Thursday, December 27, 2012

The best looking menu yet


Do you like the above picture?  I went to DB's, not this past weekend but the Sunday before.  I had a chance to speak with Cory, the manager and owner.  First of all, you need to know this: DB's is a really nice bar.  I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking that I'm just making this up as I go along.  Here is the thing: the bar is arranged in a classic manner.  If you took out the televisions and the pretty girls, it would look just like every other super comfortable neighborhood bar.  The thing is; that still with all of the games on the televisions and the friendly women working there, it is still a very comfortable bar.  There is no pressure to drink, the prices are all very reasonable and the food is the best food I have ever eaten at a bar.  (I don't mean that in any negative way.)  Most people don't think of going to a bar to eat great food.  They think of restaurants or cafes or other places, but never a bar.  I think most people associate bars with just drinking.  There are even some sports bars, that fail to make anything, even a simple burger, decent.

I want to lay down the fact that DB's has really, really good food.  For the price, you get tons of food.  when I arrived, I sat in a nice spot and was greeted by a very friendly and talkative woman named Tiffany.  There were two other women taking orders and one behind the bar serving drinks, and Tiffany wasn't suspicious about any questions I posed to her and answered them as best she could.  She was very knowledgeable about the menu, both the regular one and the special one for Sundays and was also just very friendly.

So, after a fun discussion with her, I was shown a special Sunday only menu and ordered 3 items from it.  First I ordered "DB's Famous breaded chicken wings" for $8.00.  I think that places that have their name in the item's title, should be aware that they will be tied to that item.  If they are good, people will come from miles around to DB's for their famous wings, and so forth.  The wings were promptly delivered:

Now the $8 on the menu was for eight wings but here is where it gets interesting: the wings were huge.  I would say that the piece of celery right there was about 5 inches long and these wings were about 4 inches long.  I would say that the wings at Hooters are about 3 inches long.  So, these are BIG wings.  They were juicy, spicy, hot, lip smacking good.  They were perfectly cooked and perfectly spiced as they were not so spicy that I could feel my lips going numb but spicy enough where I could get the full flavor.  I would give them an easy 4 out of 5 stars.

I also ordered a basket of in-house made chips for $2.50.  I am always curious to see how this turns out and DB's did a great job.  These chips were perfectly cooked, none were soggy, there was no extra oil dripping anywhere and they were seasoned beyond just salt and pepper.
For that small price, I received a large basket of chips.  There was way more than I could eat in one sitting.  As I said: they were great and done well.  I would give the chips and easy 4 out of 5 stars.

The last thing I had ordered was a cup of the "chicken and Andouille gumbo" for a mere $3.75 and I received this:
This was a big cup of gumbo.  Now, I have never been to the area were gumbo originated but I have tasted many versions and many of them fall victim to a classic blunder, never under cook the rice.  I know that when I cook rice at home, I do sometimes get worried that the rice will over cook and get mushy or fade away into limbo.  This may happen against your will, when cooked rice is placed into a soup or broth, like it is with gumbo.  But, a few people hold the secret to making rice work well in liquid rich foods.  This bowl of gumbo is such an example of this.  At another location about 5 minutes away from DB's, you can find yourself a bowl of gumbo and this other location's gumbo always has under cooked rice.  Their rice is sometimes so under cooked that one time it was crunchy.  DB's gumbo's rice was perfect.  There was also great complimentary flavors from the spices and peppers and okra.  Everything was great and it was the best tasting gumbo I have had yet.  I would give this dish a 4 out of 5 stars.

So, from talking with Cory and asking him, it was the morning show's idea for foot fetish Friday.  He said that they asked him if there were some girls from DB's, who would be willing to bare their feet and do things for the radio show and he asked some of his staff if they were interested and that was that.  If I recall correctly though, Cory also had stated that he had someone come in the other day and mention foot fetish Friday and came to the bar only for that reason.  So, perhaps members of the local fetish community are coming to the bar only to see feet?  I dunno.  I know that from my experience, there are two reasons you should come to DB's and pick this place over any other in the area:  food and service.   As I mentioned, the food was good, unexpectedly good and I'd have no problem going there again and would love to get there on a Friday night for example.  The service was great as the food was prepared and cooked well, there was almost not more than the required waiting time on any item and I had a great waitress who remembered everything and was taking care of me.

I suggest, that the next time you are in St. Louis and you are looking for some good wings, gumbo or homemade chips please come over to DB's.  Sundays are a great spot for watching the game, any game, on the televisions and eating some delicious food.  Did I mention that they have a Nacho bar on Sundays also?

I was asked to come back, by Tiffany and she said that the best time to come back is on Friday nights.  So, when I have a Friday night clear, I will be there.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sanctuary! Sanctuary!!!

About a week ago, my wife and I went out for a nice night.  We decided to try a tip from a friend and see if Sanctuaria really was as good as he said it was.  My conclusion: it is.  We went there after making a reservation and ended up with a large booth in the corner. What is great about Sanctuaria is that it is supposed to be a tapas bar/restaurant.  Instead of these tiny or small plates, at Sanctuaria you get these large plates, with enough food for several people.  Along with this, the prices are not that high, so my whole meal was less than $60!

So, we started to order food and we were thinking that the two of us needed to order about 2-3 tapas plates each, so that we would have enough food to eat.  Neither of us were expecting the plates to be large, however.  So, the first thing we ordered was the "black beans stuffed piquillos".  Which were roasted peppers stuffed with black beans and mozzarella cheese.  These were very tasty and I'd give them an easy 4 out of 5.  The beans and cheese mixed perfectly inside and the peppers were super tender and juicy.

It was time to order the meat and my wife chose the "Carne y Maiz", which was pieces of grilled steak over hominy and chilies with shallot rings.  These were perfect.  Usually when people serve small pieces of steak, it is too tough, because I think people are worried that they will overcook them so they basically under cook them.  These were awesome.  They were juicy, full of flavor and very tender.  The hominy that they were on was very tasty and the shallot rings were great for onion ring fans, such as myself.  I'd give this dish a 4 out of 5 as well.
We also ordered an item that wasn't on the menu.  This item was a special and was lamb and some vegetables, in a cream-like sauce, inside sweet dough tarts.  The idea sounds great but we both had one main issue with it: the dough was way too sweet.  It was a good idea for a meat pie, but the saltiness of the lamb mixed with the sugary sweet dough didn't blend as well as I think the chef wanted it to.  I'd give this dish a 3 out of 5.
So, while my wife tried one of everything and gave the rest to me to finish, she orders something else: Posole, which is traditionally a been and meat soup.  Well, this version was much, much more thick.  In this one you have pork and poblano peppers and hominy in a thick and chunky tomato sauce base.  It was like a really thick and very flavorful chili.  It was good, really good and was worth it.  I'd give it a 4 out of 5.

So, finally it was time for desert.  Why look at the same old things when you can order something different and fantastic?  What caught my wife's eye, was the Havana Bread.  It was listed as $7 on the menu and had a small annotation that mentioned that you need to give them at least 20 minutes to prepare it as they are made to order.  So, how cool is that?  Ordering a desert which is made to order. So, the Havana Bread is a spiced cake made with rum and raisins.  So, as we wait, my wife and I think of what it could be like.  A spiced cake, made with raisin and rum, sounds way too good and and less than 20 minutes later, we have it delivered to us, so hot that the topping is still boiling.

So, what is this and what did it taste like?  Heaven.  They should replace the name "Havana Bread" with "Heaven Bread".  No, really, it was really good.  After waiting about 10 minutes so it was physically safe to eat, we ate most of it.  It weighed almost 5 pounds, it wasn't huge but sure weighed like it was.  Very tasty and very fresh, and soft and moist and very good.  I'd give it a 4 and 1/2 out of 5.

Now, I highly suggest that if you are in the Grove or anywhere near it and you want a good selection of food, then you should stop by Sanctuaria.  The whole location seemed to have many tables, so it wouldn't be an issue of not finding a place to seat inside.  Maybe finding a place to park outside though, may prove to be difficult.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

First time for everything

Well, I was thinking of something to write about and then realized, that I don't think I have shared a good recipe in a while.  So, let me think...  Christmas is coming or any other holiday which you may celebrate.  Wouldn't it be nice to present a loved one with a pan of brownies?

This is a recipe I have been using for years, brownies go great with everything from Jager to beer and you can't pass these up.

You will need:

medium mixing bowl
whisk and spatula
one stick of unsalted butter
1 cup of white sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of AP flour
1/3 cup of cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder


1. Now, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
2. Cream the sugar with the butter using the whisk
3. When all mixed together, add the eggs and the vanilla extract.  Mix.
4. Then add the flour and slowly mix together.  You may want to switch to the spatula now as it starts to get thicker.
5. Add the cocoa powder and slowly mix together.
6. Add the salt and baking powder
7.  Pour in a greased 8x8 inch dish.  PAM is a great 0 calorie spray for this.  You can spray all over the baking dish and nothing will stick.
8.  Place dish in oven that was peheated at 350 and bake for about 25 minutes.

They are finished when you stick a toothpick or chopstick in them and it comes out clean.  I have this natural aversion to sticking most of my body inside of an oven and poke something that hot with a tiny toothpick.  So, I use the narrow end of a chopstick and use that.  It works the same way and I don't have to get my hands even inside of the oven.

Enjoy.









Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I'll be Hansel and you be Gretel


Whenever I think of a gingerbread house, I think of a happy moment from my childhood:

While I know that it was never shown or told that the house was made of candy and sweets, at least it lent the idea that it could have been and the kids were just thrown in a pot anyway.

Watching this, then made me think of a game I have recently played called Katamari Damacy:
If you are not familiar with this game, the point is that you have a ball that you basically roll stuff up with.  Like a snowball rolling down a hill, the more your roll up, the larger your ball gets and then more that the perspective and scale shifts so that it appears that you are getting larger and larger.  In this level, you had to roll up as much of this gingerbread house you could.  It even comes complete with a witch riding a broomstick.  As a fan of donuts and other great baked goods, a house made from real baked goods, does sound delicious.

Now we get to St. Louis, where to the side of the main hall of the River City Casino, they have this:

This past Saturday I was allowed to enjoy something straight from the fairy tales: the giant gingerbread house.  I thought to myself, 'how can a gingerbread be that cool?"  I was quickly surprised of exactly how large-scale this gingerbread is.  Candice Coleman, sent me over the recipe and what was required to make this and I was shocked.
[

Gingerbread House

450 pounds of gingerbread dough
100 pounds of shortening,
100 pounds of granulated sugar,
90 pounds of corn syrup,
117 pounds flour.
Baked off 500 6 inches by 12 inches square bricks.
100 house made gum drops
400 fresh baked cookies
130 fresh baked cupcakes
300 pounds of royal icing
]

Okay, so imagine how big of a item you could make with 450 pounds of cookie dough!  What they did, was create a wooden house and then using frosting, they glued these gingerbread cookie slabs on to the outside.  While reading that list I also thought of how big it could be, with only 400 cookies, 130 cupcakes and 100 house made gum drops.  My mind immediately thought of those store-bought gum drops and how 100 of them is hardly enough to decorate even the store-bought gingerbread houses.  That is, until I saw them up close:

That large yellowish thing with the sugar on it, is the "house made gum drops".  Really?!?!?   Way to fool me Chef John.  That thing is huge and looks to be about 3 inches tall and about 2.5 inches in diameter.  It reminded me of those giant "novelty" gummi bears that you can buy at the World Market in Chesterfield and everyone sinks their face into.  I'm surprised no one has taken this idea and made some kind of weird candy fetish video with giant gummi bears and huge gum drops.  Take these into account with the normal sized cupcakes and those cookies look to be at least 6 inches across.

Now, while this house enough sugar to give every child in America a sugar rush and is cool to look at, there is special food that can be ordered.  The gingerbread house has a special menu, which allows you to pick from your first course, your entre' and get your dessert all for one low price of $25.

I had the pumpkin pie soup, which  had creme fraiche and toasted pepitas.  It was great and sweet but not too, too sweet.  It tasted like pumpkin with some sweet elements to it.  A great way to judge a dish is to get a kid to eat it and my 6 year old loved it.  He kept asking for more and he sat in front of his breakfast plate.
The soup was an easy 4 out of 5 for me.
 Between the choice of the ham and the turkey breast, I chose the ham.  (It is a pork product after all.)  The ham had a 1904 Bourbon glaze, with a sweet potato and yellow potato gratin and then had some baby carrots.  The carrots were as sweet as the soup, which is a good thing, for me.  I prefer my vegetables with large amounts of butter and or brown sugar or maple or other sweet applications.
So, it was huge, a large amount of food was offered to me and presented and I was already ready, already.  The ham was tender and juicy and flavorful.  The gratin was tender and easy to eat and creamy.  The carrots were awesome.  The meal was an easy 4 out of 5.

There were others:  Like the eggnog flan that came with this prefix meal.  I'd give it a 4 out of 5.  Then there was the egg and Canadian bacon sandwich with potatoes that my son ordered and ate his fill of, loving every bite of it.  Even the Beignets came out correctly.  They were light and fluffy and delicious.  We ordered the traditional and plan on trying the maple bacon when we return.

While going to the casino and eating in a giant gingerbread house may be just regular average droll for you, it is important to note that doing so, helps a charity.  To reserve your spot for a meal in this house, requires $20.  This $20 goes straight to the Center for Hearing and Speech, which helps hearing impaired adults and children in the St. Louis area.  This isn't some organization going to help people around the world or in some other city but takes care of the people HERE.  Every cent of that $20 goes to the organization.  Now, while you may be wondering, what you get for your $20 other than a spot in this edible house, here you go: activities for your kids.  The gingerbread house is a great place to go with your kids.  It seats 4 people comfortably and after ordering adults and kids alike, are given slabs of gingerbread with colored icing, with which you can decorate your tile.  Tiles or slabs of cooked and decorated gingerbread can be donated to the house, where a chef will get to glue them on to the house, using frosting.  So, you can make a funny picture, write your name, or even write the name of your website.


So, this holiday season, spend the $20, help someone hear for the first time and enjoy some great food.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Random writings and thoughts and ideas....

The thing is, whether you are a huge fun of Jack in the Box or a huge fan of places like Taste, St. Louis has a large number of restaurants.  The problem of course being, is that it is impossible for me to get to all of them.  I understand that there are people asking me about various restaurants and bars and clubs, but until someone actually pays me enough that I can go to these places each night, I'm stuck getting to them one weekend at a time. 

As with any form of information being related and passed on, I know that there is a mix of readers: from the college freshman with Bluto's (John Belushi's character in Animal House) personality to the business owner who is one of those 1%.  I refuse to play to either group.  I know that there are complaints of my articles on the other site, most importantly how my articles seem to be boring, written with the level of a grade-school child or be rich with horrible syntax and grammar mistakes. To those who may say that, I respond with this: "It is better than the rest."  I always find it funny and ironic that people choose to pick on me, when I at least write in English and as a rule, do not use strange characters like "%$@##^&^%" as a general rule of thumb that needs to be imported into my writing.  I also spell correctly, so for those people who refer to things like "fiesty" as "feisty" or "sux" instead of "sucks", the joke is on you.  If you think you are so great, then write a blog, twitter or whatever and let the world see what you have done or what you are up to. I also wish to not curse in my writing.  Unless you are famous for doing so, I think cursing is not a needed vehicle to show importance or prove a point.

I would dare say that every week, a new bar, club, lounge or restaurant opens up somewhere in the whole of the St. Louis metro area.  Now, considering that there are places that have existed in St. Louis well before I was born, I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to eating there.  There are places I have tried, that have become famous: such as Roadhouse 61, which was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives last night.  There are places that I never did get a chance to try, like Salt, which has the owner stuck in a financial battle over his lack of paying taxes to the government and may close any minute if not already.

You have to understand that I have not given up on St. Louis.  I do not wish it to become the Gotham City of America, but instead wish it to at least come back a little to the food heritage which it had sprang and grown from.  As a French fur trading post, it was the only civilization West of the Mississippi River for many years and decades, and that French influence is what mainly drives the city today.  Signs and symbols of this heritage are seen all over and most secretly on old buildings where the old iron Fleur De Leis, can be seen against the brick walls.  The 1904 World Fair or World Exposition brought so many inventors, so many chefs and so many people from around the world to see what was so special about St. Louis and America.  St. Louis started with a boom and had large companies use this city as a head quarters, mostly because of the perfect transportation it had and still has, in a lesser extent.  Whether it is a train blocking the tracks at a crossing, trucks driving 120mph on 44, planes flying loudly overhead or barges making their way slowly down the river, St. Louis still is a great hub for transportation and distribution.

Although, all of us, whether we want to admit it or not, has seen a slow decline of restaurants and areas for such.  How many of us remember going to St. Louis Union Station and eating at the many fine restaurants there?  Now, I thin the Hard Rock Cafe is it; and it is not even inside!  What about going to Crestwood Mall or the St. Louis Mall and eating inside?  Both places are closed.  Have you even driven down Washington Avenue, West past 20th Street?  You look on both sides of the street and see boarded up old buildings, some restaurants or bars and some of them industrial.  While this may not be the fault of the city, you have the allowance of people to buy these old properties under the promise of changing them into something good within a year and then leaving them to rot and make St. Louis look bad.

There are a lot of people, who are bringing food back into St. Louis and for them, I salute them.  But I worry that these restaurants and bars cannot save the city.  When you hear stories of Gaslight Square, for instance, and see how it was a center of culture in the city and then try to compare it to something now, it is impossible.   I think a fair question is:  is there anywhere in St. Louis that tourists from around the world, would travel to, exclusively to see it in person?  (Besides the Arch.) Do we have any world famous chefs?  I know that we have some great restaurants, but do we have enough?

With everyone trying to revitalize St. Louis with a restaurant, do they all succeed or need to succeed in order to make St. Louis a better place?  You know, I don't think so.  I think that as long as there are some really good places, it may help bring people to them.  The places that are lower level or even mediocre, need to improve and fight to even get close and that is good for business.  I know that people love BBQ and there is as many variations to St. Louis style BBQ pork steak as there are grains of sand on all of the beaches.  But, I find it very difficult to believe that there is one place and one place alone which is the absolute best, for everyone.  You may think Pappy's is the best and I don't.  So, I tell you and anyone else who want to know.

I'm not being paid by restaurants to write about them.  I don't get paid by insidestl.com and even have to deal with Trolls and angry people for my writing. I certainly don't get paid to write on here.  I write for fun, because I like to share my stories, photos and adventures.  I do try to get to every location, be it a place 50 years old or a new bar trying to clean up and liven up the dance scene.  I don't even have a sponsor, so I can write freely about anyone and anything.  I feel that the writers in print, who have to write articles for the likes of Feast, Sauce or even the River Front Times, can't truly express what they want because they may have had a bad experience at an advertiser's restaurant and then not allowed to comment or lose the advertiser.  I guess I'm lucky that I don't have sponsors because I can freely write the truth about anyone.  Now, if you have a restaurant or bar where I had a great time, I'd be more apt to write nicely about you.

Sure, the writers for Feast magazine get to travel to Italy and write about how wonderful the wines are there.  But, does that really concern the average person looking for where to spend their lunch money in St. Louis?  Or what about that guy looking to impress his date at a nice restaurant?  I feel some writers are out of touch with what people want.

You know what I'm looking for?  I want to read and hear from people and chefs who chose St. Louis, out of all of the other cities, and find out why.  I want to hear from renowned chefs and ask them if they have any great food memories about St. Louis.  I want to know if anyone has said anything great and fantastic about the food in St. Louis.  I know I have found some hits and misses and as much as I think people, like you, like reading my dribble and thoughts and seeing pictures of great food or drinks, I can't help but think that someone out there wouldn't mind hearing from an expert. So, with the idea of that, I will send some emails and see if I can't find some experts in St. Louis and see what they think.

Am I a prissy foodie?  No.  Or, I don't think I am.  I still enjoy a good beer (Guinness) and my favorite local fast food burger (Top Shooters), but I don't see myself nor wish to see myself as the guy in the suit, sitting at a table of $500 food, swirling my wine around in a glass. (I would have a beer instead.)  I admit that because of the Food Network, I started to watch mainstream shows and enjoy them.  That got me into watching and reading and following Alton Brown.  That then got me into not only playing with cooking, but playing with Molecular Gastronomy.  This then got me interested with how food works, not just adding baking soda to a recipe, but why do you add the baking soda and what does it do.  It is science, applied to food. Does this make me an "Anton ego"?  No.  But it does mean that if I walk into a restaurant and order some baked chicken, it should not be raw or too salty or tough as leather.  Also, working at a restaurant has taught me a lot of things that most people don't think about when they go out to eat.  People do still make fun of me by suggesting that Old Country Buffet/Home Town Buffet is not a real restaurant and they would only be partially correct.  You don't come in, sit down, get a menu, order, eat and pay.  It is an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant and while there isn't 5 guys in the back working on your order, they are also working on the likes of 349 other people.  What did this teach me?  I may not know how many times a cow was massaged to produce the perfect amount of tenderness in a steak.  But I do know how that stake should be cooked.  I also know that an order as simple as french fries, if from a bag deep in the freezer, should not take more than 3 minutes in the fryer.  I also know that there is no reason that an order for a 10 minute item take longer than 20 minutes, if everything is run correctly.  This also means that I am a bitch when it comes to going into a restaurant and being told that there is no seating available when I see 3-4 tables open. 

I hate waiting.  I think I have plenty of patience, when it comes to waiting in general as even my wife jokes that she can't say things like "I have a secret" and then have me going crazy in anticipation as to what it may be.  I can wait and do wait for many things.  I have waited a long time for really good food and a short time for really good food as well.  What I don't like though, is the waiting for service.  I never understood and will never understand why servers and wait staff say that they want more money but then do a horrible job with the customer.  I was at the California Pizza Kitchen at West County Mall this weekend when I thought we had a good server, to start.  She asked us what our drinks were quickly and then we gave her the orders for the kids, so that their food may get cooking.  We waited for 20 minutes before our drinks came out.  Then 5 minutes later for the food for the kids.  Then another 30 minutes for our food to come out, after we had ordered.  This is a place where pizzas take almost no time to cook in their fire oven.  So, why should my order take so long?  One answer: cell phone.  While really getting hungry and angry as to why my food was no where to be found, I look over at our server on the computer.  I'm thinking that she is working and then as pointed out by my wife, she was texting on her cell phone.  She thought that her tip was less important than her text and so she spent a good 5 minutes, standing there and texting until the manager looked at her and she pretended to be working and walked away.  Guess what?  My pizza was cold, or luke warm to be more precise.  Likely meaning that it was cooked and sitting out for 5-10 minutes while she texted away.  There is absolutely no reason why any customer should be given bad service. 

I think I am finished with my ranting.  As mentioned, when I finish the work at my actual money-making job, I'll send some emails and see if I can get some words from some chefs.

 

Tastes like puke?

I know this sounds mean and I don't compare things to this flavor, or lack of flavor, but over the weekend I saw these at a QT, bought them and tried them.


Okay, so about a year ago, Resveratrol, started to become the "big" thing.  Basically, resveratrol is an antioxidant found in things like red grapes.  This chemical antioxidant was found to be in red wine and the darker the wine, the more of it.  So, things like a Port/Porto or an ice wine could actually have more resveratrol than a class of red table wine.  This antioxidant is thought to protect your heard from heart disease: which is a fancy name for heart attacks.

Like many other studies and research on alternative medicine and things that are not run by pharmaceutical companies, there has been no scientific proof that resveratrol has any benefits on humans.  It has been tested mostly on animals and while it is in red grapes, like other fruit, it may just have a small effect on the body.

The point is: like other derivatives from fruits, resveratrol may just be an antioxidant which works best in the presence of other antioxidants.  So, a company thought it could get into the market by advertising that they have it in their nutritional drinks, thus helping to sell them.  It isn't a bad idea and I've even made my own things at home that are healthy but still taste great, like protein and DHA packed brownies.  But, when a company makes these drinks and makes the bottles as such and tries to make them cool and attractive to buyers, they should at least taste good.

This weekend I tried the red fruit punch flavor and the orange citrus flavor.  The red flavor tasted like someone left a fruit punch outside over a rainy weekend and now it is filled with dirt, leaves and bugs.  It is nasty and in no way makes me interested in drinking it.  Each bottle is $2 and while that is about as much as a regular energy drinks, like a Rockstar or Monster, I would rather eat dirt, than drink another one of these.  The orange citrus one, was worse.  The first sip tasted like apple juice, which was okay.  But then, continual drinking brought out a secondary flavor which tasted like flat and warm orange juice.  It reminded me of the taste, stuck in your throat, after you puke.  It also had that acidic backwash feel and makes me cringe right now, while writing this, thinking about it.  I'm sorry, but I know that some companies do this and think that someone would obviously want to buy a drink and drink it instead of eating a cup of red grapes.  But, this makes me think that the red grapes are the way to go.  Best part is, I am also a wine fan, so why would I pass a glass of wine for one of these nasty drinks.

It could just be me.  But if someone had one of these, try it for yourself.  I just don't like it and would like to pass word out to you that they are here in St. Louis.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cafe Natasha's

 I understand that this restaurant has been opened, according to their facebook page, since the 80's.  I understand that they have awards and reviews from 2004 to 2010.  But, they haven't had any recognition since 2010.  Let me say, that when a restaurant announces that "We will not offer anything, unless it is wonderful, and the food is not wonderful, I get worried.  When visiting their website and seeing that it either hasn't been touched in 2 years or they haven't had any mention, reviews or awards since then, then I would suggest stepping it up and fighting for that recognition.

I understand that I am newly familiar to Persian food, and willing to give it a try, but there are some things that just don't hit me in the right spot.  One of the things we ordered was the Kookoo, which seems to be Persian Herbed Omelet, or at least this is how it is described online.  But, I like to point out that it is not cooked flat.  It is thick and it looks like it can be an inch or two thick, which makes me think that it is presented much more as a quiche'.  Either way, as Cafe Natasha mentions that it is "A flat soufflĂ©-like pie made with delicate herbs, light eggs, walnuts, and spices. Served with yogurt and pita."  What we got was probably more like a quiche' than a souffle'.  I think that any reference to a souffle' indicates that it must be light and airy.  The problem was that what we received was not light, airy or even fluffy.  It was cold, dense and heavy.  We had a quiche', with very little egg and mostly herbs.  It tasted, like cooked spinach.  I didn't taste any herbs, spices, walnuts or eggs and only tasted cold cooked spinach. I'm sorry but it didn't taste any better with the sauce.  One other thing: the pita was touch as leather.  I had to bite it down and then rip it to the side in order to "bite" off a piece to eat.  If it was freshly made, it was fresh the day before or two days before then.  I give this dish a 2 out of 5.

Next, we ordered the Falafel: "four deep fried croquettes of ground chickpeas, parsley, garlic, cumin and other spices."  Most falafel that I have had at other places is either too dry or too greasy.  These were just right.  I don't know their secret, but these little balls were crunch on the outside and moist and tasty on the inside.  Maybe it was their size because they looked just like every other falafel I have eaten, on the inside, I mean.  So, I don't know if there was a secret to making them come out without extra grease or being the kind that will suck every drop of moisture from your mouth.  They were good and I'd give them a 3 out of 5.

We also ordered the kabob of beef and chicken and were given a choice of rice as the side dish.  I let the waiter make that choice for me.  Now, what we had received was strange.  We had 4 large pieces of beef, 4 large pieces of chicken and a large portion of white rice mixed with yellow rice.  The beef was cooked strangely, in that there were half of the pieces that were tender and juicy and the other half of the pieces were tough and stringy.  The chicken tasted fine to me, for the most part, but it wasn't seasoned evenly, so some pieces seemed too salty and others were fine.  The rice was had me questioning.  The rice was a mix of both regular medium grained white rice and what looked like the same kind of rice, cooked with saffron.  There were some saffron stigmas, in my rice which helped give it some flavor, but the white rice was very bland.  It is strange, because when I have made Spanish dishes, I have made the saffron rice, taste like saffron.  Not too strong, but strong enough that you know where the coloring came from.  This rice, had such a subtle flavor to it, that it was almost, almost, completely bland.  Id give all of this a 2 out of 5.

I'm sorry, I really am, especially for a restaurant that has supposedly been there since the 80's, I guess I never noticed it.  What I see as a way to get them big bucks, is the unlimited hummus bar.  Hummus, is a dish, like a thick dip, made from chickpeas as the base and is one of the national dishes of Lebanon.  It also has tahini, olive oil, garlic and spices.  Hummus, probably costs about $1 to make one pound and then when you offer an unlimited bar of hummus for a set price, if you charge more than $1, you make your money.  From their site, they charge $10 and from 4-7pm on Tuesdays, you get to eat as much hummus, falafel, eggplant and other favorites as you want.  I would say that even if you ate during all 3 hours, and tried some of everything, the cost of what you would ingest, would not be close to $10.  So, this place definitely makes its money off of this.  


    

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The great Dictator is dead!

I know we loved them, they were a a great boon to our metro area, both in an economic and community spirit.  Thousands of jobs, great opportunities and great money to be made.  The St. Louis area was a better place while they were here.  I remembered going as a teenager, to the local thrift shop and buying whole cartons of cupcakes for pennies on the dollar.  I remembered seeing fruit filled pies going for a dollar or two at the local shops and in here, this wonderful heaven of a thrift shop, finding those same products for 50 cents each.  I was in heaven.  I was a teenager with a metabolism which could down anything and cause me to not gain an ounce.  They were my addiction.

Now, decades apart and a time when that Great Leader has died, it's mark and legacy are comparable to those left of an evil tyrant.  For when a tyrant leaves, all traces and signs of that person or erased, from both written and oral view as to hope everyone can move on easier.  That is the same case, with Hostess.

Hostess was born, in a church basement, in Kansas City, in 1905.  The owner, Ralph Nafziger, made money and bought out other bakeries and kept moving upwards.  He sold the company, but kept controlling interest, which he used when he started his own company again and merged them both together.  In 1930 he made the Interstate Bakeries Corporation.  The company then continued to only get bigger and buy out competition, through the 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's.  In the 90's, it decided to concentrate on their Hostess line of cakes, like Twinkies, Ding Dongs, and Ho-Hos.

Now, one of the ideas that started the downfall, was a new set of enzymes, which would extend the shelf-life of the cakes and breads.  This new enzyme set, gave the products a different taste.  There is also the formation of the Atkins diet and Krispy Kreme, which helped pull people away from the Hostess line.  In 2009, the company was declaring bankruptcy and with a huge loss of their shares, they decided to go private and help close that loss.  As a private company after that, there were issues with the unions.  As no one wants to lose their job, but given the opportunity of losing their job or getting their hours cut back, the union fought against both.  Hostess did not have enough money to do either and without a union agreement, they closed down.

Within 2 days of the formal press release, all Hostess items were taken off of store shelves.  I felt betrayed, as it was as if the world did not want anyone to remember the good ol' days of the Hostess line.  I admit that they were evil, and filled with so many other chemicals and high fructose corn syrup and everything else, but every once in a great while, I would indulge myself.  Still, I feel sad, like the passing of a relative I saw or spoke to once a year, this is a passing that we will all remember and hold as a dark day.  You may love your fancy meals, or even your cheap beer, but everyone loved a Hostess.

Rest in Peace, Hostess.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

ROY-G-BIV

Whether you are a fan of Bill Nye the Science Guy (who isn't) or you heard a song from They Might Be Giants, you should be familiar with the term "ROY-G-BIV".  They Might Be Giants made this term by making a song about a magical elf, named Roy G. Biv, who lives in the rainbows and his name is the colors of the color spectrum.

To make Thanksgiving and Christmas meals more enjoyable, our family has come up with themes for each meal.  I think last year we had a Midevail themed meal for Thanksgiving.  With this year having had been Roy-g-biv, it was more of a challenge because we wanted to get as many main dishes as we could, with natural colors.  Of course the turkey and pork will be brown or whitish and of course things like cooked beets will be purple and sweet potatoes will be orange, but doing things like purple potatoes, which come out more indigo than violet and other fun foods were needed.

What wasn't covered by the "no food coloring" blanket, was desserts.  So, while some desserts were made that were colorful, like raspberry or blackberry pie, I decided that there had to be some easy and colorful desserts.



So, all my wife and I did, was take 3 boxes of basic white cake mix and then mix coloring into each before baking.  We then layered them with white icing in between each layer an don top with some strawberries.

For those who are ready to sing the "ice cream and cake" song, we had ice cream as well:

I made 7 quarts of ice cream and each was a different color and flavor.  While the cake was all the same flavor, the ice cream was a nice selection.  The red was strawberry, the orange was orange, the yellow was banana, the green was kiwi, the blue was cotton candy, the indigo was ube and the violet was grape.  I tried to use simple flavorings when I could and everything was sugar free.  I used 3 cups of fat free half and half, 1/2 cup of splenda, 3 eggs worth of egg beaters, 1 teaspoon of Xanthum gum and then mixed it and froze it. Ice cream for everyone!

So, if you have a machine, use the recipe and make some ice cream.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

you did probably eat one of them

It was Thanksgiving dinner, you sat down and had a big plate full of food.  There was a turkey, larger than a Fiat, and you have a bread-like edible material on your plate.  It has celery, some raisins and some spice and you are there, ready to get a big fork full of this.  But, what is it?

I know that if you are reading along and thing to yourself, "this guy has got to be talking about something better than this," and you would be wrong.  Because this is a very simple topic that often times get construed and confused as to what it actually is.  Companies and Brands try to make this be more confusing because of what they call their product and how it relates to other topics in daily life.  You don't go to the store to buy some Stove Top Dressing, do you?

So, here is the basic distinction: stuffing is an item that has been used to stuff and dressing is an item that is served alongside of a main dish, like to "dress it up".  So, stuffing and dressing, while they may have the same ingredients, are actually only different or separated by what they are used for.  Stuffing is primarily dressing, which has been stuffed into the cavity of an animal, like a turkey.  Dressing, is that same mixture, but cooked separately without the need for an animal carcass.  Now, I admit that you can cook dressing with animal pieces, but until it is stuffed into something, even a bell pepper, for example, it is still just dressing.

So, stuffing versus dressing: stuffing is the item that has been used in the stuffing and dressing is be itself.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

St. Louis Bread Company

I don't think I have ever written about this company; odd because it is a St. Louis company and has changed the way that Americans eat deli-like sandwiches.  I have been going to St. Louis Bread Company for many years now, but I remember a time when they were not on every street corner, like a Starbucks.  I remember a time when if you wanted a sandwich on some freshly made bread, you had to go someplace like Mama's Deli or Subway or Koppermann's.  I don't dislike these large corporation deli or bakeries, but they do tend to put the smaller places out of business.  While that is the idea of businesses, in general, to put the other ones out of business and take over, that idea is always seen as harsh when it is a Goliath against David.

Now, Panera Bread was officially born in 1981, as Au Bon Pain Co.  It was a company on the East Coast, which owned and operated many bakery-cafe style restaurants.  In 1993, they purchased a string of 20 bakery-cafe's throughout St. Louis, owned by a company called The St. Louis Bread Company.  From 1993 to 1997, they completely restaged and reworked this company and the cafe's to become more efficient and the new company of Panera Bread was born.  The owners basically discovered that they were making more money with Panera then with their other company and then in 1999, they sold off everything that was Au Bon Pain Co.  Since that old company was sold, all the money was put into Panera and the stock has grown 13 times!  

Now, in 2009, they purchased another bakery-cafe company in the West with over 70 locations.  So, now Panera can spread over the US, easier.  Now, as of this past September, there are 1,625 bakery-cafe's in 44 states and even some in Canada.  

Also, that large building which used to be an Anheuser Busch Distribution headquarters, on Geyer Rd, first second building on your right as you exit off of 44E towards Watson, is the Panera HQ.  Also alos, the St. Louis Bread Company bakery-cafe, located on Clayton Rd., across form the Esquire theatre, is the the "testing" facility.  I used to go there when I went to Fontbonne.  I was told that at that location, they would try things out there first, before moving those ideas or menu items all over to their other stores.  This means that most of the time, you can go there and find things and try things before they get to everywhere else.  

So, do I like the food at St. Louis Bread Company?  Yes, the bread and everything is cooked properly.  There is just one thing I wished from the company.  I wish that their fresh baked breads would still smell like fresh baked breads.  When I cook bread at home, it still has a certain 'smell' to it, of wheat, yeast and great other fresh bread things.  The breads at Panera are good, but I have yet to have experienced that fresh bread smell or sensation at any Panera or St. Louis Bread Company location, since I can remember.  Still though, for good food, it is an easy place to get some baked goods and use them to distract your kids enough so you can enjoy some simple and healthy food items.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

St. Louis was important... in the early 1900's.

So, Saturday comes along and my wife has a hair appointment.  We drive around to the salon's new location and I find myself in a strangely familiar location: Carondelet.  What makes this area of St. Louis important for me, is thanks to Ancestry.com, I was able to see the 1850 census form, which noted that my ancestors had a farm worth $1,600 and it was located in Carondelt.  That would have been before the city of Carondelet was as big as it was.  What did my family do with the farm?  Like the other farmers of the area, they likely sold it to form the city and produce more housing areas or the park. Was it a big parcel of farm land?  Perhaps.  I know that my family didn't do livestock, so it had to be pretty big.  Using some online resources citing the Consumer Price Index, a dollar from 1850 is worth about $28.30 in today's money.  So, was that a big deal?  Well, my ancestor's $1,600 worth of property from 1850 would have been worth $45,280 in today's money.  Since the area of land that this was in was south of the city, it likely was not worth as much.  I found records which suggest that in 1850, land was going for $1.25 an acre, or $35.38 per acre or today's money.  Again, there was nothing in this area, at this time.  So, how many acres does this mean that I could guess my family had?  I'd say about 1,280.  So, is that a food related topic?  Yeah and a cool one.

Now, in this area around 1901, a building was built.  This building, on the corner of Michigan and Davis Street, would become the only other Midwest location for Coca-Cola to use to manufacture their syrup for their soda, other than Chicago.  How cool is that?  We have a piece of world history right under our noses.  Coca-Cola used the plant up to 1988 when it sold it's share of the building and moved out.  Since the building is a historic landmark, it couldn't be razed and is now a set of apartments.  But the interesting thing is how this plant was here the whole time.  It would be as if people just found out that there was a huge beer making and bottling plant a block from their home, after living in St. Louis for 20 years!  I mean, there ARE people living in St. Louis who don't know that there is a huge brewery here. (weirdos)
Still, it is interesting knowing that this hidden gem has been here all along. I have to admit, the area around Davis and Michigan does not appear to be the best place, it is mostly an industrial area with the docks along the river on one side and factories and dumps around.  But, this, this very important building for Coca-Cola, was right here in a quiet and secret area of St. Louis.  But, one hundred years ago, you have a large factory here right next to the river and railroad, which meant that Coca Cola could get to any location in the U.S. right away.  Again, this was back when St. Louis was the center of railroad transportation.  While it may still be the center of barge traffic, I don't think much of anything goes out of St. Louis, via barge anymore.

Local Harvest cafe and catering

I've heard a lot about this place.  It has a small location in the Tower Grove Park area and has been seen many times in the RFT's "best of..." section.  But, this is the first time we have been there and I wasn't that impressed.  I admit, that anywhere that can get sustainable or seasonal foods to serve get more points in my book, but it doesn't matter if it still doesn't seem so magnificent.  The cafe has good food, as in pretty good.  I wouldn't say that the food is better tasting than St. Louis Bread Company, but it is there.  I went with my wife and kids on the size weathered Saturday and we even sat outside.

The food is alright and the prices are a bit high, for me I think.  I was hungry and ordered the Brisket, which was a sandwich with house-smoked, Missouri raised beef brisket, Gouda, greens and a horseradish aioli.  All sandwiches are served with about 2 handfuls of the Billy Goat chips.  Now, the chips are addictive.  I've purchased large bags of the chips from Dierburgs and snacked on them at work and home.  I don't like Gouda cheese and had that omitted.
  
Now, all-in-all, the sandwich was on a normal sized hoagie roll with about as much greens as meat.  It was alright.  I mean, I love sandwiches and brisket and get by with greens, but this was pretty bland and the brisket was okay.  I'd actually give my sandwich a 2 out of 5 stars.  It was just okay.  The chips were better than the sandwich.  Also, this plate of food was $8.50; which is the price of a small entree' at most restaurants.  This same type of sandwich, with chips and a drink, would probably be less than $7 at St. Louis Bread Company, which is why I mentioned it earlier.

What I do have to say, is even though this restaurant has a kid's meal, it doesn't seem very kid-friendly.  Why, you ask?  They had a kid's meal selection, like I had mentioned, but they didn't have lemonade.  I know, you are thinking or asking why this is a big deal?  Most parents are told by their kids' doctors or dentists that they need to get their kids to not have soda.  So, I believe that every restaurant that wishes to be kid friendly, should have at least one non soda option, besides water, on their menu.  Local Harvest had one option besides water: San Pellegrino sparkling lemon water.  So, of course we add more sugar into it to make it palatable for my kids but they still don't like it.  Hmmmm, nasty lemon water or regular tap water?  I'll admit that St. Louis tap water still tastes good, to me, but my kids expect something.  I'm not taking my kids out to eat at 1111 Mississippi, because they don't have anything kid related.  Putting cheese quesadillas on a menu does not make you an instant kid friendly restaurant.  Furthermore let me put it this way, I live about 25-30 minutes away from this cafe and I will not bother myself to go out of my way and drive there again.  There are really good places in St. Louis, but it just seemed that this wasn't really one of them.

What was also a bit of an issue was the bathroom.  I understand that the building that this cafe has is a historic landmark.  I understand that the cost of making changes like a bathroom or new plumbing would be great.  But, having one single-person bathroom for a cafe which could sit as much as 20-30 people at one time?  If they wanted to get more business or make me want to specially come out just for them, I think a second bathroom would be ideal.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Vegas part one...2012

Besides here, my writings also appear on insidestl.com.  Insidestl.com mostly is about st. louis and the surrounding areas, but I had approval to talk about something outside, every once in a while.  So, for this and one more, I'll talk about my vegas trip.  If you don't like it or if there are any trolls, so be it.


First of all Pappsito's Cantina is a Mexican restaurant in the middle of the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.  This restaurant specializes in Mexican food but unlike other Mexican restaurants, the food here is really good.  Why is it really good?  Well, because of butter.  I ordered the fajita grill and was given some seasoned and sliced beef and chicken and it was glistening with melted garlic butter.  It also came with a small dipping bowl, filled with butter.  I asked the waiter and he told me that it is cooked normally, but when the meat is resting, they pour melted butter on everything.  So, it was high in calories but the taste was awesome.  Also, this restaurant needed to set it apart from other Mexican restaurants so they do something very strange: the serve warmed salsa.  It isn't even remotely cold, but actually almost hot.  I'd give the food here and this restaurant an easy 3 & 1/2 stars out of 5.

Now, you should know by now that I dislike it when a business or corporation decides to use improper grammar or syntax or spelling to create what they think is an edgy name.  This next place does it but I let them go because the food is so good.  I ate at Xtreme Sushi two times at two different locations, both in Las Vegas.  This sushi restaurant is different than the traditional ones because there is loud music, televisions playing sports and a non-traditional atmosphere or environment.  It would be hard to guess that it was a sushi restaurant at all.  The food was really good though.  The sushi rolls were huge, the non sushi items like their spicy chicken or xtreme steak was super tender and delicious and everything was just great, in both locations.  I'd give this place a good 4 out of 5 stars.

The Peppermill is a restaurant located on the strip, across the street from the newest Trump tower.  This restaurant is like an IHOP but with bigger portions.  I know I ordered the French Toast and ended up with two, huge Texas toast sized pieces, two strips of bacon, two links of sausage and 3 eggs, for under $10.  The big thing was the fruit plate.  It was not supposed to be a big deal, but this is Vegas.  The fruit plate came out, with about a half of a gallon of vanilla ice cream and 10 pounds of fruit.  That was Vegas style.  What was also fun about this restaurant, was that it reminded me of one of the clubs in Grand Theft Auto Vice City.  It had the bowling alley style carpet, fake trees inside, neon colors and lights and the waitresses wore outfits reminicent of the late 80's.  The food was great and the service was great.  An easy 3 & 1/2 stars out of 5.

The last place for this part, is Hot & Juicy.  Hot & Juicy is a New Orleans style seafood and other food restaurant, with the addition of a super hot sauce and seasoning on their food.  What the average person gets, is a bag, filled with this super hot sauce, some shrimp, a potato and some cuts of sausage.  It is all boiled and steamed in the bag and then served to you, in the bag still.  All you do is cut open the bag, wait for it to cool off, then dive right in.  I'm not a seafood person, so I didn't eat the clams, shrimp or the lobster. I did try the fried catfish, which was good and ordered a large serving of the sausage, cooked in the Hot & Juicy signature sauce.  What surprised me, was that the sauce, was made from shrimp pieces.  I found a shrimp leg and part of a shell in my bag.  So, thinking that there would be no seafood in my food, I found chunks and pieces and could tell that the super yummy sauce and stock.  The sauce didn't taste fishy, like I would have expected and there wasn't too much shrimp flavor.  It was all very tasty.  I'd give everything I tasted, from the corn fritters to the sausage and to their signature sauce, an easy 4 out of 5 stars.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sorry, Vagas Vacation!

Starting on Halloween, my family and I left for a week long vacation in Las Vegas.  Because of this, I have taken this past week off.  What this does mean however, is that I have a large number of places to talk about. The following are places I intend on writing about:

Pappapsito's Catina
Xtreame Sushi (2 locations)
The Peppermill
Honey Pig
Lavo
I Heart Burger
Hot & Juicy
Meatball Spot

Now, while I admit that there were plenty of meal opportunities through the week, some of those times were other meals at locations that are not really suitable for reviewing.  Like I'm not going to review the food at the cafe at Hoover Dam.  However, there were some spots that were not food related that I will talk briefly about, like The Act and Lavo's nightclub.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

God Bless Ethiopia

Okay, my wife is Lebanese which means that while always trying new things, we and her family find ourselves as 'regulars' at The Vine restaurant.  The Vine has great Lebanese style food and besides the service, which varies upon which day it is, the food is very close, to the food which I had experienced first-hand in Lebanon.  While driving on Grand to go to The Vines, we pass a spot on our right, which is Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant.  We always say to each other that we will stop in there, but we never do, until this past weekend.

Ethiopian food is great, as it is rich with lentils and spices and reminds me a lot of Indian food.  This restaurant has been open since 2007, but I just never found my way there.  If you are fan of spices, not spicy, but full flavored spices like coriander, cardamom, or even saffron, then this is where you need to go.  The food is flavored with this spiced richness that was so good that even the waitress had asked if we had been there and eaten that cuisine before.


We ordered the Vegetarian and Meskerem combo, which was delivered to us on a giant serving tray.  This giant metal tray, had a sourdough pancake on the bottom, covering the whole dish.  Then, on top of that, in little piles, lay all of these different kinds of dishes.  There were different flavors of spiced lentils, beef, chicken and even lamb.  There were peppers, onions, garlic and green beans.  All of this was eaten using pieces of this bread/pancake called Injera.  It was amazing and within minutes my wife and I, and kids, were full.  And it is great as if you have a lot of food and you take it 'to go', they simply fold up the bread with all of the dishes on it.  I think it was great because for dinner that night, I'd open the styrofoam container and cut a portion of this folded together 'sandwich' and it was awesome.  Even reheated, it was the same texture and even now though, you had no idea what you were eating or which one and just tasted a different flavor in each bite.  It was flavorful, rich and exotic all rolled into one.


The restaurant is on a corner lot, and nicely decorated with images and drawings of the country, as well as many religious artwork of crosses and Jesus.  It had nice quiet music playing and as I mentioned before, there was not a single utensil out.  This food is to be eaten with the bread in your hands so there is no need for forks or knives.  This is great for those with kids because you don't have to worry about your young kids playing with the utensils or hitting the table or anything.  The single waitress was very nice to all of us and I saw her being nice to everyone.  It was all, just very nice and this is someplace that I would easily go back and try again.  I rate the dishes, the dining and the experience an easy 4 out of 5 stars.  I have to say also, the honey wine is awesome!  It tastes like honey and flowers.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Are you afraid of the Monster?

If you have more common sense than a rock, you should be fine.  Monster and some other energy drinks are getting a bad rap lately because of the people who abuse them.  What is happening, is that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is doing an investigation into Monster and the energy drinks they have.  The FDA puts a cap on how much caffeine a soft drink can have but does not have a cap on caffeine in energy drinks.  Monster has taken full advantage of this.  Sure, I hate Monster ever since I found something in my can and when I reported it to Monster they wouldn't tell me what it was but gave me 5 free Monster drinks, but I need to defend them a bit on this.

There are warning labels on video games, suggesting that people who are prone to epileptic seizures from overexposure to lights and colors, could have a seizure while playing video games.  I've never heard of these people, but the warning is there for a reason.  It is there so they can cover their ass, in case someone plays a game from them and has a seizure. Now, as much as it may suck, people who are prone to this condition, don't play video games.  So, why wouldn't someone who has a medical condition that is stimulated by caffeine, stay off of things with caffeine?

The first American produced energy drink actually dates back to 1949 when someone wanted to make a nutritional soft drink with vitamins instead of the sugar.  Since then they have gained ground and market share in America.  They also promote and advertise to a younger age group, with 66% of their drinkers being between age 13 and 35 years old.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_drink)

This brings me to the latest news story from last December, where a 14 year old girl had died from drinking two 24oz. Monster energy drinks within a 24 hour period.  Her parents are attempting to sue Monster, even though research shows that this girl had a pre-existing heart condition. I should feel bad that a 14 year old girl died from drinking energy drinks, but she drank two 24oz energy drinks within 24 hours.  Since she most likely didn't stay up all 24 hours, you could be save and say that she likely slept for at least 8 of those hours.  So, 480mg of caffeine in 16 hours.  That seems a bit much for a 14 year old girl, and even too much for me! 

(http://blogs.laweekly.com/informer/2012/10/anais_fournier_monster_energy_death_lawsuit.php)
Now, what is difficult to find is, more information on this girl.  My wife and I started to think about it.  But why would you need or feel the urge to drink 2 energy drinks, unless you needed a lot of energy for something.  The report says that the girl was at the mall.  So, she went someplace, in the mall and purchased these two large energy drinks.  Here is the thing, pictures of her show her to be average weight.  Let's say that this may place her from 85 to 90 pounds.  So, even on the high side, this 90 pound girl is walking in the mall and has 480 mg of caffeine.  Let's not forget that she has a heart issue already.  So, how dumb was she?  I know, the hate mail will start coming in, but let's be honest here, did anyone in her family tell her that she had a medical condition?  Did her parents tell her to lay off or ease up on the soft drinks, coffee or energy drinks?  Did they tell her that if she has too much caffeine or sugar she could die?  If not, why not?  Clearly if you have a medical condition where one of your heart valves doesn't work properly all of the time, and could be triggered by caffeine, you would lay off of the caffeine right?  What was going through this girl's mind??  Even if she wanted to rebel against her parents, she could drink one of these drinks, but two?  It wasn't over 24 hours, because no malls are open 24 hours.  This was likely over 4-6 hours and even then, that is a 90 pound girl, drinking 380mg of caffeine in 6 hours. 

So, what do we do?  Well, the FDA is looking into this and while I think that making all energy drinks need an ID check before you purchase and make them 18 or over, it would not stop parents from giving them to their kids.  Or, even worse, having kids or anyone with knowledge about how these drinks could harm them, using them.  It could just be me, but I don't think there has ever been a case where a person has used chewing tobacco, and then sued the company, even though there is a warning that it could cause cancer.  Do people sue the cigarette companies for giving them cancer?  Yes.  Does it work? No, because they have a warning label saying that it can cause cancer.  If you have a medical condition or are sensitive to anything, please refrain from items and activities that would complicate things.

****Update*** as of the legal papers, of the lawsuit on October 24th, the information is that this girl went to the mall, purchased a Monster energy drink and then purchased the second one, the next day, at the same mall.  It was within a 24 hour period, but it was two days at the mall.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why haven't I been there before?

Last weekend, my family and I spent some time in a bar/grill in Kirkwood called Bar Louie.  Apparently this place is the bomb and I just have been centered on so many other places to notice.  Whether it is a big name or a small name, most restaurants and the like go under my radar.  Maybe it has to do with how I work 40+ hours a week and don't have the time to eat out during weekdays.  Maybe it has to do with my two young children and how it is a gamble finding a child-friendly place to eat.  Or maybe I just don't think that most bars can have good food as well.  Whatever the reason, all of that changed when I ate at Bar Louie.





The inside of this bar was inviting and nice, it was decorated with the dark, stained hard woods and still had enough lights and colors that it seemed like a good fusion of a pub and sports bar.  Blah, blah, blah, the waiter was nice and they had full view of the kitchen.  I know that most places now hide the kitchen and some like Bar Louie, let you see it all so you don't get an excuse why your food is taking time or is taking longer; you can see why.

So, what did we order?

The chips and dips and salsa were good.  You could tell that the chips were hand fried there and the salsa and queso dip went over well with my kids.  I say a 3 out of 5 for chips and dip.

I ordered a sandwich which was a BLT with a fried egg and it was awesome.  Everything was right about the sandwich and I'd order it again.  I gave the sandwich a 4 out of 5.


There was a plate of popcorn.  What made this different, was how it had butter and truffle oil all over it.  It was still light enough that it wasn't too strong or rich and still light and fluffy.  A nice starter so you can sit there, have a few drinks and popcorn.  A simple 3 out of 5 for me.


There was the shrimp salad, which had perfectly cooked shrimp on skewers.  You could tell that the shrimp was fresh, because most frozen shrimp can become rubbery when cooked and this was not.  A simple 3 out of 5 stars.


Even the quesodillas were good and even better for kids to eat.  Everything worked out well and this was a good 3 out of 5 as well.

Call me what you will, but I've never been to a Bar Louie's much less this one and having been there once, and experienced it, I think it would be a great place for parties and the like.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A new billboard...

But it still says the same thing!

I wrote a bit about this before and was driving through South County when I saw a new billboard off of Lindbergh and saw the same thing.  What I am of course complaining about is the newest exercise location in St. Louis: Xist.

While perusing Facebook this past weekend, my wife pointed something out to me:

We live in a day and age when it is somehow accepted for people to write as if they were a small child, completely ignorant of proper spelling and grammar and syntax.  Really, do we really need to spell words like this: "L33T" or "gr8" or even "ax"?  There is a large assortment of people who even send off emails written so badly that even my 4 year old could spell some of these words better.  So, does this bother you?  Well, guess where this leads to....

{
I have an idea, let us come up with a gym, the most coolest place in St. Louis for cool guys and hot girls to come and work out.  And since the current trend is to start all of your words, names and phrases with an "X", let us use an X in front of the name.  Let us think of something catchy....maybe we can appeal to everyone's human nature and their questions relating to their very existence and what their purpose in life is?  I know, let's called the gym: Existence.  Even better, let us call it "Xist".
}

The above is probably one of the most stupid things anyone in this area came up with.  I'm sure you have seen the below name, somewhere, on any billboard in St. Louis, but there is a problem.


The above word, is not pronounced "exist".  I'm sorry but for anyone who thinks this, you obviously do not have English as your first language.  They wanted this word to be pronounced as "X-ist".  This is how it should have looked everywhere.  The way that this is shown, is pronounced "S-ist".  So, you want to know something comical?  Do you know how you pronounce that word?  It is Xist, as in "Cyst" or "Sist".  It is not "ex-ist" as the makers wanted it to be.  Think of other words that follow this example: Xloid, Xenophobic or even Xeme.  When an "X" is the first letter of these words, it takes on the sounds of a "Z".  It is not an "ex" sound and then the rest of the word.  Check this out:  http://www.howjsay.com/index.php?word=xist&submit=Submit

That above link does the correct pronunciation for words and in this case, just as I mentioned, the name of this fitness area is "sist".  I don't think that the company thought of their gym as being named after a medical item, that isn't a pleasant one.  Or maybe the owners of this gym didn't bother to think.  Here is the thing: if they wanted it to be pronounced like "exist" then they would have had entered a hyphen between the "X" and the rest of the word.  Then it would have been "X-ist" and pronounced that way not like "sist".  This just proves that you don't need a college degree to do the marketing or run a business.  I love driving by this billboard on the road and seeing the rest of the sign: Don't just exist; Xist.  Don't just exist, become a cyst?  Really?

Let me think of other great examples:  um....when someone asks what time it is, do you answer them by saying that it is "nine oclock" or "nine o'clock"?  I would guess that one is actually pronounced as "o-clok" and the other is pronounced as "ah-clok".  I know it may not seem that much now, but wait till your boss tells you that he will give you a raise at "nine oclock" and you can't understand what an "aclok" is.

To the marketing people who are have failed 1st grade spelling and reading, change the name or stick a hyphen in there.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

More from the Ozarks...

I went to the Ozarks, last weekend from Friday-Monday and while there, I ate at a different restaurant for lunch and dinner each day, except for Friday where I ate on the road and Monday when we left before dinner.  But, with too many good places and too much to review and place into individually concise and simple articles, I have a bunch listed here.


Dog Days Bar & Grill is a nice place.  It has ports so people can pull their boats up and get served.  We took my kids there and the place is very kid friendly.  The food is simple bar food, in first appearance but I was told that the same owners of this bar, also own a Cajun style restaurant so there are some things on the menu here that sound like Cajun inspired.  I ordered their basic burger with a side of black beans and rice.  The burger was juicy and cooked as ordered.  The beans and rice were flavorful, albeit I had a few grains of uncooked rice.  I'd give this place a 3 out of 5.


Kay's is an all you can eat, home cooking restaurant.  It is very "traditional" in that not only does it have good food, but it also has a small selection of wares which you can purchase in the front of the restaurant.  The way that they do the all-you-can-eat way, is to make it so that all of the food is by order.  For instance, I wanted to start with some eggs and some biscuits and gravy.  Instead of going to a food line and plating this myself, I order it and a waitress comes out and delivers this to my person.  So, this seems to be a great idea because you can have all of the food you want, but the restaurant doesn't have to deal with food loss by having food sitting out on a hot line all day long.

The biscuits were light and fluffy and buttery.  The gravy was heavy and peppery.  The eggs were tasty and in this plate, I was happy.  I ate everything so I could move forwards to the next plate.  Off of the menu, besides the plate above you, I also tried the pancakes and bacon and sausage and grits and everything was delicious.  This would be like having an all you can eat meal at one of the last remaining IHOP's.  I would give Kay's a 4 out of 5.

El Jimador, is awesome.  In St. Louis, there is a fair amount of Authentic Mexican restaurants which have the innate ability to cause GI issues or just taste really bad.  Real Mexican food isn't smothered in cheese, canned salsa or bad salty chips.  Real Mexican food cannot be hidden or should not be hidden with your choice of a dozen Margaritas.  El Jimador looks like a stereotypical Mexican restaurant on the inside, with roofing tiles over the booths to make it look like you are outside.  Yeah, it looks lame, but when the food comes, it is awesome.  I ordered something that was called "Tacos al Pastor" (I think, I can't find it on the menu now when I look online.)  It was awesome:

These tacos were filled with super tender pork and grilled pineapple.  I know, it sounds a bit Hawaiian, but this was great.  That dip/salsa, was made from Chipotle chilies and was so flavorful and not spicy.  Everything tasted good.  I went here with 4 other adults and two kids and I tried every one's food.  I didn't have an issue with any of them.  My in-laws ordered the soup: Caldo de Pollo, which is an awesome soup with chicken and rice.  They were told, the first time they went there, that no one ever orders the soup, which is quite sad because the soup was so good.  The only disappointing thing at the restaurant, was the bathroom.  I have seen cleaner bathrooms, on a hillside, in Southern Lebanon, than I did at this restaurant.  Still though, I'd give the food a 4 out of 5.

The final place that I have here, is called JJ Twigs.  This restaurant is huge and you can see it from any angle off of US 54.  It has a large sign on it saying that it is a great place for Pizza, but I am sorry to say that if their pizza is the best in the Ozarks, then I think all of the other pizza places should be razed.  I'm sorry, but this place is bad.  This restaurant is set-up like a rectangle, with a bar sectioned off on the two shorter ends.  It is decorated like a log cabin on the inside and there is a large fire place in the central seating area.  There is a very large amount of stuffed animals all throughout including a jackalope and a wooly salmon.  What is sad here is what is listed on the menu is not the same as what you get.  I want to be clear on three things, which myself and my group ordered.  First of all, I ordered the 16 layer lasagna.  Now, while this sounds like a huge item to plated and shown off, what I had received was this:
Now, I hate to be a stickler, but after I removed those two slices of bread, I counted and there was only 12 layers, not 16.  This wouldn't be a big deal by anyone else, but for those who see that being told that they have a piece  of lasagna that has 16 layers, is a huge selling point, then finding out that it doesn't ruins the joy behind it.  What did it taste like?  Not very good.  It was pretty bland, like the sauce had two flavors: tomato sauce and oregano.

My son ordered the pizza, since this is a famous pizza place.  This is what was delivered to us:

If you notice the cardboard, then you are with me on this.  No restaurant, anywhere, serves pizza in-house, on cardboard: especially white cardboard in the same and measurements of the pizza.  Now, I can't say whether the pizza was frozen and store bought and then heated badly or if this was made in house, prepped and placed on this cardboard and then not cooked thoroughly.  The pizza had a soggy crust towards the center and the sauce was the same flavorless sauce that was on my lasagna.  I would guess that if people think the pizza is awesome, they are most likely drinking as well and are too drunk to realized how bad the pizza actually is.

The last thing I wish to point out is when a salad says that it has "field greens", that does not mean "iceburg lettuce."  I just want to throw that out there.  Whichever the case, this JJ Twigs should not be confused with the one in St. Louis:  http://www.jjtwigsstl.com/beginnings.htm  .  I know that the pictures of the food look great at this website, but it could be the same restaurant but not the same food.  I'm sorry but if this restaurant is owned by the same people as the ones in St. Louis, which it is, I don't want to even waste my money at the St. Louis locations after a disaster like this one.  JJ Twigs, maybe gets a 1 out of 5.

So, besides the great BBQ spot, Fired UP!, this is what we did and what we thought.  If you don't believe me on any of these places, see for yourself.