Buckle Up For Caffeine Insanity*

Linea Espresso Machine
Pi’s 2-group Linea w/ PID rebuilt by Barry Jarrett–formerly of Riley’s.

Due to the unfortunate closing of the Central West End location of Companion Bake House, today was to mark the opening of Chris Sommers’ new Pi Coffee Bar–located under the loft of Pi’s new Central West End location.  Teaming up with Matt Herren and Debbie Sultan of Edwardsville’s Goshen Coffee and 222 Artisan Bakery, the plan was to begin carrying a full line of Goshen’s coffee and teas as well as Sultan’s award winning pastries.

Of course, to run a great coffee bar, you need a great manager and barista, and when the topic of who to run the bar came up last Thursday, Herren told Sommers there was only one choice: Alex Brooks.  In a whirlwind of a day, the call went out, and an offer was made, mulled over, and accepted by Brooks.

For St. Louis coffee fans, this is great news.  A more passionate coffee professional you will rarely find.  It does, however, mean that the opening has been delayed as Sommers feels it wouldn’t be right to open without Brooks at the helm.  Sommers is, after all,  hoping to raise the level of what coffee can be in the Central West End saying about the Brooks acquisition, “I can’t afford him, but I can’t afford not too.”

Speaking with Brooks last week, he is currently putting the finishing touches on his employment in Portland and is excited for the opportunity to be back amongst his friends putting his mark on St. Louis coffee.

At this time, the plans are to now open Monday, February 8, with the hours being Monday-Saturday 6-11AM.  Be sure to stop in to welcome Alex home.

Full Disclosure: Alex Brooks, Matt Herren, Chris Sommers, and Debbie Sultan are all friends of mine.

* The title is lifted from a text message Sommers sent to me.

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St. Louis Specific Updates to Food-Related Wikipedia Entries #1: Barista

While reading up on the scully cap I noticed, like many Wikipedia entries, not only was the included picture of  poor quality, it was just some random dude with a stupid look on his face.  Figuring he probably uploaded it himself, I’m embracing the power of the internet and am making accurate, St. Louis specific updates to food-related Wikipedia entries.

I begin with Barista for three reasons…

  1. There wasn’t a current barista photo.
  2. I love coffee and was trying to find an entry that was currently without a picture for sticking power.
  3. Although the barista in the photo,  Alex Brooks, is no longer a barista in St. Louis, he is a friend of mine and often wears a scully cap–which I now know is more accurately called a flat cap.

Just How is That Burger at O’Connell’s Pub?

It’s been years since I’ve had a burger at O’Connell’s Pub, so I can’t personally weigh in with an opinion, but The Burger Busters review of O’Connell’s is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while.

A highlight quote from another review:

“Overview: If you eat this burger, the terrorists win. “

WHERE IS THE REAL BEST BURGER IN STL???????????

Andrew Mark Veety
Photo by J. Pollack Photography

On any food-related message board, in any given city, at any given time, the debate of “who has the best hamburger?” always arises.  That’s because American’s love hamburgers—to the tune of 14 billion burgers consumed per year!

Many of you have been debating this very question over the last few years, but the debate took on a new fervor last year when Mayer Slay’s staff posed the question on mayorslay.com at approximately the same time Alex Csank brought it up once again on the stlbites.com forum.  Still, there was no unanimous winner.  The question remained unanswered.  To truly answer the question it was clear some capable man or woman would have to step up and consume all these burgers because you can’t say the Newstead burger is better than the O’Connell’s burger if you’ve never had the O’Connell’s burger.

And that’s where Andrew Mark Veety comes in. He has risen to the challenge and, in twelve months time, you will have your answer.  Sort of.

Taking votes to establish St. Louisian’s top picks via twitter and his website, Veety has tabulated the data and narrowed things down to the top 12 contenders.  In reverse order, one Sunday a month, he’ll be consuming each of the burgers to lay the question to rest in what has been dubbed, The Church of Burgers.  

First up: Contender #1.

Full Disclosure: I’d never met Veety in person until he invited along a small entourage of St. Louis Foodsters to partake in the consumption of contender #1.  Via the power of the internet he always seemed like a cool guy and I jumped at the chance to put down my  keyboard and cell phone and have some bonified social interaction.  I’m happy to report he is, in fact, a cool guy and as hilarious as I figured he’d be based upon his online persona.  Plus, I obviously like hamBURGErs.

Doing Good at The Good Pie

The Good Pie OvenIf I’d compiled a list of what I felt were the best things to happen to St. Louis food in the aughts, somewhere near the top of that list, you’d have found pizza.  From Pi, to La Pizza, to Ohio-native Dewey’s, the stylistic selection of pizzas in St. Louis has become somewhat staggering.  But as much as I love the pizza from many of the newcomers, it’s my love for what goes down at The Good Pie that’s without parallel.  The taste of their chewy crust, slightly burnt, and with just the right touch of salt, is one of the few things I’m confident I could consume nightly.  And that’s not to say I dislike other pizzas–far from it–it’s just that to me, pizza is a lot like barbecue: everyone has their own idea of what makes the perfect pie, and my perfect pie is found at The Good Pie.

I mention it, belatedly, because while today many restaurants in St. Louis are generously raising money for the people of Haiti—and in turn sending every blogger in town an email hoping we’d mention it–I was shocked to find that Good Pie owner, Mike Randolph, isn’t just donating a percentage of the restaurant’s profits from this evening to Mercy Corps, but literally 100% of the profit.  That’s a huge thing for such a small business to do, and while it might not ultimately equal the same amount of money as a larger business, I wanted to single them out and publicly commend it.  For a business I was worried about finding its niche not all that long ago, to be able to do this means, I hope, that things are looking good and a steady stream of great pies will continue to fill my belly for years to come.

For other restaurants donating money to a host of worthy charities in support of Haiti tonight (1/19/2010), head over to Gut Check as Ian has done a far better job keeping up with them than anyone else I’ve seen.

Full Disclosure: I eat in The Good Pie often and am terribly biased because the thought of never again being able to consume the broccoli raab and Salume Beddu topped pizza is shear horror.

Brasserie by Niche to Begin Serving Lunch

Brasserie by Niche

Well here’s some exciting news from the Central West End…

Starting next week, new St. Louis favorite BRASSERIE by niche will begin serving lunch and brunch.

Hours are as follows:

Lunch: Tues-Friday 11-2

Brunch: Sun 10-2

Restaurant Gripes #1 and #2

ServerOver at Winemag.com Erika Strum today posted a list of 10 Unspoken Rules of Restaurant Service Etiquette written up after a bad experience at New York’s, Michelin two star award winning, Gilt Restaurant. What she left off the list, however, is my number one service gripe: SERVE WOMEN FIRST!

From taking their orders to placing their dishes in front of them, women are always to be served first.  It’s such a basic service rule that even at the most basic of diners a server ought to be capable of handling it.  Still, amongst St. Louis’s finest restaurants, only two, in my recollection, have pulled this off on 100% of my visits with women: Sidney Street Café and Atlas.  And that includes all of the usual suspects where one would assume such a basic service rule would be followed easily.

Of course that’s not my only restaurant gripe and, in an attempt to post a little more this year—a task at which I will undoubtedly fail—I’ll start writing, occasionally, about restaurant gripes that I feel could (and should) easily be avoided.

Now that you know my #1 gripe, rather then heading straight into #2 and picking on service staffs alone, let’s turn things to the back-of-the-house shall we?

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Swineitiative

Vande Rose BaconAs Anthony Bourdain once noted, “If you want to make people happy, give them bacon.” Apparently having had a great deal of success with their temporarily carrying Benton’s bacon last year, in addition to always stocking Nueske’s, The Wine and Cheese place has taken note of Bourdain’s words dubbing 2010, “the year of bacon.”  As their newsletter today stated, the existing plan is to feature one new artisanal bacon per month sourced from throughout the country.  The first featured will be Vande Rose’s highly acclaimed Duroc bacon which Momofuku’s David Chang called,  “one of the best bacons ever.”

Two questions:

  1. 1. Who wants to start a blind bacon-tasting club?
  2. 2. Who do I beg to bring in Scott’s Country Jowl Bacon?

The Unofficial Dried Pasta of stlbites.com

farfallone.jpgShort of that scene in The Godfather where Michael whacks Sollozzo after going to the lavatory and pulling the pistol out from behind the toilet with the totally sweet, gravity-fed, pull chain flusher, Francis Ford Coppola is not a name most people would associate with pasta. As it turns out, however, along with his wine and olive oil businesses, Coppola owns Mammarella–a company that specializes in pastas and pasta sauces. While I won’t (or don’t) condone the use of store bought pasta sauces because it’s just too easy to make your own, dried pasta, on the other hand, is a staple in most of our homes and, hands down, my favorite is Mammarella’s Farfallone.

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