National Pizza Day!

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Happy National Pizza Day! Some pizza memories…

When I was a kid we got carryout from Pasquale’s in the Norwood section of Birmingham. One night when I was 9 or so, my dad let me go in and order and pay and bring the pizza to the car. In those days, Pasquale’s put the pizza in a paper bag to be carried home horizontally. I, however, carried it vertically.

The pizza toppings all slid to the bottom of the bag into a greasy lump. Happily, my dad only chuckled at my mistake and the pizza was easily repaired when we got home.

My first gig after college was at KSTT radio in Davenport, Iowa. We had a station basketball team that would face off against area high school faculties. After each game, we would go to Pizza Hut where we had trade and would order lots of pizza and beer. I pigged out often on Pizza Supreme and Budweiser. Good times!

hut

I became a fan of deep-dish pizza when visiting Chicago in the 70s. In the 80s, Chicago deep-dish joint Pizzeria Uno went national. I enjoyed their pizzas in Philly and Dallas and later in St. Louis. Nowadays, my favorite deep-dish pizza comes from St. Louis’s own Pi Pizza. (Love Pi’s cornbread crust, too!)

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When we moved to St. Louis in 1988, a neighbor sent over an Imo’s pizza as a welcoming gift. I recall we were all curious—especially my son Mark—about this thin crust pizza with the strange tasting cheese.

imo logo hori eps.cmyk

In time, we came to embrace Imo’s and Mark went on the cook and deliver for them. He worked at a number of pizza joints around Ballwin and learned every subdivision shortcut and cut-thru in west county.

He excelled at “hot selling.” If a pizza joint had no lunchtime orders, he would cook a few pizzas and drop by area businesses such as banks or car dealers. He’d say, “Hey, we made too many pizzas today. Would you guys like to buy a couple? Five bucks apiece!” Sold.

When I was a country DJ at WIL, I learned that singer Vince Gill was a huge Imo’s fan. He makes a habit of delivering an Imo’s shoutout from stage anytime he performs in St. Louis. Around 1994 or so, I took him and his band and crew several Imo’s pizzas when he was performing at Six Flags. His gratitude was overwhelming.

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In the early aughts, I saw a Travel Channel show about Best Places In the U.S. To Pig Out. Among the suggestions was Poynter’s Pizza in Richmond Heights with their enormous Poyntersaurus pizza. There’s an eating challenge connected to the Poyntersaurus—if two people can finish it in thirty minutes without bathroom visits, the pizza is free. We talked about them on WIL and—voila!—they dropped off a Poyntersaurus. Although I’d never try the challenge, I can attest that their pizza is good.

A few years later when I was doing the morning show at KLOU, my producer Aaron and I were chatting casually about favorite pizzas and the phone lines lit up. I learned then the level of passion that people have for pizza. Of course the Imo’s lovers chimed in, but many other independent local pizza joints were also mentioned including Pantera’s, Fortel’s, Elicia’s and Black Thorn Pub.

In 2012, I had my first visit to Slice in Birmingham and had their Soul Pie (pictured below), which is topped with turnip greens, black-eyed peas, Conecuh sausage, red onion, bacon and pepper jack and cheddar cheeses. Not for everyone, but I love it.

Slice

In 2013, I took my grandkids to PW Pizza on Chouteau. It immediately became their favorite and is a go-to spot whenever I take them out to lunch or dinner. I like the Pulled Piggy pizza (shown below) with pork, sweet BBQ sauce and slaw. A great beer selection at PW, too! (Named for owners Paul and Wendy Hamilton.)

pulled-piggy-pizza

I have long thought that pizza joints should jump into the breakfast market but that hasn’t happened. Although last night’s pizza leftovers continue to be a breakfast staple for many. Remember when ESPN-2 had a morning show called Cold Pizza? QuikTrip markets introduced breakfast pizza a couple of years back and it’s decent.

Pizza love continues to grow around St. Louis with numerous new joints popping up everywhere, especially over the last five years or so. It’s understandable. People like pizza. And the raw material costs versus the menu prices can be favorable to operators. Plus, all the new pizza ideas keep the pizza world ever evolving.

My National Pizza Day suggestion: Avoid the “commodity level” pizza as much as you can. Enjoy the good stuff.

4 Food Pics

Wanted to share a few favorite pics from recent meals I enjoyed!

Shrimp Grits Stellas

Here are Shrimp and Grits from Stella’s Fish Cafe in Minneapolis. The dish contains small pieces of shrimp in the grits and a spicy jambalaya type sauce on top. Excellent.

TFOL Pesto Chicken

I had the Pesto Chicken Sandwich at The Fountain on Locust (3037 Locust in St. Louis) during a lunch visit with KSHE’s John Ulett and TFOL’s and OnSTL’s Ron Stevens. It went well with our conversation.

PW Pizza Southwest-Pulled

During a recent visit to PW PIzza (2017 Chouteau in St. Louis), my family members ordered standard pizzas. Mine, however, was half South of the Border and half Pulled Piggy. Enjoyed the heck out of both topping combos.

Fish Market Creole Snapper

Shown above is my Father’s Day meal of Snapper topped with Creole sauce at The Fish Market in Birmingham. (I’ve written about The Fish Market before in this space. Click HERE to read that 2013 post.)

My Instagram handle is @davidcraigstl. I share many food and beverage photos there, along with a variety of other subjects. I invite you to follow!

—–David Craig

 

 

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!

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.

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.

 

Cards in Playoffs Can Be Tough Time for Restuarants

Cards

When you hear all the news touting the economic benefits to St. Louis of having the Cardinals in postseason play, remember your local independent restaurant.

When the Cards are on TV in the postseason, business is impacted. For sports bars and places within walking distance of Busch, there’s a huge upside. But for others, the damage can be significant.

What should a restaurant owner do? Here are a few ideas.

  1. Let your patrons know it’s okay if they check scores on their smart phones. Not that they wouldn’t anyway, but if you and your crew sanction such behavior, they are likely to feel more comfortable about doing it (and may return during future playoff games).
  2. Have at least one TV in the joint. You may not want to position it so every diner can watch, but for those who may want to keep up, an occasional glance can make them feel in touch. (I attended a beer dinner at PW Pizza during game 1 of last year’s World Series. A TV in the room allowed us to check on the game from time to time while enjoying the pizza and beer.) (Make sure you can get the Fox Sports 1 channel for games 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7.)
  3. Keep your servers aware of the game score so they can share that info with diners who are interested. (I recall a server at Bookbinder’s in Philly providing frequent updates on a Phillies-Astros NLCS game when we dined there in 1980.)
  4. Offer special catering packages to your patrons who want to throw playoff parties in their homes!
  5. Look for additional business on open dates. I’m not sure where the Giants and their traveling party are staying in STL (Westin? Ritz?), but they may want to go beyond their hotel and its environs for dinner this Friday night (and next Friday if the series goes beyond 5 games). Make sure the concierges/front desk crews at all major hotels know you’d welcome the business.

Cards jersey

For diners, a Cards playoff game may result in less demand for tables, even on a generally busy Saturday night.

In the long run, having our Cardinals in the NLCS and, maybe, in the World Series is a great thing for our city. Despite that silly Wall Street Journal piece last week, many people around the U.S. genuinely like the Cardinals. And because of their affection for the team, they are more likely to embrace our city and the entire region. And, as Martha Stewart might say, that’s a good thing.

 

 

Beer—It’s What’s for Dinner!

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St. Louis Craft Beer Week runs Saturday, July 27 through Sunday, August 4.

Special beer dinners and other events are happening all over the area.

Click HERE for a complete listing.

PW beer 6-13

PW Pizza at 2017 Chouteau is presenting monthly Beer Dinners on the last Wednesday of each month. The July 31 dinner with Crown Valley Brewing is sold out. The next PW Pizza Beer Dinner will be August 28 with Blue Moon. Call 314-621-1996 for information.

basso

Basso at the Cheshire (7036 Clayton Avenue) kicks off its “Brewers in the Basement” series TONIGHT (July 25) with Civil Life. On August 1, the featured craft brewer is Cathedral Square.

(We’ve been assured that the name is not a dig on a certain NL Central rival which currently resides in last place.)

Goose event

Goose Island is sponsoring a St. Louis magazine Table Talk beer dinner on Wednesday, August 21, at Scape in the CWE, featuring various Goose brews plus Stella Artois Cidre and Leffe Blonde. Chef Eric Kelly is providing the food pairings. Click HERE for info.

dos man

As The Most Interesting Man in the World says, “Stay thirsty, my friends!”