Thursday, November 29, 2012


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, 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 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
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.