud Lights, Bloody Marys and Bud Light Mixxtails Hurricanes on Saturday. A special Mardi Gras themed menu is being offer through Tuesday, February 9, at the Biergarten featuring New Orleans style dishes such as Jambalaya, Apple Beignets and Shrimp Po’Boys.

The Biergarten is located at 1200 Lynch Street in St. Louis. If you’re going to visit on Saturday, February 6, your best bet for access is the Pestalozzi bridge over I-44.

What’s New at BPV?

New grub at Budweiser Brew House at Ballpark Village!

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Among the new menu items recently added…

California Crab Roll Stack: Jumbo lump crabmeat stacked on cucumbers, avocado and sushi rice tossed in a wasabi aioli and drizzled with soy syrup, served with crispy wonton chips.

Hawaiian Grilled Pork Steak: A 20-oz. pork steak served with grilled pineapple, sushi rice, soy syrup and a soy scallion sauce on the side.

BBQ Brisket Burger: Brisket, Budweiser BBQ sauce, American and white cheddar cheese.

Jerk Chicken Tacos: Three Jamaican spiced chicken tacos topped with a charred pineapple pico de gallo stuffed into a flour tortilla.

Kettle Cooked Country Ribs: Crisped boneless ribs tossed in a dry rib rub, drizzled with Budweiser BBQ sauce, topped with crispy buttermilk onion strings, served with coleslaw and extra BBQ sauce.

Smashed Avocado Dip: A warm bowl of queso, assembled with fresh avocados, pico de gallo, lime aioli and cotija cheese, served with crispy tortilla strips.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 6.23.27 PMThe Budweiser Brew House opens each day at 11:00 a.m. Scheduled close times are 12:00 midnight Monday-Thursday, 1:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and 10:00 p.m. on Sundays.

For more info, click HERE.

Rockin’ At The Biergarten

The A-B Biergarten is hosting Bud Light Happy Hours on the next few Thursday evenings, 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., with Bud Light drafts and bottles for $2. Plus discount deals on appetizers.

And… live music! Here’s the lineup:

January  14 – Copper Creek Duo
January 21 – The UltraViolets
January 28 – Pure Nectar
February 4- Javier Mendoza
February 11- McCready & Co.


This is a warm weather pic. In the winter, there’s a roof over the Biergarten.

The Biergarten is located at the Anheuser-Busch Brewery on the northeast corner of the campus, with free parking. Enter at 12th and Lynch.

David with Clydesdale

I can’t guarantee you’ll get to meet a Clydesdale (like I did at an event there last summer), but you never know…

16 Thoughts For Sweet ’16

  1. Sorry, but I don’t get excited about ramen.
  2. Since many recent openings in St. Louis have been either pizza or barbecue joints, please note you can combine the two with the Pulled Piggy Pizza from PW Pizza. It is delicious. (Pictured with slaw atop the pulled pork and sauce.) Pulled piggy pizza
  3. We are blessed to have a wide choice of grocers in my neck of suburbia: Schnucks, Dierbergs, Shop’n’Save, of course. Also, Lucky’s, Fresh Thyme, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Global Foods, Sam’s Club, Costco, Walmart, Target. Still haven’t made it to Aldi.
  4. Want to be happier in 2016? Eat more avocados.
  5. I like this memorable quote from Tom Colicchio (pictured below) in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal: “Calories are cheap. Nutrition is expensive.”Colicchio
  6. Even if you’re a Starbucks hater, you have to admit that their national presence over the past two decades has helped “raise all boats.” Almost every place that sells coffee has improved their product.
  7. Chain restaurants are not inherently bad. I can name chains in St. Louis whose quality varies from pretty good to abysmal, from location to location. In most cases, the reason is good or bad management.
  8. Is it okay for a restaurant to brag about using local vendors whenever possible… via a release from an out-of-town PR firm?
  9. Sweet and savory do not always go together well, but when the combination works, the results can be pretty amazing.
  10. I’m not a fan of the “best nine” tic-tac-toe format on Instagram. Most of the nine tiny pics are too small. (Or maybe it’s time for me to get a new phone with a bigger screen.)
  11. The crew at a local Breadco did not know what to do last month when I ordered a mocha and asked them to stamp my 90s era Cappuccino Club card.
  12. I enjoy Urban Chestnut beers but the 500 milliliter bottle size (just over 16 ounces) can be confounding. Sometimes one is not enough but two are too many.
  13. How many waiters have their own business cards? Our server at Fleming’s last week included his card in the check holder. Nice touch.
  14. If you’re thinking about going paleo or trying Whole 30, you should know that cauliflower makes a great rice substitute and sweet potatoes are wonderful.
  15. Recommended book: A Year In Provence (1989) by Peter Mayle. Among the joys he and his wife experience are numerous eating and drinking occasions. Loved the book. When I read it last spring, I laughed out loud many times.
  16. My favorite meal of 2015 was at Singleton’s Seafood Shack in Jacksonville, Florida, on the banks of the St. John’s River. Fried fish, fried dill pickles, a cold Bud Light and memories of the years we lived in the Big J.

I wish you and your family a Sweet (and Savory) ’16! Roll Tide!

A Memorable Christmas Dinner

Christmas day 1981. I finished my morning show on WMGK radio in Philadelphia. I went home, loaded up my wife and son and we took off in our red Chevette for Birmingham. We went west on the PA Turnpike past Three Mile Island, then turned south on I-81 toward the Shenandoah Valley.

Our plan was to spend the night in Knoxville. We figured we would enjoy a nice Christmas dinner in Roanoke. It’s not a huge metropolis, but it is a decent-sized town, which we guessed would have many dining options, even on Christmas. We were wrong.

We ventured off the interstate into the city. Nothing was open. Not even the Holiday Inn restaurant. Giving up, we headed back to I-81. Just before we hit the on ramp, we noticed a familiar sign beyond the interchange: Waffle House. It was open.

My wife was hesitant to have our family Christmas dinner at Waffle House. On the other hand, she, my son and I were hungry. Plus, our options were limited.

As I recall, my Waffle House steak was delicious. Or maybe it tasted especially good because I had not eaten anything except travel snacks since we left our home in the Philly burbs.

This year we lost our older son. As we remember him this Christmas and recall the happy times we had with him, our Waffle House Christmas dinner will continue to be among our favorite Christmas memories.

—David Craig





No, Really, You Can Make Sushi At Home

Sushi is food you usually get at a restaurant or maybe at the grocery store. It is not food that most of us prepare at home. Maybe it’s time to change that mindset.

Jeffrey Elliot and Robby Cook have collaborated on a new book that tells and shows you how to prepare sushi in your own kitchen!


I was able to interview Jeffrey and Robby about sushi preparation and their book. Here is our Q and A:

In a sentence or two, what is the main message of your book?

With practice and the right ingredients, anyone can start making sushi at home.

For the home cook who wants to prepare sushi, what are the key utensils needed (that he or she may not already have in the kitchen)?

A rice cooker is a great small appliance that guarantees perfectly cooked rice every time. A really sharp slicing knife; western or Japanese. You’ll need a sushi mat for rolling.

 What’s the best way for a home cook to improve his or her knife skills?

Repetition and practice! It’s like that scene in the movie “Julie and Julia” where she goes home and cuts up a 50 pound bag of onions. The more you do it, the more confidence, speed, and skill you gain. Also read Jeffrey’s first book, The ZWILLING J.A. HENCKELS Complete Book of Knife Skills.

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(co-author Jeffrey Elliot)

Can the home cook obtain all the food product he needs to make good sushi/sashimi at his local chain grocer or will he need to go to a specialty food store?

Most local stores carry a minimal selection of nori (seaweed) and a basic range of Japanese products like rice vinegar and soy sauce. For a broader range of choices you might have to go to a Japanese or Asian grocery, or even shop online. For fish the best fish for you is the fish that’s local to you.

Which fish do you gentlemen personally favor in your sushi/sashimi preparation and for your own palates?

Jeffrey: I really like Hamachi (yellowtail), Otoro (the fattiest part of fatty tuna), Mackerel, and sea urchin.

Robby: I really like clams, sea urchin, Katsuo/Skipjack Tuna, salmon roe when in season in the Fall. As well as fatty snapper, such as Golden Bigeye snapper and Black throat Snapper.


With all foods, but especially sushi, appearance is important. How hard is it to get home-prepared sushi to look good? Can you offer a few hints?

Jeffrey: Build a strong foundation of the fundamental techniques taught in this book and then practice them. Again I’m going to fall back on practice, repetition based on proper technique is the only way to get better.

Robby: Like Jeffrey said, practice practice practice and you and your sushi will become more fluid and refined. Also referring to question below, watch how the chef plates and arranges the sushi. This will help you at home as well.

Where did you guys acquire your sushi prep knowledge? Is sushi included in the training at the Culinary Institute of America?

Jeffrey: When I went to the CIA, ONE day was devoted to Japanese cuisine, of which sushi is a small part. It has expanded greatly in the 20+ years since I went. I took a certificate course at a sushi school in California, and I was the kitchen chef at a Japanese restaurant in Miami, where in my free time I would learn from the sushi chefs.

Robby: I started making sushi for fun on my own during college at the University of Iowa. I later went to the California Sushi Academy. Following that I moved to NYC and went to Institute of Culinary Education, where I basically taught the short sushi class. Then I continued to work at various sushi bars until landing the job that I am at today.


(co-author Robby Cook)

When I am dining at a sushi restaurant, what should I pay closest attention to (to inform my own sushi prep)?

Watch how the chef works, organizes, and arranges his station. Watch how he holds his knife while slicing different fish and makis. As well as how the chef differently handles the rice for nigiri and maki.

If a person gets your book and wants to prepare a holiday party appetizer, what items from your book would you recommend?

Hand rolls are great appetizer, and it’s easy to teach and learn. What we like to do is put out an assortment of fillings, different fish and seafood, vegetables, even meats, as well as garnishes like spicy mayo, scallions, sesame seeds. And then let people make their own after doing a demo of the technique. It’s a great way to get everyone involved and talking.

For those who may be traveling soon, can you recommend a favorite sushi restaurant (other than your own) somewhere in the U.S.?

Jeffrey: There are so many great sushi spots in cities like New York, Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, it’s hard for me to pick just one.

Robby: I really like Ushiwakamaru and KyoYa (not necessarily sushi but great Japanese cuisine) in NYC. On my last trip to Japan these 2 were amazing: Sushi Yoshitake and SushiYA Ginza.

Jeffrey and Robert’s book is available now for a list price of 29.95. Click HERE for the Amazon link.

The hardcover book is published with a “user-friendly concealed Wire-O binding.”