Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Last Friday Night....

Not a bad song, but the last of the Outdoor Film Series on Art Hill, for the summer.  This past Friday was an all-out party and the weather, while a bit hot, was almost perfect.  The night was filled with a giant, inflated movie screen for the showing of The Princess Bride, a group of performers, under a tent near the St. Louis statue, at least 8 of the city's food trucks, offering their food and wares to the people, an even an opening to the new wing of the St. Louis Art Museum.

We started off, by getting my kids two of the fresh made frozen lemonades and one home made chocolate ice cream from the Ice Cream truck.

This was the Fire and Ice Truck and while they do serve ice cream bars and soda and such, the lemonade and the ice cream is made from scratch by them.  I finished off a frozen lemonade.  It was tart and sweet in a perfect combination.  The chocolate ice cream tasted like real chocolate and was smooth and perfect.  I'd give our visit with them a 3 out of 5, meaning that you should visit them for their lemonade and ice cream.

The next truck that we ordered from was the  Completely Sauced truck, which seems to make a Creole spin on some great foods.

So, we ordered two things.  We first ordered a po-boy, which was tasty and went over well, like a 3 out of 5 stars.  But the real winner, was these little Jambalaya balls.  These things were so awesome.  You had yourself these giant, baseball sized clumps, of home-made jambalaya, with spicy sausage and tender chicken, and perfectly cooked rice.  Then, it looks like these things were packed together and fried.  The size of these were huge and I would say that two of them, would be enough for one person.  I'd give these a 4 out of 5.

The last truck we visited was the Bombay Food Junkies Truck. What we have here, is a newer truck, with an Indian food idea.

This truck is vegetarian and has vegan friendly items.  While that may sound "bleh" to some, it means that there are a lot of dishes with rice or potatoes, which is always a plus for me.  I ordered an item called the Bombay Burger.

The burger is mostly chickpea flour and potato and has some great spices and added herbs with it for extra flavoring.  It came with a yogurt sauce which I was asked to mix with my rice and it was a very spicy and satisfying dish.  The burger was made fresh, by the cooks in the truck and was just so delicious.  I'd give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

There you have it: 3 trucks out of the many trucks that are part of the St. Louis food scene.  For more information on these trucks, please visit their sites:


Thursday, July 25, 2013

The new RM restaurant

Vegas is known for their food and restaurants and while St. Louis is trying to get restaurants that are coming close to quality and taste as those in Las Vegas, they are still miles off.  Everyone does need at least one trip to Vegas to try the food and experience the only city that really never sleeps: except on Sundays.

Several years ago, my wife and I went to the Mandalay Bay Casino and Hotel to eat at Chef Rick Moonen's restaurant: RM Seafood.  We had what could not be argued as the best food either of us had ever eaten.  It was sustainable, fresh, seasonal and perfectly delicious.  Now, just two weeks ago, Chef Moonen had closed his smaller downstairs pub and moved RM Seafood downstairs, directly below the main floor.  A new restaurant has opened upstairs, from Chef Moonen.  The new restaurant, has a tiny bit of steam-punk theme and is a new look at some traditional and American classics.  This will look out the food we had ordered and what we think.  The problem is however, that before this review, I used RM Seafood as my basis for reviewing and judging against.  Now, I have to basically review RM Seafood against RX Boiler Room.

So, first let me tell you that the day we went, at the time we went, I did see the illustrious chef there.  I saw Chef Moonen there, in the booth right next to us, with his family.  He checked on things and left, but at least he was there and not like other big name restaurants in Las Vegas where the chef is never there.  Good luck finding Wolfgang Puck at one of his restaurants on a Sunday night.

Anyway, we were greeted by a nice woman, I think her name was Tatiana.  Anyways, she was really nice, a fun one to talk to, and knowledgeable about the menu and even the items on the menu.  Some restaurants that you go to, you can ask a question about what they like and they may say that they haven't tried it yet or even that they have no idea how it is made or what is it it.  Tatiana, knew almost everything.  (She even apologized because my wife and I had asked a question which the answer was on her notes, in the back and she had forgotten it.)

Now, before we had ordered any food, we had ordered a mixed drink.  Chef Moonen creates an anachronism as our waitress hands us a drink menu, on an ipad, for his steam-punk themed restaurant.  The ipad application had a cool feature where you can see everything in each drink and then if you like it, you can recommend it for others to view and order.  So, after much deliberation, we ordered the Campfire Peaches, which tasted just like roasted peaches.

Next, my wife ordered the Vlox smoked under glass, which was some salmon, smoked and on a plate with some sauce and herbs.  It was interesting because the dish included something called "sea greens", which we had to look up on our phone's Internet to find out what it was.  My wife thought it was delicious and immediately started to make those "I love this food" noise.  I'm sure she would give that dish a 4 or even a 5 out of 5 stars.

Then I had ordered the Bacon wrapped bacon-n-egg.  I know it has bacon and eggs, but I was not expecting what had come out.  What came out was these three awesome little bacon and egg bites on a hard toast-like cracker.  These things were awesome and while I didn't want to eat each as a single bite, like sushi, I did anyway and they were delicious.  Each bite was rich with the tiny egg yolk and then you could taste the pepper and salt and the best part was the sweet and saltiness of the bacon chunk.  My favorite of the night as next time I come back, I would gladly order 4 or 5 of these and eat them all for me.  This is the very best, the Sir Lancelot, if you will, the most perfect of the dishes; I think.  I give them a 5 out of 5 stars.

The next thing we had ordered was the Niman Ranch Skirt Steak.  What is important to to note, is this "Niman Ranch".  As explained by our server, the ranch is located in Ohio and what makes this ranch special, is the way that they treat their animals.  They treat their animals in such a way, that the meat tastes remarkably different than what is expected.  The skirt steak, tasted so much more "steak-ey" than normal steak.  It wasn't a bad or gamey flavor but a stronger and more beefy one. It was so tasty, so tender and the crust was a perfect mix of salt and pepper.  The dish came with little tater tot things, that tasted like herbed mashed potatoes and then deep fried.  They sat on a sauce which tasted a bit like a tartar sauce.  Everything was so good, like deliciously good.  I'd give this one a 4 out of 5.

We went picked the other Niman Ranch item as well, this one, was the Niman Ranch Puerto Tacos.  From the same ranch as the super beefy steak, we had some seasoned and grilled pork.  This is what pork is supposed to taste like.  It doesn't taste like store-bought pork, it doesn't taste like any taco I have ever eaten.  It tasted better than the pork I had eaten at Frontera Grill, in Chicago.  It was amazing.  It was almost a porky pork flavor, reminiscent of boar.  It was so strong and not weak or shallow like other pork items.  It was cooked in a banana leaf, and came with a sauce, a salsa and some pickled relish.  This was amazing and my wife was filled with so much happiness that I think she would never find another taco that tasted as good as this one ever again.  I'd say that an easy 4 out of 5 came from this one.

We even tried the famous Moonen Doggies, which became famous enough for the RM downstairs, that they are now on the menu of RX.  These are like sausages, made of fresh and seasoned shrimp, then coated with a rich batter and deep fried.  My wife loved these and I am sure that if you are a fan of shrimp, then you are a fan of these.  That is a 4 out of 5 stars right there.

So, how do you possible follow such an amazing meal?  We asked our server, and she recommended this:

So, what we ordered was the Granito Trio.  Here, from left to right, was an almond flavored granita, with a candied orange slice.  The middle one is a watermelon granita, with a slice of  sweet and fresh watermelon and little chocolate "seeds", was nice and refreshing.  The end one was an espresso flavored one with whipped cream.  Everything tasted good.  I'm not a huge fan of coffee and skipped the last one, but the first two were very smooth and tasty.  I'd give this a 4 out of 5 as well.

Overall, I think that the food here at Rx Boiler Room is actually better and still different.  I know that RM Seafood is technically more fancier or a more classier dinner than the Boiler Room, but the food over all, the atmosphere, the staff, and the way everything went, was better.  The Boiler Room also feels warmer, more friendlier than what I remembered from the RM Seafood.

My suggestions, is that if you were wanting a nice, adventurous and relaxing dinner, then go to the Boiler Room.  If you want a dinner to impress people or be impressed, go to RM Seafood.  If you want a romantic meal, go to either one.   

Monday, July 22, 2013

Savannah Grille in the Ozarks

Hidden away, on Horseshoe Bend Parkway, on the way to the resorts in the Ozarks hills of Missouri, is a nice little restaurant named Savannah Grille.  While this nice cottage-looking restaurant look quaint on the outside it is the exact opposite on the inside, with Chef Robert Sills using modern techniques to perfect traditional food and dishes.  Chef Robert grew up in New York, then moved to South Carolina where he learned and gathered more culinary intelligence.  Finally moving to Missouri, he decided to partner up with the local farmers and the Farmer's Market, in the Ozarks, to create deliciously fresh, seasonal and sustainable dishes, that help show off the great and wonderful foods that can be found nearby.  Now, while not everything is found within a 10 mile radius or close to that, I think he said the eggs came from Tennessee, but everything did come from a farm and is fresh and doesn't use any GMO's or anything bad.

The restaurant is nice on the inside and has a wonderful view, from the side of a bluff, of the Lake of the Ozarks as well as some of the resorts.  The menu is incredible, everything is organic and the place is very friendly and great for kids.

So, here is what we had ordered:

First we had ordered the House Charcutrie Board, which was a board filled with house-made pickles and sausages.  It is huge and is well worth ordering for your party at your table while you wait for the main courses.  We ordered enough on here for 3 people and this was a large board filled with food.  Chef Robert told us that he had purchased a book on pickling and just started to play around with it, making almost anything into a pickle.  There were sweet pickles and sour pickles and the sausages and meats were just as tasty.  If you need a good board to calm your table down, get this.  I'd give the board a 4 out of 5.

Now, the next thing we had ordered was for me.  It isn't on the menu now, but that is because the menu changes daily, due to what is available and fresh.  I ordered a house made sausage, with greens and mashed potatoes.  Can you say "delicious"?  The sausage was tender and juicy and the mashed potatoes were creamy, buttery and full of flavor.  There was a bit of a micro green salad with a very rich and tasty gravy. This was the kind of dish that you could just sit there, relax, enjoy the view and eat.  I'd give this one a 4 out of 5 as well.

While these helped make the meal enjoyable, these were given to us, just like bread and butter is given to guests at other restaurants.  What is it, you may ask?  What these are, are sweet cornbread muffins, with chunks of andouille sausage in them.  With each bite you can taste the corn bread and a bite of spicy sausage or pork fat.  These are so awesome and even better with some of the herbed compound butter.  I'd give these things alone a 4 out of 5 stars.

Now, just when you think you can only get great dinner and lunch food here at the Savannah Grille, they also offer a brunch menu on Sunday.  The delicious menu has all types of great things, including this omelet filled with meat.

I was one of 6 adults and we had two children with us and none of us, had any issues or problems with any of the food we had ordered.  Usually BBQ is a must-have while we go to the Ozarks and now, we will have to stop in and check to see what else is new and fresh and delicious.

Savannah Grille
1622 Horseshoe Bend Pkwy
Lake Ozark, MO 65049

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What is an Heirloom Tomato- By Chef John Johnson

What is an Heirloom Tomato?

Tomatoes are native to the Americas. Eating tomatoes always bring me back to when I use to hide in my parent’s garden on warm summer days with a salt shaker in one hand and picking tomatoes with the other. Eating them right off the vine will always bring a smile to anyone. I don’t think I have ever had a better tomato. If you want to come close the Heirlooms, come very close. There are nearly 600 varieties out there and many of which are hard to find. In most grocery or produce stores, they always seem to have what I call the standards; Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Golden Queens. These are then mixed together for the following recipe.

They are classified into four types: the Commercial Heirlooms are open pollinated tomatoes varieties that were introduced by seed companies before 1960, the Family Heirloom are Varieties that have been passed down from generation to generation, the Created Heirloom is one that has been crossed deliberately using two original heirlooms to create a new one and finally the Mystery Heirloom, which arises accidentally in nature due to natural cross pollination.

My favorite is a very unique tomato “The Garden Peach”, which has a light yellowish, pinkish color resembling a small peach when fully ripe. It even has a slight fuzzy texture to them. I have been lucky enough to find seeds from a wild breed of tomato from the Galapagos Islands. One of two wild species endemic to the islands, that due to growing so close to the sea water, have a sweet and salty taste to them. I can’t wait to try them.

The best way to eat heirloom tomatoes is simply cut them serve them salted with a little oil. The recipe below does just that and I have dressed them up with some tapenade and tomato pepper.

Plate Ingredients:

Assorted Heirloom Tomatoes 3 large

Assorted Cherry Tomatoes 6 each

Small basil leaves 4 each

Small celery leaves 4 each

Curry Hummus (recipe below) 1 Tbl

Kalamata Tapenade (recipe below) 1 Tbl

Basil Goat Cheese (recipe below) 1 Tbl

Hawaiian black lava salt 1 Tbl

Olive Oil 2 Tbl

Tomato Paper (recipe below) 3 pieces

Curry Hummus

Garbanzo beans, drained (save juice) 1 can

Yellow onion, rough chopped ¼ each

Dijon mustard 1 Tbl

Paprika ½ tsp

Garlic (minced) ½ tsp

Lemon (juiced) 1 each

Curry powder 2 tsp

Crushed red pepper 1 tsp

Olive oil 1 Tbl

Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in blender and mix until smooth. If the mixture is too thick use the juice from the beans to create a consistency to blend well. Reserve

Olive Tapenade

Kalamata olives (pitted) 3 cups

Garlic (roasted) 6 gloves

Red pepper (Roasted & seeded) ¼ pepper

Basil (fresh) 4 large leaves

Place all ingredients into a food processor and chop until blend with smooth with some small chunks. Reserve

Basil Goat Cheese

Goat cheese (room temperature) 8 oz

Basil (chopped) 10 large leaves

Olive oil 2 Tbl

In a mixing bowl blend all ingredients together until fully incorporated. Reserve

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Back to the Ozarks

I do spend a lot of time in the Ozarks and rightly so.  The Ozarks is filled with restaurants that claim fame to the best in "something".  So, besides going back to Fired Up! and checking out items from their new menu (which everything we tried was awesome, again), we tried what is supposed to be the best BBQ in town.
First though, here is some food porn pictures from Fired Up!.

Their new salads in a jar:

This was my pulled pork sandwich with a slice of cornbread, sweet potatoes with marshmallow and some red skin mashed potatoes and gravy.

Just pulled pork.

While not personally eating all of the other dishes, I can only tell you about what I had.  The pulled pork is awesome, in any way you get it.  My sandwich was perfectly sweet and tender.  The cornbread is their same sweet cornbread which is like crack, or another addictive drug.  The sweet potatoes were completely candied with large amounts of butter and brown sugar and then they had these melted marshmallows on top and the thing was like my own personal dessert. The mashed potatoes still had small pieces of the red skins from the potatoes in them and the country style white gravy was great as well.  A 3 and 1/2 stars for my meal.

Anyways, the place that is supposed to be the best in town, is called "Half Sauced".

Half Sauced has awards and large trophies for their brisket and their pork, from 2009 and so forth.  Anyone who was a grand champion deserves a testing of tasting.  First of all, we ordered the smoked buffalo wings.
Theses tasted like the most perfectly cooked hot wings, with a smoky-ness to them that reminds you that they were cooked in a smoker with tons of other meats.  These were good enough that I would order several plates of these for a party.  I'd give them an easy 3 out of 5 stars.

Now, after this dish, we were only expecting the best, but were sadly disappointed as the best never came out.  Instead, when I had ordered the brisket sandwich, we had received this:
The first piece I had picked up, that middle piece, was perfect.  The meat fell apart and the fat melted.  It was so delicious that if I was judging on that piece alone, I would have given a 4 out of 5 stars for tastiness. The problem was that the next piece I had picked up was tough, like biting through leather.  It didn't have as much fat and I couldn't finish the piece and went to another one.  Now, Half Sauced has several home-made sauces and just like other places, Fired Up! included, they claim to make their own.  We tried their hot sauce and when we asked about it, we found out that it was basically just store bought hot sauce mixed with store bought BBQ sauce.  That makes everything a bit disappointing.

The baked beans were beans cooked and served in BBQ sauce.  They were more of a bean chili than a sweet baked beans that you would be accustomed to, in the Mid West.

What you should avoid, when you go there, is this plate that mentions brisket and something called "burnt ends".

They describe these "burnt ends" as Chewy, smoky, bits of brisket drenched in barbecue sauce."  When you read that line, I bet you are expecting something a bit chewy, but still edible, pieces of meat.  I am one of those people who will eat the ends of things like pot roast or brisket, because it has a bit of the char, extra flavorings and so forth on it.  These little, hard as a rock pieces, were nothing like the description.  They were not "drenched in sauce" but bone dry.  They were also not chewy, but so hard and tough that they could not be bitten in two.  I'm not joking!  There were 4 adults at our table and each one tried to bite a piece of these bits and it was impossible.  I remembered that one of my acquaintances asked the server if they were supposed to be that tough and she shook her head "yes".  How tough were they?  I wouldn't give them to a dog.  They were like bricks or meat and they were merely on the plate to make it look full.  The brisket was all over the board, just like my plate.  Some were tender and melt in your mouth and some were leather.  You would think that a "grand champion" would have perfect food, all of the time, but maybe they were just off, this time.  I'd give the dish, a 1 out of 5 stars, meaning I would not order it again and it was not edible.  

PS:  The steak fries, on the menu, were frozen from a bag.  Unless I am just that incorrect, but they were still cold in the middle and looked like the ones I could have bought in the frozen food section of any grocery store.

Overall, if I had to compare the two, I would spend my money at Fired Up! and tell everyone to go there.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A hidden surprise

So it was a hot day in St. Louis and after running some errands around Natural Bridge Rd., I thought of looking for a food truck to get lunch back to the office.  Since it is summer, I had my two sons with me and needed to find something that was both child friendly and tasty.  So, I found my way to the downtown area and went for the Wells Fargo building, hoping to find Guerrilla Street Food.  That truck was not there and instead, a new one, for me, was there: Roberto's Trucktoria.  So, I wondered to myself: "Italian food? Will my boys eat Italian food?"  So, we parked the car and walked to the food truck, camera in hand.  It was there that I gave my business card, asked what was the specials and then asked if I could take some pictures.  Now, no less than the real Roberto, of the truck's and restaurant's name came out, introduced himself to me and answered any questions I had about the food and the restaurant.

Now, besides meeting the friendly and helpful Roberto, we did receive the items we had ordered and I want to let you know, first, that they were delicious.

The thing is, that when you have a meatball sandwich and your kids steal the meatballs out and eat them leaving you with just the bun, then you know you have a good sandwich.  I did get a taste a meatball and my wife did too and when you take a bite and respond with "oh wow, that is good!", then you really have something there.  That sandwich was an easy 4 out of 5 stars!

Now, we also ordered the roast beef sandwich and just like the meatballs, they do everything by hand and from scratch.  So, there is no store bought roast beef and just heated or nothing like that.  The roast beef was just like the other sandwich, for my kids.  When given a third of the sandwich, they opened it up, ate out the meat and then the cheese and said that they were done with that.  Whether it was meant to be this way or not, Roberto's food is very kid friendly!  The sandwich was an easy 3 and 1/2 stars out of 5, meaning that it is the best one I have had.

You want dessert?  How about some made from scratch Amaretto Gelato? (It was perfect, by the way.) Or, what about some made from scratch Cannolis?
I can't describe these accurately: they were light, crunchy and cold.  They had flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon.  They were so good that my kids inhaled them.

Please visit Roberto's truck, wherever it may roam.  Also, visit his restaurant.

145 Concord Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63128