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.


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