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ST. LOUISâ€™ October 2017INDEPENDENT CULINARY AUTHORITY
TO P O C H I CO, A LOVE STORY P. 23 OCTOBER 2017 saucemagazine.comFREE, I SAUCE MAGAZINE I1
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O C T O B E R 2 017 • VO LUM E 17, ISSU E 10 What’s your favorite soul food?
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Allyson Mace Meera Nagarajan Heather Hughes I like collard Catherine Klene greens and the macaroni from Matt Sorrell Sweetie Pie's. Catherine Klene Megan Gilmore Michelle Volansky Julia Calleo, Jonathan Gayman, Ashley Gieseking, Izaiah Johnson, David Kovaluk, Meera Nagarajan, Greg Rannells, Carmen Troesser, Michelle Volansky Vidhya Nagarajan Katie O'Connor Glenn Bardgett, Katie Herrera, Heather Hughes, Kellie Hynes, Jamie Kilgore, Ted Kilgore, Catherine Klene, Meera Nagarajan, Michael Renner, Dee Ryan, Matt Sorrell, Stephanie Zeilenga Allyson Mace Matt Bartosz, I love catfish especially when Angie Rosenberg it's cut into smaller Isabella Espinoza pieces for maximum Amy Hyde cornmeal crunch. Amy Hyde Andrea Fandino, Caitlin Lally, Rachel Wilson
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contents OCTOBER 2017
24 EFFICIENT KITCHEN
7 E AT THIS
by kellie hynes
Vegetables Samosa at Everest Café & Bar
by heather hughes
27 MAKE THIS Fennel and Carrot Gratin
by dee ryan
HIT LIST 5 new restaurants to try this month
by catherine klene, meera nagarajan and matt sorrell 10
TR EN DWATCH
last course 46 STUFF TO DO by matt sorrell
A look at what’s on the plate, in the glass and atop our wish list right now
50 WHAT I D O
by catherine klene, meera nagarajan and matt sorrell
by meera nagarajan
reviews 13 N E W AN D NOTABLE
Lemmons by Grbic
by michael renner
A TOUR OF SOUL FOOD RE STAUR ANTS
16 LUNCH RUSH Shawarma King
by stephanie zeilenga
by matt sorrell 36
dine & drink 21 A SE AT AT THE BAR
PHOTO BY IZAIAH JOHNSON
Four experts tell us what to sip, stir and shake
by glenn bardgett, katie herrera and ted and jamie kilgore 23 ELIXIR ¡Viva Topo Chico!
Meet the team at St. Louis’ Grace Meat & Three.
by catherine klene
COVER DETAILS 8 Great Soul Food Spots
fried bosnian bread dessert at lemmons by grbic p. 13
A satisfied regular leaves Brother’s Diner in north St. Louis. Find out the must-try dishes at Brother’s and seven other stellar soul food spots on p. 31. PHOTO BY VIRGINIA HAROLD
by heather hughes October 2017
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If you haven’t tried the VEGETABLES SAMOSA at EVEREST CAFÉ & BAR, it’s time to check your priorities. Deep golden-brown pyramids of house-made pastry are filled with velvety smashed potatoes studded with peas and onion and fragrant with coriander. The crunchy, tender pockets are perfectly seasoned and delightful on their own, but the PHOTO CARMEN TROESSER
accompanying red tamarind sauce adds a sweet, tangy highlight.
EVEREST CAFÉ & BAR, 4145 MANCHESTER AVE., ST. LOUIS, 314.531.4800, EVERESTCAFEANDBAR.COM October 2017
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hit list 5 new restaurants to try this month
Westport Social isn’t your typical sports bar. There are massive TVs everywhere, but the design is stylish and modern with muted colors, wood paneling and sleek leather furniture. You can watch sports or play them instead. Everything from pingpong to hoops to bocce ball is available to feed your competitive spirit. Since its best to play armed with a drink in hand, bar manager Kyle Mathis, formerly of Niche Food Group, developed a cocktail menu set for victory. Try the Spritz, layered with floral orange flower water, or the Frozen, an icy mix of Fernet Branca Menta, Genepy des Alps, ginger beer and lime. The wine list offers an interesting selection, like a furmint from Tokaji, Hungary, and if beer is your thing, local suds are sure to satisfy. Fuel the competition with shareable options like burnt-end nachos piled high with fresh wonton chips, or edamame – a surprisingly ideal bar snack with an added zip of lime. Even if you hate sports, you’ll enjoy hanging out at Westport Social.
910 Westport Plaza Drive, Maryland Heights, 314.548.2876, westportsocial.com
From left, the mule, nachos and the daisy at westport social
Rick Lewis’ famous fried GRACE MEAT & chicken has THREE moved to The Grove, along with cornmeal-crusted catfish, fried bologna and some unexpected stars, like creamy white bean hummus spiked with harissa. Turn to p. 36 for more on Grace Meat & Three.
4270 Manchester Ave., St. Louis, 314.533.2700, stlgrace.com
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PHOTOS BY MEERA NAGARAJAN
grace meat & three chef-owner rick lewis
Chef Ari Jo Ellis (Sauce Ones To Watch class of 2016) made a name for herself working in such local establishments as Southern, Quincy Street Bistro, Bolyard’s Meats & Provisions and Kounter Kulture. Last month, she struck out on her own, opening The Cut inside The Fortune Teller Bar on Cherokee Street with a tight menu of artisan sausages and sides. Sausage choices range from The OG, a traditional bratwurst served up with house-made grain mustard and kraut (both available for purchase by the pint for home use), to the vegetarian Mofu Dawg topped with sunflower-arugula pesto, all on crusty Vitale’s Bakery buns. While the sausages are the main attraction, the sides are just as carefully crafted. Standouts include the sweet and meaty baked beans, spiced up with Red Hot Riplets Seasoning.
2635 Cherokee Street, St. Louis, Facebook: The Cut
St. Louis taco lovers just got TACO BUDDHA another spot in University City. Taco Buddha offers its international take on substantial rotating offerings – three of these tacos will sate the most ravenous appetite. Start your morning with breakfast tacos. We’re partial to the spinach, egg and cheese or the spicier chorizo, egg and cheese. Both offer generous helpings of fluffy scrambled eggs and gooey Monterey jack cheese, perfect for dipping into the smoky green chile sauce. When it’s available, snatch up a Thai Street Beef taco, which fills a flour tortilla with tender marinated beef topped with crunchy cabbage slaw, cotija cheese and a chile crema. The humble Veggie Saute taco won our hearts with a jumble of sauteed mushrooms, squash and green peppers wrapped in a flour tortilla and topped with that cabbage slaw and a crisp, creamy fried avocado wedge.
Chef Jessie Gilroy (Sauce Ones to Watch class of 2015 and former sous chef at Sidney Street Cafe) has brought her brand of culinary creativity to The New Town in St. Charles. The aptly named Pangea incorporates a wide swath of international ingredients and flavors. For starters, the ricotta gnudi, cooked in brown butter and accented with leeks and a variety of herbs, makes a rich and comforting appetizer. On the other side of the flavor spectrum, salmon crudo, topped with crisp pickled cucumber and radish, is a bright, fresh way to start things off. Mains run the gamut from a three-cheese risotto to a jerk-spiced chicken with cilantrolime crema. Don’t miss the potatocrusted snapper, a melt-in-your-mouth preparation served with chunks of beets and a pea-herb puree. Then round out your meal with the lightly sweet macaroon, a wedge of almond cake topped with buttercream and strawberries.
the cut chef-owner ari jo ellis
the east meats west sausage at the cut
3245 Rue Royale, St. Charles, 636.757.3579, pangeaworldfusion.com
7405 Pershing Ave., University City, 314.502.9951, tacobuddha.com
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T R E N D W A T C H BY CATHERINE KLENE, MEERA NAGARAJAN AND MATT SORRELL
Breweries are sticking to what they know best – making beer – and bringing on award-winning eateries to run their tasting room kitchens. Earlier this year, 4 Hands Brewing Co. partnered with James Beard Award-winning chef Kevin Nashan and his chef de cuisine John Messbarger to create a new Peacemaker Lobster & Crab-inspired menu with peel and eat shrimp and a brisket po’boy. 2nd Shift Brewing Co. recruited Guerrilla Street Food to sling its Filipino fare from its tasting room kitchen, and Vista Ramen chefowner Chris Bork recently aligned himself with fellow Cherokee Street denizen Earthbound Beer to helm the food program at its new brewery later this year.
COCONUT CRUSH Coconut milk is the perfect starting ingredient for a plant-based yogurt because of its high fat content and super-rich texture; it’s delicately sweet, tangy and vegan. Vegetarian spot SweetArt uses coconut yogurt in a parfait layered with maple-sweetened granola and fresh fruit. In the past, it’s been on the menu at Sardella, also layered in a parfait with granola and dried fruit. Along the savory route, Confluence Kombucha used coconut yogurt in a tzatziki served with “crab” cakes, mango chutney and horseradish kimchi.
Cherokee Street may soon be known for more than authentic Mexican fare and hipsters. A slew of restaurants filling, smoking and serving sausages are staking out their territory. Last month, chef-owner Ari Jo Ellis opened The Cut, offering house-made sausages from a window inside Fortune Teller Bar. Frankly Sausages co-owners Bill and Jamie Cawthon are putting the finishing touches on Frankly on Cherokee in the former home of Calypso Cafe, where they’ll dish out their famous food truck sausages and expand the concept. Finally, Vista Ramen chef-owner Chris Bork will lend a hand to neighbor Earthbound Beer later this year when he helms the kitchen at the brewery’s new location with a menu of smoked sausages, meats and sandwiches.
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Nostalgic ’90s sitcoms aren’t the only thing getting a reboot. Beloved St. Louis landmarks and eateries have seen new life in 2017. The iconic Bevo Mill has been transformed into the German-accented Das Bevo, while just down Gravois Avenue, longtime restaurant family the Grbics introduced BalkanAmerican fare to South City staple Lemmons when they reopened it as Lemmons by Grbic in May. And another longstanding restaurateur will soon revitalize a hometown favorite when Michael Del Pietro reopens Del Pietro’s, an updated version of his parents’ hallowed eatery that will feature original classics like Spaghetti a la Angela, Beef Sotto and Chicken Burko.
Get reviewer Michael Renner’s take on Lemmon’s remake and dishes like this 50/50 Burger on p.13.
50/50 BURGER PHOTO BY IZAIAH JOHNSON
hit the links
ready for your close-up
Love posting food and drink on Instagram? Several places around town are making it easier to garner likes with spaces tailor-made for photo-ops. Strike a pose in front of the oversized red logo at Nudo House or the red carpet-esque step and repeat logo wall at Beyond Sweet. For a more whimsical backdrop, do some time in the penalty box at Center Ice Brewing, which features the reclaimed door from the late, great St. Louis Arena.
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reviews All Sauce reviews are conducted anonymously.
seasonal pasta at lemmons by grbic
NE W A ND N OTA B L E
lemmons by grbic BY MICHAEL RENNER | PHOTOS BY IZAIAH JOHNSON
From fried chicken to pie, everything old is new again at Lemmons – and more than new, it’s scrubbed, polished and upgraded. The 91-year-old building at Gravois and Dresden avenues in Bevo Mill has been popular for decades. As ownership changed over the years, the name – and eponymous neon signs out front – stayed reliably the same. Now it’s joined by the equally recognizable name of Grbic.
new and notable LEMMONS BY GRBIC p. 13 / lunch rush SHAWARMA KING p. 16 October 2017
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Thus, fried chicken is on the menu. Back in the day, Lemmons was known for lightly battered, golden fried chicken. The Grbics’ version is buttermilk-brined, coated in a peppery batter and deep-fried. That alone would make for fine chicken, but then it’s re-battered and fried again for a drier, crunchier crust and juicier meat that lives up to the lighthearted name: Not Lemmon’s Chicken. The accompanying carrot and potato mash topped with brown butter proved a delightfully surprising and deceptively simple side. Mashed potatoes and gravy seem boringly old-fashioned in comparison.
from nothing more than the vegetables’ natural juices. During one visit, I was underwhelmed by the Kings Kabob: a skewer of grilled chicken tenderloin, red onion, yellow and red peppers and zucchini glazed with a sweet chile sauce. Its bed of peppered garden rice (which should have had more flavor given the ingredients and included more than a few undercooked grains) was the only thing that set the dish apart from something you’d make at home mid-week. But fresh grilled trout, seasoned lightly with warm Balkan spices and charred lemon, stood out for its simple presentation and superb flavor and, on that visit, perfectly cooked rice.
with a bright yellow and black Lemmons mural painted in the blocky style found on many old south city buildings. While technically not a sports bar, there are 10 televisions – blissfully muted – that will either distract or please (more likely the latter come playoff time).
Also surprising were the panko crabcakes, three plump discs full of pure crabmeat flavor with a crisp crust and gentle heat from a fire-roasted red pepper aioli. Other starters were all-American with a Balkan twist. Apple wood-smoked chicken wings served on newsprint got distinctive chilebased heat from a house seasoning blend and sweet stickiness from barbecue sauce made with rakija (a Bosnian plum brandy). The good-looking pickle board included some turmeric-infused veggies, but why oh why use commercial bagged “baby” carrots when so much better are available locally? The Balkan dipping bread elicited the most table chatter: a pile of light and airy ustipci (fried Bosnian bread) shaped into pillowy fritters perfectly sized for popping in your mouth. Thankfully, the three accompanying dipping sauces – tangy feta butter, roasted red pepper-eggplant dip and funky mushroom duxelle – slowed the compulsion to greedily inhale them.
The 50/50 Burger combines equal parts beef bacon and ground beef, which is provided by the Grbics’ uncle, who owns a local abattoir. The meat seemed ground coarser than typical, producing a satisfyingly dense chew between two soft Bosnian buns. Topped with provolone, jalapeno fry sauce and an over-easy egg sprinkled with the mild Bosnian spice blend Vegeta, it’s an easy contender for best burger in the crowded, indulgent category. House-made flatbreads are oblong, puffy and light with the right amount crispy chew. The sausage-topped version proved most compelling with nothing more than a slather of tangy feta butter, mozzarella and traditional Bosnian cevapi sausage.
As the American-born children of immigrants, it only made sense for the Grbics to honor their culinary heritage when designing the menu. They also wanted to honor the history of the place.
The summer pasta was a standout entree. Bursting with cherry tomatoes and zucchini and topped with feta crumbles, the housemade cresta de gallo noodle’s ruffled edge and curved tubular body were ideal for capturing the delicate sauce rendered
reviews NEW AND NOTABLE p. 2 of 2
Mama Grbic's European Coffee Cake at lemmons by grbic
Sulejman and Ermina Grbic emigrated from Bosnia in the ’70s and ’80s and opened Grbic Restaurant in 2002. Their three children grew up in the family business, and each handle different aspects of the new Lemmons by Grbic. Senada Grbic took after her mother, graduating culinary school and working in the kitchen, while Erna Grbic does marketing and event planning. The son, Ermin Grbic, runs the front of house and does some kitchen duty as well. After a lengthy, stripped-to-the-bones gut rehab, the new Lemmons looks and feels nothing like its immediate predecessor, the dive-y music club/pizzeria The Blackthorn at Lemmons. The interior is bright and open with exposed brick walls accented by wood shutters on the windows, and the back wall is covered
AT A GLANCE lemmons by grbic October 2017
Where 5800 Gravois Ave., St. Louis, 314.899.9898, lemmons restaurant.com
Don’t Miss Dishes 50/50 Burger, Seasonal Pasta
Vibe Casual, open space comfortable as a sports bar or contemporary restaurant
If you want more of those fried dough balls for dessert, they come tossed with light powdered sugar and served with three sweet dipping sauces, Eurocrem (think an Eastern European Nutella), vanilla cream and strawberry sauce. Mama Grbic’s vanilla chiffon cake, layered with peach jam and dipped in chocolate and coconut, was simple and flavorful. Lemmons by Grbic is an apt name that manages in just three words to recognize the history of the neighborhood, honor the Grbic family’s cultural heritage and reflect the culinary integration of both homelands.
Entree Prices $10 to $18
When Tue. to Thu. – 4 to 9:30 p.m., Fri. – 4 to 10 p.m., Sat. – noon to 10 p.m., Sun. – noon to 9 p.m.
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reviews LUNCH RUSH
shawarma king BY STEPHANIE ZEILENGA | PHOTOS BY DAVID KOVALUK
Nestled on a side street just off The Delmar Loop, Shawarma King’s sunny, laid-back atmosphere is the perfect setting for a lunch of fresh Middle Eastern fare. Spits of succulent, slowroasted meats are visible behind the counter, and the sound of sharpening carving knives provides a lively soundtrack. Enticing cafes like this can be found along city streets all over the world – you could just as easily be in Istanbul, London or Amman as in St. Louis. In other words: This is legit.
medley of aromatic spices and a bright, crisp Arabic salad of diced tomatoes, cucumber and parsley with lemon juice and olive oil. While the shawarma was perfect on two visits, on one it was a tad dry – a small complaint remedied by the accompanying creamy tahinigarlic sauce.
you can add fries. Do it – crisp, salty and piping hot, they’re beyond delicious dipped into Shawarma King’s garlic sauce.
FALAFEL SANDWICH SHAWARMA AND RICE Middle Eastern cuisine excels at using spices and sauces to elevate humble ingredients to sublime effect. Exhibit A: Shawarma King’s namesake dish. The meat – either chicken, beef or a combo – is bathed overnight in a vinegar-based house marinade laced with 17 hand-ground spices. Slow roasted and carved off the spit in thin slices, the meat is deeply flavorful and tender. Shawarma may be the star, but the bit players shine bright, too: soft, fluffy rice flavored with a
Four years ago, I ate a transcendent wrap in London’s Borough Market that ruined all other falafel sandwiches for me. I’m happy to report my new favorite is a little closer to home. Shawarma King’s version starts with superior, freshly fried falafel. Crispy exteriors give way to soft, herbaceous clouds of perfection. The falafel, layered with pickles, cucumber and tomatoes and dressed with a drizzle of tahini and lemon juice, are wrapped snugly in a fresh pita, grilled for a little crunch. For an extra $2.50,
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VEG PLATTER The highlight of parties is the ubiquitous groaning table of dips and finger food, and Shawarma King’s Veg Platter is a miniature of my dream party spread: Smooth hummus and smoky baba ghanoush, both topped with a pour of fruity olive oil and a dusting of puckery sumac, share the stage with savory
falafel. Zesty tabbouleh and a few warak inab (grape leaves wrapped around creamy, herb-flecked rice and dressed in lemon and sumac) lighten things up. Each element is perfectly executed – even the accompanying pita is a dream – chewy, flavorful and an ideal vehicle for scooping up the delectable dips. The whole is utterly addictive in its variety of tastes and textures, but you could also order any of the elements as a standalone dish. The different varieties of hummus, especially the
mosabaha that comes dressed in a special lemon sauce, are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. At only $9, the Veg Platter is the ideal way to sample a smattering of the best Shawarma King has to offer.
THE DOWNSIDE The service was attentive but a little slow during busier times, which might irk diners looking for an inand-out option. I’d argue, though, that the restaurant’s commitment to house-made, fresh cuisine is worth a little wait. Along the same lines, a few menu items were unavailable on one visit.
SHAWARMA KING 571 Melville Ave., University City, 314.261.4833, Facebook: Shawarma King
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if you always order chardonnay, vermentino might be your new favorite grape
ILLUSTRATIONS BY VIDHYA NAGARAJAN
A SEAT AT THE BAR / Four experts tell us what to sip, stir and shake We first tried Audrey Saunders’ Earl Grey MarTEAni in 2007, and it's just as delicious 10 years later. An enhanced gin sour, the addition of tea and egg white takes your palate on a ride of citrus and softened creamy botanicals with a burst of Earl Grey. To find TED AND JAMIE out for yourself, start by infusing KILGORE gin with Earl Grey (steep 1∕4 cup USBG, B.A.R. Ready, BarSmart loose-leaf Earl Grey tea in 750 and co-owners/bartenders at Planter’s House milliliters gin 2 hours, fine strain and rebottle). In an ice-filled shaker, combine 1½ ounces Earl Greyinfused gin, 1 ounce simple syrup, 3 ∕4 ounce lemon juice and 1 egg white. Shake vigorously 45 seconds, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist. October 2017
The 2015 Seghesio Vermentino is my current “try if you’re stuck on chardonnay” wine. Filled with the vermentino grape’s distinctive stone fruit GLENN BARDGETT notes and amazing Member of the Missouri Wine minerality, you’d swear and Grape Board and wine this rich, complex white director at Annie Gunn’s came straight from the island of Corsica rather than Sonoma’s famed Russian River Valley. Let it carry you to a beach on the Mediterranean. $16. The Wine and Cheese Place, 7435 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, 314.727.8788, wineandcheeseplace.com
Earthbound Beer is one of the most creative breweries in the Midwest, and its inimitable Chicken And Waffles Blonde Ale perfectly showcases the brewery’s weird and fun style. Medium-bodied and straw colored, this delicious KATIE HERRERA blonde ale has a hint of maple Co-founder of Femme syrup in the aroma followed Ferment and account manager at Craft Republic by succulent breadiness and mellow batter-like sweetness with a hint of tang to round out the finish. Disclaimer: No chickens or waffles were harmed in the making of this beer. Earthbound Beer, 2724 Cherokee St., St. Louis, 314.769.9576, earthboundbeer.com saucemagazine.com I SAUCE MAGAZINE I 21
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¡VIVA TOPO CHICO! BY HEATHER HUGHES
On my list of passions that don’t matter, sparkling water ranks high. With passion come many gratuitous opinions on bubble characteristic and flavor quality, but in my daily eenie-meenie-miney-mo game of La Croix, Perrier, Pellegrino, I really just want one thing: Topo Chico.
PHOTO BY JONATHAN GAYMAN
It may seem like the next fickle hipster favorite, and it is. But Topo Chico has been around for more than a hundred years, bottled in Monterrey, Mexico, since 1895. I first encountered it at taco trailers and Mexican grocery stores in my Texas college town. After moving to St. Louis, I thought my love was lost and resigned myself to imperfect taco pairings forever – until Mexico’s favorite made it to the Midwest this summer. OK, yes, at some level, water is water. But Topo is a sparkling mineral water with a rocky, salty undertone that makes your lips feel like you’ve been swimming in the ocean. In comparison, Pellegrino and Gerolsteiner’s barely there bubbles aren’t worth noticing. And the Italian Ferrarelle is so light on carbonation that it tastes like a can of La Croix left out overnight (we’ve all
been there). Where La Croix has a harsh, almost spicy sparkle, Topo’s rush of big, round bubbles breaks on your tongue with exhilaration, not sharpness. Topo Chico’s grapefruit and lime flavors are mild, naturally tart and taste real. As a general rule, if you hate fakey flavors, it’s best to stick with citrus versions of any bubbly. But Topo’s grapefruit blows even Perrier’s elegant, mid-sized bubbs out of the water. Where most waters lack any aroma, Topo Chico has sweet grapefruit on the nose, and a full fruit flavor without bitterness or sweetness on the palate. The lime is so mild and free of pithy bitterness it has a lemon-lime vibe with that same strong presence on the nose and across the palate from start to finish. If you’re the kind of person who keeps a stack of La Croix boxes under your desk or has to leave for a bubble run after cracking open the last Dasani Tropical Pineapple (no judgment), it’s time to meet the Aztec princess.
The Wine and Cheese Place, all locations, wineandcheeseplace.com
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pulled pork BY KELLIE HYNES // PHOTOS BY JONATHAN GAYMAN
My kiddos have been in school a little more than a month, and the unrelenting activity schedules, homework stress and tears are in full swing. Mind you, the children are fine. It’s me who would have a meltdown – if I had the time before driving carpool. When the going gets tough, it’s tempting to cross home-cooked dinners off the to-do list. But a yummy-smelling kitchen brings everyone to the table, and when time
apart is the new normal, time together is even more precious. This is why I make kissy faces at pulled pork. It’s quite possibly the world’s easiest meal. Buy a pork shoulder (or pork butt – same cut, funnier name). Season it with salt, pepper and, if you’re feeling extravagant, a little olive oil. Place it in a slow cooker on a bed of onions and – here’s the important part – turn on the slow cooker. (You
would not believe how often I forget that step.) And just like that, you have melt-in-your mouth porcine goodness in a few hours. Do you need to sear the meat first? Nah. Add broth/wine/juice? Nope. The liquids released from the meat and onions are enough to keep the pork from drying out. Once the meat falls off the bone, shred it with two forks and a bounty of meal options
C A R N I TA S
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awaits you. As any St. Louisan knows, the default preparation is to add a bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce. But if you skip the sauce and substitute pulled pork for bacon in your favorite comfort foods, a whole world of possibilities opens up. Pulled pork Cobb salad. Pulled pork pizza. Pulled pork omelets. Pulled pork mac and cheese. And leftovers can be even better. Refrigerate whatever you don’t eat the first night in a sealed container, including and especially all the liquids and fat from the slow cooker. The meat will reclaim some of the broth and infuse with deep, savory flavor. The onions will become so sweet and tender they almost melt. The fat will rise to the top and congeal, which may be initially off-putting to the squeamish, but that goop is pure culinary gold – the star ingredient in your very own pork rillette (fancy foodie talk for schmear). All the second-day recipes feel more like evolutions than leftovers. That rillette. Make that one first. It’s a little luxury that will help you rise above the rawness of the day.
SLOW-COOKER PULLED PORK ABOUT 4 CUPS 2 lbs. onions, peeled and quartered 1 4-lb. bone-in pork shoulder 1 Tbsp. olive oil ½ tsp. kosher salt ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper • Coat the insert of a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Layer the bottom with the onions. Place the pork shoulder on the onions, fat side up. Top with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low 8 to 10 hours, or high 5 to 7 hours, until the pork falls off the bone. • Shred the pork with 2 forks. Serve hot. • Allow the leftovers to cool to room temperature and place the pork, braised onions, braising liquids and fat in a large baking dish. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight before making the following recipes.
Pork Rillette In a mixing bowl, combine 1 cup packed room-temperature pulled pork (without onions), 2 tablespoons congealed pork fat, ¼ teaspoon table salt, ¼ teaspoon dried thyme, ¼ teaspoon minced garlic and ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Beat with a hand mixer on low speed until the mixture is a chunky paste. Pack the rillette in an 8-ounce jar and top with 1 tablespoon pork fat. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Serve cold with crusty bread, cornichons, country mustard and pickled onions. C a r n i ta s Heat 1 tablespoon pork fat in a large cast-iron skillet over mediumhigh heat. Cook 2 cups pulled pork (without onions) with 1 teaspoon cumin, ⅛ teaspoon chile powder and a pinch of salt until browned and crispy, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Serve in grilled corn tortillas with salsa, avocado and fresh cilantro. Pulled Pork Pa p pa r d e l l e Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a covered dish, bake 2 cups pulled pork and onions with all the leftover fat and liquids until hot. Boil 1 pound
pappardelle noodles in salted water until al dente according to package directions, then drain the noodles, reserving the pasta water. Pour the pork braising liquids into a measuring cup and add the reserved pasta water, if necessary, to make 1 cup liquid. Toss the cooked pasta with the liquid and 2 cups hot pulled pork with onions. Add kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan. P ozole Spoon the congealed braising liquids, avoiding the fat as much as possible, into a measuring cup. Add enough low-sodium chicken broth to make 6 cups. Pour the liquids into a large saucepot and add 1 cup pulled pork with braised onions, 1 29-ounce can hominy (rinsed), 1 15-ounce can pinto beans (rinsed), 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes including the liquid, 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano, ¼ teaspoon table salt, ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes and ⅛ teaspoon chile powder. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the pork is heated through, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with chopped red onion, cabbage and radishes, cilantro, tortillas and lime wedges.
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MAKE THIS FENNEL AND CARROT GRATIN ACTIVE TIME: 10 MINUTES
The trick to a great gratin is uniformly sliced vegetables. MAKE THIS Spend minimal time and energy by prepping this fantastic sweet and savory side dish with a mandoline. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use a mandoline to cut 3 fennel bulbs horizontally and 3 peeled large carrots diagonally into ¼-inch slices. In an oiled shallow baking dish, layer a third of the fennel, then half of the carrots. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon orange zest. Top with another third of the fennel, the remaining carrots, more salt and pepper, then the remaining fennel. Sprinkle the top with ½ cup freshly grated pecorino, ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons fresh thyme. Drizzle with olive oil and bake until the vegetables are tender and the top is golden brown, a little more than 1 hour. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds. Serve hot or at room temperature. – Dee Ryan
PHOTO BY JULIA CALLEO
A good mandoline will change your life. We like the widely available OXO Handheld Mandoline Slicer for its slim design, super sharp blade and friendly price tag. $22. Kitchen Conservatory, 8021 Clayton Road, Clayton, 314.862.2665, kitchenconservatory.com
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T O U R
BY MATT SORRELL PHOTOS BY VIRGINIA HAROLD brother's diner October 2017
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oul food is the most comforting of comfort foods, from fried chicken to mac and cheese. Itâ€™s easy to forget that so many of these feel-good favorites were actually forged in slavery, when black Americans used discarded or ignored ingredients like pig feet, oxtail and fibrous greens to create a cuisine that transcends the sum of its humble parts. The traditions and flavors of this beloved food continue to resonate with diners today. Soul food has been subjected to many riffs, spins and permutations over the years, but St. Louis is still rich with local eateries that continue to put forth the real deal.
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This month on Sound Bites, staff writer Matt Sorrell joins St. Louis soul food royalty Sean Morris from Mother’s Fish and Lavinia McCoy from Gourmet Soul to talk catfish, cobbler and what it takes to make one of America’s most beloved cuisines. And tune in to St. Louis Public Radio KWMU 90.7 FM early in October for the Sauce Hit List.
Brother’s Diner Once Brother’s is on your radar, you won’t soon forget it. Just off Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, the catfish here is flaky and utilizes a cornmeal batter for a lighter texture. The tripe is another standout – not too tough or funky – and the Brother’s wings, crispy and lightly seasoned, will ruin chain chicken places for you. There is some inside seating available, but takeout is the norm.
cuts here. The focus is on classics from chicken wings to smothered pork chops to some stellar fried catfish – cut into tenders for a superlative ratio of fish to crispy cornmeal breading. But the sides are the real standout, including standbys like mac and cheese, greens and a classic, ultra moist cornbread dressing.
Jaden’s Diner H&M Best Fried Fish & Chicken
Gourmet Soul Around the corner from the hustle and bustle of City Museum and Washington Avenue, it’s easy to miss Gourmet Soul’s blue awning, but this humble eatery is worth keeping an eye out for. More of a greatest-hits place, there aren’t any off-
warm peach cobbler will take you back to Grandma’s table. Carryout and delivery are available every day but Saturday, so plan your week accordingly.
Cruising down Chippewa, H&M is a bright red and yellow landmark. Those who’ve been don’t need a fancy color scheme to remember the location. Do yourself a favor and walk up to the window to order a portion of the batterfried catfish: it’s a melt-in-your-mouth, fallapart-in-your-hand crazy good, and the
Jaden’s serves up its fare cafeteria-style, and the room has panache to spare. Takeout is available, but it’s best to enjoy the ambience from the President Obama shrine at the door to the glitter scattered across the ceiling like so many constellations. Pull up a chair at one of the long, banquet-style tables and watch the big-screen TV in the back while noshing on a plate of neck bones with a side of black-eyed peas and mashed potatoes. The meat falls off the bone with virtually no assistance.
clockwise from top left: a customer orders at brother’s diner, tripe sandwich at jaden’s diner, catfish at brother’s
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chicken dinner at mom’s soul food kitchen & catering
Mom’s Soul Food Kitchen & Catering
This buffet-style restaurant offers carryout and delivery, or you can kick back in the cheery, spacious, bright orange dining room and dig in. The menu features some really good tripe, oxtail and several types of wings, including a standout Buffalo-style version. As for sides, the greens at Mom’s are sumptuous and rife with chunks of unctuous pork. Plenty of daily specials abound, and early risers can hit up the extensive breakfast menu starting at 7 a.m. It’s no wonder a second location recently opened on Delmar Boulevard.
Mother’s has been a St. Louis fixture since the 1980s. Though the original on Spring Avenue and Olive Street closed, the family has opened four other locations. The oldest, and my Mother’s of choice, on the corner of North Grand and St. Louis avenues is the height of minimalism – just a few laminated photos of menu items on the walls and a vending machine standing in the corner. Patrons place orders by ringing a bell and talking to the folks through a Plexiglas window. Despite this barrier, the service is friendly and personal. As expected, fish is the thing here. Try the fried catfish, mild and flaky, with the perfect ratio of batter to fish.
Son-Ja’s Soul Food
You Gotta Eat Here
Situated in an aging strip mall between a barbershop, a beauty supply place and a chop suey joint, this carryout-and catering-only spot is worth the extra effort of seeking out. The small size belies the expansive menu, which includes everything from baked meatloaf to barbecue ribs. Fans of off-cuts will appreciate the snoot here – crispy and warm, it’s similar in flavor and texture to pork rinds, served with a sweet barbecue sauce. For sides, it’s hard to go wrong with the candied yams – they taste just like Thanksgiving.
A true neighborhood joint, there’s plenty of seating here under the watchful gaze of a vintage Michael Jackson poster and blown-up family photos. You gotta get the tripe sandwich: two large pieces of tripe, not too chewy or musky, fried golden brown and placed between a couple slabs of good ol’ white bread along with pickles, onion and mustard. No pretense, no messing around, just good, solid food for cheap served in a classic red basket with fries.
1620 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314.339.5658, gourmetsoul.com
4251 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, St. Louis, 314.534.3512, Facebook: Jaden’s Diner
Brother’s Diner 1508 Whittier St., St. Louis, 314.533.2022
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Mom’s Soul Food Kitchen & Catering 1507 Goodfellow Blvd., St. Louis, 314.389.0916; 4909 Delmar Blvd., St. Louis, 314.328.1333, Facebook: Mom’s Soul Food Kitchen
Son-Ja’s Soul Food 9863 Edgefield Drive, St. Louis, 314.869.1388
H&M Best Fried Fish & Chicken
2903 Chippewa St., St. Louis, 314.664.2091
2738 N. Grand Ave., St. Louis, 314.533.4433; 9995 W. Florissant Ave., Dellwood, 314.522.4904; 5956 Natural Bridge Ave., St. Louis, 314.385.3008; 6 S. Central Ave., Clayton, 314.499.7074; Facebook: Mother’s Fish
You Gotta Eat Here 2812 N. Grand Ave., St. Louis, 314.371.3700, Facebook: You Gotta Eat Here
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WITH COMEBACK SAUCE AND C ARAMELIZED ONIONS RECIPES ON P. 39
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After years frying chicken and slinging fried bologna sandwiches for other people at restaurants like Quincy Street Bistro and Southern, Rick Lewis finally has the independent venture he and his wife, Elisa Lewis, always wanted. They took a break from the happy chaos of opening Grace Meat & Three in The Grove to share a meal with staff at their riverside cabin just south of St. Louis, a favorite retreat from restaurant life. BY CATHERINE KLENE // PHOTOS BY CARMEN TROESSER
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grace owners elisa and rick lewis prep cornmeal dredge for catfish nuggets.
“When I came out of fine dining, I was very much a drill sergeant – I would try to beat stuff into people’s heads very aggressively. Over the years, I’ve learned that some people respond well to pushing them to strive for more. But some people, you have to take the time to hands-on show them. Some people you have to kind of cradle a little bit – and teach them and talk to them about it, show them how to do it. Everybody learns differently, and that’s something that should be respected.” – Rick Lewis
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and marinate 1 hour. • In a large shallow baking dish, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, cornstarch, baking powder, the remaining 1 tablespoon black pepper, cayenne, creole spice mix and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Set aside. • Preheat the oil in a large heavybottomed or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, until it reaches 350 degrees. • Remove the catfish and discard the marinade. Shake off any excess liquid. Dip in the buttermilk, shake off the excess, then dredge in the cornmeal mixture until evenly coated. • Fry the catfish 3 minutes on each side until golden-brown. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and serve immediately with Comeback Sauce for dipping.
Smoked Burgers Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis
minutes, then flip and sear 1 minute. Add the cheese to each patty and melt 1 minute, until the internal temperature of the burger reaches 145 degrees. • Assemble the burgers atop the buns with the onions, pickles and Comeback Sauce to taste.
Comeback Sauce Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis ABOUT 1½ CUPS 1 cup Duke’s Mayo ¼ cup Heinz Chili Sauce 2 Tbsp. ketchup 1 Tbsp. lemon juice 2 tsp. Worcestershire 1 tsp. smoked paprika 1 tsp. hot sauce • Combine all ingredients in the pitcher of a blender and puree until combined. Refrigerate overnight, then serve as a condiment.
4 SERVINGS 2 lb. 50-50 ground brisket and top round or 80-20 ground beef 1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper 1 Tbsp. seasoning salt 4 slices white cheddar cheese 4 brioche buns Caramelized Onions, to taste (recipe follows) Pickles, to taste Comeback Sauce, to taste (recipe follows)
Fried Catfish Nuggets Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis 6 TO 8 SERVINGS 1 12-oz. can Busch beer 1 tsp. garlic powder 1 Tbsp. plus ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided ¾ tsp. fine sea salt, divided 3 lbs. catfish, cut into nuggets
2¾ cups cornmeal ¾ cup flour ½ cup cornstarch 1¾ Tbsp. baking powder 1 Tbsp. cayenne 1 Tbsp. creole spice mix 2 cups buttermilk ¼ cup corn oil or vegetable oil Comeback Sauce, for dipping (recipe follows) • In a large mixing bowl, combine the beer, garlic powder, ½ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon salt. Submerge the catfish in the mixture
• Prepare a charcoal grill for low, indirect heat. Soak a small chunk of oak or hickory wood in water. • In a large bowl, mix the beef with the pepper and seasoning salt. Evenly divide the meat into 4 8-ounce portions. • Add the soaked wood atop the coals. Smoke the patties over indirect heat until they reach an internal temperature of 135 degrees, about 30 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside. • Add fresh charcoal to the grill and arrange the coals for high, direct heat. • Sear the meat over direct heat 2
Caramelized Onions Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis ABOUT 1 CUP 4 yellow or white onions, julienned 2 Tbsp. butter 2 Tbsp. dry red wine 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire 2 Tbsp. soy sauce • In a large skillet over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring gently, until golden, 30 minutes. • Add the wine to deglaze, then simmer until the wine is completely reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. • Deglaze with the Worcestershire, then simmer until the Worcestershire is completely reduced, 2 to 3 minutes. • Deglaze with the soy sauce, then simmer until the soy sauce is completely reduced, 2 to 3 minutes.
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Home Fries Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis 4 TO 6 SERVINGS 1 lb. baby red potatoes ¹∕³ cup lard or vegetable oil, for frying 1 cup chopped mixed herbs, like basil, celery leaves, mint, dill or cilantro Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and boil until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Drain and let cool. • In a large skillet, warm the lard over medium-high heat. • Cut the potatoes in quarters. Working in batches, add the potatoes to the skillet and fry, turning until brown on all sides, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towel-lined plate to drain. • Place in a serving bowl and toss with the herbs, salt and pepper to coat.
server taylor mattingly brings a pan of home fries to the table.
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“It’s a tight family of people that all take pride in what we do, and they’re all working toward the common goal. I take a lot of pride in my team, and feel super blessed to have all of them onboard. There’s a huge sense of camaraderie and a sense of honor. When it’s time to be serious, everybody’s serious and working hard, and when it’s time to play, everybody’s playin’ hard.” – Rick Lewis
from left, smoked burgers, fried catfish nuggets and heirloom tomato salad
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from left, chef chris mauh and executive sous chef kevin mcculloch finish off the heirloom tomato salad with quark cheese.
Mac n Cheese Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis 10 TO 12 SERVINGS ¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp. chopped onion ¼ cup (½ stick) butter ¼ cup flour 2 cups whole milk ½ cup Busch beer About 5 oz. shredded cheddar About 5 oz. cubed Velveeta About 2 oz. shredded gouda 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp. hot sauce ¼ tsp. cayenne Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 1 lb. macaroni
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2 eggs 2 cups breadcrumbs • In a large saucepot over medium heat, saute the onion in butter until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the flour and whisk over medium heat, until a blond roux is formed, 5 to 7 minutes. • Raise the heat to medium-high and slowly whisk in the milk and beer until thickened. Add the cheddar, Velveeta and gouda and whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated into the bechamel. Whisk in the Worcestershire, hot sauce and cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm and set aside. • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 2 9-by-13-inch casserole dishes with nonstick spray. • Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the macaroni and
boil until al dente, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain. • In a large mixing bowl, combine 3½ cups cheese sauce with the macaroni and eggs. Transfer to the casserole dishes and bake 45 to 60 minutes. Top each with 1 cup breadcrumbs and serve.
Three-Bean Salad Courtesy of Grace Meat & Three’s Rick Lewis 4 TO 6 SERVINGS 1 lb. assorted fresh, canned or dried (soaked overnight) beans, like green beans, lima beans, purple runner beans or yellow wax beans
¾ cup sugar ²∕³ cup rice wine vinegar ¹∕³ cup extra-virgin olive oil ½ tsp. celery seed ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper ½ tsp. kosher salt ½ tsp. red pepper flakes ½ cup chopped mixed herbs, like basil, celery leaves, mint, dill or cilantro • Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath. • Blanch the beans 1 minute in the boiling water, then shock in the ice bath to stop the cooking process. Let cool, then drain the beans. • In a large serving bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar, olive oil, celery seed, pepper, salt, red pepper flakes and herbs to create a vinaigrette. Add the beans and toss to coat. October 2017
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stuff to do:
OCTOBER BY MAT T SORRELL
Best of Missouri Market Oct. 6 – 6 to 9 p.m., Oct. 7 and 8 – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, 314.577.5100, mobot.org Some of Missouri’s best food and drink purveyors sell their wares at this annual exhibition. Sample goat cheese from Baetje Farms, confections from Kakao Chocolate, tea blends from Big Heart Tea Co., bottles from St. James Winery, spirits from Pinckney Bend Distillery and beer from Public House Brewing Co. Once your appetite is sated, check out the array of artisan products for sale or wander through the garden. Tickets available online or at the door.
Prost! Oct. 7 – noon to 5 p.m., downtown Maplewood, cityofmaplewood.com/ beer Take a free selfguided tour of Maplewood’s toast to local beer and fare. Enjoy suds samples, beer-related products and food for purchase and meet some top local brewers. Participating breweries include 2nd Shift Brewing, 4 Hands Brewing Co., Schlafly, Bur Oak Brewing and Six Mile Bridge Beer. A full list of participating businesses and breweries is available online. Tickets available online.
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STL Square Off Pizza Festival Oct. 8 – noon to 5 p.m., Berra Park, 5400 Shaw Ave., St. Louis, Facebook: STL Square Off Pizza Festival Eight area pizza purveyors, including Dogtown Pizza, Farotto’s Pasta & Pizzeria and Master Pieza face off to see who takes home the title best St. Louis-style pizza. Admission includes a ballot and tastes from the eight competitors, plus a 16-ounce beer from 4 Hands Brewing Co. or 2nd Shift Brewing, a glass of wine or a soda from Excel Bottling. Tickets available online; a portion of the proceeds benefit The Hill’s neighborhood association.
Brew In The Lou Oct. 14 – 1 to 5 p.m., Francis Park, 5399 Donovan Ave., St. Louis, 314.200.0797, lesastl.org Sample some of the area’s top beers, wines, spirits and coffee, along with plenty of tasty food, at this annual event sponsored by the Lutheran Elementary School Association. Participating vendors include Gobble Stop Smokehouse, Vernon’s Barbecue, The Stellar Hog, Old Bakery Beer Co., Crown Valley Brewery, J. Rieger & Co., Three Avocados Coffee and St. Louis Hop Shop. Arts and crafts vendors also sell their wares, and attendees can check out the People’s Choice Homebrew Competition, Battle of the Bratwurst and Brew Chili contest. Tickets available online or at the door; proceeds benefit the LESA member schools.
Earthdance Farmers Formal Oct. 13 – 6 to 10 p.m., St. Louis Union Station, 1820 Market St., St. Louis, earthdancefarms.org Enjoy top-notch food and drinks and support this organic farm school at an annual fundraising shindig. The lengthy roster of participants is a who’s-who of area restaurants, breweries, distilleries and farms, including Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions, Cielo, The Libertine, Farmtruk, Vicia, Still 630, The Big O, Woodhat Distillery and Confluence Kombucha, among many others. Don your finest festive farmwear (overalls optional) and join in. Tickets available online.
Harvest Festival Oct. 15 – 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Laumeier Sculpture Park, 12580 Rott Road, Sunset Hills, 314.772.8004, harvestfeststl.com This celebration of autumn’s bounty features food from some of the best area restaurants, including Capitalist Pig, Guerrilla Street Food, Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream and The Dam, and beer and wine from such purveyors as Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., Perennial Artisan Ales and Noboleis Vineyards. Eat and drink while enjoying the landscape and sculptures at the park and listening to local bands like Blind Pig and Riverbend Bluegrass on the KDHX stage. Tickets available online or at the door.
Food Truck Friday Oct. 6 – 3:30 to 7 p.m., Tower Grove Park, 4256 Magnolia Ave., St. Louis, 314.772.8004, saucefoodtruckfriday.com Gather your friends, grab a picnic blanket and head to Tower Grove Park for the last Food Truck Friday of the season. More than 20 trucks like Essentially Fries, Frankly Sausages and Brazil Express join the festivities. Sip local pours from Urban Chestnut Brewing Co., 4 Hands Brewing Co. and Noboleis Vineyards while you enjoy live music from Blue Fruit Snacks. Save time and skip the line – buy Speed Passes online and pick them up at the Sauce tent.
Spirited Sessions Oct. 19 – 7 p.m., The BHive, 4661 Maryland Ave., St. Louis, Facebook: STL Barkeep Class is back in session. Join STL Barkeep Matt Longueville and Reeds American Table bar manager Naomi Roquet at The BHive for the next Spirited Sessions and learn how to make creative, tasty cocktails. Tickets available online.
Terror at Tower Grove Park Oct. 20 – 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., Tower Grove Park, 4256 Magnolia Ave., St. Louis, Facebook: Terror at Tower Grove Park Bring the whole family to this free, kidfriendly fright fest. Purchase food and beer from the likes of Guerrilla Street Food, Seoul Taco and 4 Hands Brewing Co., and enjoy live music, arts and crafts, a costume contest, a Halloween movie and a parade from Johnnie Brock’s Dungeon. denotes a sauce sponsored event
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“ Y o u j u s t h av e to l e a r n h ow to s u r v i v e . When I was in [college], one of my classmates told me I spoke the worst English he ever heard in his life. It was so embarrassing. I didn’t know how to express myself. In my class, I was always the last pick [in a group presentation] because they thought I didn’t speak well. I spoke six other languages they didn’t even understand. But it forced me to be better.”
Everyone was ordering it, loving it, no problem. You go to this restaurant, pay $30 for a whole crispy fish – it’s just salt, pepper that’s it – you think it’s a great dish. The whole fish in an Asian restaurant, people say, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And I bet they would not even pay $15 for it. It drives me nuts. That’s why for Malaysian Week we [had] whole fish. Head, tail, bone, everything. This is how we eat it back home and that’s how it should be.”
“ I ’ m M a l ay s i a n C h i n e s e . My parents are first-generation MalaysianChinese. My grandparents in the 1940s were refugees. They escaped from China, from the revolution, very young – 15, 16, 17. They were very poor, and as refugees, what do they know? They worked. They had tons of babies – work, have a baby, work, have a baby. Refugees, they all have to go through the same things. It’s never easy.”
“J u s t c o o k i t t h e way y o u wa n t i t. I tell the kitchen, don’t worry how people will like it or not like it. If they don’t like it? Fine! Sorry! Pick another one. I’m very proud of them.”
WHAT I DO
Leaving everyone and everything you know to come to the United States and pursue a dream is the quintessential immigrant experience. Hiro Asian Kitchen owner Bernie Lee’s story is no different. After leaving Malaysia to study, learn the culture and improve his English in St. Louis, Lee seized the opportunity to open his own restaurant (609 Restaurant & U Lounge). Now Lee serves some of the city’s best Asian fusion at Hiro, where he has slowly added Malaysian dishes he grew up eating. At first, he wanted to have a business that welcomed all people. Now, it’s become a place where he can share his culture. – Meera Nagarajan
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“A m e r i c a n s o n ly e at f i s h f i l l e t. No bone! No skin! No head! No tail! Nothing! So that’s what I had been taught. Only fillet. So, this is what I know. I had opened 609 and one day I thought, ‘Why don’t we do whole fish?’ People said, ‘No, no, no. Nobody will touch that!’ All right. One day I went to [a local restaurant], and it’s all white folks, and they tell me, ‘Our most famous dish is a red snapper.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s order that.’ It came out whole fried red snapper!
“ Y o u h av e t o t r u s t y o u r s e l f . You have to believe in your culture. If you believe, you can deliver. If you don’t believe, there’s no point.”
H i r o A s i a n K i tc h e n 1405 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.241.4476, hiroasiankitchen.com
PHOTO BY ASHLEY GIESEKING
“ T h e m o t i vat i o n b e h i n d 6 0 9 wa s I wa s n o t t r e at e d n i c e ly at a b a r o n e d ay. I was bullied in public. I told myself someday I need to create a place where everybody is welcome. Two years later, I had an opportunity to open my own place. To be honest, I was 27, I was young. I said, ‘Screw it, let’s do it! If I fail, I fail.’”
“Even though t h e p l at e i s nice, it still has t h e f l av o r t h at reminds them of h o m e . The chicken clay pot [at Hiro], the origin is from Taiwan; we cook it Taiwanese style. This is a dish like meatball pasta – everybody makes good meatball pasta, but when you eat it you go, ‘Oh, my mom’s is better.’ One woman ordered it, and I saw she was crying. I asked if she was OK, I thought she maybe burned herself. She said, ‘No, this dish reminds me of my mom.’ Her mom had passed away. She said, ‘We ate this when we were kids, this is exactly what my mom would cook.’”
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Published on Sep 29, 2017