Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Hey everyone, I've hit it big, sorta....   Insidestl.com has agreed to make a new section just for my blog and writings.  Check it out at: http://www.insidestl.com/insideSTLcom/Community/STLEats/tabid/292/Default.aspx

Thursday, July 26, 2012


This past week, I have had a great opportunity.  I had the VP of Web Operations at insidestl.com, enjoy my blog so much that he wished to create a whole new section on the site and allow me to write for it.  So, I wrote an introduction article and thought I'd see how it goes for a few weeks, which is what they wanted me to do as well.  What struck me immediately, was the amount of people who question, doubt and call "Fraud!". 

I do like to write and I do like to eat and I do like to cook.  One of the things that I'm not a huge fan of, us when people write about topics that they haven't really experienced themselves.  What I mean is this:  I call myself a credible writer for restaurant reviews, having some fundamental knowledge on how a restaurant works and should be run. I also think I am capable of writing about cooking and other foods, as I am also an avid cook and experiment a lot with various ingredients.  I've worked with food, studied food and eat food.  I think this makes me capable of lending some truthfulness to writing about food. 

Are the best baseball writers merely fans?  I would say the best sports writers are those who have at least tried the sport at some time; not even professionally.  I don't know enough about football to write about it. (Truth be told.)  But still, you don't see me writing about it.

I have heard from a lot of people who think their idea of reviewing a restaurant is saying whether it was "good" or "terrible" and that's it.  These same people only have experience eating food as their wife or girlfriend do all of the cooking and their idea of fine dining is Hooters. 

While some may not believe me, when I explain about bad service at restaurants like 1111 Mississippi or bad food at Johnny's Pizza, what matters to me, is that I try to show some evidence, be it through photos or just other witnesses with me.  I try to make my posts seem credible.  I am not being paid or given a free meal to tell the world about how great the food is somewhere when I know it really isn't.

With that off my chest, I will say this, I don't review bars.  The food at a place like BoBeck's is probably no different than the bar food at Show Me's.  Most bars in St. Louis serve the same type of items and there is a minimum amount of difference.  I know you certainly can't review the beers, well you can, but on what factors?  This beer is 30 cents cheaper here than there?  Some things are the same.  Beers tend to be the same.  A Bud Light at Growlers is the same as a Bud Light at Top Shooters.  You can't really say one is better than another.  So, the only thing you can look at then, is the food quality, taste and service.  And even then, a regular burger at one place, even with a different taste, may still only be as good as a regular burger at another place.  So, which bar is better?  I would say that there are close to 5,000 bars just in st. louis, so checking each and every one would be impossible. 

So, there you have it.  My ranting.  Feel free to email or leave comments.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

thanks for hanging on

Thanks everyone for hanging on here.  I have had a crazy week.  A great site catering to the younger generation of St. Louis, has picked me up as the sole writer for their STL Eats section.  They never have had a writer about food in st. louis yet and the VP of the site loves tasty-magazine and he picked me up.  I have been writing on there.  He only wants me to focus on stl though, so if there is something I write about that doesn't have business in st. louis, then I'll put it on here and still post something on there.   I can write two separate things, right?

This past weekend, my family went to Chicago for business and while there, we were able to eat at Rick Bayless's Frontera Grill and go to another restaurant and order an 8 pound burger.  I will have pictures in a post next week and we are all set.   

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Audience Particpation Needed

My wife thought of doing something fun, you, the reader, get to participate in a fun game.  I describe my experience and you get to give your own thoughts and review this restaurant.  Are you ready?  Here we go.

So, we went to a regular restaurant in Columbia.  Jonny's Pizza has been open since May of 2011.  We haven't been there yet as it seems to always be closed on Mondays and closed at most times when we have free time.  We finally got in and after waiting a few minutes for a booth to be cleared, my wife and two kids had a spot. 
This is the inside of this pizza place?  Bland walls, white trim, black booths and fake hardwood flooring.  The chairs are normal, cheap metal frame chairs and the tables are basic black with laminate tops.  So, this restaurant says that it is famous for their Chicago style pizza, and happy that it is the only one in the area that serves it.  So, since this is my "choose your own adventure" or "make your own review" post, I'll skip my opinions further-on.  So, we order a few things.  We ordered a small pizza, the "meatlovers" which has sausage, hamburger, pepperoni and Canadian bacon.  The pizza was $11.50.  This is what came:
The pizza was hand-tossed, freshly made crust, with a tad of that yeast flavoring in it, a sweet sauce and all of those items on it.  The cheese made strings when you pull it showing how elastic it is and the sausage was a bit spicy, full flavored and perfectly cooked.  If this was your pizza, what would you give it?

Next we also had some bread sticks ordered.
 The bread sticks and dipping sauce consisted of a frozen bread stick which was heated in the pizza oven.  You could and can still see the black burn marks from the rack inside of the pizza oven.  All the bread sticks were the same size, shape and flavor.  All were chewy within 20 minutes.  This was $3.95.  The sauce is what they call, their "special sauce".  By special, I believe it means that it was canned spaghetti sauce with a cup of sugar added.  So sweet, in fact, that it was moving away from the savory side and towards the sweet side.  What would you give this one?

My wife wanted to try something different and her and I being close enough to St. Louis, where I'm originally from, and having had many times, St. Louis style Mostaccioli, we were expecting something more like the heaping, heavy amounts of Mostaccioli noodles with a thick sauce over and mixed around them, complete with big pieces of onions.  Well, what was delivered was this:
So, if you ordered Mostaccioli and received this, what would you rate it?  This is the same sauce, as the pizza and the bread stick dipping sauce.  This is the overly sweet sauce.  This was $7.75.

Next was the salad, the above pasta dish came with a small salad.  They call it a "dinner salad" and they mention that it is made with iceberg lettuce, olives, cucumber and tomato.   This is what it looked like:
The original salad, as plated before we started to eat, had 2 olives, one slice of cucumber and one tomato.  It also has a Fat Free Ranch that was so acidic that it could strip paint off of a tank.  (Probably not my opinion or an exaggeration there.)  What would give this salad?

I have saved the best for last.  We ordered the Hawaiian Chicago style pizza. This is what it looked like:
This is a small Chicago style Hawaiian pizza, going for $11.95.  This pizza had a layer of bottom crust, a layer of toppings and then a layer of cheese on top where a large puddle of that same sweet sauce was poured.  The sauce on the top of the pizza was not only cool, but also, about a 4th of an inch thick.  The inside of a slice looks like this:
The pizza had a crust that was mushy and wet and soggy.  The ham was diced and not fully cooked.  It was simple ham, nothing special about it.  The crust and dough tasted like pineapple, which could have been explained by the obviously canned pineapple chunks thrown into the pizza pie.  The water and juice from the pineapple had caused the dough and crust to be mushy and soggy so that it was hard to eat this pizza.  Chicago style pizza has a hard crust on the bottom and sides, not soggy and wet.  In the very bottom of the picture, in the middle shows something that looks like a white rectangle.  That item is a piece of raw onion.  Onions were used in this pizza and none of them, not a single one, was cooked.  They were raw still and so raw, that they still had the tart, sour flavor.  The chunks of onion and ham had made small indentations and spots in the bottom layer of cheese, which could indicate that they cooked the bottom layer with the cheese on it, then threw the ham and onions on to cook on top, then threw the pineapple and then finished the top layer.  The canned pineapple would have added enough moisture to soak the cooked food underneath it, as is evident by this picture of liquid, not sauce, liquid on the pizza pan.
The silvery color on the right of the picture is the pan and that other color is the water, just liquid coming from the pizza pie.  Again, there wasn't a bite that didn't have wet crust, raw onions, or cold sauce on top.  So, what would give a pizza like this?

My wife's suggestion was that as a local business, I wouldn't have to trash it when I review it, only give an honest and truthful experience and leave it up to the reader to make their own decisions.  So, I hope you came up with your stars, out of 5, in each category for this restaurant.  I will only input this statement, this fact: my family and I will never be coming back to this place. 

Thanks for playing!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Again with the Bravo?

Yes, I did go to Bravo! again.  The thing is with this restaurant, is that because it is part of a mall that we visit at least once a month, this restaurant becomes one of the options of places where my family and I can eat.  If you have been reading my posts, you would have noticed that I have been there at least twice so far.  The first time, I just had my wife and I and we had great service and the food was good.  The second time we went, the food was bad and the service was horrible.  We also had our kids along on that second time.  We couldn't get into CPK (California Pizza Kitchen) and so we went to Bravo! again.  I have to say though, counting this review, Bravo! is now 1 for 2; one win and 2 losses.

If this is your first time reading about this place, it is like a more fancy Olive Garden.  They claim to have better or more authentic Italian food and they do have an open kitchen, but the service lacks.  My two kids and my wife show up, ask for a spot and are asked to follow the hostess to the very back of the restaurant, where there are some booths available.  She first tried to sit us in a booth, that was against a small wall and on the other side of a wall was a party in the banquet room, complete with presents waiting for opening on this small wall.  The first thing as asked if we could move booths.  I don't know what she was thinking, but if you take any young child and place them next to a wrapped present, it is nigh impossible having them not trying to open them.  Not to mention that the booth was behind a large table, with at least 10 people sitting there, which I hate, because you feel so cramped.

We got a booth further down and as we sat, almost immediately, the waiter was on us, asking if we were ready.  We told him what drinks we wanted and ordered for the kids, in hopes that their order gets in and moving along so they don't starve.  Within minutes, a different server arrived with the food for our kids, which was great.  But he didn't take our order.  Instead I watched our server tend to the large party behind the wall.  Here's a tip: if you have a large party in your section, then please do not sit anyone else in your section.  My wife ad I normally tip the regular 15% but if the food is good and service good, we do 20%.  Well, the server seemed that he was willing to sacrifice us and not care about us, so he could get the fattest tip from the party.  Who cares about us, right?  So, we wait and wait and wait and someone comes by and brings us a second basket of bread and we wait and wait.  10 minutes goes by and the waiter hasn't been back to our table to take our order.  My kids are complaining about being full, and half of their food is gone.  So, we are waiting and I'm looking all over, from our seat, for our waiter.  Then I spot him: he is over at the other end of the restaurant, helping the bar-tender dry glasses and chatting with her.

So, the hostess comes by our booth, as she finished seating someone and then walks back to her station.  I stop her and ask her: "our waiter has been sitting over there at the bar for almost 10 minutes now, could you please let him know that we have been waiting here to order."  She goes back, tells him and he looks back at us, and finishes a few more glasses.  Then he comes over like nothing happened.  He takes our order.  My wife wanted a salad with some lobster bisque soup.  I picked the Chianti braised beef ravioli.  I was a bit disappointed by the time the food came, a mere 10 minutes later.

Well, what did my food look like?

This is my ravioli, and let me say that it wasn't worth $10.75.  The ravioli was good, the large amount of fresh Parmesan cheese on top, over-did the flavor of the beef.  The orange chunks are the diced pieces of sweet potato that have been in a very rich and bad tasty cream sauce.  The sweet potato, tasted off, as in, rotten, nasty, like trash, and it smelled fresh.  It was the combination of the potato and that sauce that made it bad.  I'd like to give this dish a 2 out of 5.

My wife's salad and soup was here:
My wife thought it was okay as well.  But not that great, I'd say it looked like a 3 out of 5 for her.

What does this mean for this time>?  Well, this means that out of 3 visits, we have had two bad ones.  Will we return?  Probably not now.  In fact, we may try to actively avoid it now.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why haven't you been here yet???

Ok, from a completely objective point of view, you have to go to Tokyo Sushi, on Lindbergh, in St. Louis.  My wife and I have been there many, many times and we have NEVER had anything bad.  They are super friendly, will fix any issue without hesitation and will help you out.  I know we have been going there for many years: from my kids both in high chairs and car seats to using their own chairs and working on chop sticks.  This place is always a winner and if you haven't been there yet, then what are you waiting for?

We normally sit at the bar, because I enjoy watching the chefs prepare the sushi.  (It really is an art form.)  So, we go and watch and almost always have the same server; Hugo, I believe his name is, or at least that is what I think he signed our bill as.

I normally always order the chicken or steak teryaki and this time did something different by selecting the yaki soba noodles with chicken.  Seems like a good idea and this is the giant plate that came out.
This is a large plate of food.  It was enough food for me to eat half of it, take it home, and then give the second half to my kids for their dinner.  It is a good amount for food for a really good price.  Not to mention that it was delicious.  I would give them stars on my scale but since we have been there so many times and they are perfect every time, they don't get counted, just 5/5 every time.

My wife picked up a sashimi sampler and this is what it looked like:

So, go here now: http://tokyosushistl.com/
I can't say enough good things about this.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Canned Bread!

Ok, so I watch Spongebob.  I think of the show much like how the Simpsons used to be, in that it has some strange and clever moments within the kid's show.  So, one episode had the octopus, Squidward, go to a gated community.  The whole episode was an obvious satire of the concept of gated communities.  So, while in this community, Squidward sees others of his same race and look.  Some of them with long hair, some with different colored shirts, but all of them with the same personality and likes that each other has.  So, while he is in a market, he looks up and says "Canned bread! This place has everything!"

Well, as cool as that is, I thought about how weird canned bread must be, especially having the ability and know-how to make bread myself at home.  I do see that it could be created and even cooked in a can, during the canning process.  

So, while a trip to our own market: Dierburgs, I saw something that would make Squidward ecstatic: Canned Bread!

So, we have the can and the only flavor they had was this brown bread.  I would have loved to see something like the regular white bread in a can, but this works as well.

Brown bread is interesting as it is flavored with molasses.  It also has a bit of a noticeable salt flavor, do to the large amount of sodium, but still a pretty good bread, from a can.  My expectations were not that high in the first place, because it is something from a can.  But the bread tasted okay, in fact, good enough that I will eat the whole loaf.  A 3 out of 5 stars for me.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

4th of July

I hope everyone had a good one and I hope that everyone had a stuffed belly afterwards.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The flaw in Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers is a great thing, in that it keeps people counting points instead of calories in hopes that they lose weight when they become aware of how much they are eating.  Instead of having candy, cookies and cheese all day, people see that a point cap, prevents them from pigging out on unhealthy foods and staying within a certain range, which can really be mimicked by watching and counting calories.


What is a bit troublesome for Weight Watchers, is that it is entirely possible to ingest hundreds of calories, for 0 points.  So, you have a cap of 28 points per day, but can eat as much fruit as you want because it has 0 points?  Is that true?

So, my wife wanted a snack and I thought that I could probably make one for 0 points.  So, I went to work.  I started by taking out some strawberries and blackberries:
I also had a peach but didn't use it.  Now, a cup of blackberries and a cup of chopped strawberries have 0 points.  But eating them plain is boring, so what could I do?

I put them in a pan, and let them start to cook.
I decided a banana, sliced up, would work well.  Do you start to see where I am going now?  Warmed up fruit.  I was first thinking of crushing this all into a compote, but changed my mind to make something sweet but with 0 points.  I know, vinegar.
While a few tablespoons of Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar may have a few points, spread out into serving sizes would give each serving 0 points still.  So, some of that was added in to help the fruit cook down and reduce.  Just when I had enough acidity to bring more depth out of the fruit, I added something sweet: flavoring.
This caramel extract has no sugar or points or calories.  So, what have we got here?   0 points of fruit, vinegar and flavoring makes a large bowl of 0 point food, really.
My problem with this, and the way that Weight Watchers does this, is that while this has 0 points and technically one on Weight Watchers could eat all they wanted without impact, it still has calories.  There is at least 310 calories in fruit and then you have the balsamic vinegar at about 15 calories a tablespoon.  I'd say I have two tablespoons in here and then you finish with about 340 calories for this.  Now, while it may have 0 points, it has 240 calories and so if you were wanted to, by Weight Watchers, you could eat 10 of these throughout a day with no points but you would gain almost a pound of fat due to the 3,400 calories.

So, is it flawed? I'd say.  I just have to develop a better diet solution that actually works.